How Led Zeppelin Inspired The Ramones To Become Punk
Led Zeppelin was without a doubt one of the most influential bands of all time. A sum of its four brilliant individual parts, the group has written a collection of the 20th century’s most iconic music, and as long as music consumption continues, they will be hailed as making an indelible mark on listeners. Comprised of vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist / keyboardist John Paul Jones and the late drummer John Bonham, Zeppelin wrote electrifying rock and roll imbued with esoteric mysticism.
A combination of blues, jazz, country and folk influences, Led Zeppelin possesses one of the most recognizable sounds ever waxed. The virtuosity of each of its members and their electrifying sound have influenced a wide range of equally iconic artists. Fans of the long-haired British quartet range from Lady Gaga and Madonna to Black Sabbath, Nirvana and Joy Division.
In fact, if we were to revisit one of the defining albums of the grunge movement, like that of Soundgarden Badmotorfinger in 1991 or Pearl Jam’s Ten the same year, the influence of Zeppelin is clear. Their sonic impact is mostly heard in the late frontman of Soundgarden, the incredible vocal range of Chris Cornell, whose banshee voice in many ways has earned him applause as a modern day plant. Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder, who also has a distinctive and powerful voice, certainly takes a lot of inspiration from Plant. In addition, the instrumentation of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam is clearly influenced by Zeppelin, with visceral guitars and dynamic rhythms.
In retrospect, you’d bet Pearl Jam has more in common with classic rock bands like Zeppelin than with the hazy, strained sound of grunge. Musically, there isn’t much in common between Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains or even Nirvana.
However, there is another connection between Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana that dates back to Led Zeppelin. A massive influence on the grunge movement, if not immediately evident in such things as its inherent DIY ethic, was the original punk movement of the mid-1970s. While the initial wave punk wasn’t the only authority within the elaborate patchwork of grunge heroes, she certainly played a pivotal role in informing the details of her instrumentation and overall vision.
One of those groups was the Ramones, who, like Zeppelin, are one of the most influential groups of all time. Characterized by their quick “low blows” on the guitar and their short, sweet and melodic tunes, the Ramones have inspired generations, one of which has become followers of the grunge movement, AKA Generation X.
It might surprise you to find out that the Ramones were in fact hugely influenced by Led Zeppelin. A shocking revelation when we see that punk was diametrically opposed to classic rock bands like Zeppelin, who they believed had come to embody all of the worst parts of music, self-indulgence, excess and the Misogynistic “cock rock”. Capturing punk’s take on classic rock, The Clash bassist Paul Simonon proclaimed in 1977: “Led Zeppelin? I don’t need to hear the music, all I have to do is look at one of their album covers and I feel like throwing up.
Well, it seems their transatlantic contemporaries, the Ramones, disagreed. In fact, guitarist Johnny Ramone was hugely inspired by Led Zeppelin’s 1969 live BBC version of their now classic proto-punk “Communication Breakdown”, and it was here that he got his idea of his striking technique. now emblematic descendant.
Mickey Leigh of The Rattlers, who is the brother of frontman Joey Ramone, recalls in his book, I slept with Joey Ramone: A Family Memoir, the day Johnny Ramone confessed his love for Zeppelin and down-stroke. Leigh recalls the specific conversation regarding guitar style:
“One day I started playing ‘Communication Breakdown’ by Led Zeppelin and John was really impressed. “Wow, you know the cheap shots, huh?” Said Jean. ‘What does that mean, low blows?’ I answered. ‘You know, how you pick everything up on the drop,’ John said, motioning. “I’m just trying to play like that sounds. ” I have explained. “Yeah, well, that’s really important,” John told me. “Most people don’t realize it. This is how you have to play rock and roll. All! Everything should be a blow to the bottom.
Leigh ends by stating, “In retrospect, I think Johnny had already started to formulate the concept of the Ramones sound back then. It’s hard not to agree with Leigh’s opinion. The speed-laden main riff of ‘Communication Breakdown’ can now only be considered proto-punk. Guitarist Jimmy Page even said, “We knew what we were doing: taking paths that had never been taken before. “
After the release of ‘Communication Breakdown’ – and that fateful BBC session in 1969 – the path to the fast and deep power chord would become more than well mapped out. It’s now a hallmark of punk – in large part thanks to the unmistakable sound of the Ramones. He would also continue to feature in genres such as grunge.
Ironically, the Ramones and the Clash met at an iconic Ramones show at London’s Dingwall’s in 1976. Paul Simonon is said to have told the bowl-cut guitarist, “We’re just rehearsing. We’re called The Clash but we’re not good enough. According to Ramones manager Danny Fields, Johnny Ramone replied, “Wait till you see us, we stink, we suck, we can’t play. Go out and do it.
There it is. With ‘Communication Breakdown’ Led Zeppelin established a revolutionary punk lineage that has continued to thrive in its many formats to this day. They had a decisive influence on the characteristic sound of The Ramones, and so, by proxy, when one notes the conversation of Ramone and Simonon, they even had a minor influence on The Clash.
Listen to the BBC’s spiky version of Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown,” below.