Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The possible true meaning of Led Zeppelin's Carouselambra


     For legal reasons I have to say the possible true meaning, as I have no certified proof that this is the actual meaning of the song. I am absolutely dead sure, however, that I have finally came across the song's meaning.

     It just hit me one night when I was listening to the In Through The Out Door album. Prior to recording the album, Robert Plant's five year old son Karac died from a mystery virus, and many of the songs on the album deal with the way Robert was feeling during the aftermath of the tragedy, and all the things that happened because of it, including a change in the way Robert felt towards those close to him. In The Evening was about the stress of being a musician, and it also served as a reminder that self pity is never the answer. I'm Gonna Crawl and All My Love were both Robert's tributes to Karac. (Another song Robert wrote for him was called I Believe, and it can be found on his solo album Fate of Nations, possibly his best post-Zeppelin album.)


     Caroselambra seems to be the enigma of Led Zeppelin's career. At ten and a half minutes long, it is their second longest song (In My Time Of Dying being their longest) and musically, John Paul Jones dominates with a danceable bass line and a childlike, catchy synthethizer riff. The song is anything but lighthearted though. Carouselambra tells the story of Led Zeppelin's demise: first, it talks about the glory days. Led Zeppelin were the kings of the world, with everything working in their favor, loving all and loved by all.


"In times of brightness no intruder dared come on
To jeopardize the course, upset the run,
And all was joy and hands were raised toward the Sun 
And love in the halls of plenty overrun."

     But then, just out of the blue, in a second, everything changed for the band forever. Robert received the news of his son's death, and his whole life was turned upside down. Grief stricken, he returned home, to spend the next couple of years out of the limelight, with his wife and daughter.

"How keen the storied hunter's eye prevails upon the land 
To seek the unsuspecting and the weak; 
And powerless the fabled sat, too smug to lift a hand 
Toward the foe that threatened from the deep. 
Who cares to dry the cheeks of those who saddened stand 
Adrift upon a sea of futile speech? 
And to fall to fate and make the 'status plan' 
Where was your word, where did you go? 
Where was your helping, where was your bow? Bow. 
Dull is the armor, cold is the day. 
Hard was the journey, dark was the way. Way. 
I heard the word; I couldn't stay."

     This serves as the set up for the main theme of the song, which was Robert's shaky relationship with Jimmy Page and Peter Grant at the time. When Karac died, the band had been taking a brief break from touring in the States. Richard Cole, their road manager, John Bonham, and Robert had went to New Orleans, where they received the news. They both went back to England with Robert, and were there to support him the whole time. They showed up to Karac's funeral, which is more that can be said for John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Peter Grant, who all stayed behind in the States. I cannot offer any excuses for their actions. They truly let Robert down when he needed them the most, which only added to his devastation. I don't know how much heroin Jimmy must have been doing to make him not think that he would hurt Robert even more.

Robert's feelings are shown most plainly and simply in the one line:

"Where was your word, where did you go?"

I cannot imagine the kind of pain all this put Robert through. I know his relationship with those three band members has improved since then, but you can never really forget it when your closest friends do something like that you to you. I know I wouldn't.

From all this, I suppose there are some lessons to be learnt about friendship (and about good songwriting) and you really got to hand it to them- they turned a tragedy into a masterpiece. They just don't make bands like that anymore.

12 comments:

  1. Awesome well thought interpretation and synopsis.

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  2. ...and at the outtro he screams "THEY JUST STAYED!"

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  3. ...and at the outtro he screams "THEY JUST STAYED!"

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  4. You're reading into it too much. It's just a great song and means anything you want it to. Its my second fave of theirs after Achilles Last Stand, then In The Light.

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    1. Good grief. No it doesn't mean anything you want it to. It is exactly as he says, it's clearly a description of Robert's feelings towards the band in the end of it's days and his anger towards Page for not coming to Karac's funeral. Reading too much into it? Yeah, don't bother THINKING about anything!

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    2. ^^ Thanks, I hate it when people stay stupid shit like 'you're reading too much into this' when really you're just thinking about it critically and they're just butthurt because you just changed the meaning of their favourite song for them. You can still get your own personal meaning out of any art, but you have to respect what the artist's intentions were when creating it, especially when the subject matter is as important and personal as a song like this.

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  5. Plant was also angry at Page when they recorded presence, Plant had just survived an accident and was in a wheelchair when Page and Grant were banging on about making an about, listen to Hots on for nowhere,

    "Now I've got friends who will give me their shoulder,
    Event I should happen to fall
    Time and his bride growing older
    I've got friends who will give me fuck all"

    this part is about Page not caring about his well-being, forcing Plant to record whilst he was in a wheel chair.

    " if you ask my advice, take it slower
    Then your story'd be your finest reward."

    In other words don't rush me

    "Now everything's fine under heaven
    Now and then you've got to take time to pause
    When you're down on the ground, don't be messin' around
    Or you'll land in a boat without oars"

    in this part Plant is basically saying why don't we wait until we are all up to form to record, what't the rush ? It's such a shame to know that things like this happened within the band, Page was too passionate to focus on anything other than music, not even the well-being of a friend, I cant really say much about that because I would probably do the same.

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    1. Actually P&P were pretty close during Presence. Plant was recuperating in LA with Page. They worked out pretty much the whole album there. Also during recording Page tended to Plant's needs with a good deal of concern. This is probably because heroin wasn't a big factor yet (though it was certainly around.)

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    2. I'm pretty sure heroin was an enormous factor at the time. When would Page have ever handed the production over to Jones prior? It's a pretty key heavy album. And waaaay slicker than anything Page has ever done in the studio. And just so we're clear, that's NOT a knock on Page. He was too fucked up to do the job.

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  6. Great input, it does make sense. Sad to know that things like these happened between them, but they seem to have worked it out eventually.

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  7. Pretty good interpretation. The saddest thing to me about it all is that JPJ, JP and Grant likely didn't get the depth of their decision and the consequences to not attending Karac's funeral and their subsequent 'giving space.' Perhaps, at least in JP's case, he'd want to deal with a trauma like this privately and would hole up to deal with his hurt. It may be even reflective of the introvert/extrovert misunderstanding. Robert WANTED to be reached out to, JP or JPJ would not have instead retreating to the bosom of their families. Then there's the drugs which have been covered in other pieces like "Wearing & Tearing."

    This was a time many things were in turmoil and individuals react differently to turmoils. Sometimes massive misunderstandings come out of that. I'm an introvert and I have an extrovert boss. She has misunderstood about half of what I do in the past, but after a few chats about way we interpret and react to the world if she feels slighted, we chat and over those chats she's found that there is no slight intended - it's just my way of experiencing the world.

    I think with RP's obvious extroversion and JP and JPJ's introversion there is potential for huge misunderstandings. Then the drugs just exacerbated the hell ot of it. I don't ever think there was 'oh let Robert go bugger off.' There was never any desire by Grant, JPJ and JP to ignore him. IMHO, they just didn't get his needs and it wounded RP and that wounding still leaves a legacy even today.

    Cheers.

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