Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Fool in the Rain - a Latin odyssey through the Dionysian and Apollonian modes

Origin of the Swan Song record label art

The quintessential Led Zeppelin song is Whole Lotta Love - and it is a great song. It's one of their two best songs in my opinion, the other being Fool in the Rain. The only other Zeppelin song that comes close is D'Yer Mak'er, which now that I read the title, is clearly British dialect for "did you have sex with her?" Apparently the pronunciation was meant to rhyme with "Jamaica" but the kids of South Jersey pronounced it DIE-er MAKE-er.

Whole Lotta Love was released in 1969 and I think was probably responsible for making the 1970s the Decade of the Zeppelin, when you could not listen to FM Rock radio for more than an hour before hearing another Zeppelin tune ("time to get the Led out" as the DJs used to say har har). If you want to get a feel for the 1970s check out Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused - although I don't think any Zeppelin songs appear in the movie, the title is of course a Led Zeppelin song.

Whole Lotta Love is a truly Dionysian song, all passion and power. At the opposite end of the Decade of Zeppelin, released in 1979, is Fool in the Rain which is a balance between the Dionysian and the Apollonian.

Fool stars out with a leisurely riff and it's romantic:
Well there's a light in your eyes that keeps shining
Like a star that can't wait for the night.
I hate to think I've been blinded baby,
Why can't I see you tonight?
It's quite a masterful piece of poetry there, with the star metaphor and the many references to sight.
(Full lyrics here.)

The verses go on to describe the singer being stood up by his beloved, and he is filled with self doubt.  The song builds in power until after the third verse it breaks into what might be called a "Latin odyssey" complete with marimbas and whistles, and which represents the singer's inner turmoil - that's the Dionysian bit. It finishes off with a blazing electric guitar solo by Jimmy Page.

The odyssey over, the singer suddenly realizes, in a return to the rational Apollonian :
And I'll run in the rain 'til I'm breathless
When I'm breathless I'll run 'til I drop, hey
And the thoughts of a fool's scattered careless
I'm just a fool waiting on the wrong block.
Oh the situational irony!

The Zep was more sophisticated than the casual listener might realize and they were also huge fans of both Joni Mitchell and the work of J. R. R. Tolkien.