Saturday, September 25, 2010
In September of 1980 I enter the new school year ready to settle in. Life for me as a 15 year old is, I'm certain, fairly routine and not particularly different from others my age. By this point I've embraced a very stringent, overtly ingrained ideal about my musical preferences which is quite simply immutable, bordering on religious in its import. Led Zeppelin is the end-all, and there is no argument, be it theoretical or empirical, that will change that. On the surface, all seems right with the world -- that is until Thursday, the 25th.
Between classes my friend Bob approaches and proceeds to tell me something that will have an immense impact on my life at that time: John Bonham has died. The words do not make any sense to me. Clearly this cannot be true, and I tell him so. His angry response to my lack of belief in his news alarms me as I know intuitively that his anger is clearly born of sincerity. My refusal to believe such an impactful message is an affront to his veracity. I go to my next class with an awful weight in my stomach. The palpable sense of dread is overwhelming to the point that I tell my teacher I'm not feeling well, and I have to go home. I leave, find my friend Dave, a fellow Zep devotee, tell him the news, and then go home. Finally, the reality of the situation lands. From the moment Bob tells me the news, I have a deep-seated sense that it is true. I call Bob to apologize for not believing him, and in doing so, break down in tears.
By September 25, 1980, I am part of a group of friends most of whom form a coterie of Zeppelin loyalists. It is a dark day indeed, that Thursday, as we all try to come to grips with this tragedy. We have no idea what are the details. All we know is that one of our principal points of commonality has been struck a terrible blow, and we're not sure how to make sense of it. Eventually, we re-group, carry on with our lives, and perhaps all grow up a little.
John Bonham is still recognized as perhaps the greatest of all Rock drummers -- and deservedly so. His legacy is massive, and continues to grow. His reputation for all manner of off-stage shenanigans is legendary. But it is his recorded legacy, both live and in the studio, that will live on. He is the very pulse and, with John Paul Jones, foundation for much of what Zeppelin delivers as a musical unit. The unmatched brilliance of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant is not the same without that Bonham/Jones rhythm section underscoring so much of their music. And when he dies, one forth of Zeppelin dies -- an effective death knell for the band. On December 4, 1980, an official group-penned announcement brings the mighty Zeppelin to an official end. On that day, I shed no tears -- I am merely numb.
The word Thursday is derived from "Thor's Day". On Thursday, the 25th of September, 1980, Thor's hammer comes down on the world's greatest band, striking a lethal blow. Right now, on Saturday, the 25th of September, 2010, I've outlived my favorite band by 30 years -- by the grace of God. And though they are no more, the music of Led Zeppelin continues to thrill me, and for that I am grateful.
We miss you, Bonzo.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
For those of you who have read my book, Back to Schoolin': What Led Zeppelin Taught Me About Music, you may remember that in Part 3 - The Business, I point out that the American sitcom, That 70's Show, names every episode of the fifth season after Zeppelin song titles. I also point out that the American sitcom Newsradio names approximately the last half of the second season after Zeppelin album titles. Now the new action/drama Covert Affairs, starring Piper Perabo, has joined in the fun by naming episodes 2-11 of its first season after Zeppelin song titles:
2 1-02 20/Jul/10 Walter's Walk
3 1-03 27/Jul/10 South Bound Suarez
4 1-04 03/Aug/10 No Quarter
5 1-05 10/Aug/10 In the Light
6 1-06 17/Aug/10 Houses of the Holy
7 1-07 24/Aug/10 Communication Breakdown
8 1-08 31/Aug/10 What Is and What Should Never Be
9 1-09 07/Sep/10 Fool in the Rain
10 1-10 14/Sep/10 I Can't Quit You Baby
11 1-11 14/Sep/10 When the Levee Breaks
Friday, September 3, 2010
The preceding profile is taken from the Examiner.com web-site where Sonya contributes articles, also maintaining a Zeppelin-specific site called Led Zeppelin Examiner. Her very generous review of Back to Schoolin' appeared recently, and is reproduced below:
Back to Schoolin': What Led Zeppelin Taught Me About Music by Kevin Courtright - A Review
- August 21st, 2010 10:36 pm ET
"Many music fans appreciate the greatness that was and is Led Zeppelin, but some don't truly understand the complexities and layers of the loudest, biggest, baddest rock band ever. Composer Kevin Courtright grew to appreciate the band at a young age and decided to share his wealth of Zep knowledge with the rest of the world by writing Back to Schoolin':What Led Zeppelin Taught Me About Music. In the beginning of the book, Courtright states that when he takes "an interest in something, he becomes obsessed with it." In the 350-plus pages of this book, he turns his obsession into a streamlined analysis of the formula of Led Zeppelin's magic.
