Posted on October 25, 2018
by Steve Janowick

I didn’t get my first tattoo until I was in my early thirties.  I was always of the belief that if I was going to put a permanent mark on my body, a body that would be staring back at me in the mirror when I was 90, it better be of something that was deeply profound and meaningful to me.  So, right after having my kids, I had each of their initials put on a respective arm. That was it. I was done. No need for any more tattoos. I had paid homage to the two, absolute most important things in my life.

And then, one October evening a few years later (I can still distinctly remember), I was having one of my existential/reflective episodes-not an unusual thing for a creative type.  During this contemplation, Led Zeppelin’s Thank You, the version from the BBC sessions, started playing in the background.  And for the next six and a half minutes, I took a ride on an emotional rollercoaster.  Through that song, I tapped into all the parts of my soul. I felt love. I felt pain. I was overjoyed and, ultimately, I was thankful for my kids, my blessings and my life.  I smiled while simultaneously wiping tears away. This song was doing something to me. Something visceral. Something deep. I had heard it a million times before, but in the context of my life at that very moment, it took on a whole new meaning and level of depth.

And it was right then that I realized how much this British band, that formed on the year of my birth, really meant to me.  How much they lived in the periphery of every memory I had as a growing, young man. How much their music helped me through some of the best and worst times of my life.  So, the very next day, I had tattooed on my forearm, the four symbols that respectively represent each member.

There’s not a single thing I can tell you about Zeppelin that hasn’t already been discussed, opined, dissected and argued over.  They’re legendary. Their reach and influence are still felt today, some 50 years later. But I’ve always been fascinated by the way they, more than any other band ever, resonated so much with the young, American man.  There were some insanely incredible acts coming out of Britain concurrently to Zeppelin, but none tapped into the young, American male’s consciousness and psyche as they did.

Was it the dark mystique?  Was it the sheer, raw power of the live shows?  Was it the technical prowess they exhibited in playing their respective instruments?  Was it the diversity and complexity of their songs? My guess? A little of all of those.  They were the right band at the right time. They filled a void. Unlike any other group, they were able to tap into the entire spectrum of emotions that a testosterone-raging, young, American man was feeling at that time. Whether he wanted to fuck, fight, love, think deeply, get high, feel sorry for himself, or feel empowered, Led Zeppelin provided him the soundtrack to do so.

And I can say with fervent certitude that I may literally not be here today to write this had it not been for what Jimmy, Robert, John Paul and John gave me.  I know that sounds bloated and a bit melodramatic, but to an overly emotional, confused, 15-year old in the 80’s, it was anything but.

So, today, whenever I am being reflective or feeling nostalgic, or whether I just want to turn on my stereo and rock the fuck out to the greatest music ever made, I always glance down at my forearm and thank the four cats who live on there forever.

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