Sunday, August 24, 2008


Whole Lotta Love

Just a distinct sense of relief that the Beijing Olympics are finally over last night, coupled with a spasm of joy at seeing Jimmy Page's wizened visage wailing on his Gibson atop a double decker bus as I watched the closing ceremonies on a large flat screen beamed outdoors in a small, sweaty hutong (alley neighborhood) with a gaggle of Chinese and sprinking of foreigners.

"Who is that old man playing a guitar?" asked a 20something Chinese woman standing next to me as we sipped lukewarm Tsingtao beers, batted mosquitos and ate watermelon slices.

"Jimmy Page," I said. "A famous English rock musician. Sort of like your Cui Jian (the first Chinese guy to play homegrown rock here, circa 1986). But older, and more controversial and popular in his time, perhaps."

"Nobody listens to Cui Jan anymore," she said.

"Too bad. I bet he knows this song, though," I replied as Page ripped through an 8-minute lyrically neutered version of Whole Lotta Love to the joy of rockin' foreign fossils like me and the bafflement and indifference of most of the Chinese around me. A camera shot panned a group of high level Chinese bureaucrats - including former president Jiang Zemin in his clownish oversized spectacles - trying their best to look like they comprended Jimmy Page. David Beckham, who was also prancing atop the Magic Bus, yeah, but a former Satan-worshipping, druggie, multi millionaire white bearded guitar player? Who let him into the country?

"Yeah! Zep RULES!" shouted a Canadian. I dropped a watermelon rind high fiving him and started talking to an ABC (American Born Chinese) woman who was hosting the block party.

"I'm glad to see this," I said. "You know London has enough self confidence and style to host Games without worrying about controversy and micro-managing every detail. No worries about blocking the Internet or boasting that they've installed air-to-ground missles next to Buckingham Palace or Wembley." She agreed, but added that the edge of tension that had accompanied the Beijing Games had also made them what they were.

"All part of the mix," she said. "It's what keeps me here. You, too, I bet."

I couldn't disagree.

5 comments:

Ben said...

Ouch. Justin, I hope Gretch is making a Gibson Les Paul copy these days...otherwise as a former bass player/rocker yourself you lose points. It sure looks like a Gibson Jimmy Page Signature model... see http://members.tripod.com/gtrkev/guitars/jimmy_page_body.jpg

I gotta say I was a little surprised (as it sounds you were also) to see that the British Olympic Organizing Committee chose Mr. Page as their representative to set the tone of 2012. I would have thought someone along the lines of McCartney or Elton John would have been a safer choice. Perhaps they were busy working. Why not Keith Richards or Gary Glitter. Gary's probably not too busy these days.

Anyway, good takes on the Beijing scene from a back alley. It was a scene all too overlooked by the mainstream media.

Justin said...

You know, you're right of course, Ben. Something I realized at about 2am when I woke up briefly and outta the blue thought, "Did I say Gretsch or Gibson? Gotta check that tomorrrow" But as John Fogarty sang, "Tomorrow never comes.." Heh.

My bad, as the kids say. Thanks for the correction and kind comments, my friend. Duly noted.

Matthew said...

I think it would've been cooler if they got the Stones to play Sympathy for the Devil. Would've fit much better.

The Buzz said...

Thought you'd like this, from a comment here:
http://www.danwei.org/2008_beijing_olympic_games/the_giant_ear_of_corn_at_the_c.php



To put it into the ever-popular "Mastercard" format:

Bottles of water (so you don't sweat to death): 6 kuai

Nose-bleed seats: 800 kuai

Huge impressive "human flame" gantry: Millions of RMB

Playing "Whole Lotta Love" at full volume 50 yards away from the assembled Central Committee: Priceless.

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My friend and I were recently talking about how modern society has evolved to become so integrated with technology. Reading this post makes me think back to that discussion we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.


I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as technology further advances, the possibility of transferring our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could see in my lifetime.


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