Saturday, February 18, 2012

Face-Off: The Who and Led Zeppelin


Doug: Perfect storm day today, kids. Music history is full of super-groups that were in the right place at the right time and magic was created. Our topic at hand is a battle of the bands between The Who and Led Zeppelin. They are of course linked forever by Keith Moon's scoffing at the potential formation of members of the Yardbirds and the Who as going down like a "lead balloon". The rest is history.



Doug: There's a lot to love here -- for rock vocalists in the Bronze Age of Comics, it's hard to beat either Roger Daltrey or Robert Plant. For both men, their voices are instruments in and unto themselves. Guitar gods? Jimmy Page is at the top of almost every list, but Pete Townshend's certainly no slouch -- and how about Pete's stage presence? Either band was adept at the rocker and the ballad. Creatively, both bands were influential and pushed album rock as the 1960's became the '70's. And what to do with John Entwistle and John Paul Jones? Good lord, find me two better bass players! Keith Moon remains in a class by himself...

Doug: Here's a link to an interesting collection of Who songs, but all sung by Townshend. Enjoy this!


Doug: I know many of our readers have a heckuva lot more knowledge of rock and roll history than I do, so I'm wanting to just sit back and hear some good anecdotes, personal appreciations, etc. If we're going to start listing favorite songs, some of your comments may be very, very long. I'll start by saying The Real Me is unquestionably my favorite song by The Who; for Zep, I can't pick between The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair, Houses of the Holy, and Hey, Hey What Can I Do. I saw a YouTube user comment on a Led Zeppelin song that the greatness of the band is wrapped up in the fact that no two songs of theirs sound the same. I have around 50 cuts in my iTunes, and I can testify to that truth. Their scope is amazing.

Let the music be your master
Will you heed the master's call?

So now it's your turn -- sock it to me!

19 comments:

Rip Jagger said...

The Who had better songs. Led Zeppelin had better albums.

Robert Plant is a greater artist. Roger Daltrey is a better singer.

Both Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend are nutty as can be.

Rip Off

ChrisPV said...

I've always been a Who guy, based primarily on the fact that I tend to be in the mood for straight-up, working class rock more often than the long-form, meandering stuff Zep put out. They're both fantastic bands, but I think Rip summed them up really well.

On the other hand, I don't think Jimmy Page ever had a cannon go off next to his head and then still have the presence of mind to wreck his axe.

Edo Bosnar said...

Used to be, when I was still in grade school and early high school, I would have said The Who in a heartbeat. Later, I came to increasingly appreciate Zep and would have chosen them. Now, as an "old-timer," all I can say is I appreciate both of these power bands for their unique contributions to rock, although I think I'd give a slight (and only slight) edge to Zeppelin.
Favorite songs: The Who - "Join Together," "Squeezbox," "Won't Get Fooled Again" (love Daltrey's primal screams in that one) and "Eminence Front."
Led Zepppelin - this goes on a rotation, as every few years my favorite Zep songs seem to change, but two songs that I've consistently liked since I first heard them as a kid are "Kashmir" and "When the Levee Breaks." Also, and I know this puts me in a minority, I just really like everything on their last studio album, "In Through the Out Door."
As for Doug's challenge to find two better bass players (and no disrepect to the great Jones and Entwistle) here you go: Chris Squire (of Yes fame) and the Thin Lizzy's legendary Phil Lynott.

Anonymous said...

For me the answer to the question "If you were stranded on an island and could only have one album...?" is the Who's Quadrophenia. I didn't actually come to appreciate it until many years after it was released but what teenaged boy could not relate to the concepts and emotions expressed on that album. Love Zep too but for me they are just a notch below the Who.

When I got dressed this morning, I almost put on my Who Maximum R&B T-shirt. But, for some reason, I instead opted for my Captain America shield shirt. Gawd, I'm a nerd.

Tom

Doug said...

Edo --

Great call on your other bassist nominees. Let's also not leave out the always-incredible Geddy Lee.

Doug

Anonymous said...

Doug, I don't think you couId've possibly selected two groups that are so innovative, and similar in quality. I think Zeppelin and the Who are so close in their merits, that they pretty much cancel each other out in any competition.

