Jeff Lybarger's Song OF The Day

Subj: Song of the day L
Date: 97-04-30 05:06:14 EDT
From: OUTRIDERJL@AOL.COM (Jeff Lybarger)
Sender: zeppelin-l@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU (DIGITAL GRAFFITI)
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Today, no fucking around. From the album "Presence", track seven, clocking in at 9:27, "Tea For One."

To sit and reflect on this song, what it means, what it says, and how it makes me feel, is almost like reliving a personal nightmare. This song is from the very depths of an emotional low point in the life of Robert Plant, and though my circumstances don't reflect his, that emotional quality speaks volumes to me on many levels. "Tea For One" is the saddest song Zeppelin ever did, in my opinion. The mood created by the entire band screams massive depression. You can feel it in the music, you can hear it in Robert's voice. That all four of them came together on this track and were able to express the same emotions was either very amazing, or very sad.

Robert penned these words after his automobile accident, which put his future at jeopardy, and took him from his wife and children. The pain his body felt was slight when compared to the pain in his heart. Nothing seemed to matter anymore, the fame, the money, everything that went with being in Led Zeppelin was second to his desire to be reunited with his family. That isolated feeling, the feeling that there is no one to turn to, no shoulder to lean on, no hand to hold, no one to look in the eyes and have them understand, that is the place that "Tea For One" takes us to.

How down can a person get? How far is that fall to the bottom of one's soul? How easy it is to reach that cold and lonely place, how difficult the climb back up. We have all been there, some of you may be there now, others may have just returned, but we can all relate to the line about a minute seeming like a lifetime. When hope has passed you by, and nothing you do or say can relieve that ache, when a minute seems like eternity.

After an intro that misleads you into thinking that this will be somewhat up-tempo, Jimmy guides the piece into a slow aching blooze. Bonham plays this song so perfectly. His drumming is the touch of a master. Playing off Jimmy and Jonsey, throwing perfectly executed shuffles in, quick fills, the subltety of his playing balancing things, keeping that time slow and tight, not standing out front per se, but in perfect sympathy with the theme and mood of the song. If drums can sound sad, this is where it happened first.

      "How come twenty four hours,
       baby sometimes seem to slip into days...
       Oh twenty four hours,
       baby sometimes seem to, slip into days...yes
       When a minute seems like a lifetime,
       Oh baby, when I feel this way..."

Beautiful writing, expressive as he never has been before. Robert writes a lot with his tongue stuck firmly in his cheek. Not here. He is open, honest, and allows the listener to take a look inside a broken heart. This sort of writing isn't something he chooses to do often enough, I feel. When he does though, the result is something very touching.

Jimmy delivers some of the most beautiful licks he's ever played. His guitar cries, it screams, he matches Robert in emotion with heartfelt playing that can best be described as awesome. And inspiring. He hits notes that sum up the very heart of this mood. Sad, lonely, insecure, isolated, those feelings all come out on his guitar. I still feel that "Tea For One" represents one of Jimmy's finest moments ever.

     "Sitting, looking at the clock,
      oh, time moves so slow...
      I've been watching for the hands to move,
      until I, just can't look no more...
      How come, twenty four hours,
      baby sometimes seem to, slip into days
      A minute seems like a lifetime,
      baby when I feel this way..."

The band then create musically what Robert is feeling emotionally. Taking the music up, an explosion, a release of energy and frustration. Whenever you have felt this way, eventually you reach a certain point where you are so tired of the situation you just have to let go. You have to release that bottled up frustration and pour it out, get the feelings out on the table, and allow your heart and mind to just step back and take a break. This one little section in the song is that point, performed to perfection.

Jimmy then plays that aftermath emotion. You have gotten some things out now, the problem still persists, and you feel a certain melancholy emotion towards the whole thing. So what do you do? Cry? Perhaps. Crying can be a good thing, and Jimmy lets his guitar cry for all it's worth. Do you see the beauty in this song yet? Most people who are Zeppelin fans consider "Since I've Been Loving You" to be the essential Zeppelin blues song. And yes it was quite the concert staple, but it doesn't have anything on "Tea For One" as far as raw emotion. This song isn't easy to listen to, it makes you sad, maybe too sad for some, but therein lies the beauty. To capture something everyone has felt at one time or another in a song, wow, pure magic.

      "To sing a song for you,
        I recall you used to say...
       Well baby this one's for we two,
       which in the end is, you anyway...

       There was a time that I stood tall,
        in the eyes of other men...
       But by my own choice I left you woman,
       and now I can't get, back again...

       How come twenty four hours,
       sometimes seem to, slip into days, yes yes,
       Well well well well
       A minute seems like a lifetime,
       baby when I feel this way...
       A minute seems like a lifetime,
       oh baby when I feel this way...
       I feel this way..."

Raw emotion. Tears wept for all to see. Pain felt. This song has so much within it's nine plus minutes. It doesn't offer any answers, only the fact that nobody is exempt from these emotions. Music is excellent therapy, "Tea For One" obviously was a therapeutic song for Robert, and maybe the entire band as well. That may also explain why they never performed this in a live setting. Perhaps they just didn't want to be reminded nightly of those feelings. On their "Unleded" tour Jimmy and Robert began slowly throwing in sections of this during "Since I've Been...", and after a while started to perform "Tea For One" in its entirety. Some twenty years removed from that initial emotion might have been one reason they chose to do revisit this.

Their versions were stunning to say the least, and give me hope of one day seeing them perform this live. Underestimated though it may be, "Tea For One" stands as a classic look into the very soul of Led Zeppelin.

Rock on,

Jeff

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