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- © Robert Scott Lefsetz
"Really don't mind if you sit this one out"
I've got all these people testifying about "Physical Graffiti".
And I understand. I really do.
But I wonder if they've ever heard "Back To The Family" from
Zeppelin's lucky. John Bonham died before they could get long in the
decline, become so bad that everyone started to re-evaluate all their
Robert Plant. He's cut a few good solo albums. "Now & Zen". "Fate
Nations". But they miss...Jimmy.
But Jimmy without Robert... Is like a great outfielder on a team with
On one level, Tull DID break up. CONSTANTLY! Although the name was
retained, the players changed seemingly album by album. The only stalwarts
being Ian Anderson and Martin
The very first album. Which purists consider the BEST! Blues-inflected.
Key player Mick
Abrahams was sacked after it was recorded and went on
to form Blodwyn Pig.
But it was the second record that was the breakthrough. The one that
the band above CULT status. To the point where EVERYBODY who listened
to FM KNEW about them.
You'd hear "Bouree" on the radio. All the time. And "Fat
Fat Man". It's as if you took that Page/Plant album and crossed
Loreena McKennitt. Sounded like it was cut in Middle Earth. Otherworldly,
but CATCHY TOO!
But that's as deep as radio went.
But there were the three chugging Zeppelinesque songs. Oh, they didn't
really sound like Zeppelin, but there's nothing extant TODAY that's remotely
similar. With the dynamics, the intensity, the TIME CHANGES!! There's
aforementioned "Back To The Family". With the flute coming
in and out,
unlike ANY other record on the market. And "Jeffrey Goes To Leicester
Square". A scaled down "Fat Man". And the ripper "Nothing
Is Easy". THIS
was English music in the late sixties. Sounded like John Mayall. Cream.
Antecedents for Zeppelin.But, it was the BALLADS that haunt you. It's
the BALLADS you remember all these years later.
Imagine you were in last week's snowstorm. Alone. Yup, just you in the
house. Maybe your dog too. You can't go out. You're sick of talking on
phone. With the blowing snow, there's little ambient light in your abode.
You turn on the floor lamp by the couch, settle in and listen to "Reasons
Waiting". And "Look Into The Sun". They fit the mood perfectly.
"Stand Up" is one of the great forgotten records. All you young
there. Who've listened to Zeppelin. The Doors. Discovered a bit of
Clapton. Go out and buy "Stand Up". You'll feel like you found
lost uncle. Someone related, someone you know, who knows you, but grew
separate. You feel the connection...and can't stop thinking about it.
this music is EXACTLY WHAT YOU LIKE ABOUT MUSIC.
The follow-up, "Benefit", was the true breakthrough. Now it
wasn't only the
hipsters who were into Tull, but EVERYMAN! He was hooked on "To
Cry You A
Song", with its metal-like riff. Rap on "Benefit" was
that it was a
SELL-OUT! Fodder for the mainstream.
Stunningly, the critics were right about this one. It wasn't all sour
grapes. The tracks didn't have quite the mysticism.
Then again, it would be like arguing with "Zenyatta Mondatta".
May not be
super-MEANINGFUL, but it's a hell of a lot of fun to LISTEN TO!
And, it DID contain "Sossity: You're A Woman", which was straight
out of "
And then came "Aqualung". Tull's Led Zeppelin IV. Before that
just as big.
You heard the album OVER and OVER again. Like "Stairway To Heaven",
title track was UBIQUITOUS! Radio would play the WHOLE album. Deep cuts
a regular basis. Tull became one of the biggest bands in the world. Helped
by Ian Anderson's exuberant stage antics.
But, although "Aqualung" wasn't trivial like "Benefit",
it was just a bit
too...CALCULATED! And it took itself too SERIOUSLY! It was a PRESENTATION!
A PERFORMANCE! Whereas "Stand
Up" was a gift from God. Something
to you in the middle of the night. That resonated. That was JUST for
no matter HOW MANY people heard it.
And then came "Thick
As A Brick".
