When it comes to listening to music, the general populace has a serious case of Led Zeppelin ears.
This is condition brought about by an overexposure to or an overt affection for the band Led Zeppelin, specifically and classic rock radio in general.
It is a condition that manifests itself with great ease, and is years in the making. Sometimes a lifetime happens before it reaches maturity. A lifetime not spent on capitulation or apathy, no. A lifetime in which at some point you slip into acceptance.
How Led Zeppelin Ears Are Contracted
It all started with album sales by the band, Led Zeppelin. Their catalog, especially the first 5 albums, are among the highest selling records of all time. Zep’s music was nearly inescapable, no matter where you grew up or with whom you made friends. The band’s popularity ensured an early pre-teen exposure to their music was all but guaranteed at any social gathering, birthday party, invitation to hang out and go swimming in a pool or make out session.
As if album sales were not enough, radio in the seventies began to subtly change. Freeform-formatted radio stations became more stagnant and more like each other in that decade. Their playlists gave rise to album oriented rock. AOR. a format filled with rock blocks, two for thursdays, 4 in a row afternoons…the result of which meant they played not only singles, but album tracks by bands.
Sounds like a good thing, right?
The problem was these stations playing led Zeppelin ad nauseum. Filling the mass eardrums with rock histrionics, with guitar hero/god flourishes. And then there’s “Stairway To Heaven,” – an anthem that will never ever go away, but yet no one needs to hear again to remember.
Sure, I will admit with AOR, Led Zeppelin was not the only problem…there was plenty of airtime given to Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Boston, Journey, etc. Etc.
But something about led Zeppelin dulled mass senses and made it impossible to judge music with an impartial ear.
I noticed this when I would sometimes get a new record by a band I had at that time just discovered, for instance in 1984, the Chameleons UK. When I played the album among friends, no matter how distinctly unique this band would sound, a friend would find someway somehow to draw comparisons to the string-bending or sustaining guitar sound to Jimmy Page’s style on one or several led Zeppelin tracks.
This due to the fact that overexposure to that music meant there was no other past influence from which to draw experience.
Once you have led Zeppelin ears, all bands will by judged by their music, their style.
Every arpeggiated flourish on the guitar strings becomes a 12-bar blues refrain to the ears of those tainted with only Led Zeppelin’s musical history.
And on the occasion the listener is truly presented with a new music far outside of blues guitar experience…such as “Moody” by ESG…you can tell by the blank look on their faces, there is a white empty space in their eardrums. They have not the tools to understand what they hear.
The cure, of course, is simple to conceive, but hard to execute. One must merely expose themselves to a variety of music. Jazz, African, punk, garage, psych, funk, soul, gospel, soundtracks. There is a world of music out there, a different type or selection for every person round the whole wide world. A world of music for anyone willing to listen. A world of music which can readily accessed via the medium of Radio. Radio provides the joy of music for anyone willing to let down their Led Zeppelin ears and listen, truly listen.