Look Back at Led Zeppelin's 'Song Remains the Same' 40 Years Later

Led Zeppelin

(Radio.com) 40 years ago this week, Led Zeppelin released their live album, 'The Song Remains the Same,' which also served as the soundtrack to their concert film of the same name. For years, it was their only legitimate live release. Brian Ives takes a look back:

If you grew up in the '80s, the music landscape was very different than what it is today. Not just stylistically, although it is certainly is very different. But structurally; it's not just that there were less ways to hear music, there wasn't as much information about the music that you loved, particularly if it was older music. It was also tough to afford all of the music that you wanted from the bands that you liked. LPs and cassettes were expensive! It was hard to figure out which albums were good and which weren't. You'd generally start with a greatest hits album.

Led Zeppelin, of course, weren't like other bands, and had never released any kind of compilation until their self-titled box set in 1990 (an actual "best-of" wouldn't be released until 1999). But a good way to get a record with all the songs that you liked was to pick up a live album. After all, live versions of songs were pretty close to the originals, just with added applause and maybe a extra guitar or drum solo thrown in.

The Song Remains the Same had three of the songs that were (and still are) always on the radio: "Rock and Roll," "Whole Lotta Love" and "Stairway to Heaven." That was good enough for me, it was my second Zeppelin album after the fourth one. I was in for a big surprise.

The Song Remains the Same starts with "Rock and Roll," which, in fact, wasn't too different from the studio version. But it was clear that Robert Plant saw the recorded versions of Zeppelin's songs as a guideline, not something to be mimicked.

From there, they went into "Celebration Day," a song I wasn't that familiar with; I hadn't gotten Led Zeppelin III yet: I, II and In Through the Out Door were higher up on my rock and roll shopping list. Still, the song was an amazing rush of excitement. How had I missed this? Side 1 also had the title track and "The Rain Song." I was sort of familiar with them, but the live versions both sounded way more wild than the versions I knew. Jimmy Page was a master producer, but once the records were recorded, it was clear that, like Plant, he didn't worry much about reproducing the records exactly. Read more here.

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