Back in mid-August 1979, school was beginning. As what had become my tradition, I bought an album that week to commemorate the occasion by buying an album. Although my summer of ’79 had been a new wave summer, what with Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, The Knack and Bram Tchaikovsky to purchase, I knew I was awaiting one of the Big Three releases anticipated for the fall. Fleetwood Mac (Tusk) and Eagles (The Long Run) had yet to drop, but perhaps the biggest, most anticipated album of the year was Led Zeppelin’s In Through the Out Door. And, being a Zep fan since 1975, I was psyched.
So, I borrowed Mom’s Buick Skylark, AKA “The Green Ghost”, to drive over to the local record store to make my big purchase. When I got to the store, the display had been ransacked by purchases, but it always helps to make friends with the proprietors of these establishments because my man had held a copy back for me without me even having to tell him. But, when he handed me this brown-paper bag-covered record, I looked at him quizzically. He said there were SIX different album covers, so the bag kept the secret of which cover you were getting. So far, TWO awesome gimmicks! He then said that both sides of the inner sleeve were black and white drawings that if you “painted” water on them would change colors. WOW!!! THREE COOL GIMMICKS!
My question was if the music was better than their last studio album, Presence, released in 1975. He said it was, but that the music was nowhere near anything like what had made them famous in the first place. He actually told me that he felt their music was growing up. I thought to myself that this sounded interesting, and couldn’t wait to get home to crank up the volume in my room.
After I pulled the Ghost into the garage, I literally ran into the house and straight to my bedroom to open up the album. Now, I have not yet begun to collect all six LP covers, I must have one of the rarer ones according to http://www.discogs.com, which allows you to determine the “worth” of you albums. Mine happens to be somewhere in the middle in the worth of the six covers. So, the packaging was pretty cool, and I have kept the brown-paper bag ever since. That bag is supposed to give the album a bootleg feel, which made it cool to me.
So, anyway, I listened to the album. It opened with a natural concert opener “In the Evening”. In that moment, I knew the Zep was still able to rock. Then came the change-ups, like they had all been listening to punk, new wave and reggae, and were attempting to incorporate those sounds into their sound, which was all ready an amalgamation of blues and heavy rock. They were incorporating calypso into “Fool in the Rain” (still one of my favorites) and rockabilly on “Hot Dog”. Yet, they were still the Zep we all grew up on when it came to “All of My Love”, a great ballad if there ever was one.
I have to be honest. While I know critics don’t care for this album, this was the first Zeppelin album that spoke to me. Maybe, that’s why it was a fitting last album for them after drummer John Bonham passed away early in 1980. At the time, I was so bummed that I would never get to see them live, since I was too young to go see them in 1975 (Thanks Mom and Dad for that one!). To this day, In Through the Out Door remains my “go-to” Led Zeppelin album.
Led Zeppelin never released a single in the U.S. after “Whole Lotta Love” hit the Top 10 in 1970. In 1979, they released “Fool in the Rain” as a single, but it never really caught on here in the States. If my memory serves me well, I think I heard it peak around #28 or 29 on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. Fortunately, Classic Rock has it in rotation throughout the U.S.A. I personally just love that calypso sound they incorporated into their rock sound. Unfortunately, it seems like 1980s Americans were not ready for that sound since Blondie’s “Island of Lost Souls” did the same thing from the punk side, and that song too failed to make a dent on the charts. I guess we just weren’t ready for such obvious incorporation of world music sounds. As we know, that would change in 1986 with Paul Simon’s masterpiece, Graceland.
I am so thankful that Jimmy Page remastered all of Zep’s albums AND added a disc or two of rarities to each album a couple of years ago. These albums sound so awesome now. You can finally hear what a fantastic bass player John Paul Jones really is, as I further discovered on the Them Crooked Vultures album from a few years ago. Jones was joined by Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), a worthy successor to the Zeppelin mantle if there ever was one.
In Through the Out Door is a great Led Zeppelin album, and it continues to reveal new layers in its music with each listen, especially on the remastered version. All I am saying is give it another chance. I like you’ll hear what I mean.