When does a live performance movie develop into cinema? Like pornography or which bagel to ask for (no, no, the one to the best), I do know it once I see it. And I say something with Robert Plant driving a horse throughout the Welsh countryside to rescue a maiden from a fortress is cinema.
When Led Zeppelin lastly launched The Song Remains The Same in October of 1976 — three years after the preliminary footage was shot, and 45 years in the past TODAY! — it’s vital to do not forget that the connection between musicians and followers was utterly totally different than it’s now. Whereas in the present day a celebrity like Lil Nas X will retweet memes despatched his manner from admirers, you possibly can go your complete life within the outdated days by no means truly listening to the talking voice of somebody you worshipped, particularly a bunch that deliberately shrouded themselves in fantasy just like the mighty Led Zep!
Led Zeppelin was arguably the most important touring act of the Nineteen Seventies—they’d their own plane, for Web page’s sake. On the identical time they have been remodeling standard music by mixing Delta blues, British folks, and Jap melodies with the darkish sorcery of heavy, electrified psychedelia and the riff-that-can-not-die, the rumors about this band added to their recognition. What the heck are these 4 bizarre symbols on the fourth album? Did you hear the story concerning the mud shark? Doesn’t the chief, Jimmy Web page, dwell in Aleister Crowley’s outdated residence (truly true!) and is due to this fact a satan worshipper and practising necromancer? (That final bit, nicely, who’s to say?)
Zeppelin’s supervisor Peter Grant used the excuse of “dangerous audio” to make sure that they rarely appeared on tv, which enforced extra shortage. It was sensible, as a result of again then, earlier than YouTube and MTV (sure, I’m on a rocking chair holding a pipe proper now), when a band did one thing mainstream they needed to considerably shave off the perimeters to suit a program’s format. Even Frank Zappa informed dumb “he have to be excessive!” jokes on Saturday Evening Reside.
So a live performance movie, the one choice to stand up shut and private with a band on their phrases, appeared a pure for Zeppelin. And with heavy steel/acid rock audiences making do with dopey actions like planetarium laser shows to tide them over between excursions, the movie was a hit. Nevertheless it stands out in the present day not simply because it one of many few excessive decision captures of the band at their peak, it’s additionally a window into the world of excessive fantasy and hazard that no different group perfected fairly like they did.
The film—currently streaming on HBO Max in a terrific readability that makes a mockery of the VHS copy I watched 100 occasions as a child—begins with a wordless prologue. A group of Twenties gangsters drive to an English property and shoot up a gang of werewolves, Nazis, and peculiar wanting dudes with no faces. Why? Effectively, um, as a result of stoners wanted a couple of minutes to search out their seats? I can’t say for certain! What finally unfolds within the movie is that every of the 4 members of the group will get just a little “fantasy part” the place the movie cuts away to one thing shot like an precise film. This pre-title sequence belongs to Zeppelin’s notoriously brusque supervisor, Peter Grant.
The subsequent bit exhibits the band—bassist/organist John Paul Jones, drummer John Bonham, Samson-locked lead singer Robert Plant, and lead guitarist/principal songwriter/sonic architect Jimmy Web page—receiving an invite to exit on tour. Plant is galavanting in a Lord of the Rings-like rustic utopia, his moppety nude kids bathing in a stream. Web page, enjoying a hurdy-gurdy, gazes again on the digital camera with demonic eyes.
13 minutes into this rattling factor we lastly get some music. The lights come up at New York’s Madison Sq. Backyard because the guitar crashes in on “Rock and Roll,” and it’s the view from behind the group (part 112, to these within the know.) Even in case you don’t care a lot for this type of music you can’t deny its energy.
Bonham and Jones are a volcanic rhythm part who like to throw in shock fills totally different from what you hear on the albums. Web page covers the stadium in sheets of sound, soloing like a frightened tarantula one minute and utilizing the guitar like a percussion instrument the following. Robert Plant is the quintessential nice golden god of rock ‘n roll, belting out filthy excessive notes and searching cooler than Roger Daltrey whereas doing it.
