Metaphysical Graffiti

swan40 years ago today, Led Zeppelin released their first double album, a brilliant fifteen track masterpiece titled Physical Graffiti. It was their sixth studio album, but the first on their own label, Swan Song Records.

4 weeks ago today, one of my best friends on this Earth passed away. He was forty-eight years old.

What does one have to do with the other?

For starters, Physical Graffiti was Brent’s favorite Led Zeppelin album. Hard to argue with him on that. A surreal work that showcased the band’s full repertoire, it flowed effortlessly from hard rock to country, blues to folk, and to tracks that were psychedelic and metaphysical passports to unimaginable realms.

During the summer of 1985 we had gone camping in the primatives out at the Mississinewa Reservoir for a few days. I remember stopping at the Mini-Mart in Somerset, copping some last minute supplies. Brent had shoplifted a couple of packages of hotdogs, stuffing them down his shorts, while I snagged some ice for the case of Milwaukee’s Best we had in the trunk.

Brent had an old beat up tape deck that took D batteries. It was paint-splattered, with a broken radio antennae and duct-tape holding the handle together and the batteries in place. That long weekend we listened to Physical Graffiti over and over again, drinking nasty beer, a fifth of cheap bourbon, and pints of Schnapps and Southern Comfort (if memory serves). We probably smoked a carton of cigarettes between us, as well as other more legally-challenged substances, and we choked down a quarter-ounce of ‘shrooms that we stuffed inside the pilfered hotdogs.

We ended up down by the water, at the circle of stone, listening to Zeppelin, watching the stars and chatting up some fellow campers, laughing and partying in that special way that only teenagers can.

Physical Graffiti was the soundtrack to more than one such excursion. It was a special album shared by special friends during special occasions.

Today, Physical Graffiti is being rereleased as a 40th Anniversary boxed set. It’s been digitally remastered, with all sorts of extra bells and whistles. But you know what, I’d give anything to be listening to it on cassette, blasting out of that old beat-up tape deck again, down by the lakeside with a Marlboro Red and a lukewarm can of Milwaukee’s Best, with Brent there, nodding his head in time with the music and grinning from ear to ear.

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