Why Led Zeppelin called that one ‘Presence’

Loren, 2000-something

By the time Led Zeppelin got to their seventh album Presence the band sounds tired. Still good, still Zeppelin, but starting to show signs of wear. How could they not? How many bands make seven perfect albums like that? Less than 50? 20?Β The cover has a photo of a family sitting around a table by a marina admiring a black obelisk, 2001 style. It’s weird. Going back, the album art from the first three records is standard fare for the time (the black and white blimp from the first, the Beatles-esque, illustrated brown on the second); it wasn’t until the fourth album they got more artsy, with what looks like a figure from the Tarot on the cover, a bent-over countryman with a bundle of sticks on his back, hearkening the mood of that record, that spans their roots with the first two songs, to new directions the band was exploring and would develop in the coming years.

Presence is basically the end of that run (1969 – 1976), and fact-checking myself on Wiki I realize now why they sound tired: Plant was in a wheelchair, recuperating from a car accident on some Greek isle, and Page stayed up all night doing the guitar overdubs, and the band recorded and mixed it all in just 18 days, surprising the Rolling Stones who had the studio space next, when they turned up to hear it was all done.

I owned most of these records in the ’80s, back when you could join the Columbia Record Club and pay like a buck to get 10 albums, and then there was some subscription thing you were loosely bound to, that most people my age found a way to get around.

I first heard Led Zeppelin at my friend Loren’s house in Allentown, when his mom was away, and it was just the two of us 14 going on 15, 1984, after a Saturday night high school football game in the fall we were too young for, but there was the smell of woodsmoke in the air and jean jackets and our breath you could see, the sound of marching bands, the feel of chaos and energy…kids nearly not-kids but still kids, out in packs in the dark, some drinking, et cetera.

It was the first time I had Sun Country wine coolers and we drank from a two-liter plastic bottle at Loren’s, that resembled the same bottle you’d drink soda from, and Loren had a wooden pipe he got somewhere and some weed somehow, so that was pretty much the night, not much I can remember, apart from falling asleep to that music, a kind of corridor between a kid’s past and some unknown, vastly better future.

In the morning I regarded myself in the hallway mirror, my face seemed many years aged, the first signs of dark hollows around the eyes. And I walked home in the sun that Sunday morning feeling darkly ashamed and tainted, as if God himself regarded my acts…and when I met my parents at home I was sure they could tell I was different now. It was Led Zeppelin II that made me that way.

I grew up in some ways and not in others. I hired a career coach and we met at Starbucks and talked about his travels around Ireland, and he mentioned the Giant’s Causeway up north, which we’d wanted to see when we were in Belfast but didn’t, and how the band had made that weird cover from Houses of the Holy there, with the nymphlike creatures crawling on the rocks, and the strange orange filtering…and I was happy I knew immediately just what he was talking about, and played it on my way home from work today: for the first time in what seems like months, the sun came out.


My friends Mark and Kevin submitted stories for ‘Anthony’s Navel,’ a new Saturday guest post series I announced last week β€” details here.

 

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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31 Responses to Why Led Zeppelin called that one ‘Presence’

  1. byebyebeer says:

    Really liked this one. Time to get the Led out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had a friend who would routinely join Columbia under an array of literary aliases. Hemingway. F. Scott. He had a GIANT record collection and never paid for one.

    I remember when that album came out. There were hits but even then the sense was that they were done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      When I read up on it I guess it had critical acclaim but was slowest selling…Page really proud of it, Plant not; don’t think any of them got much sleep. Good they wrapped things up then with the next one I think (In Through The Out Door), aptly named maybe. My friend Anthony insists Plant was already leading them stylistically into what would become his solo records then (like the song Big Log).

      Like

  3. Joy Pixley says:

    Oh my, I remember Columbia Record Club. I wonder how many of the albums in my living room were from those early shipments. Now,was that the one with the stickers that you would put on your order form, or was that the book club? Maybe both. Something about the stickers, I just couldn’t resist. Makes me glad they don’t do that anymore. Clicking and swiping just can’t hold a candle to stickers, in my book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      That last right, the stickers hearken back to kiddy activities most likely, or advent calendars…I wasn’t dishonest as I recall with all that, but did build up a nice collection I then carried around with me, gave away to a neighbor…and now I’m buying again, full price or more. Funny. Good thing we don’t live too long in the scheme of things.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joy Pixley says:

        I’ve made it a mission to listen to my old albums whenever I’m cooking (which is my only music-listening time, these days), to justify hauling them around all these years. Some of them hold up better than others, that’s for sure.

