Classic Album Sundays will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy this month. We asked founder Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy why it is still so special.
Still in his mid-twenties and living only a few doors down the street from me, Dennis initiated me in “Classic Sixties Rock 101”, turning me onto The Beatles’ White Album (complete with inserts), The Rolling Stones, Crosby Stills & Nash and The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed (I still have the copy with his initials etched on the jacket).
A few years later, Brian, another young uncle and a single father, asked me to look after my cousin after school. While Kevin was running around outside playing with his neighborhood pals, I made my way through Brian’s record collection and, as was necessary at the time, there was a lot of Led Zeppelin. Along with their monster LP known as “IV”, I played “Houses of the Holy” over and over, never tiring of the grandiose opening, the tender ballads and folk guitar, the full-on blast of unadulterated rock and the hip-shaking dirty funk.
Listening to the album today, I reconnect with these moments but it is not solely an exercise in nostalgia. With nearly three decades in the music biz under my belt, a massive record collection of my own and a very nice hi-fi on which to play it, I am discovering “HOTH” once again, understanding it within the context of the band’s history while appreciating the high level of musicianship and production through immersing myself into the music itself. I gave the Bob-Lugwig-mastered-Atlantic-1841-Broadway original a spin the other night and although I had to turn down the volume as per my daughter’s request, one song stood out, so much so that it has been on continuous mental replay ever since.
I discovered “The Rain Song” playing as an endless loop is a lovely way to wake up, easing into the day with Jimmy Page’s exquisite opening chords, famously paying tribute to the George Harrison penned “Something”, the layered guitar interplay both delicate and haunting, drawing me in. Robert Plant, so close to the mic you can hear his little mouth noises, singing tenderly and intimately about his “little infatuation” (and certainly belying the band’s fiendish on tour reputation).
But it is the introduction of John Paul Jones’ gorgeously soaring mellotron, cleverly arranged as a real string section, hearing his pulsing of the volume peddle, that signals this is going to be a fine day indeed. John Bonham enters the sonic picture with a restrained urgency, his brushwork anticipating something a bit bigger but consciously holding back, waiting for the moment until, until…wham! Big, banging Bonzo drums shooting through and filling the giant acoustic space, the moment of crescendo propelling me out of my bed. Plant’s wailing and Jones’ majestic mellotron strings and keyboard stomps commanding me to thrust my invisible lighter into the air as this is going to be a great day! The Best Day Ever!
Then the boys take it on back down and I catch my breath, floating on the strings and basking in the beauty of the instrumental fusion, produced and mixed with expertise. And then it is all Jimmy and I listen for the squeaks of his acoustic guitar slides, his intricate picking, intuiting the resolution of his final chord. Thank you Gentlemen. My day begins.
CAS London and Tokyo celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy. The album will be played in full on an audiophile system including Bowers & Wilkins 802 Diamond loudspeakers.
- London: Sunday 3 March 5 -8pm, Hanbury Arms, 33 Linton Street, London, N1 7DU
- Tokyo: Sun 31st March 5-8pm, Studio A, at Kitasando, 3-12-10, #103 Sendagaya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 151-0051