Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lotus Elan

I'm all excited about Jimmy Page being in the handover for the Olympics at the Closing Ceremony tomorrow. The chance of any British extravaganza not sucking has to be about 0.01%, and the chance of Jimmy Page being able to face a crowd of 32 million sober has to be fairly low (although getting higher every day), but the tiny chance it's going to be wonderful has me feeling all teenage and jittery.

I'm pretty sure that the organizers for the London Olympics had no clue that Whole Lotta Love was a Zeppelin tune. I think the meeting went like this:

O1: What screams London to the world?
O2: Ehhhh....Pearly Queens, London Buses, Boris Johnson, aaahhhh, Top of the Pops? Eel Pie with Green Liquor, X-Factor, the Kray Brothers...
O1: Top of the Pops?
O2: That riff...y'know, da DA da DA dah!
O2: Brilliant. We'll do it. Wasn't that Led Zeppelin?

And of course it wasn't. The riff used to introduce TOTP from 1971 to 1977 was played by session musicians, based on the CCS cover version, and that is the one drilled into Britons like Jerusalem the generation before.

There was a brief return of it in 1980, and then a new remix of Whole Lotta Love was produced by a different band in 1998. I can't say I've ever heard it. It served as a booster shot for the inoculation, though.

I bet that's what the organizers thought they had bought, until some Freemason at the Beeb mentioned it to Jimmy at their club and learned the background.

Quoted in Sporting Life, Jimmy says he was overwhelmed to have been asked to use his song for the handover ceremony.

He said: "Initially they requested to use 'Whole Lotta Love', then it was 'you can play guitar on it if you want to'. Then it was said Leona was going to sing on it, and it just got a momentum of it's own. It's going to be really great.

"The Olympics is going to bring a whole spirit of optimism to London and it's going to be fantastic."

That seems to line up with my theory.

The Grauniad yesterday described the ceremony in more detail. The official handover always begins with the flag being handed to the president of the International Olympic Committee, who in this case will pass it to Boris Johnson (for it is he), the Mayor of London. The flag has to be waved six times. After that there will be a lot of business with a London bus - the famous double decker that Londoners don't actually use any more. After that, according to the Guardian:

As the people in the queue dance beneath their brollies, the bus will begin a transformation, its roof opening like a lotus flower to reveal a stage. Leona Lewis will emerge on a platform to perform an R&B aria. Meanwhile, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page will appear at the other end of the bus and strike out the opening chords of Whole Lotta Love. In order to meet the eight-minute limit the song has been curtailed, but to Page's delight now cuts straight to the solo.

As the duet climaxes, Beckham rises up on a third platform clutching the football flanked by a cellist and violinist in Team GB kit, and kicks the ball into the athletes packed in the centre field of the stadium. The bus departs, transformed into an ersatz carnival float.

Stephen Powell, the creative director, said the intention was to create a quintessentially British moment.

Unfortunately, to me, the quintessential British moment, is the one when something goes wrong - the pod not opening in Spinal Tap, or the mad scientist unable to find the right plug for his time transducer in Help!

Hopefully, Becks and Pagey and co. will prove me wrong.


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