Zeppelin Selections Rock Commentaries

Led Zeppelin

The name Led Zeppelin means to combine the opposite modes of light and the heavy, which is the acoustic folk of the American scene together with the heavy blues, on the way to what is now called “heavy metal.” Davis cites Page: “And there’s a little of the Iron Butterfly light-heavy connotation.”[17] The name was spelled phonetically, L e d, so that the “thick” Americans would not mispronounce it “leed.”[18] The name itself was famously and accidentally coined by Kieth Moon and John Entwistle of The Who, one of whom said Page’s new band would go over like a “lead balloon.” Page is most responsible for collecting Plant, Bonham and Jones, and forming Led Zeppelin. Bonham played with Plant in early bands, while Jones, like Page, was a very professional studio musician, able to play both base and Keyboard. The thunderous drumming of Bonham is something new, approached only by the lightening cracks of Keith Moon, and no one else. But it is Robert Plant that is responsible for what may be the greatest of all rock lyrics. The combination of Plant and Page makes up the poet of Zeppelin. Page is the original wizard from the Yardbirds, a veteran studio musician from the British blues scene of the earlier sixties. What Page did for rock guitar is approached only by Hendrix, and even Hendrix broke apart before developing the ability of composition achieved by Jimmi Page. It may be that the combination of blues and folk was never more complete.

Their classic songs divide neatly into three periods: At first, they cover and embellish old blues tunes, but write little of their own lyrics. Both heavy and light are present here, but early Zeppelin is especially known for the heavy, their centerpiece, set off against the light like a background. In the second phase, on albums III and IV, the acoustic side develops and the enchanting twelve string is melded with the electric blues. At the pinnacle of this phase, the two are combined in “Stairway,” and Zeppelin surpasses the Beatles as the top rock band of all time. Their peak may also be the pinnacle of classic rock. What is attained is drawn out and sustained for a while in the third period, through Physical Graffiti. “Kashmir” is a second peak, equaling “Stairway.” The blues of I and II continued into the second phase, in one song on each of albums III and IV, but the blues disappear from their third phase. These were continued in one song each on III and IV, but a conjunction in which the two are fused into something new. Nor is there folk acoustic music anymore. Folk has evolved into the “Rain Song,” which is more akin to Mozart than Dylan. Blues has become something that is only rock, and no longer blue, as in the Ocean. Kashmir too is not like Stairway, a mix of two that are still distinct, but something that is both, but especially neither blues or folk. The heavy and the light are something like comedy and tragedy, the happy and the sad. Their conjunction in music is like the joining of the ability to write tragedy and comedy in drama, said to have been impossible for the ancient Greeks, but accomplished by Shakespeare. Shakespeare, too, has a third phase in which his dramas are both and neither, and in this third phase he is similarly addressing the higher themes.

There is a rumor, part of the myth of Zeppelin, that the three, excluding Jones, made a Robert Johnson style pact with the devil in exchange for the astonishing musical ability that would bring them the opportunity for wealth, fame, and the great excesses of their life on the road. There is a saying of Crowley scratched on the margin of Zeppelin III, and rumors of hidden messages recorded backwards onto Stairway. We will be more concerned with what the lyrics say played forward, and will attempt to show how the music of Led Zeppelin is not diabolic, regardless of the influence of Mr. Page. We will argue that Page is more a musician and ordinary human than a Satanist. There is something in Page that likes the imagination of Plant, which probably would not be so if Plant were consciously Christian. But the imagination of Plant is fundamentally sound, formed by the California hippies and J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien manages the feat of English literature, which is to allow the imagination to function as a mediator while avoiding idolatry. Hence Tolkien provides Plant with images and a mythical context that is in harmony with reason, and consistent with Christianity, though Church things are, in Tolkien’s Middle Earth, nowhere explicit. Tolkien and Plant know about the white wizard and the Dark Lord of Mordor, and what a “Ringwraith”is, as we will see below. The poetry, and so it seems the music, of Zeppelin is not, in Tolkien terms, in service to the Dark Lord of Mordor. An exception may be one line in the song “Houses of the Holy,” and one suspects the lyrics are here no longer Plant but now Page. Through friendship, the strains of his guitar are enlisted as a part in a whole that is a coincidence of opposites, of Dionysian and Apollonian, powerful and high ecstasies, and fundamentally not evil, but usually very good.

Page might have used lyrics written by Crowley if he wanted, or might have written more of his own, but Page does not conceive the most significant Zeppelin lyrics. Exceptions are the song of lost love, Tangerine, and his embellishment of Dazed and Confused is original. We will argue that there is something like a poet of Zeppelin, that is neither Plant or Page. The poet of Zeppelin is a combination of Plant and Page that is identical to neither. While Page may indeed incline this way, he does not write the lyrics that somehow go with the music that, in combination with Plant and the others, he is able to turn into perennial classic rock songs. Plant has a part that accepts Page, and the diabolic strains. Page has a part that likes the blues of love and the quest, and so we say he is more a human and musician than a follower of the beast. Page could not accept Plant were Plant from the start a Christian, nor would Plant have been able to work with Page. There is something in common between those attracted to the “goddess” or the feminine divine, and the diabolical or Satanic. This is so even of the white magicians and white goddesses. Page at his worst is an artistic advocate of Hitler. He once appeared on the stage dressed as the tyrant, who would sooner kill than use such an artist or musician. At his best, Page is attracted to study and the free quest for truth, or, knowledge. The figure depicted on the cover of the fourth album is ascending to the Hermit, a character from the Tarot cards, “usually interpreted as a warning against proceeding on a given course without retirement and contemplation.”[19] Page reminds of a paradoxical saying of Socrates, that tyranny arises from the corruption of the greatest natures, that might have been philosophical (Republic 491 d-e). Diabolism of this sort is a confusion and corruption of the true quest for knowledge. Its premise is that the way of the good and just, as well as the way of the Christ, is artificial or by convention, while they follow the only way of nature. As Davis summarizes:

…But Crowley felt that real magic was hidden in man’s will, and could be summoned by an unconscious process. In magic was the survival of the pre-Christian era, a natural world of spirits and powers that had been suppressed by the church. Conventional morality was worthless.

But if the good and just are also by nature, and go with happiness, the premise is undermined. It also appears to them that the genuinely spiritual things are along this antithetical and dark path, where what one intends to do to others in truth occurs to our own true selves. There is a very difficult question involved here, as appears when one considers the superstition and literalism of the Medieval beliefs that led to the persecution of witches, and to the practice of witchcraft. To say the least, their visible world is infused with spirits imagined as bodies, or as part of the visible world, indeed the whole pagan imagination, clothed in Christian images. Only all the color had gone out of the imagination, and the spirits appeared mostly dark, or vastly separated from the heavenly angels. Then, in order to dispel superstition, Science purged the imagination of the visible world, replacing folk beliefs about the causes of things with their natural explanation. This is called the enlightenment of the seventeenth century, when science replaced all religion as the authority regarding the causes of things. While science destroyed traditional belief, it also destroyed idolatry. But English literature, and through the Romans, Greek poetry, has always preserved the ability to consider the images playfully, avoiding the idolatry that attends the belief that these things are causes in the visible world in the ways once imagined. We know what it means, for example, when Aphrodite spreads her charms on the appearance of a young woman, though our psychological explanations are not much better than that she has been influenced by a certain beautiful goddess. Part of the attraction of the study of things Greek is that the whole tradition developed without influence from the whole Biblical tradition, so that it is possible to see the human things as they are by themselves. Then, to not be “Pagan,” believing in many gods, would have been to be faithless and impious. The things of the imagination refer to another “dimension,” the soul and the things of the spirit. While Myths are images that pretend to be about the outside world, they are in truth about the human world. Carl Jung is enabled to study the psychic causes, especially in the unconscious, looking for the common structure of human imagination and its products. Only a part, the least part, of the human world is “in” the outside world, or the world of the body. Similarly, while the pagan folk beliefs arise on their own, Satanism depends upon Christianity, drawing its being from adversity to this, or more precisely, to the imitations of this, which are indeed mere appearance. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream” shows the world of the fairy spirits, ruled by the forester Oberon, who has “oft made sport” with “the morning’s love,” or is friendly to Christianity. By “singin ’bout the good things and the sun that lights the day,” Plant is allowed to mediate, and the musical ability of Page is enlisted into a larger whole in which it is not pernicious. Plant was not immediately accepted by Page, and the genius of Page to enlist Plant and then gradually to let him write lyrics is at the root of the meteoric rise of the Zeppelin to a position among the top six or so of the bands. Assisted by Tolkien and others, Plant finds a life of the imagination that is in harmony with reason. Zeppelin is another chapter in the spiritual quest of rock music, the same that took Townshend, the seeker of the Who, and the Beatles, East. In Kashmir, Plant goes East, as do the Beatles, and others, for the expression of transcendent spiritual experience. It is neither especially Christian nor anti-Christian, but rather a spontaneous expression of the ascending soul, more honest than the imitations of Christianity. From deep rock blues, Zeppelin music first looks to the West, toward California and the “Misty mountains / Where the spirits go.” It looks into the vision of the hippies toward a new day that will dawn, as “children of the sun that begin to awake.” It takes us to witness the apocalyptic battle of “Evermore,” where “the sky is filled with good and bad that mortals never know.” It compares two paths, in “Stairway,” and transmigrates, transporting us (via Morocco) to India. It is not directly Christian, beginning from the liberation of sex, pushing the bounds of what had occurred in popular music with such talk as in “The Lemon Song” or “Whole Lotta Love.” The band was willing to ride these American vulgarities to stardom, beginning with their early fan base among the American white males of the seventies. But even here, as we hope our commentary will show, the liberation and expression of sex has little to do with the power of the rock blues of Zeppelin. Prominent on the first two or three albums, the blues songs of Zeppelin are almost always about the agony of one, a male, who loves a woman, but the woman is unfaithful, leaving the lover in a condition near to madness. This, as we will argue, is the passion of the white males repressed under the masculine persona. One does not imagine a devil able to write a song like “Tangerine,” nor to be so attracted to the weak, dependent, humiliated, wounded and effeminate condition of the lover in the passion of the blues. Alistair Crowley surely never loved. There is also a question whether genuine friendship is possible on diabolic grounds. If they were to do “what they will” to one another, there would not be left justice enough to hold together a band of thieves, let alone a rock band. It is not clear that Page always grasps the non-satanic context of the tradition of English poetry, but he welcomes the understanding of love implied by the blues, and the imagination of Plant, which naturally inclines toward things good. Similarly, Plant writes lyrics that Page likes. One begins to suspect that the union of Plant and Page is some kind of compensation of opposites, as though there were therein something of the white and black magician. Each has an unconscious element that attracts them to one another as components of the group, some Apollonian-Dionysian mixture that makes for great art, for a while. The elements that work together here are well symbolized in the castles each bought: Page lived for a while at Boleskein, a castle once owned by Alistair Crowley, while Plant’s castle was at Bron-Yr-Aur, in Snowdon, which means “Breast of Gold,” (Case, p.91). There Merlin, according to one tradition, once walked, and there Plant and Page stayed while writing Zeppelin III, before recording at Headley Grange in London. What is intriguing is that when it is restrained to a certain part in the composition, the darker element has a place that adds well to the whole.

The early blues of Zeppelin are all about the agony of the lover at the infidelity of the one he loves. As a theme in the black blues, this is fairly rare, and the selection of Zeppelin is precise according to this principle. This lost love is the theme, on the first album, Side I, of songs 1, 4 and maybe 2, and nearly the whole of Side II. It is the essential expression of “Dazed and Confused.” “The Lemon Song” and “Heartbreaker” and “Communication Breakdown” continue the theme on the second album, overflowing into a second peak in “Since I’v been lovin’ you” and “When the levee breaks,” on the third and fourth albums. And then it is done. There are no more classic Zeppelin blues, with the exception of “In My Time of Dyin,” and no more of these romantic blues at all. In “Ramble On,” on the second album, a summary is given in symbol as to what it is that has happened, and had already indicated the conclusion or the response of the Zeppelin poet, which is to ramble on. A world of the imagination opens, and the first gem mined is Robert’s first song, “Thank You,” written for his wife. It is through the agony of lost love expressed in the Zeppelin blues that the imagination opens, and lyric tunes come pouring as a spring out the side of a mountain.

These songs, and especially the Zeppelin blues, may be the best example yet of our theme, that beneath the liberation of sex or the shocking surface of rock, there is a more genuine expression of true love. The repeated theme is the anguish from the infidelity that drives the lover on a descent near to madness. Even the famous vulgarity on the Lemon song is, in the context, a plea to be loved, and the strutting proficiency of “Whole Lotta Love” is an attempt at optimism amid the anguish and chaos of this love. What is shocking, when one thinks of it, is no longer the honest, “adult” talk of sex, as in the old black blues. What is shocking is the understanding and experience of love in the blues of Zeppelin. It is complex, and surprising. It presupposes that true love is monogamous. The sexual revolution ends in the contradiction with the nature of true love. As it turns out, it is this, the agony of infidelity and the emotions of true love, that are the repressed “unconscious” expressed in the white blues of rock for the younger siblings of the hippies that banged their heads on the stage at the Boston Tea Party in 1969, when Zeppelin invaded America.

Zeppelin 1969: I and II

In “Good Times Bad Times,” the first word of Zeppelin sets the theme of this unlucky romantic history in the broader terms of an inquiry into “what it means to be a man.” He has tried to do all the things of a man as best he can, following the traditional teaching, but finds himself caught in a rut. His first love at sweet sixteen left him in only a couple days, when he whispered something to her. And now, his woman has left home for a better man. He upbraids himself for apathy. Now he is alone, and on a romantic prowl, confidently seeking a love that won’t up and leave him. This is the first word of Zeppelin, and the inquiry into the dark romantic emotions that is to follow. Loneliness describes the present circumstance in which the song occurs, as the Zeppelin takes off:

In the days of my youth, I was shown what it means to be a man

And now I’ve reached that age, I try to do all these things the best I can

No matter how I try, I find my way to the same old jam.

Good times, bad times, you know I’ve had my share

Well my woman left home for a better man, and I still don’t seem to care

Sweet sixteen I fell in love with a girl as sweet as could be

It only took a couple of days till she was rid of me

She swore that she would be all mine, and love me till the end

But when I whispered in her ear, I lost another friend.

I know what it means to be alone

I sure do wish I was at home

I don’t care what the neighbors say

I’m gonna love you, girl,

Each and every day

You can feel the beat within my heart

realize, sweet baby, we ain’t never gonna part

The blues theme is underlined when the next line is “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” Written by Ann Bredon and covered famously by Joan Baez as a blue folk song. The original song is moving because it is the one loved that is leaving. But see if this theory is not correct: in the context of the romantic blues theme of Zeppelin, it becomes the song of the lover, who resolves to leave. “Look for me” and “I’ll be gone.” Paired with I Can’t Quit You Babe, and in the context of the album, the one trying to leave is the mistreated lover. It is difficult for a kind one to leave one that loves them, but almost impossible for the lover to intentionally leave the one loved, even though they know they should, and this, as it seems is the new tension of the song. From the beginning, it is impossible that they leave.

Babe, babe Babe, I’m gonna leave you

I said Baby…I’m gonna leave you

Leave you in the summer time

Leave You when the summer comes a rollin

Leave you when the summer comes along.

Babe, babe, babe, I wanna leave you

I ain’t jokin, woman, I’v got to ramble

Baby baby, I’v really

Really got to ramble

I can hear it calling me the way it used to

I can hear it calling me back home.

Babe, I’m gonna leave you

Oh, baby,

You know I’v really got to leave you

Oh, I can hear it callin’ me

Said don’t you hear it callin me the way it used to

I know, I know I’m never gonna leave you. babe

But I gotta go away from this place

I gotta get you [there]

Oh, Baby, baby, baby baby baby, baby baby,oh

Don’t you hear it callin me

Woman, woman

I know, I know

It feels good to have you back again, and I know

that one day, baby, its gonna realy grow, yes it is

We’re gonna go

Walkin’ through the park every day

I’m gonna leave you,

Go away

It was really goin’

You made me happy every single day

But now

I’v got to go away

Baby baby baby

That’s when its callin me

I said that’s when its callin me

Back home

He wishes to return to “it, ” which must be a high free or solitary life, in contrast with the present. In the Baez tune, it is the longing for the road which calls the one leaving, to journey Westward. Here, it is calling him “back home,” and in the previous song, he wished he was “at home.” The Zeppelin version, the sorrow is set off against the background of the happiness of their lives together, and there is also a picture of their possible happiness together in the future, when they will go walking through the park. The imagined happiness sets off the sorrow of the reality, allowing it to appear as it is, and evoking the wrenching emotion.

Babe, it was really, really goin’

You made me happy every single day

But now I’v got to go away

Baby, baby, baby

That’s when its callin’ me back home.

The word ramble enters the Zeppelin vocabulary from American folk tunes of the road, and is the beginning of the spiritual response to the romantic catastrophe. He hears it calling him the way it used to, calling him back home. Here we see the first glimmer of the idyllic world of the light theme mixed with the heavy blues of the actual world’s blues, as will occur repeatedly in the light / heavy of the Led Zeppelin. When Plant begins to write the lyrics, this light theme develops into the eternal love of “Thank You” and the Tolkein inspired imagination present in “Stairway.” and throughout the third and fourth albums.

   “You Shook Me” is a Willie Dixon Song, done also by Jeff Beck on his 1969 album Truth. It sets the stage for Dazed and Confused, with a recollection of the love that winds up to the calls for the lost love to return home. “Dazed and Confused” was the song that propelled Page and the Zeppelin to stardom with their first album. Developed out of a folk tune by Jake Holmes, it features and introduces the diabolic strains of Jimmie’s guitar, which he bowed like a Bohemian Paganini. The title line has nothing to do with drugs, but is the result of the long harried condition of the ill-fated lover. It introduces what is the theme of Zeppelin rock blues, this duplicitous love. The lover loves one that is untrue, and cannot break through the illusion to free himself, despite being tortured near to insanity. The diabolic strains express a suffering inflicted by the dark things, which have seized the one loved, to the distress of the helpless lover:

Been dazed and confused for so long its not true

Wanted a woman, never bargained for you

Lots of people talking but few of them know

Soul of a woman was created below

The misogyny or heretical thought of the line must be understood in the context of what is shown. This woman sleeps with other men and then returns to the poet who loves her, torturing him into the blues frenzy and near madness to follow. The one who does this cannot possibly know what she is doing, but as in “The Rover,” the woman is connected with the dark side, and so, if somewhat accidentally or unconsciously, tramples the heart of the lover. Of course, for the one loved, the whole affair may be much less significant, accidental and unintentional. Note too that this poem cannot possibly be Satanic, as the poet is plagued by the things below: The diabolic strains are enlisted to express the confusion laid onto the lover by the duplicitous circumstance, over which the compulsion of his love leaves him no control or. escape It is this that leads to the powerful, anguished accusation: “soul of a woman was created below.” Here the lover and poet is the one opposed or tortured by the diabolic things. But the white blues of Zeppelin are again a suffering of the sexual revolution, or a finding of the drawbacks and limits. It is the demonstration of the argument of the lover that this is the pinnacle of rock blues. The lover is left “dazed and confused” in a deep sense, or near to insanity. It has nothing to do with drugs, though the psychic disorientation might be similar. The diabolic strains of the famous bowed guitar portray the chaos into which the lover descends when the one he loves does not love but in effect tortures him. This is the essential repressed emotion in the expression of these white male blues.

Notice what occurs in the second stanza: The lover is compelled to return, making love to the one loved even though he is in the madness of believing that she is unfaithful:

You hurt and abused, telling all of your lies

Run round sweet baby, lord how you hypnotize

Sweet little baby, I don’t know where you’ve been

Gonna love you baby, here I come again.

