Robert Plant once ad-libbed, "Does anybody remember laughter?" during a live go-'round of Led Zeppelin's radio-worn, double-headed guitar epic "Stairway to Heaven." The quip laid into general rock-deity ennui: Plant in painted-on denim atop his own Mount Doom, surveying what's been conquered and then vocalizing his surprise at finding it all so ... prosaic. Unfortunately Plant's candor became just another piece of pomp in the traveling Zeppelin road show. See The Song Remains the Same: A melodramatic Plant, posing like a sculpture from Greek antiquity, delivers the line while standing under a golden light beaming from God's ass.
But that's what Plant and company did best: They posed, they postured, they played a part. It all cultivated (and eventually sustained) a fog-shrouded, impenetrable mystique. Jimmy Page's black magic compulsions led to word-of-mouth narratives spanning everything from bat's blood rituals to Faustian transactions with the Devil. Plant's druidic blue haze was the perfect antithesis to Page; the singer's cryptic lyrics — drawing from Celtic and Norse imagery and the modern-day fantasy canon (i.e., Lord of the Rings) — added to the band's mysteriousness. John Bonham and tour manager Richard Cole were bearded incubi, their exaggerated acts of Caligulan decadence turning groupies' hair white.
Today, amid chatter of a Zeppelin reunion tour and the reissue treatment for Plant and Page's pet project the Honeydrippers, we can say without a trace of irony that pop star mythology is dead. The Internet's capacity to make information ever-accessible means there are no more Led Zeppelins. Rumor and hearsay, once ripe for enhancement and then consumption, is now probed until given a Snopes-like verdict. Point-and-click demystifying means there's no more sitting-'round-the-lava-lamp lore, only 90-second snippets of YouTube truth.
Led Zeppelin|Robert Plant|Jimmy Page
Without the web, maybe Akon's concertgoer heave-ho from last summer would have ballooned into a full-blown torture myth, complete with battery acid, one-day-old puppies, and a jar of Jiff peanut butter. Without the web, maybe the fictitious, MySpace-fueled Hope Against Hope would never have been debunked, the shroud over electronic wizard "Brian Tregaskin" never lifted.
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So why lament pop mythology's passing? Myth requires the willing suspension of disbelief, the ability to set logic aside and let imagination take hold. It tied communities of supporters together and was a means of fan regeneration more potent than any EzBoard endeavor or Hype Machine listing. And anyway, wouldn't the members of, say, Fall Out Boy be much more captivating if they were hitched to rumors of groupies being placed in tubs of baked beans before coitus?