Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy

Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy

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Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy

Led Zeppelin is arguably one of the best rock n’ roll bands of all time. They were collectively some of the best musicians ever to play rock n’ roll music, and were also great lyricists. Robert Plant (the lead vocalist) was quoted as saying that for some of the songs that he wrote, he felt that someone pushed the pen for him. Whether some mysterious force was moving his hand or not, one things for sure, Led Zeppelin wrote some timeless masterpieces of music.
They were formed from the ashes of British blues-rockers the Yardbirds. Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelins official founder) started off as the bassist for the Yardbirds, but eventually moved on to play electric guitar for the band. In 1968 the Yardbirds broke up leaving Jimmy Page the rights to the band. Jimmy went out looking to start a new group and found charismatic vocalist Robert Plant, Roberts close friend and explosive drummer John Bonham, and already famous bass guitar player John Paul Jones. The group hit it off and did a few shows in England before renaming the band Led Zeppelin.
     Somewhat a mysterious band, Led Zeppelin rarely did interviews and did not talk much to the press. For these reasons much of the press did not like them. However, their fans loved them. Led Zeppelin established a strong fan base by means of intense touring from the start of the group’s formation. With this intense touring came a lot of temptation. Led Zeppelin indulged in heavy drug and alcohol abuse as well as a lot of sex with groupies, especially American groupies. Their regimen of intense partying would eventually cause the band problems and inevitably lead to the bands undoing with the death of drummer John Bonham. I feel that Led Zeppelin could have been much more. To many Led Zeppelin fans that might sound crazy, but I truly feel that they had much more to offer the world than they ever got to give. The reason I say this is because they really didn’t have a long career and within a 5 or 6 years of forming the band they started having misfortune and tragedy such as the death of Robert Plants son, Roberts car accident (which interfered with his touring and ability to perform for a few years), John Bonham’s excessive alcohol use, and Jimmy Pages’ heroin addiction that obviously interfered with their touring and songwriting.

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The biggest reason Led Zeppelins time was cut short is the death of John Bonham in 1980. Had John Bonham not died, Led Zeppelin would probably be around today, still making music. However in the time they had, they made some fantastic and what I feel is timeless music.
      I feel that Led Zeppelin often has two meanings to most of their songs, both in lyrical content and musical instrumentation and feeling. They tend to have a straightforward, somewhat obvious message and meaning, yet a sometimes and somewhat mysterious second, yet intertwining meaning as well. Some of this comes from their many interests and fascinations. Jimmy is adamant in saying that he is not a Satanist, however he does have some interest and fascination with black magic and the occult. On the same token, all members of the band are interested in religion as a whole, especially Jimmy and Robert. Robert also has an interest and fascination with ancient history, such as medieval literature, Viking literature and mythology, and Celtic literature and mythology. Robert also loves and is fascinated by J.R.R. Tolkien stories such as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. All members are also interested in many different styles of music, different cultures, attitudes, and beliefs, as well as the meaning of life. All of these influences can be heard in their music and lyrics and one of the reasons that I feel that they are such talented musicians and lyricists is because they combine all of their interests and influences to create great music. However the combined simplicity and complexity of Led Zeppelin also makes some of their songs difficult to decipher and explain.     
Led Zeppelin had great success with their first four albums and were already superstars when “Houses of the Holy” their fifth album, and definitely a masterpiece of rock n’ roll music, was released. It also is the album I chose to write my report on. It was released in 1973; the year American forces “officially” left Vietnam. This album was very significant because the “Peace and Love” movement was about over and Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix had all died within a year or two before “Houses of the Holy” was released. These great musicians deaths left a great void in rock n’ roll music, and left big shoes to be filled. However, Led Zeppelin did a great job of filling these shoes.
All of the songs on “Houses of the Holy” are, in my opinion, with maybe the exception of The Crunge, great rock n’ roll songs. Don’t get me wrong, The Crunge is an alright song, but in my opinion it just doesn’t compare with the rest of the tracks on the album. If there is a weakness on this album, I would have to say The Crunge is it. The song just doesn’t do it for me like the rest of the songs on the album do. It sounds like Led Zeppelin was trying to make a funk song and it just didn’t work out. Apparently they took the guitar riffs for The Crunge from James Brown songs Get on Up, Get Up Sex Machine and Superbad. Also the time signature on this song seems weird and hard to follow in my opinion. There are some rumors however that this song was not supposed to be a good song at all. These rumors say that the song was meant to be funny, not good. However, in my opinion, the rest of the album has few, if any flaws.