This is again shocking in an ironic way. There is a natural disgust that attends promiscuity. The imitation of love making sounds, to recur in “Whole Lotta Love,” is here the imitation not of the disgust but of the torture of the lover making love to one untrue. The confusion is that of the compulsion of the lover to make love to the one loved amid the grave uncertainty of her fidelity. The collision of these two intense emotions is the tragic tension. One cannot make love at the same time believe the love has just been with another, and so the mind itself is disturbed. The lover alternates between the two phrenes, two minds, the world where he loves and the world where he thinks she is untrue. Note that the coldness of the beloved is what occurs at home when the lover is “running around.” At home, the one loved pushes him away. There may be a sense, related to the biblical use of the word “know,” in which something about the intimacy leads the lover to know of the infidelity, causing a disturbance that will burst into consciousness, when the nature of the soul leads to a purge. The lover can also be very wrong, and Shakespeare portrayed the dangers of jealousy, in Othello. Shakespeare never portrays jelousy that is correct in fearing infilelity.And it may be that such a thing, when what jealousy fears is true, has never before been expressed as it is in the Zeppelin blues. This disturbance is beyond jealousy, though the reason for it may be similar to the filial nature of man involved in the root of jealousy. There is something natural to human love that seeks fidelity, in a different way for the man than the woman, since the woman bears the child. Why does infidelity cause the lover such pain and trouble? One suspects that this is related biologically to the attempt to avoid raising children snuck into one’s nest, as the cuckoo does, sneaking eggs to be raised by other birds as a reproduction strategy. The more prominent the body, the more the matter is of biology. For the woman, the infidelity of a husband is more a question of wasting substance, since his infidelity need not cost her offspring in the same way. Yet a man could easily gain more than he loses in reproductive strategy, as could a woman by, say, bearing the offspring of some “real man,” while tricking the more domestic-able, who is less likely to beat them, into caring for the household. There was a common Sixties argument against possessiveness in love, which required of the lover the detachment suited to a buddha, as though indifference  were a moral duty. But fidelity in love is also a matter of the soul. One suspects too that there is a mystery here related to Genesis 1:26, the cryptic statement that God made man in his image, male and female, as this is said to be the reason that a man leaves his parents and is joined to his wife. That the two become one “flesh” is a spiritual saying, so that “sex” is also what were doing with our souls. Consummation in marriage is a bonding ritual, and so is by nature for a purpose beyond reproduction. This root would be the corollary in white magic to the theory of “sexmagic” in the thought of Crowley, and shows why the soul can be abused in these ways. Hence, infidelity is disintegrating, and deeper than we know. Questions of justice and deception come to be involved in human love by nature. If the lover does not know of the infidelity, how does it hurt them? Then, because two in a household are one soul, both the souls and the household degenerate from the crown and hearth, disordered and unable to function amid inner faction, and tripping over duplicity. Zeppelin I answers this false opinion of those who do not love. The lover suffers the infidelity regardless, if nowhere else, then in the absence of the one they love. The song depends on the lover retaining the sympathy of the listener, and the motive of the song is an attempt to communicate these romantic sufferings. Humans are like parrots, and even more, where parrots are by nature social, and so will assault themselves, even pulling their own feathers, from the need for communication. The Zeppelin blues are a vindication of the lover regarding the justice of telling the truth, and the sort of beloved that ensnares them by their love, and then constructs for them a false world to inhabit, all because to be loved is flattering and can be made convenient. But by the lovers own compulsion, he is happy to be flattering and convenient.

She is one of those that hypnotize many men, not just beautiful, but a certain kind of Siren that is the destruction of the true lover, unless he can somehow get through to her or free himself. Commenting on “Tangerine,” Case suggests that for Page it may have been the beautiful Jackie de Shannon. The particular is not important for us, though it be for him. Out of the particulars, the poet of Zeppelin distills the rarefied human experience. It is the essence of romantic blues, amplified when these white English rockers got hold of the Blues. There is an expression of the working man’s blues in what may be a Jake Holmes part of the tune, the poet sings:

Every day I work so hard, bringin’ home my hard earned pay

Try to love you baby, but you push me away.

Don’t know where your goin, only know just where youv’e been

Sweet little baby I want you again

…of course stands out as exceptional, something that breaks through to a height or intensity never seen before, and surely is not present in the Jake Holmes original. The line later, in “since I’v been lovin You,” of working from seven to eleven nearly every night, again makes this working man’s romantic blues. The meaning is astonishing: The sexual revolution, of “free love,” ends with these lines. which present the call for the lover to be true, and the hellish result of the opposite. Then the music, which imitated the sounds of love making, is simultaneously a descent into madness. The diabolic strains are set in service to a context that is human, even natural, contradicting the do whatever you like, or “what you will” theory of Crowley. Or is this not just what the unfaithful lover, who retains the lover by creating a duplicitous reality for them to believe, is doing? Such a thing has never been expressed before in the history of art. Finally the lover has expressed the agony of loving an unfaithful woman that yet returns to the lover. “Piece of my heart” is close, as “Somebody to Love” may also be, along these lines, and one can see how the rock mode is especially suited to the bursting out of these passions. The suggestion of Zeppelin might be that this is the essential blues emotion, at least on this level of the human things. Surely there are things greater than romantic love, and tragic circumstances sadder, but on the level of music about love, we are entering a tragic peak or pinnacle of expression. The lover suffers not in body but in soul, and is painfully opened, potentially to the higher spiritual things, in what is like religious experience in contrast with mere belief. But the opening can also leave them prey to things below.

“Your Time is Gonna Come” is again about the same thing, romantic infidelity that drives the lover insane, so that some time in the future she’ll look for him and he’ll be gone. Here we see that it is indeed the lover who is leaving, or trying to, and in hindsight, “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” also appears this way, and more tortured if sung by the lover than the one loved.

After an instrumental called Black Mountain Slide, the same love onto near insanity is belted out in the classic Communication Breakdown. Here their own rock voice, as distinct from blues, emerges for the first time to become characteristic of seventies rock, especially in the rhythm guitar. It is an anger or frustration that breaks with the crack of the drums:

Hey girl stop what your doin’

Hey girl you’ll drive me to ruin

I don’t know what it is I like about you, but I like it a lot

Won’t you let me hold you, let me give you lovin touch

Communication breakdown

Its always the same

Havin’ a nervous breakdown

Drive me insane ]

Hey girl

I got something I think you ought to know

I wanna tell you that I love you so

I never wanna let you go

Cause I like your charms

Communication breakdown

Its always the same

Havin’ a nervous breakdown

Drive me insane

Oh, [explicative]

I want you to love me all night

I want you to love.

Communication Breakdown is a frantic call of the lover to the one loved to love, and the communication breakdown, and the energy of the song, is the frustration of the lover. The explicative occurs at the point of irrationality, the recognition of defeat and the emergent disintegration to result from this failure. The last two lines again show how this music is concerned with “sex.” He wants her to love. Lust in the conjugal union, or as a part of love, is different from lust given the lead, so that it seeks many rather than one. The poet of Zeppelin is all about the one.

   “I Can’t Quit You, Babe” is the same theme, still trying to escape the beloved in a love that messed up his happy home and made him mistreat his only child, yet still she is his “one desire.” How Many More Times” joins up with the subliminal quality of “Dazed and Confused.” In a way it is an elaboration or even a return to the same song. The lyric first asks “How many more times” of an unfaithful love, and of himself, how many more times he will be compelled by his love to return.

How many more times

Treat me the way you wanna do

How many more times

When I give you all my love,

Please, please be true.

The song then seems to break suddenly into the song of her seducer, who becomes a separate character, as in drama. If this is correct, it is as though the poet teleported or transmigrated to witness the depravity of his persecutor.

I was a young man, I couldn’t resist

Started thinking it over just what I had missed

Got me a girl and I kissed her a little bit

Went so low, well I did it again

Now I got ten children of my own

another child on the way that makes eleven

And I’m in constant heaven

But I know its all right in my mind

I got a little schoolgirl and she’s all mine

I can’t get through to her ‘cause it doesn’t permit

But I’m gonna give her everything I’v got to give

Oh rosy, Oh girl

Oh Rosy, oh girl

Steal away now

Steal away

Little [Robert Anthony?] wants to come and play

Why don’t you come to me baby

Steal away

Well they call me the hunter

That’s my name

Call me the hunter

That’s how I got my fame

Ain’t nneed to hide

Ain’t no need to run

Cause I’v got you in the sight of my gun.

The lecher is a character as in a drama, like the Jackknife Barber of Ian Anderson. This one describes how he got married, had ten children, is still fertile with his wife, but regrets having missed what he missed in youth, by marrying young. For this he pursues girls that are a bit youngish. He is the hunter, the one who cuckolds the lover with the one the lover loves. The poem captures her as she sneaks off to with the hunter. The whole scene, as it seems, is like a telepathic viewing by the lover of the unfaithful act of the beloved, which he experiences in his own soul, in a kind of madness that reveals the truth that his soul depends upon. The song then returns to consider the poet’s own compulsion, asking again, after considering these things, “How many more times ?” The character of the hunter is a bit like Townshend’s Dr. Jimmy and Mr. Jim, a Jeckyl and Hyde duality in which the lover recognize a part of themselves in the compulsion of the opportunist that is their tormentor. And the song concludes in the agony of the call to be true and to return home:

How many more times

Romance all night long

How many more times

Romance all night long

I got to get to you baby

Please come home

Why don’t you listen to me baby

Why don’t you please come home.

Why don’t you listen to me baby

Why don’t you please come home.

Why don’t you please come home.

Why don’t you please come home.

So side two concludes as did side one, with a descent into madness, concluding the argument of the whole album. As Page said, he wanted the album to be not just to songs strung together, but to have a dramatic structure.

Zeppelin II “The Brown Bomber”

The first album is entirely tragic. The only hint, in the first album, of the ethereal imagination of Plant is in the “it” that he hears calling him the way the way it used to, in the Zeppelin addition to the Baez tune. The second album continues the tragic lost love songs, with heartbreaker and “The Lemon Song,” but also contains hopeful love songs, beginning with the essential rock love-call “Whole Lotta Love.” The album is influenced by the confidence due to their success, as well as the tension between home and road lives. The heights break through for the first time in “What is and What Should Never Be,” and again in “Thank You,” reputedly the first lyric written by Plant. It opens with the blistering riffs of “Whole Lotta Love,” which, like “Communication Breakdown,” begins with the guitar alone at a high level of energy.

You need coolin’

[Woman] I’m not foolin’

I’m gonna send ya

Back to schoolin’

Way down inside, honey you need

I’m gonna give you my love

You’ve been learnin’, Baby I’v been yearnin’

All of the good time, baby I been a-learnin’

Way way down inside

I’m gonna give you my love

Wanna whole lotta love

The instrumental then imitates what is like love-making, and, as in “Dazed and Confused,” a descent into confusion and panic. The vocal then returns with some of the more vulgar lines. It is a song of masculine confidence, to say the least, but appears in its depth in the context of the failing love of the Zeppelin blues. His love needs coolin,’ so he’s gonna send her back to schoolin.’ This is to say, she is wandering, and he will re-tether her with his prowess in the conjugal union business. The keynote, way down inside, you need love, is at first very vulgar, but has a analogical and more human meaning, the longing for connection within the human desire for union. As Patty Smith says, in “Because the Night,” “love is an angel disguised as lust.”

What Is and What Should Never Be

And if I say to you tomorrow

Take my hand child, come with me

Its to a castle I will take you

Where what’s to be they say will be

Catch the wind, see us spin

Sail away, leave the day

Way up high in the sky

[hang low] but the wind won’t blow

You really shouldn’t go

Only goes to show

That you will be mine

By takin our time.

And if you say to me tomorrow

Oh what fun it all would be

Then what’s to stop us, pretty baby

But what is and what should never be.

Catch the wind, see us spin

Sail away, leave today

Way up high in the sky

[hang low] And whoa, but the wind won’t blow

You really shouldn’t go

And it only goes to show

That you will be mine

By takin our time.

So if you wake up with the sunrise

And all your dreams are still as new

And happiness is what you need so bad

[Girl it’s a loss in you, yeah]

The song initiates another Zeppelin theme, of calling the woman to come along, here on a soaring journey to a castle. This is a sub-theme that enters on occasion, and in many Zeppelin tunes, as at the end of Kashmir. It is possible that the love is ill timed or even adulterous for one or both, which would make sense of the statement that what prevents them from going is what is, or the present circumstances, and what should never be, that two such should catch the wind together. The alternative, that the call is to a legitimate love, would mean that what is– the deficiency of her love– and what should never be, something in the past, prevents their love from taking them on the journey. It is not clear which, and it matters a lot, but with this ambiguity, it is more universal. “That you will be mine by taking our time” is a hook line of the song, the one thing that catches the souls and sticks with most listeners on a conscious level. It is a very hopeful lyric, and argues for the latter of the two possibilities, that the song is that of a lover calling one to true love, to an ascent that is prevented by what has been.

Davis cites Richard Cole, who said that Robert had a mistress that he brought in and introduced.

The Lemon song

The Lemon song contains the vulgar blues line asking her to “squeeze” his “lemon till the juice runs down” his “leg.” The line is set in the context of the same blues theme, transforming the meaning from the surface vulgarity to a deeper, if more pathetic blues longing for love. The lover says he should have left her a long time ago, because she uses him for something while seeing another man. He should have listened to his “second mind,” but when he tries to leave her, he is sunk into depression, or as Othello says, “When I love thee not, Chaos is come again.”

I should have quit you

A long time ago

I wouldn’t be here with all my troubles

Down on this killin floor

I should have listened, baby

To my second mind

I should have listened, baby

To my second mind

Every time I go away to leave you darling

Bring me the blues right down the line

I went to sleep last night

Prayed hard as I can

I give you all my money, you take my money, give it to another man

I should have quit you babe, a long time ago

Squeeze my Lemon, baby, till the juice runs down my leg

The way you squeeze me darling, I’m gonna fall right out of bed.

The vulgarities are thought funny on the surface, functioning comically to exclude the prudes, feed the press, fill the need of the many to talk dirty, and to incite and then make fun of the un-hip, which was an old hippie pastime. Yet the context is the same as “Dazed and Confused,” and the desire for sex again a desire for love. The blues man is thrown back onto his knees in prayer, not by custom, but by the pain of love and life, called the “killin’ floor.’ One might say that those who have not been there have not loved, though there is always the simple happy sort that are never taken to the edge of the world. The coarse desire of the vulgar line is the longing of the lover for relief from the killing floor, by being with the one loved in the ways of abandon, as though she would care to please him. It might be added that one purpose of early and secondary education, in harmony and courage, is to steel the young against the pain of love, and that this is beyond the scope of our present education.

“Thank You” might be the most beautiful Zeppelin song. is a pledge of eternal love. It has been played at wedding ceremonies, and works well:

If the sun refused to shine

I would still be lovin you

When Mountains crumble to the sea

There would still be you and me

Kind woman. I give you my heart

Kind woman, nothing more

Little drops of rain

Whisper of the pain

Tears of love lost in the days gone by

Our love is strong

Here there is no wrong

Together we shall go until we die

Oh, my my

Happiness, no more be sad

Happiness,[   ]

If the sun refused to shine

I would still be lovin you

When Mountains crumble to the seas

There would still be you and me

I wanna thank you.

His love will last longer than the most permanent things on earth. The stunning beauty of these four lines is matched by the effect of the gentle rain. It recalls and heals the souls from the scars of past love and failure, and the sky, like the souls, yields a precipitate when these things come together. This harmonizing of the soul and the souls makes possible the description of the happiness toward which these might look forward. Written by Plant rather than Page, his gratitude might be increased by the shining of her love against the background of the Zeppelin blues.

Side Two


Hey fellas have you heard the news

You know Annie’s back in town

It won’t take long just watch and see

How the fellas lay their money down

Her style is new but her face the same

As it was so long ago

But from her eyes a different smile

That’s all…I want you to know

Well its been ten years or maybe more

Since I first set eyes on you

The best years of my life go by

Here I am alone and blue

Some people cry and some people die by the wicked ways of Love

But I’ll just keep on rollin along with the strength from the Lord above

People talking all around

‘bout the way you left me flat

I don’t care what the people say

Cause I know where their jive is at

One thing I do have on my mind

[If you can clarify please do]

Is the way that you call me another guy’s name

When I try to make love to you


[Work so hard I can’t unwind]

Get some money saved

Abuse my love a thousand times

However hard I try

Heartbreaker your time has come

Can’t take your evil ways

Go away heartbreaker

This song is again about the same woman who left him flat ten or more years ago, as she hits town and charms the men out of their money. He does not cry or die, but keeps rollin’ along. He is vengeful, but, although people are talking about how she left him, he does not care what they say. What he does care about is that she called him another guys name. This happens commonly, and is infuriating, sad, and comical all at once. This, again, is the trouble with infidelity and duplicity.

From the suggestion of Davis (p. 98), “The Living loving Maid” is a sarcastic or comical and affectionate song seems at first to be a song, a character portrait or caricature of an old groupie. Its nearly inaudible opening lines are: “With a purple Umbrella and a fifty cent hat / Goin’ round town in her aged Cadillac.” But that he is paying alimonny or something like it makes us wonder if old “Annie” is not now an old groupie. A great line is “When your conscience hits, you knock it back with pills…

   “Ramble On” is the recognition or conclusion of the blues of Zeppelin. It is described in terms from Tolkein, where Gollum is the ugly cave creature that covets the ring. But there are not significant romances in Tolkein. “Mine’s a tale that can’t be told,” in so many words, that is, and so he tells it in symbol:

Leaves are fallin all around

Its time I was on my way

Thanks to you, I’m much obliged

For such a pleasant stay

But now it’s time for me to go

The autumn moon lights my way

And now I smell the rain, and with it pain

And its headin my way.

Ah, sometimes I grow so tired

But I know I’v got one thing I gotta do

Ramble on, sing my song

I’m goin round the world I gotta find my girl

On my way

I’v been this way ten years to the day-Ramble on

I gotta find the Queen of all my dreams

Got no time for spreading rumors

The time has come to be gone

And though [our health] we drank a thousand times

Its time to ramble on


Mines a tale that can’t be told

My freedom I hold dear

When years ago in days of old

When magic ruled the air

Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor

I met a girl so fair

But Gollum, and the evil Lord

Crept up and slipped away with her…

And ain’t nothing I can do, no

I guess I’ll keep on Ramblin

I’m gonna shake, sing my song

I’m goin’ round the world, I gotta find my girl

Ramble on…in my heart…got to part…I gotta keep searchin for my baby

My my my my my my baby

The myth so described is similar to the abduction of Persephone by Pluto, god of the underworld, who held her there. Orpheus descended into Hades and attempted to ascend, freeing his love Eurydice, but could not restrain himself from violating the instruction that he not look at her until they had ascended. When he looked, she slipped back down again. Phaedrus, in Plato’s Symposium, (179d), concludes that it was only a shadow of the woman with whom Orpheus was permitted to ascend, and that it is the fear of death that led to the failure of Orpheus. She is prevented from love by something that is as though she were abducted into the underworld. Hercules and Odysseus both descend, and Hercules attempts to return with someone. The action is also compared to Socrates’ descent back into the cave, or the return of the philosopher to the city (Republic, Book VII), and his efforts at education. For Orpheus, and for some, there may be nothing that can be done, beyond the song that attempts to persuade the lover to come along. Again the Zeppelin conclusion is to ramble on in quest of the queen of his dreams. Here, the lover can only try, and fail, to persuade the one loved to come along, and if she does not, he can only ramble on, seeking to find “the queen of all my dreams.” Here the queen enters the poetry of Zeppelin for the first time. It is the same queen, though, as when he is goin’ to California to find a queen without a king, the one who plays guitar and cries and sings. The poet conceives an image of royalty that guides the imagination in search of the best life­ an aristocratic image.

The loss of the one essential love is the loss of attachment to everything in the world. It is the loss of or the heart or the womb of future hopes in the world, which is why all our soul and passion is involved. The loss of all attachment to anything in the world stands at the portico of the spiritual ascent. It is here that the artist can get lost, and fall in, and here too that the philosopher Socrates, and good intentions, can be most helpful. It is the fundamental common human circumstance, where most of those that go wrong go wrong, and where our music kicks in to find an expression that in the end allows for the restoration of sanity. People are like Parrots in that there is a natural need for communication. Parrots left alone often take up the peculiar and unexplainable behavior of attacking themselves, pulling feathers and such, as it seems, from the frustration of their natural social life. Humans are similar, and so it is a great thing if our artists can reach in and find people where they are otherwise alone, without expression, or even without knowing what it is that they would express if they had an outlet for its communication.

Lost love is the unifying theme present in the vast majority of the Zeppelin blues songs on the first album, continued onto the second, and in a single song on the third and fourth. “Since I’v been Loving You,” is overflow from the second album, and “When the Levee breaks,”on the fourth album. Then the Zeppelin blues of lost love disappear, transformed somehow into the transcendence of “Stairway” and “Kasmere.” The theme returns somewhat, late in “Fool in the Rain” “Hey, hey what can I do,” but it is no longer the electric anguish of rock blues, but an acoustic folk blues song.

