A.M. Shuffle, where Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” has a hammer of the gods for you
Getting the morning’s writing engine going with some high-volume grease. Or something. Today: Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”
Key lyric: “Ahh ah ahhh … AHHHHHHHH!”
Hello there, “Immigrant Song.” Nice to hear you again, old friend. If we’re making a 64-team tournament of the greatest guitar riffs of all time, which I surely will do someday, this has to be a No. 1 seed. Jimmy Page’s opening hammer-gallop riff is Ali’s jab, Dr. J’s dunk: others may come harder, but nobody else came first. Robert Plant’s banshee wail, John Paul Jones’ thunder down under, John Bonham rattling the inside of your skull …this, to rip another basketball metaphor, is the ’96 Bulls, able to beat you from any angle, on any court.
First time I heard Zeppelin, after living in a household that prized John Denver and Neil Sedaka, it was the definition of a revelation. There was my parents’ music, there was what they called “noise,” and then there was this transcendence as I lapsed into Almost Famous-esque worship. One day in elementary school, I somehow ended up with a cassette copy of Zeppelin IV — I still don’t know how — and I played side 1 (Black Dog, Rock n Roll, Battle of Evermore, Stairway) over and over and over constantly, play/rewind, play/rewind, play/rewind … it seriously was more than a week before I even flipped the cassette over to play the other side, and found out that hey, Side 2 (Misty Mountain Hop/Four Sticks/Going To California/When the Levee Breaks) was mindblowing too.
“Immigrant Song” itself, which I found later on Led Zeppelin III, reshaped my high school years; I spent many a suburban night playing this song with the windows of my first car, a burgundy Oldsmobile Delta 88, rolled down, a soundtrack to a frankly ordinary coming-of-age movie. The rest of III, with its acoustic folk, didn’t click with me till later, but “Immigrant Song” was so good I looked right past the dorky we-are-Vikings imagery.
Which brings me to the present era. I put “Immigrant Song” on an “Essential Listening” playlist I made for my kids before their eyes could focus, and they still air-drum when Daddy puts it on in the car. Alas, that’s not the only place they know it from.
When you’re a parent, you have to put up with all kinds of godawful kid-oriented programming, but most of it is blandly inoffensive animation. And then there’s this atrocity:
You’re dead to me, Shrek. Dead. I gotta go back and listen to the entire Zeppelin discography to get that out of my head.