“The Hermit’s Sceptre” is based on a scene from the 1976 Led Zeppelin concert film, “The Song Remains the Same”. Back in 1981, when I was eleven years old, I begged my mom and dad to take me to see the midnight (and only) showing of “The Song Remains the Same”. I had been a Zep head for a couple of years and had the soundtrack in steady rotation, along with every other Led Zeppelin album… At one point in my life, I could recite every single Zep track in order from their 1st all the way to “In Through the Out Door” without missing a beat. Anyways, I had some Led Zeppelin issues, and there were no VCRs yet, so the only way I’d see it was having my folks take me.
One of the reasons I wanted to see it so bad is I knew there were segments in the film that showed the fellas in “fantasy” scenes…for example, John Bonham’s drum solo in “Moby Dick” featured a montage of the man working on his farm, playing with his kids, riding his race cars etc… this turned out to be the most authentic “fantasy” of the film, mainly because Bonzo kept it real. The other guys- they went for it and did some crazy shit -like Robert Plant stabbing medieval prison guards to save a beautiful blonde maiden,and John Paul Jones riding a horse through the cemetery wearing a phantom mask. Even manager of the band, Peter grant, got in on the fun with a sequence of him portrayed as an Al Capone type, spraying a machine gun into a group of poker playing gangster werewolves. A head get’s shot off at the neck in one shot, where at least 6 different colored streams of blood shoots up in the air like Buckingham Fountain.
But the most famous of the vignettes is Jimmy Page’s, who cemented his love of Satan and drugs and… being alone. A weird kind of lonely, wrapped up in mysticism and vocation. Jimmy’s scene accompanies a long, drawn out violin bow guitar solo in the middle of “Dazed and Confused”. We see him on stage, where he strikes the strings and points up in one motion, setting off a different colored stage light. Then the film cuts away, to a dark mist covered mountain.
As a kid who hadn’t seen the film, what came next was supposedly of such epic, legendary proportions, that if you never saw it, there’s no way you could really be a true Zeppelin fan. You see, in this scene, Jimmy climbs the mountain, laboring. As he looks up, he can see a faint looking figure, who appears to be wearing a monk’s robe with a hood on. As Jimmy get’s closer, we see who it is. The Hermit of the Mountain. He holds a lantern in one hand and a sceptre in the other. We get a close-up of the Hermit’s face, and he looks pretty ancient…until, out of nowhere, the special effects kick it into high gear and the face starts getting younger, ten years a second, and lo and behold, it’s Jimmy Page. The interesting aspect of this scene is that the face somehow turns into a fetus, that’s how young they go. Then it’s just lightning, and the process goes into reverse as Jimmy get’s old again… Meanwhile the guitar’s bow sound begins getting drowned out by Bonzo’s great crashing cymbals, signaling the dramatic end of the violin bow solo, and BAM. The Hermit raises his sceptre above his head and waves it left and right, leaving a visual recording of a technicolor acid track in it’s wake, beautiful flourescent blues, pinks, yellows… worth the price of admission all by itself.
My parents took me to that midnight show. They tolerated the incredibly loud volume (they were classical fans), they tolerated the crazy teens smoking weed in every possible seat in that theater, and they told me they enjoyed it when it was over. Only criticism? They just couldn’t understand why it had to be that loud.