So many traditional rock jokes can discover their roots right here. “You already know these guitars which might be, like, double guitars?” That’s Jimmy Web page. “We’ve received armadillos in our trousers!” Oh, man, that’s Robert Plant. His denims are extraordinarily tight and the digital camera angle is kind of low and, nicely, there’s no use denying that his intercourse organ might as nicely have gotten its personal billing. (I additionally just like the embroidered coronary heart on his left pant leg. You might not discover it at first, as Plant is “dressing proper.”)
Each music is a winner, even the lengthy drum solo “Moby Dick.” (It will probably get stale on the album, however enjoyable to observe right here, particularly intercut with footage of Bonham at residence.) “No Quarter” is one other spotlight, with the bass line performed by means of a Fender Rhodes organ, and Web page creating evil dissonance on a theremin. You additionally get massive hits like “Heartbreaker” and “Stairway to Heaven,” however we have to discuss concerning the centerpiece, which is “Dazed and Confused.”
At a jammed-out size, it consists of interludes into different songs, like Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco” and a blues-y bit unrelated to the principle melody. However that’s simply the half of it. Web page grabs a violin bow to create eerie, Darkish Shadows-y noises and, after “throwing” these sounds across the corridor, we dissolve to a scene of pure terror.
Now, the rumor was that in case you put a tab of LSD in your tongue when the film began, you’ll peak simply as Jimmy Web page reached the highest of this gnarly hill of vines and roots and got here face-to-face with “The Hermit,” a picture from the tarot deck that was discovered contained in the band’s unpronounceable fourth album. The Hermit’s face, at first, is historic, however then it strikes backwards in time to develop into Web page, then Web page as a toddler, then as an toddler, then as a fetus, after which, after some lightning flashes, speeds again within the different course right into a psychedelic medley of flashing coloration.
Throughout this far out expertise, Robert Plant, ever the poet, continues along with his ordinary blues advert libs, and cries “suck it! suck it!”
That is all a part of what makes this a fully foundational rock ‘n roll epic.
There are different treasures, like glimpses of the whacked-out viewers members (even a cop has his mouth agape at one level) plus some backstage shenanigans with Peter Grant offended at bootleg poster sellers. It’s nothing in comparison with the fan interplay you’ll see in The Grateful Dead Movie or Woodstock, however it’s enjoyable to see who was shopping for tickets in 1973 for this indescribable group. Additionally, there’s a real crime bit to the film, when the band discovers that their protected deposit field on the lodge was robbed. (On the time, this was the biggest lodge theft in New York historical past, and the thieves have by no means been caught.)
The band self-financed the movie, which suggests there was some stress with the administrators. Their first rent was a person named Peter Clifton, however it was found that there have been gaps within the protection that demanded reshoots. A stage in Britain was redressed to resemble MSG’s and the group mimed their pre-recorded strikes. (John Paul Jones needed to put on a wig so his hair would match.) The brand new director, Joe Massot, received right into a disagreement with Peter Grant and refused handy the brand new footage over, so Grant’s goons went to his place and “repossessed” his modifying gear. Perhaps a few of that is lore, however it makes the film even cooler.
Right this moment it could actually really feel like we are able to’t get our stars out of our faces. The Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana, to make use of only one instance, is extraordinarily watchable, however appears like it’s half of a bigger model technique. The Music Stays The Identical, against this, is a creative assertion. Certain, it’s possible you’ll snicker at it, however it’s with out compromise. And there’s nothing “the identical” about it.
Jordan Hoffman is a author and critic in New York Metropolis. His work additionally seems in Vainness Honest, The Guardian, and the Instances of Israel. He’s a member of the New York Movie Critics Circle, and tweets about Phish and Star Trek at @JHoffman.
https://decider.com/2021/10/20/led-zeppelin-the-song-remains-the-same-movie-at-45/ | Led Zeppelin’s ‘The Music Stays The Identical’ At 45: Large Riffs, Tight Denims, And Even A Dose Of True Crime