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Led Zeppelin was the paradigm for rock in the 1970s, ushering in a
brand of harder rock that served as a bridge between the first wave of
influenced british bands in the 60s and the heavy metal that defined the
1980s. The magic created by the legendary foursome - Page, Plant, Jones,
and Bonham - engendered hordes of imitators following their breakup in
and whose music, from blues to folk to indian (and let's not forget pure
rock), continues to inspire new generations of musicians.
The Song Remains the Same captures the feeling of a real Led Zeppelin concert, deep into their American tour of 1973. That year saw Led Zeppelin at it's most "professional" to date, which, despite not containing the same the youth-inspired looseness and frenziness of a concert from '69, did nevertheless present Led Zeppelin arguably at it's musical peak, with longer, more extended versions of songs like "Dazed and Confused" and "Moby Dick". The concerts were consistently good from that tour, and in my opinion, their Madison Square Garden appearance here, shown in all it's visual glory on the remastered DVD version, is no exception.
Page is captured in a unremitting show of virtuosity in numbers like "Since I've Been Loving You", "Dazed and Confused", and "Stairway to Heaven". This has to be my favorite version of "Since I've Been Loving You" amongst many others I've heard. The experience is almost emotionally moving, and there is one point where a dazzled young female audience member is shown shaking her head in amazement. The whole band seems inspired enough to put on an incredible version of "Stairway to Heaven", including Robert Plant who is not in top form during parts of this performance (relative to usual standards) - no doubt attributable to the exhaustion caused by dozens of previous concerts on almost as many days by the last leg of the tour. The movie still captures Plant's enduring image as a rock icon, with his golden mane and long bluejeans enveloping legs that sway with as much energy of a young Elvis Presley (thank you Chris Welch for that observation).
The DVD transfer itself does not do justice, though, to the singular official video document ever released of the band in concert (aside from documentary compilations). There are some bad volume fluctuations and other audio problems that are clearly noticeable, especially during "Dazed and Confused", that should have been fixed. Also, despite realistic hopes of hearing the songs remastered for a digital surround sound format, Time Warner settled for Dolby Surround Stereo. This of course is quite disappointing considering the number of other DVD titles encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1, and that one would think a movie in this genre would inherently require the greatest sound technology available. Also, as far as extras are concerned, only the original UK film trailer from 1976 are included, which dashes any hopes for newly released footage.
Still, it's a pleasurable experience to witness four of rock's greatest musicians performing some of their most exciting and celebrated pieces while they were at a personal and professional high. The movie is beautiful, presented in a 1.85:1 ratio widescreen format, and watching it on a large screen television is what DVD was made for. Hammer of the Gods!
"The Song Remains The Same" is essentially a film of a concert, yet thanks
to the drug and ego-addled personalities of Led Zeppelin in the mid-1970s,
the footage is fleshed out to include weird 'fantasy' sequences involving
each of the four band members. While this section of the movie leaves a
little to be desired, the concert footage is truly breathtaking, capturing
the greatest hard rock band in history at their apogee.
The film opens with an odd gangster-style sequence, where faceless mobsters are mowed down by what would appear to be rival gangsters. Whatever meaning this scene is meant to represent is not clear, however it has been suggested that the faceless mobsters are the British press, who had vilified Led Zeppelin through their entire career. Who knows, but it certainly makes for an interesting start to the film.
From there the film takes an interesting turn. Each individual band member is introduced. We see drummer John Bonham ploughing his fields in a tractor, bassist John Paul Jones reading nursery rhymes to his children, singer Robert Plant playing with his wife and children in an English country lake (the scene resembles the cover of Led Zeppelin's 1973 album 'Houses of the Holy'), while guitarist Jimmy Page is introduced next to a riverside. They each receive a letter informing them that they are to tour the next day.
Once Led Zeppelin take the stage at New York's Madison Square Garden, the action really begins. The band run through some of their absolute classics, including 'Whole Lotta Love', 'Stairway to Heaven', 'Heartbreaker' and a massive version of 'Dazed and Confused'. The quality of musicianship is amazing. Page's guitar playing belies belief and John Bonham's twenty minute drum solo is awe inspiring. As the band plays there are more fantasy scenes, the best of which includes Robert Plant as some kind of Arthurian hero. The way in which Led Zeppelin embrace and play on the Tolkien-like world of mystical fantasy is truly refreshing in these over-stylised days, where musicians are more concerned with the amount of gel in their hair than the music they produce.
Watching the band at work you get a distinct feeling that the musicians of today really aren't as proficient as they were twenty or thirty years ago. Led Zeppelin it seems were better live than on record, which would be unheard of today.
As an audience we are able to see "The Song Remains The Same" for what it is: a timepiece. Post-1975, Led Zeppelin's work became gradually lower in quality and as Punk revolutionised the music scene, they became dinosaurs at the end of the decade. But in this time, their 1971-1975 period, Led Zeppelin were the biggest band in the world, and their power is captured with brilliant clarity on this film. Whatever happened after this time is a moot point; this is how Led Zeppelin should and will be remembered. A must for any serious music fan.
