Schopenhauer Was Right: Part 2 – When The Levee Breaks

Led Zeppelin IV was released in November of 1971. A number of heavy metal standards comprise this album. Black Dog, Rock & Roll, Misty Mountain Hop and Stairway to Heaven are sovereign heavyweights in the lexicon of rock and roll. I first purchased this record in 1980. At the time, I wasn’t much of a Zeppelin fan though to be noted I wasn’t overly familiar with their catalog of work. However, shortly after I gave this album a listen I became a convert.

Percussion was my first instrument. I began playing snare drum in a marching drum corp named the Cavalets in 1974. From that experience, I learned a valuable lesson with metaphorical overtones: When marching in a parade, it is infinitely better to proceed a horsed cavalry than to follow. I subsequently went on to play drums in my junior high and high school bands. The experience of listening to John Bonham on Rock and Roll, for example, was influential on my musical life beyond estimation. The way everything in this song seems to come apart as Plant spirals the chorus back into verse, and Bonham lazily lags a beat behind the turn and then in an instant snatches back the time on the down beat of the next verse….exhilarating! From Zeppelin, I learned time is elastic as pertains to musical expression and this elasticity is paramount to creating groove.

Zeppelin IV shares a rare and notable attribute with a select few other recordings in the catalog I’ve amassed over the years: Its finale, When The Levee Breaks, is as strong a closing song as Black Dog is as an opener. From the early beginnings of album sales, bands have struggled to muster up 10 -12 songs of equal musical and lyrical strength. This difficulty is evident by the comparative strength of the first 3 or 4 songs of most albums when juxtaposed with the last 2 or 3. Fortunately, this tendency allows us the listeners to evaluate recordings quickly when deciding whether or not to purchase. For myself, if I don’t hear something compelling; some persistent hook in the first 3 or 4 songs, well….I’m not going to stay around for the floor sweepers.

It all began with a bit of graffiti on a bridge enclosure. From that point, every new discovery felt like it supplanted its antecedent. Schopenhauer led to Nietzsche who led to Husserl who led to Heidegger… Just like Led Zeppelin IV, that great album of epic scope where each song is integral to the collective effort fusing monolithic hard rock with a mystical, rustic English sensibility, each of these thinkers are essential and deeply influential to the next. When The Levee Breaks majestically brings closure to LZ4; Heidegger’s phenomenolgy fitly closes a German movement begun with Schopenhauer’s negation of the world. And for a wee freshman at the U of M circa 1984, Schopenhauer was merely a point of introduction on an otherwise long, linear line stretching on past the horizon in both directions. That bit of graffiti shook me from my remedial slumber, and onward and forward I stumbled.

To be continued…

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