R is for…..”Rock And Roll” by Led Zeppelin.

What on Earth can you say about Led Zep? Well, you can say first of all how ridiculous they sound, how ponderous and overwrought. In 1970, souping up the blues with earth tremor drums and bludgeoning virtuosity must have seemed a neat idea. Actually, no, it must have seemed like the ultimate fuck-off terminus of Rock, like the whole damn point of music was to let Robert Plant holler his horny, preposterous lyrics over this cacophony. Guitar and groin, and the devil take the rest.

But that only made sense if you believed that not only was pop music forever linked to the blues, but that the link was a progressive one, that rock was an advancement on the blues and could so be expected to develop towards louder, faster, more thrilling, more ultimate expressions. In the work of Led Zeppelin, among others, this implicit progression was symbolised by the band’s unwillingness to let their rip-offs go credited to the original writers: those blues tracks, why, they were almost ‘standards’, whereas Zeppelin was art.

Once you started listening to the blues, though, maybe things changed. You might have noticed that the old tracks were lots better – subtler, fuller of character – than their studious imitators or rock-out adaptors. Or you might have noticed that the old blues was timebound and repetitive, interesting for certain but hardly the fountainhead of everything musically worthwhile. Or you might have thought a bit of both. Either way, it shook up that notion of linear development; either way, progress of the Zeppelin kind wasn’t neccessarily worth the effort.

Anyway, twenty years after there’s a hundred different, better ways to make pop music than Led Zeppelin even knew about. It’s no wonder I came to them now not expecting much, less wonder I came away with little. They are, in the end, a foolish band: Plant’s reedy yelp is easy to recognise, but also very easy to mock, and though millions of fans would disagree it doesn’t convince me for a second. It’s not that I’m over-analysing them or that I can’t ‘get’ them: I’m suspicious of intelligent people trying to wriggle out of analysis, it usually means that what they’re urging you to take on trust doesn’t stand up well. And I ‘get’ Zeppelin perfectly: they made loud rock music, but so does anyone if you turn the volume up.