Saturday, September 21, 2013

What May Not Be Ever Again

Everybody I know seems to know me well but they're never gonna know…
~ What Is And What Should Never Be, Led Zeppelin II (1969)

Mage Music 71 What May Never Be
Mage Music 71

The desire for another reunion of Led Zeppelin is a big topic of conversation for music lovers, and if it's not that, then the talk is about when Jimmy Page might come out with new music of his own. What follows is my personal opinion based on my own observations and conclusions and from the point of view of Magick. You may not agree, as is your right, and you are welcome to contribute your own opinions - but please keep them limited to the music and Magick aspects.  Also note that this is part one of a two-part post.  If you comment, I may steal your idea and use it to inspire thoughts for part two.  If I see farther it is by "standing on ye sholders of Giants"*.

The "just play with another band" theory

Jimmy Page has dropped in on many great bands over the past decades. He's worked with some pretty good musicians in his own groups, too, and people wonder why Mr. Page doesn't do an album with them. I say, how could he?

Sure, a musician of the caliber of Jimmy Page has got to have some highly talented people to work with. But as I see it, a major obstacle for Jimmy Page playing with other big-name musicians is that those guys are big-name musicians. They've got their own well established style, their own approach to music, their own feeling for what to say and how to say it musically. So does Jimmy Page.

So the real question would have to be who's going to yield the musical direction to the other?

Whose Magick is it anyway?

Jimmy Page basically started out his professional career as a session musician.  That means he was freelance, not with a regular band but hired to play individual studio recording sessions.  More importantly, this meant he had to match the needs of the music of the sessions and there was very little wiggle room to bring in his own musical vision.  Jimmy Page was very, very good at it, but playing other people's music wasn't where he wanted to do.  What he really wanted was to express what he had in him and that's why when the opportunity rose he set forth with that triumphant musical colossus, Led Zeppelin.

The beauty of Led Zeppelin was that Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham were basically at the same place at the same time in terms of music.  They were all very, very good - but the potential for greatness hadn't yet been expressed in any of them. Once they were together much of Led Zeppelin's music - not the lyrics, but the music - was driven by Jimmy Page, and the others in a sense yielded to Mr. Page's muse. Led Zeppelin wasn't all Jimmy Page, of course - the chemistry came from all of them, after all - but they were at the same place musically.  They created the Magick together, as indivisible components of one ritual.

Today that's not so.

Now things are very different. Robert Plant is following his own muse and has gone off to explore new musical territory for himself. I believe that for him to come back to a situation of being subsumed in a creative project over which he no longer had his own full musical expression, as he now does, would be very hard - and who could blame him?  This would be true for any other vocalists or guitarists who were of the equivalent level of experience and musical genius as Jimmy Page, and I think that this is a key point.

The best of the best musicians have all worked hard to get where they are, and why would they want their individuality, their unique musical vision and all they've achieved with it to be cast aside for something new, something in which they would not be the star?

And even if they would do it, could they do it?  Could they give up who they are to become something else?

Old dogs can learn new tricks

It is hard to do, but highly talented people can strike out in new directions. The problem with the music industry, though, is that audiences aren't always open to newness, and critics have not been bashful about expressing how they feel each time Jimmy Page has stepped off the beaten path.  From the very beginning with Led Zeppelin, to Lucifer Rising and carrying through to surprises such as Come With Me (with Puff Daddy), critics have been fast to complain although thank goodness, that hasn't stopped Mr. Page.

But finding musicians who could work with Jimmy Page to create new work today - that is a different story. This week's playlist was chosen partly because the title suited the subject here, but also because the versions provide examples of Jimmy Pages most exquisite techniques of fingering and timing. He squeezes some of the notes for so long that your heart wants to stop from the sweet torture of it.

This level of musicianship and creative artistry - this Magick that has been sustained for half a century - this is not something that anyone wants to see diluted by collaboration with lesser musicians, I think.  Only the best musicians.  But who are they that are that good yet willing to give themselves up for the Magick of the Master?

If there is to be any new music from Jimmy Page, I think he would have to find extraordinary new musicians who could joyfully bend to the Master's will while still being powerful in their own right. That's what Led Zeppelin was, after all. But is it even possible? We can dream, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thanks to Denise Smith for inspiring this post in one of her comments in a Jimmy Page group on Facebook.  This post has been part one of a two part thought, which I probably will continue next week.  

* Quote is attributed to Sir Isaac Newton but he wasn't the one who originated the thought.  He understood that he, too, "stood on ye sholders of Giants."

What Is And What Should Never Be  (♫ YouTube playlist ♫)

1969 (studio) Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions
1970 (live) Led Zeppelin
1994 (studio) Unledded
1998 (live) Page & Plant, Colorado
1999 (live) Live At The Greek


  1. The Paper as pronounced in old English will be the one to fill this void as He was created from the magick musick of the source.For It is He who patiently waits and holds the key to the laughter of a NEW day.......

    1. Not quite sure where you're going with the, but thanks for the comment.

  2. I was just thinking along these same lines today myself Lif. And even though each time JImmy play with other bands you can tell he enjoys himself as he loves playing most of all, but still sometimes my own personal observation is that some members of the band do not want any attention drawn to JImmy. After all he is playing in THEIR band and not vice versa. It kinda hurts me for them to treat him that way. As he is not the least bit arrogant or cocky when he plays with others. He is just into the music and gives his best. It would be hard for him to find others of his caliber and not want the glory for themselves. I personally feel that JImmy could just go out on his own with a few of his guitars and knock our socks off. I have heard people say he is too old and worn out and nothing is left. They are wrong, as I know he has plenty of beautiful music left inside him. And I think he wants to share it with us too. Thank you Lif for your writings, they are always thought provoking:)

    1. I have to agree with your points. I don't much like Jimmy Page's performances with other bands, though I think sometimes it isn't that they don't want attention drawn to him but that maybe they're just overawed by him. Pieces like Prelude, Domino, the Embryos, and Emerald Eyes show that Jimmy Page doesn't need other musicians anyway. Heck, I'd settle for a CD of his just noodling around!

    2. Just watch "It might get loud." His eyes sparkle when he expresses himself verbally or musically. I think Robert, besides being too "far down" his own road, doesn't realize the promise of the sheer power of a reunion or doesn't "feel it" anymore. I hope & pray they do. I follow them all closely including Jason Bonham and truly feel it is only Robert holding the possibility of a reunion happening, back. I hope I'm wrong. Btw, if you haven't the dvd "it may get loud," I highly recommend it.

    3. Yes, yes! Absolutely - It truly does seem that Jimmy Page has a lot below the surface that's zinging around, waiting for expression. I can't speak to Robert's feelings about any reunion but frankly, I'm not sure what another reunion would be worth in terms of the musician's time ad effort if it's not about new music. At some point the real Led Zeppelin would become another tribute band, don't you think? And the commitment to creating new music together would be tremendous, possibly more than all of them desire - I can't know that for sure but I think at least in Robert's case that might be true.

      I do have the DVD, have watched it many times and I recommend it highly as well. (The air guitar scene is priceless!) Thanks for your additional comments.

    4. It occurs to me that when you say "His eyes sparkle..." you might instead be referring to Jack White or The Edge, probably the former (referring to your original post). Anything is possible, of course. I don't follow Jack White's music, so I can't speak to it.

  3. LOLOLOL LIf.... Great title for a new CD -- JImmy Noodling around:) Love it:)

  4. Above all,I'd love to see a reunion tour.If not,what about Jimmy Page working with Paul McArtney and Jason Bonham.Talk about a Power Trio!