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August 19th, 2018

I feel I should apologize to Cameron Crowe

I know, Led Zeppelin IV is one of the most successful, heralded rock albums ever. I know how hugely popular a song "Stairway to Heaven" is.

About half of that album does nothing for me.

I tried it, finally, recently. Eventually while borrowing a digital copy of it I also borrowed what is more my speed, Prince's soundtrack album to Purple Rain, and alternated listening to that to listening to the parts of Led Zeppelin IV I liked. As with "Ramble On" — did the world really need a story where Gollum has a sex life I mean really — their Tolkien-influenced stuff on this album, "The Battle of Evermore" and "Misty Mountain Hop," made me shrug. "Black Dog" is fun, but to me it's always going to make me think of a) the Patrick Swayze action film named for it, b) Weird Al using the song as part of a joke in "Trapped in the Drive-Thru," and c) this entry of mine. And in my listens I started skipping "Stairway to Heaven."

I've yet to see it, but in the extended "Untitled" cut of Cameron Crowe's wonderful film Almost Famous, main character William Miller plays "Stairway" for his mother, who is deeply critical of rock music, to explain to her why the song is important, why it's a work of art, and why it speaks to him. (Keep in mind that William is a stand-in for Crowe, who really did write articles for rock magazines and follow major bands on tour when he was only a teenager.) I'm amused that the members of Zeppelin, who knew and liked Crowe, still didn't give him permission to put "Stairway to Heaven" on the extended cut's soundtrack, so that scene begins on DVD with a note telling people to cue up and play "Stairway" as the scene runs. I still want to see that longer cut of Almost Famous, but I have no real need to listen to "Stairway" again.

Somehow in my entire life, though, I'd not heard the album-closing track "When the Levee Breaks," so I finally heard it last week and...wow, yes, THAT is an amazing song. See? Led Zeppelin music can work for me.

And I've reached the band's fifth album, Houses of the Holy, an album slightly older than I am. So far it might be the Zep album I've overall responded to the best. Maybe I'll have actual detailed thought later, after more listens.

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Chris Walsh

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