Townshend does have a conceptual imagination that sets him apart from anyone in Zeppelin, let alone any of his other contemporaries. Also, he digs deeper lyrically.

Sonically, it's a dead heat. For instance, as great as John Paul Jones was, Entwhistle was one of the prime innovators of the electric bass. On the other hand, JPJ was also an incredible keyboard player, equally adept at piano, organ, and mellotron. And he kept up with the synth technology throughout the 70's. Also, he was a pretty good mandolin player as well. Of course, Entwistle was a terrific horn player. He overdubbed all those horns on Quadrophenia.

That's the situation here. As soon as you find one thing that sets one band apart, you find two more things from the other group that set them apart. It's endless. That's why we're still listening to both of them 40 years later.

James Chatterton

Garett said...

I listen to Zeppelin in my house, but I like the Who when I'm driving and they come on the radio. Love Page's guitar sound, spontaneous personality. Favorite right now: The Ocean.

Doug said...

Garrett --

Speaking of The Ocean, it's fun to count how many Zeppelin songs were incorporated into Robert Plant's Tall Cool One.

Doug

Fred W. Hill said...

As a teen in the late '70s, my ranking of my favorite bands was The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Doors (noticeably very Anglophilic). Overall, while I still love LZ's music, I find the Who far more interesting and compelling. Townshend put so much of his personality in his songs, so expertly sung by Daltrey, and Entwistle's sardonic humor provided nice diversity. They managed a unique mix of drama and humor in their albums which I loved. The Who Sell Out, Tommy, Who's Next, Odd and Sods, Quadrophenia and The Who By Numbers are all among my favorite albums. LZ's first 6 studio lps are all great too, but not nearly as entertaining to me as the Who's best work.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Oh man, don't make me choose ...

david_b said...

Um.., count me in with Fred and a few others about band favs.. Beatles, Stones, Who.., perhaps Floyd when the mood's right.

I loved early Who videos, like them on the Smothers Brothers and the exploding drum incident (causing Pete to become partially deaf..). Still loved 'em just off tour in December '68 on the Stones Rock&Roll Circus, arguably upstaging the Stones, causing Mick not to release R&RC for another 30yrs (LZ was just formed and nearly had a place on the show as well..). Really loved 'A Quick One'.

Not all that familiar with LZ's music, other than the hits, but a bit more familiar with the Who. I actually find more interest in reading about the chemistry and elationships inside the band, at times more so that the music itself.

Folks I watched the '82 Who concerts with remarked about Entwistle's stonefaced expression.. Sheesh, Bill Wyman's been the master of that for years.

I was surprised to hear the original Who members didn't think much of Kenny Jones on drums (Keith's replacement). Guess he was considered 'okay' but then again..,

"How would one conceivably replace Mr. Keith Moon..??"

William said...

I love both bands. I would say that The Who is a very solid rock-n-roll band with some great songs and a no nonsense straight up rock sound. In the same vein as say the Rolling Stones.

However, Led Zeppelin was much more experimental and innovative and really changed the face of rock and took it to a whole new place. I would put them on a level more with the Beatles in that regard.

For example there was rock-n-roll before the Beatles, and then there was rock-n-roll after the Beatles. Same with Zeppelin IMO. There was the world before LZ and then there was the different world after LZ. I just don't think The Who had as much of a profound and lasting influence on music as Zeppelin did.

Fred W. Hill said...

Naturally, no one could really replace Keith Moon, David, but then by the time he died, Moonie had become a corpulant shadow of his former self as his over-indulgent life-style was becoming detrimental to his drumming. Of course, he had become one of the most famous drummer in the world as much for his manic behavior as for his drumming. And like you, I got as much interested in the personalities of the band as in their music, but part of that was because with all four of them their personalities came out in the songs and I feel much the same about the Beatles. With Led Zeppelin, I never felt that strong a sense of their personalities coming through their songs or anything that made me as curious about them as I was about the Beatles and the Who, or the Kinks, who I really got into in the '80s after listening to the Kinks Kronikles collection, such that among my faves I'd rank them just behind the Beatles.

Anonymous said...

Led Zeppelin was always above and beyond the Who in every category.

Jimmy Page - Could play every guitar style there could be..... slide, fingerstyle, odd meter, indian influence, blues, funk, etc.

