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Wednesday, 16 September 2009

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In his 'Music for Lens and Guitar', 'Light Strings: Impressions of the Guitar', and 'State of the Axe: Guitar Masters in Photographs and Words', the man who has a Leica named after him (and shares a name with a premier guitar brand) riffs on the camera-guitar nexus.
http://www.ralphgibson.com/performance/video/
http://www.amazon.com/Light-Strings-Impressions-Ralph-Gibson/dp/B000BL0BHK

http://www.amazon.com/State-Axe-Masters-Photographs-Houston/dp/0300142110

Oh, Thanks Mike! Stuff to spend money on, time to waste on iTunes. :-)

Great little instrumental, by the way. And, I discovered some music I had purchased, and had not listened to, so a net positive.

Bron, not "breast of gold".

Nice deal. But it just wouldn't be the same listening to Led Zeppelin without a cheap bottle of Boone's Farm wine at hand. Ah...those were the (wasted) days...

I am one of those people who prays every morning that this will be the day Led Zep announce a reunion tour. I will gladly spend the money I'm putting aside for a K-7 on tickets for their Boston show.

Synchronicity? This morning I came across the Mexican duo Rodrigo & Gabriela, whom I'd never heard of, playing a beautiful arrangement of Stairway to Heaven. Highly recommended for the discerning TOP reader.

I suggest using nothing less than a $60,000 pair of speakers, of course.

"Although I probably only listen to it once every five years."

It's interesting to think how frequently we review media we purchase or create. I think that I must listen to Physical Graffiti at least twice a year, and like most people see CD/Records a worthwhile investment because I do regularly listen to them. Books, also, are something I see as keepers, but I might read them infrequently and sometimes never. Films, however, are a different story. Yes I have a small library of DVDs, but these are films I know I like and wish to keep, I rarely purchase a DVD to watch for a first time- and its not just a cost thing.

Like most folks here, I also take and keep photographs. Mike once said it took him one roll of film just to get warmed up. For me it's one or two shots and I rarely use more than 2 films in a day. Even so, I have a lot of slides. Do I look at them and how frequently? Truth is most get projected perhaps twice then stored, but I "mount" (in slide trays) favourite trips and my projector is out at least once a week. I wonder what others do with their photos, especially those of you who are even more prolific in your shooting?

If you can get your hands on The Photographers Led Zeppelin, go for it. It is beautiful, very well printed, with clothlined case and all, photographs are incredible. There's also some beautiful hand colored B&W as well. The only drawback is its price. It is very expensive. I just checked for it in Amazon, and was surprised to see it goes fro 400 dollars used up to more than a 1000. I am lucky cause mine is in mint cond and is signed by Jimmy Page. Maybe I should convert it into a nice new camera, or maybe another guitar.

Funny thing... While Kiss was my first love (remember listening to Dynasti through my dad's headphones when I was three years old) I hit puberty to the soundtrack of Zeppelin, Sabbath and Purple. Eventually I had to get my own guitar which I bought at age 15. I was a shredder by 18 when I got to do my first studio recording. But soon I had moved on, though rock ‘n roll sucked big time and got on the progressive rock/jazz/fusion wagon. Soon I was avant-garde and finding compatible musicians turned out to be impossible. Luckily I fell into a hole after losing the love of my life – no bread and butter money in the avant-garde. I took comfort in classical music, and soon were obsessed with composing and arranging. That lead me into movies and soundtracks, and you guessed it, still photography. I sold my guitars, bought a SLR camera and soon had forgotten all about music, until I head Glenn Gould’s second recording of the Goldberg Variations. A new love was born and I bought a piano and stacks of scores. Now I rarely listen to anything but Bach. I’m just 33 and wonder, where do I go from here?

"Zeppelin Rules!" -Otto Mann (of The Simpsons)

Actually, I've been playing Led Zeppelin's catalog in my iPod most days this summer while training for my first marathon. These songs have been the soundtrack to a summer of running - very motivating.

I graduated from high school in 2001, and a great thing was that everyone on the Track team was into the classics: Zeppelin, Hendrix, Cream/Clapton, etc. It provided a nice alternative to the Backstreet Boys and P. Diddy hyper-commercialized garbage everybody else at school listened to. Plus it gave us all something fun to talk about with our dads, a way to relate to them.

My favorite Zeppelin album is a close call between I and IV, but they made so many good ones...

Mike, folk metal? Really? I bought this amazing box of sonic wonder back in `99, about three months after getting a "best of" two CD set which I just could not stop listening to.

I was born in `71 and by the time I started listening to music, John Bonham was already gone. Led Zeppelin was a late discovery for me and I don`t believe it is a "period band" like its contemporaries such as Free, Thin Lizzy, The Police and others - you don`t need to use age as an excuse to like Zeppelin.

"A ne w love was born and I bought a piano and stacks of scores. Now I rarely listen to anything but Bach. I’m just 33 and wonder, where do I go from here?"

