Wednesday, June 19, 2002

'Funny in My Mind': Robert Plant song review of the day (No. 6 of 10)

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Today's song is "Funny in My Mind (I Believe I'm Fixin' to Die)." The opening track on Dreamland, it can't really be classified into any single musical genre. Robert Plant refers to the first bit as "Cajun psychedelic zydeco." The album is introduced with an accordion sound. But, as Plant says, "Just when you think it's performing in one particular area, it drops down into some kind of dark, psychedelic moment, which... I don't think Bukka White had that in mind, but I think it's the way that you have to move blues along. I don't think the polite interpretation of blues in the carpeted concert hall is what blues was all about in the first place."

Plant describes the arrangement as "bouncy and confident." He says it necessarily has to be that way to keep it entertaining for everybody concerned, including himself. It definitely has a driving, upbeat rhythm that doesn't hesitate. Plant sings with force throughout the track. Between verses, the band kicks into several different figures.

As for the lyrics, they're trotted out from songs that have been in Plant's repertoire for decades. We've heard some of these lyrics in Led Zeppelin songs before. "Fixin' to Die" is a Bukka White blues whose lyrics were no stranger to Led Zeppelin in the live arena; the April 1, 1971 "Whole Lotta Love" live medley on BBC Sessions includes "Fixin' to Die." Some lyrics are also in "In My Time of Dying," namely "Tell my Jesus to make up my dying bed," as sung in the new track. (Bob Dylan's first album employed both "Fixin' to Die" and "In My Time of Dyin'.")

The fast-paced music in Plant's new arrangement is definitely entertaining. The track fades out just after reaching four-and-a-half minutes. But that's really where it's just beginning for the Strange Sensation, Plant recently said in a promotional interview.

He said, "You can probably hear the great future for this band lurking on the fade-outs of the tracks. For instance, the kind of improvisation at the end of ... 'Funny In My Mind' is the kind of playing you will experience in a full hour-and-30-minute show. There is a good communion of souls, there's a lot of great guitar-filigree going on, not on a blues base but in that kind of Indo-raga style of playing, somewhere between John Fahey, The Flaming Lips and the Electric Prunes."

Plant is nothing if not a musical connoisseur, and, best of all, he knows how to implement all his influences into his own music.

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