The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

How Thick Is The Line Between Blessing & Curse?
January 25, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So recently, Led Zeppelin were inducted in the Kennedy Center Honours – an honour given to those in the performing arts for their lifetime of contributions to American culture.

Anyway, as part of the induction, Ann & Nancy Wilson of Heart took to the stage [with about 10,000 other musicians] to perform Led Zepp’s iconic ‘Stairway To Heaven’.

Now I know some people on here will regard that song as the sort of hairy, ancient rock that should be killed off … but fuck them … it’s a timeless piece of music majesty.

Anyway, while watching it, you couldn’t help notice how moved Robert Plant was during the performance and it got me wondering what was going on in his head …

Was it the sheer power of the performance?

The amazement that a song they wrote in early ’70, was still being played – and loved by people of all generations?

The shock that a song they wrote in early ’70, could still have so much energy?

The wonder that a song they wrote back in early ’70, was being played for the President of the United States?

The emotion of knowing it literally couldn’t get ‘bigger than this’.

Or was it just the simple realisation his impact on World history was assured?

Imagine that … doing something that stands the test of time. That lives forever. That others want to perform, protect and nurture.

It’s not like in adland – where many look at the flaws of other people’s work and then hack shamelessly away at it to suit their own purposes – it’s almost like this piece of music is revered, where people want to perform it while staying true to its overall spirit and essence.

Like an act of love.

An act of respect.

It must be one of the most amazing – and humbling – feelings on earth.


PS: I also find it fascinating that when the camera pans to the remaining members of Led Zeppelin – apart from seeing how old they are – they always appear to show their reactions almost in a chain reaction style, never in parallel. At first it appears they’re all quite independent from each other, but the other way of looking at it is that each one has some sort of invisible ignition that sets the others off.

The best way to explain what I mean is at 4 minutes 24″.

Even though they are all sat in a similar location, watching the same event unfold in front of their eyes … first John Paul Jones reacts … then Robert Plant & finally Jimmy Page. I know this might sound like I’m talking hippy nonsense, but I still find it interesting.


49 Comments so far
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It’s alright if you like that sort of thing, though I think the singer took the whole tribute thing a bit too far by making herself the size of a zeppelin.

Comment by DH

Wrong. And right.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Evil. Genius.

Comment by Rob

Maybe Robert Plant wasn’t moved but confused because he was trying to remember where he was, who he was sitting next to and why there was a mass of people on a stage making such a din. Just saying.

Comment by DH

Stop being a prick, Plant is a god. And it’s wrong to take the piss out the elderly.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I must admit, when I first saw the clip, I did look at him and think, “Wow you’re so old” … but that was quickly followed by, “I wonder what those eyes have seen”.

Now that would be a documentary I’d want to watch.

Comment by Rob

It must make a nice change for the Heart sisters to not play “Alone.” Good on Led Zeppelin, but if this was about celebrating artists who have made a significant cultural impact on the US, why no Dukes of Hazzard? Don’t tell me people like Alex Jones would be where they are without those good natured, gun-toting rednecks.

Comment by Bazza

Ben Elton is in the house.

Not because you’re trying to be political, but because you’re using references from 30 years ago.

Comment by Rob

maybe they are still sad about not being plaster castered and have to settle for some ribbon..

Comment by niko

First the smiths. Then led zep. Are you finally getting some musical chops?

Comment by Billy Whizz

I’ve always had musical chops, just different musical chops than many other people. And can we get this straight, my opinion on Morrissey has changed, I still utterly hate the music of The Smiths.

I knew this would haunt me.

Comment by Rob

Hating Morrissey I totally get, but The Smiths? Still can’t understand it…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

There is no hope for him

Comment by northern

Just watched the performance. I see what you mean about the zeppelin guys acting in sequence. It’s quite bizarre but not quite as bizarre as you noticing it. They seem enthralled with what is going on the stage, it must be strange having your past played back at you with force.

