Saturday, September 25, 2010

Thirty Years Gone

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

Covert (Zeppelin) Affairs

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:

• Season 1  
1  1-1  13/Jul/10 Pilot 
[Recap] [Trailer] 
2  1-02 20/Jul/10 Walter's Walk 
[Recap] [Trailer] 
3  1-03 27/Jul/10 South Bound Suarez 
[Recap] [Trailer] 
4  1-04 03/Aug/10 No Quarter 
[Recap] [Trailer] 
5  1-05 10/Aug/10 In the Light 
[Recap] [Trailer] 
6  1-06 17/Aug/10 Houses of the Holy 
[Recap] [Trailer] 
7  1-07 24/Aug/10 Communication Breakdown 
[Recap] [Trailer] 
8  1-08 31/Aug/10 What Is and What Should Never Be 
[Recap] [Trailer] 
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 

As I state in my book, this is evidence of the on-going impact that Zeppelin has on their fan-base. It is a reasonable assumption that in all 3 cases, the Creator/Executive Producer of these shows is a Zep fan whose goal is to pay tribute, albeit via subterfuge, to the mighty Led Zeppelin. And I, for one, thank them! And if these folks are not fans, I still thank them!

Though Covert Affairs has just finished its first season, I recommend giving the show a try in re-runs and, if it returns, its next season. Any show that has such great taste in music can't be half bad (which it isn't, having seen an episode myself).

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Latest Review for Back to Scoolin'!

"Writer/Producer Sonya Alexander has worked for some of the most high-profile companies in the film and television industry. She was trained to become a literary agent at the William Morris Agency and The Agency, where she read scripts and scouted for new, talented writers. She has written many articles about celebrities in the entertainment industry for such publications and websites as, Black Filmmaker Magazine, ScriptWriter Magazine, and Essence Magazine, as well as for political site Over the years, Sonya has built strong, longstanding relationships with many Hollywood actors, writers, directors and producers. She is very pleased to be in the process of publishing her first book, "Echoes of Colonization: Creole Culture in Louisiana and Haiti." She resides in New York."

The preceding profile is taken from the 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
Back to Schoolin' cover

"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 site. And especially visit Sonya's Led Zeppelin Examiner site: