Last night I made a new discovery. I’ve never pretended to understand Led Zeppelin. I wrote about their difficult rhythms in Half-Truths and White Lies and how, when Peter’s breakthrough comes, it is as if he has understood a difficult mathematical equation. Well, 37 years too late, I think I have finally got it. Just as I love to hear writer’s read their own work, it helps to see music played live. My breakthrough came in the form of Led Zeppelin, The Song Remains the Same, a recording of a concert in New York in 1973. On stage, Robert Plant is transformed from a – let’s face it – not particularly attractive Brummie with bad teeth to the God of Rock and Roll. And, boy, is it some transformation. I have never understood how parents might feel threatened by the Beatles or Cliff Richard. (The screaming teenage girls looked way, way, scarier – and from the stage too, I understand.) But when Robert Plant sings, ‘Shake for me, baby’…you shake. I read an interview once in which he said that, at 19, he had no idea what he was singing about. Perhaps from the perspective of an older man, but, Robert, I’ve seen the DVD. You can’t fool me with your mugs of chamomile tea.
I think it was Lemmy who said, “It’s rock n’ roll. Your mother isn’t supposed to like it.” Watching Worried About the Boy recently (I was a teenager in the 80’s), I’m quite sure that Boy George didn’t intend to gain a following of grannies.
My mother, a fan of classical music, attended my first proper gig with me. It was Classix Nouveau at the Dominion Theatre. ( The bass player’s brother was in my year at the Wimbledon College, which meant that I virtually knew the band.) Sal Solo, who was distinctive at the time for being shaven headed when few men dared to go bald, walked onto the stage wearing a flesh-coloured body stocking. Short-sighted, it was several minutes before I realised that, thankfully, I had not brought my mother to a gig where the lead singer was completely starkers.