The Song Remains the Same (1976)
Directed by: Peter Clifton, Joe Massot | 137 minutes | music | Starring: John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Peter Grant, Richard Cole, Derek Skilton, Colin Rigdon, Jason Bonham, Patricia Bonham, Roy Harper, Carmen Plant, Karac Plant, Maureen Plant
The Song remains the Same: review in 4 songs and an encore
Rock and Roll (3:57)
In the 1970s, Led Zeppelin belonged to the absolute top of rock and roll. The band mixed folk and blues with heavy metal, which resulted in a delicious bowl of noise, melodic, virtuoso and energetic up to and including. Led Zeppelin, with guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant, had charismatic personalities who also knew their trade. Few music lovers were unfamiliar with songs like ‘Stairway to Heaven’, ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Rock and Roll’.
Moby Dick (11:03)
In the mid-1970s, rock music was on its way to an end. The progressive music press had hunted down rock behemoths like Deep Purple, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Led Zeppelin. Anyone who watches ‘The Song Remains the Same’ will understand why. Songs are stretched indefinitely, the musicians often lose themselves in complacent soloing and there is little interaction with the audience. We also encounter the most feared monster of the seventies: the drum solo. In ‘Moby Dick’ John Bonham can enjoy himself on his drums for ten minutes. Exciting is different.
Yet the most important quality of ‘The Song Remains the Same’ lies in the recognition of this musical end point. You understand why millions of fans went crazy for this, but also that the time was right for short songs and less pretentiousness. Ripe for the raw energy of punk and new wave.
Dazed and Confused (29:19)
In the 1970s, musicians still had enough influence to shape a film to their liking. ‘The Song Remains the Same’ is therefore not a standard concert film. In between songs, we see random events before and after the concert, starring the ever nagging manager Peter Grant. Confusing are the ‘feature films’ during some songs, like video clips avant la lettre. At best, they hardly disturb, as in the magisterial ‘No Quarter’. At worst, they ruin the climax of a song, like in the title track. Those videos make no sense whatsoever. We see Robert Plant as a knight who rescues a beautiful damsel and John Paul Jones as a sort of Sleepy Hollow on his way to a family party. The clip with Jimmy Page in ‘Dazed and Confused’ is even too vague to fathom without chemical aids.
Whole Lotta Love (13:52)
In 1976, ‘The Song Remains the Same’ was unanimously slammed by the press. The public loved it. There is something to be said for both. The film has many weaknesses, is too vague and far too long. But those who have a lot of love for music will not care about blurry films, nagging managers and sleep-inducing drum solos. He will only enjoy ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’, ‘No Quarter’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’. The stars above this review are therefore given by the enthusiast. The reviewer looked away for a moment.
Encore: Over the Hills and Far Away (6:11)
The 1970s have long since disappeared behind the distant hills of the 20th century. Anyone who sees ‘The Song Remains the Same’ at the beginning of the 21st century will first notice how small the stage actually is. He will also see those superstars earn their millions by working up a sweat. Whatever else you think of these musicians, their powerhouse is musical power, and their narcissism stems from musical talent. The real megalomania of U2, Madonna and Michael Jackson was yet to come. A modest rehabilitation is therefore in order.