Song Of The Day LXXV
…with a purple umbrella and a fifty cent hat
That’s all you need to read and automatically that riff jumps into your head. Amazing, isn’t it? Propel yourself back in time to that innocent era of peace, love, and the feeling that the people could change the world for the better. A time for dreamers and doers, for speaking out against the establishment, for standing up for what you believe in, for large open-air concerts where drugs and sex were rampant and readily available. The year is 1969, the album is Led-Zeppelin II, and the destination is track two on side two, clocking in at 2:39… Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman).
Within the first 10 seconds the master, Jimmy Page, pulls you out of your world, and right into the universe known as Led-Zeppelin; the acapella vocal intro by Robert which is brief and is quickly joined by John Bonham’s furious beat. The song has an energy, a pent up emotion that seems to burst out from your speakers. Then that riff by Page, punctuated during the “…living…loving” section with accented stabs on the Telecaster.
The most bizarre thing about this song for me is the fact that none of the band actually liked this song. What? Are you kidding me? This song is a great treasure. Plant is in perfect form, the band is tight, and the riff stays in your head long after you’ve heard it, it’s catchy and you can sing along to it. What’s not to like?
… Missus Cool rides out in her aged CadillacLiving…Loving… She’s just a woman…Come on babe on the roundabout Ride on the merry-go-‘round We all know what your name is… So you better lay your money down…
The chorus section is just hot! John Bonham plays some simple licks here, but the drums break things up so perfectly leading us back to the main verse. It’s the subtlety of Bonham that stands out; the little things he does and what he doesn’t play. There is the briefest of pauses at 0:25 that never fails to shake my senses. That pause…that p-a-u-s-e is what makes John Bonham the premiere drummer in my book. It is such a little thing that most probably don’t even notice it. But it subconsciously pulls you in, begging for more.
Alimony, alimony… paying your bills Living…Loving… She’s just a womanWhen your conscience hits you Knock it back with pills Living…Loving…She’s just a woman
The second run through the chorus reveals another specialty of the John Bonham style; he doesn’t play the same thing here that he played the first time. Sounds simple enough, yes? But if you asked 100 drummers to play this song, 99 would play the chorus exactly the same way every time. Not Bonham. Another reason why he is that once-in-a-lifetime drummer. He never did things the easy way. He challenged himself continually, and in the process pushed the band to greater heights.
Tellin’ tall tales of how it used to be Living… Loving…She’s just a woman With the butler and the maid, and the servants three Living…Loving…(Ah hit it now…hit it)
Then Jimmy delivers a beautiful guitar solo that is short, yet very sweet. Showing the influence of the blues Jimmy extends a couple of bent notes that hang in the air and then tears into an ascending run that gets louder and louder and dives right into a pumping, driving rhythm that leads back to another verse.
Nobody hears a single word you say Living…Loving…She’s just a woman But you keep on talking ‘til your dying day Living…Loving…She’s just a woman
Then another chorus and yet another example of Bonham constantly changing things up. The band tears into the driving music again and suddenly…it’s over. Two minutes and 39 seconds of pure magic. It still amazes me that Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones never cared for this track. The ironic thing is, their fans loved it. Though this song was never performed in a live setting by Zeppelin it has had a long, glorious history on the radio. It reached the 65th spot on Billboard and has received as much as airplay as another Zeppelin classic; Heartbreaker. The reason for this is a good story too. When Led-Zeppelin II was released disc jockeys were actually spinning records, and the break between Heartbreaker and Living Loving Maid was so short, that rebellious DJ’s simply let the record play. For years, many Zeppelin fans thought of these two songs as one, because you never heard Heartbreaker without hearing Living Loving Maid.
In Kansas City, the classic rock radio station KYYS, also known as KY-102, headed up by Hall Of Fame member Max Floyd, used to have a feature every Tuesday called Twofer Tuesday, meaning they would play not one, but two songs by every artist that day. In the event listeners were to only hear one song by any artist they could call in and win a prize. But with Zeppelin the rules were different. You always would hear three songs if one of the two was Heartbreaker. They’d play Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid and then whatever the other would be. Point is, you would actually get a Threefer Tuesday when it was concerning the mighty Zep.
In 1990, on his Manic Nirvana tour, Plant actually did perform this track. Seems a shame that Zeppelin never chose to though. One possible explanation for the bands lack of appreciation for their work could be who the song has long been rumoured to be about. The story has it that this was written about one of their first groupies. As Plant put it once, “An older lady who was trying desperately to be young again.”
A catchy song with a lot of familiar and classic Zeppelin trademarks, Living Loving Maid may not be a favourite of the group, but fans the world over have shown their love and appreciation for this song for over 35 years. Not a bad testament.
Until we bump into one another again, stay positive and keep a song in your heart.