The music of Zeppelin is also a good example of another of our themes, that the great musicians write from inspiration rather than knowledge. The truth of the soul in love is not taken by Page from any abstract teaching or influence of Crowley, laid onto notes in some abstract intellectualizing, nor any dark wizardry. It rather rises up from the more natural soil of American blues, cultivated into its fundamental expression through the loves of these poets, and in the Zeppelin event. The emotion of the Zeppelin blues is in contradiction with Crowley and the “Do what thou wilt…” and the pursuit of subtle variations on the animal appetite. One does not see how a Satanist could be brought to his knees by love and infidelity, at least without great embarrassment. One suspects that the repressed humanity of Page allows him to join in combination with the peace and beauty of the higher imagination of Robert Plant. It seems to us, then, that among the musicians reputed to incline toward diabolism, not even Page is consistent, but has a kind hearted side or even core, if it is imprisoned like an inner child in the dungeon of his eccentric mansion. One suspects that he never whipped a woman (Davis, p. 95) that did not consent. He is an artist as distinct from a philosopher, the very sort that Nietzsche sought to impress with his teaching.

By contrast, serious and deadly evil was lurking about the California scene. It was Manson’s vengeance for a near miss on a record deal that led to the selection of the house where Sharon Tate was murdered. As Barney Hoskyns relates the story,[xx] Terry Melcher, a cohort of John Phillips of the Mama’s and the Pappa’s in the Canyon scene, rented the house to Roman Polansky, the out of town husband of Sharon Tate, who directed Rosmary’s Baby. Manson chose this house to begin his plans to spark an apocalyptic race war because he thought Melcher lived there. Manson had spent time around Melcher and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. Dennis Wilson allowed the Manson family to move into his home in Rustic canyon, called him “the wizard,” and was attracted to the girls there. And this would be when Manson threatened Brian Wilson. Though this is not where the family lived at the time, it is a wonder that this connection is not what led to the unraveling of the murder, as it might be an early thought to occur to these associates after hearing of a murder at Melcher’s rented house. But the murder was revealed by one of the family members, and Manson was charged with murder by the time of the Altamont festival, in December.

1970 Zeppelin III

The third album is a change of pace in two new ways, and the difficulty is seeing how these elements cohere. One is the acoustic California CSNY sound that dominates the album, and the other is the sudden explosion of the warrior spirit in the Immigrant song. It is as though the two elements of light and heavy, to be joined in Zeppelin IV, are here explored and perfected first in isolation.

The Immigrants Song, one of the most high energy of all rock songs, opens the album. It is an expression of the warrior spirit lost in both Christian and modern times, a part of their inquiry into what it means to be a man. Repressed masculinity and a strength of mind is very much what Led Zeppelin is about, and their fans, as distinct from their groupies, are overwhelmingly male, the younger siblings of the hippies so admired by both. There is no better example of the turn of rock from the late sixties into the early seventies. It is strangely German and Pagan, identifying with the Norse invaders. Its composition coincided with the descent of the band onto England and English music, from a Scandinavian tour, and their transformation from the New Yardbirds into Led Zeppelin. It is the song of an invasion of Norse warriors onto ancient England or Scotland, as seems to have been common from about 900-1100. My ancestors there in the Isles would marry Norse princesses in various deals about that time. (The invasion of the Angles, Hengst and Horsa, invited in by Vortigern in 449 is less a conquest than a scam, at least at first.) It is encouraging that peace and trust can win the day despite all they are losing. The call to Valhalla expresses the warrior’s conquest of the fear of death. Symbolically, the descent from the north is a descent from the land of the intellect, and can be either messianic or diabolical. (Isaiah; 14:13; 31; Jeremiah 4:6, etc.). Rock music, while it has more of a violent tone than the softer music, was until this song, never used as martial music, but was always romantic or spiritual, more akin to religious than military spirits.

Zeppelin I featured the picture of the 1936 explosion of the Zeppelin Von Hindenburg, and the cover of Zeppelin II may suggest a flirtation with German things, but this remains only a barely conscious flirtation. Davis, in his Hammer of the Gods (p. 91), points out the irony of a Zeppelin concert at a place in London called the Lyceum Theater fifty-four years to the day after it had been hit by a bomb dropped in a world war one raid. The Zeppelin bombings were considered an atrocity by the English, and one wonders why the explosion of the band onto British Rock is compared, here and again in the Immigrant song, to the invasion of England by the warriors from the North. Plant seems to be thinking of the Viking invasions of the tenth century, which began with the destruction of the monastery at Lindesfarne. On the next album, there is the influence of some reading about “the Scottish border wars,”[4] likely to be wars with the English, as shown in the movie Braveheart. One wonders whether, at this fringe of consciousness, we begin to see tyranny arise through, or from, rock music.

   Friends seems to be a song about racial segregation and friendship, from the perspective of a child who has not yet lost the sense of the importance of friendship, in contrast with the parents who forbid the children to play together. Just one generation ago, it was common for example for Catholic families children to be forbid from playing with children of Protestant families. It is the hippie Plant over the human tendency from which fascism begins.

Celebration Day contrasts a sarcastic view of a woman, whether the roadie of Livin, Lovin Maid ‘ a lost woman or the lost woman, with the exaltation of joining the band and heading out on the road. Her face is cracked from hiding what it is that soon everyone will know, as her infidelity has become a public matter in their circle. There are obscure references to home security systems, heroine, and what is like a heroine bust, if that is who is breaking down the door. What the addressee will see in the distance, when they ring their hands and moan, is the promised land. They have chosen to walk rather than to come along on the train together with the band, and this makes it seem like she is the lost woman. Will they ring their hands and moan because they could have been there sooner? The train is a theme throughout Zeppelin. It is the train of music and the flower people that he hopes will lead to new age of love and happiness. On the live album, Celebration Day holds a place in the introductory section, indicating that, like “The Song Remains the Same,” it is a capsule of their enterprise. It is also a clue to the meaning of Stairway.

Since I’v Been Lovin You is the culmination of the Zeppelin Blues on the first two albums. Here he works sixteen hour days, only to go home to the blues. He’s been the “best of fools,” the romantic fool being made prey by the trust required by love. In this song, the bluesman himself has one of those backdoor men, meaning one who creeps out the backdoor while another comes home through the front. It is one of the new fangled sort, the most direct swipe at the sexual revolution, and maybe Jim Morrison in particular. So, since he’s been loving her, he’s about to lose his worried mind, as in “Dazed” and “Communication Breakdown.” These blues will reappear one last time, in “When the Levee Breaks,” and then vanish.

Gallows Pole

Whatever relation there is to the hangman of the Tarot, “Gallows pole” has an interesting story behind it that is traced from a deep folk and blues root. The circumstance is that of a young man in prison, or at the gallows, who implores his sister to sleep with the Judge, but the judge then hangs the man anyway. It is the theme of Judy Collins’ “Anathea,” written by Lydia Wood, (Fall River ASCAP) as well as Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. In the Zeppelin version, the imprisoned man first asks his brother and then his friend to bring gold and silver. His brother is too poor, and his friend then brings everything, which apparently is not enough. And so he asks his sister to “take him by the hand,” and save him from the wrath of this mad man. The Judge then reports on how fine the sister is, and that now he laughs “oh so hard” to see him swinging from the gallows pole. Shakespeare handles the theme best, where Claudio faces death for violating the law against premarital sex, so that the hypocrisy of the judge is the pivot of the play. Claudio asks his sister, the nun Isabella, to go through with it, sleeping with the Judge in exchange for his life. The intention of the Judge is thwarted and made manifest by his wise duke, Vincentio, who brings comedy from circumstances set for tragedy, resulting in a quadruple wedding. The theme of erotic violation of the law is archetypal, which means here that it effects the lovers even if they are not themselves literally in such circumstances. Simon says “I’v committed a crime, I’v broken the law,” imagining that he robbed a liquor store, or identifying with one who did, while she lay there sleeping and dreaming of him, in “Somewhere They Can’t Find Me.” Another great example is “Bohemian Rhapsody.”


Page does not write lyrics, with the exception of “Tangerine,” which we add to our growing collection of the songs written from the one great love of each of the great songwriters. This is his “Ten Years Gone.” “I was her love, she was my queen / And now a thousand years between.” Our guess is that it is the same love as that which inspired all the Zeppelin blues. This would be strange considering how she tortured him, and the things he said about her.

Though the band was disappointed that the album was not as well received as the first two, it is probably superior as a work of art, and a transition to IV, a candidate for the best album of all.

Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy (all lyrics C.1973 Superhype Music, Inc)

The Song Remains the Same introduces the album, and becomes the opening song and title of the live album He says he has had a dream, a crazy dream in which anything he wanted to know he might know, and he was able to transmigrate, traveling to any place, as he will when he is “flying,” to Kashmir. For this reason, we should hear his song and sing along, and something that is small in us,­ music or song,­ will grow. For you know, whatever place one is in, the sunlight of California, the rain of Calcutta, or the bright starlight of Hawaii, the song remains the same.

The Rain Song

Fans at one concert booed in impatience at the slow rain song, showing that the ocean is still the plebs. This song is a thing of rare beauty, and demonstrates the excellence of Zeppelin at light as well as heavy, or at music, not just rock. It is reported to have been written when George Harrison challenged Page to write a soft or melodic song. As a painter / scholar, we love the rain because it means a day off, and sometimes leisure to read and write, and play this song:

It is the springtime of my loving­

The second season I am to know

You are the sunlight in my growing­

So little warmth I felt before

It isn’t hard to feel me glowing–

I watched the fire that grew so low.

It is the summer of my smiles­

Flee from me, Keepers of the Gloom

Speak to me only with your eyes

It is to you I give this tune.

It ain’t so hard to recognize­

These things are clear to all from time to time.

Talk, talk

I felt the coldness of my winter

I never thought it would ever go

I cursed the gloom that set upon us

But I know that I love you so

But I know that I love you so

These are the seasons of emotion

And like the winds they rise and fall

This is the wonder of devotion–

I see the torch we all must hold.

This is the mystery of the quotient–

Upon us all a little rain must fall.

It is the spring of love, a reawakening after love once died. “Talk” is associated with coldness and a gloom that had set over their love, and now he asks her to speak to him only with her eyes. The song is a gift to her, as in Bernie Taupin’s “Your Song.” When he says “these things are clear to all from time to time,” he is seeing the mystery through love. He seems to mean the poetic sight that allows him to speak of love and seasons, and Keepers of the Gloom and such, the “seasons of emotion.” They rise and fall like the winds. Through this, he sees the wonder of devotion: it is a religious experience, “The torch we all must hold,” when we bear light. The love was previously described as a fire that began as a small glow. What he speaks of is a particular mystery, that of the “quotient.” In mathematics, this is the number of times one number can be divided into another, or the outcome of a division problem. In English, the word is used for the tithe, which is one tenth, and of the Sabbath, one day out of seven to be devoted to the Lord, and so might refer to offering or sacrifice. The rain is also a mystery, but it falls from heaven onto us, as Lao Tzu says, when heaven and earth come together, “a gentle rain will fall.” The Quotient of heaven and earth is the gentle rain, baptismal, or at least like holy water, that precipitates when heaven and earth come together.

Over the Hills and Far Away

This is a song of leaving, but also a song of philosophy, or setting out on the journey. “Many times I’ve wondered / How much there is to know” may be the most philosophical line in all of rock, and is surely liberal arts poetry, inviting and fueling the quest for knowledge.

Hey lady­, you’ve got the love I need

Oh maybe­ more than enough

Oh Darling Darling walk a while with me


Oh you’ve got so much.

Many have I loved

Many times been bitten

Many times I’ve gazed

Along the open road.

Many times I’ve lied

Many times I’ve listened

Many times I’ve wondered

How much there is to know.

Many dreams come true

And some have silver linings

I live for my dream

And a pocket full of gold

Mellow is the man

Who knows what he’s been missing

Many, many men

Can’t see the open road

Many is a word

That only leaves you guessing

Guessing ’bout a thing

You really ought to know.

The song begins as a conversation with his new love of the “Rain Song.” He explains to her that he has loved many times, and been bitten, and many times set off from love alone. He has lied, and listened to lies, and the failure of love, or dreams that come true like a storm or a bad dream, has left him in the pursuit of knowledge. These bad dreams, though, have silver linings, and he lives a life dedicated to turning these dreams into a pocketful of gold. Now, he tells her, the man who knows what he has been missing in the life of the open road is mellow, that is, in love he does not care if she leaves him, because he finds his complete life in higher pursuits. As King Henry V tells his Kate, though he loves her, he will not die for her love (King Henry V, Act V, ii, 149-150) like Romeo. One can only do this once, or maybe twice.

He knows this way is rare: Many cannot see the open road. It is the road gazed on from the failure of love. A clue to a cryptic line of this song is given in the song that follows it on the album, “The Crunge.” This is about that “thing you really ought to know.” “Many is a word that only leaves you guessing / I guess you found a thing you really ought to know” is followed by “I ain’t gonna tell you one thing that you really ought to know.” What the word “many” leaves one guessing about is who are the few. Trying to find the bridge, repeated in the live version of “Whole Lotta Love,” has the dual meaning of a bridge in a song and the symbolic meaning of the way to get across to the other side. The song “The Crunge” does not have a bridge.

The Crunge is very strange. Chris Welch says it happened by accident in the studio, throwing together different blues lines, and they were seriously going to make a dance craze to go along with it.[2] One possible meaning is that his good thing is the girl in the newspaper, which refers to masturbation that is the result or practical response to his past love having other loves. He goes to this woman in the newspaper to avoid being called Mr. Pitiful, which is what can become of a faithful man while his love is unfaithful, left alone in his desire. Another possible meaning is that he has a real prostitute or stripper that really lives next door. This seems less likely because of the line asking her what she wants him to do, love her while she loves some other man too? Which he could not really say if he were the unfaithful one. But “many” is the word that only leaves us guessing.

1971 Zeppelin IV

The fourth Zeppelin album is generally recognized as their best, and may be the best rock album of all time. For its title, each player, including Sandy Denny, chose a symbol. Impatient with them, we just call it Zeppelin IV. It contains the whole range of Zeppelin themes, summarizing the now receding blues in “When the Levee Breaks;” the rambling on in “Four Sticks” and “Goin’ to California;” the misty mountains in the heights of Evermore and Stairway.

The lyrics to Black Dog are unclear, so that I heard this song my whole life without ever hearing it. For some reason, I never liked the song, and left it off my homemade workday Zeppelin tapes. The famous opening lines are a call to rock, and even rock dancing, though if anyone remembers trying to dance to it, the starts and stops make this a very awkward ballroom tune. “Watch your honey drip, can’t keep away” is a pretty line. He’s gotta roll, and can’t stand still in quest of love, and hopes to find a woman rolling along his way. Dreams of her fill his head, and his eyes are shining burning red. Red is a recurrent Zeppelin image, to be followed on Zeppelin IV. This is following a blues experience with one that wanted to use him to become a star, and took his money and his car. Perhaps this is the same as she who smoked his stuff and drank all his wine. What he needs is a woman who will hold his hand, tell him no lies, and make him a happy man. The image that guides the blues of Zeppelin is again, paradoxically, monogamous marriage. The wild eros of the song is then inseparable from the lively and unbounded seeking of love in longing for this happiness. In this, the wildness of rock is justified, and fun.

Rock and Roll

After Black Dog, “Rock and Roll” is about returning to rock with nostalgia, and returning to love. The lyrics ask to be carried back, transported to a past of love and music. It is a great song to open the classic Zeppelin concert, as on the live album. Returning to Rock and Roll is a returning to love, and even to tragic love:

Its been a long time since the book of love

I can’t count the tears of a life with no love

and then

…Its been a long time since I’ve walked in the moonlight

Making vows that just can’t work right…

It’s been a long lonely time.

Battle of Evermore

Supposedly drawn by Plant from a 15th century apocalyptic poem, the battle of Evermore may be Zeppelin’s highest piece of poetry, if not their best song simply. What is said in the book Hammer of the Gods about the battle of Evermore is only that “at first it was intended as a sort of Old English instrumental, but Robert had been reading about the Scottish border wars, and the Battle of Evermore was written out as a descendant of the Anglo-Saxon battle sagas.” The author adds that Sandy Deny of Fairport Convention was brought in to sing “the haunting duet playlet…playing the Queen of life to Robert’s Prince of Peace.”

The stunning opening lines of the song are these:

The Queen of Light took her bow

And then She turned to go.

The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom,

And walked the night alone.

On the eve of the apocalyptic battle, the Queen of Light, consort of the Prince of Peace, takes her bow as though she had finished her two thousand year performance, and then deserts him, even as the apostles, with one exception, deserted Jesus the night before the crucifixion. The perspective of the narrator is more journalistic, simply describing what has occurred, rather than Christian. The chorus voices are those of the soldiers and common persons on the eve of the battle:

Oh, dance in the dark of night

Sing till the morning light

The Dark Lord rides in force tonight

And time will tell us all, hoh

Oh throw down your plow and hoe

Rest not to lock your homes

Side by side we wait the night

Of the darkest of them all

I hear the horses thunder [that war is asunder?]

Down in the valley below

I’m waiting for the Angels of Avalon

Waiting for the eastern glow.

It is critical whether the angels of Avalon are angels of “malus” or rather good angels, and in the context they are contrasted with the Dark Lord and his forces. In the Arthurian context, the English approach the defending British from the east, and Avalon, west of Stonehenge, is a British retreat, where the body of Arthur would have been taken. The angels of Avalon might be Arthur and his soldiers, foretold to return. The apples are not like Adam’s apple, that of the knowledge of good and evil but rather the apples of immortality. Since the nature of the apples of Apple island are critical,

The apples of the valley hold

The seas [seeds] of happiness

The ground is rich from tender care

Repay, do not forget. no, no

The apples hold the seeds of human happiness, so that it is something like the liberal arts or the whole cultivation of human culture, as well as agriculture. They are called to repay the preparation of the ground built up over the centuries of cultivation.

Oh dance in the dark of night

Sing to the morning light

The apples turn to brown and black

The Tyrant’s face is red.

The turning of the apples, as at the coming of winter, is difficult to understand. Are they left out in orchard as in a siege? The seeds of happiness are about to fall into the ground like the proverbial grain of wheat that must first die. This would make sense of why the tyrant’s face is red, as though embarrassed, as is the Dark Lord, by the resurrection. If the Dark Lord is the tyrant, then the song is anti-Satanic, and one wonders, here as elsewhere, if Plant did not slip Christian meanings past a poetically less sophisticated Page.

Oh, war is the common cry

Pick up your swords and fly

The sky is filled with good and bad

That mortals never know.

