I have always been privileged when it comes to music. As a child, my family and I would congregate to the basement on weekends to listen to my father’s vast collection of vinyl. Music was our religion; Jimi Hendrix, Robert Plant, Eric Clapton, and John Lennon spoke the words of truth rather than dictating them. Although my first encounters with this music could be summed up with off-beat dancing in footsie-pajamas complete with a bunny-ear hoodie coupled with my brother singing along with the participatory parts of Black Dog, these early experiences would shape my life in immeasurable ways.
As I got older, my parents provided me with access to various musical opportunities. My father on the other hand, was reared towards playing classical music in a harshly regimented and regulated schedule. His love of music was filtered by the wishes of his parents; he was to become the representation of their own fragmented dreams and desires. The keys where he once found a refuge became black and white bars of incarceration. Every act of free expression was punished and wholly discouraged. Despite my father’s early turmoil with music, he strongly rebelled rigid lessons and began to teach himself Jazz, Blues, and Rock n’ Roll. Watching my father bounce around vigorously upon his piano bench incited me in ways I can’t even begin to describe. His sheer fervor and enthusiasm was palpable; I yearned for a fraction of his talent. I followed his footsteps and began to play the piano. I was soon enrolled in the Royal Conservatory of Music where constant pressure towards perfection and public performance soon imprisoned my amateur passion. I was riddled with fear and guilt knowing that I would have to eventually tell my dad that I no longer felt passionately about my musical endeavor. Surprisingly, he was extremely supportive. Both my father and I were internally commandeered by a search of personal satisfaction through music, and I found mine in the lyrical and instrumental confounds of Led Zeppelin.
In grade nine I started to play the guitar. I fell in love with my Canadian made cherry wood acoustic. The very first song I played on its virgin strings was Tangerine; an acoustic rarity strummed and plucked by none other than Jimmy Page. Late one night, while battling an unrelenting case of insomnia, I plunked down in bed and plunged my headphones into my ears. I cranked up the volume and just listened. The erratic departure from the tradition rock song was clear in Dazed and Confused. My mind zeroed in on the original sounds emanating from Page’s guitar. The next morning I rummaged through my brother’s room and found his Led Zeppelin box set. I skipped to Dazed and Confused and watched as Page effortlessly bombarded his guitar with a bow creating spine-tingling sounds. From that point I knew I wanted to make the move to an electric guitar. A week later my dad and I went to the store and traded in my cherry acoustic for a huge Fender Amplifier and my new love: my Tri-coloured Highway One Fender Telecaster. I have never had such ambivalent feelings in my life: with this new purchase I was one step closer to my idol, but walking away from my first guitar was heartbreaking. I never lost anyone close to me before, but I can honestly say that losing a guitar is similar to death on a symbolic level. The connection you have with that hunk of wood is so personal yet beyond expression. Your first guitar signifies your first chord, your first song, your first semi-performance in your room when you lip-sync the sounds that blare from the strings. Yet, within an instant, you simply walk away from that history. But one should never dwell in the past; stagnation is refuge for the weak. In a way, the pursuit of becoming a better guitar player, I learned how to let go of the past. Sometimes the past has to simply be a stepping stone.
From a solely lyrical perspective, the words of Robert Plant taught me lessons not found within the confines of the traditional after school special, classroom, or idealized Disney film. Songs like “Heartbreaker”, “Good Times Bad Times”, and “Black Dog” taught me that love is fleeting and not always based upon mutual feelings of affection but a highly sexualized drive of lust. “When the Levee Breaks” taught me that no matter how harsh a situation may seem, only proactive solutions can help you, whereas mourning and self-pity only push you further into despondency. “Stairway to Heaven” shed enlightenment upon the way you look at life. No matter what you do or what path you take, there will always be some kind of redemption if you are hopeful. “Ten Years Gone” taught me that although starting a new chapter in your life might entail leaving people that you love behind, you’ll always be connected; you are always tied to your past in order to create a future. “Tangerine” taught me that time can slowly build a wall between those that you love, but memories of the past have to suffice as the relationship deteriorates. The swooping influence that Led Zeppelin has had on me is endless, and these life lessons barely scratch the surface of the infinite wisdom instilled in me through lyrical interaction.
Perhaps the songs of this Classic Rock band cannot touch everyone the way that they have touched me, but I feel that Led Zeppelin as a whole; songs, lyrics, and members, encapsulate emotions and underlying anxieties felt by all. In one way or another, without realizing it, we are all connected to this band. Everyone has a little Plant, Page, Bonham, and Jones in them. Each member depicts some aspect of a balanced personality. Deep down inside, everyone has a cocky, boisterous, and egotistical voice; Robert Plant. Countering that voice is the unassuming and shy yet highly intricate voice, John Paul Jones. Then there is the perfectionist and controlling puppeteer, Jimmy Page, and the flamboyant persona riddled with internal darkness; John Bonham.