February 22 – Zep Went Through Out Door On A High Note

Sailing high one last time, Led Zeppelin‘s last hit song hit its peak this week in 1980 – no “fool”ing! “Fool in the Rain” hit #21 on Billboard this day in 1980. Of course, by that time, In Through The Out Door had been on the shelves for a few months and troubles were brewing in the Zep camp…in no small part due to the excessive excesses of drummer John Bonham and guitar god Jimmy Page. As we know, Bonham would die of that excess about half a year later and the Zeppelin would crash to the ground.

As big and legendary as Led Zep were, it might be a big surprise to many they never scored any #1 hit singles. “Stairway to Heaven”? Good luck finding that on Billboard‘s Hot 100 singles list or the CHUM chart north of the border in Canada. By getting to merely #21, “Fool in the Rain’ was their biggest U.S. hit since “Dyer Maker” seven years earlier. Not that it mattered much – their albums sold in the tens of millions, as presumably fans went out and bought the LP as soon as it came out and couldn’t be bothered by collecting 7” vinyl. That said, “Fool in the Rain” still ranks as one of their enduringly most popular tracks, and a fitting swan song for the group which created the Swan Song label.

In Through the Out Door saw a lot more impetus from musical genius John Paul Jones, and singer Robert Plant than previous records, largely because the other two members were… well, honestly too out of it to add much. Although Bonham could still drum. This one , with its highly unusual 12/8 time signature, was, according to allmusic, “a showcase for Bonham – it’s a monster groove.” Plant and Jones got the idea for the samba-style rhythm while vacationing in Argentina to watch World Cup Soccer. John Paul played both bass and keyboards on the track, one of the reasons they never played the song in concert … he couldn’t do both effectively at once and they didn’t typically bring in extras to fill in the sound playing live. Another of course, was that the band would be dead only months after the record became popular.

The lyrics are open to debate, but only to a limited degree. Some say the idea was a guy waiting for a blind date on a street corner – the wrong corner, natch – for his date and feeling a “fool in the rain”, while others suggest it was a straight forward couple with the gal deciding to ditch the dude by standing him up. Either way, standing alone on a corner isn’t a great way to spend an evening. Doing so in the rain, less ideal yet!

The single hit #14 in Canada, but their Brit countrymen didn’t buy enough to even have it make their charts in the UK. In the end, a good ending to an epic band which signified the decade just ended at the time. Whether we agree with PopMatters which said it was the only “fun” track on the album, it’s hard to disagree with their assessment of it being the “Standout” . Get in and take it out… maybe the best straight-out single from the band that fought Pink Floyd for the title of the best Non-singles band.

10 thoughts on “February 22 – Zep Went Through Out Door On A High Note

  1. badfinger20 (Max)

    I do like that album. In The Evening, All Of My Love, A Fool In The Rain, and Hot Dog. I do think Hot Dog was a fun track…not a commercial one but I loved it.
    In The Evening is the one track that could have fit on the other albums.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. yep, agree entirely… I wasn’t a big fan of theirs back in the 70s but this album I liked quite a bit. Maybe my tastes were changing but so too were they… a little bit more pop, a little more light-hearted perhaps…presumably it was the shift of power in the band so to speak.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. yep. Makes me wonder (a thought which might make diehard Zep fans shudder) , what if Jones had come more to the fore in the band earlier on? Kind of reminds me a wee bit of George Harrison in the beatles.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. badfinger20 (Max)

        He was the secret weapon…I remember a story of him asking Jimmy Page about the lack of spotlight on him on stage…Page told him to ask the lighting guy…the lighting guy told him Page told him not to spotlight him lol.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Understandable, the focus on most real rock bands is going to be the singer and the lead guitarist. Makes me laugh a little- back about 20 years ago, I had friends who were in a low-end bar band… played a few gigs, had fun, not brilliantly talented but at least they tried. But damn, the drummer was good and was flamboyant, the bassist had a bit of character… but the singer /rhythm guitar guy and lead guitar were both boring as drying paint . Both very nice guys, both talented enough in context of the band but just didn’t eminante any personality on stage… if they’d switched it around somehow a little to focus on the rhythm section, they might have done better.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. badfinger20 (Max)

        Yea I’ve seen that happen before…it’s like some members have the wrong role. It takes a certain personality to come off as natural but entertaining .

        Liked by 1 person

  2. To my ear it WAS the closest to a pop song they ever put out; though ‘Stairway’ To Tedium’s’ endless ongoing repeat after repeat ‘success’ on Oldies radio belies that. It’s a fine single but an outlier as far as most hard rockin’ Zep fans would think.

    Liked by 1 person

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