Presence

All transcriptions taken from Jeff Lybarger's Song of the Day Webpage!

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LZ IV

 

"Achilles Last Stand"

Pull out your copy of “Presence,” you won’t have to go far, because this is the first track, clocking in at an astonishing 10:25, the masterpiece titled “Achilles Last Stand.”

Probably the only reason that “Presence” even exists is because of a tragedy that befell Robert and his family on 4 August 1975. The car Plant was driving went off the road and Robert sustained a serious foot injury that left doubt as to whether or not he would ever walk again. This forced a cancellation of an American tour and the result was that Page and Plant began writing for a new record.

“Achilles…” was initially titled ‘The Wheelchair Song’ as a nod to Plant’s condition, but the song itself tells of a much happier and peaceful time. Following their 1975 Earl’s Court dates, Jimmy and Robert began traveling and this song is about those travels to Morocco. There’s a story about Plant being so excited hearing a play-back of this in the studio that he jumped up out of his wheelchair and nearly reinjured his foot, saved only by a quick moving Jimmy Page.

The song begins rather eerily as Jimmy’s guitar slowly makes its presence felt… first just a whisper, then finally building up to a normal volume level. The guitar has a sinister quality to it and upon first hearing this, one has no idea what to expect.

At the :18 second mark, Bonzo enters and all bets are off. The song turns into a runaway freight train blazing down the tracks at a suicide pace. When Jimmy was introducing this piece to the band, John Paul told him there was no scale to go over the chord progression that Page had, but Jimmy told him he had one. This is Page at his absolute finest. Haunting melodies, massive guitar overdubs, intertwining chords and single note runs; it was the Guitar Army in full force. And then… there was Robert. Once again he delivers lyrics that are so eloquent and mystifying and yet, he gives us one of his best performances ever, proving that an injured foot, the lingering doubt as to if he would ever walk again and the wheelchair, to which he was bound, would not hold him down.

It was an April morning
When they told us we should go
And as I turned to you
You smiled at me
How could we say no?

Whoa the fun to have
To live the dreams we always had
Whoa the songs to sing
When we at last return again…

During the brief instrumental section that follows, it is Bonham’s drums that take center stage. His playing is ferocious and on the very edge of the proverbial cliff, yet somehow he is also the glue that holds this whole thing together. Anyone who ever doubts the drumming ability of John Bonham, and yes, there are one or two out there who will argue with you on this point, just play this song for them. Not only does he answer any and all questions with his skill in this piece, he leaves people with their jaw firmly planted on the ground. He is, quite simply, that freaking great.

We swept New York a glancing kiss
To those who claim they know
Below the streets that steam and hiss
The Devil’s in his hole…

Whoa to sail away
To sandy lands and other days
Oh to touch the dream
That hides inside and never seen
Yeah

And here is where the song changes for the first time as Page plays some killer riffs, the overdubbed guitars sounding like a full on assault of the senses before we are back to the main section. During this brief change, John Paul and Bonham are in perfect harmony with Jimmy, forming a tight, cohesive unit that seems capable of anything their minds can conjure up. Into the sun and South and North At last the birds had flown As shackles of commitment fell In pieces on the ground Whoa to ride the wind To tread the air above the din Oh to laugh aloud With dancing eyes we court the crowd Yeah Once again, Jimmy changes things up a little bit here, adding some lead lines, keeping you, the listener, constantly guessing and constantly surprised.

To seek the man who’s pointing hand
The giant step unfolds
To guide us from the curving path
That turns our feet to stone

An’ if one bell should ring
In celebration for a King
So fast the heart should beat
As proud’s the head with heavy feet
Yeah

Jimmy gives us a heavy riff for a few bars before breaking into another lead break that once again takes the song off into another direction. Bonham behind him with a start/stop section on the kit and then Jimmy just plays an absolutely heavenly solo. What is even more remarkable about all of this is that Page did all of the overdubs for the entire album in one long session. That he could perform under that type of pressure and play this beautifully really says a lot about what he was capable of when his back was against a wall.

Days flew by and you and I
Bathed in eternal summer’s glow
As far away and distant
Our mutual child did grow-oh-whoa

Whoa the sweet refrain
That soothes the soul
And calms the pain
Oh Albion remain
Sleeping now to rise again…

Wandering and wandering
One place to rest the search
The mighty arms of Atlas
Hold the Heavens from the earth
Well the mighty arms of Atlas
Hold the Heavens from the earth
From the earth…

{I’m gonna reign – gonna reign – gonna reign – gonna reign}

A final push to the end and we get a shot-gun blast from Bonham as he attacks the drums with all his might. Plant goes into his: “Ah-ah-ah Ah-ah-ah Ah-ah-ah Ah-ah-ah” section as the band continues the assault behind him. More Page guitars; layering, building, adding… constantly changing and bringing new additions to the piece.

