Date: Thu, 27 Aug 1998 16:01:27 EDT
Subject: Song Of The Day LXVIII
When last we met I left you standing in the shadows of a desolate train station with the Prince Of Darkness bearing down on your hide. Let's just say I had to pull away to save me and leave it at that, though I do apologize for leaving you in such a state. As you can tell, my lovely excuse of a computer is back up and running, though it does seem to be a day to day thing. Many thanks to Bruce the Buckeye for his continued support and generosity in keeping a website dedicated to the Song Of The Day series up and active on his main page. Whilst the computer was down I sat and wrote out two SOTD's longhand and after much thought and debate, and the urging of some friendly souls, have decided to once again thrust these upon you, the list, the Badgeholders, the keepers of the flame, to do with as you wish. Life has thrown many challenges my way lately and I am constantly reminded of the saying that it isn't what happens to you that makes a person, but rather, how one so chooses to deal with what happens to them, that is how you test the true spirit of a person. So, as Jimmy would say, ever onward. As I stated I have two new SOTD's ready to go, and this is the first of these, and the sixty-eighth overall. Good Lord, has it actually been sixty-eight? Amazing. Though they haven't been in the most timely manner it is my goal to finish this series, please do have some patience. It's really just starting to get good, ya know? And that leads us to today's song. A journey down to Clarksdale is necessary, though you needn't bring much, just an open mind...and an open ear. So, if you are up to the task, and if you have shaken the fear of our last journey to the Delta, join me won't you, you'll need to punch up track four of the new Jimmy Page/Robert Plant album, clocking in at 6:44, the very majestic and melancholy "Blue Train."
A sparse and haunting bass line opens this beautiful tale of love gone wrong. Charlie plays the melody while Michael keeps a simple, delicate beat. Jimmy enters with a softly played chord, picking out the notes in a subtle, yet soothing way. The second chord is a bit more pronounced and the third chord is simply a mark of pure Page genius. Sliding into the chord with the echo effect creating the perfect atmosphere. Before Robert even enters the band have created a sad and wistful mood. It is no secret that something powerful is happening here, something quite magical. When Robert does enter it is with a beauty in his voice that only he can provide. And that voice is filled with pain. The ache of a heart that has been broken, one doesn't need much imagination to relate to the words that Robert is singing.
"Another day is ending I remember when my world... came falling down Out there the stars stop dancing lost in my darkness now the rain... keeps falling down"
The vision of a man sitting alone in a park, a light, misty, gentle rain kisses the ground around him as a slight fog rolls in to completely alienate him from those who tread nearby. This is the image I picture when I hear this song. Robert's words fall gently from his lips and slip away into the night, washed away by the rain.
"Light of my life where have you gone... Love's true flame dies without the warmth of your sun..."
It is a true measure of the musician that Robert Plant is that he can bare his soul like this after all these years. During the days of Zeppelin Robert only gave us glimpses into his inner most thoughts, particularly those of lost love. "Ten Years Gone" springs to mind as one of the few times he actually layed his soul out for all the world to see. It isn't easy to open your heart in song, knowing that it will be there forever, that anyone can listen at any time to your deepest hurt and most intense pain, but what a truly wonderful gift it is when a musician decides that they have to share such a personal tale with their fans.
The lyrics, combined with the delivery of those lyrics, is so intense that one can come to only one conclusion, and that is that Robert is sharing something very personal with us. It is not his nature to allow us to get too close too often, usually hiding behind his infamous tongue-in-cheekedness, yet here the walls are brought down for all to see.
"Another day is ending, I remember when my world, came falling down." Haven't we all been there? When was the last time you had your heart broken? Crushed. Lying there on the floor. People walking by, yet no one cares to notice. You feel as if your world has just ended. The beauty in this is that every person reading this has had it happen to them, so we can all relate very easily.
"Out there the stars stop dancing, lost in my darkness now the rain, keeps falling down." Another powerful lyric, "lost in my darkness." Exactly what it feels like. You forget to take notice of the everyday occurrences going on around you, you are just so consumed with pain. Or maybe you just don't care anymore. One would love to reach out for the nearest knife and rid yourself of the anger and the sorrow. If only it were so easy.
The chord that Jimmy plays just before the chorus is so beautiful. The tension is rising in the song, yet when he slides into this chord the whole thing resolves with such understated grace that it really captivates the listener. This is as close to being in a trance as one can have musically. Robert sings in the chorus, "Light of my life, where have you gone? Love's true flame dies, without the warmth of your sun." And again I am struck by the sheer power in these words. His voice is filled with such passion, and combined with these lyrics I would place this right up there with some of his finest work ever.
