Jeff Lybarger's Song OF The Day

Subj: Song of the Day Vol. I
Date: 96-11-25 23:39:30 EST
From: OUTRIDERJL@AOL.COM (Jeff Lybarger)
Sender: zeppelin-l@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU (DIGITAL GRAFFITI)
Reply-to: OUTRIDERJL@AOL.COM
To: ZEPPELIN-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU

Good Evening fellow DGers. Well, here it is, the first installment. Please, everyone feel free to participate with comments and what not, this forum is wide open. I must beg your forgiveness with this first "Song..", it's going to be long. The reason is the song comes to us from the Presence album and I would like to express some personal opinions about what I feel is the most underated/underappreciated album in Zep's catalog. So hang with me. All future "Songs..." will be much shorter. So here we go.

I find it funny when I tell people this is my favourite Zep album, because they then ask if I need a ride back to the mental ward that I must be living at. It was the worst selling album for them, the first to hit the $3.99 cut-out bin, the only album that doesn't have at least one song regularly played on the radio, and certainly the darkest of all their recorded output. So what does all this mean? It doesn't mean squat!! This album is special, it's what I call honest music. Up to this point in their career it was easy to be in Zeppelin, and easy to like them. They put an album out, they got known, another one, they got famous, a third one, they showed a wider range of taste, and by the Untitled album they became gods.

This stature was never more evident than on Physical Grafitti, they did what they wanted and they did it when they wanted. The vibes were real and they were positive. But in 1975 all that began to change. Their mortality began to show. Peter Grant was going through marital struggles, Bonham's drinking started to get him in trouble, John Paul contemplated quitting and it all came to a head when Robert destroyed a car he was driving which had his family inside as well. The rumours of Satanic pacts grew louder, their karma was said to be catching up to them and the word dinosaur began to be used when critics talked of the band. Not only that, disco was the rage in the U.S. and punk was on the way, and they all painted a huge bullseye on the mighty Zep.

I once engaged in a conversation with a young lady who only knew Zep by the "hits", and when she asked if my favourite album was II or IV it shocked her when I said 'no, actually it's Presence'. She asked if I could describe the album for her as she had never heard of it. I thought for a moment and then I said, "Presence is what Zeppelin sounded like.... when they were pissed off." Think about that, so much doubt and negative energy surrounded them at this point it would have been easy to run and hide. But they did just the opposite and the proof is on tape, for anyone willing to listen.

When things aren't going right, that's when you can tell the character of a person, how they respond to the situation. With "Presence" Zeppelin's character was proven to be well in tact. Yes, the album is called "Presence", but just as easily could have been titled: Led Zeppelin- Don't F**k with Us. Jimmy's riffs are monsters and Bonzo's drumming is ferocious. John Paul is the proverbial rock and Robert sings great with his most personal lyrics. And all this brings us to the Song of the day.

Track two, clocking in at 6:20, "For Your Life". The song kicks in with a start/stop stomp of a riff. Jimmy in full force with Bonzo keeping things solid. Robert enters the fray with two words, softly spoken, "Well well". Can't you just hear it? Sounding as they never quite had before, Page sounding PISSED and Robert's bitter lyrics, this is a major tour-de-force.

Page has long been known for playing Les Pauls and Telecasters, but on this track he introduces a new weapon in the guitar army: The Fender Stratocaster. Lake Placid Blue with a rosewood neck and a whammy bar. And Jimmy jumps on that whammy bar. Not so much that you get sick of it, just enough to accent the song, and everytime he creates beautiful tension and release. After a wonderful guitar solo, when Robert comes in with the"Don't know what to do ooh ooh".. part, Pagey goes nuts on the bar yanking it back and forth violently, but it's very quick and then it's gone. A kid with a new toy indeed.

Bonham is simply amazing on this track. At times playing little shuffles imitating Jimmy's riffs, at other times laying back and holding things perfectly together. Jonesy is right on, and very supportive throughout, just what you would expect. And Robert gives us some very personal and unsettling lyrics. He seems to be questioning everything, the fame, the groupies, the SCENE. Most people feel Robert's voice is what seperates him from other "Rock" singers, and it helps, but his lyrics are what make him so special. My favourite line in the song is when he says: "Ya heard me crying for mercy, in the city of the damned. Ah oh babe, DAMN." The way he says damn, it's too cool.

And what about that little growl he makes anout 2/3 of the way through. I know the women fans have to love this part. Is that the Leo in him coming out or what? This song sadly was never performed live by Zeppelin, and that's a pity. I know "Since I've been..." is a crowd favourite and they did some devastating versions on the ' 77 tour, but if I could have had my way they would have played this in it's place. It was new and fresh and live it would have been a monster.

So there you have it, the first in the series. A great song from a great album. I would encourage anyone not so familiar with "Presence" to check it out in depth. It shows a band stripped of their god-like status getting down to some serious business. They had nothing to prove and yet they had everything to prove. And succeded quite nicely thank you. Till tomorrow, Rock On!!

Jeff

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