Articles by Lopy

Certain Songs #891: Led Zeppelin – “Whole Lotta Love”

Album: Led Zeppelin II
Year: 1969

Opening with one of the most pile-driving riffs anybody had ever heard, the hairy-chested huge-dicked “Whole Lotta Love” signaled that Led Zeppelin was going to get even more audacious on their second album in 1969.

It also signaled that Jimmy Page was more that just a guy who knew how to layer guitars; turns out he was also one helluva producer, as well.

In fact, I’m just going to call it: in terms of hard rock, he was the most innovative producer we’ve ever seen, especially in terms of creating massive spaces in the music. Just listen to the first verse of “Whole Lotta Love:” it’s just the guitar whipping back and forth way way low in the mix, John Paul Jones’ bass doubling the riff and Robert Plant all by himself rhyming “cooling,” “fooling” and “schooling.” As you do.

But then John Bonham’s drums come in, and the whole song just gets louder, like everybody knows that they’re going to have to step up their game now that Bonzo has joined the party.

And a party it is. A completely bonkers one, to boot. Because after a couple of almost perfunctory choruses marked by Page sliding around his guitar neck, “Whole Lotta Love” switches gears and suddenly devolves into a psychedelic orgasmic freakout where the only tether to reality is Bonham’s spirit guide hi-hat over in the right speaker. While everyone else is freaking out, that hi-hat is rolling its eyes, saying to the rest of the band: “sure, guys, you add your theremin, your creaking doors, moans and groans, whatever you want, but I’ll be right here keeping time until all of this foolishness is over.”

And that foolishness went on for a long time: nearly two full minutes of crazy-ass shit flying all over the place. But of course, it was all worth it, because even if you were rolling your eyes at Plant’s “loooooooooove” being panned from speaker to speaker, the whole universe changed the second the guitar solo came in and punched you in the face.

Announced by a vicious Bonham roll and practically dancing on his ever-present hi-hat, Jimmy Page’s “Whole Lotta Love” guitar solo came ripping out of the upper right-hand corner of the song scorching every single atom of atmosphere in its path. Within seconds, it woke the dead and commanded them forth so they too could groove on the pile-driving riff one last time before they shuffled back off this mortal coil.

Which probably happened when the song came to a full stop once again, allowing the dead to hear a reverse-echoed Plant declare — because they might have missed it, being dead and all — one last time:

Wayyyyyyyyyyyy
Downnnnnnnnnn
Innnnnnnnnnssiiiiide
Wooooooomannnnnn
Youuuuuuuuu
neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed
[WHAM! WHAM!]
Looooooooooooooooooooooooooooovvvvvvvvvvve!

Earth-shattering drum-roll. Pile-driving riff. Echoed Robert Plant screaming into the void (dirty!) as the whole thing fadeed into eternity.

This song was released as a single. And not just released: it was a fucking top ten smash hit all around the world. Which is kind of insane, given all of the hair-raising and dead-raising sorcery going on every single second. Sure, some of those 45s were edited and crap, and while pre-teen me must have heard it on the AM radio, I now can’t imagine any kind of edit of “Whole Lotta Love” that wouldn’t have sounded totally and completely bonkers.

But it’s that completely original and totally bonkers quality that makes “Whole Lotta Love” simultaneously barely a song and one of the greatest things ever recorded.

“Whole Lotta Love”

“Whole Lotta Love” from The Song Remains The Same

“Whole Lotta Love” performed live

Every Certain Song Ever
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Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

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Certain Songs #890: Led Zeppelin – “Communication Breakdown”

Album: Led Zeppelin
Year: 1969

Rocketing out of the final notes of “Black Mountain Side” like a pissed off laser beam, “Communication Breakdown” was not just a 2:30 shot of finely amplified adrenalin but also an anomaly in Led Zeppelin history: it’s probably the only song where John Bonham couldn’t figure out what to do.

I didn’t even realize it until a couple of years ago, but on the verses, Bonham is playing against the energy of the song. Jimmy Page, Robert Plant & John Paul Jones are all hopping a supersonic rocket ship to the moon, and with every single beat, Bonham is trying to keep it anchored to Earth. It’s a very weird drum part.

And even weirder, it’s not so far off from what Bill Ward would end up doing a year later on it’s evil twin, “Paranoid.” And it’s not like either one of them couldn’t play fast ones, as Bonham killed on “Achilles Last Stand” an so did Ward on “Symptom of the Universe.

