The Song Remains the Same (1976)

Running Time: 138 min

MPAA Rating: PG

Director...... Peter Clifton
                      Joe Massot

In 1976, Led Zeppelin released a live concert video to accompany the release of their first live album, The Song Remains the Same. The concert was recorded in July 1973 at Madison Square Garden and features the band cranking through some of many of their classic hits. There movie includes a number of tracks that were not a part of the album, filling out the holes and giving the movie a much more solid feel than the disappointingly short LP.

The movie is not a straight concert movie, however. The band evidently wanted to make it something a little bit more and decided to include short movies of what they envisioned while performing the songs. One such movie was made for each band member as well as a short intro movie. While rather poorly edited, some are quite entertaining and serve to entertain the audience during the more drawn out songs. The introduction shows the band's manager, Peter Grant, involved in a strange recreation of a mob hit, complete with tommy guns and pinstripe suits, but also, strangely, bizarre masks. John Paul Jones is shown occasionally reading bedtime stories to his children and speaking with his wife. John Bonham can first be seen driving one of his vintage automobiles to meet the rest of the band members. Robert Plant is shown with his wife, Maureen, and two children, Carmen and Karic, having a family outing by a babbling brook. Jimmy Page is also seen outdoors, by a stream in what is most likely Snowdonia, Led Zeppelin's favorite recording locale. Once Page turns to look at the camera, we see that his eyes are glowing in a strangely demonic fashion. The band begins receiving letters with tour dates in them and discover their first gig is the following evening. The rest of the intro is occupied with the band's arrival at the airport and the subsequent limo ride to the Garden. The rest of the movie includes short clips between songs of the band, their manager, fans and security guards from around the stadium in a sort of "behind the scenes" view of the concert.

John Paul Jones is the star of the first vignette, which is shown during an astounding 10 minute rendition of No Quarter. It starts off showing Jones, dressed in classic Phantom of the Opera style, playing a massive pipe organ whichs stretches majestically towards the ceiling. Shortly, we see a young woman walking through the grounds of a large, ornate mansion in the dark of night. The camera cuts repeatedly to scenes of a dark man on horseback wearing a grotesque pig mask who we are to assume is chasing the youg woman. Eventually, the woman becomes more agitated after a brief encounter with the man and runs for the shelter of the house. While there, the man suddenly walks in the front door with his mask off and we see that it is actually Jones. At this point, the woman treats him completely normally and gives every impression of being his wife. She rushes up to give the man to give him a hug and welcome him home and he gives her and their children a round of loving smiles and embraces. At this point, we cut back to the band which has been playing superb organ and guitar improvisations.

The next short is Robert Plant's and is played during The Rain Song. The movie is just what you would expect of Robert Plant, starring him as a brave and noble knight returning to his home after what is supposed to be a long time away. He reaches the shore and rejoices for some time, riding his horse around a beautiful landscape and lighting a fire on the beach at night. Soon enough, we see Plant storming a keep, single-handedly eliminating the guards holding a nubile, young blond captive. Plant is the very picture of gallantry and the short actually fits the song quite well.

Jimmy Page's feature comes during a 26 minute rendition of Dazed and Confused that is truly awe-inspiring to a Led Zeppelin fan, but might bore others to tears. This video is not quite as interesting as the others, sadly. After the band plays through 15 minutes of the song, weaving in a bit from Scott McKenzie's San Francisco and Jimmy Page's eery Les Paul with a cello bow solo, the movie cuts in. It begins showing Jimmy climbing up a cliff face, obviously very intent on reaching the top, but seemingly unsure of what he will find there. Once he reaches the top, he discovers an old man who bears a striking resemblence to the man at the top of the cliff in the sleeve from Led Zeppelin IV. The camera zooms in on the man's face which, in a rather trippy touch, slowly turns into Jimmy's. The band plays onscreen for a little while longer until we focus on Jimmy's face again which turns back into that of the old man. There follows a brief sequence of the old man waving a cello bow around and leaving psychedelic traces in the air. All in all, the song is rather epic in scale and the playing is superb, but the movie can be a bit distracting.

The final short comes during Moby Dick and features none other than Bonzo, the great John Bonham. The rest of the band plays the brief intro to the song then leaves the stage for a breather while Bonham goes nuts. The 15 minute rendition of the song is actually one of the shorter live versions that Led Zeppelin did. The video clip shows Bonham playing with his favorrite toys, his collection of vintage cars. His wife and son make brief appearances before he heads out on the road in a car that looks like part of a circus act. The bulk of the video is taken up by Bonham preparing to make a run in a drag racer and finishes as he roars across the finish line.

Heartbreaker follows, interspersed with clips from news reels discussing the theft of some of the band's tour profits and conferences with Peter Grant, their manager. The band finishes up the video with a 14 minute version of Whole Lotta Love which includes an extended theremin solo by Page. For anyone who has never seen one played before, it's quite an interesting sight.

All in all, this is a superb concert video with very impressive performances of some of Led Zeppelin's best songs. The high points are probably No Quarter, Dazed and Confused and Stairway to Heaven. While there is not a bad song in the movie, there are some that don't quite live up to the studio recordings like Since I've Been Loving You and Rock and Roll. The DVD, unfortunately, does not add anything particularly special to the movie. The true joy of owning this is being able to see Page's fingers flying up and down the fret board and witness Plant's unparalelled stage presence. This movie truly manages to capture the essence of live Led Zeppelin.

Track Listing

  1. Rock and Roll
  2. Black Dog
  3. Since I’ve Been Loving You
  4. No Quarter
  5. The Song Remains The Same
  6. The Rain Song
  7. Dazed and Confused
  8. Stairway to Heaven
  9. Moby Dick
  10. Heartbreaker
  11. Whole Lotta Love


Sources:
http://www.imbd.com
http://www.dvdangle.com/reviews/review.php?Id=256

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