Category Archives: Led Zeppelin

#152 – How Many More Times

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#152 – How Many More Times by Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin

– I might be in a time warp because I can’t think of any other song that has switched-up decades on me like this one. I know that statement might leave you a bit dazed and confused, but this 1969 blast of hard blues rock has morphed Led Zeppelin into one of my favorite surf groups of the 2000’s.

Yeah, I know. I’m a very confused – and a bit dazed – Classic Rocker. But there is a reason…

How Many More Times was the final track on side two of Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut album. Then again, their first four albums were all self-titled with ascending numbers to help us keep track of which one we were listening to. And though this wasn’t officially assigned a Roman numeral, it still goes down as Led Zeppelin I.

And it still goes down as this Classic Rocker’s favorite Led Zep album.

I can put the needle down on track one and let it go though both sides until the end. Led Zeppelin IV would be my second fav with Stairway To Heaven and II after that with Whole Lotta Love, but there are tracks on both those LPs where I’d pick up the stereo needle (I’m doing vinyl memories here) and skip to the next song.

I never had to do that with Led Zeppelin I.

Signed, sealed, delivered

My introduction to the group happened when I was in high school and hanging around my best friend’s house. I was waiting for him to get ready so we could go out and do something when his younger brother – who was actually closer to me in age – told me he had just bought this new album by this new band. He said I needed to hear one of the songs because it was “really scary.”

I don’t remember any “really scary” rock or pop songs before 1969.

I’ll guess guitar feedback solos from Jimi Hendrix could stretch imaginations to the dark side, though they never did with me. His top songs, Purple Haze and Foxy Lady were standards at school dances along with Herman’s Hermits and The Beatles.

Also Jim Morrison’s lyrics with The Doors were supposed to be sinister in some way, but again they never took my mind there. The group was more pop at this time with Hello, I Love You, Touch Me and others that made Morrison more of a pop star than the Lizard King legend that grew up around him later.

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So we sat down in his living room, he dimmed the lighting for visual effect, and cranked up Dazed and Confused. And yeah – it sounded “really scary.” I remember sitting on the couch examining the album sleeve cover with the Hindenburg Zeppelin exploding. On the back there was a photo of the four band members staring at the camera. That was my introduction to Led Zeppelin and my friends and I really had no clue they would go on to become one of the biggest rock groups ever.

Surf’s Up!

How Many More Times joined this list on October 27th. But as you might remember from the dazed and confused remark I made to open this Classic Rocker rambling, it wasn’t a “really scary” scene going through my head that morning.

It was somewhere around 2005 and instead of a dimly lit living room, there was bright sunshine over sand and waves at Florida’s Cocoa Beach. And instead of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, my ten-year old son Dangerous Paul and sixteen-year old nephew Battling Blake were competing in a surfing contest.

And no, this Spring Break family adventure didn’t include a cover version of Led Zeppelin I being given the surf treatment by The Beach Boys or Jan & Dean. It was the original album I had been introduced to in my friend’s “really scary” darkened living room decades earlier, now blasting out from concert-sized speakers loud enough for sea-soaked surfers and sun-drenched beachcombers to hear over crashing waves, screeching seagulls, amplified announcements and a cheering crowd.

The surfing contest itself was also different.

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There were heats for the professionals and amateurs, but the event we were there for was the “first-timers.” The only rule to enter was that you had never surfed before. The winner would be the one that most impressed the judges while actually standing on a board and riding a wave.

Dangerous Paul and Battling Blake fit the novice requirements and along with a few others, were given a quick surfing lesson on the beach. Then they were set loose in the waves as Led Zeppelin I provided the soundtrack.

Not him – but close enough!

Both guys did better than expected with Dangerous Paul, thanks to a couple years of competitive gymnastics and a show-off attitude, trying headstands on his board. He came close a few times before wiping out and it was worth the cheers from the crowd seated in the stands on the beach.

Both finished in the top three out of… well, I don’t remember how many competed, but it didn’t matter. They each won a medal, special “water shirts” with a surfboard brand logo, and bragging rights for winning a surfing contest without knowing how to surf.

Very cool.

So depending on whether I’m sitting in a darkened living room or in bright sunshine somewhere near a beach, How Many More Times and can fit the soundtrack for both. And if that doesn’t leave me dazed and confused, I don’t know what else will.