But of course, none of that mattered, because “Communication Breakdown” was another twisted attempt at a pop song, though it was never released as such, except as the b-side of “Good Times, Bad Times.” That said, it balanced the aggressive attack with completely catchy chorus, featuring an army of overdubbed Robert Plants singing over a modified Chuck Berry riff.

Communication breakdown, it’s always the same
I’m having a nervous breakdown, drive me insane!

And then of course, after the second chorus, Led Zeppelin quite literally caught lighting in a bottle as the whole song comes to a stop and a reverse-echoed Robert Plant comes swooping with a long “Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooohhhhh, SUCK!” and Jimmy Page uncorks a solo that sounds like a army of hornets wielding power drills aimed directly at your heart.

Watch out!!

As the solo skitters between speakers trying to find a place to roost, the better to drill you with, eventually the chorus comes back in, but not even that can stop Page’s guitar, not until the solo swirls right out of the speakers, narrowly missing you while making a hole in your wall while disappearing from view. Hope nobody was standing on the other side!

Meanwhile the rest of Led Zeppelin are just chanting “communication breakdown” as Robert Plant screams at the top of his register about wanting to be loved all night, and the whole thing is just utter glorious chaos that eventually fades out into oblivion.

It was the teenage love angst so wonderfully expressed in a song “Communication Breakdown” that’s made Led Zeppelin an album that’s resonated with successive generations of newly-hormoned teenagers.

And I know that “Communication Breakdown” wasn’t punk rock, but like the aforementioned “Paranoid” and Queen’s seemingly forgotten “Modern Times Rock ‘n’ Roll,” it also kinda was in the way that it crystallized pure energy over a speed-freak riff in much the same way The Stooges and the MC5 were doing.

“Communication Breakdown”

“Communication Breakdown” performed live

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Certain Songs #889: Led Zeppelin – “Dazed and Confused”

Album: Led Zeppelin
Year: 1969

The centerpiece of their debut album, “Dazed and Confused” was probably first track track where Led Zeppelin truly distinguished themselves as a completely unique band. Unlike the pop song, amplified folk song and blues cover that preceded it, “Dazed and Confused” really had no antecedent.

Which, I know, is ironic, as Jimmy Page had been performing it in the Yardbirds, and it was also a cover of a dark folk song by a guy name Jake Holmes. But gang, nobody knew any of that in the 1970s. Or at least us teenagers didn’t. You had reference points for “Good Times Bad Times,” “Babe I’m Going to Leave You” and “You Shook Me.” Not so for “Dazed and Confused.” What even was it?

It was this spooky, bass-led dirge with a scary-ass wailing guitar floating around Robert Plant as he sang awful things about the soul of a woman, which before you could process the misogyny in the lyrics, you were absolutely hammered by a truly slamming guitar and drums, and the the dirge became a march, and suddenly that march was taking us through the marshes that flanked Hell, or maybe Mordor. Probably Mordor.

And there you were, all alone now, it’s nighttime because it’s always nighttime here and you’re wandering around following a bass guitar and hi-hat, and all around you are these moans and groans and whooshes and swooshes and creaks and crashes and the noises and getting more and more intense and ever closer, and suddenly, the hi-hat is telling you run! Run run run, and now you’re running but not fast enough, run! Because the guitar is spinning through the sky, piling notes on top of notes it’s all around you it’s everywhere and now there more guitars practically covering the universe, and suddenly with a scream the guitars are being beaten away by the drums, which are now somehow overpowering all of those guitars, and suddenly you’re out of the marshes, but still dazed, still confused and then it’s over, and what the hell just happened?

And while the guitar solo was in and of itself, pretty fucking thrilling, my favorite part of “Dazed and Confused” — and one of my favorite moments in all of Zeppelin’s music — is just after the solo where Jimmy Page pulls up short and starts playing chords again trying to slow the momentum, Robert Plant screams in the background while John Bonham just drives through the center of everything like an unstoppable truck driver from Hell, or maybe Mordor. Probably Mordor.

And of course, the album version was just a fucking blueprint, as the live version of “Dazed and Confused” famously (or infamously) ran for nearly a half-hour, with fast parts, slow parts, scary parts, funny parts, and every damn thing in between, as Jimmy Page would whip out the very violin bow that Satan gave him and use it to coax otherworldly noises out of his guitar while Robert Plant occasionally tried to match those noises with his vocal cords.