Svein-Frode,
Perhaps you've arrived at the ultimate destination?

(But I bet you find ways to continue your journey.)

Mike

Hmm. Physical Grafitti. I remember seeing Led Zeppelin perform that at Madison Square Garden in the 1970's. I remember since I spent the night at Penn Station, as the concert had ended just after the last New Jersey Transit train to New Brunswick had left. Later we found out that we might have made the train if we had skipped the encore.

(And I had to get to Englishtown NJ farmer's market the next day).

Memories...

Rodrigo y Gabriela are on Emusic still, and I just noticed they have a new album ("11:11"). I recommend checking them out.

Trampled Underfoot remains a favorite song of mine to this day. The first time I ever heard Physical Graffiti was shortly after it was released via the cassette tape that my Driver's Ed instructor popped into the tape deck of the Cadillac loaner my high school used in its Driver's Ed program one afternoon.

I still vividly recall my instructor (who played two seasons in the NFL and did double-duty as one of the school's football coaches) turning the volume up when Trampled Underfoot came on! Those were the days, eh?

All this Jack White talk is making me a little jumpy.

Really, Jack White?

Jack White?

Charlie,
Go download a song from "Elephant" called "Ball and Biscuit" and play it three times at high volume. Jack White. Jack White!

Mike

Your article reminded me of something I've been thinking about for a while, and which seems to be relevant to photography and music, and I think to many other fields.

I should say that I haven't seen the film (looks like it has not been released in the UK yet), but I'm a big fan of both Led Zeppelin (I vacillate between 3, 4 (apart, I think from the last track on side 1 which has been somewhat overplayed) and Physical Graffiti as one of the records I'd take to a desert island) and Jack White's various projects (going to see the Dead Weather in a few weeks and looking forward a lot to that).

It's quite interesting to compare what Jimmy Page did in the late 60s & early 70s and what Jack White does now. It's interesting because it looks kind of the same: they are/were both using a fairly small range of guitars, effects, amplification and recording equipment. But in fact it isn't the same at all. When Led Zeppelin were making records in the early 70s they were using all the technology they had to make the most modern-sounding records they could, but when Jack White makes records in the late 90s and early 2000s he is deliberately and intentionally restricting the technology he uses in a very conscious way.

(If you think that Led Zeppelin – and specifically Jimmy Page – were not making the most modern records they could then you should listen to the first album and compare it to other records being made in 1968: in terms of production it is years ahead of its time, and I assume that the production on many other records made later was heavily influenced by people listening to it and realising just what could be done in terms of, I guess, "realistic stereo recording".)

So, how does this relate to photography? Well, think about this: what Jimmy Page was doing was like using a Leica M4. What Jack White is doing is like using a Leica M4. But those are utterly different activities: in 1968 a Leica M4 was a state-of-the-art camera – it was simply the camera you'd use for a certain type of photography; in 2009 using an M4 – or more-or-less any film camera – is usually a way of consciously limiting the technology you are willing to use. And that is not the same thing, at all.

There is a lot more to this – one interesting thing to think about is: when do great works get made? I think that the answer is that they often get made when it is just possible to make them. The Led Zeppelin records were made when it was just barely technically possible to make them, many great photographs were produced when it was just possible to make them. We went to the moon when it was just possible to do so. Before it is possible to do something it can't be done, significantly after it is possible people get lost in the technology and no longer produce great work.

I think that Jack White and others are trying to do is to get back to a world where it is just possible to do something, where you have to fight to do it. This is no more possible than it is possible to uninvent nuclear weapons. Great works may still be possible by trying, however, but they are not the same as the great works which were done when the limits were real limits.

"Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote", by Borges is, on reflection, about this.

Thanks for the featured comment, Mike. I knew there was something else I wanted to add about Bron-Yr-Aur: Robert Plant still owns a farm in the area (someone once told me that his sheep were all marked with his rune from LZ IV, but that might be a myth).

Anyone who likes their "folk metal" aspects should check out the Page & Plant "Unledded" album, which contains great versions of "Gallows Pole" and "Kashmir". As the record shop owner who sold it to me opined, "Every home should have one."

Tim,
A thoughtful comment, and I don't want to denigrate your thoughtfulness by replying too briefly, but Thomas Dolby's "Blinded by Science" was pretty advanced recording technique in 1983, too, and Johnny Cash's end-of-life albums were pretty simple and nothing innovative--but so what? There's always been an authenticity impulse in rock--they even have a name for it, "roots." Jack White is consciously partly a revival artist. And as far as that goes, there's a Whole Lotta Willie Dixon and other blues masters in early Zep. It's tough to generalize with any meaning, but a lot of groups and musicians built a little, borrow a little, innovate some, mesh better or worse with the times, and put a lot of themselves and their own genius into their best work. The alchemy comes and it goes. Every genre has an arc, too. It's late in the day for guitar rock, and the meaning of it and its place in the culture has changed, can't argue that.

Mike

Great post.
Been listening to Zeppelin since I was about twelve - heck I remember when "houses of the holy" was released!

