Around 1984 whilst at high school one day the pupils in our room and myself were asked to leave the room that we were currently being taught in and follow the headmaster down to our assembly hall. We had no idea what was going on, so being the obedient children that we were, we followed instructions and filed in behind this giant head of our school and marched down to the big hall that we usually only saw at morning assembly, indoor sports and occasional events.
We were ushered into this big room and asked to sit down on plastic seats that been arranged out in rows. We all sat down, looking at each other bewildered as to what could possibly be going on. Was a classmate dead? Had they found drugs in someone’s bag? all the usual crap that goes through a young teenager’s mind was racing through our greasy little heads.
There was also a big projector screen at the front of the room and beside it two people, a man and a woman.
As we very quickly found out, these two grown people were at our school to warn us about the dangers of rock music and the messages that were contained within. Yes, I shit you not, we were in the presence of people who believed that we were all going to hell if we continued to listen to this music. This was actually a big thing for the heavily religious to come out against music back in the 70s / 80s, as rock & metal bands took a stand against what they saw as a brainwashed society.
They kicked off proceedings that afternoon during what should have been Geography, with a chat about how rock bands were using their power to brainwash children through their music, by hidden messages within their lyrics and back masking the music with embedded phrases. They also talked about how these bands were getting to children through their album artwork. You can only imagine how by this stage we were processing all of this with absolute disbelief. Was this actually happening? we were mostly just excited to be out of class for half an hour.
They followed their introduction by showing us a series of album covers and asking if anyone in the class knew what these albums were, and if they did to raise their hand and say what it was. The first one was easy, it was Black Sabbath, ‘Black Sabbath’ which me and I think one other die hard 13 year old knew immediately (it did have the band name on the sleeve like, doh) The second one was Sgt ‘Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ which we were told includes renowned occultist Aleister Crowley as one of the heads on the sleeve’s artwork, a few students raised their hands for this one as mums & dads must have owned it. The third album that they flashed on the projector screen, was this particular masterpiece that I chat about today. It flashed up on the slide projector and something inside me exploded! With absolute passion in my heart and the confidence of a game show host, I jumped up excitedly, hand reaching for the sky like I was trying to pop clouds, and screamed at the top of my teenage voice all over the assembly hall LED ZEPPELIN …FOUR!!!! I think I disturbed a nest of nearby crows with my booming answer in that hollow wood built room, windows cracked in buildings next door and all my classmates jumped out of their skins. I knew something that none of my friends did. I was the only one in that entire assembly hall who knew that album, for a 13 year old that was big stuff, especially for a country boy trying to impress his townie mates. That day I left the hall completely bemused as to why someone would need to come to school to save our souls, BUT more importantly feeling like the coolest person in my class, for just that one day. That day I decided that I was never going to listen to grown ups again and also made a promise to myself, from that day on to listen to much more rock music that went against the grain. Those people ignited an even bigger fire for music inside me. I’m proud to say I’ve kept both of those promises throughout my entire life.
When I was very young I pestered my parents to buy me a Gibson Les Paul (Copy) guitar from the Great Universal catalogue that my granny was an agent for at the time, we referred to them as ‘the club book’ back then. I tried for months with that guitar but could never properly get further than the chords of the theme tune from the F1 grand prix racing program (Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain). That didn’t stop me from loving that guitar and using it as the coolest prop ever as I would pretend to be Jimmy Page in my bedroom. I would jump off the bed mid guitar solo and drop to my knees pretending to play that axe. That guitar was a replica of the one that my hero Jimmy used and it didn’t matter that I couldn’t play it. Sadly my guitar playing only ever got a little bit better over the years.
So, that leads me to today’s album, from a band who I believe were on a completely different level to any other rock band in history. Anyone who follows musicianship closely and knows their bands will agree with me that Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham were probably the tightest unit as a band that there ever has been. The other biggest rock bands in history reference Zeppelin as their main inspiration and the height to which they aspired to reach.
I own every Led Zeppelin album on vinyl and CD and love them all for different reasons, but this, their 4th release to me sums up what they were all about in a nutshell. John Bonham (RIP) was one of the finest drummers to have ever held a pair of sticks and Jimmy Page is an absolute god of guitar players. John Paul Jones had a unique way of creating a groove with his bass and Robert Plant just brought the whole thing together so perfectly.
Every track on this album is a grade A bombshell. ‘Black Dog’ ‘Rock And Roll’ ‘Stairway To Heaven’ (even though you’ve heard it so many times, is still one of the best songs in history) ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ ‘Going To California’ and to finish off with the low slung bluesy classic, ‘When The Levee Breaks’ is just completely off the scale for me.
When you sit back and analyse these songs properly and listen closely to how these songs and the instruments come together, you truly appreciate how unique this band truly were and how each member was at the top of their individual sector. For a band to properly click like this only happens a few times in a lifetime.
Ironically, this album is 50 years old this year, like I will be myself in 2 days time. Every time I listen to these songs, they completely blow me away on every possible level.
Led Zeppelin IV is a true masterpiece of music.