A Zeppelin flashback
By Larry Downing and Jason Reed
Moments after musicians Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham stepped onto the creaky stage inside the old Boston Garden forty-four years ago it was obvious 16,000 teenaged baby boomers were witnessing the infancy of one of rock and roll’s greatest acts.
“Led Zeppelin” opened 1969’s “Tribal Rock Festival” with a throbbing, “Good Times Bad Times,” and the world changed forever for those inside; most of whom had been schooled under the shadows of strict, conservative innocence in the 1950’s and early 60’s. The band played with such primal passions and steady bass rhythms it generated enough vibration to free decades of tired dust from the tops of the aging rafters; waterfalls of filth drifted below and continued during the entire performance.
None of those New England fans would ever see, or hear, music the same after those loud layers of complex notes and vigorous lyrics were let out of the genie’s bottle and took possession of every happy toe-tapper inside that ancient structure built back in 1928.
And no one who actually “remembers” that night will forget the numbing cannabis high enjoyed at no additional cost after paying only $3.50 to watch from the cheapest seats. Warm, freshly exhaled marijuana floated up as clouds of pungent second-hand smoke stoning everyone inside that building famous for poor circulation. I heard this included the unsuspecting cops who inhaled from the top rows and later mentioned they would find relief for their own “munchies” searching for chocolate donuts on the way home.
Pop’s early lyrics had always been uncomplicated verse catering to adolescent boys and girls and their simple tastes, perfect harmony for the pink ‘poodle skirt’ crowd; Frankie Avalon, Pat Boone, Ricky Nelson and the Beach Boys were all success stories. And if fans were asked before that night at the Garden to describe their childhood memories most would have reminisced as if they were scenes seen in grainy 8mm black and white movies.
“Led Zeppelin” changed all that with bright, splashy colors and British authority – spicing up those safe musical diets with edgy, old-world compositions delivered by a delicate, mesmerizing marionette at the center of an intense spotlight.
Robert Plant was every sensible parent’s worst nightmare crossing the traditional lines of what was once considered acceptable behavior for a man out in public. He pranced around open-shirted on stage underneath his long, golden curls while confidently showing off, well, everything firmly squeezed inside snug jeans, inviting thousands of curious eyes.
And as he flirted with willing on-stage partner, guitarist Jimmy Page, he confused everyone; their act sparked lasting debate whether Plant was, in fact, a “Rock god” or “Rock diva.” A dozen years raced between that Boston night and the sad day the stage silenced after drummer, Bonham, tragically drowned in an ocean of vodka in 1980. Disappointed North American fans were left holding empty reservations for the next scheduled tour which sank before reaching its shore.
Thankfully, those aging rock fans that “got” their music then continue to “get” it today using digital downloads which provide a comforting narcotic for hardcore Zeppelin junkies. Unfortunately, the addiction of witnessing that vibrant energy generated by those four special musicians could only be enjoyed as faded memories of those concerts seen four decades ago. Until now…
World-class guitarist Steph Paynes followed her childhood dream of playing in a serious rock band and put together her own group. Her singular ambition was to preserve all things “Led Zeppelin” and began the arduous task of auditioning musicians until she eventually struck gold with an all-female traveling band she cleverly entitled, “Lez Zeppelin.” Paynes’ motivation was the fear that Led’s spell would evaporate before future generations could discover their music. Her success became every fan’s fortune providing original Zeppelin fans a comfortable magic carpet to sit on while happily reminiscing about all those beautiful concerts without reliance on a hazy 60’s flashback.
At the same time Paynes, along with her dynamic lead singer Shannon Conley, bass guitarist Megan Thomas and powerful drummer Leesa Harrington-Squyres, empower their gender’s satisfied fan base by disproving the notion that women can’t play rock and roll as well as men. “Lez Zeppelin” transforms itself into pure feminine sexual energy while accurately honoring the boys and their wonderful art. And yes, they can play!
If you close your eyes while sitting out in the audience you’ll find yourself easily back in 1969 when “Led Zeppelin” ruled the rock world and music fans followed in awe.