I was with a friend when we heard someone else's version of Whole Lotta Love. He incorrectly guessed who the original band was. I was quite surprised he didn't know it was Led Zep. He said he never got into them. I was even more surprised because I know he likes The Allman Brothers and Aretha and a lot of other bands that you would think a Zeppelin fan might be into. He said it was because of that question that floats around where you are supposed to choose to align with one or the other.
I was asked that once. I thought it was a joke. Are you kidding? There's discussion about this? I was even more surprised to learn that lots of people with good taste in music choose The Who over Led Zeppelin. Go figure.
When this question was recently brought to my attention again, I decided to explore it further.
First, I listened to all of my Led Zeppelin CDs. I thought I had all of them. I used to have all of the albums except for Presence back in High School. It turns out I have I, II, III, IV, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti. I need to rectify that soon. I might just go for a box set. I listened to them before lending them to my friend. He in turn, lent me Who's Next.
There was a time ages ago when IV was my favorite. I ended up loving II the most for most of my life. I think III may have recently won out in this recent listen. However, there is no denying for me that every single one of their songs on every one of their albums I have ever owned is great. I'm not sure if I ever heard Presence, I was only going on word of mouth back in High School. I now have a desire to give it a try.
So we trade some music. It was a good sign that the first song on Who's Next is Baba O'Riley. That is a great song. That song infiltrated my being one nice sunny day in High School. I just remember sitting out in the parking lot of my friend's apartment complex with a few friends. We were really stoned and this song came on, and each of us were completely into it for the entire song. In that moment, there was nothing but that song. That's when it went into a soft spot in my heart. The rest of the album is good, but there's no question Led Zeppelin blows it all away. I would even say if I had to chose, there are many Zep songs I would rather listen to over Baba O'Reilly even.
I was still pondering the question when I went over to J&R Music to make my first Who purchase ever. This of course says a lot about how there could be no contest for me. Back in the day, I owned a lot of music that is now referred to as Classic Rock, but never The Who.
I picked up a box set called Thirty Years of Maximum R&B. I also picked up a Janice Joplin box set, Box of Pearls.
I found one other truly great Who song, Eminence Front. I like that one a lot. Other than that, I get sick of them real quick. There are definitely some good songs, but we are talking about ... well... Eminence! I mean, put The Who up against somebody else and it might be a different conversation. I used to refer to Led Zeppelin as "the gods of rock and roll". The only thing that came close, back then, and not now, was The Greatful Dead.
By the way, the Janice set is well worth it. It's great.
I then had a few conversations around the office and did a little googling. I'm happy to know I work with Zep people. Only one guy had a slightly hard time choosing before coming up with my band. The Internet was interesting. That's where I got the answer. Zep is more blues influenced, more jammy. Thew Who is more poppy, more about songwriting - singer/songwriting. It makes perfect sense now. They are both very talented, its simply a matter of preferential taste.