Leaps n Bands #2: Led Zeppelin IV – side 1 track 1 (Black Dog) (1971)

I can still remember the day, more or less the time and definitely the place where I purchased my first ever album. It was a cold and frosty morning and I can see vividly see me, aged 12½ armed with the £3.75 from my money box, walking down Park Lane, crossing the green to the Square and up to doors of Woolworths not long after opening. It was Saturday 11 December 1971 and I was here to purchase my own copy of the album I’d seen Mark Austin carry around at school. I still hadn’t heard a single track, had no idea what the band sounded like or even whether I’d like the music; I just knew that I had to have that album. And with the hindsight I now have 48 years later, it was a wise choice!

From my first glimpse of the inside illustration of Barrington Coleby’s “The Hermit” covering the entire inner gatefold, the mystery of the four symbols in place of an album title, the whimsey of the peeling wallpaper image on the front and rear cover of a broken wall with Birmingham’s Salisbury Tower from the Ladywood district in the background and, to the fore, the 19th century rustic oil painting purchased by Robert Plant in a Reading antiques shop, coupled with the power of that lyric from the opening track on side 1, I was hooked (hook, line and sinker). And I still am!

So, here and over the next seven Jemtunes postings, is a track-by-track expose of this wonderful album. From its first playing on my Dad’s Garrard SP25 stereogram through to now via my recent Apple Music subcription, I’ve never one tired of any track. Each has a special place. And from now through to 17 January, I’ll share a little of that with you.

Track one, side one is Black Dog – named after a dog that hung around Headley Grange during recording. The riff was written by Page and Jones, while the a cappella section was influenced by Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”. Robert Plant wrote the lyrics, and later sang portions of the song during solo concerts. The guitar solos on the outro were recorded directly into the desk, without using an amplifier.

I never did get to see the band back in the day. My one regret. Lapped up everything they ever did until John Bonham’s passing in 1980 and soaked up all they’d done before I discovered them in 1971. But I never saw them live.

Having said that, I have seen the one tribute band which both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have endorsed and supported since their formation in 1996 – Whole Lotta Led. Several times. Most recent was a couple of summers back when they performed the whole of Led Zeppelin IV at Brighton’s Concorde II. And the image I have in my mind’s eye of my daughter Grace and I screaming out the opening lines to ‘Black Dog’ as vocalist Lee Pryor opened the gig sums it all up – “Hey hey mama, said the way you move. Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove”.

David Bowie – Heroes (Starters for Ten #328) 8.10.33

Starters for Ten 2019 – #328: Top Ten David Bowie numbers: 191124

Heroes (1977)

‘Heroes’ was co-written by Bowie and Brian Eno, produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti, and recorded in July and August 1977 at Hansa Studio by the Wall. It was released on 23 September 1977 as the lead single from his 12th studio album of the same name, backed with the song “V-2 Schneider”. A product of Bowie’s “Berlin” period, the track was not a huge hit in the United Kingdom or United States after its release, but it has since become one of his signature songs.

In January 2016, following Bowie’s death, the song reached a new peak of number 12 in the UK Singles Chart. “‘Heroes'” has been cited as Bowie’s second-most covered song after “Rebel Rebel”.

The song’s lyrics were inspired by the sight of Bowie’s producer-engineer Tony Visconti embracing his lover by the Berlin Wall. It therefore tells the story of two lovers, one from East and one from West Berlin. Bowie’s performance of the song on June 6, 1987, at the German Reichstag in West Berlin was one of the catalysts to the later fall of the Berlin Wall. And following his death in January 2016, the German government thanked Bowie for “helping to bring down the Wall”, adding “you are now among Heroes”.

He’s certainly one of mine. Hence ‘Heroes’ having a place in this top ten.

Deep Purple – Smoke on the water (Starters for Ten #275) 5.10.28

Starters for Ten 2019 – #275: Top Ten 1970’s numbers: 191002

Deep Purple – Smoke on the water (1972)

Throughout 2019 Jem of Jemtunes is taking you through 36 top tens and one top five. Tunes for a whole gamut of reasons including genre, mood, time of year or simply time itself. Sometimes there’s be words but mostly it’ll simply be the music. Because music always speaks for itself.

Continuing my 28th top ten – featuring my top ten 1970’s numbers – here’s Deep Purple’s Smoke on the water from 1972.

The Moody Blues – Nights in white satin (Starters for Ten #207) 7.10.21

Starters for Ten 2019 – #207: Top Ten Sunday morning tracks: 190726

The Moody Blues – Nights in white satin (1967)

Throughout 2019 Jem of Jemtunes is taking you through 36 top tens and one top five. Tunes for a whole gamut of reasons including genre, mood, time of year or simply time itself. Sometimes there’s be words but mostly it’ll simply be the music. Because music always speaks for itself.

Continuing the 21st – running between 20 and 29 July and featuring my top ten Sunday morning tracks – here’s Nights in White Satin, a song by the Moody Blues, written and composed by Justin Hayward. It was first featured as the segment “The Night” on the album ‘Days of Future Passed’. When first released as a single in 1967, it reached number 19 on the UK Singles Chart and number 103 in the United States in 1968. It was the first significant chart entry by the band since “Go Now” and its then recent lineup change, in which Denny Laine had resigned and both Hayward and John Lodge had joined.

When reissued in 1972, in the United States the single hit number two – for two weeks – on the Billboard Hot 100 (behind “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash) and hit number one on the Cash Box Top 100. It earned a gold certification for sales of over a million U.S. copies. It also hit number one in Canada.

Queen – we will rock you (Leaping ahead #223)

Leaping Ahead Project 2016 #223: 160810

[Song from a band beginning with Q]

What can be said about the most famous stadium anthem of all time that you probably don’t already know? Perhaps something about non-harmonic reverberation maybe?

Maths and music – ever a partnership and certainly present here. It’s all to do with how the song was crafted. For starters the stamping effects were created by the band overdubbing the sounds of themselves stomping and clapping many times and then adding delay effects to create a sound like many people were participating. Secondly, the durations of the delays were in the ratios of prime numbers, a technique now known as non-harmonic reverberation. And finally a tape loop is used to repeat the last phrase of the guitar solo three times as opposed to Brian May playing it three separate times on the recording. So now you know! Maths and music!

Donna Summer – I feel love (Leaping Ahead #213)

Leaping Ahead Project 2016 #213: 160731

[A song from 1976]

1976 was (of course) THE long hut summer. I was between sixth form years and was therefore out in the sun from May when it all started right through to mid-September. Most of it was on the beach but, sometime in the middle, I joined an uncle and aunt for a week in the Lake District, staying in a caravan on the shores of Lake Windermere.

Although it wasn’t formerly released until the following summer, Donna Summer’s ‘I feel love’ was already getting extensive airplay on the pirate radio-stations by then and promo copies had been circulated to all the clubs. Certainly the bar/club/games room on the lakeshore had a copy and (taking a lead from the Kenny Everett radio show), the DJ played the full 12″ version pretty well every other track.

Suited me. Although a hardened ‘heavy rock’ influenced latter-day hippy by then, there was a freshness in these grooves absent completely from anything else at the time. I wasn’t a disco fan and punk hadn’t made it as far as the north-west back then. But this was something else. Fresh and (although it didn’t know it) a shout to the future of electronic dance from the likes of Underworld and Leftfield still some twenty years away, and both of which would attract the avid attention of this long-haired 17-year old.

And it’s stood the test of time. Now approaching 40 years old, its many sampled powerhouse rhythm still cuts the mustard/floats the boats/shivers the spines and any other metaphor you might care to mention. It certainly does mine.