Jimmy Page once stated, with tongue firmly in cheek, “Usually my riffs are pretty damn original.” He was right, usually they are damn original, it’s just that he didn’t come up with the bulk of them. As a songwriter Page is lauded by many, as a producer he was as good as anyone out there for the genre that he worked in. As a thief, well he was as good as Ronnie Biggs really, in that he was better known for being a high profile, low level crook than anything else. Good ole Ronnie, best known for being a hanger on who became famous for being infamous than anything else. And Page is famous for being infamous, infamous in that he helped invent a genre, spawn several thousand other idiots with lesser talents and for stealing from those less fortunate than he’ll ever be.
You’d be stuffed totally if you could understand what Plant is singing on some songs though. By all accounts Plant tore Page a new arsehole on In The Evening and on Jones’s stunning Carouselambra, but I’ll be buggered if I can make out what he’s singing. You’d have better luck working out what the legendary Stardust Cowboy is saying on Paralyzed or exactly what Gabby Haynes is squealing about on Jesus Built My Hotrod before you’d translate what Plant is squeaking. You’d think a lyric sheet would have helped, but nope. The one time the band included such an animal, for Houses of The Holy, the backlash was incredible. During the 1970s dope reigned supreme, as did people who had too much time on their hands and not enough to do with it, thus an entire sub-culture sprang up dedicated to working out what Plant was singing. The lyric sheet gave it away and spoiled all of the fun. Go figure.
With Zeppelin the accusations of theft, and there were many, were valid but served a purpose. As a youngun listening to Zep, and their cast-offs like Kiss, I liked the music no end and didn’t care about where it came from, such are the joys of ignorance that comes with youth. And there lies the rub – kids don’t give a shit about where the music comes from, as long as they enjoy it. Nobody who buys a Jet album gives a fat rats for Doug Fielder or Iggy Pop. I expect that the people who buy lady Ga-Ga albums look at Madonna as being an old, dried up skank (they might have a point there). As I got older I began to read more about the bands and the suggestions began to pop into my head. I read Chris Welch’s biography on Zeppelin, a puff piece at best, but it was a good starting point. Then I read a Paul Stanley interview where Stanley, when faced with the accusation that Love Gun was stolen from Zeppelin, admitted it, along with Makin’ Love and the other half of the Kiss catalogue, and then stated that it was fine as Zeppelin stole from everyone. I needed to know, so I began to dig a lot deeper.