...and here day are brotha's and sista's, straight from merry ole England, you know it's right, you know ya rockin' with da masters, YEAH BABY, Led-Zeppelin is IN DA HOUSE!!!! Get DOWN, Get FUNKY, Get out your GOOD THING because we are goin' way back to da Houses of da Holy, track four on da first side of this piece o' vinyl, clocking in at 3:10 of funkified boogie, "DA CRUNGE" ladies and gentleman, "The Crunge."
Thank you Jam Master J for that nice introduction. Well this tune is certainly an abrupt change of direction for the boys. Mr. Bonham kicks it off with a funky attack on the drums and then John Paul enters with some very intense bass. You gotta love that bass, solid, heavy and funked out. This song is not in the typical Zeppelin vein, but then again did they really have a "typical" approach? The riffs that fly from Jimmy's guitar are fast and funky, with a cool little stops that tell you this could only be Led-Zeppelin.
I recall having a discussion at the Zepfest in Niagara in April with some fellow DGers. One of them asked me if there were any songs by Zeppelin that I just don't get into. I said, "Yeah, The Crunge." Ha!Ha! Never thought about having to do a Song of the day for the bloody thing. I said it sounded like James Brown on acid, and everybody goes, "Yes, exactly, that's the POINT!" Well let me clarify my statement. The thing I don't like about it is Robert's vocals. The music jams, it would have made a great instrumental with an extended solo from Pagey and then it could have included a solo from Jonsey!!!!! Yes, a BASS SOLO!!!!
I love the Houses of the Holy as a whole, but it seems like Jimmy (and maybe Robert too) were doing some experimentation in the studio, and it just doesn't seem to work. Think about it, "The Song Remains The Same" lacks all of the power of any live performance, and this one has tons of overdubs. The "Rain Song" vocals leave me really feeling, I don't know, but they just don't do it for me. "No Quarter" doesn't have near the power or haunting effect of live versions and "The Crunge" sounds like Robert just whipped something out off the top of his head, while battling a sore throat!!!! The one thing about "The Crunge" vocals that have kept it in the minds of us fans for so many years is the "where's that confounded bridge" section.
And what about the "bridge?" The lyrics are supposed to parody the James Brown "Take It To The Bridge" school of funk mannerisms. (Thanks to Dave Lewis for this info.) This is a "joke" song, totally non-danceable, and it was reported that they considered putting feet on the jacket illustrating the correct "dance steps." So where do they come up with this sense of humour?
For me personally, the "where's that confounded bridge" is poking fun at the music, there is only one change in the music, a slight change at that, no verse, chorus, and no BRIDGE! Just the same thing all the way through. I do like the line where Robert says "I don't need no respect from nobody." A jab at the critics? Rolling Stone????
You must give Zeppelin credit. They never played things safe. The "Crunge" is a perfect example of that attitude. If they were just joking around or trying out different ideas, at least they always ATTEMPTED to venture into new territory. For that reason and that reason alone, songs like "The Crunge" are a very welcome addition.
As for Jonsey, not only does he play some terrific bass, but in the vocal sections he adds a keyboard part that is hysterical. Listen to the lines he plays just after the " when she talks she talks" and "she's my baby Lord I wanna make her mine." That little run he does just kills me. Talk about cheesy! But, it FITS! Out of nowhere he comes up with this ridiculous melody that somehow fits in with this funk-fest. Oh to have seen their faces in the studio when they were writing this. Now that would have been a sight. How did they record the song without doubling over in fits of uncontrollable laughter?
Though they never did perform "The Crunge" live as a song in its entirety they did drop it in during "Dazed and Confused" in the 1972 US tour, and it was employed during some of the jams on "Whole Lotta Love" until 1975. On March 25, 1975, at the Los Angeles Forum, it was done within "Whole Lotta Love" and done as a jam with James Browns "Sex Machine." Note the bootleg from that show: Sex Machine and The Butter Queen.
So, where does that lead us? Well, although the "Crunge" isn't a sterling example of Led-Zeppelin at their best, it does show four musicians who were so good together that they could try numbers like this and still pull it off. And it's because of this ability as a group that Led-Zeppelin were and still are the premier rock and roll band of all time.
Till we meet again...