Tag Archives: Led Zeppelin

Week 14 – TBT 2017 – Ramble On

I heard that a few years ago Classic Rock magazine polled its readers to find out who they considered to be the best rock singer, guitarist, bassist and drummer of all time. When the votes were cast, it turned out that the band that was created already had a name – Led Zeppelin. 

I must confess that I hadn’t listened to them much before my 40s, to the extent that I’d heard Rolf Harris’ version of Stairway to Heaven long before I heard the original. That seems barely credible to me, but it’s true, 

I found a list of Top 40 bass lines ever, and of all the many possibles, this song was the Led Zeppelin one that made the list. And what a track it is! The bass burbles away in the background, while the lyrics include reference to Lord of the Rings. I’ve addded this to my bucket list of songs to be able to play, and from time to time I return to it. It’s getting easier to play parts of it, but I’ve not managed the whole thing at full speed. I know I’ll get there though, it’s just going to take time.

Ramble On – Led Zeppelin

Music moves me

Don’t you just love it when you hear a piece of music and it makes the hairs on your arms, neck, back – whatever – stand on end? And isn’t it amazing that the same piece of music can do it over and over again? This morning, on a whim, I put on Babylon’s Burning by The Ruts. Bang! Instant thrill, which intensified as the main guitar riff kicked in. A forgotten gem, but it’s going on my regular playlist from now on.

It set me thinking about other tunes that do the same, and wondering if it’s the music itself, or whether it’s a memory associated with the music, that is the cause of the whole hair-standing-on-end thing. For example, if I hear Go For It by Stiff Little Fingers (SLF) or The Dambusters March, I’m immediately transported to the times I’ve been waiting for SLF to come on stage, and I get severe goosebumps. So that’s definitely the memory – though both pieces of music are thrilling in their own right. 

But then, if I hear something like the bass solo in Blondie’s Atomic, or John Paul Jones’ burbling bass line in Ramble On, that’s definitely the music. Same when I hear Hendrix playing Hey Joe. Is the response to them because they’re all well known, classic pieces of music that are deeply embedded in a common consciousness?

I dare say I shouldn’t forget classical music, and the fact that it can have the same effect. 1812 Overture anyone? Or Grieg’s Morning, Holst’s Mars, Rodrigo’s Concierto De Aranjuez or Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake are all incredibly powerful pieces, in different ways. 

And it’s not just the instruments that can have the effect. Cousin Jack by Show Of Hands, Dylan’s The Hurricane – even Flower of Scotland – not only give me goosebumps but can also move me to tears. Lyrics are so important, and I think that every human emotion has been captured by someone at some time – you just need to want to go and find the songs that “speak” to you. 

It’s all about the bass…

I’ve always been “into” music and, despite a brief time in my teens when I wanted to be drummer, bass lines are what really hook me. It’s no coincidence that my favourite playlists include great bass, and even the songs that I want to play in a covers band also feature bass heavily. For years I’d loved the playing of the likes of Ali McMordie from SLF, Tim Commerford from Rage Against the Machine / Audioslave and Donald “Duck” Dunn from Stax records / Blues Brothers, and I wanted to be able to play what they did.

Saying all that, I didn’t actually start learning till I was in my late 30s, so I had a lot of catching up to do. Somehow I managed to find time to practice for 60-90 minutes four or five nights a week, and an hour long lesson every weekend. My practice and lessons always followed the same sort of structure: scales, homework (generally new pieces from various tutorial books) and finally jam / playalong. 

  • Scales etc are boring to do, but so important, as they are the basis for any new lines you want to be able to play
  • Tutorial books – especially those with playalong CDs – are also good, particularly if you want to learn multiple styles eg funk, reggae, rock, jazz etc. I worked through the three books written by David Overthrow – they’re brilliant
  • Jamming to a drumbeat with my teacher – he played guitar – using lines I’d learned in the lesson or improvising new ones, and playing along with music CDs helped build confidence and complemented the styles I’d been learning

One of the brilliant things about this approach was learning about new players too. Jack Bruce from Cream and John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin came to my attention, as did TM Stevens. One of my playalong sessions was in the style of TM and, to be honest, I’ve never managed it. Check out this video and you may see why. 

I love the bit around 1:45 in when he’s introducing himself and has to stop talking, just plays then says “I’m back!”. That’s the result of a lot of practice! I’m going to keep trying, though I don’t practice as much as I used to, and one day I hope to be able to play at even 1/10th of the speed he does!