The first track on this album is The Song Remains The Same. The instruments used on this song are the electric guitar, bass guitar, drums(note: vocals are used on every song that I write about). The song starts out very fast paced with explosive drumbeats and guitar riffs and they sound great! When the lyrics kick in the pace of the music slows down for a minute or so before picking up to the original fast paced playing style. Jimmy Page has four excellent guitar solos in this song. I feel that he is one of the greatest guitarists in the rock n’ roll world and that is evident in this song. All members of the band did an excellent job with this song, however, I feel that John Bonham (nicknamed Bonzo for his wild antics and explosive hard hitting drum style) stood out in this song and delivered an amazing performance.
The feeling that this song gives to me is a feeling of acceptance, in the context that life is a universal journey that everyone has to take and that is somewhat the same for every human being that ever lived or that ever will live, no matter there religious views, where they live, whether it be in Hawaii, California, Germany, China, or Iraq or any other place in the world or what race and ethnicity they are.
If this song had no lyrics and was just an instrumental, I think that I would still get the same feelings from this song as I do with the lyrics in it, a kind of melodramatic journey of life feeling. I feel that Led Zeppelin was trying to get this message across in the lyrical content of this song as well as with the instrumentation used. I also feel that Led Zeppelin was trying to get across the message that music is universal as well, and that every musician because they are going through the same life cycles as every other musician that ever lived, is singing basically the same songs as every musician before them, but just in their own words and that every musician is trying to get across the same basic messages and feelings in their musical instrumentation as well.
A lyric example that gives me insight as to the message of this song on top of the message that I get from the instrumentation is the second to last verse of the song… “California sunlight, sweet Calcutta rain, Honolulu star bright – the song remains the same”(meaning we all in some essence, no matter our petty differences live the same lives). As well as the last verse of the song… “City lights are oh so bright, as we go sliding…sliding…sliding through”. I feel that this verse is meant to be an intensely direct and straightforward metaphor of our journey through life.
The Rain Song is another terrific track off of The Houses of the Holy. Apparently George Harrison of The Beatles (who is a huge Led Zeppelin fan) told John Bonham that the trouble with Led Zeppelin is that they don’t do any ballads. John told Jimmy and Robert this and it inspired them to write this song. The instruments used on this song are the electric and acoustic guitar, the bass guitar and Mellotron (which are both played by John Paul Jones), the drums, violin and the piano. The Mellotron provided an orchestral effect for this song.
The feeling that the instrumentation of this song gives is relaxing and soothing, and gives off both sad and happy vibes. Also the instrumentation of this song definitely gives me the feelings that this song is about love as well as the roller coaster ride that love gives your emotions (meaning the changing emotions of love) as is evident by the constantly changing tempos of the song and the varieties of emotions given off by the variety of different instruments used. For example, the violins make me feel sad, yet are soothing at the same time, therefore really playing with my emotions as love does. The piano is also very emotional in this song as are the guitars (Jimmy makes an exceptionally unique sound on his guitar about a dozen and a half times on this song which I really like), and the orchestral effect that the Mellotron provides sounds excellent as well. Overall, all of the instruments used on this song sound terrific. The lyrics on this song are equally excellent.
