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Michael Lee’s Legacy, Christmas, Coda, and the gift of Zep

27 November 2008 2,013 views No Comment

It was very sad to hear of the death of Michael Lee.

Watching the You Tube clip of Achilles Last Stand from the Atlanta ’95 show on the Blabbermouth site, it’s evident just how important he was to the Unledded era. Outside of Jason he has without doubt the drummer who brought most empathy to the Zeppelin catalogue in working with Page and Plant.

Within all the euphoria of the 02 reunion, it’s easy to forget the accomplishments of those 1995/6 and 1998 tours. There were some incendiary performances –the aforementioned Achilles, House of The Rising Sun/Good Times Bad Times at Lakefront, Since I’ve Been Loving You in Sheffield, Heartbreaker/Rock And Roll in Mexico City, Tea For One Osaka, How Many More Times Shepherds Bush, Night Flight at the ULU etc etc.

Michael Lee was the integral backbeat to all those memorable recreations of the Zep catalogue. For giving us nights like those and many more, his legacy within the Zep fraternity is assured.

He will be sorely missed by family, friends and fans alike.

After all the whirlwind rounds of recent social event such as the Beer Festival ,various birthday celebrations, Croydon Convention, Nearly Man book launch etc, it’s been back to reality as the Christmas retail frenzy season kicks in. That’s the way it will be for the next six weeks as I undertake what will be my 39th consecutive retail Christmas.

It’s all changed a lot since Mud ,Slade and David Essex ruled the charts back in 1974. No working Sundays back then, Christmas kicked off around early December and ended on December 24. Nowadays it’s a three month season that only peters out on New Years Day. Such are the demands of the modern commercial era. One thing that hasn’t changed despite the evolving formats, eroding market, downloads etc is that people still love giving and receiving the gift of music.

Zep releases have been on a fair few seasonal wish lists over these past three decades –most notably The Song Remains The Same soundtracks in 1976, Coda in 1982, the Remasters sets in 1990 and last year’s Mothership mania.

Most memorable of all those for me was the understated release of Coda in 1982. It arrived with little fanfare on a foggy morning –Tuesday November23 to be precise.

 I’d already been privilege to seeing the cover mock up a while back having been lucky enough to be involved in the process of selecting photos for the inner cover. – including an illuminating meet with Jimmy and Robert in Swan Song the previous March.

That grey melancholy front cover seemed to mirror the whole mood back then. Whilst the release of those eight cuts did spell something of a closure on the story it was all a little low key.

Back then Led Zeppelin were hardly held in reverential terms. Their influence would of course become evident in years to come. It did enjoy some good reviews and entered the chart at number 4 but compared to past glories, Coda was at the time a rather bleak ending. It had a definite feeling of unfinished business.

Its meagre 33 minute content perhaps mirroring the lack of interest felt both in and out of the band. Of course I loved it back then and still do – We’re Gonna Groove, Poor Tom and Walters Walk are amongst my favourite Zep tracks.

There was of course much more unreleased material lining the Zep archive though we would have to wait for all that

I certainly made a meal of its release at the shop where we had a fantastic display and some lovely posters which I raffled off. Wish I could find the one I kept back for myself.

Coda was from that bygone Christmas age. Back then nobody could have predicted that 26 years on their appeal would be so universal and be it Mick Wall’s book, a Mothership CD ,a Zep calander or T shirt…indeed the new issue of Tight But Loose (now there’s a thought!), giving the gift of Zeppelin will continue unabated this Christmas.      

Alongside Zep, there’s a host of other CD’s and DVD’s from the likes of Coldplay, Kings Of  Leon, Take That, Girls Aloud, Mamma Mia etc etc ready to find homes this Christmas-  which down Zavvi Milton Keynes way will be keeping me rather busy over the next few weeks…    

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