The book has three sections, Part 1 focusing on the musical diversity of Zep, how lyrics elevated their material, their originality and the duality of the band, its "light and shade," simplicity and complexity. Part 2 delves into various aspects of Zeppelin's aesthetics; mysterious, symbolic album covers, each member's rock star persona, and the band's palpable chemistry. Part 3 explores their business acumen and the elements that kept them on top, as well as the groundbreaking group's legacy.
While the book is encyclopedic in content, a must for neo-Zeppelinites, it could use a few ingredients to make it jump off the page. Where are key photos of Zeppelin? Any Zeppelin newbie should definitely be shown the progression of the band's signature look, as well as die-hard fans given a peak of never-before-seen shots. Also, there should be more anecdotes and direct quotes from the Zeppelin members, which would liven up the book. Zep set the precedent for decadent living in the 70s and broke the mold for rock star glamour, let the reader get a sense of that excitement by using a little more humor and personal accounts from the members of the group or those associated with them.
Overall, an informative read that just needs to be a bit sexier. After all, Led Zeppelin was and is the poster child for sex appeal, so why not make any account of them just as titillating? This book is a good schoolin' on the nuts and bolts of the band, though, and is a good investment for the aspiring Zeppelin pupil."
I want to thank Sonya for her generous review!
Please visit the examiner.com site. And especially visit Sonya's Led Zeppelin Examiner site:http://www.examiner.com/led-zeppelin-in-national/sonya-alexander
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Writer, musician, and creator/maintainer of the Lemon Squeezings Led Zeppelin Web Site, Steve Sauer, is recently featured in an exclusive interview by Sonya Alexander, for the Led Zeppelin Examiner, in which he VERY generously plugs Back To Schoolin':
"Examiner: Why do you think Led Zeppelin is one of the best bands in rock history?
To me, the depth and variety of Led Zeppelin's music is a big part of it. The fact that those four guys are so great individually and blended so well together is another part of it. That all makes them one of the best bands in rock history, but that's a function of the even stronger opinion I hold that Led Zeppelin is probably the most intriguing band in rock history for reasons that deal with more than just the music alone.
I have to credit a musician and author out in California by the name of Kevin Courtright who published a highly informative book last year called Back to Schoolin': What Led Zeppelin Taught Me About Music. He definitely beat me to the punch when it comes to fully explaining how every last aspect of the band is so impressive. Basically, you could look at any of their album covers and point out something, and there's a story behind that. Who are the children on the cover of Houses of the Holy, and why are they purple? Is this massive mountain real? Where did they get this idea from? That's just one thing out of a million.
Kevin says he learned a lot from things like that, related to Led Zeppelin. I did too; it's just that Kevin actually put it into a book. Definitely read this and put the books in the hands of any aspiring musicians out there, or creators of any art, to be influenced -- both positively and negatively, because there are a few things Zeppelin did you may not want to repeat."
I am extremely pleased and honored by this generous plug. Steve previously reviewed my book for his web-site, again, very generously, (posted earlier on this blog-site), and I can't thank him enough.
Please take a moment to read the entire interview with Steve. He is very well-spoken and engaging. (Find the link both to the interview, as well as to Steve's Lemon Squeezings web-site below.)
Monday, June 7, 2010
As reported by Telegraph.co.uk:
"According to BBC2 viewers and Radio 2 listeners, Led Zeppelin are the best band ever. A live poll conducted at the finale of the BBC 2 series ‘I’m In A Rock And Roll Band!’ crowned the Seventies rock gods, after boiling it down to a short list of three: Zep, Queen and The Beatles.
"All good choices, of course, coming from a long list of The Clash, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Joy Division, Nirvana, Radiohead, The Rolling Stones & The Smiths. Presumably a lot of names got weeded out along the way but it’s hard to argue with Led Zeppelin, an incredible coming together of great musicians who pushed and pulled rock music in a host of new directions while essentially defining what it meant to be a hard, heavy, sexy rock band.
"But personally, I would put them third on the list. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are the bands who set almost the entire parameters for rock music in the Sixties. They remain the quintessential rock bands, and everything that followed is a kind of offshoot, either by reacting against them, or following through on their inspiration. Led Zeppelin certainly took up the baton and charged into the Seventies, but by that time the core of what it meant to be a rock band had already been defined.
"For me, there is something undeniable about a triumvirate of Beatles, Stones and Led Zeppelin as the best bands ever, that makes every other possible choice seem merely subjective."
For anyone who has read my book, you know that I sit squarely in the Led Zeppelin camp, holding them up as the greatest rock band of all time (in other words I agree with the voters in England). And with the British voters having also recently voted "Stairway to Heaven" as greatest Rock song of all time, I certainly find myself in kinship with those of the Mother Country (not so much that I believe "Stairway" to be the greatest Rock song, but that a Zeppelin song is the choice). Granted, these sorts of "polls" are subjective. But, they are also often influenced by present trends and points-of-view, making this choice all the more authentic as the choice is a band who have not officially existed in 30 years. So, I say, "Thanks, Mates! You have great taste over there on the other side of the pond!"