In the first line of The Rain Song Robert says… “This is the springtime of my loving – the second season I am to know”, in other words, he is saying that this is the second time that he’s fell in love (However, I think that he is referring to the same woman throughout the song). In the second line, he says… “You are the sunlight in my growing – so little warmth I felt before”. In other words, he is saying that the woman he’s fallen in love with makes him feel better than he ever has before and that she is the rare light, or rare “good thing” he’s found thus far in his life. In the third line Robert says… “It isn’t hard to feel me glowing – I watched the fire that grew so low”. In other words, he is saying that right now anyone could tell that he’s happy and in love, but before he watched their love fade, and he watched them grow apart. In the fourth line he says… “It is the summer of my smiles – flee from me Keepers of the Gloom”. In other words he is saying that he feels great with his love that’s been rekindled and wants all bad entities whether they be demons or any other “bad feelings” or “beings” to stay away from him and let him enjoy his newfound love. The fifth line says… “Speak to me only with your eyes, it is to you I give this tune”. Here he is telling the woman he wrote this song about that this song is for her and that she doesn’t need to say anything because he can read her emotions, thoughts, and feelings, through her eyes. Symbolizing that he really loves her and that he can speak to her through simple eye contact. The next line reads… “It isn’t hard to recognize – these things are clear to all from time to time”. In other words saying that at some point we all feel the way that he is feeling, the feeling of being in complete love with someone and not wanting that feeling to go away. However, I also feel that by saying… “these things are clear to all from time to time” that sometimes we can think we are truly in love with someone but then think that we fell out of love with that person, only to find out that we never really were in love with that person, or that we were still in love with that person even when we thought that we weren’t. A few lines later Robert says… “I felt the coldness of my winter, I never thought it would ever go”, meaning that he never thought that he would be happy again after falling out of love with his girl the last time they were together as is evident in the second half of the first line of the song when he says “the second season I am to know”. In the next line Robert says… “I cursed the gloom that set upon us, but I know that I love you so”, in other words he hated when they fell out of love and grew apart, but inside he knows that he truly does love her. In the next line he say… “ This is the wonder of devotion – I see the torch we all must hold”. Here he is saying that love is incredibly unpredictable and can be as rewarding as punishing, but we all must go through it, because inside we all have a desire for love. The final line says… “This is the mystery of the quotient – upon us all a little rain must fall”. Here Robert is again trying to say that love is mysterious and unpredictable, and that we all must endure some pain and hardships with true love.
I really enjoy songs that play with your emotions, and songs that take you for a ride, and this song does both masterfully. This is an incredible song. I also like this song because I have experienced falling in and out of love with the same woman( my girlfriend in high – school) a few times and I can relate to all of the things Robert says in this song. I feel that anyone who’s ever been in love with someone probably can relate to this song.
Over The Hills and Far Away is another excellent song off of The Houses of The Holy. The instruments used in this song are the electric and acoustic guitars, the bass guitar, and the drums (I also think that at the end of the song they use an accordion alongside the electric guitar. John Paul Jones plays some awesome bass riffs in this song. This is one Led Zeppelin song where I like the bass guitar as much as I like the electric and acoustic guitars. Jimmy also has an awesome psychedelic electric guitar solo about halfway through the song. However this song is mostly a mixture of folk and rock styles of music. This song makes me feel good. Led Zeppelin definitely has a way of playing their instruments to really open your mind and play with your emotions. Most of the time it makes me feel like going on an adventure or it makes me think about the adventures and experiences that I’ve had thus far in my life. It also normally gives me a healthy boost of ambition. It even sometimes makes me feel like partying and having a good time. Whichever way it makes me feel, it always has one universal effect, which is… it puts me in a good mood.
This is one of the many Led Zeppelin songs that I feel could have a few different meanings. As I said earlier, Robert Plant really liked J.R.R. Tolkien books and this song in particular I believe has some references to a book called The Hobbit. “Over The Old Hills and Far Away” is a poem in a posthumous that Tolkien wrote called Book of Lost Tales, but this is kind of strange because my research (if accurate) has revealed to me that Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away” predated the publishing of Book of Lost Tales. There are a few more theories as to the meaning of this song but Plant was quoted in saying that…“this is a song about mankind”, a pretty open ended statement, but it works.
I personally feel that this song is referring to sleeping around.
Robert sings, “ Hey lady—you got the love I need, maybe more than enough.