Finally we reach then finish line as Jimmy ends the piece in the same way that he begins it with just his guitar playing through the fade out.

And that is what can best be described as an absolute tour de-force. It’s mind-boggling to me that Page even concocted this idea and the fact that Plant, Jones and Bonham were able to take his vision and not only keep up with it, but add so much to it, just reflects how perfectly in-sync they were as a group.

This is not the type of song you hear very often. It’s long, it’s complex, it’s mystical, it’s haunting, it has some extremely cool lyrics with great metaphors and hidden meanings and it truly stands out as one of the best of Led Zeppelin’s catalog. During its time, the only other song that I can think of that comes remotely close to this is “Xanadu” by Rush.

The influence of “Achilles…” was felt shortly after it was released when, in 1977, the band Heart released their “Little Queen” album which had the heavily “Achilles” inspired “Barracuda” on it.

When Zeppelin began preparing “Achilles” for the live show, Page felt he would probably need the Gibson double-neck, but realized that his Gibson Les Paul could handle all of the necessary parts just fine. He even played his Telecaster on it at least once, including the first Knebworth show in 1979.

After the release of “Presence,” “Achilles” was a constant in the set list every night save for two in 1980. On 27 June 1980, in Nuremburg, the song wasn’t played because Bonzo fell ill and the show was stopped after just three songs. The entire 1980 tour, “Achilles” was the tenth song in the set, but for some mysterious reason, on 7 July, they did not play it at all. This would be, sadly, their final performance ever as Bonzo would pass away just a few short months later.

In 1995, when Page/Plant toured the States, they played this in Pensacola, Florida and the first of two shows in Atlanta, Georgia before deciding to drop it entirely. With no offense intended to Michael Lee, I rather suspect the reason the song was dropped by Page/Plant was because nobody could replicate what John Bonham brought to this song.

I will say this for Led Zeppelin; they sure knew how to kick off an album. If you think about it, every single album had amazing opening numbers. They grabbed you by the throat right 7 from the start and didn’t let go until the last notes rang out on the final song. From “Good Times Bad Times” to “Whole Lotta Love” to “Immigrant Song” to “Black Dog” to “The Song Remains The Same” to “Custard Pie” to “Achilles Last Stand” to “In The Evening” to “We’re Gonna Groove,” they had some of the most amazing album openers in rock history.

I remember hearing this for the first time as a mere 12- year old and all I could wonder was how did Bonham last through this song? This is a massive workout for any drummer and yet, he is just so solid and so impressive throughout this piece that I would literally sit with my jaw on the ground listening to him play.

Is there any question as to why “Presence” is my favorite album? I mean, my God man… when you start off with this song and then go straight into “For Your Life,” it just doesn’t get any better.

If you consider yourself a fan of Zeppelin but you just haven’t given “Presence” a chance… do yourself a favor and listen to this album. Then listen to it again. And again. And then… listen to it again. Eventually, you will be hooked and you will see what I mean about this album. It is Led Zeppelin backed into a corner and they come out brawling like a lethal streetfighter. No backing down, no cowering in the corner. This is the full power of a band willing to take risks and always rewarding their fans with the best possible result.

"For Your Life"

The reason is the song comes to us from the Presence album and I would like to express some personal opinions about what I feel is the most underrated/underappreciated album in Zep's catalog. So hang with me. All future "Songs..." will be much shorter.

So here we go. I find it funny when I tell people this is my favourite Zep album, because they then ask if I need a ride back to the mental ward that I must be living at. It was the worst selling album for them, the first to hit the $3.99 cut-out bin, the only album that doesn't have at least one song regularly played on the radio, and certainly the darkest of all their recorded output. So what does all this mean? It doesn't mean squat!! This album is special, it's what I call honest music. Up to this point in their career it was easy to be in Zeppelin, and easy to like them. They put an album out, they got known, another one, they got famous, a third one, they showed a wider range of taste, and by the Untitled album they became gods.

This stature was never more evident than on Physical Grafitti, they did what they wanted and they did it when they wanted. The vibes were real and they were positive. But in 1975 all that began to change. Their mortality began to show. Peter Grant was going through marital struggles, Bonham's drinking started to get him in trouble, John Paul contemplated quitting and it all came to a head when Robert destroyed a car he was driving which had his family inside as well. The rumours of Satanic pacts grew louder, their karma was said to be catching up to them and the word dinosaur began to be used when critics talked of the band. Not only that, disco was the rage in the U.S. and punk was on the way, and they all painted a huge bullseye on the mighty Zep.

