Led Zeppelin

How the West Was Won

/atlantic; 2003/






He was too romantic about the past, drowned in vinyl nostalgia and original recordings paranoia. For a certain amount of time, every week, he would plunge himself fully in his collection of classics, leaving the hypes and the weak behind. He would spend his days and nights listening to cracking worn out vinyl lps : The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Canned Heat or Led Zeppelin. The latter was special to him, easier than sex and easier to get pleasure from. His fascist identity in terms of music would disgust the few girls he would try to love seriously. Just like the main character in High Fidelity, music was a barrier between him and a couple’s happiness. Being conscious of that point did not make things easier to change.


And then she arrived. She could deal with his nauseous hatred of Reggae, Ska, Dance music and Placebo. She did not really accept it but tolerated it because it was part of him, that’s all. She accepted being excluded from a part of his life for the happiness of the moments spent together, slowly entering the dark side of his mind. She liked is humour and being loved by him was the best thing she had ever experienced in terms of human relationships. They had first met in his favorite record store, as he was insulting the indie pop rock section seller for not having a turntable to listen to a vinyl lp. Anyway he would buy ‘contemporary’ CDs at times. Quite often in fact. He even had the strangest choices at times. He could not explain the pleasure he had when listening to Destiny’s Child, Slipknot or hit music only radios for example. He was so ambiguous that people mocked him for his taste in music, clothing and girls, however respectable they could be. Look, the schmuck is back. Hey Weirdo! The new Slipknot is out. There is a blood sample in the special edition. She loved him for being out of step with reality and being submitted to it.


For his birthday, she offered him Led Zeppelin's “How the west was won”, fully conscious that he could turn away from her for that infamy. Just like a wounded animal, he first had a defiant attitude, leaving the food on a shelf for a week. She could not see him during that week. Sorry, I have some friends to see. Excuse me sweet, I must be alone to classify my records tonight. Your mother called, tell her not to call here anymore. She spent that week in her bed, eating ice cream, watching Woody Allen movies and wishing she had not made this mistake in the first place. And then he called her to excuse him and say for the first time a fearful I love you sweet, I want you to be with me now.


He was very critical about the ugly artwork of the record, the absence of booklet and the 14 seconds song “LA Drone”, 14 seconds of feedback : a shame to give a name to that. The 3 CDs format was like sex with her.

First CD : intense start, hard breathing, no stop, cooling and break.

Some of the band’s best songs are linked together with a terrific sound. The blitzkrieg harshness of “Immigrant Song” is followed by the energy of “Heartbreaker”. A smile. That one is slightly different from all the previous live versions he had heard. John Bonham proves the listener that he is there, urging into nervy confusing drum breaks while Jimmy Page’s solo is more bluesy-boogie than usual. “Black Dog”’s instability is the strength of the song, impossible to understand, except for music intellectuals we don’t give a shit about anyway. Are you thinking of someone in particular honey? The prelude of “Over the hills and far away” is a melodic warm up for more sweat. That one might be less known than the others and it is a shame. “Since I’ve been loving you” is slightly deceiving because John Paul Jones Fender Rhodes part is overwhelmed by the others during the first minutes, especially Robert Plant’s imperfect singing. “Stairway to heaven” won’t be discussed. This CD ends with three softer acoustic songs “Going to California”, “That’s the way” and “Bron-Yr-Aur-Stomp”. They allow the listener to have a 15 minutes break with melodies and mandolin.

Second CD : long run effort, words of love and solo stuff.

One may be reluctant to stop living during the 26 minutes of “Dazed and Confused” and we admit that it is only a fan thing here (solos, playing guitar with a bow and more solos). The whole piece must be a fan thing anyway. “What is and what should never be” is a dream like romance with ups and downs. When you will be mine I’ll take you outside. The concerts that have been collected for this record are from the 1972 US tour, capitalizing on the first four excellent albums of the band and presenting new songs from the upcoming album “Houses of the Holy” like “Dancing Days”. Are you sure? It is said by my godfather that this one is Led Zep’s last good album. “Moby Dick” is a 20 minutes long advanced learner method for drummers. Bonham stands alone for a really long time while the others go backstage to snore coke and chase girls. Take it or leave it.

Third CD : another odyssey, climax and the ‘I will always love you’ thing.

Here again, the 23 minutes of “Whole Lotta Love” are rather long but this track is easier to apprehend than “Dazed and Confused” because it can easily be divided in several parts. It contains the usual medley of blues-boogie classics like John lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillin’”. The band jumps from one to the other with energy and a childish pleasure. Here again, this version is slightly different than those he had heard before on the BBC Sessions for example (the medley also contains : “Hello Marylou”, “Let’s have a party” and “Going Down slow”). “Rock and roll” is one of the most basic song they ever wrote, straight to the point, paying homage to the roots of their music like the medley before. Of course, the primitive blues chord progression is enhanced by the four performers vigour. He did not really remembered “The ocean” at first but childishly found pleasure in discovering this hit again. Among others, this one was greatly influential for AC/DC and Co. Eventually, Willie Dixon’s “Bring it on home” is a last reminder of what Led Zep’s music is made from.


She moved in his apartment a few days after that night, enjoying the manly atmosphere of the sanctuary and bringing in her own ornaments. From that time onwards, she would always consider “How the west was won” as a metaphor of their story. On Thursday evenings, they would go to the Bronze to drink white wine and remember the good times and the bad times, lost in one of the darkly lit corner of the club. His friends Spinning and Rewind played music there every Thursday, for themselves mostly but for the couple sometimes. They had a problem with baggy clothes, considered the eighties as something good in terms of music and paid no attention to stupid request made by junkies, girls, surfers, Germans and fruit juice drinkers.

Life was easier in those times for everyone.

-Angus ‘black and white’ Anderson.

/june 15th 2003/