180,000 people in a field at night. The smell of woodsmoke from the bonfires around the periphery. A television camera picks out a raised arm with a burning torch and the image is projected to a massive backdrop. And then he starts to sing.
There’s a lady who’s sure…
August 11th 1979 in Knebworth England. Perhaps before you, dear Reader,were born. This was Led Zeppelin. The best concert I have ever attended even now in the post-punk, hip-hop, no stop, pop bubble culture of 2018.
I was raised in Stoke-on-Trent (sometimes referred to as Choke-on-Stench) in England’s West Midlands. My childhood and teens were full of Tolkein and the magical Alan Garner. Chimney smoke, dark winters and the wailing of wind in the banshee trees of the park created the mood. Robert Plant, Zep’s frontman, was from the West Midlands too and it was his voice that vicariously gave expression to my teenage angst.
My spirit is crying for leaving
Even now when I hear this song I feel a deep connection with all the iterations of me down the years. We are all stood on the event horizon of a deep reverie, listening to all the nuances and following the cathartic ritual of the song’s structure.
Nobody, not even Robert Plant, really knows what the song is about so I guess we all construct our own meaning.
In 1985, during the horrors of the UK’s Thatcher years, Led Zeppelin played in the Band Aid concert for famine relief.
And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter
Robert Plant then ad-libbed ‘Does anybody remember laughter?’ and we did and it had been so long.
Music is a very personal thing and I don’t know why I meet myself and the ghosts of me from other times in this song. There are other songs that make me think more, make me sadder, make me want to dance. But ‘Stairway to Heaven’?
It makes me wonder.