Unraveling Led Zeppelin’s Masterpiece: The Song Remains The Same
This is not a typical album review. Rather, I’d like to share a musical memory, a snapshot of what I’m currently spinning on my turntable. It’s Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains The Same,” a record I’ve been revisiting quite a lot lately.
My journey with this album dates back to 1976, and my first exposure was via the Old Grey Whistle Test. As a teenager, I’d have to plead with my parents to stay up late to watch the show, which was a difficult task as it aired late at night and school was waiting the next morning.
The Old Grey Whistle Test introduced me to the film “The Song Remains The Same,” showcasing clips of Jimmy Page as the hermit climbing the mountain, and that was an ethereal experience for me. As a teenager heavily influenced by King Arthur, mythology, hobbits, and Lord of the Rings, this encounter with Led Zeppelin was quite influential.
I can’t recall whether the film or album came first, but I remember buying the album – a luxurious affair with its embossed cover and booklet. As vinyl enthusiasts, we often take booklets for granted, but this one was special. Cameron Crowe’s introduction made the band sound mythical and the photos kept the mystery intact. Each page was dedicated to a member of the band and it felt like peeking into their personal worlds of rock star toys, motorcycles, castles, and mysterious figures.
The album offered unforgettable tracks like “Rock and Roll,” “Celebration Day,” “Rain Song,” and many more. However, “Dazed and Confused” mesmerized me despite its length, and “No Quarter” and “Stairway to Heaven” remain my all-time favorites. These versions still stand as definitive to me, but I’ve always had mixed feelings about “Moby Dick” – I’m just not a big fan of drum solos.
“No Quarter,” though, is the track that did it for me. I consider it one of Jimmy Page’s finest guitar solos, with its arrangement and performance simply marvelous. There were also some tracks I was disappointed didn’t make it onto the album, like “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” which was a phenomenal live version, and “Black Dog.”
Later, I used to watch the film in cinemas, a post-pub activity in Newquay, Cornwall. Imagine a cinema full of drunk rock fans, lost in the world of Led Zeppelin – it was magical.
I ended up purchasing the original CD, only to discover that Jimmy Page had tinkered with some tracks. “No Quarter” had been altered, and though I was disappointed, I felt the overall sound quality was richer and deeper. This led me to upgrade to the 2018 Led Zeppelin remasters, and again, I noticed some changes.
Reflecting on which version I play the most, I think this will always be the original two-CD version due to it having the original No Quartet Edit.
Phil Aston | Now Spinning Magazine