In Through the Out Door


Band: Led Zeppelin
Album: In Through the Out Door
Best song: “Fool in the Rain” and “All of My Love” are great.
Worst song: “Carouselambra” is way long.

While I look at myself in the mirror every morning — file that one under “things that sounds vain, but really aren’t” — I don’t notice my aging until I see myself in a different context. Sometimes it’s a photograph on Facebook, sometimes it’s the reflection in a storefront window.

I did the latter a few days ago and noticed how old I’m getting, mostly in the greybeard category. I have the unfortunate distinction of always looking older than I’ve been; when I turned 21 and bought beer at the local grocery store, I was not carded. It’s easy to point to the fact that I’ve been bearded since age 20 and maybe that’s the case. But, I’m also going prematurely grey, on the top of my head and mostly on my face.

Really, I’m not all that grizzled or haggard-looking; I haven’t lived hard like Lindsay Lohan or something. I was fat for a bit and struggled with some food issues in losing the weight and I can’t imagine that is easy on one’s body. But, I try to eat healthily, I exercise (not as much as I should) and I try to take decent care of myself. I don’t look like a meth head.

But, time waits for no one. I’m getting old, grey beard and all.

My getting old has twice dawned on me in the past few years. The first instance was pornography-based. I used to be a member of SuicideGirls, a porn site that doesn’t like to think of itself as a porn site. The models are “alternative-looking” (they have tattoos and dyed hair) and they keep blogs about liking old Rancid records and such. There’s no real video or anything hardcore. It’s classy, in a gutter punk way. Or thinks of itself that way.

(Don’t look behind the curtain, folks.)

As part of their profiles, the models have their ages on the site (I suspect it’s also to keep everything above board). I’d check that out because it’s there and one model’s birthdate was in 1990. I remember 1990 pretty clearly. I don’t remember it perfectly; as mentioned, I’m old and my memory is going. But, still, I remember it. That… is creepy.

The second was a batch of interns at work recently. Said interns were born in 1989, which is to say that they were born in a George H.W. Bush administration. I’ve probably mentioned that I’m the first of all my friends of the Reagan babies, as I was born about a week and a half into Reagan’s first term. A whole administration had passed before these interns came into the world. They think the 1980s the same way I think of the 1970s: as history. Masters of the Universe isn’t their childhood; it’s something in the past.

This is the nature of time. People are born and they become real, full human beings. There isn’t a world before Sept. 11 for some people; I remember being befuddled when an ex-girlfriend mentioned what it was like when she heard about it high school (she is only three years my junior; I was in college). There are people for whom Sept. 11 will always be history, just like John Lennon’s death is history to me.

A related anecdote: I live in a residential neighborhood — lots of single-family homes, not a ton of apartments — across the street from a high school. I see a lot of teenagers on the way to and from school. They’re typical teenagers, acting cooler than they are, bullying one another, awkwardly interacting with the opposite sex, etc. The above realizations happened before I moved here, so I don’t even fathom that I could relate to them.

But, I was taken aback by a kid on my walk home last month. He was wearing a shirt with Tupac Shakur’s image on the front. This isn’t a huge surprise that someone would be wearing Tupac’s face on a shirt; he’s one of the greatest rappers ever and shirts with his face are available at every t-shirt stand in DC. Rather, what dawned on me was the age of the young man. He looked to be no older than 16, which would mean he was born two years after Tupac was shot dead.

I don’t know if it’s because I think of hip hop as a very progressive, youth-oriented genre or because I’m racist, but I immediately thought “What does this kid know about Tupac? He was born after Tupac died.” Almost immediately after that first thought, I was reminded of two of my favorite t-shirts in high school: A Beatles shirt featuring the Hey Jude cover and a shirt with the four faces of the guys in Led Zeppelin.

I then realized that it’s not about hip hop or about racism (though, youneverknow). That’s one of the things getting old gives you: A notion that young people don’t know shit about shit. It’s ludicrous. That kid certainly loves Tupac in a way I loved those two bands whose members died before I was born. If a white kid was wearing a Nirvana shirt, I’d hope I’d have the same reaction, even thought Kurt Cobain died when I was 13.

Eventually, all bands stop being (well, not the Rolling Stones, but you know…). Eventually, we all do. We get old. I’ll be replaced at my job by someone who is younger and better. We’ll all be replaced.

I don’t love Zep the way i did when I was a kid and certainly In Through the Out Door isn’t some great piece of music. It’s pretty bloated and reflects a band on the way out of its prime; the great songs number pretty low on this one.

Still, there is some wonderful work on the album. “All of my Love” is a tender record about Robert Plant’s son’s death, featuring the band’s best keyboard work (however soft rock it may sound). “Fool in the Rain” has the “Dy’er Maker” near-reggae thing going for it, with a noodling Jimmy Page solo toward the end. Album opener “In the Evening” treads familiar lyrical waters
(Plant sings about his penis), but has a unique guitar sound that only Page could dream up.

The In Through the Out Door Zep wasn’t the ZOSO Zep and certainly wasn’t the Zeppelin II Zep. That’s OK. I’m not the same as this guy or even this guy. I’m a dude with a grey beard, a dog and a whole lot of memories. A guy on his way out of his prime.

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