Townsend was good at barre chords and blues.

John Bonham - One of THE if not THE most influential rock drummer of the 20th Century. Bonzo was the first drummer to play double bass drum style patters with one bass drum. (Keith Moon needed two bass drums and never utilized them for much more than the aesthetics.) Bonham's feel on tracks like "Fool in the Rain" went on to inspire hits such as Toto's "Africa"... played by drumming great Jeff Porcaro.

While Moonie was a great showman, he was, at best, a sloppy player who was memorable for his overplaying/sloppy style.


Robert Plant - Early solo work by Robert Plant was often mistakenly believed to be one of the founders of the blues. Plant can still sing, as evidenced by his recent album with Allison Kraus. Daltrey was great at doing full voice screams as he did in "Won't Get Fooled Again", but he's lacking the depth of Plant.

John Paul Jones - Producer, Arranger, innovative bassist. John Entwistle - Innovative bassist. I'd have to say Jones edges him out in the talent dept., but Entwistle was such a unique voice that he stands alone among bass players in the rock n' roll genre.

Overall, Led Zeppelin simply has more material, more songs that get regular rotation on classic rock stations, more varied musical stylings, more influence on the growth of the rock genre and stands taller in the rock history books.

larkydozer said...

Led Zeppelin was always above and beyond the Who in every category.

Jimmy Page - Could play every guitar style there could be..... slide, fingerstyle, odd meter, indian influence, blues, funk, etc.

Townsend was good at barre chords and blues.

John Bonham - One of THE if not THE most influential rock drummer of the 20th Century. Bonzo was the first drummer to play double bass drum style patters with one bass drum. (Keith Moon needed two bass drums and never utilized them for much more than the aesthetics.) Bonham's feel on tracks like "Fool in the Rain" went on to inspire hits such as Toto's "Africa"... played by drumming great Jeff Porcaro.

While Moonie was a great showman, he was, at best, a sloppy player who was memorable for his overplaying/sloppy style.


Robert Plant - Early solo work by Robert Plant was often mistakenly believed to be one of the founders of the blues. Plant can still sing, as evidenced by his recent album with Allison Kraus. Daltrey was great at doing full voice screams as he did in "Won't Get Fooled Again", but he's lacking the depth of Plant.

John Paul Jones - Producer, Arranger, innovative bassist. John Entwistle - Innovative bassist. I'd have to say Jones edges him out in the talent dept., but Entwistle was such a unique voice that he stands alone among bass players in the rock n' roll genre.

Overall, Led Zeppelin simply has more material, more songs that get regular rotation on classic rock stations, more varied musical stylings, more influence on the growth of the rock genre and stands taller in the rock history books.

larkydozer said...

Sorry about the double-post!

ric doe said...

the Who shred Led! the thing that gets me to Whoville is two things. 1) i love the progression of the Who sound. Stylistically, you gain a perspective as they climb through the time belt, from mod, to earthy, to hard rock, to synth rock, of where, or moreso WHEN they were personally in time as well as music. There's a lesser feel of this with The Stones, but i get nothing of that from LZ; some great songs for sure, but all very much like another, except for perhaps LZ III. They are vague in time and artistic development and pretty much each as good as the other, interchangeable w/o preference for me lie early Pink Floyd albums prior to 1973.
2) the Who had the sonic generator of Pete Townshend who in pen & pick was the lifebread to WhoVision, and maybe not as mello in tone as Daltry, could avail mad passionate vocals if Roger ever fell. I think of him as the vocal stunt double for the band and actually prefer his solo effort on a lot of the demo cuts/he's basically Who-in-a-can, and the closest rock version of the "one man band" that Dick Van Dyke pulled off in Mary Poppins! Sorry LZ, but any band with Pete in the nuclei was going to blow the doors off an other competitor; contest was rigged/ you never had a chance!

Karen said...

late to the party, but I just thought of this: the Jimmy Page -Black Crowes live album is outstanding!

Tony said...

Definitely The Who over Led Zep, although I like both. I think if Zep was still together and touring like the Who are, I would see the Who live over Zeppelin anytime. I don't think Led Zeppelin are that great as a live act. The Who kicks ass live.

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