Building Blocks

Life as a born-during-the-Johnson-administration 46 year old in a millennial-driven culture felt a little less alienating this week when the rock music world celebrated the 40th anniversary of Physical Graffiti. Led Zeppelin’s epic double album was released on February 24th back in 1975 and can now be called, officially, “middle-aged”. We’re in good company, yes! I like it 🙂

Since I’ve already opined extensively about Zeppelin on this blog, I’ll spare my readers another fawning monologue and highlight instead the album cover for Physical Graffiti. But first I want to mention that I love the MP3 phenomenon as much as anybody. For all us music lovers it’s been, truly, a revolution. But if we lost anything of value with the death of LPs (the need for ample upright storage space not among them) it’s the art and design of the album cover. Particularly the rock album cover. Can you envision them? I’m sure you can. The Beatles’ Abbey Road. Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. The Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. Sure there are covers to CD releases today, but it’s not quite the same.

Peter Corriston designed the iconic cover for Physical Graffiti which is instantly identifiable to Zeppelin fans:

PhysicalGraffiti

The source for this image is a block in New York City’s East Village, building street numbers 96 and 98 on St. Mark’s Place. My town has provided countless settings and images that have made their way into popular culture, and it always makes me proud. From the Empire State Building to the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park to the promenade in Brooklyn Heights, in music and television and movies, New York City is everywhere … and don’t you forget it! Here are the Physical Graffiti apartments:

physical_graffiti_album_cover_led_zeppelin

The top floor of the building was cropped out and the window spaces on the album were cut out and inserted with liner notes and illustrations. You can read more about the Physical Graffiti album cover at this page.

It looks like I’ve just done a Music Monday at midnight on Saturday. So I might as well go the whole nine yards and conclude with actual music. But what to choose from this magnificently rich, confusing, strange, uninhibited double album? One on which you can detect the wear and tear in Robert Plant’s voice, and savor Jimmy Page falling obsessively in love with his guitar? No we won’t do the masterpiece “Kashmir”, but an acoustic ditty that was recorded outdoors in the garden at Mick Jagger’s house. From Physical Graffiti, this is “Black Country Woman”.

.

Have a great weekend, friends! Be back soon. Until then, peace ..

5 thoughts on “Building Blocks

  1. Bill says:

    Oddly, I really like Zeppelin’s acoustic stuff. It’s funny — the first great metal band — and the acoustic work is just so fine. Thanks!

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      Jimmy Page himself has made this same point in interviews – that a good portion of Zeppelin tracks are acoustic. Sometimes people forget that! And yes they sound great.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Claudia

  2. Derek says:

    My favorite from that record are “Trampled Underfoot”, Ten Years Gone”, “In My Time Of Dying” and of course “Kashmir”. Boy I am getting old talking about my youth. I always thought Led Zeppelin IV was a better record than Physical Graffit, just like for me “Revolver” was a better Beatles record than the overrated “Sgt Pepper”. I had that record on vinyl back in the old days.

    My parents were into the big bands like Glenn Miller and the big band era during war time. This record brings back memories of my youth with my grandchildren and children.

    Here is Jimmy who is now an old man at 71 his hair is whiter like me after all we don’t look like that when we were young men and women. He talks about the making of “Kashmir” with the other chaps. and her talks about the making of “Stairway to Heaven”. Love this man my favorite guitra player along with Jimi Hendrix who I was fortunate to see him live in 1969. A wise older man talking about his creations.

    • artmodel says:

      Derek,

      I LOVE “Ten Years Gone”, and “In My Time of Dying”. Love those tracks so much. And I’m with you on Zeppelin IV. It is superior to Physical Graffiti. It’s a near-perfect rock album in my opinion. Also with you about Revolver. We have the same tastes!

      Thanks for the videos! I’ve seen the first one about “Kashmir”. And I like Page’s white-haired look! He has that elder statesman of rock thing going on. After all the abuse he put himself through for so many years it’s impressive that he looks so good. Keith Richards on the other hand … 😆

      Great to hear from you, as always! Hope you’re well.

      Claudia

  3. “But if we lost anything of value with the death of LPs (the need for ample upright storage space not among them) it’s the art and design of the album cover. Particularly the rock album cover. ”

    So true. I’m a big fan of “Yes,” and Roger Dean’s surreal science-fantasy art for their covers is as much a part of the experience of their work as the music itself. At least for me.

    Something else that’s gone missing in the age of digital music is the art of the liner note. You know from Twitter that I’m a jazz and classical fan; liner notes are often iluminating short musicological essays that enrich the listener’s experience with context for the music. Especially in Jazz, the liner notes of Nat Hentoff are must-reading. But liner notes aren’t often offered with digital downloads: I just checked five important albums I have on iTunes — no notes offered. It’s a shame these are being lost.

    Oh, one other thing: In Jazz, the “sidemen” are often as important as the lead performer. A lot of them were great performers, but never became A-listers. On albums and CDs, you could learn of these people and look for their other work. With digital downloads, not so much. :/

    Yours running off on a tangent, 🙂
    –Phineas

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