I once engaged in a conversation with a young lady who only knew Zep by the "hits", and when she asked if my favourite album was II or IV it shocked her when I said 'no, actually it's Presence'. She asked if I could describe the album for her as she had never heard of it. I thought for a moment and then I said, "Presence is what Zeppelin sounded like.... when they were pissed off." Think about that, so much doubt and negative energy surrounded them at this point it would have been easy to run and hide. But they did just the opposite and the proof is on tape, for anyone willing to listen.

When things aren't going right, that's when you can tell the character of a person, how they respond to the situation. With "Presence" Zeppelin's character was proven to be well in tact. Yes, the album is called "Presence", but just as easily could have been titled: Led Zeppelin- Don't F**k with Us. Jimmy's riffs are monsters and Bonzo's drumming is ferocious. John Paul is the proverbial rock and Robert sings great with his most personal lyrics. And all this brings us to the Song of the day.

Track two, clocking in at 6:20, "For Your Life". The song kicks in with a start/stop stomp of a riff. Jimmy in full force with Bonzo keeping things solid. Robert enters the fray with two words, softly spoken, "Well well". Can't you just hear it? Sounding as they never quite had before, Page sounding PISSED and Robert's bitter lyrics, this is a major tour-de-force.

Page has long been known for playing Les Pauls and Telecasters, but on this track he introduces a new weapon in the guitar army: The Fender Stratocaster. Lake Placid Blue with a rosewood neck and a whammy bar. And Jimmy jumps on that whammy bar. Not so much that you get sick of it, just enough to accent the song, and every time he creates beautiful tension and release. After a wonderful guitar solo, when Robert comes in with the "Don't know what to do ooh ooh".. part, Pagey goes nuts on the bar yanking it back and forth violently, but it's very quick and then it's gone. A kid with a new toy indeed.

Bonham is simply amazing on this track. At times playing little shuffles imitating Jimmy's riffs, at other times laying back and holding things perfectly together. Jonesy is right on, and very supportive throughout, just what you would expect. And Robert gives us some very personal and unsettling lyrics. He seems to be questioning everything, the fame, the groupies, the SCENE. Most people feel Robert's voice is what separates him from other "Rock" singers, and it helps, but his lyrics are what make him so special. My favourite line in the song is when he says: "Ya heard me crying for mercy, in the city of the damned. Ah oh babe, DAMN." The way he says damn, it's too cool.

And what about that little growl he makes anout 2/3 of the way through. I know the women fans have to love this part. Is that the Leo in him coming out or what? This song sadly was never performed live by Zeppelin, and that's a pity. I know "Since I've been..." is a crowd favourite and they did some devastating versions on the ' 77 tour, but if I could have had my way they would have played this in it's place. It was new and fresh and live it would have been a monster.

"Royal Orleans"

Today's song is such a fun one and it ties in with "Hot Dog" in the sense of humour area. Those of you who have been with DG a while probably know that "Presence" is my personal favourite Led-Zeppelin album, and that's where the 61st installment of this series takes place. So polish up that Black Object and join me in the Quarter won't you? Track three, clocking in at a scant (for Zeppelin) 2:58, "Royal Orleans."

There is a great story behind this song, and I'll get to it in a bit, but first let's appreciate the groove on this track. Opening with a biting Page riff, Bonham attacking the skins and a very heavy bass line from Jonsey, the mood is set for a somewhat off the wall look at life in New Orleans. That quick start/stop riff is all too brief as it leads us to the first verse.

"One town love,
take care how you use it...
Try to make it last all night...
And if you take your pick,
be careful how you choose it...
Sometimes it's hard to feel it bite...
Feel it bite!"


Robert seems to be describing the night life in the French Quarter in this verse. References to "One town love" and "be careful how you choose it" are reflective of how some people can be swallowed up in the fast paced craziness that is so associated with this town. But, as is typical of Percy, there lies more beneath the surface. In the ensuing verse...

"A man that I know,
went down to Louisiana...
Had himself a bad, bad fight...
And when the sun peeks through,
John Cameron he sees Sandy*...
Kissed the whiskers left and right...
Whiskers!"


