Led By Example
By R. D. Flavin

2012 - LZ

     Tomorrow night, December 1, 2012, a State Department dinner (8th floor?) hosted by soon-to-retire Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, will feature the presentation of the 35th Annual John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Honors medallions to seven worthy honorees.  The following evening, December 2, will be the formal Honors' gala, with Pres. and Mrs. Barack Obama in attendance, which will include tributes to the honorees, dinner, dance, and ...perhaps, a protest from certain Latinos.  While I can't find a single .gov source to confirm a White House reception (var. “meet n' greet”), the BBC and a few other websites are reporting that such will be the case for this year's Kennedy Center honorees (Saturday, Sunday? TELL US!).  Led Zeppelin at the White House?  Hey, I read it on the InterNets and have been telling friends and family that it'll happen ...for a couple/few months.  On December 26, 2012, the day after Christmas, ...CBS Television will broadcast a two-hour prime-time special at 9 p.m. ET/PT with POTUS and Zeppelin...  We are led by example and are guaranteed no Zeppelin reunion or unseemly behavior by Mrs. Clinton.  However, if Bill is invited, then all bets are off!

     I know, I should wax and wee wane about Hillary and Barack, but I don't wanna' get sidetracked...  With the recent releases of “Celebration Day,” the audio and video versions of the December 10, 2007 Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert with a re-united Led Zeppelin (with Jason Bonham replacing his deceased father on drums, as he had at the May 14, 1988 Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Celebration concert), there's been much rumor of yet another Led Zeppelin reunion.  Sadly, while Page, Jones, and Jason Bonham seem eager for such, Plant continues to posh the pooch and claims he's moved on...  “Celebration Day” has been met with praise and accolades from critics and the BBC has announced it'll broadcast the concert film in its entirety in a couple of weeks.  Okay, that should push UK sales...  However, true fans will out and some might even buy a vinyl version which goes on sale in a week and a half.  Live Led Zeppelin recordings have long held a special meaning for me, and by long I mean nearly forty years...

     In 1973, my brother Tom (ten years older than me) recorded an eight-track cartridge tape of two live Led Zeppelin performances as broadcast on “The King Biscuit Flower Hour.”  The eight-track was sixty minutes in length, the sound quality was exceptionally hissy, but it was the only live Led Zeppelin that anyone had at the time.  My brother Rob (four and a half years older than me) almost immediately began to repeatedly “borrow” the eight-track from Tom, often without asking, and when made aware of the tape's existence, I too began to “borrow” the eight-track whenever it appeared within my reach.  In the fall of 1973, residing at the time in Muskegon, Michigan, I took the tape on a class field trip to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada, and received many thanks from my fellow high-school students (as well as an enjoyable lap-sitting by Cathy Emerson).  In 1974, the tape continued to be borrowed by Rob and me, and then reclaimed by Tom.  That wonderful tradition ended in August of 1974 when Rob was killed in a car accident.  At his funeral, respectfully acknowledging the times, his widow replaced his tie-clip with a roach-clip and Tom slipped the live Led Zeppelin eight-track into his casket.  We were without live Zeppelin until the release of The Song Remains the Same film and album in 1976.  In 1997, Zep authorized the release of The BBC Sessions, a somewhat cleaned-up (still ...hissy) version of the 1969/1971 BBC recordings which “The King Biscuit Flower Hour” had previously broadcast extracts.  Okay, we've plenty of live Led Zeppelin around today (including the noteworthy 2003 release of How the West Was Won, with material from two 1972 concerts), but Rob remains ...gone.  Rock in peace, my brother.

     Sigh...  The damns have been uttered and I'm flooded with bygones.  Also in 1973, I met Dan Sutherland, who would become a life-long friend and our relationship was initially founded on a shared appreciation of comic books and fantasy art, as well as a deistic regard for the guitarist extraordinaire, Eric Clapton.  The “Clapton is God” approach meant all things Clapton were considered sacred...  John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, Delany and Bonnie, Derek and the Dominoes, and all solo and side projects featuring Eric were held holy and above critique.  On July 2, 1974, my brother Tom took Danny and me to the International Ampitheatre to see Eric on his “Another One in Every Crowd” tour.  Retro hindsight would mention a highlight of a roll of toilet paper thrown in our laps while Clapton picked the opening of “Layla,” and our tossing it laterally down our row (17th?).  Whoever next received the roll decided to wicked maliciously heave the toilet paper directly onstage at Eric, striking him in chest just as he was bridging the second riff.  He staggered, likely more from shock than injury, and resumed playing after only a few seconds pause.  I believe it was on the ride home after the concert that Tom, discussing the end of The Yardbirds, casually mentioned owning an eight-track version of Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page, an unauthorized 1971 release of a 1968 concert to capitalize on Page's new success with Led Zeppelin (who originally formed as “The New Yardbirds” in late 1968), which featured the uncredited track, “I'm Confused,” which later went on to become a signature Led Zeppelin tune.  Often, and with occasionally annoying regularity, Danny would pester Tom about the Live Yardbirds eight-track.  Finally, years later (late 1980's/early 1990's), Tom discovered the eight-track in his garage, there was some moisture damage to the cover-label, yet Danny baldly confiscated the tape without a word of comment (or ...thanks).  Collectors may share some traits with OCD sufferers...

2005 - The Last Floyd.

     The “Celebration Day” concert is remarkable in many ways, not the least that it's a group of old guys (plus Jason Bonham) being consummate professionals and out-performing a majority of much younger musical groups.  I'm reminded of the July 2, 2005 “Live 8” concerts and the Hyde Park reunion of Pink Floyd, with band members Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Richard Wright and Nick Mason playing together for the first time in some twenty-four years.  They made it look so easy and it sounded amazing.

2012 - Neil in Central Park.

     Neil Young is radically remembered with his line,"It's better to burn out than to fade away," from the acoustic “My My, Hey Hey."  And, for the morbid, as the last line in Kurt Cobain's suicide note...  Neil has done neither, by the way, as his September 29, 2012 live Global Citizen Festival performance with Crazy Horse in Central Park attests.  A month later in October, Young and Crazy Horse released the double-disk CD (three record vinyl) set, Psychedelic Pill.  And they're touring until the end of the year...  Well done, old dudes!

3/1/2005 - Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, and Brian May meet Queen Elizabeth II.

     As mentioned above, Clapton occupies my top spot in musical consideration for his career output, but also for a series of special benefits and concerts he's put together over the past decade.  It started with 2002's The Concert for George, held on the first anniversary of Harrison's passing and whose proceeds went to a charity founded by George, the Material World Charitable Foundation.  Then there was the electrifying May 2005 Cream reunion concerts at The Royal Albert Hall, followed by an October series across the pond at Madison Square Garden in NYC.   And then, getting even better, a Blind Faith reunion tour with Stevie Winwood in 2009.

     I'd support being led by example with Plant over such hypercritical hyperbole as à la Sting and The Police and David Byrne and Talking Heads.  By Scully, didn't anyone learn anything from John's assassination?  Sheesh, even Bruce has collected himself after the death of Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons in 2011 and taken The E Street Band back out on the road!  The Rolling Stones are beginning their 50th anniversary tour and The Who are preparing for a 2013 'Quadrophenia and More' tour.  Now, if only we could get the Ghostbusters together again!

UPDATE: 12-3-2012

Plant, Page and Pres. Obama shaking hands, and Jones in the East Room of the White House.

Making a call,

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