Oh, well, the night is long

The beads of time pass slow

Tired eyes on the sunrise

Waiting for the eastern glow

The pain of war cannot exceed

The woe of aftermath

The drums will shake the castle wall

The Ringwraiths ride in black,

Ride on

Sing as you raise your bow

Shoot straighter than before

No comfort has the fire at night

That lights a face so cold

Oh, dance in the dark of night

Sing till the morning light

The magic runes are writ in gold

To bring the balance back

Bring it back

At last the sun is shining

The clouds of blue roll by

With flames from the dragon of darkness

The sunlight blinds his eyes

Bring it back, Bring it back…

Oh now, oh now…

Bring it back, Bring it back…

Oh now, oh now…

Bring it, Bring it

The setting is that of the final night, or the night before the apocalyptic battle. This is suggested by the outcome, as well as by the line “The sky is filled with good and bad / That mortals never know.” A scene in drama that is comparable is Henry V walking at night among his dejected troops before the Battle of Agincourt in Shakespeare’s King Henry V (IV, i). The song is sung from the perspective of the soldiers. Since the song begins with the Prince of Peace and Queen of Light, and says “the Dark Lord rides in force tonight,” as a report, it seems that they are soldiers in the army of the Prince of Peace on the night of the apocalyptic battle. The Dark Lord is the name of the evil Lord of Mordor, who tries to prevent the destruction of the ring of power in the third part of the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings. The song is about the confusion of the night of such a battle. The Dark Lord is the adversary, and the people leave their work and flee. Soon they are told to pick up their swords and fly to battle, as “war is the common cry.” Rest not to lock your homes” reminds of the apocalyptic “let him who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house to take anything away, and him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle” (Mark 13:15) and also the saying that if the homeowner knew in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and not let his house be broken into” (Matthew 24:43-44). He is waiting for the Angels of Avalon, and the eastern glow of the sunrise which is “apple island,” where Arthur was taken after his death in the final battle with the forces of Mordred. His name is similar to Mordor from the Latin word for death, also the root of Mortal.. As shown in a recent film, The Mists of Avalon, Glastonbury is the site of a very ancient abbey, possibly founded as the place where Joseph of Arimathea fled after providing the burial place for Jesus (and hence the Grail legend). Britain was then the fringe of Roman civilization, and had a Christian nobility from King Lucius in the second through Constantine into the fifth or even sixth century. . The invasion of the English destroyed this early British Christianity. The legend of Arthur surrounds the last defense of the British from about 490 to 532 at Camelot. The British then scattered into the west of the island, to become the Welsh. The Angels of Avalon are identified with the sunrise, which is significant in relation to the later line, when the rising sun blinds “his” eyes, those of the Dark Lord. The poetry of the next four lines is purely symbolic. That is, in their literal meaning, the lines don’t make much sense: The apples of the valley hold the seeds of happiness because these are apples of immortality, as those fetched from the island of the Hesperides at the Western edge of the known world. The song tells them to repay the fertility of the ground from which these are produced. The next line continues the pure symbolism: The tyranny is embarrassed when the apples turn rotten. “The sky is filled with good and bad that mortals never know:” There is battle in the heavens, as shown in an image in the Revelation (12:7). The immortals see this, and it is present though the mortals are usually oblivious to it. It is reflected in the great books, where this has been made a kind of spiritual warfare.

Ring-wraiths are riders who portend the great and final war of the rings. When these are seen to ride it is “a presage of immanent war” (Tolkein, The Return of the King, p. xi). The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back. Runes are the letters of an alphabet used by Germanic peoples from the third to the thirteenth century, thought to be derived from Latin and Greek. One wonders what apocalyptic prophecy was writ in runes.

The conclusion is difficult to read, and very important for the meaning of the song. With flames from the dragon of darkness, the sunlight blinds his eyes. What appears most likely is that the sunlight, having acquired flames from the dragon of darkness, blinds his eyes, that is, the tyrant or the Dark Lord. The song is not Satanic, as common sense knows what a tyrant is. The sunlight is the Prince of Peace.

So we return to the beginning of the song. The Queen of Light took her bow, as after a performance (rather than bow, as in “shoot straighter than before”). The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom and walked the night alone without his consort. The Queen of light is then the Church as mystical bride of Christ. But what is being said here? Does she abandon Him in the final hour, even as the Apostles with one exception, abandoned Him at the crucifixion? And is this the setting of the final battle? The people are left without the Queen of light to prepare for the assault of the Dark Lord.

Stairway to Heaven

The paradox of Stairway is that, while being the number one rock song of all time, no one is able to speak very sensibly about just what it says. It is a kind of automatic writing,[v] and so even the author cannot be sure. The meaning of Stairway is a great perennial question of rock lyrics, and while it is not possible or desirable to solve the mystery, it is possible to read through the song, and put together a consistent understanding of what is going on therein.

The lady is the lady we all know, the lady who rejects our love, for whatever reason, and the song is about her and her mistaken path. She may be the same as the Lady from “Ten Years Gone,” or the lady addressed in “Celebration Day.” She is limited to appearance, the glitter, and attempting to buy her path to paradise or way of ascent, or stairway. Somewhat like a very wealthy shopper, who knows the store owner who has made a killing off her, she thinks she knows that she has a password, such as “Jesus,” that promises her special treatment and will allow her to get what she came for, even if the stores are closed.

There’s a lady whose sure

All that glitters is gold

And she’s buying a stairway to heaven

When she gets there she knows

If the stores are all closed

With a word she can get what she came for

There’s a sign on the wall, But she wants to be sure

Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings

In a tree by the brook there’s a songbird who sings sometimes

All of our thoughts are misgiven.

“Misgiven” is a strange word, because it does not mean mistaken, but full of doubt and apprehension, as in “a feeling of doubt or suspicion especially concerning a future event.” This doubt may grow into a bustle in the hedgerow, or a humming head that won’t go, because she really doesn’t know. The sign on the wall must say something like heaven or paradise. That words have more than one meaning prevents the literal interpretation of anything. For the poet, the two meanings of words are at the center of the choice between the apparent way and the true way. The lady has a teaching of the possibility that words have more than one meaning, but the maxim is held in a way that is itself superficial, so there is a note of sarcasm in the statement “cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.” The song is about the way to heaven, an apparent way and by implication not a way to Hell but a genuine way to heaven. What happens, then, is that the woman arrives and has a sudden eerie doubt about whether the sign on the wall means what she thought it meant. She has in fact arrived in the apparent paradise. The second of the two meanings is represented by the songbird: something like the allure of Mr. Plant or of the muse to a woman who rejects or rejected him in order to adhere to the apparent way to heaven. Her true stairway, as the song will explain, lies on the whispering wind. The songbird is the way of music or of music and the new age, that the woman rejects while buying a stairway to heaven, and this if correct, is the key to the song. What he looks to is shown in the next set of lines, the second of the two meanings and the essence of his vision:

There’s a feeling I get when I look to the West

And my spirit is crying for leaving

In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees

And the voices of those that stand looking.

Longing for the West and California always meant the longing for the road and the groupies and parties away from home, but it is also an intellectual height and a high or soaring liberty. What it is he seeks is imaged not by any of these things, but by rings of smoke through the tree seen in his thoughts, and the voices of “those,” something like the watchers or great masters, imagined to stand looking in the lives of us, the creatures of today. This life of things seen in his thoughts, is not only a private vision, but is a general movement. It is whispered that soon, if we all will but call for the new spirituality, “the piper” or the musician will lead us, not to the diabolic or irrational things, but rather to “reason.” This is the life of the imagination that is in harmony with the rational or Apollonian intellect. The same is a teaching about the messiah, that when mankind calls for him, he will return, but as yet we do not. A new day will dawn then, for those who have been patient, and the spiritual happiness of the humans in the new society is described as the forests echoing with laughter.

And its whispered that soon if we all call the tune

Then the piper will lead us to reason

And a new day will dawn for those who stand long

And the forests will echo with laughter

And it makes me wonder

Wonder is of course the beginning of philosophy, as described by Aristotle (Metaphysics, I.16?). What makes him wonder is the whispered prophecy of a new age. And so…

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow

Don’t be alarmed now

Its just a spring clean for the May Queen

Yes there are two paths you can go by

But in the long run

There’s still time to change the road your on

Your head is humming and it won’t go

In case you don’t know

The piper’s calling you to join him

Dear Lady can you hear the wind blow

And did you know

Your stairway lies on the whispering wind

The next two sets of lines say basically the same thing, and setting them together allows the poem to be read. “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow” or your “head is humming,” means if you are disturbed or troubled in a fundamental sense, as with the way your life is going, this dissatisfaction is only a spring head cleaning in preparation for the May Queen, since the piper’s calling the lady to join him. The way of music or the May Queen, the piper’s way, is calling with the whisper of the wind, and this is her true stairway, to heaven.

And as we wind on down the road

Our shadows taller than our soul

There walks a lady we all know

Who shines white light and wants to show

How everything still turns to gold

And if you listen very hard

A tune will come to you at last

When all are one and one is all

To be a rock and not to roll.

As we continue on our journey, with our shadows or dark sides taller or more developed than our souls, the lady we all know continues to shine white light, and wants to show how all that glitters is gold. She is now like the Christian Church or tradition, the very Queen of Light from the previous song. According to the poet, she continues to intend to show how everything still turns to gold, as she thought in the first set of lines that all that glitters is gold. This makes it more clear that she is like Midas, and her way the way of wealth. The concluding lines are the most difficult, but it relates again to the piper and the tune of the other of the two paths. If you listen hard, as to the whisper of the wind, a tune, like that of the songbird or piper, in the end will come to her or us of its own. At last, or in the end, the two ways are one, and here there is finally permanence or stability that does not move, ramble or seek. The rock is also the foundation of the church, and here it is the noun or mineral instead of the verb, the rock in the rolling stone.

The followers of the dark way equate the way of light with the way of appearance, not realizing that there might be a way of light that is the way of nature and truth behind the appearance. While there is an artificial way of light, there is also a true way of light, and it is not the way of Lucifer but of that other one who has the morning star, the Messiah, or, as the Christians think, Jesus. But to the Luciferian the real life of the soul or the genuine spiritual life then appears to be found on the dark side, as a shadow made by the artificial light, the man-made law based on the light. The things of love, for example, appear rejected by the lives of the saints, and then the soul’s most immediate or direct experience of the divine appears to be outside the way of light. Strangely, such teachings presuppose the truth of the Christian cosmos, defining themselves in reaction against this, all the while pretending to advocate some rejected or repressed nature or natural drive, as that of the body for sex, or power, when the body has enslaved the mind.

The song is consistent with the Luciferian teaching followed by Page, except that what is said is that this path is the true stairway, to heaven, and not a “highway to hell.” Of course, the Luciferian teaching of Crowley, “do what you will,” could be presented as the way to paradise, but we hold out hope that neither Plant nor the poet of Zeppelin intends such a thing.

Misty Mountain

The opening scene of the Misty Mountain is a California flower era scene and a bust, taken comically. He then asks a woman to look at herself, and notes that “folks down there really don’t care which way the pressure lies.” It is from this world that the poet wants to ascend: “So I’m packin’ my bags for the Misty Mountain, where the spirits go / Over the hills where the spirits fly.” The “Misty Mountain” is lifted from a poem in The Hobbit (p. 27, 38). It is the song of the Dwarfs, as they set off over the Misty Mountain in search of gold. In the hands of Plant, the image calls us away from the strange world on the street, to transports of poetry to follow on the album.

Four Sticks

Again the poet of Zeppelin is leaving, The river of red in his head is a clue to the flow in the next song, and that to this. He asks the femme fatale’ how she will feel when the owls cry in the night and the pines begin to cry, that is, without love in the windy night. When the rivers run dry is when she has lost all inspiration, as she will from having not received his love. This is the same as the river that has now run red for him, “in my head,” the river of inspiration from his traumatic injury or soul trauma that has him on the way to California a spiritual bloody mess. The inaudible lines at the conclusion are these:

Craze, Baby, the rainbow’s end. Ah, baby, its just a den

For those who hide their love to depths of life

and ruin dreams that we all knew so, babe.

When the Owls cry in the night…

This may be another clue to the “Stairway” lady, especially if it is a sort of Christianity that has led her to not come along with him in love. What has been said is that the image of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is only a den in which some hide their love away from the deep or significant things in life, similar to the meaning of the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby.

Goin’ to California

Spent my days with a woman unkind

Smoked my stuff and drank all my wine

Made up my mind to make a new start

Goin to California with an achin’ in my heart

‘Cause someone told me there’s a girl out there

With love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.

Took my chances on a big jet plane

Never let ‘em tell you that there all the same.

The sea was red and the sky was grey

Wondered how tomorrow

Could ever follow today.

Mountains and the canyons start to tremble and shake

Children of the sun begin to awake

Seems that the wrath [hearth?] of the gods got a punch on the nose and its starting to flow

I think I might be sinkin

Throw me a line if I reach it in time

I’ll meet you up there where the path runs straight and high

To find a Queen without a king

They say she plays guitar and cries and sings.

Ride a White mare in the footsteps of dawn

Tryin to find a woman that’s never never been born

Standin’ on a hill in a mountain of dreams

Tellin’ myself its not as hard as it seems.

Leaving the love of the Zeppelin blues, he flies to California in the agony and vision of the hope of new love after the California style. He has heard of a girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair. He does not speak of the princess, but this is what he has conceived. Joni Mitchell is said to be the occasion, though as we will see, it is no particular woman. As his plane arrives, the sea and sky appear so as to make one wonder if this is not the last day, and as the plane lands, there is an earthquake. This is historical, said to have occurred as he was writing.[vi] The awakening of the children of the sun is the quasi-apocalyptic event occurring in the spiritual realm. That something of the gods (the hearth, an old expression for the core of the family would make sense) seems as though it has received a punch and bloodied nose­ this is the same as the river’s red / In my head.” He seeks a queen without a king, who is said to play guitar and cry and sing. My friend’s friend Judy sang Cohen’s Suzanne in Chicago, and her fingers bled (below). The poet is the prince, by implication, and this is an example of royal poetry or royal speech. The white mare he rides indicates the purity of the spirit which bears him in pursuit of her. He rides in the footsteps of dawn in an attempt to find a woman who has never been born.[vii] At the least, this means such a princess as is not yet incarnate. He rides in quest of her as a knight after the grail. Further, it may that she is to be a child of the sun that begins, like a princess, to awaken. The pursuit of her is related to the pursuit of knowledge: He stands on a small hill amid the mountain of dreams, taking heart against a task that seems overwhelming.

When the Levee breaks

The old Blues line “If it keeps on rainin,’ the levee’s going to break” would seem to come from blues local to New Orleans, where indeed the Levee did recently break, causing most of the damage from Hurricane Katrina. I was surprised that the rock stations did not play the song around that time. This, however, was from the storm swell rather than the rain. The old blues song on which the Zeppelin tune is based is by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy. What the line means can be translated: If bad stuff keeps happening, the border between the conscious and unconscious mind will be breached, and a flood of madness will submerge the conscious mind. That it is love sorrow or romantic misfortune is evident in the following lines All last night, sat on the levee and moaned…Thinkin’ ’bout my baby and my happy home.” Chris Welch writes:…”the lyrics were ostensibly about the dangers of man-made earthworks collapsing under a river’s flood waters” yet, “they could also be construed as a metaphor for sexual desires giving way to a sustained physical onslaught.”[viii] But only love, not “sexual desire” can threaten the conscious mind with the breaking of the levee.

In Zeppelin, the rock beat, which is appropriate for the excitement of things truly worthy of our great excitement, suited to the upbeat wakefulness of great events, finds a poetic theme that can finally fulfill what it was seeking all along. In service to the right expression, rock can serve to awaken us, to “Rock the ground wheron these sleepers be,” as Theseus calls the spirits to do after the night of the Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Houses of the Holy is the title cut left off the album of the same name, but included in Physical Graffiti. It is the only Zeppelin song that is explicitly Satanic, in the one line “Satan and Man.” and according to our hypothesis in this section, we will guess that it is written or heavily influenced by Page. The album itself, though, contains a number of gems.

In “Dancing Days,” Plant seems to have found his queen without a king in California. What a great summertime song! He has found his flower and his power in his woman who knows. He starts up his song of true love, “You’ll be my only / My one and only / Is that the way it should start?” Her crazy ways appear in her beautiful clothes, characteristic of the hippie woman, emissaries bringing colors into the world. As they begin to chime, they drink, and the “evening starts to glow.”

No Quarter.

The title of the song means no mercy, and these messengers who trudge through the snow mocked by the devil give and ask no mercy. Is it, like the “Battle of Evermore,” consistent with soldiers in the army of the Prince of Peace? The song begins with the contrasting warm domestic scene where those at home wait for those who are like warriors. The scene is in the North, and one is reminded of the German and Russian winters. Yet they are not literally warriors, but messengers. Their news is important, and must get through, not to know enemy battle lines, but “to build a dream for me and you,” connecting with the theme of the new day that will dawn for those who stand long. This key line allows us then to return to the song, which is about intellectual or spiritual warriors. That they hold and ask no quarter indicates for example why they were not too concerned with bad reviews, and did not much attempt to explain themselves nor beg to be understood. It is their seriousness to hold, and their courage to ask for no quarter of mercy in their mission. The analogy between literal and spiritual warriors reveals the higher meaning of the Immigrant Song, as the invasion of the Zeppelin into British culture.

   “The Ocean” is about the fun of doing concerts, and of the party, “rockin in the grain.” The Ocean is the sea of humanity, which is how he can wonder if the ocean he sings to has lost its way. This song gives Plant a very simple image that is comprehensible to most their audience, and sets them on the same page regarding the images. He used to sing on the mountain, but, well, first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain. The mountain was washed away by the ocean, possibly when the ocean lost its way, which is to stay within the shore. He used to sing from a high place, but now he sings for a future ocean, for the next generation. This is the best interpretation of this line, and of the pictures on the cover, of his own naked children ascending the ruins called the Giant’s Causeway, in Ireland.[3] On the inner sleeve, drawn by a friend of Page, a naked man holds a naked child up to a rising or setting sun, which is just over the ruins of a castle. Because of Page, one wonders if this is an allusion to child sacrifice, the abomination of the idolatrous religion of Baal and much of the world that was dissolved by Abraham and Moses. That he sings all his songs to the girl who won his heart is Plant, and innocent, but one sees the problem with the Crowlean direction. Another reading is that the child, and the future generation, is being offered for impregnation by the “giver of light,” held by these to be Lucifer, whose name means illuminater or luminous. As the morning star it would be associated more with Venus than the sun. If Ocean is seen as similar in meaning to Houses, comparing the magic of a concert with a house of worship, it would have a dark shade. The word “Hell” is removed from the printed Lyrics of the title of the Ball to which they are going in “The Ocean,” so that we must admit that Plant is oblivious to the danger.

Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy (all lyrics C.1973 Superhype Music, Inc)

The Song Remains the Same introduces the album, and becomes the opening song and title of the live album He says he has had a dream, a crazy dream in which anything he wanted to know he might know, and he was able to transmigrate, traveling to any place, as he will when he is “flying,” to Kashmir. For this reason, we should hear his song and sing along, and something that is small in us,­ music or song,­ will grow. For you know, whatever place one is in, the sunlight of California, the rain of Calcutta, or the bright starlight of Hawaii, the song remains the same.

The Rain Song

Fans at one concert booed in impatience at the slow rain song, showing that the ocean is still the plebs. This song is a thing of rare beauty, and demonstrates the excellence of Zeppelin at light as well as heavy, or at music, not just rock. It is reported to have been written when George Harrison challenged Page to write a soft or melodic song. As a painter / scholar, we love the rain because it means a day off, and sometimes leisure to read and write, and play this song:

It is the springtime of my loving­

The second season I am to know

You are the sunlight in my growing­

So little warmth I felt before

It isn’t hard to feel me glowing–

I watched the fire that grew so low.

It is the summer of my smiles­

Flee from me, Keepers of the Gloom

Speak to me only with your eyes

It is to you I give this tune.

It ain’t so hard to recognize­

These things are clear to all from time to time.

Talk, talk

I felt the coldness of my winter

I never thought it would ever go

I cursed the gloom that set upon us

But I know that I love you so

But I know that I love you so

These are the seasons of emotion

And like the winds they rise and fall

This is the wonder of devotion–

I see the torch we all must hold.

This is the mystery of the quotient–

Upon us all a little rain must fall.

It is the spring of love, a reawakening after love once died. “Talk” is associated with coldness and a gloom that had set over their love, and now he asks her to speak to him only with her eyes. The song is a gift to her, as in Bernie Taupin’s “Your Song.” When he says “these things are clear to all from time to time,” he is seeing the mystery through love. He seems to mean the poetic sight that allows him to speak of love and seasons, and Keepers of the Gloom and such, the “seasons of emotion.” They rise and fall like the winds. Through this, he sees the wonder of devotion: it is a religious experience, “The torch we all must hold,” when we bear light. The lo

ve was previously described as a fire that began as a small glow. What he speaks of is a particular mystery, that of the “quotient.” In mathematics, this is the number of times one number can be divided into another, or the outcome of a division problem. In English, the word is used for the tithe, which is one tenth, and of the Sabbath, one day out of seven to be devoted to the Lord, and so might refer to offering or sacrifice. The rain is also a mystery, but it falls from heaven onto us, as Lao Tzu says, when heaven and earth come together, “a gentle rain will fall.” The Quotient of heaven and earth is the gentle rain, baptismal, or at least like holy water, that precipitates when heaven and earth come together.

Over the Hills and Far Away

This is a song of leaving, but also a song of philosophy, or setting out on the journey. “Many times I’ve wondered / How much there is to know” may be the most philosophical line in all of rock, and is surely liberal arts poetry, inviting and fueling the quest for knowledge.

Hey lady­, you’ve got the love I need

Oh maybe­ more than enough

Oh Darling Darling walk a while with me


Oh you’ve got so much.

