What was your reward for wading your way through two full discs of Physical Graffiti? Perhaps their most decadent song, the underage groupie opus, “Sick Again.”
Despite their “lock up your daughters” reputation, the darker side of Led Zeppelin’s lifestyle really didn’t make it into their songs all that much. Page was too reticent and Plant too utopian to write about their encounters in the same way that, say, Pete Townshend or (especially) Mick Jagger did.
And while sex was at the heart of many of their tracks, duh, “Sick Again” was really the only time they ever lyrically ventured deep into “Stray Cat Blues” territory, and — even weirder — it can be seen in retrospect as a bit of a dig at Jimmy Page by Robert Plant, as Page was dating the extremely underage Lori Mattox at the time.
From the window of your rented limousine
I saw your pretty blue eyes
One day soon you’re gonna reach sixteen
Painted lady in the city of lies
Oh, do you know my name?
Do I look the same?
You know I’m the one you want, babe
I must be the one you need, yeah
So yeah, problematic.
But man, the riff that opens “Sick Again” is like somebody breaking down a garage door with a baseball bat. Utterly fierce and piledriving, and that’s just beginning, as “Sick Again” is a fucking riff machine, with Page on double-plus fire throughout. Swooping in from the left, smashing windows from the right, Page just layers on the guitar until you’re not even paying attention to the lyrics.
And in case you still were, here comes John Bonham doing drum rolls with only his kick drum. About halfway through the song his kick drum comes bursting through the song like the baby from Alien. And for good measure he does it again, beating every living thing in his path into utter submission.
So at the end of “Sick Again” there are about 75,665 guitars while Bonham raves up and Plant echoes one of the guitars, and all you can do is look dumbfounded like, “what even did I just hear?”
“Sick Again” performed live in 1975
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