Now, the line with "John Cameron he sees Sandy" is terribly difficult to figure out exactly. The way it appears here is the best I could do, and after extensive research it appears to me to be what is said. But here is also where the humour begins. The "story" of this song is that the band were at the Royal Orleans hotel on one of their tours, 1975 I believe, and our dear Mr. John Paul Jones found himself in the company of a, umm, young female admirer. Jonsey and the "female" found their way back to the hotel where they collapsed on the bed, apparently both too drunk to do much of anything. The story goes that the next morning a couple of Zeppelin roadies found their way into Jonsey's room and had quite the shock awaiting them. The young "female" admirer of Jonsey's was still crashed out, but through the night "her" dress had made it's way up to "her" waist, revealing everything below "her" waist for the world to see. Only thing is, "she" turns out to be a guy. In drag!

Poor Jonsey, imagine trying to live that one down. Of course he blamed it on being too intoxicated to know any better, but one can only imagine the flak he caught from his fellow band members. Particularly Bonzo! The "John Cameron" is actually an old studio rival of Jonsey's. So in the end he gets the last laugh anyway!

"New Orleans queens,
Sure know how to schoomze it...
Maybe for some that seems alright...
But when I step out,
I'm struck down with my sugar,
She done talk like Barry White..."


Another hysterical lyric, Robert referring to the queens talking like Barry White, a soul singer with a VERY LOW voice. This is what makes music so fun. The humour, the ability to relate a story in such a manner but without really giving anything away. And don't you just love the way Robert keeps saying "Whiskers!"

The music isn't sacrificed just for the sake of the humour though. Jimmy plays a very cool riff and from the second verse on he lays down some very funky stuff. His solo is somewhat Hendrixy, that kind of phased out sound, short and precise, to the point. Pay close attention to John Henry Bonham on this one as well. What a clinic he puts on. His ability to accentuate Jimmy's riffs was such a vital part of the Zeppelin sound. The fills he throws in after the second verse, when the song breaks back into that opening start/stop riff, are just such a pleasure to listen to. He grabs this riff by the throat and does not let go. And the man the song is about, John Paul Jones, has a field day with the riff. The bass is up in the mix, more so here than some numbers, and it has plenty of bite! Listen to Jonsey's bass against Jimmy's funky little riffs. His playing is so supportive, never interfering or stepping on toes, just heavy, rock solid bass. The way it should be.

"Royal Orleans" is a fun, funky song with lots to be admired musically. The single most impressive thing to me is that Zeppelin could toss a song off like this like it was no problem. And for them it wasn't. The riff fest that is "Presence" takes us on many journeys, some sad, some bitter, and this one, with a touch of the giggles. "Feel It Bite" would have been an apt title for this record. "Presence" does have lots of bite, and "Royal Orleans", though not as well known as "Achilles Last Stand" or "Nobody's Fault But Mine", packs as much punch into 2:58 as any song could hope to do. How unfortunate it is that Zeppelin never did perform this one live.

It could have been a killer. Of course they may have avoided it to keep from falling off the stage laughing.

"Nobody's Fault But Mine"

Today I am going to get a little controversial, the song I've chosen has too many possible meanings not to. Keep in mind here I will be reflecting on *stories* and *rumours* as they relate to the song. Also please keep in mind the lyrics are extremely hard to decipher in certain sections, I am not printing them as the exact words, but after two hours of listening, the closest I could come. What follows is not entirely my opinion, just raising speculation. I shall offer my opinion on the following subject at a later point in time, with a future song of the day. So, carrying on now, to my personal favourite album, Presence, track four, clocking in at 6:27, "Nobody's Fault But Mine".

Much has been written, whispered, admitted, denied, and pondered over this song. Most of you, I'm sure, have heard the rumours. The story that dogged Led Zeppelin from the very beginning. The story that three of the four members had sold their collective souls to Satan for enormous wealth, fame, popularity, and everything that goes with being a *ROCK STAR*. This story of musicians selling their souls to the devil for widespread fame and fortune dates back to the violinist extraordinaire, Nicolo` Paganini, who held such an unbelievable command over his violin that surely he couldn't have achieved that all on his own. Through out history Satan has been tied to violin's and people who play them. In Goethe's "Faust", he appears with violin and bow as Mephistopheles. Remember the Charlie Daniels song, "The Devil Went Down To Georgia"? The fiddle player wins a violin if he *cuts heads*, or duals with Satan in a contest of skill and defeats him, if he loses, it's his soul that is lost. Enter one Jimmy Page, the man who plays his guitar... with a violin bow.

