Friday, December 16, 2022

Celebrate: Celebration Day

Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day

One of the joys of having written for Star Maker Machine since 2011 is that one week I can write about Lene Lovich, a quirky singer with niche recognition, and the next week I can discuss Led Zeppelin, one of the most successful, well-known and mighty rock bands of all time. (In fact, my first ever piece, a holiday post about The Roches’ version of “Deck The Halls,” was published as a guest post by former moderator Darius almost exactly 11 years ago, using my former pseudonym). 

In 2014, I wrote a piece for a Thanksgiving-related “Pilgrims and Immigrants” theme about Led Zep’s “Immigrant Song,” and mentioned how seeing the oft-maligned (including by members of the band) movie, The Song Remains The Same, turned me from a Zeppelin skeptic to a fan, based mostly on the power of the live performances in the movie (which, I know, weren’t their best work. Still.....) And one of the songs that caused this change was the live version of “Celebration Day,” which was from the band’s 1973 shows at Madison Square Garden. It was on the soundtrack album, but not in the movie, but I saw the movie once and played the soundtrack many, many times. Certainly now, it’s all kind of mushed together in my mind. That’s why I’ve linked to the soundtrack album, and not Led Zeppelin III, where the song originally appeared. 

Another thing to celebrate about writing for SMM is how much I’ve learned about music because I (usually) do research on the music and bands that I write about. Not research like I did for my college thesis or for a legal brief, but I do read stuff. And one of the things that I learned about “Celebration Day,” is that Robert Plant’s lyrics were inspired by his first impressions of New York City. Which immediately makes the song better, in my mind. Just a brief aside—I worked in New York City for most of my career, and my last office was near Rockefeller Center, so that at this time of year, I usually walked by the big tree, dodging annoying tourists. And after doing that for years, you can get jaded. But for the last almost 10 years, I’ve been working in Westchester County, only occasionally going into the city for work, and I kind of miss it. The other night, I went to a holiday party for my old firm, in Rockefeller Center, and walked by the big tree again, dodging happy tourists, and it was fun. It is a beautiful tree, and everyone seemed so excited to see it and be near it and take pictures of it. And I did, too. 

OK, back to “Celebration Day.” Not knowing that the song was about New York, the part that jumped out at me is when Plant sings, 

My, my, my, I'm so happy 
I'm gonna join the band 
We gonna dance and sing in celebration 
We are in the promised land 

I took that to mean that the song was about Plant’s joy in being in the band (but not the Band of Joy), and maybe that’s part of it. 

Then there’s the music. The great producer Rick Rubin said that the song “feels like a freight train, even though it’s not one of their heavier songs.” Not surprisingly, Rubin is right. Jimmy Page’s guitar is incredible, John Paul Jones’ bass is amazing, and John Bonham was his usual brilliant on the drums. 

So, most rock lovers know that Led Zeppelin basically disbanded after the Bonham’s death in 1980. Although there were occasional reunions of the survivors after that, the last one was in 2007, at a concert celebrating the late Ahmet Ertegun, who was the head of Atlantic Records, Led Zep’s label (and my ultimate boss for the summer that I worked at Atlantic). That performance, which featured Jason Bonham on drums, was filmed and recorded, and both the movie and soundtrack album were released (but not until 2012) with the title Celebration Day, although our featured song doesn’t actually appear.

Thursday, December 15, 2022


Celebrations is the brand name for a selection of miniature chocolate bars over here. And, for all I know, elsewhere, but given it being the time of year when such abound, so surely worth a mention. From the house of Mars, so you can expect small versions of the ubiquitous Mars bar, Bounty, Topic and Snickers. Arguably better than the old school alternatives, Cadbury's Roses or Quality Street, originally by the long extinct choc firm, Mackintosh, which were just fairly random chocolate box offerings, where, if unlucky, every one chosen was either a sickly "creme" or a rock hard toffee. I was always unlucky. At least with Celebrations you know what you are getting.

Unfortunately I am no great fan, pre-  or post-gall bladder, of chocolate, perhaps from all those bloody cremes, so that is all I have to say on the subject, beyond an excuse to roll out some appropriately themed songs for your delectation.