I'd feel guilty if I didn't give this film a 10. Just call me prejudice due to my love of the band. The live performance is actually a very good one. Led Zeppelin wasn't always known to be the best live band ever but in my experiences in listening to numerous bootlegs that are circulated so much, this movie performance is very good. The fantasy sequences, though maybe a little cheesy, represent the deep minds of in my opinion, the greatest band ever.
I mean that when I say it, but nevertheless, it was actually this movie
that lit the Led Zeppelin spark within me and, thanks to my roommate
and music sharing, I downloaded the whole anthology and the rest is
Back to my original comment. I am obsessed with this movie for the same reason I am obsessed with the music of Zeppelin in general, because after giving it time to grow on me and develop a taste for it, the movie became addicting to watch. I have now watched it so many times that I have learned to appreciate the purpose of the fantasy clips, the placement of the songs on the DVD, and why they all tie together the way they do.
I do agree with those who believe that skipping the shootout in the beginning is the right thing to do. The country life sequence, however, provides tremendous insight into each of the band members and completes the picture of the ordinary human side as well as the psychedelic band member side. Robert Plant shares a peaceful moment with his wife and skinny-dipping children. John Bonham plows his fields. John Paul Jones reads Jack and the Beanstalk to his children. And finally Jimmy Page sits quietly by a lake and plays a hurdy-gurdy.
Coming into the concert, one already has the vision of the four men as normal people in the back of their minds, not just eccentric, wild rockers, so the viewer is not alienated from the band as they launch into their classic tunes with barely time to catch a breath in between. Augmented by the music, the viewer dives deeper into the minds of the band members with an emotionally profound vigor.
The roller coaster ride extends from the "in-your-face" blues of Since I've Been Loving You to the dark edginess of No Quarter, from the whimsical strangeness of The Song Remains The Same to the beautiful stateliness of the Rain Song. Played in a different key, the Rain Song has the same amount of power and energy as its counterpart on the Houses of the Holy LP, but this live version delivers with a more triumphant, confident, and splendid statement than the reflective, oft melancholy LP take. As the song builds towards its rapturous (and victorious for Robert Plant) climax, the tone of the concert and DVD reaches it height. Then, in a stark contrast, the viewer then must sadly leave the sojourn in paradise and descend into the uneasy, convoluted maze of Dazed and Confused. Just when the viewer seems convinced that his descent has led him to hell as the song reaches the 26 minute mark, his reward for his own Zeppelin "endurance" is despite paradise being lost, finding heaven quite literally and being treated to the timeless Stairway to Heaven.
The fantasy scenes take the longest to grow on the viewer, but, with time, augment the music and vice versa. It is then that the film begins to resemble "Fantasia," only with Led Zeppelin music. This is particularly true of the bow solo in the middle of Dazed and Confused, because it eerily echos the equally long, convoluted, and edgy strains of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, but punctuated visually with the youthening of Jimmy Page as opposed to the aging of the early planet Earth.
That is the kind of appreciation I have for this movie, and although Led Zeppelin is by no means perfect in this movie, the viewer can come to respect that because they have that picture of them as ordinary men already in their mind. I believe this movie is overall genius and the most accurate canvas painting of all aspects of the four musical geniuses known as Led Zeppelin we possess.
Basically this movie goes two ways:
1. You don't care about Led Zeppelin and you dislike the film.
2. You're a zeppeleptic fan and you love it. Its so good. The new DVD's are better; but this was all we had for a while and I still cherish it.
The film must not be judged with today's yardstick. We must appreciate
that first of all The Song Remains The Same was probably never meant to
be a film but a visual of what a Led Zeppelin concert was all about and
even more probably meant for their musical fans and others interested
in rock music. I've seen this film several times when I was still a
young school boy. By then I was already familiar with the Music and the
many variations of the main scores which Led Zeppelin were already
I disagree with your correspondent who judged the band by virtue of this film and stated that Led Zeppelin is the most over rated band. There are many musicians I don't mind calling geniuses such as Mike Oldfield, Queen, Beatles, Pink Floyd etc. But certainly Led Zeppelin deserve to be at the top of the list with songs such as Kashmir, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Stairway to Heaven, Dazed and Confused, In the Light, Whole Lotta Love, Battle of Evermore and my all time favourite Since I've been Loving You.
My advice - before seeing the film become familiar with the great songs.
Led Zeppelin gives puzzlement with The Song Remains the Same by adding
footage in between the concert videos of documentary footage and insights
into the groups' minds. The documentary footage is more normal and not
bothersome, unlike the fantasy footage which seemed to me when I first saw
it like different members' hallucinations. Interesting, maybe, but why
intersect with concert footage?
