Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Certain Songs #906: Led Zeppelin – “The Ocean” | Medialoper

Album: Houses of The Holy
Year: 1973

Led Zeppelin closed out Houses of The Holy with one of the most purely fun songs in their entire canon, the incredibly weird “The Ocean,” somehow welds an impossible drumbeat, an acapella bridge and a 50’s pastiche closing into a seamless whole.

Let’s start with that drumbeat: in order to match the riff that Page & Jones are playing, John Bonham has to lay off on the snare beat every fourth measure, giving the whole song a stuttering feeling, like it’s drunk as fuck and is just about to fall over at any second.

But of course, it never does, instead it seemlessly transitions into a more traditional 4/4 beat as Robert Plant sings about life on the road, and the ocean of fans he’s seeing every night. But here’s the thing: he’s got a date with the girl who stole his heart. His daughter. Awwwww.

Of course, you might be paying attention too much to it, because you’re still trying to puzzle out how to play that riff on the drums, but before you can figure it out, the whole song comes to stop, and they’re all singing.

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la

It makes no damn sense, of course, but it doesn’t even matter as John Bonhan hits that sweet high harmony, before the song kicks back into the weird riff one last time.

And then at the end, the whole thing swings into straight 1950s rock ‘n’ roll groove, with Page soloing like the guitarists that influenced him while Bonham & Jones are singing “doo-wop, da-doo-doo-doo” over and over and the sense of joy in the whole song is palpable.

I mean, that’s thing about Led Zeppelin. They’ve always been seen as this dour band of musical marauders — and certainly their relative inaccessibility to the press combined with their overpowering anthemic sense contributed to their darker image — but with the added hindsight of decades of listening to their music, what I hear the most is just how much they loved doing what they did.

BTW, for whatever reason, Houses of The Holy was also the album that my friends in Fresno bands chose to cover songs from, and so Pure Death often stuck their pretty spectacular version of “The Ocean” in their sets so the rest of us could revel in its eternal hooky weirdness, even if we were drunk as fuck and about to fall over at any second.

“The Ocean”

“The Ocean” Performed live in New York, 1973

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