“Good Times, Bad Times.” Nothing else to ask for.

Zep 1

It does NOT get better than this.

When I was just a little blond headed boy, I had nothing on the ball. I didn’t excel at anything. I was a wimpy little shit. What the hell. I loved to ride bikes, draw (ink or pencil,) girls were cool, hated riding buses to school, afraid of swimming in water where I couldn’t touch the bottom, loved music on the radio, I was bullied, etc. Just a normal kid. Normal to the point of being ignored, passed over.

My interest in music has always been a bit weird. I’m not fond of noisy music, but extremely fusion oriented music catches my attention. Emerson, Lake and Palmer, John McLaughlin, two artists that immediately pop into my mind. Weird stuff like Aorta, King Crimson, Vanilla Fudge also were in the mix. I have never been fond of ‘girlfriend’ songs. I just don’t see a reason to whine about a failed relationship in a tune one writes. Maybe years down the road after you’ve become “The Next Big Thing,” but in the beginning, it seems to me, addressing issues that many identify with, aside from their personal and private life, is the wise move. Public issues that everyone can identify with and discuss publicly seems to be the smart move, but that’s just me. Chicago Transit Authority is a good example. That first album was very political and it pushed them into the stratosphere. They were famous immediately because they were good musicians and they knew what people were up against. They fell into obscurity when they started relying on ‘girlfriend’ songs as their regular fodder. A lot of the early bands did it. Many opened with such tripe and became one hit wonders.

Well, “Good Times, Bad Times,” released on 10 March 1969 (US), was also a ‘girlfriend song,’ but no one listened to the lyrics. Sure, I can sit here and sing the lyrics while I type without listening to the song, but the lyrics were never the strength of the tune, aside from Robert Anthony’s delivery, which was stellar, figuratively and literally.
They carried everything, but the rest of the tune stood well on its own.
Great chunky guitar sound, hammer drum track, bass lines that shook the house and screaming vocals.
‘Little Robert Anthony’ could have been singing about dead cows and the tune would still have stood just as tall.

So, why did this work? Because it’s the perfect rock and roll tune.

Absolutely perfect.

Here’s why I think so.

The two notes it starts with define Led Zeppelin. You can hear just those two notes on any audio device and you instantly think of Led Zeppelin and what you were doing the very first time you heard those two notes.
Maybe just for an instant, but you know what is next and who it is playing it. Zep 1, ‘Good Times, Bad Times.’ No simpler than that. First tune, side one. Cowbell.

“In the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man.”

I was 15 years old in 1969. January to be exact, on the 5th. ‘Led Zeppelin’ hit the radio two months later and an earthquake reverberated through the air waves. Zep was on the scene and everyone knew it. Whether you liked them or not, you heard them and you knew that they were different. Of course, Iron Butterfly, Black Sabbath, Vanilla Fudge, Cream, they were all different, but not with a purpose like Zep had. Those guys wanted hits, Zep wanted to say something. Yes, the first album was filled with ‘girlfriend’ songs, but no one cared. The musicians, regardless of the tunes, were four guys we wanted to hear play stuff. “Just play something.” We wanted to hear Robert yell, Jones hit low notes and 16th note runs, Jimmy’s Wah-Wah and Bonzo’s bass drum.

So, more on why “Good Times….” was the best rock and roll tune.

-It espouses education. “In the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man.”

-Discipline. “Now I’ve reached that age I’ve tried to do all those things the best I can.”

-Rebellion. “No matter how I try, I find my way to the same old jams.”

-Chorus. “Good times, bad times, you know I’ve had my share.
Well, my woman left home for a brown-eyed man,
But, I still don’t seem to care.”

-Bass solo.

-Hitting on all cylinders so far.

-True love. “Well at sweet sixteen, I fell in love with a girl as sweet as could be.”

-Abandonment. “It only took a couple of days ‘fore she was rid of me.”

-Lifelong dedication. “She swore that she would be all mine and love me till the end.”

-Unrequited love. “But when I whispered in her ear, I lost another friend. Whoa.”

-Chorus. “Good times, bad times, you know I’ve had my share.
Well, my woman left home for a brown-eyed man,
But, I still don’t seem to care.”

-Whole note break. This gets better and better

-Enter, high, shrill, obnoxious guitar solo, ending in a riff that screams for release and recognition.

“I am here! Listen to me! Feel my agony!”

-Another chorus to bring you out of the clouds.

-ANOTHER bass solo.

-Loneliness. “I know what it means to be alone.”

-Homesick. “I sure do wish I was at home.

-Disregard for personal reputation as well as others and their opinions.
“I don’t care what the neighbors say.”

-Dedication to the fairer sex. “I’m gonna love you each and every day.”

-Closeness. “You can feel the beat within my heart.”

-Eternal companionship. “Realize sweet baby, we ain’t never gonna part.”

-Admiration. “I feel good when I look at you.” Fade…………………………………….

This is monumental. So many emotions and declarations in two minutes-forty six seconds, and he gets the girl back, in the end. All of this laid on top of a drum solo.
Great rock feel, great blues feel.

The first time I heard this tune, I was on my bicycle, again, I was only 15 years old, in south Aberdeen (my hometown in Washington state) and a buddy had one of the new transistor radios that was being made and sold around town. It was tuned to KGHO on AM. Those first two notes came out of that small speaker and it felt like I was listening to a live band. The impact was thunderous. Led Zeppelin had arrived.
Rock and roll had a new ruler with a job to do.

It was obvious that these guys had heard it all before and used the mistakes made by others to learn from. It was obvious that these guys wanted to go to the top, to stay on top, and they did stay on top. Even today, in 2016, anything that Led Zeppelin releases or any appearances they make, they rule from their throne.

“Celebration Day,” the DVD and BluRay release of their performance at the “Ahmet Ertegun Tribute” in London at the O2 Arena is a great example. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia;
“According to Guinness World Records 2009, the concert holds the world record for the “Highest Demand for Tickets for One Music Concert” as 20 million requests for the reunion show were rendered online.”
Whatever they do, people still want it.
They were recently honored at the Kennedy Center with the “Kennedy Center Honor.” Heart played “Stairway to Heaven” flawlessly, Jason Bonham took the drum throne to the top of the stairway.

So, my assessment is that “Good Times, Bad Times” is the rock and roll definition. It has everything in it that you can stuff into a rock and roll song. It’s new every time I hear it. I don’t hear anything new in it, but it has the same impact that I felt when I was just 15 years old. It gives me the feeling that I have just been through an experience that is earthquake worthy. It hammers, it screams, it soothes, it makes me want to inhale deeply.

If you have never owned “Led Zeppelin,” the eponymous debut album by this historical group of guys, push the rock aside that you are living under, get online or go to the music store and buy a copy. When the CD was released (I can’t find info on the year that happened,) no new material was added. It just didn’t need it. Nine tunes, the dictionary of rock and roll in one small collection of tunes. Just 44:26 total time to learn what you need to know. Two covers and one tune interpolating “The Hunter,” written by Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Al Jackson, Jr.

Get yourself a copy, grab a brandy, sit down, shut the door, twist the knob to ten or eleven and be convinced, this is as good as it gets.

Thanks for looking,
Kelly J.


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