WHO'S THE FIFTH LED ZEPPELIN?

There's a famous film clip of the Beatles, newly arrived in America, riding in a limousine and listening incredulously to a transistor radio. From that tiny speaker, a strange deejay the lads had never heard of named Murray the K was anointing himself "the fifth Beatle." Since then, everyone who could've made a legitimate claim to that title did, from the Fab Four's original sacked drummer Pete Best to producer George Martin to session organist Billy Preston to loyal roadie Mal Evans.

If this notion of a "fifth" honorary member is so prevalent in one British supergroup, why in all these years has no one ever come forward and staked a claim to be the fifth Led Zeppelin? Zeppelin has sold just as many records and cast an equally long shadow over today's recording artists as the Fab Four. Quite rightly, Zep should also have an honorary fifth member who can share some of the credit for the band's remarkable success. Let's examine some possible candidates upon which we can bestow this most coveted of honors!

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are scheduled to perform on Wednesday, May 10, at America West Arena, with Tragically Hip. Showtime is 8 p.m.

Candidate: Woody Woodpecker, musical influence
Reason: A stretch? Consider this--in 1976, Jimmy Page was deeply in the throes of serious drug addiction. This may explain "For Your Life," the second cut on the band's Presence album. On this paean to the joys of cocaine, Page piles on a mountain of guitar overdubs which mimic the lovable woodpecker's distinctive laugh. A mind-numbing 54 times! Furthermore, Aerosmith's resident Page parrot Joe Perry proceeded to make a career out of Page's Woody Woodpecker fixation, starting with "Walk This Way." Heh heh heh heh heh, indeed!

Candidate: Willie Dixon, musical influence
Reason: Zep recorded more tunes by this crusty ol' black dude ("I Can't Quit You Babe," "You Shook Me") than any other. Many thought the band outright stole Dixon's "You Need Lovin'" for its biggest hit, "Whole Lotta Love." Stung by Rolling Stone's attacks that Zeppelin shortchanged its musical sources, the group covered only public-domain stuff on its next album. Later, to skirt the issue altogether, the band allotted co-writing credits to Memphis Minnie and Ritchie Valens' mother! The boys even proposed to donate proceeds of a tour to a fictitious blues museum, which they reneged on. The Back Door Man's still waiting.

Candidate: Peter Noone, musical influence
Reason: During their stints as Britain's most-sought-after session musicians in the early Sixties, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones played on virtually every recording Herman's Hermits ever made. Not counting Zeppelin's own nine studio albums, the Hermits catalogue is the second-largest body of Zeppelin recordings known to man. Who could forget Page's blistering, six-second solo in "Got a Feeling"? Or Jones' slushy string arrangement on "A Kind of Hush"? It's also conceivable that the success Noone enjoyed with his limited vocal range inspired Page to make a bid for pop-singing stardom in 1965 with his lone single "She Just Satisfies." Verdict--Jimmy, you're no Herman!

Candidate: Satan
Reason: If you buy into the band's mythology--and most of the insiders interviewed for Zep's unauthorized bio Hammer of the Gods do--Page, Robert Plant and John Bonham's secret pact with Beelzebub was responsible for the band's instant and massive worldwide success, and the tragedies that soon befell each member thereafter. Diehard ministers still maintain the band used backmasking on "Stairway to Heaven" to encode hidden messages like Plant singing "Here's to my sweet Satan" and "I live for Satan." Don't be surprised if, several months from now, some reverend plays Page and Plant's UnLEDded album backward and uncovers a message like "C'mon, Lucifer, double or nothing!"

Candidate: Jeff Beck, musical mentor and rival
Reason: In spring '66, Beck invited Page to join the Yardbirds--as a bassist! Problems arose when Page became second lead guitarist and upstaged the temperamental Beck. This dual-guitar dream team lasted for a handful of live shows and an appearance in Michelangelo Antonioni's swinging London thriller Blowup, in which Beck smashes up a guitar that looked like it was made of papier-mƒch‚! In '68, the two went head to head again when Page patterned Zep's first album after the Jeff Beck Group's first album, Truth. Both featured quiet, folky stuff, some sledgehammer rock and two Willie Dixon covers, with both bands trying to outshake "You Shook Me." Later, Page will, er, rearrange the riff from Beck's "Rice Pudding" for "The Ocean." Candidate: Keith Relf, musical partner in crime

Reason: The Yardbirds' lead singer gave Page an early and valuable lesson in the fine art of song stealing when the pair conspired to rip off a song from New York folk singer/songwriter Jake Holmes. Its title? "Dazed and Confused." Although the song remained the same, Relf changed the lyrics and titled the "new" work "I'm Confused." Confused? Not as much as Holmes and Relf were when Zeppelin released its debut album. Page proved he was an apt pupil by changing the title back to "Dazed and Confused," writing new lyrics again and claiming sole writing credit. Atta boy, Zoso!

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