Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pink Floyd v Led Zeppelin Songwriter Match Up #3

This week's songwriter match up pits two seminal British rock bands against one another. The songs of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin are mainstays on almost any classic rock station. Of the two, I would say that Pink Floyd was the more avant-garde for their time, focusing heavily on psychedelic lightshows and elaborate stages that were part of their performances. Pink Floyd also put out more concept albums and was less about writing hit singles than Led Zeppelin (although Zeppelin was also album oriented). Led Zeppelin for its part was one of the major inspirations behind the birth of the heavy metal rock band. The musical contrasts of light and heavy were also explored in a way that influenced many other bands. Note how popular heavy rock bands had names that reflect this - Iron Butterfly, Vanilla Fudge, etc.. Page was a fan of Pentangle and Joni Mitchell, and a acoustic sections are often incorporated into some of Led Zeppelin's biggest hits that start relatively quietly with fingerpicking contrasted by a subsequent hard rock electric sound later in the same song.

Lyrics - Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd has put out so many great songs with compelling and sometimes disturbing lyrics. Explorations of madness, alienation, euphoria all come to mind. Between Syd Barrett and the songwriting team of Roger Waters and David Gilmour, the talent was certainly there. Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant was the primary lyricist of the band. Plant's lyrics definitely work well with the music and vocal stylings and for the most part I'd rate him a good lyricist. But then there are some lyrics like this one: "I saw a lion he was standing alone with a tadpole in a jar" (from Dancing Days). 10 points for Pink Floyd.

Composition - Led Zeppelin

John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page were well rounded, experienced studio musicians comfortable with playing and arranging complex compositions. While perhaps the dominant influence in Led Zeppelins music is blues rock, there is also folk, funk, jazz, eastern influences and even some ska. Both bands have had orchestras providing full symphonic treatments of their music, perhaps the most notable example was Led Zeppelins Kashmir as performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I'm giving this one to Led Zeppelin. 10 points.

Influence - Led Zeppelin

I can't think of another band that made so many 70's teens aspire to become rock gods and drive their parents crazy by cranking up their electric guitars or hammering away on the drums like John Bonham than Led Zeppelin. And Led Zeppelin's sound was so influential to 70's bands like Aerosmith and Rush that both started by covering Led Zeppelin. 5 more points awarded to Led Zeppelin.

Originality - Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd's fusion of science fiction, philosophy and psychodrama plus the exploration of themes such as madness and alienation make their work unforgettable. So many great concept albums - Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, The Wall and Animals. Pink Floyd is a legendary band fully deserving of taking the prize in this category. 5 more points for Pink Floyd.

Durability - Led Zeppelin

I have to go with Led Zeppelin. It is a very close call, but I could imagine future generations that were not as drug-oriented as those that were young in the decade when these two groups were in their heyday choosing Led Zeppelin over Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd tends to be perhaps a little tiring at times because it is too brooding. The quality of the music of both bands ensure that they have the durability to win fans for decades to come, but if I have to award a winner here it would have to be Led Zeppelin. 5 Points.

Conclusion - Led Zeppelin comes out ahead 20 to 15.

1 comment:

  1. Good call. Plant wrote some of the dumbest lyrics in rockdom, by the mighty Jimmy Page, JPJ and Bonzo made 'em sound damn good. LZ was also way more innovative than Pink Floyd. Sure, Floyd's albums were conceptual and all, but every album took the same approach, while Zeppelin's were up there with The Beatles in terms of sheer variety.

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