Many have I loved

Many times been bitten

Many times I’ve gazed

Along the open road.

Many times I’ve lied

Many times I’ve listened

Many times I’ve wondered

How much there is to know.

Many dreams come true

And some have silver linings

I live for my dream

And a pocket full of gold

Mellow is the man

Who knows what he’s been missing

Many, many men

Can’t see the open road

Many is a word

That only leaves you guessing

Guessing ’bout a thing

You really ought to know.

The song begins as a conversation with his new love of the “Rain Song.” He explains to her that he has loved many times, and been bitten, and many times set off from love alone. He has lied, and listened to lies, and the failure of love, or dreams that come true like a storm or a bad dream, has left him in the pursuit of knowledge. These bad dreams, though, have silver linings, and he lives a life dedicated to turning these dreams into a pocketful of gold. Now, he tells her, the man who knows what he has been missing in the life of the open road is mellow, that is, in love he does not care if she leaves him, because he finds his complete life in higher pursuits. As King Henry V tells his Kate, though he loves her, he will not die for her love (King Henry V, Act V, ii, 149-150) like Romeo. One can only do this once, or maybe twice.

He knows this way is rare: Many cannot see the open road. It is the road gazed on from the failure of love. A clue to a cryptic line of this song is given in the song that follows it on the album, “The Crunge.” This is about that “thing you really ought to know.” “Many is a word that only leaves you guessing / I guess you found a thing you really ought to know” is followed by “I ain’t gonna tell you one thing that you really ought to know.” What the word “many” leaves one guessing about is who are the few. Trying to find the bridge, repeated in the live version of “Whole Lotta Love,” has the dual meaning of a bridge in a song and the symbolic meaning of the way to get across to the other side. The song “The Crunge” does not have a bridge.

The Crunge is very strange. Chris Welch says it happened by accident in the studio, throwing together different blues lines, and they were seriously going to make a dance craze to go along with it.[2] One possible meaning is that his good thing is the girl in the newspaper, which refers to masturbation that is the result or practical response to his past love having other loves. He goes to this woman in the newspaper to avoid being called Mr. Pitiful, which is what can become of a faithful man while his love is unfaithful, left alone in his desire. Another possible meaning is that he has a real prostitute or stripper that really lives next door. This seems less likely because of the line asking her what she wants him to do, love her while she loves some other man too? Which he could not really say if he were the unfaithful one. But “many” is the word that only leaves us guessing.

Zeppelin Physical Graffiti


Three mysterious teachings are allusions of of a description of an ascent, in each of three sections: the elders, the pilot and the father of the four winds.

Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face

Stars to fill my dreams

I am a traveler of both time and space

To be where I have been

Secret [sit with] elders of a gentle race

This world is [has] seldom seen

Talk of days for which they sit and wait

All will be revealed

Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace

Whose sounds caress my ear

But not a word I heard could I relate

The story was quite clear

Whoa-oh-hoh, whoa-oh-wa-oh

Oooh, oh baby, I been flyin’

Lord, yeah, mama, there ain’t no denyin’

Oh, all I see turns to brown

As the sun burns the ground

And my eyes fill with sand

As I scan this wasted land

Tryin’ to find, tryin’ to find where I been

Oh pilot of the storm that leaves no trace

Like thoughts inside a dream

Heed the path that led me to that place

Yellow desert screen

My Shangri-la beneath the summer moon

Will return again

Sure as the dust that floats high in June

When moovin’ through Kashmir

Oh, father of the four winds, fill my sails

Across the sea of years

With no provision but an open face

‘Long the straits of fear.

Whoa, whao,

When I’m on, when I’m my way

When I see, when I see the way you stay

Ooh, yea, ooh yea, when I’m down

Ooh my baby let me take you there

Kashmir is liberal arts poetry at its peak. It is a song of “flyin’,” of study that has become a transmigration to speak with elders about things that will be revealed. To be where he has been, he has become a traveler through time and space, a traveler in thought, as in study with the Hebrews or the ancient Greeks, or Indian or Sufi magi. He has spoke with certain elders about the days for which they sit and wait. While these might be Norse myths, it is much more as though he had spoke with John and Paul or other elders about the coming of the messianic kingdom. The Jews sometimes report having been taught as if by Isaiah, and Enoch was similarly educated in transports. After spending time with the works of the ancients, especially the dialogues of Plato, their mind actively influences the student, for example in demonstrating something implied but unspoken, and then it is as though they were actively indicating or communicating as in a conversation. The Platonic dialogue, in mysterious structures, allows Socrates and Plato to actively educate us as though they were living and present. Though it is only in part, and of limited extent, that this is possible at all is truly amazing, and a small consolation of mortality, the mortality of even the highest human things. John himself was called to “Come up hither,” and Paul is similarly unable to speak about his journey to the seventh heaven. The tale is interspersed with descriptions of hot days in a barren land, and nights of stars to fill his dreams, beneath the summer moon. This is the first of two mentions of dreams. The message or teaching is communicated in talk and in songs of lilting grace, which is a light, tripping, springy or buoyant rhythm. This was clear enough to him when he heard it, but like Paul or Bottom in his dream, he cannot say what it was he then heard. This is all a trying to find where he has been. He calls to the pilot of the storm that leaves no trace, like a ship through the water, or thoughts inside a dream. Like lucid dreaming, when the dreamer realizes that he is dreaming, thought or rational activity within a dream is a kind of waking in dream, a conjunction of conscious and unconscious mind. This conjunction is the pilot who leads one to that place. He calls the pilot to follow the way there, as toward the desert near Kashmir where the dust rises in the heat of the yellow desert. This wasted land is probably the spiritual invitingness of the bodily inhospitable desert, though it may be the barren world, which has seldom seen the transcendent things, that is scanned as “this wasted land.” The last of the five sets of lines calls for the father of the four winds to fill his sails, or to inspire him across the sea of years, or on life’s journey, without provisions except his own willingness to expose himself to the straights of fear, faced as a sailor passing through a dangerous channel.

At the end, it suddenly becomes a love song. His transports are when he sees the way she stays, his high joy. The change of scene seems out of context, until his “let me take you there” becomes a love call to take her along in spiritual transports to his Shngri-la. It has all along been addressed to her, to tell her he’s been flyin’, and where he’s been. When linked to the rest of the Zeppelin songs story, it becomes a call to that impossible love of the Zeppelin blues, and to the lady of Stairway, or maybe to that woman who’s never been born, to come along with him into the heights.

The odd thing is that the words of Zeppelin never express a cruel emotion, except maybe in their war songs, or in the merciless meaning of “No Quarter.” In battle, no quarter means that the soldiers receive no requests for mercy on the part of subdued enemies, or even that they take no prisoners. There is nothing recognizably evil in any of their music, while there is much that contradicts evil, or appears, to us at least, as very beautiful and good. It is as though Page, in their one Satanic lyric, associated this with things that are by nature, or in themselves good, rather than with malice. So even the most thoughtful of the musicians that might claim adherence to the dark side do not really believe in these things, or to the extent that they, like those who play with Oija boards, do not know what they are getting into.

The Rover

The Rover is a difficult song to read, let alone interpret. There is something about “rockin’” and “rollin’,” which seems to mean happily staying in the arms of the one loved (rockin’) or leaving on the road in love (rollin’), interspersed with brilliant four line sequences that are surprisingly deep and high, and worth wondering about. The first four lines are a baffling enigma:

I’ve been to London, seen seven wonders

I know to trip is just to fall

I used to rock it, sometimes I’d roll it

I always knew what it was for

He’s traveled all over, but knows that to trip or leave is only to fall­ as from the bliss of love? He probably does not mean trip as in hallucinogenic drugs. He used to rock it sometimes he’d roll it, but always knew what it was for. What is it? The best guess is “love” in the complete sense, including sex. But then, in the next four lines, he suddenly addresses a change of opinion or ways, as that coming with a new age, and this is a theme familiar already from the hope in Stairway that the piper will lead us to reason and a new day dawn, or the announcement of Going to California that the children of the sun begin to awake. Here the old world, called the flat world, is crumbling in the present blight, and there is the hope “if we could just join hands,” the same as “if we all call the tune.”

There can be no denyin’

That the wind’ll shake ‘em down

And the flat world’s flyin’

In the new plague on the land

If we could just join hands

If we could just join hands

If we could just join

It is the wind, the same that whispers to the lady in “Stairway,” that is shaking them down, in the destruction of the old world. He himself, when sent by heaven to the fields of plenty, saw the kings that rule these fields, and still he hears the call of the river as when out camping, by the firelight beneath the purple moonlight. In an especially powerful line, the wind, the same that will shake ‘em down, is said to be crying of a love that won’t die out. This is paired with the call of the poet to his lover, who is lying on the dark side of the globe:

In fields of plenty when heaven sent me

I saw the Kings that rule them all

Still by the firelight and purple moonlight

I hear the rusted rivers call

And the wind is cryin’

Of a love that won’t grow cold

My lover she is lyin’

On the dark side of the globe

If we could just join hands

If we could just join hands

If we could just join hands


Beyond the part of the earth that is in night, what is the dark side of the earth? The image becomes universal, something like the wish in “We Are the World,” but here it is a wish to join with the dark side in some imagined unity. And if this were possible…Returning to the love level of the song, we see why he is staying and going at the same time, or doesn’t know which way to go. We recall the one lost to the depths of Mordor. His lover on the dark side will not join hands.

You got me rockin’ when I ought to be a-rollin’

Darlin’, tell me which way to go

You keep me rockin’, baby, then you keep me stallin’

Won’t you tell me darlin’, which way to go, that’s right.

The key to the song is the analogy between the love and the universal message regarding the new world. In light of the questions of our mortality and legacy, the song poses us a question, whether the new world is rising from the shambles of the old.

Oh, how I wonder, oh how I worry

And I would dearly like to know

I’ve all this wonder of earthly plunder

Will it leave us anything to show?

In another profound line, emphasized in the music as was “And the wind is cryin’,” the significance of our lives and actions is underlined:

And our time is flyin’

See the candle burnin low

Is the new world risin’

From the shambles of the old?

If we could just join hands

If we could just join hands

If we could just join hands

That’s all it takes

Our time is brief, and our candle is burning low, near to the end. Our spirit takes off when we hear this line, alive in the significance of life against the foil or backdrop of time and mortality. All it takes for the new world to arise is that we join hands. If we, in our age, could achieve a universal peace, we would be left with something to show for all the wealth for which we’ve plundered the earth. But would this not depend on the lover on the dark side coming along? That is, it is not by force but by persuasion, and, as with Persephone, success in this persuasion is unlikely.

Ten Years Gone is about the return of an old love, the lost woman, in memory and imagination.

Chris Welch lets slip that she gave Robert an ultimatum, to leave music and settle into the suburban life,[1] as was given to Bernie Taupin in “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.” It is astounding to think that there is a woman somewhere for whom this song is written, and to wonder how she hears it.

Then as it was, then again it will be

An’ though the course may change sometimes

Rivers always reach the sea

Blind stars of fortune, each have several rays [our separate ways]

On the wings of maybe, [downing] birds of prey

Kind of makes me feel sometimes,

Didn’t have to grow

But as the eagle leaves the nest, it’s got so [not too] far to go

Changes fill my time, baby, that’s alright with me

In the midst I think of you, and how it used to be

Did you ever really need somebody, and really need ’em bad

Did you ever really want somebody, the best love you ever had

Do you ever remember me, baby, did it feel so good?

‘Cause it was just the first time, and you knew you would

Through the eyes an’ I sparkle, Senses growing keen

Taste your love along the way, See your feathers preen

Kind of makes me feel sometimes,

Didn’t have to grow

We are eagles of one nest,

The nest is in our soul

Vixen in my dreams, with great surprise to me

Never thought I’d see your face the way it used to be

Oh darlin’, oh darlin’

I’m never gonna leave you. I never gonna leave

Holdin’ on, ten years gone

Ten years gone, holdin’ on, ten years gone

The three line prelude says that it will again be as it was, just as rivers reach the sea. The rivers flow is a proverbial lyric image, from many songs, drawing an analogy between the natural necessity of love and the gravity and geology that leads rivers toward the sea. For the lyric, which is unpublished, I like “each our separate ways” because the motion of the song, after the capsule of the prelude, begins with the time, ten years ago, that the lovers parted. Is it not downing birds, like young birds beginning to grow feathers? This too would fit best in the context, as they set off into their separate uncertain fortunes. These memories make him feel sometimes he didn’t have to “grow,” which is the reasoning that reconciled him their separate fortunes. He wonders if all that growth is not regrettable, having cost their being together. But “as the eagle leaves the nest”… is like the line in Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady,” “to see the heaven in your eyes is not so far / That I’m not afraid to try and go it.” These are lines that give us chills, living them and having lived them. The light seen in the eyes in love sets the lover on a journey to find heaven. As the eagle leaves the nest, its not too far to go.

The next two lines return to a summary, in the present, where he thinks of the lost woman amid the changes filling the time of his life on earth without her. He then breaks powerfully into the lines that every left behind lover wants to sing to the lost one, asking whether they themselves have ever suffered the things the lover suffers, since it is clear that the one loved did not love them in return. And will she ever remember him? The unfortunate part is that she will, but in a way similar to that in which the lover himself might remember women who professed to love him, in loves he could not return. But he says it was for her just the first time, and so he knows she would remember him. I believe this means virginal, and that he refers to the special natural attachment that occurs in the sacrifice of virginity. Along our same line of reasoning that began from Konrad Lorenz and his ducks, the union of lovemaking at the consummation of marriage unites souls by nature, and virginity adds to the prosperity of the union. The same is at the conception of children, the root of the family, and hence all political society for man, who is by nature filial and political.

In the profound last stanza, he describes her returning to him in his dreams, and how through time they have, though apart, remained connected in soul. But this is not revealed until the sixth line. She, or the former love, still inspires in him the sparkling eyes and keen senses of the lover. This phenomenon is one of the blessings of love and a mark of genuine love. There is a great inspiration to life and to the noble, or to excellence, which comes from the conception of love, and any theory of love must account for this empirical phenomenon. Through their connection in soul, it is as though he were able to taste her love along the way of their separate journeys, and see her feathers, now grown, as they are preened. He can still see the beautiful through his connection to her in soul. They are “eagles of one nest, the nest is in our soul.” The connection is mysterious and literal: those joined in love become one soul in a very mysterious sense. Now, often following the trauma of lost love, the lover will dream of the one lost, or be visited, something like the phenomenon of phantom pain in amputees, or the illusion in Airplane’s Com’in Back to Me. She returns to him in his dreams as a vixen, which is a female fox. Before the word fox came to mean a beautiful person of the opposite sex, in the late sixties, a “hottie” as they began in the nineties to say, the word applied to female humans meant a “shrewish or ill-tempered woman.” Spoken here by Plant, she almost becomes like a Lilith spirit that visits him in the night in erotic dreams, as “Silent woman in the Night you came…” But in this profound dream experience, he sees her face again as it used to be, and is of course greatly surprised, as this is Ten Years Gone. He cannot but be still holding on to the lost love.

In My Time of Dying

This is a very Christian and delightful blues song, which it seems to me that Plant slipped past Page again by pretending that the spiritually good message was tongue in cheek or not entirely serious. The lyric was covered by Dylan, and comes from an old blues song by Blind Willie Johnson, who found it as an old Negro spiritual song performed on the street in Louisiana. Wikipedia includes a note to Psalm 41:3, “The Lord sustains him on his sickbed, in his illness thou healest all his infirmities (Oxford),” or “allays the malady when they are ill (New American).

In my time of dyin’

Don’t want no body moan

All I want people to do

Is take my body home

Meet me Jesus, meet me

Meet me in the middle of the air

If my wings should fail me, Lord,

Please greet me with another pair

St. Peter,

Won’t you let me in

I never did no harm

Gabriel, let me blow your horn

To ask for another pair of wings if his own should fail is a line of genuine humility regarding his own inspiration, and profound. The theme of wings is carried over from Ten Years Gone, and is related to flying throughout Zeppelin. Wings are for soaring, as in Kashmir. He has my vote with St. Peter.

In the Light is the song that opens Physical Graffiti, but as a summary it can be addressed last. When he says “Now listen: woe o woe…” we see how only the histrionic Plant can express such a thing. It is sang again to the lost love, as it seems when he says the winds of change may blow around you. As you would for me, I will share your load reminds of Bowie’s Rock and Roll Suicide, when he says “You’re not alone.” The song finds the golden rule in friendship that is beyond lost love, in the face of mortality and the possibility of suicide, (or giving up, or submission). If you feel that you can’t go on, just believe, and in the light you’ll find the way.

A swan song is the song that swans sing when they die of a broken heart. Swans, it is said, mate only once for life, and die when their mates die. As the group reaches its peak and then disintegrates, the seriousness of the path of Page becomes more evident to Plant. Heroine may have preserved Page from progress in worse things. At the disintegration of Zeppelin it is rumored that Plant became superstitious about “bad karma” due to the Satanic dabbling of Page (Davis, p. 257, 288). This seems not to cohere with the “pact” story, which therefore seems false. (By “Karma,” they mean the eastern teaching that what one does comes back to him, something like a boomerang.) This shows that Plant, and the lyrics that guide the meaning of the songs of Led Zeppelin, are something different from Page himself. The union of musicians and managers that made up Led Zeppelin was transitory and surprisingly fragile. Misfortune began to hit the band with a car accident involving the family of Robert Plant, and the excesses of a life without limits, heroine and drunken ravings of Bonham, began to make the making of music impossible, as the story is told by Stephen Davis. Strange English tax laws forced bands into exile, and prevented them from staying more permanently in the Idyllic English country settings that allowed for their best writing and composition. But there always was a difference and tension between their home lives and the wild liberty of their tours in America, and this background proves to be important for understanding their imagery, for example in “Ramble On” or “Going to California.”

Philosophically, Plant is a hippie, and, in his high liberty, inclines toward peace, love and “the good things, and the sun that lights the day.” Plant is not especially Christian, but is inspired by Tolkien and the tradition of the English poets, who preserve and cultivate a rich tradition of the imagination that is not entirely dependent upon the Christian tradition, but is local or “pagan “in origin: talk of such things as fairies, goblins and spirits, creatures of the middle realm of the imagination.[2] In the Medieval world, before the lightening bolt of science cleared the air of such things, most, including the saints, believed that these things exist, but are mostly malevolent. Angels appear to be the only good messengers or mediators between man and the divine. We no longer believe in Zeus and the pantheon, though we have little better explanation of things like the hospitality toward travelers or the things of love, fortune and fate, and the effects of love on our perception, or “The cause that makes great warriors great / and heroes seek their home again,” etc. The tradition of English poetry attempts to preserve a Greek-like ability to consider the images without believing that they are “real,” or, as the people imagine, material. In this way, the tradition of English poetry preserves the imagination without contradicting the Biblical teaching, from Abraham, against idolatry. The Tolkien inspired streak in the lyrics of Plant attaches his imagination to “peace and tranquility” and a fundamentally sound imagination, reaching up to the idyllic imagination of happiness and a love of the soaring heights of the intellect.

The contradiction, for example between the love of Black American blues and the race purity thought of the Nazi’s, does not really become conscious for them. But one wonders, similarly, how the Peacenik Plant can explode with warrior music like the Immigrant’s song, the repressed warrior spirit, in the form of a song about a Nordic attack on England, or what the meaning of the merciless “No Quarter” (if that is a part of the meaning) might fit into the Plant imagination. These opposites cohere because there is a bit of each in each of these two friends.

Tolkien, through the Oxford school that includes C.S. Lewis, is not antichristian, but entirely consistent with Christianity, on the level of the human and the imagination, as distinct from the spirit or intellect, the divine in man. The question for the Christians must be where is the high imagination in their music? Where are the Christian apocalyptic songs, seeing the sky filled with things mortals never know? Though Page could not do this on his own, the fact that he works with and accepts the poetic vision of Plant means that there is some thing in Page that is human in a common sense way, and just may save him, as it did his music, from being wasted in the service of nothing, or worse. It is this human streak in Page, as it seems to us, which allowed him to accept the good things of the human soul, and made Led Zeppelin the sensation that it was and is.