To those who believed in the rumours, "Nobody's Fault But Mine" offered full admittance, by the band themselves no less. This was Zeppelin stripped naked and crying on the floor, begging for mercy. Was that a cry for mercy, from the city of the damned? To those who wondered before, they were positive of the answer now. This was Zeppelin's musical exorcism, admitting the errors of their way, and seeking redemption. Would they find it? Would mercy find it's way to their doorstep? After an eerie, phased out guitar intro, where Robert scat sings along, the band launch into a raucous jam, and then Robert delivers these chilling words:

"No, nobody's fault but mine,
well nobody's fault but mine...yeah...
try to save my soul to light,
Oh, it's nobody's fault but mine...

Devil he taught me to roll
The devil he taught me to roll, roll, roll, roll...
How to roll that line to light,
No-body's fault but mine..."


Pretty witchy stuff, wouldn't you agree? Certainly appears Robert is admitting to SOMETHING. The fact that he had just narrowly avoided death in a car wreck was what supposedly brought him to this place. He was no longer a young single man, he was married, had a family, and Satan had reached out and placed his icy finger where Robert would feel it the most: His home. So Robert changes his mind, heeds his own words, and feels there is still time to change the road he's on.

After this verse the song reverts back to the intro, then as it blasts back into the main riff Robert offers up a harmonica solo that burns with intensity. He hadn't played that forceful, with that much emotion and energy in years. Further proof that he was terrified for himself and his family, and was using every tool he possessed to expel these demons.

"Somebody show me the dong
somebody show me the ding dong ding dong...
how to get that line to light,
Oh, it's nobody's fault but mine...

Got a monkey on my back,
the mon, mon, mon, monkey on my back, back, back, back...
Gotta change my ways tonight,
Nobody's fault but mine..."


Enter Jimmy with a screaming guitar solo, bending notes, and spewing licks to and fro, and then it's back to the intro section once again. Then the big build up for the grand finale.

"How to get that line to light,
Na na na na na na na no-body's fault".


One can't say enough about the efforts of John Bonham and John Paul Jones on this song. They grab a hold of Jimmy's riff, and rock the daylights out of it. This is heavy, without being heavy metal. That start/stop riffing, a huge part of the Page style, has never been so bone-chillingly effective as it is here. It forces you to THINK about the lyrics. Don't know if they intended that or not, but it is effective.

"Nobody's Fault But Mine" was performed live beginning with the 1977 tour, and played right up till the end, including Copenhagen in 1979, Knebworth 1979, and the *Over Europe Tour* in 1980. Robert revised it as well on his solo tours in 1988 and 1990. Jimmy and Robert also revised it, and rewrote it for the *Unleded* MTV show, and included the new acoustic version on their tour, usually flip-flopping between that and the new "When The Levee Breaks". The lyrics in the new acoustic version are closer to the original written by blues gospel singer/guitarist, Blind Willie Johnson.

Which brings up another point, the original version of this was indeed written by Blind Willie Johnson, a GOSPEL singer. Was it ironic Robert chose these words to cast his exorcism? Makes ya wonder!?!

"Nobody's Fault..." is one of my favourite songs ever, and one of my top three Zeppelin songs. It rocks, it has incredible musicianship, thoughtful, and thought-provoking lyrics, and an incredible energy to it. A real *presence*, you might say.

"Candy Store Rock"

Anyway, today we will revisit the "Presence" album, track 5, clocking in at 4:10, "Candy Store Rock".

Now this is one of those songs that non Zepheads like ourselves just don't get. They hear this and they look at us like we must be joking. Ah, but therein lies the beauty. See, with Zeppelin you don't have a few great songs and a bunch of filler, no way, with Zep we get great hidden moments like this.

A truly "left of heaven" riff kicks this baby off, and by the time Jimmy is into full riffness, Bonham and Jonesy are all over this like only they could do. Once again John Bonham is superb, and John Paul is playing funky, precise licks that completely lift us out of our chair. A somewhat ' 50's flavour, but with a twist. (Is that a lemon twist?)

Robert is showing that early influence, from Elvis to Eddie Cochran, and shows how well he could do this type of music. (Re: Honeydrippers) The lyrics are fun, funny, tongue-in-cheek and yet he pulls it off very nicely.

"Well, oh baby baby,
don't you want a man like me?
Oh baby baby,
I'm just as sweet as anybody can be
Oh baby baby,
I want to look into your eyes I do
Oh baby baby
it's more than anybody ask of you"


"Candy Store Rock" is one of my favourite songs, of course it also happens to be on my favourite album. That Zep never performed this live is a downer. There has been some talk on the list lately that they should have cut the solos down and introduced more songs in their concerts. I couldn't agree more, but when you consider the times, the ' 70's was a solo happy era. Perhaps Page/Plant will reinvestigate some of these choice songs.

