Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Led Zepplin, Magick, and Literary Theory

This is why I love the Net. This article on Led Zepplin IV (otherwise known as the Zoso album) is simply brilliant. I have a difficult time even explaining how deeply I relate to it, except to talk for a moment about Yes.

As a freshman in high school, I was a living embodiment of the truism that boys mature later than girls. I was tall, gawky, awkward, shy, spastic, not too far removed from the nerd who used to cast horoscopes (from the book The Cosmic Informer) and play D&D. Somebody, I can't even remember who, got me a copy of Classic Yes with the Roger Dean artwork (which you can see here) and I was in love. The music was grandiose and the artwork just killed me. I became obsessed, partially because I could sense, in the otherworldly art and the lofty music, another reality, akin to the world created by my (at the time) favorite writer, J.R.R. Tolkien. The whole package hinted that there was another world, a world of myth and quests, of wizardry and romance, that lay just beyond my sight, and that this album (not just the music or the artwork or the lyrics but the whole package) was a gateway to this other world.

And it wasn't just this music, this album, it was this whole genre of early 70's British rock (American rock, for all its considerable charms, never really got the hang of the "other world" thing. I can't think of a single American band that really nailed it, though bands like, say, Kansas, sort of tried...). King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, Marillion. The albums were about creating an entire experience, almost a cosmology. And I ate it up.

When you're 14, 15, 16, your entire world resonates with significance. The massive hormones surging through your bloodstream, the wracking emotions that seem to arise from nothing leaving you dazed and blinking, all of these seem to impart to the world a weight. Every experience is fraught with meaning and import. It is the time of sexual imprinting, and the male teenage mind is designed to see the world in that obsessional, magickal way. I mention this because, really, what else is magickal thinking but the creation of significance through the use of the imagination.

So, the article: it's a long read, but well worth it. Fascinating stuff. Check it out.

Update: For more insights into my formative years, check out this post about Jack Chick on the 3 Quarks Daily blog. Jack Chick (and the little pamphlets he popularized) was a huge part of my semi-evangelical Christian upbringing, and a huge part of the guilt, shame, and otherwise occasionally twisted meanderings of my soul.

I actually used to collect his pamphlets when I was in college, and had over 80 of them. I think I tossed 'em when I moved to New York. Good times.


  1. Thanks for that link. Really interesting read, and something that I would definately have tossed your way had I found it first . . .

  2. fyi, brothermang, i still play D&D, up here in the great northwest. every wednesday night for the past six years. in fact, it has become one of the last vestiges of my dwindling beastial nature. a boon. men's group and shit. long live led zeppelin.