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The Led Zeppelin Connection

With 2001: A Space Odyssey

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Robert Plant and Jimmy Page during the height of Led Zeppelin's popularity in 1972.
If started at the right moment, Led Zeppelin's masterpiece works perfectly as the soundtrack for Kubrick's classic film


By Brad Hamilton
Modern Times Magazine

Oct. 25, 2010 — A certain pop-culture myth has developed around the film "The Wizard of Oz" and Pink Floyd's epic masterwork, "Dark Side of the Moon."

The legend goes that if you start the album when the MGM Lion roars at the beginning of the film, the music works in concert with the images in a way that seems planned. Whether you were one of the people who took the leap and gave it a try or not, the subject has become a topic on television, newspapers, books and even websites have popped up to support the idea. Such pairings of film and album have now been coined, "synchronizations."

Turner Classic Movies broadcast a synchronized version, commonly dubbed "Dark Side of the Rainbow," in 2000. Since the rumor mill began to spread, the marriage of "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Wizard of Oz" has inspired a flock of imitators, including albums by Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Metallica and Nirvana. At you can buy 21 different synchronizations.

Of course, these synchronizations are not intentional. Even when tried intentionally, as when rock music has been applied in an intentional quest to score a film, it has never been commercially successful and just as rarely, interesting.

"Dark Side of the Moon" engineer Alan Parsons explained how silly he thought it was to Rolling Stone Magazine in 2003: "It was an American radio guy who pointed it out to me. It's such a non-starter, a complete load of eyewash. I tried it for the first time about two years ago. One of my fiancee's kids had a copy of the video, and I thought I had see what it was all about. I was very disappointed. The only thing I noticed was that the line "balanced on the biggest wave" came up when Dorothy was kind of tightrope walking along a fence. One of the things any audio professional will tell you is that the scope for the drift between the video and the record is enormous; it could be anything up to 20 seconds by the time the record's finished. And anyway, if you play any record with the sound turned down on the TV, you will find things that work."

Exactly, thought a friend of mine who wishes to remain nameless. A couple of weeks ago, he told me about a synchronization he had found between "Led Zeppelin IV" and "2001: A Space Odyssey." Yea, yea, I said. I'd check it out. He said he just stumbled on it one day and it was absolutely spooky how close they were. I had seen the "Dark Side of the Rainbow," and I was unimpressed. The next day he e-mailed me how to sync them.

Step 1: Watch first half of the film. Then about 30 seconds before the Intermission ends, mute the TV and play the album.

Step 2: Watch the rest of the film, turning volume back up on the film when the album ends.

When I first watched it, it completely blew me away. Where "Dark Side of the Rainbow" failed, this sync was completely awesome.

For those fans of "2001: A Space Odyssey," you know that there is only one scene with dialog in the second half of the film — a conversation between David Bowman and HAL 9000. It goes something like, "Open the pod bay doors, HAL," to which HAL says, basically, "no."

Because the words and music don't need to mesh, there is a virtually seamless synchronization.

A rundown:
"Black Dog" — Fills the scene where Frank Poole is attacked by HAL.

"Rock 'n Roll" — Poole is lost in space with no oxygen and Bowman frantically tries to get him with the refrain repeating, "It's be a long time, been a lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time."

"Battle of Evermore" — Bowman brings Poole, who is now dead, and HAL kills the rest of the crew in cryogenic stasis. Bowman argues with HAL to let him back in.

"Stairway to Heaven" — This song begins as Bowman decides to dump Poole's body into the darkness and emptiness of space.

"Misty Mountain Hop" — Bowman takes charge and disconnects HAL. As HAL 'dies' the lyrics say, "packing his bags to the Misty Mountains..over the hills where the spirits fly." And, "I really don't know," when he is told about what HAL was forced to keep from him.

"Four Sticks" — The grand views of space that won an Academy Award is pulsed by the heavy riffs of "Four Sticks" Here we see the view of the scene in space where all of this is happening along with the obelisk, Jupiter and its moons and Discovery and Bowman's pod. 

"Goin' to California" — The nuttiest part of this movie to me has always been the unique images of Bowman's trip to wherever he goes. The original soundtrack music and images is almost difficult to watch and seemed to take forever. When paired with "Goin' to California," it ends too soon.

"When the Levee Breaks" — The ending of the trip. As a planet surface is seen and gets closer, Robert Plant wails, "goin' down, goin' down now."

I have got to admit, it is really neat. So, we christen it "2001: A Led Zeppelin Space Odyssey" and add it to the names of 22 others.
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