This week, the wine picks a record, allowing me a justification.
The Mighty Jimmy Page has been reissuing the Led Zeppelin albums over the last year, so I’ve been gradually replacing the records I listened to since high school; sequentially. The last three had just come out and I’d just bought Presence, but decided to wait for next paycheck to buy In Through the Out Door, so I’d have two to play. Then I ran across a rosé from Calabria that I thought looked interesting, followed by a silly thought about “the tapping toe of the Italian boot.” I bought the wine, then bought the record on the way home.
A little research into the (previously unknown) grape Gaglioppo, yielded that it’s a cross between Sangiovese and… nobody knows for sure. And for some, it’s the “Nebbiolo of the South.” A couple more links revealed that I’d happened on the area’s oldest producer, in business since 1845. OK, I’m in. This rosé will take me down yet another wine rabbit hole, and I’ll be richer for it.
A big part of the fun in the Led Zeppelin reissues is playing them through a vintage Marantz 2252B—my family’s, from the 70s, and the same stereo I heard them on the very first time. Echo Audio of Portland refurbished it for me, and thanks to manufacturing technology that’s ten times more precise than forty years ago, it’s actually better than new. I can’t recommend it for everybody because you can almost buy new equipment for the same amount of money. Those blue and red Marantz lights were a big part of my growing up and there’s a warmth to the sound that I’m fond of, but it’s definitely a broad brush stroke of a sound. There’s not as much definition as other products offer but with a Linn Sondek, it sounds like Madison Square Garden in 1976. A lot of so called cocktail wines offer me the same broad brush stroke pleasure and… wait… here I am, drinking rosé with Led Zeppelin.
There’s been a hair raising thrill in the whole reissue thing. One expects to be blown away by sonic superiority but after thirty years of records sounding like a pan of popping bacon, the initial shock is the deathly silence that is the lead-in groove. Oh, and that lead-in groove? It’s twice, maybe three times as long, so you have time to drop the needle, get back to your chair and pick up your glass of wine before the music starts. Why did no one think about that in Seventies? Or maybe it just takes Jimmy a little longer to get across the room these days? Ah, and I had two of them to play for twice the fun, although I ended up running short of wine.
Presence came out just after I was introduced to Zeppelin. Like a lot of kids, that was in the car with an older driver shuttling: In 1977 we were on our way to the pool for swimming team practice, and the band was mounting what was to be their last American tour. (Driver Mike, like thousands of Oklahoma City kids, would camp out for days to get tickets to a concert of a lifetime—which my parents would NEVER allow me to attend. Not that I didn’t try. Ah, forbidden fruit.) Some say—and I agree—that Presence feels a little “tossed off,” but there’s an intensity that I gravitate to, much like Bob Mould’s Black Sheets of Rain. Sometimes, a guy’s gotta howl.
In Through the Out Door has the distinction of being the only Led Zeppelin album I ever listened to with my father. He’d heard about them in church, from the pulpit and other parents. He’d seen the posters on our walls, and he was going to find out if they really were the high representative of the devil’s music. To this day, I can see his face squinch up when I hear the backward guitar opening to “In the Evening.” But my dad had been a musician in his younger years and he understood what it meant to “play live.” He wasn’t exactly tapping his toe to “Fool in the Rain,” but he knew real players when he heard them. In the end, he thought “Hot Dog” was a good song and didn’t think our souls were in jeopardy, after all. But he still thought it was too loud.
Every record holds a memory like that and every glass of wine does, too—and if you’re doing it right, they each have their own rabbit hole that leads to its own Wonderland. Gaglioppo is my new quest. What is it really like? I wonder... Rest assured that the music will be cranked to the rafters. Life has its ups and downs, and often it's good when it gets a little loud.