Comment by Bazza

Not as much as it would be sat in court being accused of murder.

Comment by DH


Comment by Bazza

Your past being played back at you with force.

It was funnier in my head.

Comment by DH

I’m sure other people noticed it – it’s not that bizarre. Well, noticing isn’t, but their reaction is. To be honest, it’s quite captivated me – I’d love to know whether it was influenced by a seating thing or that is literally how they interact … feeding off eachother rather than sharing the moment, so to speak.

Sorry, I’m getting all plannery-wank here aren’t I.

Comment by Rob

“Imagine that … doing something that stands the test of time. That lives forever. That others want to perform, protect and nurture.

It’s not like in adland – where many look at the flaws of other people’s work and then hack shamelessly away at it to suit their own purposes – it’s almost like this piece of music is revered, where people want to perform it while staying true to its overall spirit and essence.

Like an act of love.

An act of respect.”

What you’re saying here really got to me. You’re right, this performance was an act of love. They respected the heart of the piece rather than tried to reinvent it. You could argue that’s because the song is a classic but I prefer to think its because the musicians wanted to keep the soul intact, appreciating what it is not what they could turn it in to.

Adland never does that. They approach everything with the view they can better the past. There are commercial and client reasons for that but I feel ego and the industries obsession with new means few campaigns will ever run and run and run because as its passed to each new team in each new country, they don’t respect the core, they just see an outlet to stamp their own name on it.

I know advertising and music are very different and one is about doing something for yourself where the other is doing it for a paying client, but that point of respect really comes through.

Comment by Pete

Do you think your comment is slightly over the top Pete?

Comment by DH

So Pete, you don’t feel respected by your boss? That is what I got out of your comment…

Comment by niko

Why do I bother?

Comment by Pete

Ignore everyone Pete – I think it’s a great comment.

That said – as you pointed out – adland and music have many great differences so comparing like-with-like is almost impossible.

Of course there is one similarity, they both act like they’re rockstars.

Comment by Rob

Good point.

Comment by Pete

I was moved by that performance so I’m not surprised the writers of that song were also a little overwhelmed.

As a Zeppelin fan of many decades, it was nice to see their emotion given the less than flattering comments some of them have said about “Stairway” over the years.

A fitting tribute, which is a very big compliment when you’re talking about a band of Zeppelin’s stature.

Comment by Lee Hill

You mean stuff like this Lee?

“Well, we were all high on the Moroccan dope at the time, so who knows?” – Robert Plant, on the meaning of “Stairway To Heaven”.

“I’d break out in hives if I had to sing (`Stairway to Heaven’) in every show. I wrote those lyrics and found that song to be of some importance and consequence in 1971, but 17 years later, I don’t know. It’s just not for me.” Robert Plant, LA Times

“No more of `Stairway to Heaven’ for me.” – Robert Plant, LA Times, 12/6/88.

“I can’t even make myself say those 3 words.” – Robert Plant, in an interview preceeding “Unledded” on VH-1.

Comment by DH

Good video though

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Last time Mike Myers & Dana Carvey were funny.

Comment by Billy Whizz

A few moments aside, yup.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

That brick-layer rhythm section, JPJ and Bonzo, probably the best ever (sorry Bruce/Baker) really helped to balance out all the Lord of the Rings/Aleister Crowley affectation gubbins. A bit like Lennon being a badass at heart, and their Hamburgian education, balanced the Beatles’ Maharishi detour (for all but George).

Do you reckon striking this substance/style balance is a comfortable comparison with the better bits of adland? Enduring backbeat in ephemeral packaging?

Comment by Lewis Rosa

Lewis, you’re using words I don’t understand.

So I’ll just say ‘maybe’ …

Comment by Rob

Real blessings are also a curse. And real curses are also a blessing. I always credit my enemies with teaching more about reality than anyone else.

