April 7th 2019. Pete and I are eating breakfast at the Corner Bakery Café in W Randolph Street in the middle of Chicago. It’s the third day of our holiday. We have both ordered the Anaheim Scrambler consisting of “crisp applewood smoked bacon, tomatoes, green onions, and cheddar cheese, avocado, oven-roasted breakfast potatoes and harvest toast.” A small snack. When ordering, Pete asked if he could have extra bacon, please. When our server brought the huge plates over, there was no extra bacon. Pete asked “Did I order some extra bacon?” She smiled at us, shook her head and just mumbled “No”. She clearly had no idea what we were talking about. When we got the bill, we saw that we had been given a 10% Police Officer’s discount. In trying to make sense of this, we could only assume that when Pete asked for extra bacon, she didn’t understand anything he said apart from mishearing “please” as “Police”. He was very chuffed to think that she believed that he was a Police Officer and he couldn’t wait to tell his brother (who actually was a Police Officer).
April 5th 2012 and Pete and I are in La Junta, Colorado, staying at a Holiday Inn. The previous day we had travelled 548 miles through Kansas from Tulsa, Oklahoma. We thought we might have a hearty (or heart attack) breakfast, for a change. There were eggs, bacon, doughnuts and toast. The perfect way to start a day. I couldn’t find any butter for the toast so I asked the server if she had any butter. Her reaction was the same as the server in Chicago – she smiled, shook her head and muttered “No”. I sat down and complained to Pete that there was no butter for my toast. He thought for a few seconds and went up to the same girl and adopted a ridiculously spoof Southern States drawl. “Hey! Ya garrrrt any bardha?” To which she smiled at him and quickly gave him about twenty individually wrapped pats of butter. Or bardha as it was known for the rest of the trip. I guess she thought I was making a comment about her butt. Maybe it was failure to pass my Spoken English exam in 1970 coming back to haunt me.
Sometimes it’s not the accent that creates a communication breakdown. It can be
stupidity a slip of the tongue. There was a Head of Department meeting that I attended a few years ago. Pete was there along with my dear friend Burton. One of the Deputy Heads was introducing (yet another) new form of assessment for Year Seven students. There was no real point discussing this because the culture of the school was not to come to a consensus but to do what the Senior Staff dictated. After several minutes of enduring a convoluted explanation, someone asked the Head whether this form of assessment was intended for all Year Sevens or just for a few of them. “Oh yes”, replied the Head. “It’s going to be verbatim”. A stunned silence followed as everyone tried to suppress giggles and whispered to each other “Did he just say ‘verbatim'”? “I think he meant ‘compulsory'”.
Countess Frau Eva von Zeppelin, the granddaughter of the founder of the Zeppelin Airship company, believed that the band was disrespecting her family’s history by using the Zeppelin name. She reportedly even referred to the group as “shrieking monkeys.” Things got so tense, in fact, that the band changed its name during a tour of Copenhagen in 1970 to avoid legal problems. After some back-and-forth regarding multiple ideas, the name “The Nobs” was agreed upon.
“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” was written by Anne Bredon in the late 1950s and later covered by Joan Baez before Led Zeppelin recorded it and credited it as a traditional song. The songwriting credit was changed on later releases.
“Dazed And Confused” was written by a folk singer named Jake Holmes. The Yardbirds heard him sing the song when he opened for them in New York and they incorporated the song into their set. When they transformed into Led Zeppelin, they recorded a version on their first album and subsequently played it live over 400 times. In 2010, Jake Holmes sued Led Zeppelin for infringement of copyright and later settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
“Black Mountain Side” is an instrumental which uses an arrangement of “Down By Blackwater Side” created by Bert Jansch. “The thing I’ve noticed about Jimmy Page whenever we meet is that he can’t look me in the eye,” Bert Jansch told Classic Rock in 2007. When pushed to elaborate, he continued, “Well, he ripped me off , didn’t he? Or let’s just say he learned from me. I wouldn’t want to sound impolite.”
A communication breakdown can take all forms. Sometimes very costly, sometimes embarrassing and often very funny.