Thursday, August 13, 2009
Rocking the Classics: Led Zeppelin and Eclecticism, Part 2 A - Classical --
In my previous post, I attempt to elucidate the not-so-often-discussed relationship of Led Zeppelin and traditional Jazz. Hopefully my point is secure with my readers that this Jazz influence is not merely tangential, but rather occupies a legitimate place in Zeppelin's musical DNA. I now ask my readers to take another step forward with me as we examine the roll Classical music plays with the band.
Perhaps the least likely Zep member to express any connection to the world of the classics is John Bonham. It will probably be a surprise to read the following quote: "My ambition is to record the 1812 Overture [by Tchaikovsky]. I would overdub all the rhythm sections -- the bells, cannons and timps. I'll do it one day." Tragically, this ambition goes unfulfilled, but the expression of it betrays a surprising side to a drummer so inextricably linked to Rock drumming. As for Robert Plant, though no explicit desire to perform or compose music in a Classical vein is expressed, at least an acquaintance with some of the genre's masters is made apparent. In describing his former Zeppelin partner, Jimmy Page, Plant says: "He's the Wagner of the Telecaster. He's the Mahler of the Les Paul. He's brilliant." Such a sentiment, the intent of which is to praise Mr. Page, also equates 19th and 20th century Classical masters Wagner and Mahler with brilliance. And Plant's comparison of Page with the Classical masters is not unique. Veteran british music journalist and Zep supporter Chris Welch presents a three-part series for Melody Maker Magazine in February 1970 in which he interviews Page. His choice of title for this series is: "The Paganini of the 70's."
The Classical connection with Led Zeppelin is proving to be intriguing. The Bonham and Plant quotes only hint at this connection, however. Next we'll see the extent of influence that Classical music and practices have on Zeppelin from the words of Page and Jones.