I don't think of "Thick
As A Brick" too much today. It's not
a staple of
classic rock radio. They don't play it at sporting events. They don't
But when I got in my car today for my drive to Brentwood and I pushed
button for DeepTracks on XM...there it was.
You've got to understand. They don't use instrumentation like this anymore.
Oh, there are balladeers. New age folkies who play acoustic guitars.
But no self-respecting rocker. Unless he's playing UNPLUGGED! Making
But "Thick As
A Brick" starts off with an acoustic guitar figure.
a walk in the English countryside. With the flute eventually propelling
Not that the song stays mellow FOREVER!
No, it gets heavy. Intense.
Actually, it goes on for FORTY THREE MINUTES!!! One song. It was a
We had the first concept album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club
Well, some say it was "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake", but let's not
We had the first rock opera, "Tommy".
We had gatefold covers.
There was no stasis. Acts were CONSTANTLY pushing the envelope. Delivering
things you couldn't even CONCEIVE OF!
Yup, back in the early seventies, acts released an album a year. And
1972 album, Jethro Tull released a record with ONE SONG!
The public rejected the record, right?
No way. Sold like hotcakes. And the PACKAGING! The cover resembled a
NEWSPAPER! And inside, there was a COMPLETE fake newspaper. Containing
up stories. Playing the record and reading the cover was like entering
another LAND! Which is what the great listening experiences are ALWAYS
And the tour. Massive. Sold out. Almost impossible to get a ticket.
Oh, the reviews weren't all positive. But the fans...the fans LOVED IT!
And I'm driving up 20th Street. By Sony Music. Where they purvey crap
J. Lo. And Audioslave. And emanating from my stereo is this CLASSIC!
but, BUT, will it be the TRUE CLASSIC!!
You see not long after the album was released, the band did an edit.
radio. AOR had been formalized. Not that many stations played complete
albums. Oh, some did. But you couldn't COUNT ON IT!
And the five minute edit. Had some of the movements. But it was ALL WRONG!
You can't sprint to the end. You can't watch five minutes from a movie.
You've got to experience the WHOLE THING, IN ORDER! The quiet moments
you up for the raucous moments. You have a complete emotional experience.
By time the record plays out, you're emotionally drained. As Ian sings
"So you ride yourselves over the fields
And you make all your animal deals
And your wise men don't know how it feels
To be thick as a brick"
But, actually, I'm making it sound like the record WIMPS OUT!
Whereas the last few minutes march along with EMPHASIS! It's a movie
knights. Coming back TRIUMPHANT, EXUBERANT! There's a STRING interlude.
pull at your heartstrings. Before you're deposited back onto your couch.
For the quiet exit. To sit there in stunned silence as you ponder WHAT
THE HELL WAS THAT!!!
And I'm crossing Broadway. Then Santa Monica. Arizona. Wilshire. I'm
climbing to Montana. It's not the short version, it's the WHOLE FUCKING
Yes, there were TWO sides. Did the deejay play all forty odd minutes,
just one half.
I looked at the clock. I wasn't going to be in the car long enough to
And as I cruised with a smile on my face, I thought of how they truly
make them like this at all anymore. The labels had won. THEY dictated
was permissible. The ACTS tailored their music to be radio-friendly.
But that's over the air radio. Which is dead.
Unlike the promotion men, I thought I never really loved radio, just
music it played.
But driving down Montana, I realized that was wrong. There's something
radio. With a living, breathing human on the other end. Picking songs
to get you off, to remind you, to EDIFY YOU!
Not that it's only songs.
It's comedy. With Eddie Murphy saying that if you look at the tapes of
Reagan and the Pope getting shot, you can see them mouth MOTHERFUCKER!
It's the BBC. For alternative news.
It's XM Live. For concerts 24/7. Elton John, from a period when I never
him. Elvis Costello singing "Everyday I Write The Book". Porcupine
And when I pulled over to park in Brentwood, I turned off the engine,
kept the radio playing. I wanted to keep listening. I was being brought
back. To a day when music ruled. When music was all that counted. When
were on a journey with the artists. Sans the corporate sponsors. Sans
dictatorial labels. When we felt that music could change the world.