In 1969, Led Zeppelin released their first album. All of the songs on it are iconic, because before Led Zeppelin, no other artist or band had recorded this kind of album. Each song was unique, and perfectly written and produced.
Several important features make Led Zeppelin so iconic and widely acclaimed, two of which I want to highlight here. First of all, the band’s guitarist, Jimmy Page, can be considered a virtuoso. Before joining Led Zeppelin, he was already a recording artist and, with Jeff Beck, a member of the Yardbirds. However, although many consider him a virtuoso because of his playing style, I think what makes him great are his artistic ideas and the way he reflects those ideas in his music. Since we know that Page composed most of the music on the first album, such a masterpiece is more than enough to justify his claim to virtuosity.
The other very important element is John Bonham’s drums. Today’s drummers are still trying to copy his sound and style. Normally, the drums follow the bass guitar, and together they create the necessary space and tension for the vocals and lead guitar. However, with Led Zeppelin, Bonham played the drums as if they were a lead instrument. What makes his playing so prominent is its power and tension. Even when he’s just laying down the basic rhythm, as in the song “You Shook Me,” you can hear the power of the drums.
When these unique musicians came together to create something artistically different, the resulting album not surprisingly became the most iconic in the history of rock. And until 2017, no one had attempted to mimic Led Zeppelin’s sound, Robert Plant’s voice, Page’s playing style. However, in that year, Greta Van Fleet released their first album, “From the Fires,” which completely copies Led Zeppelin’s sound.
There’s both a positive and a negative side to this. Let’s start with the positive. It’s great to see that quality rock music is still listened to. In particular, the number of young listeners at their concerts is quite high, which is very surprising since we tend to think of Led Zeppelin as our parents’ favorite band. So, it’s really great to see that a band with a ’70s rock ’n’ roll sound can still attract audiences today.
On the negative side, I consider Greta Van Fleet’s music far from original; they’ve simply copied what Led Zeppelin did in the ’70s. Although it’s their album that’s getting attention today, I think we’re actually still celebrating what Led Zeppelin achieved. We can call Greta Van Fleet’s approach retro-fetishism, because I can’t see an intention to do anything but recreate what already exists. Nowadays, technology offers many possibilities that weren’t available to Led Zeppelin in the ’70s. But Greta Van Fleet chose to disregard these technological advances and copy existing music.
Robert Plant also released an album in 2017, and even though it may not have gotten as much attention, everything on it is much more contemporary than the tracks on “From the Fires.” Therefore, being stuck in the music of the past and disregarding the potential opportunities that technology gives us is just retro-fetishism. I think what today’s young musicians should be doing is experimenting with all the available equipment and sounds, and trying to listen to all types of music. I know that listening to every genre is difficult, but it’s a good way to get a lot of different ideas. I hope that Greta Van Fleet will change their approach and start composing original songs.