Date: Tue, 23 Sep 1997 07:31:02 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Song of the day LXIII
Good morning to you all. A funny thing happened the other day. After going through a spell where I wasn't even listening to Zeppelin, mostly some nice Eric Clapton and solo Plant material, I found myself feeling, um, lacking... something. And then, out of nowhere, it hit me. Ah yes, I need a Led-Zeppelin fix. The IV was administered and the "Whole Lotta Love" single got the juices flowing again, but then the juice, the real juice, started to flow as I poured through the sixth official release by the band. So, if you are in that situation, and you too need a fix, join me won't you, we have a room already reserved for you. Sorry, no visitors allowed after six. From Physical Graffiti, disc/LP two, track five, clocking in at 3:37, "Night Flight." The doctor is waiting...
An unusual beginning for a Zeppelin song: A few clicks on the hi-hat and we're there. The wonderful thing about this song is the way it almost has a pop song flavor to it, but in the hands of Zeppelin, a pop song that rocks. A definate showcase for John Bonham. OK, I know, which song isn't a showcase for this incredible talent? But man, the things he does on this song.
Robert shines as well, and one thing I noticed years ago is how hard it is to sing this song. Try it for yourself. Try singing all the way through. It's impossible without totally wrecking your voice. You can tell Robert had to have dubbed in several times, and toward the latter part of the song you can hear the strain this song is putting on his vocal chords. He hardly has time to breathe, which is a very important part of singing! You can hear his voice getting just a bit weaker, tired. But then at the end he comes on strong again. I never have gotten through this song without acquiring a severe case of laryngitis!
"I received a message from my brother across the water, he sat laughing as he wrote, "The end's in sight." So I said good-bye to all my friends and packed my hopes inside a matchbox, 'cause I know it's time to fly"
The music for this verse part is a study in doing what's best for the song. Jimmy and Jonsey are in seperate speakers, while the drums and vocals dominate right down the middle. Jimmy's playing is rocking yet it isn't particularly noticable, as it's hidden somewhat in the mix. Same thing with Jonsey, who supports with some very tasty playing of his own. It's this display of unselfishness that exemplified what seperates Led-Zeppelin from any other band. Every single song they tried to say something totally different, using each others talents, knowing that each fourth of the band would be strong enough and talented enough to carry their own weight.
The pre-chorus and chorus brings a slight change, and Bonham again shows his chops to be in perfect form. No matter how much he plays, he never steps on anyone elses toes. Everything here jells perfectly.
"Oh mama well I think it's time I'm leaving nothing here to make me stay... Whoa mama well it must be time I'm going Their knocking down them doors they're trying to take me away"
There's a weird swirling effect right after he sings that last line, could be Jimmy using a Leslie speaker or something Jonsey does on the organ, but to me it sounds like it's probably guitar oriented. Speaking of Page and Jones, I just love that chunky sound Jimmy gets from his guitar, especially on the chorus sections where he's just pounding those chords out. And if you pay close enough attention, you will hear some amazing jamming from John Paul, it's just far enough down in the mix, but it's there and it's hot!
Sadly Zeppelin never performed this one live, though there does exist a rehearsal version from Chicago in 1973. If only they had cut the length of their solos back then and added more songs. Of course, just imagine the bootlegs we would have at our disposal if that were the case. Perhaps Jimmy and Robert will resurrect this song at some point in the future. Then again, if the vocals are as difficult as I think they are, this may perhaps explain why they didn't do it live.
"Night Flight" embodies everything great about the style of Led-Zeppelin. To think they were labeled as "hype" at the dawn of their career. No hype band could do all that these guys did, and make it seem so easy. The sheer gusto which sprang forth from their energy, the equal talent evident in the band, their desire to risk, to try new directions, to not be afraid to fail, these are some of the reasons they conquered all that they did. The music is timeless! This song was first released in 1975, and to this day it still packs a wallop! That, in itself, is amazing testimony.
Till the next one,