Hello, my friends! Normally, I would be posting the disco story, but that should have been up 12 hours ago. If I wrote it now, I wouldn't be able to upload it for at least 6-8 hours so the statistics would have to appear on Tuesday. So, having thought that Tuesday would be too late to review the previous week, I decided to work on the statistics now so the disco story will be the next one. Enough talk though, it's time to begin our Led Zeppelin Top 20 Countdown.
At #20 is Fool in the Rain, their hit single from the last proper Led Zeppelin studio album, In Through the Out Door (1979). The single peaked at #12 in Canada and at #21 in the US. Anchored by a simple synth line and a very spare back-up, the song's musical simplicity is somewhat deceptive; the drums are running at cross-purposes to the melody, and there are a lot of musical twists and trends.
Conceptually, the song sounds disastrous: a pop song that’s just as much Bennie and the Jets as Whole Lotta Love, which drops out with a hissing disco whistle for an extended samba breakdown? Luckily, Led Zeppelin were really good songwriters, and Fool in the Rain is as tight and catchy and clever as any other late-70s crossover, with one of Plant’s finest story lyrics - a mopey tale of getting stuck in the rain waiting for a date, with the perfect last-line resolution - and an out-of-nowhere Page solo that shreds about as much as anything he did on the band’s first few albums. Ignore the haters: Fool in the Rain is classic Zep, and shows that the band was still capable of excelling in new and interesting modes, right up until their untimely breakup the following year.
"Zeppelin is not a nostalgia band," Page said defiantly when punk rockers were denouncing his group. You can sense their eclectic restlessness here; Jones and Plant heard a samba song while watching the 1978 World Cup, which influenced the Latin-jam middle section. Page called it "a springboard for what could have been."
This is a cover version by the Mexican rock band, Maná (1995):
At #19 is Going to California, from Led Zeppelin IV (1971). This is the track that shows how a truly heavy band could soften things up convincingly. It's Zeppelin's prettiest song: Page's gentle acoustic fingerpicking weaves together with Jones' mandolin, while Plant's varied singing, including some country twang, stands out. Rumored to be written about Joni Mitchell, it could just as easily be about any California girl "with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair." And for Led Zeppelin in 1971, there were many.
Here they are, live at Earls Court, 1975:
This is a recent cover version by the former lead singer of Evanescence, Amy Lee:
At #18 is one of the two hit singles from Houses Of The Holy (1973), D'yer Mak'er. This began with the notion of playing reggae music, a new phenomenon in 1972. What emerged was a sort of rock-steady heavy-metal doo-wop jam; Plant's giddy vocals turn a string of stuttered vowel sounds into one of the band's catchiest pop songs. The single peaked at #20 in the US and New Zealand and at #24 in Canada.
Two ways to look at it: It is a crude faux reggae, to be sure, and kinda goofy. But somewhere on the road to novelty, the band came up with something different. The bridge is a stunner. The sound of it made for a classic 70s radio single, one that jumped out of the dial. (The mix is significantly different from many other Houses Of The Holy tracks.) Page's guitar solo, slow and literal for once, is a gem, and Plant's vocals are unassailable.
The title, by the way, can be read in three different ways; as a misspelt variation of Dear Maker, as a rough phonetic riff on Jamaica, or as a British pun on the expression "did ya make her?"
This is Sheryl Crow's cover version:
At #17 is Ramble On, from Led Zeppelin II (1969). In 2010, the song was ranked #440 on the list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The song where Plant first nails his mystic-storyteller alter ego combines familiar folk-blues concerns – hitting the road, looking for a woman – with a riff on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. But it’s all about those drums. Not really drums, even - no one seems to know for sure what device Bonham played the song’s distinctive rhythm part on (the bottom of a trash can? A hard guitar case?), but the tone of it is so light and breezy that it gets the song started off in the clouds, the perfect bed for JP Jones’s weightless bass line and Page’s pillowy guitar-strumming to come floating in over. Then the chorus crashes in and Page switches on, flinging knife-edge licks while Plant turns from a Hobbit back into a sex machine.
This are Jimmy Page & Robert Plant live in Las Vegas, 1998:
This is a cover version by Train, 2001:
Finally for today, at #16, we find The Battle of Evermore, from Led Zeppelin IV (1971). One of the most arresting displays of their love of folk music – Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention is featured, with Page on mandolin (which he'd never played before). It's also their fullest evocation of The Lord of the Rings, with allusions to wraiths and mountainside warfare.
Lovely, doomed Sandy Denny had a voice that was at once powerful and delicate, and one of her legacies was this duet with Plant, which is where the real battle takes place. You can bask in the song's extravagant multi-tracked ululations, the dramatic echo, and the phalanx of keening mandolins.
This is Led Zeppelin live in Seattle, 1977:
This is a good cover version by Heart, from their 2003 DVD, Alive In Seattle:
Now, let's continue with last week's statistics; it was another very good week, with a 10% rise in the weekly number of visits, making this the most visited week in the last one and a half month. I like this climate of positivity...
As far as stories are concerned, last week's Led Zeppelin's countdown did great, the two pre-Disco stories did very well... And George Maharis and Labi Siffre are still in the top 10 of the week (#2 and #9, respectively). The longevity of these two stories never ceases to amaze me.
As far as countries are concerned, this week's big winners are France and Russia, both greatly increasing their overall number of visits. Also on their way up are the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates. Greece and Cyprus are stable, while the United States, Germany, and Belgium experienced drops.
Here are this week's Top 10 countries:
2. the United States
5. the United Kingdom
10. the United Arab Emirates
Here are the other countries that graced us with their presence since our last statistics (alphabetically): Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam. Happy to have you all!
And here's the all-time Top 10:
1. the United States = 37.8%
2. the United Kingdom = 9.3%
3. Greece = 8.7%
4. France = 8.2%
5. Russia = 5.0%
6. Germany = 3.3%
7. Cyprus = 1.37%
8. Italy = 1.30%
9. Canada = 0.75%
10. Belgium = 0.63%
That's all for today, folks. Till the next one!