Monday, May 13, 2013

Mr. Baldwin, things are falling apart (Led Zeppelin, "I'm Gonna Crawl")

It must have been a tough time to be John Baldwin.

Baldwin, better known to most of us as John Paul Jones, was the keyboard/bass player in Led Zeppelin. And things were falling apart all around him.

The band had been around for the better part of a decade, and some thought that its time had passed. The band had enough talent to stage a comeback, but it wasn't going to be easy. Lead guitarist Jimmy Page, for example, was mentally dazed and confused due to some pharmacological vices.

(source: Rob Michael)

But Page wasn't the only band member who was distracted. Robert Plant was still grieving over the death of his son. And John Bonham had his own substance abuse problems - problems that would eventually kill him.

So what is a de facto music director of Led Zeppelin to do? Easy, according to this album reviewer.

And after Karac Plant's tragic death in 1977 he basically took charge of Zeppelin, and wrote the music for 7 of the 10 songs recorded in Sweden in 1978. (Three other songs, "Ozone Baby", "Darlene", and "Wearing and Tearing" appeared on 1982's album "Coda".) He and Robert Plant took control of the band and wrote and recorded their parts during the day, while Jimmy Page and John Bonham both started to succumb to their addictions and would show up at night to record their parts. The division of the mighty Led Zeppelin was beginning to fail.

And the two-shift recording process resulted in a variety of songs of different genres. But in one of the songs, Jones got behind the keyboard, played a ditty straight from Walton's Mountain...and then let the blues come out.

And that, my friends, is "I'm Gonna Crawl."

Many people regret a band's so-called decline after hitting the toppermost of the poppermost. But some of my favorite albums are from bands whose day as supposedly passed - Devo's "Total Devo," Duran Duran's "Notorious," and Led Zeppelin's "In Through the Out Door" - the album that turned out to be the last one released while all four band members were still alive. And the ending song, "I'm Gonna Crawl," has been discussed repeatedly. Here's a review from someone who was probably in elementary school when the song was originally released:

While I truly do like the vast majority of Led Zeppelin’s recordings, even the posthumously, and not their best, released “Coda,” my favorites are when they cover old blues songs....[I]t is one of their original blues songs that I can almost listen to repeatedly, called “I’m Gonna Crawl,” off the “In Through the Out Door” album which I think is masterful in the conveyance of the emotion that a great blues song should have, through the tone and tenor, the sound of the guitar, meshed with the vocals.

Oh, and one more review can be found in the comments here:

I used to work as an exotic dancer for many years, and I'll tell you what...when I walked on that stage with that song for my opening set I never felt more powerful or sexy than anything I've ever experienced in my life. A true masterpiece of emotion.

I don't know what Karac Plant would have thought, but I'm sure his dad is proud.
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