A brief diversion away from books this time, just to note the passing of master musician Paul Horn. In tho past week The Guardian published an informative obituary.
Paul Horn began his career as a jazz musician, but it was his desire to record beneath the dome of the Taj Mahal while in India in 1968, and the subsequent album Inside, that saw him forge a new path and come to be considered (for what the phrase is worth) as the ‘godfather of New Age music’.
I’m no expert on New Ageism and neither can I really describe what New Age music is. I listened to Inside first because I read an interview with Jimmy Page in which he cited it as one of his favourite records and one that had influenced him.
Lucky I read that, because on Page’s recommendation I listened to Inside and fell in love with the music, its sound and the whole idea of the record. It’s the sound of someone in love with sound, and who is experimenting with sound for the sake of it because it not only sounds good to him but because it’s one of the most natural things for human beings to do. It’s as full of life as the sound of children making noises underneath the arch of a bridge or inside a tunnel. They do it because they love it and it sounds funny, exciting, different, and fascinating.
Here’s a track from Inside that hopefully illustrates what I’m trying to say.
This is a book I got out from my local library, a big thick tome which attracted my interest because it’s a big thick book about a band I like, by an author I’ve heard of, and is published by the established (and still reasonably respectable) publishers Faber and Faber.
I don’t know what TS Eliot would have made of this, but here’s what I think. The book consists mainly of interviews with people, the more interesting of whom have either been extensively interviewed over the years anyway, or who have written books/ have had books written about them. I’ve read three Zeppelin books before, and basically this one didn’t reveal anything I didn’t learn from Stephen Davis’s Hammer of the Gods.
The strong point of this book (if you can take it at all) is in detailing all the first hand accounts of how this particular Zeppelin went down in flames. Essentially it seems that when the band left the stage of Earl’s Court in 1975 to take a break for a while, they also left the good times and glory behind too. What came next was terrible personal tragedy and the descent into addiction among key members of the band and its entourage. If there’s one thing this book underlines in great big metaphorical red pen, it’s the corrosive effects of alcoholism and hard drug use. What a bloody waste.
Not exactly essential then, but a decent compilation. Despite the book’s subtitle of “The power and excess of Led Zeppelin”, there’s more on the latter than the former. There are precious few interesting or worthwhile insights into the music itself or on Zeppelin as a live band.
Overall it left me feeling that I really must stop reading rock books and just listen to the music. However trite this sounds, the music always makes me feel good. The books, on the other hand, always leave me with mixed, but mainly sad, emotions. “Trampled Underfoot”? “Sick Again” more like.