Wednesday 20 September 2017

Ledding it all hang out - Led Zeppelin are a band with enduring appeal

As Led Zeppelin release three studio albums Eamon Sweeney looks at the band's enduring appeal

Iconic: Led Zeppelin.
Iconic: Led Zeppelin.
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page at Live Aid in 1985
Led Zeppelin Concert: Tribute To Ahmet Ertegun in 2007
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

Led Zeppelin defined rock 'n' roll. They remain an omnipresent influence on popular culture. For proof, just look at Mick Wallace's hair.

Eagerly anticipated remasters of their first three studio albums are finally being made available this weekend.

Meanwhile, their signature song, 'Stairway to Heaven', is caught up in a fascinating plagiarism suit. This is the fifth copyright infringement charge to be levelled against the rock legends.

The estate of the late Randy California claims that the song's intro is directly lifted from an instrumental track entitled 'Taurus' by California's band Spirit. Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, you can check it out for yourself. The similarities are as clear as day.

Legal analysts expect the case will be settled confidentially out of court, which is exactly how Led Zeppelin dealt with previous copyright infringement claims for 'Whole Lotta Love', 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You,' 'The Lemon Song' and 'Dazed and Confused.'

However, lawyer Francis Malofiy has stated that the object of the exercise is to obtain a songwriting credit for Randy California over 40 years after the song's composition.

Incidentally, it should be said that Malofiy has been reprimanded for behaving "in a flagrantly unprofessional and offensive manner" during a court case involving the R&B singer Usher's songwriting credits.

The timeless infamy of 'Stairway To Heaven' knows no bounds. There are countless crackpot conspiracy theories hooked around a lyric in the middle part of the song that goes: "If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now." An infamous and outlandish claim contends that if you play this section backwards (as if that is the whole point of listening to music) a Satanic message is revealed.

Even when the group is an active entity, Led Zeppelin are easily one of the most talked about and enigmatic bands on the planet.

Since the death of John Bonham, the surviving Led Zeppelin members have not reformed or toured with only a few notable exceptions.

Page, Plant and Jones played a brief set at Live Aid at Philadelphia, which Page then branded "pretty shambolic". Plant, however, went one further and dismissed the whole circus as "an atrocity".

In December 2007, Led Zeppelin played a single one-off benefit performance for Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegün in London with John Bonham's son Jason playing drums.

The special show received more than 20m applications for 20,000 tickets and set a new world record for the highest demand for a single live event in history.

Robert Plant has since pinned the blame for Led Zeppelin's subsequent inactivity on Page and John Paul Jones' other projects. Ironically, however, Plant will be playing the Marquee in Cork next month with a band called The Sensational Space Shifters.

Jimmy Page isn't too impressed with Plant's antics. "Everyone would love to play more concerts," he has said. "He's just playing games, and I'm fed up with it, to be honest with you."

Plant, meanwhile, sees some parallels with the Eagles, who are also coming to town next week.

"Do you know why the Eagles said they'd reunite when 'hell freezes over,' but they did it anyway and kept touring?" he has asked. "It's not because they were paid a fortune – it's not about the money. It's because they're bored. I'm not bored."

Led Zeppelin fans are certainly getting a little bored of such a long and painfully drawn out saga.

"People ask me nearly every day about a possible reunion," Page has said. "The answer is no. (But) there's always a possibility that they can exhume me and put me on stage in a coffin and play a tape."

Whatever happens regarding a comeback, you can be sure of one thing: that even death, pestilence or a plague won't stop the Led Zeppelin juggernaut from rumbling on forever.

ROBERT PLANT PLAYS THE MARQUEE, CORK ON JUNE 25. REMASTERED VERSIONS OF LED ZEPPELIN'S FIRST THREE ALBUMS ARE OUT NOW. A FILM ENTITLED LED ZEPPELIN WILL BE SHOWN IN THE CAFE OF TOWER RECORDS ON NASSAU STREET, DUBLIN AT 4.30PM TOMORROW, SUNDAY, JUNE 1. ADMISSION FREE.

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