Wednesday, May 8, 2013
LED-ZEPPELIN: THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME
(October 1976, U.S.)
I have to say, I was a bit conflicted on whether or not I should blog this film right now. I mean, do I write it under 'L' for Led-Zeppelin or wait until 'S' for SONG?? I decided to go with right now because even though the film titles itself as only THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME on screen, the movie poster, video box and DVD case all feature LED-ZEPPELIN in huge letters. So there you go.
Now clearly, if you're not a fan of the legendary classic rock band LED-ZEPPELIN, then (A) - stop reading right now because the rest of this won't interest you much and (B) - get some professional help right now because your taste in music sucks! This concert film which was released during a time of Led-Zeppelin's super stardom of the 1970s features live performances at Madison Square Garden during their 1973 tour and elaborate fantasy sequences for each of the four members during four of the live performances. For a guy like myself, who went to college during the 1980's, it became a cult favourite at late-night midnight movie houses. In fact, it was these midnight showings that exposed me to cult films like this one, PINK FLOYD THE WALL, HEAVY METAL and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW; films I still find hard to believe ever originated as traditional theatrical releases with daytime screenings. Many fans of THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME and even members of Led-Zeppelin themselves, regard the performances filmed at the Garden as merely average for the time, coming as they did at the end of a long and exhausting tour, but nonetheless representative of the generally high standard of the band's live performances during this incredible era of rock and roll.
The film opens with a fantasy sequence of a mafia-style execution by Zeppelin's manager at the time Peter Grant. Admitedly, this sequence is rather silly and doesn't enhance any of the music or live performances. The concert opens with "Rock and Roll" and moves steadily and strongly through great material from the band's first five albums, HOUSES OF THE HOLY being the latest one at the time. During "No Quarter", the fantasy depicts John Paul Jones portraying a masked gentleman known as "The Scarecrow," who travels at night on horseback with three others and returns home to Sussex, an ordinary family man. The three other horsemen with him are a reference to the other band members. During "The Rain Song", the fantasy depicts Robert Plant as a knight rescuing a fair maiden who is a symbolic representation for his vision of the ideal - his personal search for the Holy Grail; a quest that includes sailed and sword fighting. During a very long and very alternate version of "Dazed and Confused", the fantasy depicts Jimmy Page climbing up the face of a snow capped mountain on a quest of self enlightenment, and deep understanding, by seeking out the Hermit, a character featured in many Tarot packs. The mythological Hermit is seen on the summit of the mountain; Staff of Wisdom in one hand, and in the other, the Lantern of Knowledge held out abreast over the world below. Being a Threshold Guardian, he represents an obstacle the seeker must overcome to achieve true enlightenment. At the culmination of Page's quest, he reaches out to touch The Hermit, only to discover paradoxically that the Hermit is himself. This entire sequence can be argued as an inspiration from J.R.R. Tolken's LORD OF THE RINGS tale, but that's likely a debate for those a whole lot geekier than myself. Clearly, it's a complex fantasy set to a very complex take on a great classic from Led-Zeppelin's debut album. The final fantasy, during the instrumental of "Moby Dick" features John Bonham (one of the greatest rock drummers of all time!) in the most straightforward, realistic one of them all as we get to see him exercise his hobby of drag racing. It may sound a bit plain, but it seems to work well with the long live drum solo.
During this age we live in of DVDs and Blue-Ray discs, there are likely better ways to see live footage of Led-Zeppelin in concert. However, if one can put aside the present and take their minds and appreciations back to the past, when home media was still years away and the only way to enjoy your favorite band live if you couldn't get to the concert was to get to the movie theater, the cinematic and entertainment value of THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME becomes clear. And shit, it's LED-FUCKING-ZEPPELIN!!! What's not to love???
Favorite songs performed: "Stairway to Heaven" ("Does anybody remember laughter?") and "Moby Dick".