After writing twice about “Stairway to Heaven,” there’s an obnoxious voice in my head yelling “play ‘Free Bird.'” Bear with me as I get it to shut up.
Some people will defend playing the nine minute Lynyrd Skynyrd epic on a jukebox at a crowded bar by saying they were “getting their money’s worth.”
Those people don’t understand money or how to enjoy things.
“Free Bird” starts as a slow rolling storm of a bummer then crests into a tidal wave of irritation. Congratulations. For the low price of $.75 you’ve tested the patience of a room full of drunks.
“Free Bird” wants to to be an epic but, like an Ayn Rand novel, has epic length and epic pretensions without epic importance.
It’s a break-up song, but it’s told from a position of power in the relationship, which kills its effectiveness as a breakup song. It’s a shitty dude bailing on a girl who wants him to stay. His defense doesn’t even rise to the level of shallow, saying there are “too many places [he] has to see” and that if he stayed “things just wouldn’t be the same.” That’s the kind of shit that gets a beer bottle thrown at you if you say it in real life.
Frankly, it sounds like this Free Bird could stand some changing. I wish there a woman sung a last verse about how the guy is pushing 30 and really needs to start taking himself seriously.
Instead, the song ends with a guitar section played by several guitarists who, presumably, couldn’t hear each other while they recorded. The notes mesh together without any sense of relation to each other. There’s no dynamic, no build. It starts fast and ends fast. There’s no soul or personality. Just a blur of blues notes. It’s like a Guitar Center with three middle age men testing out mid life crisis purchases.
Say what you will about “Stairway to Heaven.” Its guitar solo tells a fucking story. Jimmy Page took a long break from kidnapping underage groupies, practicing witchcraft and dabbling in heroin to compose a memorable, simple and melodic musical break.
“Sweet Home Alabama” sucks too, but at least it’s only half the length.