Oh Darling Darling Darling walk a while with me” referring to his desire for women and by saying walk a while with me I think he’s saying sleep with me. The next verse of lines says… “ Many times I’ve loved – Many times been bitten, Many times I’ve gazed along the open road”, meaning he’s slept with many women and been hurt or possibly shut down by many women and when he says “Many times I’ve gazed along the open road” he’s saying many times he’s checked out women and thought about all of the different women he could be sleeping with and referring to how he keeps looking for more women”. The next lines say “Many times I’ve lied – Many times I’ve listened, Many times I’ve wondered how much there is to know”, meaning he’s lied to the women to get what he wants and he’s also listened (talked with women) to get what he desires. When he says “Many times I’ve wondered how much there is to know”, he is referring to wondering how much there is to know about women or a certain woman in particular at the time he desires her. In the next line he sings “Mellow is the man who knows what he’s been missing” either meaning a man who has had a lot of women is mellow and feels complete, or that a man who knows what he’s been missing( not getting laid) is depressed and lacks vigor and life. In the following line when he says “Many many men can’t see the open road”, he is referring to many men don’t have the ability to get women.      Finally, the song reads… “Many is a word that only leaves you guessing, guessing ‘bout a thing you really ought to know, ooh! You really ought to know”, meaning that the word “many” is referring to wondering how many women you could sleep with and “guessing ‘bout a thing you really ought to know”, means wondering what sleeping with women or a particular woman would be like and that you should sleep around with different women or the particular woman your desiring at that time and find out. In my theory the title of the song Over the Hills and Far Away could be referring to over a woman’s breasts and down to her vagina.
     Whatever the meaning or “meanings” of this song, it is an awesome song. I think that sometimes when a musician sits down to write a song, sometimes they have something specific they want to write about and sometimes they don’t. In either case after writing a song, they may realize that the song they just wrote could have several meanings depending on how each listener interprets their song. People tend to interpret music so that they relate to it, whether the artist intended them to interpret it that way or not, which is one of the reasons I feel music is considered an art. Just like when different people look at the same painting, but interpret it differently and come up with a whole bunch of ideas on what message or feeling that the artist was trying to convey to the viewer. A lot of these interpretations apply to music as well as painting, sculpture, and various other types of artwork, and every person based on that person’s mental capacity, sense of perception, and life experiences interprets art in their own unique way. Even if the general public has similar views on a piece of art (music or whatever), no two people think exactly alike.
     No Quarter, which is the 7th track off of Houses of the Holy, is one of my favorite songs. It has an eerie creepy mysterious feeling at times, kind of like music that you would hear in a fantasy film. At other times it has what I would describe as an adventure of life sort of sound. Whenever I listen to this song it makes me feel like I’m going to battle. Jimmy plays a sort of fuzzy sound with his guitar at times that sounds phenomenal. There is also a great electric guitar solo on this track as well as a piano solo. Both solos are fantastic. Roberts’s vocals are intentionally distorted on this track, which adds to the mysterious vibes that this song gives. I also get some great imagery in my mind as well. The best way that I can describe the imagery I see is that I’m in a forest in the winter time and I’m running through the woods with sword by my side in the days of barbarians (this may sound kind of strange, but that’s what I see in my mind). This song is a perfect example of how Led Zeppelin can toy with your emotions and take you for a ride. The instruments used on this track are the electric guitar (played by Jimmy Page), the drums (played by John Bonham), and the synthesizer piano and the synthesized bass (all played by John Paul Jones).
     This song was probably one of the hardest songs for me to decipher as to the meaning of the song itself, at least in a lyrical context. I had many theories as to what the meaning of this song is and pondered it for many days before coming up with one prominent theory that I will discuss later in the paragraph and I have discovered even more theories in various books and things that I have read about this song, such as that this song is in reference to The Lord of the Rings. Something else, I discovered that is quite interesting is that “no quarter” is a pirate phrase meaning “no mercy”. Also, as I said earlier Robert was into Viking mythology (otherwise known as Norse mythology) and there are references to that in this song. Such as the lyrics in the fourth verse of the song which are… “The winds of Thor are blowing cold”. There are also religious references in this song such as… “Walking side by side with death, the Devil mocks there every step”. As you can see, there are several different possibilities as to Led Zeppelins influences when writing this song. Maybe they even intertwined several of their influences into one song. I have one theory as to what this song is about that stands above the rest and that is that this song is about spiritual warfare in the context of our never-ending battle as human beings between the forces of good and evil. Robert sings… “The snow falls hard