Led Zeppelin IV Turns 40!
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If you were following my insane project, This Day - EVERY DAY - in History (a 366-Item Geeklist, Eventually), you would know that November 8, 1971 is the day that the fourth album by Led Zeppelin, originally known as Led Zeppelin IV or perhaps Zoso, if that's what those weird symbols look like to you, was released.



So, grab your air guitar and your headphones, and read on.
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1. Board Game: Zeppelin [Average Rating:5.36 Overall Rank:15453]
Wendell
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Even by the very successful standards of Led Zeppelin, Zep IV did very well. It's sold well over 20 million copies, and is behind only Michael Jackson's Thriller and the Eagles Greatest Hits (1971-75) for sales in the US (based on RIAA).

Commercial success is of course no guarantee of quality. Witness the Twilight phenomenon of today, or the success of Danielle Steele. But sometimes the twain meet, and this album was not only an instant best-seller, but was (and continues to be) very highly regarded by the critics and the fans.


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2. Board Game: Top Dog [Average Rating:8.00 Unranked]
Wendell
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The album begins with "Black Dog." It rocks. I'm pretty sure it isn't actually about canines. Actually, Robert Plant said "Things like 'Black Dog' are blatant, let's-do-it-in-the-bath type things, but they make their point just the same." Yes, I think "let's do it in the bath" is pretty much the whole message... but it's delivered pretty well, eh?


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3. Board Game: Rock'n Roll [Average Rating:5.33 Unranked]
Wendell
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The second track is called "Rock and Roll."

(wifwendell disappears from the keyboard for his first extended air guitar solo of this geeklist... okay he's back)

It's tough to top the energy of "Black Dog". But "Rock and Roll" blows it away. (oops, another air guitar solo... okay, back again)

Fun fact: all four members of Led Zeppelin share song-writing credit on this little ditty.

Rock and roll!

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4. Board Game: Lord of the Rings [Average Rating:6.76 Overall Rank:789]
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Next comes "The Battle of Evermore." It is impossible to top the energy of "Rock and Roll" and daringly and wisely, Zep didn't try. Evermore is a totally different direction - Jimmy Page's acoustic guitar and mandolin, and instead of singing about boffing and rock and roll (which of course, is merely one in a series of euphemisms for the act of sex), Plant sings about ringwraiths and the dark lord and magic runes and the pain of war. And Sandy Denny from Fairport Convention lends some vocals.

The acoustics on this bootleg aren't very good, but an interesting mash-up with scenes from the Lord of the Rings movies.

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5. Board Game: Heaven and Hell [Average Rating:4.00 Unranked]
Wendell
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The fourth track is one you perhaps have heard of. An unassuming little number name of "Stairway to Heaven."

There are lots of stories and myths about this song, including allegations of secret messages about Satan. If you play it backwards, that is. I did it once, with a friend - yes kids, you can play vinyl backwards, try THAT with your iPod - and well I didn't become a Satan worshipper so if that was the intent, it failed. Everybody associated with the band has always denied that.

What can't be denied is that it became an absolute utter monster hit. Despite being a full 8 minutes and 2 seconds long, it got constant airplay. And it is a pretty damn good song.

I remember as a teen having long, deep philosophical conversations about music and songs like 'Stairway'. One thing we did decide was that this was a pretty good song to introduce an alien to rock and roll, since it starts slow and quiet and almost folkie, and escalates, louder and faster, till the scintillating arena-rock guitar solo and the climactic ending.

This song usually appears on the short list for best rock and roll song ever. It's a pretty good candidate.

Excuse me, I must air-guitar again.

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6. Board Game: Flip [Average Rating:4.75 Overall Rank:16282]
Wendell
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Okay, here's where we flip the album to side two. This is a good time to go get a beverage, some munchies, or some other pleasure enhancing substance. I'll wait.
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7. Board Game: The Hobbit [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:3884]
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Now we've dropped the needle on side two. First track (fifth overall) is "Misty Mountain Hop," a trip back to fantasy land - with a pharmacological assist which you need to get to the Misty Mountains, which after all don't really exist.

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8. Board Game: Pick Up Sticks [Average Rating:4.25 Overall Rank:17551]
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Sixth song on the album is "Four Sticks." It's a rather odd song, starting from the fact that it gets its name because drummer John Bonham used four drumsticks while recording it. It also has an odd time signature. It's a little bit lost on this album (and apparently only played once in concert) but it's a damn fine song.

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9. Board Game: California [Average Rating:6.25 Overall Rank:2838]
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The seventh song is the lovely "Going to California." A simple, great folk track. Never tire of it.

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10. Board Game: Egyptian Flood [Average Rating:4.97 Unranked]
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The final track on this brilliant album is the great but rather weird "When the Levee Breaks". It was a remake (with some changed lyrics) of blues-woman Memphis Minnie's 1929 song of the same title, about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.

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