As a guitar teacher I have a frequently recurring problem with Led Zeppelin which isn't as simple as you might think.
On the face of it, it's straight-forward enough: any number of spotty youths want to learn to play "Stairway To Heaven". If they're prepared to put the work in, I can make this happen for them. Like any old whore I think of the money and get stuck in. The funny thing is, "Stairway To Heaven" is not particularly easy to play. In fact, to play it well (ie, all the way through without making any mistakes) is quite demanding. Fortunately, most of my students are content with a serviceable approximation. Mostly they just want to play The Intro and The Big Chords just before The Solo and then The Big Lick just before the vocals come back in at the end. Armed with these, it's easy enough to fake the rest of it (after all, I did, when I was 15.)
No, my problem is the more seasoned Zeppelin fan who wants to learn things like "Heartbreaker" and "Since I've Been Lovin' You", "When The Levee Breaks", "Black Dog", "The Ocean", "Out On The Tiles" etc. etc. As I patiently explicate the monstrousness of The Riffs, I find I am enjoying myself. I try to rein it in by lecturing firmly on the theft of sources, the provenance of the blues; I poke fun at the risible Spinal Tap-ishness of it all - but this is like shooting fish in a barrel with Zeppelin and I become aware that my student sees through me, that my discourse reveals far more about me than my subject. I see through myself. I squirm. I want there to be rawwrk, I want to wear my guitar low round my knees, I want a vintage black Les Paul, I want a wall of Marshalls and a drummer who bites chunks out of brick walls for breakfast.
Is this a form of musical Stockholm Syndrome? I long ago realised that Zeppelin's strength was John Bonham's. Their success the result of Peter Grant's bullyboy gangsterism. That Plant's lyrics were ridiculous, his histrionics absurd, that Jones's bass playing was the epitome of professionally dull, that Page never plays from the heart, always the head, but damn... Sometimes those riffs sneak up on a person.
If I didn't teach it, this problem would go away. I would listen to more worthy music and put aside this childish foolishness. But I'd miss it. Guilty pleasure? Yearning for lost youth? Anyone recognize the problem?
Interesting. I suspect that the particularity of the context in which you encounter the Zep and these feelings about them shapes those thoughts - music teaching, I mean, since I (from my purely consumer standpoint) always associate them with virtuosity, but mostly virtuosity without meaning or feeling. I can imagine aspiring musicians wanting to play like Jimmy Page, but I'd rather listen to (in the generic vicinity) Tony Iommi or Peter Green.
I've never owned a Zeppelin record, never felt inclined, though there are stray tracks I enjoy ('Kashmir' is especially toothsome). But I hear no joy, no life, no soul, no wit in 98% of what they did. I hear bigness for the sake of bigness, and John Bonham's mighty drums were put to far more creative use as hip-hop samples.
Thanks, Andy. Nice to hear from another teacher but one who dislikes Zeppelin. Unlike you, I loved them in adolescence, and I suspect that as most of the people I teach Zeppelin to are adolescents, or not long post-adolescent, that I may be experiencing nostalgia for my own long vanished early teens. Perhaps it's a student-teacher symbiosis: I can't help picking up on the brats desires to BE Jimmy Page c.1972 as it corresponds to what my own were at that age. (I also wanted to be Steve Winwood, a more PC choice, perhaps, but no less adolescent.)
What also fascinates me about this process is that nothing has essentially changed in nearly 40 years - except that my generation had to teach themselves.
I have tried, believe me, but RT ain't got no glamour. This is one of the many reasons why Hendrix is such a godsend to guitar teachers. Not only did he play like that, he was famous, rich, flamboyant, doomed and unbelievably cool.