The heaviness of Zeppelin is that of the “white blues” of unrequited love. Meanwhile, the soaring heights call the one loved to a happiness that remains imaginary, and cannot be achieved in reality. This imagined happiness of love leads rather into the heights that are contemplative, touching on apocalyptic themes and a high contemplation near to philosophy. This touch of the higher things was absent from the first album, until Plant began to write more of the lyrics. Its debut is on the second album, in the songs “Thank You” and “Ramble On.” It is developed further in the acoustic leaning third album, where the blues are continued in “Since I’ve been Lovin You,” and something new breaks out in the Immigrant Song. On the fourth album, considered their best, “Stairway to Heaven” became the leading rock anthem of a generation for a decade. Stairway combines and contains both the heavy and the light, the blues and the imaginary happiness, harmoniously. The blues have become folk blues in the acoustic beginning, while the imaginary breaks through as hard rock at the end of the song. Their combination is in music a bit like the combination of comedy and tragedy in the drama of Shakespeare. The heavy is especially the blues inspired rock blues of lost love, while the light develops out of the sorrow of lost love into the ethereal heights inspired by the liberty of the road and the imagination of the California musicians. It is to California that the poet of Zeppelin must ramble on, so that in Zeppelin music, lost love initiates the spiritual quest that will lead to some of the highest images crystallized in the spiritual journey of rock music. The music of Zeppelin indicates something of the direction in which we might find poetry and music that can accompany the spiritual ecstasies of the liberal arts and the quest that is philosophy. The high imagination of Zeppelin is set off by the lost love expressed in their early blues, from which their lyrics ascend toward contemplative heights.

There is a sense in which the movie The Song Remains the Same is a disappointment, and the accompanying live album, while occasionally brilliant, is on the whole, a failure. Led Zeppelin never reached their potential in concert. They might have performed the greatest rock concert of all time, had circumstances allowed them to work well for even a few months at a stretch in the time of their peak. For reasons related to the general chaos surrounding the band, they are on most occasions much better musically in the studio than in concert. This is not surprising, since the harmony of the four elements that are the musicians of Zeppelin is a very fragile thing. It is here we might have seen certain things at their peak which will never be. Fans are often left to imagine the studio versions played live, which for the most part never occurred.

Zeppelin concerts were very long, as they have a superhuman amount of well composed hit tunes, more than any band, with the possible exception of the Beatles and Bob Dylan. Their music as a whole contains a logos that is the event of Led Zeppelin, and might have provided an outline for the ultimate concert. It corresponds to the journey that was the quest of Zeppelin. While our commentary must proceed chronologically, the logos should be kept in mind, and will be the key to the path of the meaning of Zeppelin. In such a concert, the path might begin much as they do, with songs like “Rock and Roll” and “The Song Remains the Same,” and here “Celebration Day” is a good capsule or summary of the general meaning. After this introduction, a set must follow the course of the blues that launched their career, the blues of the failure of love that bursts out as the early Zeppelin blues lead to the near madness, culminated in Dazed and Confused and Communication Breakdown, and Since I ’v Been Loving You.” These blues, again, are prominent on the first two albums, gradually receding, though present still on III and IV, in “Since I ’v Been Lovin’ You” and When the Levee Breaks.” There are then the songs of leaving, like “Babe,” “Ramble On,” “Misty Mountain,” “Four Sticks,” “Goin’ to California,” and “Over the Hills and Far Away.” There is an acoustic detour, where the compositions sometimes rival CSNY in their harmony and ascent. Tangerine, on III, is central, as it is not a song of losing but a song of loss, or not of leaving but of having left. It is also, strangely, the one lyric known to be especially written by Page. Gallows Pole is also a conclusion of the eros that led to the Killing Floor, as will be explained.

The leaving becomes instead a spiritual transcendence, when over the misty mountain there appears the “Battle of Evermore” and the question of the “Stairway.” Following a break, as at the theatre, the Immigrant song and no Quarter (Live version) make up a strange section of war songs, where one hopes that the referent is some kind of intellectual jihad, rather than a literal Nordic invasion (as we’ve had enough of that sort of thing.) Kashmir is the highest point of vision in the whole of the lyrics of Plant and Zeppelin, as the elevated composition, requiring orchestras to fully produce live. Elders talk of apocalyptic days, there appears the pilot of the way of thoughts inside a dream, and the wind of the Father of the four winds all in a moment of transcendence that is to the physical world only a man watching the dust blow high in June in Morocco, though in spirit moving through Kashmir. “The Rover” is also written from this intellectual peak, and like the “Song Remains the Same,” intends to sum up the career of Zeppelin. “Night flight,” “In the Light” and “Ten Years gone, a retrospect on the loss of the love that set off the whole journey, the Heartbreaker, as it had then been “ten years and maybe more” since he first set his eyes on her, and the loss of the best years that, together with the open road, is the truth of failed love. “The Ocean,” is about playing (their only example for this sub-theme), and the ocean of the grateful fans for whom they play, and who play back for them like the ocean. “Thank You,” a Song of eternal love that can be played at weddings, and one of the best, might conclude such an ultimate concert. This would include all the essential Zeppelin perennial tunes, or the best of Zeppelin, and the few left out might be least missed.

It strikes me that Pink Floyd’s The Wall is a study of how tyranny, and even modern tyranny, might be connected in its rise to rock music. Asked which historical figure he would most like to meet, Page is reported to have answered “Machiavelli.” (Davis, p. 211). It is at this fringe that the artists lack self control, and like women, children, and democracies, must actually encounter crises before they can respond to them. We will only restate that love and friendship are contradicted by this way, and so it leads to extreme unhappiness. When Page went on stage dressed as a Nazi Storm trooper, (Davis, p. 280) he may as well have become possessed, a most slavish condition. This period coincides with the introduction of heroine and the disintegration or self destruction of the band. The contradiction between this thing that emerges from the opened unconscious and the black bluesmen to whom Zeppelin owe their origin only demonstrates the reason, or self refutation of what the master of these guitar riffs fell into personally.

Who Tommy: Rock Commentaries Selection

Tommy 1969

Rock opera is potentially a quantum leap in the art, though one that was not taken. Drama, as Aristotle explains, is the highest imitative art form, and it is clear upon reflection that all music has a dramatic intention. Every human articulation wants to be part of a drama, which would fully show the human histories imagined or involved. Aristotle writes that drama is the highest art form (Poetics) because it attempts the highest imitable object, showing human action in both deed and speech. The move from music to drama is like a move from two to three dimensions, as is evident in the move from the treatise to the Platonic dialogue, showing the speeches with the body.

Pete Townsend is Tommy, and the pinball wizard is the rock star. That much seems obvious, though it won’t occur to us, as it did not to Pete himself, until we think about it. He is also the questing mod of Quadrophenia, and the genius behind the writing of the Who. Townshend himself had to think about this one, as Jessica Siegel writes:

Originally, Townshend said he conceived of pinball as a metaphor for the hypocrisy of institutionalized religion, a topical theme in the 1960’s. With hindsight, he sees that pinball was really a stand in for rock and roll. The pinball machine was a fender Stratecaster guitar. And he was Tommy Walker.

And Siegel then quotes Townshend:

 When you have time to look back on your work, you suddenly think, ‘My God, I didn’t realize I was wearing my heart on my sleeve to that extent.’ I went into a kind of shock…In actual fact, what I had done was told my (expletive) life story and projected it into the future.

 The Chicago Tribune, Sunday section

Tommy is apparently a British legend surrounding the son of a World War I soldier, reported killed in action, who returned by surprise and was murdered by his wife’s new husband or lover. Townshend writes that for the movie, the circumstance is reversed, so that the father is killed in the movie, while the wife’s lover is the one killed in Tommy. The circumstance is similar then to Casablanca, where Humphrey Bogart falls in love with supposed war widow Lauren Bacall, and demonstrates noble action in the circumstance, in the end. Yet here in Tommy, in the movie, the lover responds tragically, killing the lawful husband from the unwillingness to give up his new love. On the album, then, the character is not the stepfather, but the father with a murderous secret. In his book (p. 261), Townshend discusses the change:

One of the first changes Ken (Russell, the director) wanted to make was to nudge the story towards a kind of modern version of Hamlet, with the lover of Tommy’s mother killing Tommy’s father- rather than the other way around, as on the album. I was concerned about this at first, then I saw the dead father would become a symbol of Tommy of the “master” he sees in his dreams.

The lover is first shown in the optimism of this new love, and the first breaking through of beautiful poetry occurs in the lines of the lover: “Got a feelin’ twenty one is gonna be a good year / Especially if you and me see it in together.” The love is genuine, and so tragic, when it apparently leads him to kill the true father of Tommy when he returns. The stepfather or father character is ambiguous, and we are made sympathetic with him even while he is the murderer, the cause of his blindness, and the master of the bungling attempts at securing the cure and salvation of Tommy. Tommy sees the murder, and is told he did not see and hear it. The result is a psychosomatic blindness and deafness that is like autism. Also like some autistic children, Tommy shows certain rare abilities. With some it is music, some math. For him it is to be pinball wizard, apparently through sensation felt as musical vibration. On one hand, the equation of sense and music is strange, because while he can feel, he is deaf, and would only produce music from his understanding of sound before the trauma.

Yet there is something more to Tommy than pinball, just as there is something more to Townshend than music. The song “The Amazing Journey” completes the work of the first of the four sides of the double album, which is our introduction to the character and background of Tommy. Tommy lives at age ten in a world of sensory deprivation:

Deaf Dumb and blind boy

He’s in a quiet vibration land

Strange as it seems, his musical dreams

Ain’t quite so bad

Tommy is like Helen Keller in American history, blind and deaf, limited to touch. As in her case, the story is in part about her breaking through. In the Rolling Stone interview, conducted when Townsend was still working on Tommy, he describes the idea:

It’s a story about a kid that’s born deaf, dumb and blind, and what happens to him throughout his life. The deaf, dumb and blind boy is played by the Who, the musical entity. He’s represented musically, represented by a theme which we play, which starts off the opera itself and then there is a song describing the deaf, dumb and blind boy. But what its really all about is the fact that because the boy is D, D & B, he’s seeing things basically as vibrations which we translate as music That’s really what we want to do: create this feeling that when you listen to the music you can actually become aware of the boy, and aware of what he’s all about, because we are creating him as we play.…

Townshend emphasizes that what he really likes, or finds endearing is that

 Inside, the boy sees things musically, and in dreams, and nothing has got any weight at all. He is touched from the outside and he feels his father’s touch, but he interprets them as music. His father gets pretty upset that his kid is deaf, dumb and blind. He wants a kid that will play football and God knows what.

In the interview, there is yet no hint of the mysterious origin of the inner block of Tommy, the concern with Christmas and salvation, the vision that begins the amazing journey, nor of the pinball wizard parallel with the phenomenon of the cult rock star. Tommy is beaten by his father and molested by his uncle, and interprets these sensations as sound vibrations, or musically, without association to “sleeziness” or “any of the things normally associated with sex. It is meaningless, as it is in such actual instances, “you just don’t react.” The sensory deprivation of Tommy is at points related to literal traumas of the soul. He manages to hear his own name, “Tommy,” and “gets really hung up on” it. “He decides that this is the king and this is the goal, Tommy is the thing, man.” (p. 99). Similarly, when he sees his own image in the mirror,

…suddenly seeing himself for the first time; he takes an immediate back step, bases his whole life around his own image. The whole thing then becomes incredibly introverted and he starts to talk about himself, starts to talk about his beauty. Not knowing, of course, that what he saw was him, but still regarding it as something which belonged to him, and of course it did all of the time anyway…

Here the interview breaks off into a different direction, Townsend complaining that he does not “feel at all together.” What he has in the mirror was himself. But does Townsend think that the tall stranger with the silver gown and golden beard is, similarly, himself? And if not, what does he think it is?

His condition allows the perception of musical dreams from within, and this also leads to bold thoughts, wisdom and simplicity, as if demonstrating the theory that we are corrupted by our experience and by the outside world, yet perfected in mind and the imagination by music and thought, or, by what arises from within. He retains an inner simplicity uncorrupted, but this is only the beginning of the amazing journey, what makes him open to it. The paradox of this openness to the inner things through mental and physical defects is stated directly:

 Sickness will surely take the mind

Where minds can’t usually go

Come on the amazing journey

And learn all you should know

His sensory deprivation is the result of a sickness, yet this very sickness allows him access to the inner school. Sometimes our defects prove our commodities, as Shakespeare’s Gloucester says (King Lear, IV, i, 19-21). His inner world of musical dreams and bold thoughts in the pursuit of wisdom prepares him for the psychic experience or vision of the wizard, a manifestation of what Jung would call the archetype of the Wise old man:[12]

A vague haze of delirium

creeps up on me.

All at once a tall stranger I suddenly see.

He’s dressed in a silver sparked

glittering gown

And his golden beard flows nearly down to the ground.

This is a vision or visitation. The wise man is not an actual person, such as Socrates, because humans are not wise. Our particular teachers, though, might embody or make manifest the wise man that is the guide, and our relations with them makes the archetype active in our lives. The figure is like a combination of Merlin, the ancient British seer, and John’s vision of Jesus at the opening of the Revelation. His gown is silver and his beard gold, or he is clothed in the spirit and has grown wisdom. Before elaborating further on the figure, two sets of lines repeat the points, adding that his deprivation of sight and hearing leads him to convert sensation into music, and that it is sickness that takes the mind where minds can’t usually go, opening the way to the amazing journey. In a final set of lines, he then elaborates regarding the wise man:

His eyes are the eyes that transmit all they know

Sparkle warm crystalline glances to show

That he is your leader

And he is your guide

On the amazing journey together you’ll ride.

His eyes transmit knowledge. The seeker knows that he is the leader or guide because the crystalline glances or the divine glance of one whose sight is the light, are also “warm,” or yet friendly and welcoming to the human seeker. This figure will accompany Tommy on the amazing journey that is to follow, as everyone around him attempts to treat his soul and his condition.

The journey first concerns the question of salvation and a series of traumatic unfortunate encounters with the Hawker, Cousin Kevin, the Acid Queen and Uncle Ernie. The Hawker is like a pimp who presents the woman that is his whore as having the power to bring eyesight to the blind and make the deaf able to hear. It turns out the step father in the dual father figure represents conventional or even Anglican Christianity. It follows that the sensory deprivation of Tommy may be like the alienation of the inspired musician from both the conventional and the radical forms of spirituality.

The father or step father is, as has been noted, strangely presented sympathetically. His poem on Christmas morning opens the second disk. This song demonstrates the meaning of certain aspects of Christmas, as the background of his concern for the salvation of Tommy. I like to play the song around Christmas for its explanation of the meaning of gift giving:

 Did you ever see the faces of the children

The get so excited.

Waking up on Christmas morning

hours before the winter sun’s ignited.

They believe in dreams and all they mean

Including heaven’s generosity

Peeping round the door to see what parcels are for free

In curiosity.

The meaning of dreams includes the generosity of heaven, and the children anticipating Christmas believe in the meaning of dreams. Their excited curiosity anticipates the curiosity that leads adults to the true beneficence of heaven. When humans give gifts to one another, we embody and recall the generosity of the heaven, and gifts from heaven’s overflow, as the winter’s sun will soon light Christmas morning. The poetry is beautiful here beyond commentary, and, once again, demonstrates a rare understanding of the meaning of the Christian things embodied in the bungling father.

The father, having just described the meaning of Christmas, complains that Tommy doesn’t know what day it is. / Doesn’t know who Jesus was or what prayin’ is.” He asks, “How can he be saved?” emphasizing “From the eternal grave.” Salvation is made possible by the knowledge of what day it is,[13] or what Christmas day is, and this is identified with the visible light: “How can men who’ve never seen light be enlightened?” The quest for a cure for the blindness and deafness of Tommy thus becomes identified with the goal of enlightenment or the salvation of his soul.

Meanwhile, Tommy within is singing “See me, feel me / Touch me, heal me.” The song therefore does have something to do with the reaching up to Jesus, a dual meaning that accompanies the more direct meaning for many listeners. It is the longing of our souls for the healing of the divine, in whatever form this reaching arises.

Before the crisis and attempted cure, Tommy is abused by the bully babysitter Cousin Kevin. Tommy is then apparently given acid. The experience is symbolized in the image of a night locked in a room with a sadistic Gypsy whore. After the experience, the innocence of the boy is gone, having had his soul torn apart. He is told to gather his wits and hold on fast, “Your mind must learn to roam” Her work done, she says he’s “Never been more alive,” while he is shaking his head and clutching his fingers with his body writhing. Her night with him is like a rendezvous “guaranteed to break your little heart.” Townsend and the Who are the most anti-drug of the Rock bands, apparently having overcome the mod fascination with leapers and alcohol. This would be the most negative presentation of LSD as a path to enlightenment of any of the rock bands. The position is for example opposite the Grateful Dead and others on the matter.

The third disk opens with the molestation of Tommy by his wicked uncle Ernie, with whom his parents have left him as a sitter. This is somehow the prelude to the Pinball Wizard. Has he discovered sensation and response through sexuality, though perverted by Uncle Ernie? Since such things are fundamental traumas of deep and lasting impact, does he again succeed in making lemonade from the lemons life gives him? The connection between Ernie and pinball is underlined later when Ernie reappears at Tommy’s Holiday camp to guide the recruits to their very own machine.

The story of the pinball wizard is told through the eyes of a third party, another pinball champion that is defeated by Tommy. Tommy plays by sensation or touch, and the lack of the distractions of sight and sound are said to allow for his astonishing ability at the pinball machine. The song is anthem like because of the phase of our youth in the seventies when pinball was a fashion activity in the social lives of kids down at the arcade, replaced now by video games. Yet, as the further adventures of Tommy will demonstrate, the primary meaning of the pinball wizard is the analogy with the rock star, and the comment of Townsend himself on this phenomenon.

The father, meanwhile, has found a doctor who can cure the deaf dumb and blind pinball wizard. This doctor is considerably more helpful than the doctor in Quadrophenia, who cannot take the meaning of the mods weekend when he tells him during a visit. Here the doctor notes that while tests have shown he does not sense at all, his eyes react to light, and he does physically hear. Meanwhile Tommy within sings “See me, feel me / Touch me, heal me.”

The doctor comments that there is no hope from an operation or any outside stimulation, apparently because the condition is an inner block, and so all hope lies with the action of the patient. Yet he fears the shock from isolation when the boy is suddenly able to hear and speak and see. Tommy continues to sing for healing in his isolation. The doctor then sends Tommy to the mirror.

At the mirror, while his father wonders what is happening in his head, Tommy is apparently in contact with the figure of wisdom that appeared earlier to him. The contact, though, is a little too close, since he apparently becomes possessed by the archetype,[14] and for a while identifies himself with such a figure. He says to what he sees in the mirror:

Listening to you I get the music

Gazing at you I get the heat

Following you I climb the mountain

I get excitement at your feet!

Right behind you I see the millions

On you I see the glory.

From you I get opinions

From you I get the story

Meanwhile the father and mother outside contact the boy. His mother is amazed that he doesn’t respond to her at all, but can apparently see himself, as he gazes at his own reflection. Inside, as we have seen, Tommy is in the presence of the one from whom he gets the music, etc. The figure is especially Christ-like in the second set of lines, as he on whom the glory of the Lord appears and whom one sees the millions following. Is Tommy in direct contact with the Christ? He is also the one whom one follows up the mountain, and the source of the music, which are characteristic of wisdom or the wise old man. His mother becomes angry, and senses that Tommy fears her. She then attempts to compel him to answer, by insisting: “Do you hear or fear or do I smash the mirror?” When he does not respond, she fulfills her threat and smashes the mirror.

In his book, Townshend writes:

I decided my deaf, dumb and blind hero could be autistic. This way, when I wanted to demonstrate the glorious moment of god-realization, I could simply restore my hero the use of his senses. It was a good plan; the boy’s sensory deprivation would work as a symbol of our own every-day spiritual isolation.

(Who I Am, pp.146-147)

The language of “god-realization” comes from Maher Baba, though Townshend’s Tommy is more skeptical of becoming a guru or spiritual leader than it is a “proselytizing vehicle” for the guru.

The result of the smashing of the mirror is that the pinball wizard becomes a “sensation,” something like a rock star, in a very nice double meaning. Apparently this occurs when he can suddenly see, hear and communicate. As the third disc concludes, Tommy overwhelms those he approaches, who hold their breath, and lovers break their embrace to gaze on him. The spirituality of his presence is apparent as their love is enhanced after he has passed by. In the refrain, A new vibration” reminds of the Beach Boys Good Vibrations, a new sound intended to be spiritual sound.