Mars Bonfire is the immaculate nom de guerre of the lead guitarist of the Sparrows, whom nobody remembers. However, through his brother, also a Sparrow, becoming a drummer for Steppenwolf, he got to write a few songs for that band, notably their best known song, Born To Be Wild. The Sparrows we're an interesting band as they also included the later Steppenwolf singer, John Kay, and Bruce Palmer, later of Buffalo Springfield. So you could say that Mars, Eugene to his mother, got left behind, but I am sure the royalties helped prevent too much bitterness. It is a great song and it is often claimed to have invented the idea of heavy metal into music, to describe the noise of the motor bike. Nice story. Probably apocryphal.

Bounty bars always divided the playground, with few admitting to much pleasure in the eating of them. However, via the wonder of saucy advertising, certainly teenage boys were galvanised into keeping on trying. Me, I preferred the red-wrappered plain choc version, which isn't included in the Celebrations pack. The song I am unfamiliar with but, sticking with Canada, where half of Steppenwolf evolved from, so too is the performer here, Dean Brody, a Canadian. Apart from a rapper, very few songs mention bounties. It's an OK song, and includes the now more successful than the singer, Lindi Ortega, who I have seen live and enjoyed.

Of course I am not going to dabble around the net seeking a song about Snickers. Anyone with half a brain or twice a life will know these nutty monsters are really called Marathon, still baulking at the name change. Which was back in 1990. Gulp. (US readers her may be looking confused, as it was always a Snickers over that side the pond, I understand.) And, without putting me and the rest of the post under any degree of pressure, there is also a song by a Canadian band to fit the bill. Me, I never bought into the whole Rush shtick, but I do like a Snickers, if pushed and my life depended on it. (Late joke alert: you can rush a snickers, but you can't rush a marathon! Boom boom!!)

Topic? You're joking right? Closest I can get is to evoke the old joke around hazelnuts in every bite. As in, what has a hazelnut in every bite, the pillar of Mars advertising back in the day. The playground answers related more to the genus Sciuridae, better known as the squirrel. I am uncertain quite what a cat squirrel is, amongst the family of so named rodents, but a Dr Ross, a bluesman of the mid 20th century, was sufficiently moved to write a song around one. Later covered by both Cream and by Jethro Tull, I hope he got his dues. The suggestion that is was penned by Mr Trad augurs ill that he did. As far as I can tell, he had no Canadian connection, putting paid to that promise.

We are delving deeper into the carton. Twix is next out. If that makes you think of the song featured above, the chances are that you didn't even know it was a song with a life outside the 30 second TV ad for the Twix bar in the late 1980s. Yello were, possibly still are the odd Swiss electronic duo, who make Sparks, by comparison, seem mainstream in their image. And that 30 second advert is actually a 3 minute song. (Can you make it to the end?)

Maltesers are not just the sweet you can eat between meals, they are also the folk who hail from Malta, a tiny island in the mediterranean, famous for being, the island, awarded the George Cross in WW2, for their rugged defence against the would be invading forces. They have since built up a vibrant scene of internationally known artists, so the various wiki pages tell me. World famous only in Malta, methinks, but this lot seem the least inoffensive and it is quite pleasant in a dreamy way. Stalko they are called, should you wish to dig deeper, with a couple of albums to their name. (No marks for those who point out the extra e in Malteasers. Cos there isn't one. Or that Milky Way is the one you eat between meals, with Maltesers being the Chocolate? Maltesers! one)

I bet you are beginning to struggle with what else is up for grabs. Unless you read the addendum to the last para. Or Santa has already delivered you early a box of Celebrations, in which case you will know it is now into space we head, with the doughty Milky Way, another choc bar misleadingly touted as a dietary aid to weight loss in its initial entry to the market. You might gain less weight if you eat a Milky Way a day, over a Mars. I cannot guarantee the effect on your work, rest or play, or, more to the point, your dental bills. To celebrate, SWIDT, this sweetie, lets pick an obvious culprit, and sweep up some groovy pictures of the constellation along the way. The Tornadoes band famously featured the blondly quiffed Heinz Burt, who went on to invent baked beans. What a guy!

