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Plant & Page Heinrich Klaffs / CC BY-SA

Rick Beato On Ramble On

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We used to be gearheads.

I’ll admit this quarantine lifestyle is getting to me. It’s not that I’m not busy, it’s just that every damn day is the same. Get up, read the news, answer the e-mail, check up on the news and…

Well, maybe record a podcast, or my radio show, depending on the day. And then at night read and/or watch a streaming series.

But the strangest thing is I’m a late night person. And what I love is to be so burned out, overworked, that one night I stay up until I’m caught up, until I’m relaxed, knowing that the next morning I have nothing scheduled. But now, since every day is the same, I know if I stay up until four that just means I screw up my schedule, wake up later…it doesn’t pay to stay up.

Oh yeah, I love the nighttime. Oh, I’m gonna bitch when the light fades, as autumn arrives, but it’s only when it’s dark that my brain starts to light up, that the creativity sparks, that the pressure of the world fades away and I can be myself.

Now in the old days, let’s say twenty years ago, I had less on the schedule. And it’s much better being busy, but back then I could surf the web long enough to become relaxed and get inspired. Sometimes that happens again today, during the Covid-19 era.

So, I read the new news, today’s news on my phone. Answer all the e-mail. Check all my sites…skiing, music, straight news. And then…what am I gonna do with the rest of my time? I start thinking of these YouTube skiing videos I want to watch and I go to the site and staring me straight in the eye is the new Rick Beato video.

I’ve got major problems with YouTube. Not the ones musicians have, usage, how much they’re getting paid, but primarily the fact that you cannot turn off autoplay. Oh, you can turn it off, but then it slips back on. I’ve researched online, it’s a known problem, which Google doesn’t want to fix, they want you to watch more. And then a couple of weeks back, they put a scrim over all the videos, with an ad, making you click more to see what you want. Drives me nuts. They’re just trying to drive subscriptions. Oh, that’s another thing, you have to constantly click that you don’t want to pay for their service, don’t want to subscribe. I’m not giving them my money on principle. I like that Google/YouTube hosts all these videos for free, but these bumps in the road are akin to the fees at hotels and on concert tickets…just make your offer, tell me what you need, and let me decide whether to partake or not. Otherwise, you’re just pissing me off.

As for the suggestion to watch the Rick Beato video…

I don’t believe in the algorithm. I never use Netflix’s. Drives me crazy. I wanted to check out the Sam Jay comedy special but since I hadn’t watched any standup comedy recently I no longer had a bar for that. To tell you the truth, I research before I watch anything, otherwise it makes no sense. Streaming series are a commitment, I don’t want to watch for hours and realize something is junk. Oh yeah, I’m also pissed-off at Netflix because they got rid of their star rating system, now everything gets a high rating, absolute b.s., I’m already paying, can’t you help me out?

But Beato has been in the news lately. Most notably the “Wall Street Journal.” He gets recognized, he sells t-shirts. And there’s something self-satisfied about the guy, but I must admit it’s hard to click off his videos.

Most are gimmicks, top twentys. But today’s is different, Beato is trying to reproduce the sound of “Ramble On.”

Now, of course, we’d prefer to have Jimmy Page tell us. But the truth is it probably wouldn’t be as good. He wouldn’t nitpick like Rick does. And the fan experience is quite different. It’s a treasure hunt. One of the few in this Google world where there are no rare records, where everything is available…how did Jimmy get that sound?

Oh, you know the sound. There’s something about “Ramble On.”

Sounds. That used to be a big part of making records, getting sounds. These sounds made some of our favorite records so. Like that wailing guitar in the intro to Supertramp’s “Bloody Well Right.”

Now this video, which only launched yesterday, hasn’t broken a million views yet, and there’s one, “Top 20 Acoustic Guitar Intros Of All Time” which is bubbling under ten million. And I don’t think “Ramble On” will come close to that because it’s for a different type of listener, not a casual fan, but someone who needs to get closer, like we did, in the sixties and seventies.

Funny thing about rock and roll, it’s passé. Oh, people are making rock music, it’s just a caricature of itself. But the classic sound… If you’re infected, there is no cure. You can only get Led Zeppelin one place, and there’s nothing quite like it, the sounds, the playing, the vocals…the same band which did “Black Dog” did “Ten Years Gone,” never mind “Ramble On.”