It is in the concert footage the film does it's best, however, by giving Zeppelin fans (and possibly even non-Zeppelin fans) a treat of a motion picture with some of their best played and famous songs- The film's title song (my favorite of the concert), No Quarter (2nd), Stairway to Heaven (still awesome the 100th time you've heard it), Moby Dick (to anybody wanting to learn how to play good rock drumming), Dazed and Confused, extended 20 minutes longer than usual by the way, among others. Rock fans in general should also take a look, or possibly just watch the scenes on DVD that make more sense. My Grade: A-
I first saw this movie on the big screen when it was released in Australia back in 1976 and many times thereafter. At that time I was a huge fan but it wasn't until I bought the DVD about 3 years ago that I really had forgotten how good these guys really were. Firstly let me say that I have read many of the other comments by IMDb users and found there to be an interesting mix of likes and dislikes. When judging this film one has to remember that this was made at a time when there was no such technology as there is today. Nor was it intentionally meant for the home theatre market, then only someone's pipedream if that! There was no overdubbing later back at the studio. There wasn't 45 cameras focused on every limb of John Bonham's performance of Moby Dick. There weren't big screens beside the stage for the band to see themselves. There wasn't a huge stage production or 76 piece philharmonic orchestra to back them up. This was raw performance and captured on the road as it was. This is a time capsule of 4 great music virtuosos in their own right who, when put on a stage together, created an electricity that was bigger than the individuals themselves. Who cares if Jimmy dropped a note or 2. What great musician hasn't? For those who want note perfect music, buy the original CD's. If you want to experience music from another time (and this really is a time capsule), this has captured how it was complete with all the psycadelic rock and emotion from that era. Plant was never better in this performance of Stairway To Heaven and this would stand alongside and above many other timeless rock anthems of a later era. Many of today's drummers still hold Bonzo as one of the all time great drummers and marvel at his tempo changes. Today's guitarists are still learning many riffs from both Page and Jonesy. For me the highlight of this movie is the movie itself. To dissect it would only serve to those who want to criticise it in the first place. I was never fortunate enough to see these guys live but played loud on a 5.1 Surround Sound System is as close as you will get to a live concert. Truly a magnificent show and stands alongside my other pride of place DVD-Led Zeppelin, How The West Was Won.
My subject is more of a commentary on the band, not the movie. I'm not
really a "Led Head". I didn't discover them until the late 80's. I just wish
I was born 10 years earlier so I could have experienced them (and other
great 70's bands) first hand.
I was 6 when this movie was released and didn't get into the concert scene until rock was in "spin-off mode" (The Firm, Plant, Dio, Ozzy, etc.). But still... This movie is a PERFECT snap shot of the 70's concert scene... Jimmy (Page) with his cosmic pants and girls with neon blue eye shadow.
The movie isn't that great if you're looking at it as a technical piece (direction, cinematography, etc.). But it excels at helping us remember what that period was like. Again, a 14 year old Britany fan will NEVER understand it. It's for those of us who were a part of that dynasty. It's "Classic Rock Video". You watch it... and remember what it was like in the "good old days".
I'm still amazed at how these guys were gods in the music industry. Talk about leaving your mark. They defined a generation and changed the lives of millions, just as The Beatles did a decade before. This kind of fame will never happen again (in corporate America). Do InSync fan's think the same way as we thought about The Beatles and Led Zeppelin? :)
Again, this movie wasn't great (technically), but if you were even remotely a part of this era, it's a must see. I gave it a 7/10 just because I get chills thinking about how these guys were living legends and it seemed like they knew how to handle it.
To any Led Zeppelin fan, upon hearing the titles of such songs as Stairway
to Heaven, Since I've been Loving you, Dazed and Confused, Black Dog,
Lotta Love and Moby Dick, it should make their mouth drool and knees
Being such a fan myself, having, at a glance seen these very tracks and
on the cover of The Song Remains the Same, I immediately bought the video
my first ever online purchase (Next day delivery, of course.)
Indeed, the Song Remains the Same is a collection of some of LedZep's finest songs played to perfection by a selection of the greatest rock musicians to walk the earth, such as jimmy Page (guitar) and John Bonham (Drums). Both these bohemians of music have ample time and camera exposure to show us just how great they are/were, with highlights including 26 minutes of Page on Dazed and Confused including his trademark use of a violin bow on his guitar, and a 15 minute solo by Bonham on Moby Dick.
What endeared me further to the film was the little excursions from live footage on stage at Madison Square Gardens in New York, to clips of the band and crew backstage and even completely random scenes of fantasy and imagery, obviously created while under the influence of some fairly way out substances.
Yet, understandingly, those unfamiliar to Led Zeppelin may find this 2 hour video a long slog, and is not of course everyone's cup of tea. And while there is impressive stage footage and effects, the camera work is sometimes amaturish and unimaginative.
Having said that however, The Song remains the Same is a genuine must for all Led Zeppelin and true music fans alike, as the genius of the performers is clear for all to see and is a breathtaking delight to watch and to listen to.
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