Anyone who has done a minute’s research into popular music history understands that if you attempt to trace pretty much any style of contemporary music back to its roots, you end up at 1920’s Blues. It’s generally considered that that’s because as these originators of guitar driven music pushed lyrical and melodic boundaries, they influenced the next generation – who took a piece and added some of their own.
This carried on ad infinitum until all of a sudden it was 2017 and we were listening to bands like King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard and calling them ‘original’. They’re not. And they’d be the first ones to admit that. They’re just a 21st Century incarnation of The 13th Floor Elevators with some extra melancholy.
In Zeppelin Was A Cover Band, playwright Stéfan Cédilot explains why that’s OK. Zeppelin were simply covering the music they knew. Blues. It’s clear from the beginning that Jimmy Page never wanted to re-invent the wheel like Brian Wilson did. He simply wanted to play the Blues harder, faster and louder than anyone before. And so he did. The story begins with Eric Claption leaving The Yardbirds to remain a blues purist and ends with an emphatic questioning of how Spirit ever thought they had a right to sue over “Stairway To Heaven” when they’d ripped the riff off of the same centuries old folk song as Zeppelin did.
It’s the kind of show that without Cédilot’s enthusiasm and energy would only be interesting to music nerds like me. But his clearly well refined storytelling ability transforms mere facts into an expertly woven tale that rides from 1969 back to 1927 and forward again to the 70s. Watching Cédilot present this information is like watching a music documentary leap out of the screen and into your face. At one point he even waves his naughty bits quite suggestively at the crowd (fully clothed of course).
He tells me after the show that when he was studying theatre, a lecturer once told him that all good writers ‘write what they know’. “I went home and thought, well I only really know about one thing. Rock music. So I went and wrote a show about it,” he says.
I’ve been down the rabbit hole of popular music history many times before in my life. I devour this information like its cheesecake. But even I learnt things from this show. And yet, I feel that if you’d entered the space knowing really nothing about how Zeppelin came to be, you’d still have been thoroughly engaged.
Performances for Led Zeppelin was a Cover Band have now ended. The reviewer attended the performance on 28th February.