In the halcyon days of the early 1970’s, my Dad was home a lot, convalescing after a heart attack. He’d built a mono Garrard stereogram from scratch to keep his mind busy and this took pride of place in the corner of the front room behind the door. It’s one single speaker was a behemoth of a floor-stander and whereas hi-fi it probably was not; loud it most certainly was.
And this suited my purposes perfectly as my fledgling record collection comprised a a single album, half a dozen singles I’d bought myself and a few jazz 45’s I’d sort of inherited from my Dad. The singles are probably best left nameless – I know what they are but that doesn’t mean I have to tell you! But the album was Led Zeppelin IV from 1971. Not a bad one to start off with at age 13! And if I knew one thing about music in those early days, it was that Led Zep IV needed to be played LOUD!
I’d first heard tracks from the album at Brighton’s original Virgin Records. Housed in premises at the bottom of Queens Road where the modern day Boots superstore now stands, it had a wooden-floored basement listening room packed with big cushions and beanbags. And, on days when Mum would come into Brighton shopping, I’d happily spend my time sitting one one of those cushions and soaking up sounds.
I actually brought the album itself though from Woolworths in the village. Well – we called it ‘the village; it was actually a late-60’s concrete shopping area built just north of the Green in the small Sussex town of Southwick where I lived as a boy.
It was about £2.75 I think – most of the money I had saved in my money-box. But it was an instant treasure. If I’d have had the wherewithal then of digitally scanning the inner gatefold ‘Hermit’ illustration, that would have taken pride of place in my bedroom wall. But that was the future and this was 1973. And I was happy just to look and listen.
From the opening ‘Hey hey mama, said the way you move…’ to the closing hammer of ‘When the levee breaks’, these are 8 tracks of pure joy; as fresh now – listening as I write this blog – as it was when I first played them over 40 years ago! These are 8 tracks which I quite simply would have to have on my desert island. Yes, ‘Stairway’s’ in there but, brilliant as it is, that doesn’t clinch it for me. That privilege belongs to ‘Black Dog’. Forever the opener and forever for me the ender.
Many pretenders have tried to go there since – some slightly more successful than others. The closest (truth be told) – particularly in terms of the spine-tingler aspect – was my daughter’s band ‘Mok’ in a mashup they put together for a local gig last year. Just the opening lines – but to frank – that’s all it takes. If that grabs you, five seconds in, you just know it’s going to be good!