photo & text by nacrowe
a REGGAE LED ZEPPELIN cover band fronted by an ELVIS impersonator. i feel like the concept sells itself.
and somehow JIMMY PAGE, ROBERT PLANT and the rest of the estate agreed making DREAD ZEPPELIN the only sanctioned LED ZEPPELIN cover band known in existence (or at least to my knowledge). it is a well-known industry fact that the LED ZEPPELIN estate jealously guards their interests and has been known to get quite litigious in the past in order to protect their catalogue, making the very fact that DREAD ZEPPELIN exists on an widely distributed record a minor miracle in and of itself.
i first learned of the band through their UN-LED-ED (I.R.S., 1990) debut album that my father played for me as a child, usually after listening to LED ZEPPELIN proper. its the same dynamic at play when he introduced my brother and i to MEL BROOKS' CLASSIC SPACEBALLS (MGM/UA, 1987) FARCE only after making us watch the original STAR WARS trilogy back around the same time. one works only after intimate knowledge of the other.
it is obviously impossible to divorce the LED ZEPPELIN and DREAD ZEPPELIN from one other, since all the SERIOUSNESS and EXPANSIVE GRANDEUR evoked by the former is basically turned on its head and PARODIED mercilessly by the latter. my personal FAVORITE recorded moment is on their cover of "MOBY DICK," which finds frontman TORTELVIS reading the introduction to the famously INTRICATE and OPAQUE HERMAN MELVILLE novel to a light skank (courtesy of the guitarist with BEYOND-GENIUS alias, JAH PAUL JO), before stopping abruptly and complaining that he's read it a thousand times and still has no idea what the hell the author is talking about. first time i heard that i was basically in LOVE with the band. same with the GENIUS hybrid "BLACK DOG / HOUND DOG" abomination. it just totally takes the piss out of everything involved (with a little classic "BATMAN THEME" from the CHEESY 60's television show through in). how do you not love that." again, same with the "HEARTBREAKER" and "HEART BREAK HOTEL" hybrid track, its all GENIUS. other STANDOUT tracks include their covers of "WHOLE LOTTA LOVE," "I CAN'T QUIT YOU BABY," "YOUR TIME IS GONNA COME" and "IMMIGRANT SONG."
again, the fact that these PARODIES exist on record really makes me rethink the PUBLIC IMAGE of LED ZEPPELIN as a bunch of IMAGE-CONSCIOUS auteurs that make music meant to evocatively express the EXPANSIVE and ELUSIVE literary and sonic grandeur of ALBION's FOLK traditions. DREAD ZEPPELIN dismantles such by making music that RE-CONTEXTUALIZES and undercuts those ELEVATED ambitions and renders such as the target of light MOCKERY. they effectively make LED ZEPPELIN appear SILLY. kudos to PAGE, PLANT, JOHN PAUL JONES and the estate for allowing this to happen, because the beneficiary is everyone. ELVIS PRESLEY, REGGAE and LED ZEPPELIN fans alike. i view UN-LED-ED as ESSENTIAL. definitely worth checking out.