This is one of the more upbeat moments on "Presence", and Robert has said it is one of his personal favourites on the album. One could argue that this set the table for some of his later solo work: ( Shaken n Stirred). It also shows Jimmy fully honouring his own rockabilly idols, most notably Scotty Moore, guitarist for Elvis. A fun moment in the Zeppelin catalog. Check it out and enjoy.

"Hots On For Nowhere"

Today we go back to that album with the vintage photos and the strange, black object. Our destination is the aptly titled Presence and track six, clocking in at 4:43, “Hots On For Nowhere.”

This track certainly begins life as a typical Jimmy Page start/stop riff. But then we are thrown some serious curves throughout. Down the center of your speakers you will hear Page/Jones/Bonham grinding out the riff, filled with some very awesome John Bonham fills on the kit. It’s the right speaker though that comes from out in left field, because there is where you hear one of Jimmy’s many overdubbed guitars, playing in a loose, somewhat funky manner, drawing you in and shaking your senses.

The lyrics by Robert on this track are nothing short of brilliant. Against a backdrop of quirky, off the wall riffing, Plant delivers a tour-de-force lyrical showcase. It has been documented that this track is Robert lashing out at Zeppelin Manager Peter Grant as well as Jimmy himself. Certainly, in typical Plant fashion, the meaning behind the lyrics is very open for debate. What isn’t debatable is the sheer brilliance that lies within.

“I was burned in the heat of the moment
No! It coulda been the heat of the day
When I learned how my time had been wasted
A tear fell as I turned away

Now I’ve got friends who will give me their shoulder
If I should happen to fall
With time and his bride growing older
I’ve got friends who will give me fuck-all”


Absolutely stunning. The fourth line in verse one may be simple, but it is also quite powerful. “A tear fell as I turned away” What he sings here can be appreciated by everybody. EVERYBODY can relate to that. While the circumstances are most likely different than Robert’s, it is simply a universal line of truth.

The third line in verse two is, and keep in mind I am no Shakespeare expert, poetry at its finest! “With time and his bride growing older…” That lyric is pure beauty. The ironic twist here is that he follows that beautiful line with a direct slam, supposedly directed right at Pagey and Grant. It is only speculation as to what exactly has Robert so ticked off here, but my feeling is that it is because of what he perceived was his band not taking their responsibility as rock’s premiere group as seriously as he would have liked.

Think about this; Robert and Jonsey were the two mellower members in the band. When on the road they tended to not partake as willingly in the party as Page and Bonham. Robert has stated in interviews that the first couple tours he was a wide eyed British boy suddenly being fawned over by very cute and willing young American females. But as any singer can attest to, too much of the night life can destroy a voice.

Robert was married with two children during the time Presence was being written and recorded, plus he had just survived a near death experience. As I can verify, when you feel the kiss of death on your neck, it certainly changes your focus. You begin to analyze things from a different perspective. Led Zeppelin were Rock Gods in 1975. They could do nothing wrong. Everywhere they went they where adored and honoured. There has to be a sense of immortality when placed on such a ridiculously high pedestal over an extended period of time. But Robert found out very quickly just how mortal he was.

Think about this also; In 1975/76 Jimmy was getting pretty heavily involved with Cocaine and Heroin. He couldn’t have weighed more than 130 pounds if that and I believe some of the lyrics in “Hots On For Nowhere” reflect Plant’s concern with this increasing problem.

“Corner of Bleeker and nowhere
In the land of not-quite-day
A shiver runs down my backbone
Face in the mirror turns gray

So I looked ‘round to hitch up the reindeer
Searching hard trying to brighten the day
I turned ‘round to look for the snowman
To my surprise he’d melted away”


The only Bleeker Street that I am aware of resides in Manhattan, New York. Greenwich Village to be precise. And I believe it’s safe to say that New York is known for its late night party scene. The line “In the land of not-quite-day” seems to be a direct reference to that as well as the line “face in the mirror turns gray.”

In the next verse I believe it fair to say that Robert isn’t singing about Santa Claus. So what does he mean with the reference to reindeer? Well, this could mean several things and knowing Robert’s propensity for being obscure it is also fair to say we may well never know exactly. However, if you think of what the reindeer were to Santa Claus they were the driving force. They were the power that helped Santa arrive at all his stops. Who was the driving force in Led Zeppelin? John Bonham and John Paul Jones. The drums and the bass, the duo that created such an awesome platform for Jimmy and Robert to do their thing.

What then of the “snowman” reference? Well, here I think it is Robert speaking directly about Jimmy. What do most people who are heavily involved in Cocaine actually call their drug? Snow. Their dealer is known as the snowman. The line “to my surprise he’d melted away” screams a direct reference to Page and his frail condition at the time.

