What an era the 60’s were for music! Of course, the most historic event was the entrance of a band called The Beatles to the music scene. They changed everything.
As I have previously written in other posts, we grew up listening to The 4 Seasons, The Beach Boys and a pretty good selection of wonderful Motown. This music defined the early 60’s and it could be heard playing from Palisades Park to the shores of Lake Hopatcong. New York DJ’s played the top 40 religiously, letting their loyal listeners know those songs that were rising on the Billboard chart like a “bullet”. We were caught up in it, enjoying the thrill of hearing our favorite song rise to the vaunted “Top 10” and perhaps having enough money to purchase their latest album. It seemed like all the “kids” had transistor radios and on hot summer evenings, the hits of the day echoed across the cobblestone streets of the City. At the swimming area in Lake Hopatcong, lovingly dubbed “The Mud Hole”, the lone vending truck blared The Seasons, The Beach Boys, Dion and the Belmonts, The Drifters, Sam Cook, etc. across the sandy shore. The sound quality by today’s standards was horrible, “tinny” and muffled, but glorious to us. This was American Music at its best. Then the world changed. Arguably, the most influential band in history hit the American shores in 1964, and nothing would ever be the same. For two years the Beatles dominated the charts. Here and there one of the classic bands mentioned would hold on to a top 10 spot and the 4 Seasons, The Beach Boys and the Supremes, to name a few went toe to toe with the Beatles. However, times were changing rapidly and the British invasion had an influence on not only music culture, but fashion as well. The crisp, clean-cut look of the late 50’s and 60’s was replaced with the shaggy “Beatle Cut”.The arrival of the Rolling Stones on the scene added to the changing genre of music and attire. The Stones had the shaggy hair, but a bit more tussled then the Beatles. Their clothes had a rougher look than the suited look of the early Beatles. The Stones were considered dangerous, while the Beatles “safe”. Songs such as “Paint it Black” And “Satisfaction” were creating a bit of a stir and we loved it. Beatle fans vs, Stones fans vs, the “holdout’ fans of the Seasons and the Beach Boys… so much fun!
Over the next few years, the music of these bands evolved in interesting ways. The Beatles shed their “pop rock” image for more enlightened/relevant music fueled by the masterful songwriting talents of McCartney and Lennon. The Stones doubled-down on their rebellious/dangerous image and became one of the great concert bands of all time. Their image was bolstered by drug allegations and even the tragic death of one of the founding members. The Seasons and the Beach Boys stayed relevant simply by maintaining a loyal fan base, while also making subtle changes to their look and style.
Then, 1969 happened, and my musical world was turned upside down. Enter Led Zeppelin. This legendary band brought a whole new sound to what I thought was my wide range of musical “likes”.
I never stopped loving my “other” music, I simply added a new sound to the repertoire. This was the infancy of Metal and oh, what an introduction it was. 48 Years ago (Good Lord!) when I first listened to Led Zeppelin 1…., I was hooked. This breakthrough album included “Good Times, Bad Times”,” Dazed and Confused” and “Communication Breakdown.” I had not heard anything quite like this before. The incredible voice of Robert Plant backed up by Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones on Guitar and Jon Bonham on drums opened a brand new world for me; that of Metal. I know that by today’s standards, many Metal Heads would snicker at the thought of early Zeppelin being considered Heavy Metal, but for me, in that time and place, the door was opened. Right on the heels of Zeppelin another English Metal Band made their entry. Black Sabbath and a frontman who would be known later as simply “Ozzy” contributed to widening the breach in the musical norms of the day.
The Stones continued, and rightfully so, to be positioned as the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World, but this was not Rock and Roll. This was darker and heavier and, in many ways, revolutionary.
Some reading this may not be familiar with the titles to many Zeppelin songs, but I am betting that if you listen to the opening riff of many of them, you will quickly recognize it as a classic. Test it out! Listen to the opening of just a few. May I suggest three? “Immigrant Song’, “Black Dog” and “Whole Lotta Love”.
Also, if you have never Googled footage of live Zeppelin performances, do it. Robert Plant as frontman was simply electric and his “look” was just as electrifying.
It’s strange how my mind worked back in the day. Always one to want to be someone else, the beautiful world of Music gave me so many to “want to be”. In the early years, I wanted to be Frankie Valli…. Then I desperately wanted to be Mick Jagger……. Then Robert Plant. (Just for the record I don’t think I ever stopped wanting to be Sinatra. I told you I had a wide range of musical likes.)
Probably without much debate, Stairway To Heaven became the most recognizable and loved song by Zeppelin. It became an anthem. To this day, when I hear the opening guitar, I get quiet, stop what I’m doing and listen. After all, “Stairway to Heaven” is playing.
A few years ago I was watching a tribute to Led Zeppelin on television. The band Heart took on the awesome challenge of covering “Stairway to Heaven.” The large auditorium became hushed as they beautifully navigated through this classic song. The Camera panned to Robert Plant sitting in the audience. The passage of time had done it’s inevitable work and Plant looked aged, no more the blond, slender, sexy frontman. Now just a man. The camera zoomed in on his face as he listened to the beautiful rendition. Tears were clearly seen running down his face.
They were on mine as well.