Cowabunga dudes – and keep rockin’!

Have a comment? Please use the form below.

Here’s a 1969 Led Zeppelin television appearance performing How Many More Times.

 

 

To purchase Led Zeppelin I – The Classic Rocker’s fav Zep LP – visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing

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#163 – It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me

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#163 – It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me by Billy Joel

 – When this song came out in 1980 boomers were still controlling the music scene, but something strange was starting to happen. Our rebellious nature had been focused on the older generation, but now we were feeling the push of a generation coming up behind us. They were tagged as Generation X and many of us considered them too young to be of any real notice as we continued to groove through our late twenties. It was noticeable when the punks and new wave bands of the late 1970s (with members born in the boomer generation) started calling our favs like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Eagles and The Who “dinosaurs.”

I’ll go ahead and lay the blame on the newer and younger record-buying age group for pushing the latest vinyl 45 rpm singles to the top of the music charts during the late 1970s. My age demographic had been album-oriented since the late 1960s and the current singles really didn’t interest us.

If a new group didn’t have an album worth buying, we didn’t notice.

But teenagers were buying the singles, making them hits and influencing the latest styles. Since sales equals profit for record companies hoping to stay in the black (vs. going into the red and out of business) they focused on their new audience. And like boomers during our era, the latest look was influenced by new artists, which meant both the music and fashion trends were shifting away from us.

We had to adjust or join the pack of dinosaurs that risked going out of style and being labeled old.

Here’s what I mean:

In the late 1970s you could still be psyched about the latest album from your favorite band that had formed in the 1960s. Fashion-wise you could still maintain some type of cool looking like one of The Eagles from Hotel California, a disco freak from Studio 54, a punk rocker or Keith Richards. As a side note, the Keith Richards look always allowed for admittance into the other groups.

By the time we hit 1980 there was a major shift in music and fashion sense.

I was already three years into my New York City residency when I realized this new trend was taking over. Hippies were past tense, the Woodstock era no more than a memory, disco was dying, and punk was… well, for punks.

The music consisted of more electronics than guitars and the beat came from drum machines. To be fashionable and anti-prehistoric, the guys had ditched bellbottoms for skinny legs and shirts with skinny ties topped with loose jackets. Hair on girls would continue to get higher throughout the decade while the guys went shorter.

But again, the fault didn’t lie with my demographic of baby boomers. The younger crowd was coming into spending money and the music and fashion industries were catering to their newest and profitable big market.

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me was a protest song about this.

A hit during the summer of 1980, Billy Joel defended our taste in music while still succumbing to a fashion statement in the song’s video that wouldn’t make him seem like a dinosaur. His shorter hair and skinny tie made that perfectly clear.

The song rocked enough to make adulthood challenged boomers still feel relevant while also signaling the end of our musical dominance. The 1980s would’ve only gotten worse for us if we hadn’t been saved by the advent of Classic Rock Radio. At least our hits would still be on the airwaves while it would be decades before our fashion sense became retro.

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It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me hit this Dream Song list on September 18th. I own a copy and it’s not an unfamiliar addition to my weekly playlists. But it hadn’t been recently. For that skinniest of reason, it goes into the subliminal category.

As a musician I was still playing what I felt was rock and roll at the time, even though it was a far cry from the rock and roll I lived for as a teenager. Over the previous decade bands like Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who and yeah… even KISS had given it more volume, power and flash.

If you wanted to be in a rock band in 1980 you had to adjust.

I strummed here a few times!

After a couple years strumming an acoustic guitar and going nowhere fast in Greenwich Village folk clubs, I bought a bass and decided it was time to turn up the volume. Along with my pals Tim on guitar and Bobby on drums we formed a hard rock, high volume trio that we called Rox. I found out years later another band had used the same name and released an album, so in the end I guess they own it. But I also maintain we were first.

It’s just that no one outside of our NYC neighborhood ever heard of us.

As a band we spent more time rehearsing and recording than we did playing live shows. I thought it was mistake then and still do. Playing live really was the only way to be seen and hopefully discovered, but the others disagreed. Their logic was to record an album worth of original songs and sell it to a record company.

Rather than debate the merits of that decision let’s just say it didn’t work out.

