Led Zeppelin – Opher’s World pays tribute to genius.


Montreux 1971

Led Zeppelin came like a heavily armoured fluorescent giant phoenix out of the ashes of the Yardbirds last magnificent incarnation.

For some inexplicable reason the Yardbirds, like their devastating two lead guitar attack from Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, descended into disharmony and split up. I can only infer from what has been said that it was Jeff Beck losing interest and becoming keen to cut free and do his own thing.

Page was left holding the corpse. He tried running with it a while but rapidly gave up. Rather than trying to put together a new incarnation of the Yardbirds he decided to put together a completely new unit.

Page already had a number of numbers that he’d been trying out with the Yardbirds and he wanted to develop that heavier tack.

It was the birth of Led Zeppelin.

The band was founded on the heavy handed pounding and rhythms produced by John Bonham and the bass of John Paul Jones. They provided a granite-like foundation so that Jimmy had the room to demonstrate all his guitar pyrotechnics, flamboyant moves and general fireworks. All they lacked was a singer who could carry it off. Robert Plant was a complete unknown but he filled the gap admirably. He looked the part and his voice could soar to those shrill notes up there in the stratosphere. He had the range.

It all came together in a way it hadn’t done with Keith Relf and the boys for a long time. With Peter Grant to guide them and clear all obstacles out of the way they were ready for take-off.

The band looked every bit as good as they sounded. Page got on his strides with their embroidered dragon breathing flames, his long curly dark hair hanging and guitar slung low. He strode the stage majestically pausing to assume shapes, thrash out chords or produce those solo runs that burned. Plant stood centre stage, hands on hips, bare chest, skin tight trousers, long wavy gingery fair hair catching the lights, holding the mic-stand like a guitar posing with Page, throwing his head back, mouth open wide, eyes tight shut hitting those notes. This was the dream of stadium Rock that made them mega.

But Led Zeppelin was no ordinary Heavy Metal unit despite becoming rapidly saddled with that label. Their music was visceral and heavy but it was also complex and sophisticated. They were influenced by the likes of Roy Harper and Bob Dylan and developed epic songs with acoustic touches. They could veer from riffs laden with doom to delicate acoustic finger-picking chords. Some of their themes were from Blues, some from old English Folk, Arthur and Norse mythology. The panorama of their scope was different to that of any other band.

They proved to be not so much as Zeppelin as a space battle-cruiser adrift from Star Wars.