William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs on his notes after a Led Zeppelin concert before interviewing Jimmy Page

I summarized my impressions after the [Led Zeppelin] concert in a few notes to serve as a basis for my talk with Jimmy Page. “The essential ingredient for any successful rock group is energy – the ability to give out energy, to receive energy from the audience and to give it back to the audience. A rock concert is in fact a rite involving the evocation and transmutation of energy. Rock stars may be compared to priests, a theme that was treated in Peter Watkins‘ film ‘Privilege‘. In that film a rock star was manipulated by reactionary forces to set up a state religion; this scenario seems unlikely, I think a rock group singing political slogans would leave its audience at the door.

“The Led Zeppelin show depends heavily on volume, repetition and drums. It bears some resemblance to the trance music found in Morocco, which is magical in origin and purpose – that is, concerned with the evocation and control of spiritual forces. In Morocco, musicians are also magicians. Gnaoua music is used to drive out evil spirits. The music of Joujouka evokes the God Pan, Pan God of Panic, representing the real magical forces that sweep away the spurious. It is to be remembered that the origin of all the arts––music, painting and writing––is magical and evocative; and that magic is always used to obtain some definite result. In the Led Zeppelin concert, the result aimed at would seem to be the creation of energy in the performers and in the audience. For such magic to succeed, it must tap the sources of magical energy, and this can be dangerous.”
William S. Burroughs in his article “Rock Magic: Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin, And a search for the elusive Stairway to Heaven” in Crawdaddy Magazine, (New York: Crawdaddy Publishing Company, June 1975). Available in John Coulthart‘s blog post “William Burroughs on…Led Zeppelin!” in Arthur Magazine (Joshua Tree, California: Jay Babcock, December 5, 2007). Thanks to @jamreilly for the lead.