and don’t you know, The winds of Thor are blowing cold, They’re wearing steel that’s bright and true, They carry news that must get through, They choose the path where no-one goes, They hold no quarter, they ask no quarter”. I feel that in these lines he is talking about Christians “wearing steel that’s bright and true”, “carrying news that must get through” (The word of God and God’s promise of eternal life), “They chose the path where no-one goes”, (not many people choose the right path, (the path of obedience to God). “They hold no quarter, they ask no quarter”(meaning they ask for no mercy from the rest of the world because they truly believe in God and what there purpose on this earth is, which is to spread the word of God). When he sings “The snow falls hard and don’t you know, The winds of Thor are blowing cold” (he is saying that life can be painful and that “Thor”(The Devil) throws a lot of pain and hardships upon us). The next line says… “Walking side by side with death, the Devil mocks their every step”(meaning the Devil is laughing at them for thinking they can overcome him). The following line says… “The snow drives back the foot that’s slow”(meaning that the pain and suffering that the Devil subjects us to can slow down the weak of faith or even the strong of faith and cause us to break down and give up (like by committing suicide or shutting out God, or by not preaching to people about Christianity any more) or lose faith in God). “ The dogs of doom are howling more”(dogs meaning demons and doom meaning suffering for all eternity in Hell, and “howling more” meaning they are tempting us and attacking us more and more every day whether we realize it or not every day(for example by trying to convince us that God does not exist or that he does not care about us or by means of various temptations, hardships, and painful occurrences and experiences falling upon us). The final lines say “They carry news that must get through, to build a dream for me and you, they choose the path where no one goes, they hold no quarter, they ask no quarter”. Here I feel that “to build a dream for me and you” means to help us to get into heaven and enjoy eternal life with Jesus and God. This is a very deep song. I feel it is a masterpiece.
     The Ocean is the final song on Houses of The Holy. This is a great song to play when you want to party and have a good time. It has a very upbeat rhythm that puts me in a good mood. The instruments used in this song are the electric guitar, bass guitar, and drums. This song is unique because it is one of the only songs, (if not the only song), where John Paul Jones and John Bonham provide backing vocals for Robert in part of the song. There are a few terrific electric guitar solos on this song that show what a great guitarist Jimmy Page is, as well as what I feel is some awesome drumming by John Bonham.
      It was not hard for me to figure out what Robert is singing about. It is painfully obvious that he is singing about playing shows and making albums. Here are a few examples of the straightforward lyrics and the way I interpreted them…At the beginning of the song John Bonham says “ We’ve done four already but now were steady and then they went: one, two, three, four”. Meaning that they’ve done four albums already (Houses of The Holy is their fifth album), and that there on a roll making albums. Then Robert sings…(Singing in the sunshine, laughing in the rain, hitting on the moonshine, rockin in the grain, Ain’t no time to pack my bag, my foots outside the door, Got a date, I can’t be late, for the high hopes hailla ball. In other words he’s singing about partying and performing concerts, and “Got a date, I can’t be late, for the high hopes hailla ball” is referring to the concert he is going to perform at, and the fans that he is performing for. The next line says “singing to an ocean, I can hear the oceans roar”(meaning he’s singin to the audience and that he is listening to them cheer).      
This song is terrific and is definitely one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs.
     I did a lot of research trying to find out the relevance of the artwork in and on this album, and I found absolutely nothing. I am unsure as to what the relevance of the artwork is exactly; however, I think it probably has to do with Norse (Viking) mythology. On the front cover there are naked children climbing up an old rock surface and on the inside of the album, there is a picture of a rocky mountainside covered with green grass and flowers and of a decayed castle that appears to have been abandoned for a long time. In front of the castle stands what appears to be a man with his arms fully extended overhead, holding what appears to be a young woman or a young female child that is lying on her back on his hands. There is a light shining down off of the top of the castle ruins pointing directly at the man and the young woman (or young female child). To me it appears that she is lifeless and that the man is mourning to the light that his child or whatever she is dead. Either that or he is offering her to the light(maybe symbolizing sacrifice), but I feel my first theory is probably more likely.
Led Zeppelins intense musical excursions helped define the sound of hard rock, while their penchant for folk balladry added to their mystique as rock gods. They are, in my opinion, one of the most creative and talented bands of all time. However, I feel that they had much more to offer the world than they ever got to deliver upon due to numerous misfortunes, tragedies and their excessive drug and alcohol abuse. The group called it quits after the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980, and remaining members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Paul Jones pursued (mostly) separate musical ventures.
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