Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Once and Future Kings

In which I berate the WaPo.

The media have adored the Led Zeppelin reunion – it's been non-stop coverage for three months now. Not all the people kissing up to them for the papers can be actual Led Zeppelin fans. Percentage wise, it's just not possible. They're bandwagon jumping. They are people who now believe they always were Led Zeppelin fans.

It's reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's death – many people of newspaper-puff-piece writing age at the time of his death abhorred Reagan when he was president, but when he died, they sensed a sniffly-group-hug moment. Bring the country together and all that. Everyone united in saying what a great guy he'd been. A former boss of mine, who had been countercultural way back in the day said as she sneered at the obituaries, "I never realized I loved the old bastard until these articles told me how much I did."

Similarly, Led Zeppelin is a godsend for the old media. The newspapers are completely unable to find their footing in the steep scree-slope of modern culture. The youth of today, with its iPods and time-shifted TV programs and everybody renting DVDs instead of going to the theater en masse like a pack of lemmings, is even more unfathomable than the average youth of yesteryear. How do you find an angle that cuts across all these groups? Where is the line through the dot-plot of tastes that resolves and perhaps explains the variation we see? Nobody knows. There are no big bands, and you can't fake one up with the Tin Pan Alley tricks that worked so well in the middle years of last century. The kids have a choice, and have decided to exercise it. (Come to think of it, telling them to exercise a choice may drive them all into conformity – the media should try that instead.)

It's a gift from heaven then, to have a previously-assembled world-class band handy, hiding behind the curtain, ready to spring out at the moment of maximum chaos and unite everybody. Led Zeppelin to the rescue. For internal reasons, they have been in hibernation for almost thirty years, snoozing like King Arthur until their country needed them. They have failed to tarnish their legend by doing anything weird to the back catalogue, publically doing anything deeply stupid, releasing any crap Christmas singles, selling any digital product whatsoever, authoring any official biographies or making any more films or documentaries. They are technically still the biggest band in the world. They have press clippings from 72 – 73 to prove it!

The time is right, they poke their little pink noses out of their longbarrow to sniff at the spring air and the papers go wild. A ready-made. A true Blue Peter "Here's one I made earlier" biggest rock band in the world, cooling beside the oven in a fashionable baking tray at a time when no fancy-schmancy chef could possibly cook up a new one in front of us.

It's a wet dream for the papers. Not so much for the fans, who already have all the Zeppelin "product" they need and don't really want 25 year-old smackhead celebrities pretending to have always dug them, or the Washington Post – the bloody Washington Post, man – saying things about them like: "All notions of rock idolatry aside, it has now become obvious that Page is simply not human. He is some kind of formless shape-shifter, channeling darker forces as he languidly glides across the stage, his visage made all the more eerie by the shock of white hair that flows to his shoulders."

I mean, get a grip. You should be reporting on Iraq or something. I do the fangirling around here. Me, not the Washington Post. You're stealing my lines.

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