Clever fella, that Stephen Fry. The UK’s favourite polymath lists as one of his guilty pleasures, the music of Led Zeppelin. And, glory be, in correctly pointing out the quality that numerous wannabe copycat groups never possessed, his intelligence and taste are such that he also avoided committing the cardinal sin of labelling the band (not group, note; Zeppelin was a band) ‘heavy metal’.
Why do so many continue to mistakenly pigeonhole Zeppelin in this fashion? If, like me, you’re a Zep-head, and have commandeered several relatives, friends, colleagues and acquaintances to proxy register for the ballot for Zeppelin’s forthcoming one-off reunion concert, you should object to, and where possible correct, instances of this ignorance. Yes, a significant proportion of their oeuvre was electric blues-based rock music; but they absorbed, assimilated, exploited and invented (or should that be created?) so much more, including folk, funk, eastern and African influences. For me, Zeppelin can be summarised in one word – synergy. You might not be a fan; fine. But, you might also assume you don’t like them because you don’t like heavy metal. Led Zeppelin is not heavy metal. If you, reader, are of this impression, then you have limited knowledge of their repertoire and are resorting to an uninformed assumption. You likely also think that Stairway to Heaven is their best song (it isn’t), because it’s the most famous and, anyway, everybody says it’s their best, and the one the media invariably refers to, so it must be then, right? Check out their albums and get back to me.
Where am I going with this (apart from indulging myself)? I’m seeking an analogy here. How is it that, when we don’t know enough about something, when we are ignorant of detail, when we don’t understand, we still insist on categorisation and assumptions, taking the quickest, easiest, laziest route to incorporation in our mental schemata? How can we make judgements when we have insufficient facts to hand? Would a trial jury be permitted to consider a verdict after the judge decided there was insufficient evidence? Nah! But we all do it, taking our cues from media titbits, believing what we’re spoon-fed, instead of either attempting to find out more, or just raising our hands and saying “Dunno”. Why do we assume this is just the way things are and allow it to be confirmed back to us via that supposed mirror of real society (so we’re told) – the soap opera? (Why do I assume you’re the least bit interested in this?)
To label Zeppelin as heavy metal is dumbing down. Perhaps to label research on early human embryos as immoral, unethical, is likewise too simplistic, too limited, too obtuse. ‘When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer’ (Stevie Wonder, Superstition). The ballot is today; keep your fingers crossed for me.