But thanks to a good friend who worked as a producer of radio jingles and had been a fan of my earlier music in the Village clubs, we scored quality time in a state-of-the-art recording studio in Midtown Manhattan. She basically “piggybacked” us onto scheduled jingle recording sessions. If she had booked four hours for a jingle and it only took three to complete, we inherited the remaining hour. The result is that I own about three-quarters of a finished LP by Rox that no one outside the three of us and a few family and friends have ever heard. And to be honest, it’s pretty good.

Someday I should do something with it. But in the meantime…

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The few live shows we did were more concerts than club gigs. When the mood struck us, we’d rent a large loft near Gramercy Park, rely on friends to help build a stage (and I have no idea who donated the lumber for these “raves”), use a photographer friend’s lights, and borrow a sound system from another band. We’d schedule an opening act, print up flyers and end up packing the place.

These were hot, sweaty, energetic and LOUD performances. The crowd reaction was always great and called for encores until we ran out of songs. But instead of keeping the momentum going, my two band mates were content to spend weeks in rehearsal studios and hours recording our “breakout” album.

Again, it didn’t happen.

Fighting for Rock ‘n’ Roll

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me was on the charts and video airwaves while all this was going on with Rox. And it reminds me of one live performance that was far from a concert since it was an audition for some type of talent show that was supposed to help us be seen by record people.

It was a Saturday morning (not the best time for rock and rollers) during the summer of 1980 when we carted our equipment via a NYC taxi to a studio in The Village. We set up in a room to play in front of a panel of about six people who would decide if we’d be part of this industry showcase.

Billy Joel’s video comes to mind because we played rock and roll but bowed to the current fashion trend. I remember wearing tight pants, white Capezio dance shoes, shirt with skinny tie and a white cloth jacket with the sleeves pushed up. I’m not sure what the other guys wore, but guessing it wasn’t too far removed from my look. The only real difference from Mr. Joel was our long hair.

The 80’s hadn’t changed us that much – at least not yet.

We were a loud and heavy band, but for some reason Tim and I had written the first – and only – slower, ballad type song we would ever do. It was called Forever and I played a very melodic bass line while Tim floated a flanged guitar effect sound over the top. Bobby kept a simple time on the drums, and I sang lead. By the end of the song it built into a heavier sound that I thought then – and still do – was very cool and more classic rock than ’80s hip.

When we finished the song, we were very pleased with how it went. However, one of the judges came over and asked if we could “turn down the volume” for our second song.

Say what?!

Turn it up to eleven!!

That definitely wasn’t what we were about as a band. We also realized, based on the judges looks (80’s hip) and attitudes (turn it down?) that this showcase wouldn’t be right for us anyway. The three of us came to a quick decision, scratched the idea of doing a more pop song we had planned and turned the volume on our amplifiers up to eleven.

We played one of the hardest rocking songs we’d ever written and recorded called Love On Wheels. I maintain we sounded like Guns ‘n’ Roses at least six years before any of us had even heard of Guns ‘n’ Roses. We also extended the ending lead guitar jam into what we called a Wall Of Sound and pretty much shook the building down to its foundation.

I remember a few of the judges walked out during our performance. I have a feeling their 80’s hipster ears were bleeding to the sound of Rox.

After finishing, we didn’t even wait for the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” decision. Laughing and giving each other high-fives, we dragged our equipment out onto the street, hailed a taxi and made it to our local neighborhood hangout for lunch and beers. A crowd of our friends turned the afternoon into a party and we never thought again about auditioning for a showcase.

We ended up doing one more huge loft gig that year before we split up – staying friends – for other career paths. In my case, my microphone and small practice amplifier were the only equipment needed to start a popular comedy club in our same neighborhood hangout that ended up taking me places and providing experiences I would’ve never dreamed of while protesting the “new sound” by being a rock ‘n’ roller in 1980.

Have a comment?

Please use the form below – and keep rockin’!

And speaking of protesting and defending rock ‘n’ roll in 1980, here’s Billy Joel doing just that:

 

To purchase The Essential Billy Joel with It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me visit Amazon.com

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Dave Schwensen is The Classic Rocker and author of The Beatles At Shea Stadium and The Beatles In Cleveland. Visit Dave’s author page on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2019 – North Shore Publishing