The career of Townshend is carried throughout by his hearing of a celestial music, from the time of his youth. This sound is to music as physical sensation is to the ability of Tommy to play pinball (Who I Am, pp.30-32, 34, 45, 93, 205). It is connected to Jesus and the angelic choir from the time of Townshend’s youth, accounting in part for the strangely sympathetic portrayal of Christmas in Tommy. Townshend (p. 35) writes:

Because of Tril’s faith in me, I became a bit of a mystic like her. I prayed to God, and at Sunday school I came to genuinely admire Jesus. In heaven, where he lived, the strange music I sometimes heard was completely normal.

The new vibration is related to the perfect note, addressed later, and to the single note said by some, both mystics and scientists, to be at the root or basis of the cosmos, whether an Ohm or a note left over from a Big Bang.

The music or notes of these words sound as though they were about to shatter glass, or through some sound barrier to the other or above side. The conjunction of pinball wizard / rock star / religious figure or pop idol / spiritual leader is fulfilled in the lines:

They worship me and all I touch

Hazy eyed they catch my glance,

Pleasant shudders shake their senses

My warm momentum throws their stance…

Refrain…You’ll feel me comin,

A new vibration

From afar you’ll see me

I’m a sensation

I leave a trail of rooted people

Mesmerized by just the sight,

The few I touched now are disciples

Love as one, I am the light…

The second instance of the word “hazy” is a clue. Tommy has become identified with the figure seen apparently through his own image in the mirror. He says, as Jesus did, that he is the light. For Jesus, or the messiah, and for him alone, it is a question whether or not he is correct, or whether this depiction of what he teaches about himself is correct. When other men see themselves and are taken with the beauty of the image of god within, and have seen nothing higher, they can become possessed by the archetype, a content of the collective unconscious, and this is a sort of madness. Yet all the while it may be so that there is something divine in us, that it is our true selves, and that we do not know this very well, nor live much in accordance with it. The wise man is the true self, but it is of course not the Most High.

Jung discusses these in terms of the “ego,” archetypal functions, and the “self.” In some instances, that is, without sacrifice, penance and humility, the ego becomes identified with the “self” in the wrong way. The effect is similar to the image in love, when it is the first hint of the divine or intelligible ever seen. The little self is an image of the big “self,” the soul an image of God, which, if the greater is not seen, allows for the error of megalomania, even of the sort where a guy thinks he’s Napoleon, or a Napoleon that he is “the guy.” The truth is that there is a spark of the divine in man, and that it is our true self, and we might be astonished at the intelligence in us, but “we all shine on” as Lennon said. Still, some are extraordinary, heads above their equal fellows, both by nature and by cultivation.

The third disc ends with the newsboy announcing the miraculous cure of the Pinball wizard. This coincides, as was said, with the sudden fame of the rock star, when he can finally communicate the depth of the thought within, or when the greatness of the inward vision that is at the root of his music seems finally to be received if not understood, or at least to have an impact proportionate to its greatness.

The fourth disc opens with the story of Sally Simpson and her love fantasy regarding the rock star Tommy. Here pinball is explicitly replaced by the rock star and the effect of those like Elvis or the Beatles on the fantasy life of their young female fans. The song is touching, as Townsend writes:

She knew from the start

Deep down in her heart

She and Tommy were worlds apart.

But her mother said never mind your part

Is to be what you’ll be.

Sally of course gets a sixteen stitch gash on her face when she tries to enter her fantasy by jumping onstage, and the result disillusions her, so that she is able to settle for marriage to a real musician aspiring in California.

Meanwhile, a world apart, in the world of Tommy, he is singing of his spiritual discovery that the highest truth is freedom:

I’m free- I’m free,

And freedom tastes of reality,

I’m free, I’m free,

And I’m waiting for you to follow me.

  The center of this song seems to me genuinely profound. It is Townsend’s comment on religion or spirituality of the sort “out here in the fields.” It is spiritual, but free of worldly spirituality, and disdainful of all worldly appearances, including the cult-like gullibility of the followers of the rock musicians like Tommy, in so far as they exercise a spiritual dominion over the youth. Townsend’s genuine message:

If I told you what it takes

to reach the highest high,

You’d laugh and say ‘nothing’s that simple’

But you’ve been told many times before

Messiahs pointed to the door

But no one had the guts to leave the temple!

But there is another thing that gives occasion to comment on Townshend and the Who. There is an attempt of the seeker, in the song named in part after Townshend’s Guru Maher Baba, to find a spiritual basis independent of the Christian or Biblical foundations of Western civilization, which is perceived at the start as bankrupt. The Who, Beatles, Clapton and others attempt to go east for spirituality, rather than do without. The path of rock then becomes a self conscious independent spiritual quest. The ground of this attempt or this quest is what he means by:

Out here in the fields

I fight for my meals.

I get my back into my liv’in

I don’t need to fight

To prove I’m right

I don’t need to be forgiven.

He is out independent in the spiritual fields, and does his own work toiling there. This is another way of saying “no one had the guts to leave the Temple.” He accuses Christendom of sustaining and spreading the religion by force, or associates Christianity with the militarists, as in the Viet Nam war. His spirited denial of the need for forgiveness calls for an apology or explanation. It seems, as a hypothesis, that it is toward other men, and not toward God, that he asserts that he does not need to be forgiven, as a way of climbing out from under the oppressive human authority of the Christian tradition. He does not need to be forgiven for his work out there in the fields, or for the spiritual independence of the seeker. Baba is the name of Townshend’s own guru.

The many say “how can we follow?” and one is reminded of the Monty Python movie Life of Brian, when Brian, for his preaching, is telling the crowd, “You must be individuals. You must think for yourselves,” and the crowd chants after him in unison, “We are individuals. We must think for ourselves.” In Tommy, the many simply cannot follow, any further than the mere repetition of the phrase that they must stop mere repeating. Tommy finds contact with the higher things through his musical dreams because he suffered a trauma that led to a psychosomatic loss of senses. His heightened sensation makes him a pinball wizard, but it is not true that the many can gain the same result by doing the same things, especially if they are not poets or musicians. Both Tommy and the followers confuse the accidental particulars with the higher things revealed through these particulars, demonstrating the universal human propensity to idolatry. So the next song, “Welcome,” depicts a cult-like atmosphere, yet one of drinking all night and never sleeping–one of the clues that it is the cult of the rock star. Their followers are the “comfortable people.” Everyone is welcome to be one of them, the milkman, baker, little old lady, shoemaker. The members gather in others from everywhere, like the expanding of a cult. In an aside that reminds one of a Shakespearean subplot occurring alongside a greater action, even Uncle Ernie has become a P.R. man for Tommy’s Holiday camp. Is there a suggestion that the cult, and the rock and roll scene, is a bit like molestation regarding the gullibility of the mind of the participant?

The rock opera concludes with the revolt of the followers from Tommy’s religion of pinball, or music. This is the apparent answer to what it takes to reach the highest high. Yet after the followers revolt, Tommy, again worlds apart, is in the presence of his visionary wise man, and asking to be healed. The many are freer in revolt, and one hopes the distinction has been restored between Tommy himself and the figure whose glance is light, seen when he first set out on the amazing journey.

The scene opens as Tommy is speaking at the ceremony welcoming followers to the camp. “My name is Tommy, and I became aware this year” This demonstrates that his literal perception– opened when the inner block was surpassed at the smashing of the mirror– is identified with spiritual enlightenment or an opening awareness. But Tommy tells them that if they want to follow him, they have to play pinball. He passes out blindfolds, earplugs and a cork for their mouths.

The difference between his movement and the hippie rock followers becomes apparent when he tells those drinking and smoking pot that that is not the way. Strangely, there is a difference between the written line on the album sleeve, “Hey you smoking mother nature, You missed the bus” and the spoken words recorded, …Hey you…This is a bust.” In the recorded version, the religious movement of Tommy begins to become authoritarian. At this, the followers begin to revolt, saying “we’re not gonna take it.” Tommy then finds them all deaf, speechless and blind from the things he has himself passed out. Pinball is said to complete the scene, and Uncle Ernie enters to guide them to their very own machine. The image is uncertain, but it is likely that the musical path of imitating the particulars of Tommie’s character results in perversity or masturbation. It can be said, though, that the primary meaning of what has occurred as a result of Tommy’s breakthrough into contact with the world is just like the mass result of Townsend’s breakthrough, and the poet is disgusted by these things in our music culture. The followers continue their revolt, saying they do not want religion, as far as they know. They resolve to forsake him, then to rape him, then simply to forget him.

Yet the story does end in the failure of the Holiday camp, but in the glory of the vision of Tommy, and it is these lines that have become the most moving and the most memorable. Finally alone the Opera concludes in Tommy’s solitary epiphany, beginning with his prayer:

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.

See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.

And concluding with his description that most reminded of the identification of the wise man with the actual Christ, with the glory upon him, followed by the millions:

Listening to you I get the music.

Gazing at you I get the heat

Following you I climb the mountain

I get excitement at your feet!

Right behind you I see the millions

On you I see the glory.

From you I get opinions

From you I get the story.

The interesting elements, to sum up our inquiry, are involved in the question of who or what it is that Tommy addresses when he is praying or asking to be healed, the analogy between pinball and being a rock star, and the comparison of the rock star to a religious cult figure, and therefore rock and roll as a replacement for religion. The rock writer is indeed in touch with something, even due to his inner block, caused by something that is like having been told not to see. What he is in touch with, when he is singing “See me, feel me, Touch me, heal me” is nowhere described more clearly than in the vision described in the “Amazing Journey.” It is somehow both Christian and philosophic or based on the wise man, though it is a free encounter with the concrete divine, rather than the traditional religion of the step-father, who identifies access to salvation with the ability to see the visible regarding Christmas. Simultaneously, the poet’s understanding of the deep and high truth in the celebration of Christmas makes it clear that while it is not the same establishment of religion, the poetry is not opposed to but is ultimately consistent with the truth of that tradition. We have to go all the way to “Love Reign Over Me,” at the end of Quadrophenia, to show this fully.

The final question is the first question: what is the meaning of the murder of his true father by his step father or the murder by his father of the lover of his mother, that caused the inner block and sent Tommy along on the Amazing Journey? Townshend indicates a connection to a personal trauma, and this may be part of what occurs regarding the musician as autistic savant. But following the symbols, we will say that the father figure in Tommy considers how Christian tradition blocked poetry or a high sort of spirituality, allied with wisdom, that is the true inheritance of Britain and the Western world. In the end, this poetry and spirituality is not inconsistent with Christianity, but may even be a fulfillment. The path of Townsend leads to the reign of Love, which is one Christian teaching of what God is. This is found concretely, through the quest, rather than through the mediation of the Temple, as Monks and Essenes seem always to have known. And it may be that Tommy and Townshend are uniquely enduring and inspiring, as though a repressed content of the Western unconscious were what is represented by the Who, with the sharp and pounding drum, wall of sound percussion of Kieth Moon announcing that it will break through, or is breaking through. This, contra Bloom, is what the rebellion of the mod leads to, and, though unknown, has been all about.

Townsend himself comes closest to indicating something like this, even while rejecting attempts at interpretation, when he says in the interview:

…obviously the story has got something to do with your sexual relationship; you know, obviously it’s got some spiritual significance: “does Pete Townsend think he’s Jesus?” or whatever the hang up is, man, it can all be read into it. I’m sure a lot of it is there, but one doesn’t know because one is trying to avoid all this. We, of all people, have got to be afraid of seriousness in the Who, because if we were serious, we’d admit that we don’t like each other. But because were not serious, we don’t have to admit it…

Tommy James: Crimson and Clover

In early 1969, just as music was shifting from singles and AM radio to albums and FM, the Shondels cut Crimson and Clover. The lyric occurred to James as he was awakening. Beyond that it is his favorite color and flower, he says does not know what it means. The song is a celebration of the first sight of love, and the awakening of the mind to the special liveliness that is the effect especially of new love. With a rare exception, our psychology does not recognize this important thing about the soul and the awakening of the mind and character that occurs by nature in love. A possible reading of the lyric, written as the exclamation “My, my”and fits the wish to to do everything, that is the awakening to life, as well as with the line “I’v been waiting to show her.” The beginning reminds of the Hollies “Bus Stop:

Ah, now I don’t hardly know her
But I think I could love her
Crimson and clover

Ah when [I wish] she comes walking over
Now I’ve been waitin’ to show her
Crimson and clover over and over

Yeah, my, my [mind’s] such a sweet thing
I wanna do everything
What a beautiful feeling
Crimson and clover over and over

Crimson and clover over and over

The Crimson Clover is also a kind of clover as noted on Wikipedia. The clover otherwise reminds of the Trinity, and the red the sacrifice that joins the fourth, the bride, following the revelation. The connection to the song “Sweet Cherry Wine” makes this a possibility by inspiration.

Beatles Eleanor Rigby: Rock Commentaries Selection

The Beatles 1966: Eleanor Rigby

With Rubber Soul, a transcendence that had gradually been happening to the Beatles blossomed from bubble gum music into poetry. In the lyrics, this increase in depth had begun to occur in 1965 with “Yesterday,” “In my life” and “You’ve got to Hide Your Love Away.” With “Norwegian Wood,” on Rubber Soul, and then Revolver, also released in 1966, the Beatles begin to compile songs with poetry of a different order, and to produce the core of the songs central to their section in the library of classic rock­. “Day Tripper” is a different kind of rock song, more like the emerging rock of the late 60’s than it is like the Beatles popularization of the 50’s R&B, as in their remake of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven.” Rather than singing the song of a lover, he sings the song of love, the advocate of love as a spiritual principle and remedy for the human condition of loneliness that would be the mission of the Lonely Hearts Club Band. Eleanor Rigby begins like a self conscious poetry project, with what is like a subtitle made into a double refrain:

Ah, look at all the lonely people.

Ah, look at all the lonely people.

Eleanor Rigby

Picks up the rice in a church where

a wedding has been.

Lives in a dream.

Waits at the window,

Wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door.

Who is it for?

All the lonely people

Where do they all come from

All the lonely people

Where do they all belong?

Ah look at all the lonely people.

Ah look at all the lonely people.

Father MacKenzie

Writing the words of a sermon

that no one will hear.

No one comes near. Look at him working,

Darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there.

What does he care?

Eleanor Rigby

Died in the church and was buried along with her name.

Nobody came.

Father McKenzie

Wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave.

No one was saved.

All the lonely people

Where do they all come from

All the lonely people

Where do they all belong?

So the song is not only about Eleanor and Father McKenzie, but about all the lonely people. The lyric is a poetic exercise, looking in snapshots at the lives of two lonely people who perhaps ought have married. The snapshots are heart wrenching capsules of distilled meaning, special particulars that reveal the whole lonely meaning of these person’s lives. It contains an argument against celibacy for those not suited to the singular life, and perhaps a suggestion that solitude is not the best life for humans. Eleanor Rigby picks up rice because she wishes for her marriage, though its time has passed. She is not a nun, dedicated to celibacy. For this reason, she lives in a dream, wearing a face full of cosmetics, and waiting at the window for a love that now will never come, somewhat like Mrs. Havisham in Great Expectations, without the malice. The cosmetics are because her natural beauty has gone before its purpose was fulfilled. The jar by the door emphasizes that it is her face for going out into the world, behind which she lived in loneliness.

Father McKenzie is found writing a sermon that no one will hear even if it is delivered. He works without disruption, and has no visitors who like to come see him. He darns his own socks in the night where there would be a wife, instead of his loneliness.

The first two sections are powerful, but proceed steadily, so that we are impressed with the images and led inescapably toward what he will be getting at. The third rolls over us like a wave, before we have time to jolt in reaction to the deluge. The two kinds of fruitfulness that are the natural aim of erotic love of both the body and the mind, fail to come to fruition, and this is the sad meaning of their loneliness. Eleanor, who kept her maiden name, died while in the church, or in devotion. Her name dies with her, though the name would not literally have been continued had she been a McKenzie or married, it is her posterity that do not exist and are the loss. Shakespeare has Sonnets calling his love to leave the singular condition and make another copy of her beauty for the world. Fr. McKenzie is then seen wiping his hands, as though washing them of a crime, but of the dirt as he leaves her grave site after performing her funeral. No one was saved. He may have failed because love and salvation are sometimes related. Eros, the longing of the soul for completion, stirs the awakening or draws the soul forth for the ascent. Their loneliness is the loneliness of all the lonely people, and the poet wonders where they all come from, and where they all belong, or where they ought be going.

That no one was saved is a question asked of the Christian tradition by the love poets, and this is the point of Romanticism. It is especially a Catholic question, as to whether there should be a celibate priesthood. Some are singular, though not even all the apostles were celibate. One suspects that the celibate priests are not made by conventions of celibacy, and that more are dedicated to these conventions than are singular in their natures. Yet in our time, because the robes of the priesthood were used to hide homosexual pedophilia, the way of the few who are singular needs to be explained. And even if Fr. McKenzie had no need of a wife, ought he not have married for the sake of Eleanor Rigby? There is a similar theme in the Shakespeare’s Sonnet, calling a potential nun to pass on her mortal beauty by having offspring. Romeo calls similarly to Rosalind, before he sees his Juliet.

Aqualung Commentary: Tull Selection from “Rock Commentaries”

1971 Jethro Tull Aqualung  (Almo Music Corp)

Ian Anderson said, in Ann Arbor in 2010, that he is not “so miserable a bugger” as Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd, by which he means that he is not so dark and moody. In the flute of the woodland elfin type creature, the character of Ian Anderson brings a bit of light and color into the dark woods that makes his world a bit brighter than that explored by Floyd. He is the whistler, who brings us songs of a mysterious, high and beautiful nature akin to Shakespeare and the world of Irish folk creatures of the woods, the fairies and such. He is credited with introducing the flute to rock music. (Eric Burdon and War included flute in “Spill the Wine.”) His art is so profound that it makes us revisit the things said about the flute by the ancient Greeks, through its association with Dionysus and the Bacchae. Flute is not measured in the way that guitar is, and the notes slur or slide from one to another, and yet the piper can be measured. Orpheus too played a shepherd’s pipe, and the Dionysian of a later, corrupted age may have buried the Orphic flute from the mythic past of very ancient Greece. In the hands of Anderson, posing as a troubadour or bard from the Medieval woodlands, the flute expresses the heights of the spirit, and on occasion the spirited fife of Scottish troops, and of the Americans in the revolutionary war.

There is a secret to Ian Anderson, and it is that he is a schoolboy, that is, a scholar and a philosopher, so that his flute, through beauty calls us to the secret wisdom. Nature makes it possible for him to summon these woodland sprites in themes normally associated with Paganism. Sometimes, as in “Ring Out Solstice Bells,” his theme appears English pagan, but the suggestion is that it is folk, like what we find in Shakespeare, from a place that through a folk connection with nature, presents the human and fairy worlds in a way that fits in harmony with the Christian world. In truth this may be a more natural perception of this middle realm, rather than to coat these things with artificial Christian imagery. We think that in the highest place he is very Christian, maybe near to being a saint, though not as the world, or the Church of England, sees. He is also a poet and an artist, and makes a character that is sacred and enigmatic, wise and playful, bringing into the river of the hippie movement an independent tributary like that of the Renaissance festivals that is contemporary, yet through the mists of the English Countryside connected to things very ancient.

   Aqualung the album is like Ziggy Stardust one of the perfect or complete albums, a “work of art,” with nearly every song receiving the recognition of airplay: The album has two very different sides, the latter astonishingly theological for a rock album, the first side is the famous classic perfect album side of Aqualung.

Aqualung the song is a snapshot of an old man living and dying on the streets. Profoundly, it is his death that is occurring right at the lines “and the flowers bloom like madness in the spring.” The first of its three parts introduce us to the character and his wretched street life:

Sitting on the park bench

eying little girls with bad intent.

Snot is running down his nose

greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.

(Oh, Aqualung)

Drying in the cold sun

Watching as the frilly panties run.

Hey Aqualung

Feeling like a dead duck

spitting out pieces of his broken luck.

Peering out from his misery at the beautiful young things of the world he cannot be a part of, he would be known as an old pedophile, and seems to spend time drying in the sun where he can see such things. The unfulfilled longing of his life is underlined by his tormented pleasure in seeing the beautiful things of the world. At the end of his life, here, he is spitting out pieces of his broken luck like shedding the teeth he doesn’t need anymore anyway. The description of his life on the city streets in the winter continues in the second third:

Sun streaking cold

an old man wand’ring lonely

Taking time

the only way he knows.

