Joke About Jamaica – The Hold Steady

The Influence Led Zeppelin had is an undeniable tectonic shift in the rock and roll firmament. Sabbath may have invented heavy metal but it was Led who put the cock in cock-rock for sure. Of course their ties to The Yardbirds, The Who, The Blues, etc etc means there was always blocks to build on. Zep just reshaped those blocks to resemble a Giants Causeway covered with seduced rock and roll children. All climbing towards the mystic AND the sensual.

Houses Of The Holy’s goof ball moment was the first sniff of Zeppelin hydrogen posted on SteveForTheDeaf. I chose it to represent the band over any of the epics or the primordial riffs that would build the metal scene of the 80’s because it was representative of titans at play. It’s literally a joke. Before that Courtney Love beat the band to their own punchline by being posted in the very first week of SteveForTheDeaf with her Zep’lin Song tale of obsessive boyfriends and table dancing. I’m nothing if not consistent. I’m also always cracking the same old gags.

The Hold Steady got that joke. They got it so literally it became a joke about a joke on an album I recently referred to as their own Physical Graffiti. Released in 2008 Stay Positive’s side 4 centers around this classic rock sounding deconstruction of stoned kids listening to LZ and driving around getting into trouble. There is Bonzo worthy drum dexterity, chugging riffs and epic solos. There’s a frikkin’ squawkbox! A truly menacing bass line and swirling keyboard breakouts to back up Finn’s scene report of how it all went down. “Right before those two kids died”. Joke About Jamaica is Stay Positive’s witness statement. Key to the prosecution. I’m not going to dive too deep into the album again (I did that when I posted Ask Her For Some Adderall a while back) because I want to talk about all the other influences Led Zeppelin have had since their passing from a going concern to a mystical origin story for how rock stars ascend to Golden God status.

The first time I heard a band unfavorably compared to Zeppelin it was German hair metallers Kingdom Come. They’d released their debut album and been accused of being shallow Led Zeppelin Copyists. It was 1988. I couldn’t see how copying Zeppelin could be a bad thing. So I sought out the record. It wasn’t good. Gary Moore of Thin Lizzy and Skid Row (not that one) didn’t like it either. He recorded a diss track on his 1989 solo album After The War. Led Clones featured Ozzy Osbourne on vocals and took no prisoners. In the modern age you have Greta Van Fleet acting like Kingdom Clones and all that broiling tension resurfaces. The mood these days is much more “Yeah, but who doesn’t sound like them?” We’ve got a case to answer.

Aerosmith were accused of ripping off Zep when their dealer clearly got in a new strain and they went all soupy on Rock In A Hard Place in 1982. Admittedly they were down Joe Perry and up Jimmy Crespo at this stage so they probably had to try something different. Joanie’s Butterfly is no Kashmir that’s for sure. The modern age did allow enough Custard Pie to stick that Steven Tyler got to audition to take the place of an absentee Robert Plant one time (and one time only). The project never did happen.

Soundgarden, Whitesnake, Heart, Lenny Kravitz, Wolfmother, Guns N’ Roses, The Black Crowes, The White Stripes all freely admit their debt to the band. They’re all considered In The Light of the influence. The influence finds it’s way to the mainstream in some formats of What Is And What Never Should Be. Sheryl Crow has recorded a D’yer Maker that many consider misses the joke.

90’s one hit wonders Goldbug mashed Led Zep’s most famous riff with the cinema trailer music of Pearl and Dean for their bizarro hit single Whole Lotta Love. It was not the only hit single of a novelty act doing a Zep tune but the other one was recorded by a convicted pedophile who broke the hearts of millions of children so… FUCK HIM. Have Goldbug’s video and a live take of Heart with Jason Bonham making Jimmy, Percy and John Paul cry tears of joy in 2012.

Stone Temple Pilots have covered Dancing Days. Thunder swerved their New Whitesnake tag once they were old enough to just be Thunder and on their acoustic album Please Remain Seated reinvented Your Time Is Gonna Come. Iron Maiden covered Communication Breakdown (brilliantly, it was such a simple song for Maiden to play and they have so much fun with it). Rollins Band did Four Sticks. Rollins Band. Henry Rollins covered Led Zeppelin. This is magnificent.

But hey. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to my spirit animal Jack Black pay tribute (not that one) to them at The Kennedy Center before Heart make us all cry.

It’s no small point of fact that even The Hold Steady (who many would argue do not deserve one of the seven slots allotted to LZ in a tribute week) began with the fundamentals of a Led Zeppelin cover. Their debut single and holy grail collectible for hardcore Unified Scenesters was a seven inch single with and original on the A Side Milkcrate Mosh, and a Led Zeppelin track on the flip.

Hey Hey What Can I Do tells you exactly what The Hold Steady are going to do for you as a fan. They’re going to honour the rock gods and they’re going to give you scene reports of the how and the why and the who (and The Who) of rock and roll fandom.

There’s Led Zeppelin in every thread of modern culture. Be it comedy reggae that actually sounds quite a lark like Dread Zeppelin, Immigrant Song being all over the Marvel universe or people sticking rubber chickens up to the mic for those Ahhh Ahs

On The Kennedy Center video above Foo Fighters amiably play their role of Rock and Roll’s House Band with a cover of Rock And Roll. Kid Rock is on their too. The Song Remains The Same but his performance just goes to show some have it, some don’t. Rock gets Trampled Underfoot by Lenny Kravitz, The Foos, Heart and Kid Bonzo. They can’t all be Tangerines. Speaking of which. Tangerine was a delicious little hidden track on Life Of Agony’s Soul Searching Sun album. A gentle CODA to a heavy angsty Numetal milestone. It seems wherever one looks in the post Zeppelin rock landscape their shadows still fall, their rumbles Ramble On.

And if you listen very hard, the tune will come to you at last, when all are one and one is all, to be a rock and not to roll”

7 thoughts on “Joke About Jamaica – The Hold Steady

  1. Great playlist. The Rollins Band and the STP covers are both on the Encomium album with some other excellent covers. I love the Jack Black speech and every word is accurate. Dread Zeppelin is surreal but not bad. I’m sure you’ve heard this one, also from Encomium:

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Let me just say three things:

    1) This, sir, is some mighty fine writing, with examples to prove it all. Excellent work.

    2) I liked that Hold Steady track.

    3) ROLLINS doing Four Sticks. OH. MAAAAAN!!!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s