Peter Cavanaugh

Getting the Led Out

They turn 50 next year.

It was and remains the very best concert ever.

Such lofty placement atop the hierarchy of Rock & Roll is surely a matter of subjective taste, but the band was really on that night and played for an uninterrupted three hours and forty-five minutes. It was precision and perfection.

I had been curious as to how closely they could duplicate their heavily produced studio sound. It was surpassed in every instance. I was concerned they might be a little fatigued from their long road tour and/or excessive consumption of various substances rumored to offer relaxing measures of succor and solace during their travels.

It was at exactly 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 31 of 1975, that the lights at Olympia Stadium in Detroit dimmed and four tall figures strolled confidently onto the stage. Launched with a roaring, soaring explosion of sound, the mighty Zeppelin took flight.

Led Zeppelin had been formed nearly seven years earlier in July of 1968 by guitarist Jimmy Page, who had just left The Yardbirds. Page added singer Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham from the little known British group Band of Joy, and completed his assembly with a leading British session musician, John Paul Jones as bassist and keyboard player. Led Zeppelin had quickly stormed into the forefront of heavy Rock with the release of their first album.

Keith Moon of The WHO had suggested the band’s name.

As was true of WHO, Led Zeppelin had always been essentially a musical trio with Robert Plant limited primarily to vocal contribution. That the sound had always been as big as it was with only three basic players had been an awesome realization.

I had always believed there are a number of consciousness levels accessible through and evident within Led Zeppelin music. Zeppelin’s primary definition and function as a “Rock & Roll Band” was beyond dispute, offering an enormously evident primal beat that powerfully throbbed throughout their more high volume efforts with unfailing distinction.

They were incredibly tight as a unit and could sweep through dimensions of intensity with total command. Their highly accomplished use of acoustical instrumentation offered yet greater focus, depth and unique musical originality. And I found them supremely spiritual. Through Led Zeppelin, I sensed a timeless magic, finding expression and release.

In the ancient blood of some flow the genes and genius of masters, teachers, physicians and priests from a time when Druids walked the land and even long before. Celtic mysticism enveloped the night. With both conscious and subconscious awareness, masterful words unveiled an absolute reality, both universal and beyond. Lyrical poetry and sweeping imagery spoke of many parallel worlds - all joined. With vibrant sexuality, flesh and spirit became as one in an exuberant celebration of timeless existence and exaltation.

In Led Zeppelin, rock music offered eloquent articulation of the unknown as merely unrecalled, expressing passionate human desire in both physical and metaphysical terms.

I remain amazed that this unique transcendence has never been fully appreciated nor extensively explored.

Zeppelin never stopped. In addition to all of their most familiar material, the group introduced large segments of a soon-to-be-released double-album. It was thus I first heard much of Physical Graffiti with virginal ears as they first introduced Kashmir to an American audience.

That night in Detroit I was ruined for life. The measure of excellence established on stage by Led Zeppelin became the absolute standard.

As of 2017, The Song Remains The Same.

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