On College & Classic Rock

I’ve gone through many musical phases: years of my life where I’ve been singularly obsessed with one artist or artists, a single genre.

In college – specifically sophomore year – that phase was classic rock. Fall semester I was really into The Who. If you asked me how I was feeling, I was often tempted to answer, “a little like a dyin’ clown with a streak of Rin Tin Tin.”

Then I transferred colleges and that spring I became obsessed with Led Zeppelin. I’d been intermittently interested in them in high school, but here it was a full-scale Situation. It didn’t hurt that at the time I was also taking a class on the evolution of rock music. Put the two together and I was armed with all sorts of trivia to go with the music I was listening to.

Interestingly, a large part of what fueled my interest in Led Zeppelin was this guy I had a crush on. He was so cute and, like me, he was also really into music. We took two classes together (one of them was the aforementioned music class). At one point he came in to class wearing headphones and I asked him what he’d been listening to. He told me it was “Trampled Underfoot.” We chatted about Led Zeppelin and he laughed, a little embarrassed – he explained that he’d really been into them in high school.

I wanted to have more in common with this guy, so maybe I threw myself a little bit more into the Led Zeppelin Situation than I would have otherwise. The crush waxed and waned over that semester, but, as Page and Plant once wrote, “The Song Remains the Same.”

I’m no longer intensely into letting the Led out as I once was. Of course I know how instrumental they are. Of course I know their stories, from the red snapper incident to the recording of “When the Levee Breaks” (in high school I watched It Might Get Loud, but that’s a story for another day). I think part of why I don’t like them as much anymore is that I just don’t relate to their music. It’s not just that I no longer have a crush on that guy, it’s also that I just got turned off from listening to “Whole Lotta Love” a few too many times.

There’s an animated interview with Kurt Cobain where he talks about this same phenomenon. He explains that so much of classic rock is just singers bragging about their prowess. The more I listened to Led Zeppelin, the more I began to see that that was true. It just became so aggressive-sounding to me and I disliked that.

I think my experience with Led Zeppelin (and, to a lesser extent, The Who) is intriguing. It’s no different than any other college guys’ – except, of course, that I’m a woman. I turned to music to make a connection with someone, music that is very traditionally masculine. Music that generations of men have turned to as a way to make a connection with women. And, ultimately, I neither made the connection nor enjoyed the music.

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