And with something truly epic today. Something now 40 years old and filled with spirit and energy that is so often simply lacking or minimized in contemporary rock music to maximize profit and audience appeal.
I want to introduce those of you who don’t know it yet to “The Battle of Evermore” by Led Zeppelin, from their fourth album. The one that also featured “Stairway to Heaven”. I’m not showcasing Stairway to Heaven today because of two reasons. One: Almost everyone I know, knows this song. Two: It would take more time than I have today to put all my thoughts about it to the screen.
Led Zeppelin – The Battle of Evermore [IV] | 1971 | Rock
[expand title=”Lyrics”]Queen of Light took her bow, And then she turned to go,
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom, And walked the night alone.
Oh, dance in the dark of night, Sing to the morning light.
The dark Lord rides in force tonight, And time will tell us all.
Oh, throw down your plow and hoe, Rest not to lock your homes.
Side by side we wait the might of the darkest of them all.
I hear the horses’ thunder down in the valley blow,
I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon, waiting for the eastern glow.
The apples of the valley hold, The seeds of happiness,
The ground is rich from tender care, Repay, do not forget, no, no.
Dance in the dark of night, sing to the morning light.
The apples turn to brown and black, The tyrant’s face is red.
Oh war is the common cry, Pick up you swords and fly.
The sky is filled with good and bad that mortals never know.
Oh, well, the night is long the beads of time pass slow,
Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow.
The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of aftermath,
The drums will shake the castle wall, the ring wraiths ride in black, Ride on.
Sing as you raise your bow, shoot straighter than before.
No comfort has the fire at night that lights the face so cold.
Oh dance in the dark of night, Sing to the morning light.
The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back. Bring it back.
At last the sun is shining, The clouds of blue roll by,
With flames from the dragon of darkness, the sunlight blinds his eyes.
This song started as a jam session with a Mandolin and because Robert Plant has been reading Scottish folklore and the members all liked to let some Tolkien love flow into the song. Then they decided that it would work better as a duet and took the wonderful (and wonderfully eccentric and tragic) Sandy Denny (Ex-Fairport Convention) onto the track, and even gave her her own symbol on the album sleeve (Yes, IV was the album that started Led Zeppelin’s now trademark symbols. Read up on the history of how it was produced, it’s fairly interesting and fascinating to see that the sort of “indie music” mentality that’s coming up more and more today was inside Led Zeppelin as early as 1970/71.)
And the song just… Works.
It’s folk, and it’s rock, and it’s powerful, and it’s warm.
It starts slow and almost ponderous, picks up the pace, allows itself to rest a bit again and then rides into the finale with swords raised and voices loud. It underscores the story told with the way it is structured and the way the vocals are used. Emphasis and accentuation are put in with instruments, lyrics and strength of voice. – This seems basic, no? Sadly, not all bands really use this to full effect nowadays. (I could put in another hate-screed against autotuning in here, but… Just imagine me foaming at the mouth in anger and fury against said abuse of technology.)
So, I miss this. Not only the way that even exceptionally young musicians (Plant was 23 at the time) were able to improvise and jam and create something honestly beautiful and something that wasn’t aligned with most of their other material (Another thing I really hate: Corporate pressure to keep signed bands “on target” and not letting them develop their own voice and style fully and without hindrance). I also miss big-name rock bands going for themes of history, folklore and fantasy. This has been all but pushed away to Metal, Goth and the various X-Folk genres and sub-cultures. It would be refreshing if a modern, successful band were to record one or two songs inspired by Tolkien, Herbert or even Roddenberry or Lucas. Something that would marry a good story, a blend of emotions and a wider array of musical instruments and even styles.
And if there’s such a band out there, today, then please, by all means, point me towards them!
But first, take a few minutes of your time and listen to this gem.
And then go to iTunes or Amazon and buy this album. It’s so very much worth it. It has songs for a wide array of emotional states.