When you look at those two verses together you get the feeling that Robert is growing tired of The Scene and just wants to play music with his band. When he looks around for the reindeer (Bonham/Jones) which will brighten his day he finds that Pagey (snowman) has slipped away.

The following verse is another perfect example of that artistry and genius that is Robert Plant. Why has he never been given his due as a lyric writer? I can’t imagine Dylan being able to write this song any better. What makes Robert’s choice of words even more spectacular, to me any way, is the fact that the music in this song is not typical of deep, thought-provoking lyrical insight. Yet that is exactly what we are treated to.

“As the moon and the stars call the order
Inside my tides dance the ebb and sway
The sun in my soul’s sinking lower
While the hope in my hands turns to clay

I don’t ask that my fields full of clover
I don’t moan at opportunity’s door
And if you ask my advice- take it slower
Then your story’d be your finest reward”


Again we are treated to some of the most perfectly constructed lyrics that Robert has ever penned. I think that one of the other amazing things about this track is that with the pace of the song Robert has to sing fast. This is one of the reasons the words get somewhat lost in the shuffle, but it makes it all the more wondrous that he can produce this kind of verse within the frame work of this style of song.

Another very cool thing during this section is the fact that while the main theme of the song continues its start-stop pattern, Page’s overdubbed guitar just keeps chugging along throughout the entire verse. It is sometimes subtle, but this is another classic Page trademark: You keep slightly changing things up, adding momentum and building the song towards its dramatic climax.

From here we get a classic urging from Robert; “Now do it!” This leads to some nice backing vocals by Robert and then right into a wild, strange, Fender Stratocaster-led assault by Jimmy. His solo here is really unlike anything he’d put down on tape prior. With his new Strat toy Jimmy shows all of its capabilities in the matter of 30 seconds and then wraps it up with some extreme use of the Whammy Bar.

“Lost on the path to attainment
Searching the eyes of the wise
When I bled from the heart of the matter
I started bleeding without a disguise”

Again Robert delivers some wonderful lyrical food for thought. The first line dictates, to me, the predicament that he felt the group was in, and the second line “Searching the eyes of the wise” could very well mean he was looking to Peter Grant for help. Grant, after all, was the Manager who had been there and done that. It was also his job, so to speak, to make sure the band was not running straight into the darkness blindly. Try as he might though, he was finding no help from Mr. G.

I think the line “I started bleeding without a disguise” could signify that he was tired of keeping his concerns inside and he felt the timing right to air his differences.

“Now everything’s fine under heaven
Now and then you gotta take time to pause
‘Cause if you’re down on the ground
The only best hope around
You can land in a boat without oars”


The outro is another very cool section of this song, with Plant getting in plenty of “Hey babe, Hey babe…I lost my way!” Jimmy adds some very tasteful runs and we get another classic Page trademark: The false ending. The song stops…then kicks back in with Page’s guitars all over the place and you really have to check out Bonham during this section. The drums here, and on this entire track, are just magnificent.

One of the drags about Presence is that Zeppelin couldn’t tour immediately after its release. With Plant hobbled the band had to wait almost an entire year before they could hit the road. Had they been able to tour hot off the release we may have seen live renditions of “Candy Store Rock,” “Hots On For Nowhere,” “For Your Life” and “Tea For One.” Sadly, it wasn’t to happen.

It remains a mystery to me why Presence is so overlooked. There is an incredible energy and emotional out pouring on this album. It is vastly different from any other Zeppelin album and part of this may be the fact that it was recorded, overdubbed and mixed in an astonishing 18 days.

Whatever the reason for its lack of commercial appeal, don’t be scared away from this album. It is absolutely one of Zeppelin’s finer moments, catching the band in a very heavy, emotional time. There was a lot of doubt hanging over the bands head at the time they recorded this, because the doctors weren’t even sure if Plant would ever walk properly again.

"Tea For One"

Today, no fucking around. From the album "Presence", track seven, clocking in at 9:27, "Tea For One."

To sit and reflect on this song, what it means, what it says, and how it makes me feel, is almost like reliving a personal nightmare. This song is from the very depths of an emotional low point in the life of Robert Plant, and though my circumstances don't reflect his, that emotional quality speaks volumes to me on many levels. "Tea For One" is the saddest song Zeppelin ever did, in my opinion. The mood created by the entire band screams massive depression. You can feel it in the music, you can hear it in Robert's voice. That all four of them came together on this track and were able to express the same emotions was either very amazing, or very sad.

