Led Zeppelin is the #1 Rock and Roll Band of All TimeWritten by Peter Cross
I've been in rock and roll all my life, and I'm well aware that The Rolling Stones have been called best rock and roll band. Don't get me wrong because I love Mick and Stones, and Beatles were my major musical influence, but here's why I think that Led Zeppelin is best rock and roll band of all time:
1. BEST PLAYERS
First of all, John Bonham was best rock and roll drummer ever to walk face of this planet, and that's an informed opinion coming from a former professional drummer. John played drums unlike anyone else ever did, still does, or ever will, and that fact is continually demonstrated in astounding breadth and depth of his recorded work. He had complete independence in all four limbs, he slammed his drums harder than anyone else, and he did it with speed and total precision, never once dropping beat. His beats were were innovative and creative. John was never stuck in simple grooves. His fills were also innovative, creative, complex, and technically brilliant. He knew when to keep it relatively simple (i.e. Kashmir), but he was always simply in stratosphere of drumming. And to top that all off, John created a giant drum sound which is unique. It inspired a host of immitators who could only approach sound of his snare drum, but just with a simple backbeat. But not one of them can begin to touch his creativity, speed, precision, or technical brilliance. At time that Led Zep was formed, Jimmy Page could have gotten any drummer in world to play with him, and he chose John. I've heard that Jimmy still feels same way about John as I do.
Secondly, Jimmy Page has always been one of best rock guitarists ever, right from his earliest days as a session player and beginning of his real public stardom in Yardbirds. I believe that Jimmy is most brilliantly prolific of all rock and roll guitarists. I suspect that Jimmy would agree with me that Jimi Hendrix was genius because he came from another galaxy in terms of his sound and his use of feedback. But unfortunately, Jimi died and we will never know how much further he would have progressed. When I listen to Jimmy's solos using violin bow, I get urge to put him on same pedestal as Hendrix and wonder which galaxy they both came from. As a songwriter, Jimmy used his superior ability to play lead guitar to create actual song structure. Led Zep's songs use not one or two of Jimmy's incredibly powerful, complicated and unbelievably SEXY riffs in each song, but there are four, five or more riffs in some songs. Jimmy's riffs differ from each other within each song, and also from song to song. His lead guitar playing can be HARD and sexy, he can be sensitive and beautiful, and he can be technically brilliant - all in very same song.
Thirdly, John Paul Jones is a bass player who attained a level of brilliance comparable to Paul McCartney. Just like McCartney, John could play beautiful "melodic" bass (i.e. "Ramble On"), he could play as fast as it gets, but he also knew when to keep it simple and just hold down bottom, although I think he was incapable of simply doing that without utter sophistication. No one at all can touch those two on bass, and John also played consistently brilliant keyboards - piano, organ and synthesizer. The intricate way in which he wove his bass guitar playing into, through, and underneath Jimmy's guitar playing is nothing short of perfection iteslf.
And last but not at all least, Robert Plant had an incredibly high vocal range, emotionally as well as in terms of octaves. Just like Dylan was for his own music, Robert's voice was perfect for Led Zep's music and there's no other singer who could possibly have fit in. Personally, and also as a professional singer, Robert knocks me out both technically and emotionally. He also understood concept of using his voice like a musical instrument, creating fascinating sounds without using lyrics. And Robert co-wrote with Jimmy too. A lot of time you can't understand his lyrics and I've heard that was Robert's intent because just like Mick Jagger, all he cared about at that time was that you connect with emotion and energy in totality of music. But when you can get lyrics (like in Stairway to Heaven, their tribute to Janis Joplin), you find a great piece of poetry. And on top of all that, Robert had best "oooh yeahs" in business.
2. CREATIVE SONGWRITING
Hardly anybody has ever covered Led Zep songs for very good reasons. Their song structure is based on their vastly superior playing abilities and there's no one who can actually play what they played. I'm talking about songs that are not based on simple chords like all other rock and roll is. Jimmy and Robert based their songs on Jimi's riffs and on his chordal tonalities that to this day stand alone as being unique. I'm also talking about length of songs that maintain a constant and intense high, up to 11 minutes in length without resorting to an overly repetitive chorus. I know from Robert's solo work after Led Zep that he also uses unusual tonalities in his writing, but even without actually knowing this I would have to assume that due to Jimmy Page being an erupting fountain of brilliant guitar work, majority of non-vocal music creation came from Jimmy. The Beatles certainly deserve abject worship for John and Paul's creative songwriting ability, no question about that. Certainly Mick and Keith wrote a slew of classic, historic and truly memorable rock songs, but very nature of their comparatively simple rock and roll structure and basic similarity to each other in terms of using major and minor chord progressions, simple and basic rock and roll rhythms, and verse/chorus/bridge approach defines them as being less innovative when compared to Robert and Jimmy.
Paul McCartney at The SuperbowlWritten by Peter Cross
Paul's show at Superbowl was an historic event for a number of reasons. We were all watching a living legend in action, a star from 1960's up there on stage acting like a teenager entertaining teenagers in 2005, and audience reacted on most fundamental level. Now I've seen a lot of shows by many rock legends, including Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Grateful Dead, and many others, and I have to say that Paul's Superbowl show was best short rock and roll show in history.
To begin with, I did not fail to notice his choice of songs. He began his show with "Baby You Can Drive My Car", a driving piece of simple rock and roll, and then followed up with two more simple Beatles songs. Of course, Paul can afford best musicians to back him up, and I also did not fail to notice that these expert players stayed true to The Beatles tracks and played them note for note like records. Each song was one that Paul wrote, and they were all straight ahead, simple rock and roll. I also thought it was significant that he chose "Get Back", and that at end of song he asked audience, "Do you want to Get Back?" The audience roared their approval. Now what do you think they all want to get back to?
The significance of what he did proves a concept that's occurred to me recently. I believe that cycle of creativity in music is just about over. If you examine human history, creative bursts never remain in any one genre indefinitely. Ever since early 1990's when Van Halen, Alanis Morrisette and Jewel hit charts big time, there haven't been any more rock acts that are capable of sustaining their success in recording studio. On account of this and phenomenon of free MP3 downloading, most record companies are losing money. The old formula of having record company put up well in excess of $150,000 to promote a new act simply doesn't work any more. In order for a record company to recoup their initial investment in recording time and promotion, it's absolutely necessary to have an act that can write and record more than one hit record, and that's missing key. There are no more acts who can do that, and record companies are painfully aware of this.
After Paul finished his three Beatles songs, he performed one Wings song - Live and Let Die. I think he chose that one because it has great dynamics which lent itself naturally to impressive light show that accompanied song. But then Paul chose to end his show with "Hey Jude", which is certainly one of definitive Beatles songs. In terms of dynamics of his entire show, it was a natural choice for an ending.
I also could not fail to miss that whenever camera panned out over audience, all I could see were young people in teenager to early 20's age group. I would have expected to see old hippies from Paul's generation, but there were none that I could see. Of course, audience adored Paul and did usual arm waving thing and massive lighter thing in dark, and that means nothing because audiences do exact same thing for famous acts with no talent. But point I'm making here is that young people are definitely turning back to real rock and roll, Paul is one of originals, and audience was fully aware and appreciative. There are at least three reasons why young people are turning back to rock and roll: