OZ Issue – March 1969
Felix was selected to write the first ever review of Led Zeppelin’s first album
A March 1969 Oz magazine review of Zeppelin’s debut album, written by Felix Dennis…
Very occasionally a long-playing record is released that defies immediate classification or description, simply because it’s so obviously a turning point in rock music that only time proves capable of shifting it into eventual perspective. (Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, The Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday, Disraeli Gears, Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? and Sgt. Pepper). This Led Zeppelin album is like that.
Before joining the now sadly defunct Yardbirds Jim Page was acknowledged as one of the best session musicians on either side of the Atlantic. Here it’s clear why. Few rock musicians in the world could hope to parallel the degree of technical assurance and gutsy emotion he displays throughout these nine tracks. Exactly eighty-four seconds after the beginning of ‘Good Times Bad Times’, the first cut, side one, Page does things with an electric guitar that might feebly be described as bewildering. From then on it only gets better.
Lead vocalist Robert Plant is a blue-eyed soul merchant, Farlowe when he isn’t being Winwood, living proof of the YouDon’tHaveToBeBlackToSingTheBlues theory, formerly with Birmingham based group, The Band of Joy, as is the Zeppelin’s drummer John Bonham. Bonham’s technique is interesting. It’s nice to be able to listen to a drummer whose use of the bass pedal and cymbals is intelligent without being studied and contrived and at the other end of the stick, powerful without deteriorating into frenzied, feverish thrashing.
John Paul Jones plays bass and organ for Led Zeppelin. It’s enough to say that of both instruments he is an experienced, resourceful master.
This album makes you feel good. It makes you feel good to hear a band with so much to say and the conspicuous ability to say it as they feel it; to translate what’s in their heads to music. It makes you feel good to hear Bonham and Jones working together, creating those deep, surging, undercurrents of rhythm as Page again and again molests the more vulnerable areas of his Telecaster. Good to listen to Plant with his ugly, angry vocals, bellowing to his woman that he’s leaving her – right after the next fuck. Good to dig completely spontaneous but so, so beautiful breaks is ‘How Many More Times’, or Jones running amok on his Hammond keyboard in Willie Dixon’s ‘You Shook Me’ and to sway, entranced with Page’s droning, mantra-like bow guitar in ‘Dazed and Confused’.
It makes you feel good because it is good; and in places much more than that.
Of course, as a result of this album we’ll lose the group to the States, and almost certainly within the month the MM letters page will headline – ‘Is Page BETTER Than God?!!’ – and then the BBC will begin negotiations on a feature film… but there’s more to it than that. There is a phrase nobody uses anymore, (not since we de-freaked our hair, handed back granny her beads, quietly disposing of kaftans and joss sticks to jumble collections). That phrase exactly sums up Led Zeppelin’s debut album. Remember Good Vibrations?