Guest Blogger: George Case is the author of Led Zeppelin FAQ , Jimmy Page , and Out of Our Heads. Below is an excerpt from his blog.
Four or Five Lads Who Shook the World
I have close relatives who listen attentively to One Direction, the popular boy band from the UK, and after observing the phenomenon I can confirm: One Direction are the new Beatles.
Before the protests pour in, I hasten to say I don’t believe 1D (I know the lingo) will have anything like the long-term success and influence of the Fab Four. Yet it’s precisely such a dismissal that links the two groups. Where One Direction and the Beatles resemble each other is in the contemporary mainstream responses to their music, which was, and is, pretty skeptical. One Direction will probably not end up like the Beatles, but they’ve started from the same position.
Today John, Paul, George and Ringo are routinely cited as only a little less significant to Western civilization than Mahatma Gandhi, Julius Caesar, and Moses, but throughout the 1960s, and certainly during the Beatlemania years, many outsiders found their songs forgettable and their mass appeal dismaying. “All I want to know is, why?” asked veteran British saxophonist Tubby Hayes of the Beatles’ popularity, after three of them had blithely dropped in at jazzer Ronnie Scott’s nightclub. The New York Herald-Tribune wrote them off as “75 percent publicity, 20 percent haircut, and 5 percent lilting lament.” “These bums are what all the fuss is about?” wondered boxer Sonny Liston after the foursome posed with his upcoming opponent, a young prospect named Cassisus Clay. Though film critic Andrew Sarris liked A Hard Day’s Night, he qualified, “[t]hey may not be worth a paragraph in six months.” In 1964’s Goldfinger, no less suave a figure than Sean Connery’s James Bond told his latest conquest, “My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Pérignon ’53 above a temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!” That same year, Paul Johnson described the Beatles as a “mass-produced mental opiate” in his infamous article “The Menace of Beatlism,” published in the New Statesman:
Nowadays, if you confess that you don’t know the difference between Dizzy Gillespie and Fats Waller (and what is more don’t care) you are liable to be accused of being a fascist…Both TV channels [!] now run weekly programmes in which popular records are played to teenagers and judged. While the music is performed, the cameras linger savagely over the faces of the audience…How pathetic and listless they seemed: young girls, hardly more than sixteen, dressed as adults and already lined up as fodder for exploitation…At sixteen, I and my friends heard our first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. I can remember the excitement even today. We would not have wasted thirty seconds of our precious time on The Beatles and their ilk…
Keep reading this article on George’s blog!
Led Zeppelin FAQ
In this exhaustive and insightful reference text, rock writer and cultural critic George Case details the key names, dates, figures, and features of one of the biggest and most mythologized rock-and-roll groups of all time: Led Zeppelin. Here, finally, are the answers to the puzzles that have haunted fans for over four decades – puzzles such as the meaning of Led Zep’s enigmatic album covers; the truth about leader Jimmy Page’s involvement with the occult; a breakdown of the sometimes murky roots of their greatest songs; firm data on their musical instruments, live performances, and studio productions; and sordid specifics of the band’s infamously debauched private lives.
But here, too, is a deeply reflective analysis of why Led Zeppelin’s music has endured as long as it has, and of how Led Zeppelin’s mystique has only grown in the years since their official disbanding. Placing the group in the context of their time and place, Case scrupulously compares and contrasts their achievements with those of their influences, rivals, and followers. Led Zeppelin FAQ is not only an indispensable listener’s companion to a classic rock act, but a considered history of rock and roll as a business, an art form, and a worldwide social phenomenon.