“Led Zeppelin II.” I prefer the debut. Not that “II” isn’t good, it’s just that the initial LP is darker, more straight ahead, less obvious. Now Jimmy and the gang made up for this by going totally left field on “III,” but we’re talking about “II.” I burned out on “Whole Lotta Love” in a week, if I never hear it again that’s fine with me. I bought the album the day it came out and within a week I was done with it and never really returned to it until I was in a condo in Mammoth in ’75 and it was on the 8-track, and I remembered how great the album was.

In the early days, my favorite cut was “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman.” But even back then it was obvious that the acoustic numbers were the heart of the LP. Right after “Whole Lotta Love” came “What Is And What Should Never Be,” which eventually exploded, but this was Zeppelin’s trademark, from quiet acoustic to explosive electric and then back again. But even better were “Thank You.” And “Ramble On.”

“Thank You” was majestic, as if it were being performed in the king’s castle. Or out on the plains with no one around. But “Ramble On” was different, it was positively alive, not reflective so much as marching forward, back when being in your twenties wasn’t about selling out but finding yourself.

So, Rick Beato is trying to recreate the acoustic guitar intro to “Ramble On.” He starts with a photo of Jimmy Page in the studio. The chord he’s playing. The guitar, the mic. He’s trying to put it together, how did Jimmy get this magic sound?

And he’s in the studio.

The studio, that used to be the holy grail, where the music was made. To get inside meant you were a member of the club, or at least a provisional one. Most people could not get inside. To this day I’m mesmerized when I go inside. All that gear! All of Rick’s guitars!

And the engineers, all the rest of the help, never treat you right, this is their job, you’re an outsider. Who got you in…the player or the producer will be friendly, if it’s someone else, you’ll soon have to leave. But we are in Rick Beato’s studio for the duration.

So, it’s a Vox acoustic guitar. With a bolted-on neck. From ’69. All of this is important to the sound. Which Rick and his engineer now try to capture.

And they don’t get it. Now I’m nitpicking. It’s close, but it’s not the real thing. And then Rick starts to tweak the sound in Pro Tools. So many options. He’s getting close, very close, but still no cigar.

And then Rick goes back into the studio and VOILA! He figures it out, he’s got to play the guitar closer to the bridge.

And now he’s strumming and I’m smiling, I can’t believe it, he’s replicated the sound of “Ramble On”!

He didn’t write it. And he’s not getting paid for this video, Jimmy and his mates are. Rick’s cool with that, but he is angry that his videos are taken down when he’s making no money and the acts are. He’s got a whole extended clip about it, that’s how I became aware of his videos, someone insisted I watch it. And I had a bit of sympathy for Rick, but the truth is…the rights owners rule. Then again, if the rights owners, the players themselves as opposed to their hired intermediaries, knew what Rick was really doing with their work they’d okay it, since their efforts are being respected and they’re getting paid for their use.

But I’m watching this clip and I feel at home.

It’s hard to feel at home in the music business today. There’s just too much music and too many special interests and too much blather. Someone sent me that article about the guy who went on vacation and got overwhelmed with new music and went back to the oldies: I get it. It just takes too much effort to check everything out, can’t someone lead the way? So far, no one’s been able to do this.

I know, I know, a similar paradigm exists today. You try to get the beat. You get a topliner. But it’s different. Forget even judging. They’re two trains running on two different tracks. And today’s music is social, a club, whereas back then the creation involved very few people, the band and the studio hands, to get the sound down that affected us all. The reach of a hit was unbelievable, the tracks were burned into our brains. Come on, you can sing “Ramble On” to yourself right now! And much of the rest of the Zeppelin catalog, whereas most people can’t do that with any hit of today, never mind an album track.

What we’re talking about in this video is the source of creation. Jimmy had the inspiration, how can we get closer to that?

That. You can’t buy it. It’s not for sale. Oh, you can purchase the end result, the record…but the journey to it, no way. It’s a better plot than most movies. How do we get to genius. How do we recreate something that was probably done spontaneously. And when Rick gets there, your day is made. At least mine was.

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