Housewives so bored they get naked!

Recently I've been listening to Simon and Garfunkel's Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme record. This stirs conflicting emotions in me. See Paul Simon, I don't like him, or maybe it's what I feel he represents that I dislike. He seems so pedestrian and bland, bourgeois in the worst sense of the word. My least favorite song on Parsley Sage, the dangling conversation, captures these characteristics better than I can, with its depiction of the main character cuddling up with his volume of Robert Frost while his admittedly hipper chick goes for the Emily Dickinson. Maybe he's being ironic but I don't think I care. Emily Dickinson by the way is a great poet, mystical and sad, as women should be, to paraphrase one of Fante's priests. Let me also take a moment here to say that I dig Art Garfunkel. He 's a likable chap and did a fine job in Mike Nichol's Carnal Knowledge. The white afro thing works well on him too. He has a benevolent almost angelic presence. I'm stretching a bit here, but I could almost frame him as an updated Harpo Marx, if I squint.

Maybe its more my personal associations with Simon's fans that colors my perception of him, which leads me to how the fan base of a group or individual can turn one off to the music in question. And for that matter, the question of how indicative are the fans of the artist's true self? There was a group of kids I went to high school with that loved Paul Simon, this is circa Graceland, the 1980's and the heyday of the yuppie phenomenon and these kids were right there on the conveyor belt, eager young republicans all. They remind me of him, upstanding, decent and calculated not to offend, but really rather heartless and without exception absolute bores. And likewise whenever I hear Simon I can't help but flash on them. I'm sure they must have felt multicultural and far-out grooving on that world beat with Paul's milk toast niceties on top.

When particular bands attract a particular type of fan its hard to not think there's some kind of identification/reflection thing going on, birds of a feather and all that. Honestly how far can you go, for instance, in separating the jockish, lug-headed followers of Fugazi, from the band itself and their helplessly macho and stiff testosterone shouting, all liberal good will and positive messages aside. Ian Mackaye, sure, a shining example of integrity and an example to us all, yadda yadda yadda and he's probably a genuinely nice guy, I do believe that. But as the Nazz said "ye shall know them by their fruits". No matter how taxing it can be listening to live Grateful Dead; decrepit and inchoate; mutulating some poor old rock chestnut, it's their moronic, hippie dancing, don't bum my trip, fans that really make you see red. But the two have become intricately linked, fused together, the associations are just too heavy. I believe the Tindersticks once sang "everything Iove I become"? Maybe everything you loathe you become as well. So yeah I like this Simon and Garfunkel album, fuck it. I still can't get to solo Paul Simon though, hopefully I never will.

Most people I meet have bad associations with Led Zeppelin, a lot of which may have to do with the vocals of Robert Plant. It's strange though especially these days with the popularity of the White Stripes, who take so much outright from Zeppelin and whose singer sounds like a more bratty version of Plant. I've heard some softer White Stripes material that I thinks alright in the same way I think Emmit Rhodes is alright, but man when they try and rock out it sounds ridiculous to these ears. Yet even the guy from White Stripes after shamelessly coping big chunks from Zeppelin moans about being compared to Plant, "his least favorite member ".

The bad associations with Led Zeppelin are also a matter of what they have come to represent;, 70's FM radio rock, stairway to heaven, every hour on the hour till death do us part and the fact that they're just so obvious, people tend to dismiss them out of hand. But if you take the time to check them out, you'll find in their discography lots of great stuff amongst the overplayed crap and turgid slow blues numbers. So with this in mind and as someone who has heard all and owns most of their records here's a short cut guide..
Personally their first two records leave me pretty cold and are often everything their critics accused them of; pompous whiney cock rock and empty blues posturing. But by Led Zeppelin III the one with the pinwheel cover, things really start to get interesting. Part of the appeal is the many different styles the record contains. I think it was Mitch Easter or Peter Buck who I heard talking about how Zeppelin was really a weird folk rock band.. Well, the second side of III certainly bears this out. It's acoustic and has two of their very best songs; Tangerine, a beautiful faux country number and That's the Way. The later in contrast to their macho image features some heavy homoerotic overtones; "I don't know how I'm gonna tell you, I can't play with you no more, I don't know how I'm gonna do what momma told me, my friend, the boy next door". And Plant is singing on these songs not just screeching and wailing inanities or name checking Golem. The next album IV (the numbering thing is pretty uncreative but at least they didn't dream up title like Tales from the Topographic Ocean or Brain Salad Surgery) has a lot of the stuff you never want to hear again but its also got the Battle of Evermore with Sandy Denny, whose vocals are beautifully intertwined with Plant. Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti are the next two and have plenty of bright spots that not even collaborations with Puff Daddy can dull. After this comes Presence, which is just alright but not that interesting and In through the out door which is their most pop offering and worth a listen. Honestly your best move might be to find someone with all the records and sort through them and make a nice compilation. Barring this I would recommend III or Physical Graffiti, for their variety of styles and high points like aforementioned Tangerine, That's the Way and the song Houses of the Holy.

Now in regards to Plant there are some things you may not know about him that might increase your appreciation. I mean this lets reevaluate Paul McCartney thing has gotten way out of hand especially if you ever read Mojo (anybody notice all those nasty digs at Lennon in their latest Beatle issue, cowardly) or anything Ian McDonald writes on the Beatles, so why not take some time out to reevaluate Plant. First off, he's a big Roky Erickson fan about which he has been vocal; give him some points for that. He went and checked the Damned out and reportedly liked what he saw, not bad. He also did a very nice version of Sea of Love with the Honeydrippers. His song I'm in the Mood is kind of funky and features a shimmering guitar part that needs to be sampled by someone. But perhaps best of all in the early 80's he had a hit song you may not recall called "Big Log". Now the song itself is no great shakes, but the fact that the guy scored a hit with a song that is, by all accounts, about taking a shit is complete genius, even more so cause hardly no one seemed to notice. That's subversive!

My friend Carl pointed it out to me back in the day and more recently I read a comic (can't remember which) mentioning the same thing. Even more genius was the video for the song, which really drove the theme home. In it we see Robert riding along a barren stretch of highway with an uncomfortable, almost unpleasant look on his face. This is basically the first half of the video. Then finally he sees a gas station, pulls over and goes in the restroom and reemerges looking refreshed and pleasant and that's the video! I ask you, would the White Stripes or Paul McCartney have the balls to sing a song for defecation so publicly?

William Crain