Mothership – Led Zeppelin

Good Times, Bad Times, You Know I’ve Had My Share

by Iryna Byelyayeva

There’s a second of silence before two, quick, dirty thumps of a guitar, and a light ting ting ting of the drums bring you into the future. And what a bright one it is.

Everyone has that one album that literally changed everything for them. Before this album you were A and now you’re not even on the alphabet. My life-affirming moment came when in 2009 my parents bought me Led Zeppelin’s 2-CD and DVD compilation Mothership as a bribe to get me to sit an exam for a different high school. (I didn’t get in—I skipped the whole maths section)

Mothership wasn’t my introduction to rock, that flirtation had begun two years prior with Alice Cooper’s ‘Poison’, but it was the album that made me fully understand myself, what I like and the kind of emotions that were blossoming inside this little, neat girl’s shapeless body. Led Zeppelin was the first band that really made sense to me. I didn’t have to try hard or learn to appreciate the music, it just clicked and I was so excited about that.

Being an only child who has moved a lot isn’t exactly a recipe making lifelong friends. Not only was I an only child, but I lived far away from all my school friends and had a Slavic mother who just could not get her head around why I would want to hang out after school—no, after school you come home, eat and then read a book in your room. That squashy little room, with my shitty radio/CD-player, was where I started to form my personality and aesthetic. But it’s easy to second-guess the natural pull you have toward 70s prog rock when you look Stuart Little’s cousin. Discovering Mothership, which turned out to just be a crash-course in the band I would grow to love most and turn to always, was what I needed to prove to myself that I wasn’t faking it—this music is what I love, on a purely emotional, visceral level.

Mothership was released in 2007 (when it should have been released in 2008 because then it would have been forty years since Led Zeppelin formed, but I won’t tell Atlantic Records how to do their job) and is comprised of twenty-four songs split over two CDs, a DVD with twenty live performances, and a little booklet with deeply lo-res images. We can’t say that Mothership has the best songs on it, but it definitely has all the classics. Even if you’ve never sat down to properly listen to Led Zeppelin, you will be able to boogie along to CD1 (CD2 is for the big kid fans).

This is a great album if you ever get anxiety over which Led Zeppelin album to play (they’re all so good, it’s so hard to choose sometimes). The song order has been meticulously thought-through, with many of the big, loud songs—‘Communication Breakdown’, ‘Immigrant Song’, ‘Black Dog’—followed by the slower, emotional songs, which will really make you wish you had someone out there to love you with the ferocity that Robert Plant wails out his lyrics (or at least break-up with you by writing something as good as ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’).

CD2 is a great first step into the Led Zeppelin you may not yet know and love. ‘Over The Hills And far Away’, ‘No Quarter’ and ‘Houses Of The Holy’ are my personal highlights. When I was younger I got obsessed with ‘Kashmir’, and would write out the first couple of lines in funky writing all the time—‘Oh let the sun beat down upon my face/ And stars fill my dream/ I’m a traveller of both time and space/ To be where I have been’.

I’m ten years older than when I first properly heard Led Zeppelin, and next year will be ten years with my beloved Mothership. I now know more music, have other classics I like to listen to, and have been through the snooty ‘Best of albums show you’re not a real fan’ faze. But right now, at the moment of writing this piece, I’m sitting on the floor next to that same shitty radio/CD-player listening to Mothership and I feel just like that scraggy girl discovering rock music and dreaming of the future—only now I have a cooler haircut.


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