Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Song Remains the Same

When I was in high school back in the 1980s, a bunch of us went into New York City to see the laser light show at the Hayden Planetarium. Gosh, who was there? I know James went. Maybe Arnel? Did Ramsey come? Noel? Anyway, it was a night out.

The audience in the planetarium buzzed with excitement. The house lights went dim. The dome darkened. In complete simulated night, the music began with a sonic bang: The Song Remains the Same, by Led Zeppelin. The song was an electric guitar assault that had me asking "What is this? I want to hear it again!" I don't remember too much else from that show, but that song stayed with me.

In the weeks or months that followed, I learned that this song was "hard rock," so I wasn't going to be hearing it on my usual Top Forty/Casey Kasem approved pop-music station. I had to listen to WPLJ. I hung by the radio until the song came on (this is how we dealt with music back in the day!) and when it came on again, I committed to memory the band and the song once more. Led Zeppelin. The Song Remains the Same.

Maybe within the next year I dished out a whole bunch of money for the double-album "The Song Remains the Same". I didn't realize at the time that a) this was a soundtrack album off their ill-received concert movie, and b) the song was on their fifth album, "Houses of the Holy." I probably only played that one song off that double record, but it was worth it.

The song is a layered guitar masterpiece, with accompanying drums and bass to match. Jimmy Page's guitar rocks with a fierce but exciting and invigorating sound that drives upwards and upwards until it reaches a quieter section, the upper atmosphere of psychedelic rock. Robert Plant wails. Page jams a solo, then ratchets up the song again, upwards through some power chords, to a thrilling finish. Think of the theme to Rocky or Star Wars, but faster, and with guitars blazing.

The song was released in 1973. At this point, the band was at the height of their powers. I was only five years old then, but the fact that this song rocked me in high school, and can still rock me today is a testament to Led Zeppelin's unquestioned musicality, and their legacy in rock music. Fans of today's music would do themselves a favor by checking out Led Zeppelin's rich catalog of songs. They can start with "The Song Remains the Same."

Note: This month, I will be writing about songs.


  1. Total stranger here, just wanting to say - do yourself a favor and listen to the whole two discs! Also, get the newly remastered version of "The Song Remains the Same" on CD and/or DVD, which came out in '07. If the title tune blows your mind, wait until you hear the rest remixed by masters, Jimmy Page and Kevin Shirley. You will be happy you did.

  2. Cat, listening to those albums is totally on my TODO list. 2008 is my Summer of Zeppelin. I'm going through their catalog, learning and reminding myself of their music. I'll be sure to check out the new versions.