I stated in my first entry that a lot of my posts would be about music. So every once in awhile, maybe on a Saturday, I’m going to talk about one of my favorite albums and maybe offer some suggestions. I only suggest, I do not recommend. The fact of the matter is that music is so subjective. I can listen to a song and think it’s great, and another person, even someone who has tastes similar to mine, can listen to the same song and think it’s crap. As always, each album suggestion is going to come with a story. There’s always a story.
I’m sure everyone has a favorite Led Zeppelin album. The critics seem to love Zeppelin III, and most people have Zeppelin IV in their library, mainly due to the classic cut “Stairway to Heaven.” Still others claim that Physical Graffiti it their best.
For my money, I have to go with the very first Led Zeppelin album. Recorded in 1968 and released in January, 1969, it presents the band at their raw best. Jimmy Page had just come from the Yardbirds, and filled the first album with many of the songs that the band had performed live over the past couple of years. The combination of Page’s psychedelic guitar greatness, Robert Plant’s plaintive cry, the melodic bass and keyboards of studio veteran John Paul Jones and the incredible power of John Bonham’s drumming with sticks the size of tree trunks made for an unforgettable debut. From the first cut, “Good Times Bad Times”, the listener is taken on a journey through a fusion of blues/rock that immediately set them apart from anything else at the time. I love just about every Zeppelin album (Presence would probably be my least favorite), but this is, by far, my favorite.
I had a good friend in college named Mike Telfer who really loved Zeppelin. He was, what I would consider, a fanatic. Mike was a year older than me, and I first met him my freshman year. We hit it off immediately, and when I think back to the dozens of parties I attended in college (hundreds may be more accurate) I can picture Telf in the middle of all of them, with an Old Style in his hand. Let me share just a few of my favorite Telfer memories:
-My brother went to the same college that I went to, graduating the year before I started. He told me that he had Telfer in a “music appreciation” class, where they would often discuss different musical tastes. Guys like my brother and Telf took the class because they liked music, but more importantly, it was an elective, they knew the teacher well, and knew it was an easy “A”. During one heated discussion, a girl was getting down on people that listened to loud rock music. According to my brother, she was getting very upset in the discussion, and at one pointed yelled, “All you guys want to do is drink your beer and smoke your pot until you’re all messed up, then you crank up your music so loud that it makes your ears numb!” Mike, who was usually pretty quiet until he had a few beers in him, simply replied with a sincere look on his face, “What’s wrong with that?”
-My friend Mike Johnson and I would get together in my room every Friday and Saturday night to drink beer and listen to tunes…and see what developed from there. Our beer of choice was Stroh’s. He would come by and pick me up Friday night around 5:30 and we would go to Blackburn Liquors to get a case of Stroh’s 16 ounce returnable bottles. We called them “pounders.” We would drink the whole case on Friday night, then return the bottles Saturday night to get a fresh case of pounders…then drink that case on Saturday night. Telf usually showed up around 7, bringing his own 12 pack of Old Style. Well, one Monday afternoon, my friend Big Greg Crnkovic came by right about lunchtime and said, “Let’s blow off class this afternoon and road drink.” It didn’t take much to convince me. Greg was a big guy (even bigger than me) and had a big old Dodge Polara with a car stereo that had about 10 speakers and 3 power boosters. He had TWO cases of pounders in the backseat, and we spent the afternoon getting totaled. By the time he dropped me off at the dorm around 5 pm, I could hardly walk. I made it up to my room and was just about ready to pass out when Telf comes walking in with his traditional 12-pack of Old Style. He had decided to make a rare Monday night appearance in my room. I told him that I had been drinking all afternoon and was ready to pass out. Through my drunken haze, I remember him looking at me with a hurt look on his face and saying, “You mean you’re not going to drink with me?” I thought about it for a moment, then sat up on my bed and asked him to had me an Old Style. Telf very seriously said, “Man, you had me worried for a minute.”
-I’ve told many people this story. Mike Telfer is credited with coming up with the best hard-ass come-back line of all time. We were at a bar in Joliet, and he was sitting at the bar facing a girl that he was having a conversation with. Some idiot squeezed in between them and started talking to the girl. Mike, never one to start trouble, simply tapped the guy on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, but I was talking to her.” The guy quickly replied over his shoulder, “Go away, boy.” Mike then, very diplomatically, tapped the guy on the shoulder again and said, “How would you like to go home and tell your mama that a boy kicked your ass?” The guy moved immediately, and we all gave Telf high fives. He was very proud of himself.
I kind of lost touch with most of my college friends, and Telf was no exception. I saw him at his bachelor party, complete with mother and daughter strippers (only in Joliet), and again at our friend Mike Johnson’s wedding. He was selling insurance and living in Plainfield, and still had that inimitable Telfer crooked smile.
Every night before I go to bed, I get on Facebook, just to see what’s going on with my friends. Last night, I saw that I had a message from Mike Johnson. The subject line was “Mike Telfer.” The note went on to say, “Just got a call that Mike passed away today.”
Johnson had told me years ago that Mike had been diagnosed with lung cancer and was on disability from work because he needed oxygen all the time. We always talked about getting together and going out to visit Telf to see how he was doing. It was a trip we just never found the time to make.
So listen to some Zeppelin today, whether it’s my suggested first album, or choose your favorite. And if you’re into praying, say a prayer for my friend Mike Telfer. We had some great times, and he certainly deserved a longer life than he had. I hope he’s in a place where he can drink Old Style and crank Zeppelin up until his ears are numb. After all, “What’s wrong with that?”