I was bludgeoned into liking Led Zeppelin. I'd made it through 4 years of high school and 4 years of college without being sucked in. To my mind, punk did loud better and heavier than this metal. They were tin foil to me, not steel.
I used to rag on my cigarette smoking dirtbag friends in high school who would fumble with their walkmans and cold fingers and light up Marlboros on the Commons and lose themselves in 'Houses of the Holy' or 'IV'. It was 1986 for chrissakes. Do you losers want to come out of the time capsule any time soon? You are missing punk rock.
It was a tragedy to me that these music lovers with an obvious affinity for volume, power, and aggression were wasting their time on a dinosaur when Husker Du was a whole new species.
College did nothing to dissuade me of this opinion in spite of the mullets and dorm room posters and classic rock radio blaring out from Cabriolets, Civics, and Grand Nationals. My tastes broadened to be sure. You can't go to 87,000 theater parties and not change some fundamentals. But I held Zeppelin at more than arm's length the whole time. I turned the channel when 'Stairway to Heaven' came on and I didn't really know too much about the rest of their work.
All of a sudden I'm in Paris.
My two closest friends during my time in France were Dane and Chris. Chris I knew from French classes at URI, Dane is from New Orleans so we met overseas. Dane somehow knew a French guy who had a studio apartment in Paris that we could use whenever we wanted as he traveled the world working for his Dad.
Chris had a childhood friend coming to visit, a next door neighbor who was like a sister to him. We took the train up to Paris to pick her up at the airport. We'd spend a couple of days in Paris and then head back to Orleans.
We bustled her from the airport to the apartment. She was pretty exhausted so we decided to stay in for the night. She is gorgeous by the way and Dane and I are already actively competing for her attention as Chris plays the big brother and tries to keep his lecherous friends away from his innocent charge.
We make a typical French dinner, which is a plate of ham, a plate of cheese, some olives and cornichons, and a couple dozen bottles of wine. We'd planned to go out and see Paris but pretty soon we are having too much fun to go anywhere. The apartment is very small and almost completely bare but for the mattress on the floor. And the compact disc player. And one disc.
Led Zeppelin's catalog, newly remastered for compact disc.
Dane becomes enraged at me when I slur the great Zep. He then proceeds to play their catalog in chronological order as we consume more and more wine. Chris' friend, J. we'll call her, is very aware that Dane and I are good-naturedly vying for her. She dances with one of us, then the other, then declares that she has to take a bath. She does and the presence of a naked girl in the next room sends the party into the stratosphere.
Dane Chris and I are drinking wine, screaming over the screaming Zep, and devouring ham and cheese. You'd think there were 300 people at the party. But there is just us.
Our reverie is interrupted by J. who needs a towel. Towel? There isn't even a chair, you want a towel? But there is something that will serve just as well and it is an appropriate substitute.
An American flag.
The guy who owns the apartment is a lover of America, as many young Frenchies are. He has hung a giant American flag on his wall. We rip it down and fold the naked beauty into the Stars and Stripes. I know it sounds sort of lewd, 3 guys and a drunk teenager fresh off a plane, but it was the sexiest, most innocent display of feminine guile I think I've ever witnessed.
She sat wrapped in the flag for the remainder of the evening, a stand-in for all the girls back home we were missing, the American girls.
Somewhere after midnight but before 5AM I finally got Led Zeppelin. And even though they're Brits, when I hear those drums, those guitars, that voice, I always see a hot naked American enveloped in the symbol of my homeland.