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Over the Hills Where the Spirits Fly

Today, Jhianna wants me to write about a song that has significance for me. Anyone who has seen my crazy eclectic profile might wonder how I could pick just one.

Should I go with Brandenburg Concerto no. 3, the piece that introduced me to the ineffable joys of Bach when I was in eighth grade Orchestra?

Or Symphony no. 5, which Patrick and I first heard on the radio as we were planning our wedding, and which began my 18-year, still-going-strong love affair with British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams?

Or maybe I should reminisce about the first time I heard Thomas Tallis's Lamentations of Jeremiah sung at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, when the voices of the choir seemed to wind round one another in gorgeous and mysterious patterns as they ascended into the nave during the service of Tenebrae.

I might explore the above options in the future; Soccer Mom in Denial has just started Music Mondays, and I've got fodder for at least the next ten years. Today I'll go in a different direction: Led Zeppelin's "Misty Mountain Hop."

It's mid-November, 1978. I have just turned twelve, and I am deeply in love with Ian Richardson, a lanky, black-haired, blue-eyed boy with a sharp mind and a sardonic sense of humor. We have several classes together; there is only one Gifted & Talented track in Albert Einstein Jr. High's eighth grade program.

Though I am a mere girl, Ian is willing to be friends with me because we have one huge thing in common other than our schedule: we are both obsessed with Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. It's not just that we've read the trilogy several times; we have taught ourselves to write in Dwarvish runes and have absorbed every bit of dry backstory we could winkle out of The Silmarillion.

Despite his inner geek, Ian is a clown, making him immensely popular with students and (oddly) teachers alike. Since my nerdiness has never known the bounds of any closet, I am fully aware how privileged I am that Ian even takes notice of me. Of course, I want more; I hope that Ian and I will eventually get married and raise a passel of kids with names like Galadriel and Faramir. But I wisely keep this to myself.

One day, as Ian and I are discussing whether the soon-to-open Ralph Bakshi adaptation of LOTR will be any good, he says something that gets my attention. "I know this band that does some songs about Middle-Earth."

Really? I must know more.

(At this point, I own exactly two records, both soundtracks: Grease and Saturday Night Fever. I'm not completely culturally illiterate; my parents are huge Beatles and Beach Boys fans, and I listen to the same top-40 radio station as most other kids my age, grooving to timeless classics by Hall & Oates and Earth, Wind & Fire.)

Ian makes me a cassette tape that includes Led Zeppelin's "Misty Mountain Hop," "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp," and "The Battle of Evermore." I am instantly hypnotized by this strange new music, and my life is changed forever.

I'm not being dramatic. I set aside my quest to learn Quenya and let my obsessiveness autodidactism follow a new muse. Soon I've spent all my babysitting money acquiring Led Zeppelin's first four albums and subscribing to Rolling Stone magazine.

A single year later, with a little help from my friends Rolling Stone and the radio station KZAP, I've branched out into all kinds of hard and progressive rock: The Who, Boston, Yes, Foghat, Genesis, Rush, Jethro Tull, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I've worked my way backwards to fill in the gap left after the Beatles' break-up: The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and The Doors.

Led Zep's heavy blues influence also leads me in that fabulous direction: B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan's Double Trouble, then somehow to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

Which means when we move from Rancho Cordova (generic suburb of Sacramento) to Truckee (last bastion of Lake Tahoe ski bum hippiedom) in the middle of ninth grade, I hook up with a whole different crowd. I've gone from this (eighth grade, and picture the gaucho pants and knee socks that complete this particular ensemble):

to this (ninth grade).Way cooler, yes? Led Zeppelin: better than What Not to Wear. Who knew?

Has my post given you a hankering for more Middle-Earth? Here are two gems not to be missed:

1) Recent discovery Phil's live-blog of his experience watching the Peter Jackson trilogy in one marathon session. Love it; can't get enough.

2) More compelling than a train wreck: Leonard Nimoy sings his "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins." As Spock would say, "Fascinating."

Reader Comments (13)

You are so cool, Luisa. And I am constantly impressed by how vivid and specific your childhood memories are. I wasn't nearly so interesting.

November 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJenna

If you write music posts like this for the next 10 years, I promise to keep Music Monday up and running for a decade.


November 28, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersoccer mom in denial

I spent my entire 9th grade year in French (long story there) illustrating various Led Zeppelin songs, especially the ones connecting to LOTR. Lots of fairies, battles, etc., in the margins of my notebook.

November 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJen of A2eatwrite

Hahahahaha. *snort* Hahahaha. Oh my gosh, I loved this. YOU ARE SUCH A GEEK! And I mean that in the MOST affectionate way possible. Hahahahaha.

November 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBrillig

You know, you have enough material to write several YA novels set during that time--I have a feeling they'd be awesome.

Now I've got to go hear Nimoy's rendition.

November 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette Lyon

Eighth and ninth grade you look worlds apart. Wow.

Excuse me, I have some music to listen to suddenly.

November 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

This post reminded me of the sometimes-off-limits loft where you reigned supreme in music coolness, complete with purple carpet and completed puzzles on the wood part of your floor. How I envied your LP collection!
PS. did you mention the gauchos where homemade?

November 28, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteranjmae

Well, I didn't know much about music when I was younger, don't know much about it now. I guess some things stay the same. There is a difference between your grade 8 and 9 photos. Interesting post again.

November 28, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdawn

When I read the title of your post the first thing that popped into my head was "That sounds like Led Zeppelin...Over the Hills and Far Away." I think that the first 4 albums are their best...after that they seemed disinterested.

I love a lot of the music that you mentioned...even have a lot of it.

November 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSirdar

What an amazing person you are, Luisa. How can we ever catch up with your talent? I agree with Annette's comment about YA novels. You have the gift to write a winner in that genre one of these days.

Speaking of winning :-) I'm giving away a brand new compact DVD player on my blog today--even the shipping is free. Hop on over and check it out.

November 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Bradshaw

Luisa . . . I am consistently astonished by how your writing takes me to exactly the time and place you're speaking of. You are so gifted! And don't listen to anyone else. Loving middle earth and wanting to cavort with elves and dwarves is not geeky. It is cool. (these are the things we tell ourselves when we twist our hair into elaborate renaissance styles so we can attend fantasy conventions)

November 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Wright

Welcome to my nightmare.

June 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKMP

*Giggle* Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. Of all the pieces I've learned to play, this one always comes to mind first.

Ian...yeah, I remember...

I missed you terribly after you had moved to Truckee. Even though we lost touch, you popped up in memory a lot over the years.

You did it! A writer whose work has been published. Today, I am all smiles...

November 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

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