Sticking with the heavens, last on the list and last in the pack is the cloying Galaxy Caramel. Galaxy is the brand Mars use for their chocolate bar, which is the biggest competitor to the Cadbury's Dairy Milk, I would imagine, at least in the UK. (Is Hershey really chocolate? I think not.) Most of the folk I would ever buy chocolate for seem to prefer it, it being smoother. Until you put a gloop, that is, of runny toffeee into it, sweet and sticky, capable of dissolving enamel on contact. Be that as it may, lets finish up with this track, an audio-visual presentation of the point of contact between the caramel and your mouth. You will need to brush your teeth after this one, for sure.

Happy Celebrations!

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Leftovers: Little/Few (=Small)

purchase [ Ogdens Nut Gone Flake]

Back when the few/little theme was up, I had this idea that small was also a variation on Little/Few, and so had put down a few words about Small Faces. There were a couple of sentences that actually made it as far as the Blogger drafts page but ended up expiring there. Sadly - for some reason, I then deleted the draft altogether. Note to self: leave your unpublished drafts so you can use them as Leftovers. Doh. But I more or less remember what I had written and was able to recreate most of it.

What I remember is that the band started as Small Faces and then became became Faces, and that Rod Stewart was the lead singer. One of the better known Small Faces' hits was Itchycoo Park.

It would be understandable if you were to get confused about the Ronnies in the band. I did. Small Faces' original lineup included Ronnie Lane on bass (whose  later Rough Mix with Pete Townshend is one of my favorite albums) When the band switched to being Faces, Ronnie Wood joined the lineup playing guitar. 

The UK music scene was fairly fertile ground during this time, and the two bands provided lots of cross pollinations with bits and pieces of a little Jeff Beck, Humble Pie, the Who ...

So, to complete the circle and tie this to the original theme, here is a little collection of Small Faces:

Sunday, December 11, 2022



OK, sorta kinda a contrivance here, given I have been away a week or two, with, if not a fever, the treatment for one I had earlier. Anyone here had biliary colic or cholecystitis? Not fun, right? And that was how I found myself in the casualty (emergency room) of my local hospital, some time back in the summer, ahead of a scan showing me the presence of a big old bag of stones. The bag my gall bladder, the stones painful. Cue change of diet whilst I was put on the list for the necessary surgery, to rid me of the offending organ and it's unruly passengers. Against the odds, as we have a bit of a post covid crisis in our national health system, I got given a date and underwent the knife a couple of weeks ago. Nominally a day case, they do it, these days, by laparoscope, or keyhole surgery as it is called. Instead of cutting me in half, they make four small incisions and wiggle about inside me, via levers and pulleys. A "very big" and "very dirty" bag and stone combo was thus drawn out of me, allowing me home the same day. (Actually, not, as it happened, as my other bladder took umbrage at the anaesthetic and decided not to work until the last bus had departed, meaning an overnight stay.) I was hoping to have pictorial evidence of all this, expecting I might be offered, as a trophy, the removed detritus, but no such luck. This is, apparently, no longer hospital policy. Boo.

Two weeks off work was all I was offered, expecting that to be insufficient, surprising myself by how quickly everything bounced back, and how little pain the various stab wounds gave me. They use glue, these days, to cover up all the evidence, with hefty dollops of Loctite squirted over the incisions. That was fun as it peeled away..... 

So here I lie, early am on the (Sun)day before I return to work. Time for  catch-up post and any of the Dr and Hospital songs I could shoehorn in, this seemed to fit best into the open ended theme of leftovers. We did "Boss" earlier in the year, and I certainly shied away from Mr Springsteen at that juncture: far too obvious. As, sadly, has the man himself become, his star irredeemably faded in recent years, tarnished by the limelight of Vegas and lacklustre material. (Don't get me started on his latest travesty, the dreadful collection of dreck, dredged up from the vault of songs even Rod Stewart wouldn't dare cover. Good songs, sure, in their own right, but despoiled by the vanity of the project.) This track first came out with '18 Tracks', the 1999 album to lure in punters to his then back catalogue, but had been originally made during the session for his second record, 1973's 'The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle'. And isn't it good? I bought the compilation as it was released, and it has sat on the shelves, progressively gathering dust as my love affair with the Boss diminished. So, then, a timely reminder of what the man was capable of in his prime. the two live versions each coming from 1978, the first being performed by Southside Johnny and his also containing Steve Van Zandt band, with Bruce as a guest. Both traffic versions.