Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 148
Wed. June 26, 2013
in the sun
While spinning, “The Ocean” for the umpteenth time I am reminded of something music essayist Chuck Klosterman said, in his book Killing Yourself to Live, about listening to Led Zeppelin’s music, when he wrote, “It does not matter if you’ve heard those songs a hundred times and felt nothing in the past […] There is a point in your life when you hear songs like “The Ocean” and you suddenly find yourself feeling like these songs are actively making you into the person you want to be.” It’s no coincidence that, according to George Case’s book Led Zeppelin FAQ, “Robert Plant would introduce “The Ocean” in concert by telling fans, and “This is about you.”” Did you know this is about “The Ocean” of fans that Led Zeppelin saw when they would perform on stage? John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant dedicated this Houses of the Holy cut as a tribute to their devoted followers.
Some of those followers got their hopes up when Robert Plant crooned the line, “♫ Now I’m singing the songs to the girl who won my heart ♫” in “The Ocean.” Many of female fandoms in the Led Zeppelin inner sanctum were surprised to know that the girl was Plant’s own ode to his three year old daughter Carmen. Still Led Zeppelin knew the audience was listening and still would dedicate “The Ocean” to their sea of followers, night in and out during their dynamic world tours of the 1970s.
It’s no coincidence that Rolling Stone Magazine named “The Ocean” number fourteen in their list of the 40 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs of All Time. “The Ocean” one of the first songs to hear the backing vocals of the dynamic rhythm section of Bonham and Jones who harmonizing while crooning the phrase “Doo Wop.” “The Ocean” is also one of the few songs you will actually get to hear the voice of drummer John Bonham. John’s voice is heard at the beginning of this classic Houses of the Holy track when he says, “We’ve done four already but now we’re steady, and then they went 1, 2, 3, 4!”
There’s something about hearing those dispatches from the studio mixed into the final album. Jimmy Page capturing Bonham’s voice for eternal prosperity is like eavesdropping on an audio Cinéma vérité moment that we hardly ever got to witness on a Led Zeppelin studio session. In Barry Hoskyns’ book, Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band, Page talked about Bonham’s moment in “The Ocean” when he said, “I think [Bonzo] originally had some lyrics about drinking pints of bitter. He used to do a lot of sort of rap stuff. He would get drunk and start singing things like what you hear at the beginning of “The Ocean.” He would stomp his feet, and his fingers would get going.”
“The Ocean” sounds like Led Zeppelin live in the studio. Although, because this Houses of the Holy song is named after “The Ocean” I always imagined Led Zep in studio, right by the beach, with the door open, the salty waves bringing that aura inside where the band is playing and taking in the aquatic inspiration, “The Ocean” comes to life.
Imagine having “The Ocean” as your theme song? Alas, that’s all in my head. Klosterman’s right, “The Ocean” reflects Bonham, Jones, Page and Plant making the sound we all would love to be. “The Ocean” is probably the best album closer ever by Led Zeppelin, like the greatest Beatles songs a-la “Tomorrow Never Knows”, within the first two minutes of “The Ocean,” if you listen closely; you will a telephone ringing in the background left by Page within the mix.
More than just a sound of the sea, this tribute to legion of Led Zeppelin followers has one of the most memorable riffs in all of Jimmy Page’s provocative rhythmic guitar canon. A reflection of the unity and freedom that Led Zeppelin brought to life in the studio while creating Houses of the Holy; let Led Zeppelin’s splash you with their electric riffs as they awaken you again within the wave of adulation that is “The Ocean.”