It was epic, blazing, glorious excess on every level, especially in The Song Remains The Same, which depicts Jimmy Page climbing a mountain top to try and reach a wizard who turns out to be none other than . . . wait for it . . . Jimmy Page! So silly. So awesome.

Fan-Made video “Dazed and Confused”

“Dazed and Confused” from The Song Remains The Same

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Certain Songs #495: Geto Boys – “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”

geto boys mind
Album: We Can’t Be Stopped
Year: 1991

The key to Gangsta rap’s massive popularity was, of course, larger-than-life celebrations of the dangers and rewards of the gang-banging lifestyle, as millions of teenagers who would freeze from fear from actually having live any of these scenarios got off pretending they were as hard as the guys in the songs.

Kinda like superhero comics. In fact, somebody should chart the rise of the popularity of superhero comics vs. the popularity of gangsta rap. No black superheros? Have you ever heard “Midnight” by Ice-T? That’s some Batman-level shit right there.

Anyways, my problem was that I was slightly older, so while I appreciated the reportage, the violence and misogyny always made me uneasy. So I mostly gravitated to songs that looked at the life from different angles — the devastating “Dead Homiez;” the exhilarating “Gotta Lotta Love” and the paranoiac “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.”

Rapping over a icy cool Isaac Hayes sample, the Geto Boys spin verse after verse filled with same themes that powered six seasons of The Sopranos — that a life where you fuck people over on a regular basis, a life where you could be killed at any moment — “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” tells stories that could come right out of a session with Dr. Melfi:

Day by day it’s more impossible to cope
I feel like I’m the one that’s doing dope
Can’t keep a steady hand because I’m nervous
Every Sunday morning I’m in service
Playing for forgiveness
And trying to find an exit out of the business
I know the Lord is looking at me
But yet and still it’s hard for me to feel happy
I often drift while I drive
Havin fatal thoughts of suicide
BANG and get it over with
And then I’m worry-free, but that’s bullshit

In the end, Bushwick Bill is down on his knees pounding the concrete while hallucinating a beatdown, and the song just fades to black, with no relief in sight.

And man, what if David Chase thought to score that last scene of The Sopranos to “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” instead of that fucking Journey song? Maybe it would have been too on the nose — as we see all of those folks at the diner who might or might not be ready to kill him — but it would be kind of cool to see how that scene would play.

That said, Tony Soprano wouldn’t be caught dead listening to this song,

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page

Certain Songs #495: Geto Boys – “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”

geto boys mind
Album: We Can’t Be Stopped
Year: 1991

The key to Gangsta rap’s massive popularity was, of course, larger-than-life celebrations of the dangers and rewards of the gang-banging lifestyle, as millions of teenagers who would freeze from fear from actually having live any of these scenarios got off pretending they were as hard as the guys in the songs.

Kinda like superhero comics. In fact, somebody should chart the rise of the popularity of superhero comics vs. the popularity of gangsta rap. No black superheros? Have you ever heard “Midnight” by Ice-T? That’s some Batman-level shit right there.

Anyways, my problem was that I was slightly older, so while I appreciated the reportage, the violence and misogyny always made me uneasy. So I mostly gravitated to songs that looked at the life from different angles — the devastating “Dead Homiez;” the exhilarating “Gotta Lotta Love” and the paranoiac “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.”

Rapping over a icy cool Isaac Hayes sample, the Geto Boys spin verse after verse filled with same themes that powered six seasons of The Sopranos — that a life where you fuck people over on a regular basis, a life where you could be killed at any moment — “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” tells stories that could come right out of a session with Dr. Melfi:

Day by day it’s more impossible to cope
I feel like I’m the one that’s doing dope
Can’t keep a steady hand because I’m nervous
Every Sunday morning I’m in service
Playing for forgiveness
And trying to find an exit out of the business
I know the Lord is looking at me
But yet and still it’s hard for me to feel happy
I often drift while I drive
Havin fatal thoughts of suicide
BANG and get it over with
And then I’m worry-free, but that’s bullshit

In the end, Bushwick Bill is down on his knees pounding the concrete while hallucinating a beatdown, and the song just fades to black, with no relief in sight.

And man, what if David Chase thought to score that last scene of The Sopranos to “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” instead of that fucking Journey song? Maybe it would have been too on the nose — as we see all of those folks at the diner who might or might not be ready to kill him — but it would be kind of cool to see how that scene would play.

That said, Tony Soprano wouldn’t be caught dead listening to this song,

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page