November 11, 2007

The British Are Coming!

A new British invasion is about to hit U.S. shores, and it could be almost as significant as the first one.This Tuesday, Led Zeppelin is coming to iTunes. Zeppelin's entire released song catalog (shockingly, it only numbers 165) will be available, either separately or in new collection matter-of-factly entitled "The Complete Led Zeppelin." A new greatest hits retrospective with two dozen songs, "Mothership," will also be released. Then, Led Zeppelin (with Jason Bonham replacing his late father John Bonham on drums) will reunite for a special concert in London on December 10 (postponed from November 26) to honor Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, which was Led Zeppelin's record label home for much of the band's career.

This publicity punch by Led Zeppelin is highly unusual. Zeppelin has always been a phantom rock group when it came to promotion. They didn't do interviews. They didn't release singles. They earned their fans one at a time, or, in the case of their record-breaking stadium shows, tens of thousands at a time.

Led Zeppelin has also been persnickety in releasing their live performances. They were one of the few killjoys who refused to allow their performance at 1985's Live Aid concert to make it to the dvd, saying that it wasn't one of their stellar shows (supposedly, Phil Collins, who had just arrived in Philadelphia via the Concorde to drum for Zeppelin after playing earlier that day in London's Wembley Stadium, was, even with the assistance of another drummer, just too tired to keep up with the band). Thus, it should not have been too surprising that, like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin had not permitted their songs on iTunes.

For many of us, Led Zeppelin's release on iTunes comes not a moment too soon. I can still remember the first time I heard "Whole Lotta Love" in the schoolyard, when my best friend Billy played it on his transistor radio. I was floored by the inexplicable raw power of the song, a blow to the guts that bands like the Beatles simply did not deliver.

I suspect that there are a lot of us out there, of all ages. In fact, I predict that this Tuesday will be the biggest download day in the history of iTunes. I'll be part of it.

Paul and Ringo, are you listening?


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