An Olympic Close: Wanna Whole Lotta Leona?

Jimmy PageHell hath not frozen over … yet, but some believe that this phenomenon may indeed become something more than a hackneyed cliche Sunday during closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. No, no not a Spanish upset of the Redeem Team. No, this is an even more unexpected event, the sort of thing previously believed to be unthinkable … unholy even. And apparently it will be aired at an as-yet-unspecified time Sunday evening on your local NBC Olympic channel.

Guitarist Jimmy Page, the mercurial genius who gave the world Led Zeppelin, will write the coda to the Beijing games and lead British “X-Factor” pop icon Leona Lewis in a performance of Led Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love.” For those of us who don’t know, including me, X-Factor is the British version of American Idol. In fact it’s the next generation of the show “Pop Idol” which spawned American Idol. This is the Brit TV crap produced by the same Simon guy whom we see on our TV sets crabbing at cheezy singers and picking fights with Paula Abdul.

One might wonder whether Page’s groundbreaking sonic slab of pseudo-sexual mojo is an appropriate piece of music to cap an Olympics (“Kashmir” would have been a better choice, but then Pagey’d probably require Robert Plant for that). One might also wonder how this union ever came to be. Turns out it has everything to do with the British hosting the 2012 games in London. The Brits are allotted some performance time during the closing ceremonies to accept the Olympic flag from the Chinese and carry on. 

The all-too-obvious emissaries for this important British Empire task? Well, of course, soccer posterboy David Beckham, the guitarist from Led Zeppelin and the 2006 winner of a pop idol TV show — who, although she may be one of the sensual things ever born on British soil, sings the sort of souless pop nothings that turn Zep fans to stone. She cites Mariah Carey as an influence. Of course. 

As these things go, once Page agreed to allow the use of the song, his involvement grew to encompass composition of the British musical score and a starring role in final production: 






Jimmy Page & The Black CrowesI prefer to look on the bright side and remember that Pagey’s recent collaborations have been brilliantly executed. The Black Crowes tour (1999-2000) was the next best thing to Led Zeppelin; the encore guest appearance with the Foo Fighters earlier this summer rocked; the Led Zeppelin reunion in December has been hailed as the concert of the decade. Brilliant, all of it.

And who can forget “Come with Me” – the bastard son of “Kashmir” meets Sean “Puffy” Combs and a Godzilla flick? The very mention of it caused bloodletting in the Houses of Holy, but the result was astonishingly … good — with Page even writing for “Kashmir” a fresh new bridge. It was so good, the youtube police have zagged the incendiary, full orchestra 1998 Saturday Night Live performance  … but leave it to the anime kids to give us something cool to look at here:






As for Leona, she of “Bleeding Heart” or whatever the hit was called, I think we can all agree that “Whole Lotta Love” is a stretch for a girl who wears hoopish gowny things in concert and says she’s not brave enough to pose nude, even for PETA. Leona may be exotically beautiful in an Aphrodite rising from the foam sort of way, but this is not a gig where she can get by on sultry looks alone. For this collaboration to work she’ll have little choice on the world’s largest stage but to loosen up and embrace Whole Lotta Love’s grinding, gutteral surges which leave little to the imagination. Will Page and Lewis tempt the erotic depths of the song’s middle section?

This could be incredibly hot or an embarassing disaster, but I’ll hold out for the former. I’m sure Page knows exactly what he’s doing …

Leona-Lewis-j17.jpg

Keep-a-coolin baby …

The youtube police have nabbed video of the final production but here’s what it looked like:






They’ve nabbed that too, and we know who they are. You may find it on the nbc.olympics.com I’d imagine, but here’s another idea: Go back up to the interview with Page and let it play through. You will then get a menu 1-7 of “related video.”  Pick #7 — you won’t be disappointed.

Keep a coolin’ baby.

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