I can’t hide it any longer. We’re in the middle of Led Zeppelin Week. I started it off by stealth because… Well, because the idea of doing seven songs on Led Zeppelin and pretending it sums up the band is just daft. This is Led Zeppelin. Led Ruddy Zeppelin. Except this one isn’t. This is Heart. Or the Wilson sisters from Heart. Look, you know the song. You know it’s from Volume 4 (or do only Sabbath call their album Volume 4?). You know it’s the only Led Zeppelin song with a guest singer on it. Or, if you don’t know. Sandy Denny does those dreamy folky noises behind Percy while he squeals out his version of The Lord Of The Rings on the original album.
Led Zeppelin IV. If it’s Led Zeppelin week we have to have a track from IV. It’s a monolithic record. Four Sticks, the Page & Plant Unleded take was covered here very recently. Same incredible pedigree. I meant everything I said back then about the Zoso, Four Symbols, Man with all the sticks on his back being a milestone of a record. The Battle Of Evermore was always my favourite from that album. Because as a young headbanger. I had never heard music like it. I didn’t have folky parents per-se. So I didn’t know who Fairport Convention were or who Sandy Denny was until I brought Led Zep 4.
Black Dog is an absolute heavy metal proto-anthem. Rock And Roll is it’s drinking buddy. Then after this one two of supermassive switch hitters have redefined heavy rock for 1971 you get the mandolins of Evermore. It’s a beautiful moment where a fan (like me) who got IV first realises they’re not just going to bludgeon and stamp and scream. They’re also going to get laid back and stoned. There is another song on side one of Led Zeppelin IV. I just don’t think we need it. These three tracks have already established all the best things Led Zep can do for a young fan before you even need open the gate-fold. Side two has got a lot going for it too… But let us get to the Wilson Sisters.
Heart have never been on SteveForTheDeaf before but they were a pretty constant presence in my early listening years because my high school girlfriend loved them. I liked them too (a bit) but she was nuts for the band. This was the era of Bad Animals and Brigade. They were already legends. When she got curious with Dreamboat Annie I started to pay attention. What a record. Those voices. Nancy and Ann could harmonize in an incredible complimentary way. She got Little Queen next and we finally found out where the song Barracuda that got played on the radio came from. Hang on though. This isn’t Heart. Not quite. This is Ann and Nancy at play. In The Lovemongers. Their folky roots side project. There is another layer to this onion still. Led Zeppelin >Fairport Convention >Heart >Lovemongers >Singles The Grunge Movie.
Yep, the only reason anyone knows that Ann and Nancy from Heart did a cover of Led Zeppelin in a Fairport Convention stylee is the knock out soundtrack album to Cameron Crowes 1990’s rom com Singles. The film starred Matt Dillon and Bridget Fonda as a couple of rock fans clubbin’, sobbin’ and shaggin’ their way to adulthood in 90’s Seattle. It’s a decent flick. The soundtrack album on the other hand is one of the best compilations of that scene ever committed to vinyl. It featured Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Paul Westerberg (even though he’s from Minneapolis) the first ever Chris Cornell solo work, A classic Jimi Hendrix cut and The Lovemongers live take of Evermore. Crowe was married to Nancy at the time. Hindsight then, reveals no surprise that a film about romance in the rock world should be made by a man in love with one of the rock worlds most beguiling voices.
So here it is. I’ve probably heard both versions an equal and infinite amount of times. There is of course the Fairport take on it too. Equally spellbinding if not a little mung-bean of aroma. Yesterday I brought Alison Krauss into the equation. On the touring of that fine bluegrass tinted folk rock album RP&AK did their own take. Denny left us in ’78. The song has always been as much hers as Led Zeppelin’s or The Wilson Sisters.
“The queen of light, took her bow and then she turned to go”