The music builds to a point and then...everything stops. The artistry of Jimmy Page at work again. This is a heavy song. VERY heavy. EMOTIONALLY heavy. And Jimmy knows this. So he provides us with a break. If just for a second. To catch our breath, if you will, before we move on. Robert re-enters not with words, but with a few subtle "Ah, ah, ah, ah...ah, ah, ah, ah..." Perfect!!! Though in this section he says so little, he is really saying everything. But the depth of pain is there still, and more incredible words await us at the next turn.
"Here comes a blue train rollin' across my heart because the rain... still falling down Another day escapes me a little later maybe love... will roll around Light of my life where have you gone... Love's true flame dies without the warmth of your sun..."
Yet again Mr. Plant describes every detail that we have all felt. A blue train, rolling right across your heart. Could anybody sum it up any better? I didn't think so. "Another day escapes me, a little later maybe love, will roll around." It's strange how a person can become so overwhelmed by sadness and grief that they lose total sight of all around them. Yet it happens. The days come and go, and even the simplest of tasks become quite the struggle. You think to yourself, I'll get out of bed tomorrow, I'll raise the shades tomorrow, I'll get out and do SOMETHING...tomorrow, yet tomorrow is always a long, long time away. And so we suffer. And our heart is dying. The need to be loved. To share that love. Yet we become frightened, too scared to feel that pain again. And so we suffer.
Michael kicks things in and the music explodes...Robert cries out...Anger... Pain... Loneliness...Fear...all the emotions have to come out eventually, one can't bottle these things up for too long. And when that moment happens Robert once again describes the feeling perfectly. You know that feeling. It's as if he is screaming "DAMMIT...what is going on here?" I have been waiting dammit, I have been waiting...
"I've been waiting on the corner Yeah I've been waiting for a sign to come... Ohhhh...ohhh I've been waiting on the corner I've been waiting for a sign of love... Oh...yeah..."
At this point Jimmy takes over and what he plays is...well, it's one more sign of the maturity of Jimmy Page as a musician. Playing a solo not based on some amazing scale run, but rather chordal in nature. Never once does he take away from the song, instead what he plays ADDS so much more to the mood and the effect of the song. A nice touch from the hand of the Master.
"Light of my life... where have you gone Love's true flame dies... without the warmth of your sun... Whistle blowing, blue train going carry my heart and my soul... Ohhh... Hey...Ye...Yeah..."
Another brief pause and it's back to the mood first stated in the beginning of the song. Robert adds some lines that almost sound as if they are off the cuff, but he never loses that emotion and passion. The band kick back in and Robert continues to express his desire for companionship, "wishing for a sign of love" and the tension once again builds, continues to build to a feverish pitch, before this train runs out of track and the song quietly comes to a close.
Tension and release. Two things Led-Zeppelin included in just about every song they ever wrote. That Jimmy and Robert can write a song like this now, all this many years after the sad demise of their group, is quite a statement. And it is really odd, the critics, always quick to trash a Led- Zeppelin album, now love the duo of Page/Plant. And the fans, always quick to support Led-Zeppelin, seem to disagree with each other on this latest offering. Some like it, some do not know what to make of it, and others are patient enough to give it a chance to win them over. I will say this, "Clarksdale" wasn't exactly what I was hoping for or expected upon the first several visits, but through time and circumstance this album has really grown on me. Particularly "Blue Train" and the sixty-ninth song of the day.
If you are one of those having difficulty "getting into" this new music, try this: Listen to it late at night, with the lights down low, some incense burning and see if the mood isn't enhanced for you. I am reminded of a statement that Jimmy once made when referring to albums such as III, Houses, and Presence. He stated that it sometimes takes people a full year to catch up to the band and the direction that they were going. So have some patience, this is a fine album, and perhaps in time you will find it has a special place in your heart.
On the first leg of the Page/Plant "Walking Into Everywhere" tour they chose, sadly, not to play this song. Perhaps it is a reminder of emotions that is simply to heavy for Robert to revisit on a nightly basis, but one can hold out the hope that they will at least attempt it at some future dates. It is a beautiful song, and in a live setting I am quite confident it would be a certain success. Until we meet again...
Love's true flame dies...without the warmth of your sun