As an aside I think Obama like’s Led Zeppelin. A few of them were in the Whitehouse the other day.

Comment by Charles Edward Frith (@charlesfrith)

Boom Tish.

Comment by Rob

There are several things that are interesting in this bit, Rob. The reactions, you noted. The way Heart, and their musicians sound very controlled: they are not trying to impress, just trying to make the best rendition possible (the singer never took it a step to far, the solo is very close to what Page used to do…).
Also it would be interesting to know how scared was the lead guitar player…
And finally the fact that as of today, to recreate Robert Plant voice, it took a choir.

Comment by Luca

Hi Luca, nice to hear from you. That’s a good point about the musicians, they do seem controlled – and yet they also seem to be loving every second of the song.

I understand the guitarist – Shane Fontayne – has played with Page in the past. But regardless, he’s a very, very, very seasoned session guitarist who has played with and for many of the greats, so I’m sure his heart raced, but not too much.

Me? I’d be shitting myself for a month prior.

Comment by Rob

here’s a quote that may be apposite to your parallel observation, ‘…and they played really superbly as a band and that whole aspect took on a fifth element’, Jimmy Page from ‘it might get loud’ – lovely docu from a few years ago.

Comment by h.

Yep, fair point. I was just reacting to their reaction to the performance on the clip. Only thing I would say is that quite often, clarity only comes from observers rather than beholders. But then I would say that wouldnt I. Ha.

Comment by Rob

I can’t believe this is happening, but I agree on Stairway to Heaven and Led Zeppelin in in particular.
I’m guessing the symbolism of bloated 70’s excess can in the way of the music.
Just like Prince is a twat and most of his 80’s output is as game changing as Bowie.

Or even the way prejudice about Morrisey and his religious emo fans can get in the way of the fact that the Smiths output was and is peerless

Comment by northern

I almost fainted in shock but then your “Smiths are peerless” comment acted like some highly offensive smelling salts and kept me wide awake.

And feeling sick.

Comment by Rob

I stilll don’t understand this post or its title, but it did remind me that it’s depressing how the most pompous oveblown nonsense in a band’s repertoire beccomes the most popular (Free Bird anyone?).

As for their graduated reaction, it’s proportionate to the amount of acid they took over the years.

Comment by John

That makes it sound like they’re times you do understand it. Strange.

Comment by DH

On behalf of Andrew, I’ll say your theory also holds true for planners and their pompous, overblown statements. I don’t strictly hold that opinion, but that was for my friend.

Comment by George

And there we see how Media Arts came into the world

Comment by northern

As John stated, depressing.

Comment by George

On behalf of Andrew, I’ll say written like a suit. I don’t strictly hold that opinion, but that was for him.

Comment by John

Wow – that was all kinds of awesome. Thanks for sharing 🙂

In terms of the ol’ “I wonder what they be thinking?” chestnut, I once saw jazz great, Jimmy Cliff playing at a small club in London and he looked like he was on auto pilot such that I was sure he was thinking about errands he had to run the next day and whether he’d turned off the bath taps 🙂

Comment by Adrian Elton

This guy keeps me up to date what’s going on in the UK so I don’t have to watch corporate media news which is slanted towards military industrial complex wars, mineral extraction abroad and celebrity nipples to distract the less evolved. Here he talks about something very personal and he does that from time to time. This is my future. I cut out all that corporate shit and listen to real people. One of the reasons I enjoy dropping in here from time to time.

How do I embed youtube. Cut and paste the code? Let me try.

Comment by Charles Edward Frith (@charlesfrith)

[…] while back, I wrote about how the band Heart played ‘Stairway To Heaven’ infant of Page, Plant and Jones and how it obviously deeply affected them because they didn’t […]

Pingback by Beyonce Makes Everything Better … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

[…] imagine it’s similar to how Robert Plant felt when he watched Heart perform Stairway To Heaven at the Kennedy Centre and realised he had done something that would outlive […]

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