        Like

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Care to share a title your proud of? Mine would be Louder than Bombs by The Smiths.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Hm, depends on what you mean by proud….

        Like

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Like man this is cool isn’t it, or I really like spinning this while I’m in the kitchen. It brings me joy, so to speak.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Ah, in that case: Blondie, The Hunter. Based on the reviews, I seem to be the only person who likes this album, but it’s one of my favorites. I know every word to every odd song, and somehow, after all this time, I feel like I can sense a weird sci-fi/speculative world-building theme where they all make sense being there on the same album. Like, this is secretly a concept album and those nasty reviewers just don’t grok the concept the way I do, man.

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        That’s super cool Joy, thanks for sharing. You know where grok comes from, speaking of sci-fi? You probably do. I tried to read that book one month we were in England and couldn’t gag it down. Stranger in a Strange Land. Better off with Blondie.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Well, here’s an embarrassing confession. I would have sworn that yes, I had read Stranger in a Strange Land. But being wiser than I was once, I decided to check first by reading the synopsis on Wikipedia, and found that many aspects of the book are totally new to me. It seems that I have somehow learned the general synopsis of the book through cultural osmosis without reading it. Or possibly, read it and completely forgot it, which given my memory is not so impossible. I should try it (again). I have a fairly high tolerance for badly written science fiction if the concept is high enough.

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Ah that’s okay. I felt the same about that book so I did try to read it, and did a good 400 pages, and then fucking walked away mad. Couldn’t stand the dated voice of it, particularly as it depicted women. Not a “women’s rights” enthusiast but found that dated, bad male voice of the time is just best left in the past. Like how we got to this conversation from Blondie though.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Oh yeah, I can really get my feminist knickers in a knot while reading that old sci-fi, and it’s reflected in my reviews on Goodreads. πŸ˜‰ But I have more patience with those old fogeys from previous generations than I do with people writing now, and I do like to read the classics to know where some of these themes came from and how/why they developed as they have.

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        I like doing the same with the classics, that’s good. Similar scenario with music, though my friend Anthony often makes fun of how much critical acclaim they have Pet Sounds. It’s fun making fun of The Beach Boys. And I don’t think they’d seem to mind. “Classics”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Joy Pixley says:

        I’m not sure I can say Beach Boys and cla… cla…. Nope, not in the same sentence. πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I can’t even remember the songs on Presence, so I’ll have to revisit. I think I stopped with Physical Graffiti, but even today I’ll binge on I and II because they’re so guttural. The more Plant got into mystical faerie stuff, the less interested I was.

    But ain’t it great that everything old can be new again, and the sun can still make an appearance after a long hiatus?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. rossmurray1 says:

    It all depends on the crowd you hang with. There was a three-prong attack in my case. One friend: The Doors. Another friend: The Sex Pistols. Me: The Who. It all depended on who was driving.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Funny you say that about The Who. I’ve come in and out of them, but really had a go at them this past weekend. I listened to “A Quick One,” like, intently. I liked it a lot. But it never took with me, them. I really admire them but not the same way as a fan. The Doors were different. I went deep into that voodoo, maybe deeper than good.

      Like

      • rossmurray1 says:

        The problem with The Doors is that it’s not a very deep catalogue. There are only so many times you can hear “The Crystal Ship” before you want to get out and walk. As for The Who, I think I was less into screaming guitars than complaining guitars.

        Like

      • pinklightsabre says:

        No it’s not deep. Though I’ll say, there’s some nice variety between that first album, and then the last three (Soft Parade, Morrison Hotel, LA Woman). Have to say, those last two in particular, they grew a lot — at least with that blues rock sound. I heard from Anthony that the Grateful Dead, if you can believe this, HATED The Doors. Funny, right? Not sure if it was a north vs. south California thing or what, but funny to think the Dead could get angry and hateful toward anyone, right? Ha! Makes sense I think…something about Morrison trying to do blues maybe but being insincere about it?! This is stupid, why are we doing this now.

        Liked by 1 person

      • rossmurray1 says:

        Because we’re nerds.

        Like

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Right, there’s that.

        Like

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