Robert penned these words after his automobile accident, which put his future at jeopardy, and took him from his wife and children. The pain his body felt was slight when compared to the pain in his heart. Nothing seemed to matter anymore, the fame, the money, everything that went with being in Led Zeppelin was second to his desire to be reunited with his family. That isolated feeling, the feeling that there is no one to turn to, no shoulder to lean on, no hand to hold, no one to look in the eyes and have them understand, that is the place that "Tea For One" takes us to.

How down can a person get? How far is that fall to the bottom of one's soul? How easy it is to reach that cold and lonely place, how difficult the climb back up. We have all been there, some of you may be there now, others may have just returned, but we can all relate to the line about a minute seeming like a lifetime. When hope has passed you by, and nothing you do or say can relieve that ache, when a minute seems like eternity.

After an intro that misleads you into thinking that this will be somewhat up-tempo, Jimmy guides the piece into a slow aching blooze. Bonham plays this song so perfectly. His drumming is the touch of a master. Playing off Jimmy and Jonsey, throwing perfectly executed shuffles in, quick fills, the subltety of his playing balancing things, keeping that time slow and tight, not standing out front per se, but in perfect sympathy with the theme and mood of the song. If drums can sound sad, this is where it happened first.

"How come twenty four hours,
baby sometimes seem to slip into days...
Oh twenty four hours,
baby sometimes seem to, slip into days...yes
When a minute seems like a lifetime,
Oh baby, when I feel this way..."


Beautiful writing, expressive as he never has been before. Robert writes a lot with his tongue stuck firmly in his cheek. Not here. He is open, honest, and allows the listener to take a look inside a broken heart. This sort of writing isn't something he chooses to do often enough, I feel. When he does though, the result is something very touching.

Jimmy delivers some of the most beautiful licks he's ever played. His guitar cries, it screams, he matches Robert in emotion with heartfelt playing that can best be described as awesome. And inspiring. He hits notes that sum up the very heart of this mood. Sad, lonely, insecure, isolated, those feelings all come out on his guitar. I still feel that "Tea For One" represents one of Jimmy's finest moments ever.

"Sitting, looking at the clock,
oh, time moves so slow...
I've been watching for the hands to move,
until I, just can't look no more...
How come, twenty four hours,
baby sometimes seem to, slip into days
A minute seems like a lifetime,
baby when I feel this way..."


The band then create musically what Robert is feeling emotionally. Taking the music up, an explosion, a release of energy and frustration. Whenever you have felt this way, eventually you reach a certain point where you are so tired of the situation you just have to let go. You have to release that bottled up frustration and pour it out, get the feelings out on the table, and allow your heart and mind to just step back and take a break. This one little section in the song is that point, performed to perfection.

Jimmy then plays that aftermath emotion. You have gotten some things out now, the problem still persists, and you feel a certain melancholy emotion towards the whole thing. So what do you do? Cry? Perhaps. Crying can be a good thing, and Jimmy lets his guitar cry for all it's worth. Do you see the beauty in this song yet? Most people who are Zeppelin fans consider "Since I've Been Loving You" to be the essential Zeppelin blues song. And yes it was quite the concert staple, but it doesn't have anything on "Tea For One" as far as raw emotion. This song isn't easy to listen to, it makes you sad, maybe too sad for some, but therein lies the beauty. To capture something everyone has felt at one time or another in a song, wow, pure magic.

"To sing a song for you,
I recall you used to say...
Well baby this one's for we two,
which in the end is, you anyway...
There was a time that I stood tall,
in the eyes of other men...
But by my own choice I left you woman,
and now I can't get, back again...

How come twenty four hours,
sometimes seem to, slip into days, yes yes,
Well well well well
A minute seems like a lifetime,
baby when I feel this way...
A minute seems like a lifetime,
oh baby when I feel this way...
I feel this way..."


Raw emotion. Tears wept for all to see. Pain felt. This song has so much within it's nine plus minutes. It doesn't offer any answers, only the fact that nobody is exempt from these emotions. Music is excellent therapy, "Tea For One" obviously was a therapeutic song for Robert, and maybe the entire band as well. That may also explain why they never performed this in a live setting. Perhaps they just didn't want to be reminded nightly of those feelings. On their "Unleded" tour Jimmy and Robert began slowly throwing in sections of this during "Since I've Been...", and after a while started to perform "Tea For One" in its entirety. Some twenty years removed from that initial emotion might have been one reason they chose to do revisit this.

Their versions were stunning to say the least, and give me hope of one day seeing them perform this live. Underestimated though it may be, "Tea For One" stands as a classic look into the very soul of Led Zeppelin. "