Monday, May 7, 2012

"Celebration Day" Celebration Day (A Partial Re-Post)

 In March of 2011, I ran a post about Led Zeppelin, its fans and detractors, and why I lurve them as much as I do.

Yesterday, I found myself discussing, yet again,  the song "Celebration Day," from the band's third LP. I think it just might be my favorite Zep tune, at least when performed live.

Here's what I wrote in 2011:

This live version finds all four members playing for their lives. The studio version of "Celebration Day" found on "Led Zeppelin III" is an upbeat little rocker, with slide guitar, some funky stops and starts, and the usual solid performance from the rhythm section. This live version takes on a whole new life. It borders on hard core funk, pre-dating what the Red Hot Chili Peppers have been cited as creating by 15 years.

John Paul Jones and John Bonham kick in at 0:31 and propel this baby into another galaxy.  Check them out behind Jimmy's first short solo at 1:43, then again starting at 2:22.

Jimmy Page takes his usual liberties, hitting and missing like no other rock and roll guitarist. Page takes chances, and occasionally his flubs end up being a highlight, like right around the 3:40 mark. Maybe he had that little stop planned all along, but I've never heard it in any other live performance of this song, and it really raves up an already volcanic performance. 

And here it is: 

Then, there is this version from Mobile, Alabama, 5/13/73, which is another gem and a fave of my friend Derek. Here's what he had to say:

"Check out how Bonham drops the beat at 2:43 and then recovers, so cool. And John Paul Jones is amazing throughout. Maybe (Bonham) doesn't quite lose the beat BUT the way he leaves that space and sort of in limbo before returning back to the snare is awesome. It's almost dead air for a beat or so. It's kind of fat back(?) for a moment.

One more version from 1971, the audio here is raw, but again the rhythm section of Jones and Bonzo is off the hook. Starting about 3:15, underneath Page's solo, the bass and drums almost veer off into Sun Ra territory.

Finally, here is the version from the mostly awful film "The Song Remains The Same," shot at Madison Square Garden in November of 1973.

I could do this all day, and actually, though I'm not so comfortable admitting this, I used to. There was a great book by Luis Rey, now long out of print, which documented every live Zep gig in great detail--what to listen for, differences in Page's solos from song to song, great moments from the rhythm section.  I'd pick a few bootlegs, open the book, and follow along for hours.

I've heard enough stories, and I even had one my own, of how bad the band could be live. Every band has its off days. But I've yet to find a bad version of "Celebration Day." At least, not to the ears of this Zep fan.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Interesting post, Sal. The Zep rhythm section was always overshadowed in it's day by the virtuosity of Page's guitar work and the Plant charisma.
Bonzo has always been my favorite drummer because he was just so kick-ass, balls-out terrific. All the subtle little drum fills on the Zep records were just so effortless. He gave the extra effort to make his work special, and I appreciated that.
JPJ always seemed more workmanlike, nothing flashy, but efficient and professional. And, ultimately, their final studio album would never have materialized were it not for him. Whether that's a good thing or not is up for debate( It's my least favorite studio album), but he did the lion's share of work due to Page's addictions and the issues Plant dealt with following the death of his son.
Ultimately, they made the right decision to disband upon the death of Bonham, for he was truly irreplaceable.