Jeff Lybarger's Song OF The Day

From OUTRIDERJL@AOL.COM
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 1997 07:23:04 -0400
From: Jeff Lybarger
To: ZEPPELIN-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU
Subject: Song of the day LXI

A very good day to all of you. Hope this finds you doing well and having fun. Today's song is such a fun one and it ties in with "Hot Dog" in the sense of humour area. Those of you who have been with DG a while probably know that "Presence" is my personal favourite Led-Zeppelin album, and that's where the 61st installment of this series takes place. So polish up that Black Object and join me in the Quarter won't you? Track three, clocking in at a scant (for Zeppelin) 2:58, "Royal Orleans."

There is a great story behind this song, and I'll get to it in a bit, but first let's appreciate the groove on this track. Opening with a biting Page riff, Bonham attacking the skins and a very heavy bass line from Jonsey, the mood is set for a somewhat off the wall look at life in New Orleans. That quick start/stop riff is all too brief as it leads us to the first verse.

     "One town love,
      take care how you use it...
      Try to make it last all night...
      And if you take your pick,
      be careful how you choose it...
      Sometimes it's hard to feel it bite...
      Feel it bite!"

Robert seems to be describing the night life in the French Quarter in this verse. References to "One town love" and "be careful how you choose it" are reflective of how some people can be swallowed up in the fast paced craziness that is so associated with this town. But, as is typical of Percy, there lies more beneath the surface. In the ensuing verse...

      "A man that I know,
       went down to Louisiana...
       Had himself a bad, bad fight...
       And when the sun peeks through,
       John Cameron he sees Sandy*...
       Kissed the whiskers left and right...
       Whiskers!" 

Now, the line with "John Cameron he sees Sandy" is terribly difficult to figure out exactly. The way it appears here is the best I could do, and after extensive research it appears to me to be what is said. But here is also where the humour begins. The "story" of this song is that the band were at the Royal Orleans hotel on one of their tours, 1975 I believe, and our dear Mr. John Paul Jones found himself in the company of a, umm, young female admirer. Jonsey and the "female" found their way back to the hotel where they collapsed on the bed, apparently both too drunk to do much of anything. The story goes that the next morning a couple of Zeppelin roadies found their way into Jonsey's room and had quite the shock awaiting them. The young "female" admirer of Jonsey's was still crashed out, but through the night "her" dress had made it's way up to "her" waist, revealing everything below "her" waist for the world to see. Only thing is, "she" turns out to be a guy. In drag!

Poor Jonsey, imagine trying to live that one down. Of course he blamed it on being too intoxicated to know any better, but one can only imagine the flak he caught from his fellow band members. Particularly Bonzo! The "John Cameron" is actually an old studio rival of Jonsey's. So in the end he gets the last laugh anyway!

      "New Orleans queens,
       Sure know how to schoomze it...
       Maybe for some that seems alright...
       But when I step out,
       I'm struck down with my sugar,
       She done talk like Barry White..." 

Another hysterical lyric, Robert referring to the queens talking like Barry White, a soul singer with a VERY LOW voice. This is what makes music so fun. The humour, the ability to relate a story in such a manner but without really giving anything away. And don't you just love the way Robert keeps saying "Whiskers!"

The music isn't sacrificed just for the sake of the humour though. Jimmy plays a very cool riff and from the second verse on he lays down some very funky stuff. His solo is somewhat Hendrixy, that kind of phased out sound, short and precise, to the point. Pay close attention to John Henry Bonham on this one as well. What a clinic he puts on. His ability to accentuate Jimmy's riffs was such a vital part of the Zeppelin sound. The fills he throws in after the second verse, when the song breaks back into that opening start/stop riff, are just such a pleasure to listen to. He grabs this riff by the throat and does not let go. And the man the song is about, John Paul Jones, has a field day with the riff. The bass is up in the mix, more so here than some numbers, and it has plenty of bite! Listen to Jonsey's bass against Jimmy's funky little riffs. His playing is so supportive, never interfering or stepping on toes, just heavy, rock solid bass. The way it should be.

"Royal Orleans" is a fun, funky song with lots to be admired musically. The single most impressive thing to me is that Zeppelin could toss a song off like this like it was no problem. And for them it wasn't. The riff fest that is "Presence" takes us on many journeys, some sad, some bitter, and this one, with a touch of the giggles. "Feel It Bite" would have been an apt title for this record. "Presence" does have lots of bite, and "Royal Orleans", though not as well known as "Achilles Last Stand" or "Nobody's Fault But Mine", packs as much punch into 2:58 as any song could hope to do.

How unfortunate it is that Zeppelin never did perform this one live. It could have been a killer. Of course they may have avoided it to keep from falling off the stage laughing.

Till next time...

Feel It Bite!

Jeff

 

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