Leg hurting bad,

as he bends to pick a dog end

He goes down to the bog and warms his feet.

Feeling alone

the army’s up the road

salvation a-la-mode and

a cup of tea.

He is wandering alone on a sunny winter day, killing time. His leg hurts as he bends down to pick up a cigarette butt. (I was glad to learn that he had not bent to kick his dog, increasing the portrait of his wretchedness with meanness.) His loneliness is punctuated by trips to the Salvation Army warming center, poetically and sarcastically called “salvation a-la mode.” He is then startled by a visitor, the poet:

Aqualung my friend

don’t start away uneasy

you poor old sod

you see its only me.

I cannot suppress the enchanting suspicion that what we are being shown is the songwriter himself confronting himself as an old man. The picture on the album supports this interpretation, apparently showing Ian Anderson with his dog living on the street on one side, and the famous picture of Aqualung on the other. What occurs then in the final third is, again profoundly, that the poet of the song, Ian Anderson, is mentally transported, in the poem, to see himself in the future on the day of his own death. Aqualung, my friend, don’t you start away uneasy. You poor old sod, you see its only me.” While a simpler explanation would be simply that the poet knows or has befriended such an old street person, one is enchanted by the former possibility. The old man starts away uneasy, as he would at the visitation of a presence, or the presence of himself as a young man visiting from the past. The visitor has come to reconcile him to his impending death:

Do you still remember

December’s foggy freeze

When the ice that

clings on to your beard is

screaming agony.

And you snatch your rattling last breaths

with deep sea diver sounds,

and the flowers bloom like madness in the spring.

The visitor asks the old man if he remembers the agony of winter, as he suffered in years past, in agony from the ice that clings to his beard. On sunny winter days, the snot of those exposed is wiped with greasy hands on shabby clothes. He asks the old man if he remembers the pain of winter in order to reconcile him to death, which is the purpose of the visitation. The old man then is shown from inside, hearing his own labored breath like a deep sea diver inside a diving bell, before the flowers bloom like madness in the spring,. A movie called the Diving Bell and the Butterfly conveys a similar image, of a former playboy and fashion magazine owner who was suddenly paralyzed, trapped inside his own body. In the last year of his life, like that, he wrote the movie. He too was able to do nothing but admire the French actresses who come as nurses to teach him to communicate. This last scene, of breathing as though in a diving bell, seems to be where the character gets his name under water breather, or Aqualung. He is similarly like one trapped in his body, isolated by his age and wretchedness, walled off from the rest of the world.

Cross Eyed Mary

Next, we are shown the life of one of the girls our pedophilic old fellow was watching through the railing as their frilly panties ran while they were playing, and the rich man of fortune, who in old age can have what the old street man Aqualung can only lust after. With Aqualung in mind, the song asks:

Who would be a poor man, a beggar man, a thief

if he had a rich man in his hand?

Who would steal the candy from a laughing baby’s mouth

if he could take it from the money man?

How is Aqualung different and worse than the rich man who whores young women like cross eyed Mary, and in a manner that is not even technically prostitution?

Cross eyed Mary

goes jumping in again

She signs no contract

but she always plays the game

Dines in Hampstead village on expense accounted gruel

And the Jack-knife barber

drops her off at school.

The old rich lecher is called a jackknife barber in apparent reference to his mode of lovemaking. His lechery makes him a hack, in contrast with an expert hairstylist, or a lover making love. His victim does not care, as she is not a lover anyway. Having been dropped off at school by her elderly friend with the expense account, she is shown:

Laughing in the playground

gets no kicks from little boys:

would rather make it with a leching grey.

Or maybe her attention is drawn by Aqualung

who watches through the railings as they play.

The themes are drawn together when we see the old lecher broken in fortune looking through the railings of the schoolyard at Cross-Eyed Mary, who might even notice him looking. And she might even pay attention to him in the right circumstance, for

Cross eyed Mary

finds it hard to get along.

She’s a poor man’s rich girl

and she’ll do it for a song.

She’s a rich man stealer

but her favor’s good and strong:

She’s the Robin Hood of Highgate

helps the poor man get along.

It may become clear that he speaks of a college age woman in the veiled terms of pedophilia. Her “favor” is her face, which is not called beautiful, but “good” and “strong.” But we know the hopes of Aqualung are fantasy, and she is like Robin Hood only in that she steals from the rich man, giving only to those poor in money, not in youth.

Cheap Day Return

On Preston platform

do your soft shoe shuffle dance.

Brush away the cigarette ash that’s

falling down your pants.

And then you sadly wonder

does the nurse treat your old man the way she should.

She made you tea, asked for your autograph

What a laugh.

The strange and brief song depicts an old performer in a mental institution or an old folks home, and one wonders what “Preston platform” one of the well known places around London, is. The song may be a crucial clue to the connection between the old man and the poet. “you sadly wonder if the nurse treats your old man the way she should.” He is probably visiting his father, who is in an old folk’s home or asylum lusting after the nurses. Hence, She asks for his autograph. The origin of this song may be similar to the song “Nursey,” written when his father was dying and he journeyed north from Ireland to visit him for the last time. The experience may have led him to see himself as the old rock star Aqualung. A second possibility, that would tie the album together as a whole, is that Aqualung is his father, who was dying on the street when Ian went and got him and put him in a nursing home.

Mother Goose

The poem is autobiographical, switching the scene to the artist as a young schoolboy. He turns mother goose loose, which means he liberated poetry. The foreign student thinks Piccadilly Circus is really a circus with animals. He sees schoolgirls in some common grief, and the schoolgirls, college students, do not realize Ian is a student, probably because, as a bohemian-looking fellow he does not look like he belongs at the school.

The bearded lady is the school authority. Then a friend called the chicken-fancier came by to play, the one with the red beard and the weird sister who is a truck driver (the English “lorry”). After this, he enjoys golfing at the putting green, where nearby laborers are digging to earn their wage. His identity through all this remains secret, as he doesn’t think they know that he is “Long John Silver,” or Ian Anderson. The last impression is the seeing of one called “Johnny scarecrow,” apparently a policeman who makes his rounds in a black coat, the British “mac” that looks like it was stolen from a snowman. The song shows, then, the marvel of the poet wandering around campus with his secret identity, as the one who set the fairy tales free, or the new British poet.

Wondering Aloud

This profoundly beautiful little song is a snapshot of the blissful time of new love and new lovers, and might be included among the twenty or so best love songs of all time. The lovers, including the poet, have awakened together after becoming lovers the night previous:

Wondering aloud

how we feel today.

Last night sipped the sunset,

my hand in her hair.

As if out of nowhere, the song instantly breaks through to the meaning of love, which the poet explains as follows:

We are our own saviors

as we start both our hearts beating life

into each other.

The statement is clear especially if we recall the theological theme of side two of the album. If there is a new theological claim of the romantic poets, it is that love is to the heart of the soul as salvation is to the highest part, the mind or spirit, and may set him off on this path. He has seen that love is like salvation, and the two are as if revived in soul as they would be in body if their hearts literally beat life into one another. The lines are inspired, as they are written in the harmony of the analogy between love and the image of God that is man. At the same time, and in order to discover this, the insight is set in contrast to the conventional teaching of salvation.

The final set of verses is a beautiful picture of the sweet sensuality of new love, and the perception of the beauty of the one he loves, in light of the uncertainty of the future:

Wondering aloud

will the years treat us well?

As she floats in the kitchen,

I’m tasting the smell

of toast as the butter runs

then she comes, spilling crumbs on the bed

and I shake my head.

And its only the giving that makes you

What you are.

The final lines mean to speak of “what you are” in the sense of what we truly are, or the immortal soul, and so connect with what was said toward the middle of the poem about salvation. The beating life of one heart into another is another way of saying the same thing, as was also said in another way by Lennon, that “In the end, the love you take / is equal to the love you make.” Anderson’s line is clearer, simpler, and more beautiful. The same is an elementary truth among the teachings of Jesus, that whatever we do to our brother we do to him, and the measure you give is the measure you will receive. We are forgiven only when we forgive (Matthew 25:40; 7:14; 7:1-2). This is the basis of the golden rule: our harming or benefiting one another is in truth our harming and benefiting of our true selves, the selves that leave here after death if anything does. We would live best in the meantime in the same way. What we are is made up of the giving, written in the book of life in the promise that the immortal life lived in this world does not pass away. This is only the obverse of the strange truth about human life, that what we do to others is in truth done to us. This is revealed to the poet in the beautiful scenes of love.

“Up to Me” may describe the breakup of the very same love that allowed him to see the truth, demonstrating that love is mortal. The relation flies apart at a wimpy bar after they had gone out to a movie, and results in Ian cracking some other guy, “Cousin Jack” who apparently has had the girl, since it was one up to him, meaning both a matter of his own choice without this woman and a point scored, or a thing done correctly to one’s credit. Other things that are of his own choice now are whether he buys a silver cloud to ride, how he packs his gear or wears his trouser cuffs, in bell-bottoms. He then sees her again in the winter, when she was riding by on her bicycle and had a flat tire, and he sees her smoking and looking up at him, as though looking up to him, for help.

The last two verses are difficult to read in connection with the whole, but he switches from this scene in which the one he loved is looking up at him from her broken bicycle in the winter to a man telling lying tales in a bar: And if it pleases me, I’ll put one on you, man, when the copper fades away, or when he’s running low on drinking money. It is a tale because he really loved her, and his attitude of “it was up to me” is a way of balming the wound of love, by telling himself that he is pleased with his liberty. The seasons change, and the “day-glo pirate” i.e., himself as Long John Silver the Bohemian campus poet, sinks in the end. He laughed too fast because he loved her, and we now understand the meaning of the laughter that opens the song. He ends the song by returning himself to the balm of self delusion that he is most satisfied with his liberty, writing, “well if I laughed a bit too fast / It was up to me.” He has escaped love with his liberty intact.

Side Two

Three of the five songs on the second side are theological, describing the poet in his regard for the Church of England and conventional religion. Intermixed are two more songs that may be about Aqualung. Slipstream seems to describe a fellow who has not money to pay his bar tab, and Locomotive breath to describe the tragic destruction of a person’s human life, such as might lead someone to die a lonely man on the street, like Aqualung. These would be connected if the poet responding to religion were the same as Long John Silver, and the tragedy of Locomotive breath were the catastrophic destruction of the very same love described on side one, and Aqualung the projection of the poet to seeing himself in the future. This identity may be impossible for other reasons, leading to the conclusion that Locomotive Breath was written about his father. If Aqualung were also his father, who similarly lusts after the nurse, the two sides would fit together, as they do even if it is himself seen in the future, as the father shows him what might become of himself. The father imago binds all the songs on the Album, as our struggles with ancestral custom are related to our struggles with our fathers.

My God

My God demonstrates the use of the rock mode to carry a theme of rebellion against religious convention, a rare example of a “Christian” rock song that is “authentic” or actually works as a piece of music. The poet speaks in defense of the Christ against the people and religion as it appears in the world, and so speaks like a prophet:

People, what have you done?

Locked him in his golden cage.

Made him bend to your religion

him resurrected from the grave.

he is the god of nothing

if that’s all that you can see

You are the god of everything

He’s a inside you and me.

So lean upon him gently

And don’t call on him to save

You from your social graces

and the sins you wish to used to? waive.

This is something different from the turning of the Beatles, Townsend and others to the eastern gurus as teachers. The song is addressed to the people, asking us what we have we done. As usual the people have sought to have the divine serve them, rather than the other way around, as when we pray for our own good fortune. We have made the one resurrected from the grave bend to our religion, rather than the other way around, and our religion, with its beautiful ornaments, becomes a golden cage in which to keep our god trapped like a bird. He is the god of nothing, if the people can only see nothing. The line “You are the god of everything / He’s inside you and me” might be thought to be like the new age claim that we are all gods and goddesses, but the truth may be that this line identifies the poet as a Christian in truth. When the Pharisees were about to stone Jesus for the blasphemy of saying that he is the son of God, he asks them: “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said , you are gods?’ If he called them gods to whom the word of god came…” (John 10: 34-35). Our divinity is that he is inside us, something as he said “the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” (John 10:38). What it is that Jesus said he was is very difficult, but, as Jefferson intimates, he does not require us to know the mystery of the trinity, though it may be important not to think of it in certain ways that are wrong. The Bohemian appearance of the rock troubadour hides the reality of the divine life of the soul, and it is on this life and those who live it that the strength of political organizations depends. Once again we see an instance of the despised liberty of nature appearing criminal to the world, yet being in truth the source of what sustains the church or civilization.

We are asked, therefore, to “lean upon him gently,” rather than “call on him to save” us from social graces and attempt to use the forgiveness offered to “waive” sins. Repentance having a nature, is of course something different, a turning away from our sins, rather than the use on Sunday of a loophole for the past and next Saturday.

The song continues:

The bloody church of England

in chains of history

requests your earthly presence

at the vicarage for tea.

And the graven image you know who

with his plastic crucifix

confuses me as to who and where and why

as to how he gets his kicks.

Confessing to the endless sin

the endless whining sounds

You’ll be praying till next Thursday to

all the Gods that you can count.

We are reminded of the blood on the hands of the church of England, contrasted with the veneer of church social events. Conventional religion is accused of idolatry, and again the voice of the poet is like the prophets, or the ongoing Jewish criticism of the Temple. The plastic crucifix confuses the people, and it would seem that if religious institutions are good at any work, it should, in addition to charity and hospitals, the presentation to the people of the simplicity of faith, for example when the people go to marry, rather than doctrinal confusion. The question is raised as to how the “you know who” fellow gets his kicks,” a possible allusion to the problem of imposing celibacy on those not called to celibacy. If so, this question is connected to the confession of the sins of the people by the priest, and whether the priests are not often corrupted by hearing confessions.

“Till next Thursday” reminds one of the objection of Paul to the Galatians (4:10), “You observe days, and months, and seasons and years!…I am afraid I have labored over you in vain.” In the accusation of idolatry, one would not expect “Gods” to be capitalized. That it is capitalized, if it is intentional, it may mean something like this: that we have made of the one God something that is more like one of the many gods, and even put him over each of our concerns. Had it been a small case g, one would think of the veneration of saints, often questioned by Protestants of Catholics, as idolatrous.

“Hymn 43” continues the prophetic theme, looking across the Atlantic, from Britain to America:

Oh Father high in heaven smile down upon your son

who’s busy with his money games his women and his gun.

Oh, Jesus save me

And the unsung Western hero, he killed an Indian or three

and then he made his name in Hollywood to set the white man free.

If Jesus saves well he’d better save himself

from the gory glory seekers who use his name in death

(Oh, Jesus save me)


I saw him in the city and on the mountains of the moon

his cross was rather bloody, and he could hardly roll his stone.

The prophetic poet calls God to look upon his son, man. He calls man to consider himself in the view of the Most High. Man is about his usual thing, concerned with money schemes, women and guns. “Oh, Jesus save me,” sung but not written on the sleeve, means both to criticize the call of the people to Jesus for salvation while they are doing such things and at the same time to jokingly ask Jesus to save him, the poet, from witnessing the absurdity of man in their religiosity. Attention is directed to the wars of the whites and Indians in America, in the spread of “Christian” civilization.

So, when the poet saw him, Jesus, in the city and on the mountains of the moon, his cross was bloody, since whatever we do to each of our brothers, we do to him. He barely had the strength to “roll away the stone,” which is what he did, apparently, at the Resurrection.

Well the lush separation enfolds you

And the products of wealth

push you along the bow wave

Of their spiritless undying selves.

And you press on God’s waiter your last dime

As he hands you the bill.

And you spin in the slipstream

Tideless, unreasoning

paddle right out of the mess.

This is a difficult song to read and so we will begin from the end. A Slipstream is a whirlpool. The image is one of a fellow in a rowboat paddling clear of a whirlpool. Does he give an usher a tithe and receive a church bulletin? He won’t have money to pay his bill, if it is a restaurant. Money connects the two stanza. The first image is of the rowboat, riding on the bow wave of the larger ship of the spiritless immortals. The wave is the products of wealth. And is the lush separation then that of the surface of the water that separates as the worldly church moves through time and the world?

“Locomotive Breath” is the key. It describes a very common personal tragedy, and yet one wonders if it does not also describe the irreversible course of western civilization, heading toward catastrophe with no way to slow down.

In the shuffling madness

of a locomotive breath

runs the all-time loser headlong to his death.

He feels the piston scraping

steam breaking on his brow

old Charlie stole the handle and

the train won’t stop going

no way to slow down

He sees his children jump off

at stations one by one.

His woman and his best friend

in bed and having fun.

Crawling down the corridor

on his hands and knees

old Charlie stole the handle

and the train it won’t stop going

no way to slow down.

The scene is of a man racing through life like a locomotive, puffing about like a train with great momentum. It may be that his life flashes before his eyes after he reached for the breaks and they were not there. His children leave him one by one, and then he finds his wife in bed with his friend, thus losing both of these at once, like Jim Croce in “Operator.” His life falls apart as if with the same unalterable momentum with which he raced through life. This often happens in lives driven like trains, since the home life is neglected, or not set right from the start. It is as though the handle on the break of the train had been stolen, and there is no way to slow the unavoidable arrival of life’s train wreck.

The final verse is very strange and difficult:

He hears the silence howling

catches angels as they fall.

And the all time winner

has got him by the balls

he picks up Gideon’s Bible

open at page one

It said God he stole the handle and

the train it won’t stop going

no way to slow down.

This is the picture of his train wreck, and again it may be of the sort that led Aqualung and many others to lives on the street because they have lost their families. It is as though he were alone and going mad, since he “hears the silence howling.” His own mind or his regrets make loud his silence. In this silence, he “catches angels as they fall.” Does this mean that he takes the part of fallen angels, or gives way to the bad spirits that would consume ones age in the misery of vengeful thoughts? Something like that seems to be in there. For when he picks up Gideon’s Bible, the one the group called Gideons leaves in hotels and Salvation Armies, he understands the beginning to mean that God, apparently by making man sinful, or susceptible to the fall, has stolen the break. As Paul indicates, this is like the clay saying to the potter “why have you made me thus?” (Romans 9:20-21). Still one wonders that the potter should say to the clay “Why are you thus made?” In the end, though, there is more to man than the created part, the part that is as if molded by the potter (John 1:13; 3:6). Our lives are not necessarily, just usually, like trains headed for disaster when someone has stolen the handle to the brakes. Yet this is the train wreck that lands him in the hospital in Cheap Day Return, and that the poet may foresee leading him to his own death on the street as Aqualung.

The final song on the Album is really in a way the first song, showing what has been going on all along from the beginning:

When I was young, and they packed me off to school,

and taught me how not to play the game.

I didn’t mind if they groomed me for success

or if they said that I was just a fool.

So I left there in the morning

with their God tucked under my arm

Their half-assed smiles and the book of rules.

So I asked this God a question

And by way of firm reply

he said I’m not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.

While the poet was playing Long John Silver among the schoolgirls and enjoying the secret of his true identity among the craftsmen on campus, he was inwardly tormented by the artificiality of conventional religion at the aristocratic English school. When he left, scripture and rules in hand, he asked God a question directly, and received the firm reply that he is not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday. This comes to him surely, in what way he does not say, as the word of the Lord.

So to my old headmaster (and to anyone who cares):

before I’m through, I’d like to say my prayers.

I don’t believe you: you had the whole damn thing all wrong

he’s not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays.

Well you can excommunicate me on my way to Sunday school

and have all the bishops harmonize these lines

how do you dare to tell me that I’m my father’s son

when that was just an accident of birth.

I’d rather look around me, compose a better song

‘cause that’s the honest measure of my worth.

In your pomp and all your glory you’re a poorer man than me,

as you lick the boots of death borne out of fear.

He foresees being excommunicated for his heretical teaching that religion is real all week long, and suggests that the bishops harmonize his lines, based on the new revelation. The new revelation is that we are not the sons of our earthly fathers. Like what tradition one happens to be born in, these are accidents of birth. The truth, of the divine origin of our true selves, is hidden by the lie that we are sons of a certain family or the creatures of any created religious custom. In place of the lie of custom and its fundamental principle, he will compose his own, better song, and this, rather than how he sings their song, is the honest measure of his worth. They are more impoverished than he, a poor man not groomed by the institution for success. He concludes his understanding of the religion that it is at root fear inspired, and leads to death, in the spiritual sense.