Saturday, May 29, 2010
I'm very pleased to announce that Back to Schoolin' has been reviewed most generously by world-renowned Zeppelin expert and author, Dave Lewis:
"Similar in feel to the recent Led Zeppelin Philosophy volume, Kevin Courtright's Back to Schoolin' offers a wealth of in depth Zep analysis. His own leanings as a musician aids his understanding of the musical diversity of the band. There are microscopic dissections on every aspect of the Zep spectrum: lyrical symbolism, live performance, improvisation, production techniques, session appearances, business practice, album artwork and artistic integrity -- all these subjects are stripped back with intimate detail. The rather dry tone of this type of research work may not be for everyone, but as the title implies, dedicated scholars of Led Zeppelin and those anxious to learn more on the philosophy of the band, will find much to glean from Kevin Courtright's admirable mass of Zepp cornucopia."
This review is contained in the latest issue of his magazine, Tight But Loose. Most Zeppelin fans know the name Dave Lewis, but a few words are in order.
Dave, who grew up and lives in England, is a Zeppelin fan since the early 70's. He has the honor of having seen the band some 12 or 13 times, including such milestone concerts as the 5 night season at Earls Court in London, in May 1975 (all 5 shows!), as well as both shows as headliners at the Knebworth Festival in August 1979. Dave is author of the books Led Zeppelin: The Concert File (with Simon Pallett); Led Zeppelin: A Celebration; Led Zeppelin: The Tight but Loose Files: Celebration II; Led Zeppelin: The Compete Guide To Their Music; Then As It Was - Led Zeppelin At Knebworth; and the forth-coming Led Zeppelin - Feather in the Wind: Over Europe 1980 (due out later this year.) Some of these books indeed serve as valuable well of information for me when writing Back to Schoolin'. I highly recommend subscribing to Dave's Tight But Loose magazine. It is well worth it! (go to: www.tblweb.com )
Any consideration of one's work is always appreciated, but positive considerations are highly rewarding. I want to thank Dave for his kind words!
Saturday, May 8, 2010
In 1919 a Russian named Leon Theramin invents an electronic device the intent of which is utilization as a musical instrument. In 1969 a Brit named Jimmy Page enlists this electronic musical instrument, aptly named a "Theramin", to add an other-worldly, psychedelic touch to the middle section of the Rock anthem he and his band-mates Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones have written (with lyrical borrowings from Bluesman Willie Dixon), called "Whole Lotta Love". This bringing together of Old World and New, Eastern hemisphere and Western, Scientist/Inventor and Musician/Composer/Producer proves to be an unlikely but highly successful synthesis.
Mr. Theramin invents his instrument while his country is suffering through its civil war/communist revolution. Mr. Page makes use of Theramin's instrument while Great Britain and the United States are suffering through a period of civil unrest/counter-cultural revolution. But regardless of the times and conditions in which the instrument is invented (Mr. Theramin) and later utilized to such magnificent effect (Mr. Page), the unquenchable spirit of creativity, over the back-drop of revolutionary upheaval, unveils for us the universal penchant for the transcendence of the arts -- in this case, music.
Obviously Mr. Theramin can not possibly imagine in the 1920's the remarkable manner in which Mr. Page will use his instrument in the 1960's/1970's, but this ability of each to tap into the muse for musical inspiration, distant in time from one another, solidifies for us the eternality of the creative spirit. From Leon Theramin proceeds forth a musical/electronic cross current, right to Jimmy Page. Though divided by time, they are united by creative purpose. Let music lovers everywhere rejoice.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
I'm honored that Back to Schoolin' is nominated for an award by the ARSC, The Association for Recorded Sound Collections. They give out awards annually for excellence in historical recorded sound research. I am currently unaware of how they know of my book, but am certainly pleased to be recognized. Again, this is a nomination, not an award. But, it's an honor just to be nominated. Hmmm...I'd swear I've heard that somewhere before.
Subject: Association of Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence
I am very pleased to inform you that your book, Back to Schoolin': What Led Zeppelin Taught Me About Music, has been nominated for the 2010 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research.
Our judges will choose a short list of finalists, and ultimately, one winner in each category. Finalists will be announced at ARSC's national conference in New Orleans in May. Our goal, quite simply, is to recognize and draw attention to the finest work being published on the subject of recorded sound.
Further information about ARSC and the awards, including a list of past winners, is available at: http://www.facebook.com/l/b339f;www.arsc-audio.org and http://www.facebook.com/l/b339f;www.arsc-audio.org/awards/index.html.