Still listening and I'm 50 now.

Been photographing almost as long.

Neither will stop.

We are what we are!

Jack White Holga and Meg White Diana now sold out.
Bummer.
I did so want a peppermint swirl filter.

I love the trailer for the film, http://www.sonyclassics.com/itmightgetloud/ with Jack White making a, I was going to say guitar, but let's just say a string instrument, from a bit of wood, three, or is it four nails, a coke bottle, pick up and a "string" which he plays.

Like making a camera from a cardboard box, tin can and the bottom of a few bottles. And I mean that in a good way.

Zeppelin is the sound track to my life, along with Hawkwind of course (sorry about that)
Knebworth 1979 remains the best concert I have ever been too, and they allowed cameras in then, pity my Ektachromes were largely underexposed.

Mike

(Blogs are the worst place for newsgroup-style discussions, sorry!).

Yes, I didn't really mean that there was a single golden era of recording. There were clearly several I think - the early 70s (and slightly earlier in some cases) was the time when it became possible to make good stereo recordings of rock music, and Page was a pioneer of that. Slightly later in the 70s electronic music became viable and again we see a wave of amazing records produced heroically (Dark Side of the Moon is probably a good example). In the early 80s there was another wave of electronica based on digital synthesis and then sampling (Thomas Dolby was a good example of this). There's been an important relatively recent wave as it became possible to produce really good quality recordings for ordinary people (without vast expense) at home: this just wasn't possible 20 years ago. There are others of course.

Each of these waves has an associated set of recordings which were made, usually with difficulty, as they first became possible.

The late Johnny Cash records are, I think, an example of deliberate minimalism, rather akin to the White Stripes records. They're the equivalent of using film in 2009. I don't know that they were made in this spirit though I suspect so: I have a couple of them, and they sound like that to me, but perhaps that is wrong.

And of course not all great work is done either pushing against the technology or with intentional limitations. I just think that a lot is. Once the technology allows you to do anything at all, then what should you do? (Think about the endless tide of photoshopped awfulness: that's what people do when the technology makes it too easy and they do not impose limits on themselves, and it is not good.)

I know that song Mike, my wife has it on her ipod. I'm not sayin' Jack White isn't good, he is really really good. A bit TOO derivative maybe, but as you say so what?

He just seems like, like the adopted bastard stepchild of Lenny Kravits and Billy Corgan to me.

Okay I will shut-up now.

Jack White, Jack White!

Tim,
There's no question that Jimmy Page was a great producer as well as guitarist and songwriter. The Zep sound is his creation and is as much a part of the band's success as anything.

On a different subject I was always baffled by his contention that "Presence" is the the band's best album and "Achilles' Last Stand" the band's best song. I'm sure my personal reaction had a lot to do with it...I was so involved with Physical Grafitti that I didn't buy Presence when it came out as I knew it couldn't come up to snuff for me. In fact after all these years I'm not sure I've listened to it straight through once. I wouldn't be surprised if there are songs on it I don't even know. It doesn't sound integrated to me, more like a pastiche of the Yardbirds with Robert Plant's early solo albums, with some Zep influences and one great Zep song (Nobody's Fault But Mine) thrown in.

Mike

Never got the chance to see Zeppelin. I still have the ad to buy tickets for the last tour when John Bonham passed. I did get to see The Song Remains the Same. It was my first chance to see a movie in Dolby Stereo. When that plane landed in New York, I could of sworn is was landing in the theatre. And the concert was turned up to eleven. Apparently the 4 senior citizens (Saturday matinee show-two bucks, I think) in front of us didn't appreciate it as much as I did because they left the movie before the end of the first song.

Eric

Mike,

I think Presence is underrated: I wasn't aware that Jimmy Page thought is was good, but I always liked it. This may be because it was the first record of theirs that I bought when it came out (or at least before any subsequent record came out). Listening now (your article caused me to!) the thing that stands out about Physical Graffiti is that it sounds like they were really having fun recording it - the same isn't true of Presence I think. However I do love "Achilles' Last Stand" - it's kind of what "heavy metal" ought to be like I think (I don't like anything else that calls/called itself heavy metal, really). But I think I still like the whole record (I'm still half way through PG at the moment so I won't know for sure till later today)

--tim

Tim,
I guess all music lovers have those touchstone albums, records (CDs, you know what I mean) which for whatever reason we love wholeheartedly and listen to over and over again until we've got them memorized. In more recent years that elite group for me has included M. Ward's "Post-War," Howe Gelb's "'Sno Angel Like You," and Avishai Cohen's "Continuo," among others--albums that might not make a blip on other peoples' radar screens (although how anyone could not love Howe Gelb backed by an actual gospel choir, I don't know [g]). PG was one of 'em for me three decades ago, is all. Then again, not long before that, Robin Trower's "Bridge of Sighs" was another, and that doesn't hold up today for me, for whatever reason, apart from pure armchair nostalgia.

Mike

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