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- In my time of dying: the premature death of a film classic
- Tofts, Darren
- 'The Song Remains the Same' premiered on the 19th October 1976 at Cinema 1 in New York City. Adorning the walls of the cinema’s foyer was the cover art of the double soundtrack album that accompanied the film that very quickly went Platinum. It features a chicly run-down picture theatre that resonates with homely echoes of small town movie houses, vestigial monuments of a nostalgic past of shared social experience. But the nostalgia for the decrepit building and what it once represented is bittersweet, as in the elegiac conclusion of Peter Bogdanovich’s 'The Last Picture Show' (1971). Unknown to the band and its legions of followers throughout the world, that image of ramshackled former glory suggested, in advance, how Led Zeppelin would be judged and how mercilessly run down the film would be by both fans and critics alike. Negativity towards the film characterised virtually every moment of its making, an atmosphere of bad vibes generated from within the inner circle of the band and its management and the two hapless directors, Joe Massot and Peter Clifton, who attempted to exercise their craft and at the same time appease the hammer of the gods. In retrospect, it is no surprise why it was subject to such vicious critical scrutiny. Generically, the film sits awkwardly between a rockumentary that details the highs and lows of being on tour and a live concert experience of the biggest rock band in the world at the time, captured on stage at Madison Square Garden in New York (the film was promoted as a ’front row seat on Led Zeppelin’). Uneasily woven into this mix of the more familiar attributes of the rock film genre was a series of autobiographical, highly stylised fantasy sequences, of the kind noted previously, designed to explore the personalities and imaginations of the band members themselves. But, unlike previous films that documented famous rock musicians at work (such as The Beatles in Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 'Let It Be'  and The Rolling Stones in Jean-Luc Godard’s 'Sympathy for the Devil' ), 'The Song Remains the Same' sought to portray the band ‘in concert and beyond‘, transforming the four musicians and their manager into larger than life characters, roguish scoundrels straight out of the picaresque tradition.
- Publication type
- Journal article
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology
- LOLA, No. 1 (2011)
- Publication year
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © Darren Tofts and LOLA, 2011. The accepted manuscript of the paper is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author and the editors.