Before it meandered into my soul — and, later, my debut novel — Led Zeppelin’s “The Crunge” ranked as one of my least favorite tunes from one of my favorite bands. The little known song, with its heavy bass line and funk guitar, after all, had heady competition on the group’s eclectic “Houses of the Holy” album from 1973. Overshadowing this kinda throwaway number was the rich tapestry of multi-genre rock that would titillate us fans, crackle through speakers. Make us strike Jimmy Page air-guitar poses (absent the dragon pants and violin shredded bow), or lip synch like his bronze-chested front man, Robert Plant. Take your pick of sonic genius: “The Song Remains the Same,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Dancing Davs, No Quarter,” “The Ocean.”

The poor, little “The Crunge” was like a Dickensian orphan, living on the cold English streets on handouts and soupy gruel. Please, sir, can you spare a half pence. The moon children on the album cover stole my money.

My disregard (or dislike) of the song shifted once I got my driver’s license in high school, and my buddies and I searched for safe havens to party beyond the annoying eyes of the Pasadena Police Department. We found our oasis in the accessible, climbable underbelly of the Foothill Freeway’s Pioneer Bridge in a dip into the Arroyo Seco on the west side of town. Just to the south of us? You guessed it. The historic, deadly, and regularly mythologized Colorado Street Bridge. The bridge us local-yokels called “Suicide Bridge” because of the dozens that’d jumped to their deaths from it. Not that any of us knew its origin story.

One day, somebody listening to Zep’s Houses of the Holy picked up on the ending coda in “The Crunge.” Plant, doing a proto-bee-bop, says”


Oh, will ya excuse me
I’m just trying to find the bridge
Has anybody seen the bridge?
Have you seen the bridge?
I ain’t seen the bridge!
Where’s that confounded bridge?



The doggerel eventually coalesced into our mantra, sometimes announced over a portable cassette player (hey, it was the late-seventies) in an off-key chorus of beery, teenage howling. It was as though Zep had written “The Crunge” specifically for our testosterone high-jink and antics in proximity to one of the most famous bridges in America. Decades later, when I was mapping out the reinforcing columns of my novel, I remembered our delirious shouting, “Has anybody seen the bridge?” like a mob of lunatics. It was those memories, if not literary osmosis, that insisted I include it in Arroyo. Not only that, other Zep songs, written in that poetic, JRR Tolkien-flavored, metaphor-heavy style, felt bespoke for my escapist historical fiction. So in allusions to them went with a glint in my eye.

The mystery still remained. Why did Zeppelin include the spoken words, when they rarely did, at the end of this ditty? Thanks to the Google machine, now we know.

According to Song Facts, “The Crunge” was the result of a studio jam session where drummer John Bonham began the backbeat, bassist John Paul Jones jumped in, Jimmy Page got lathered up doing his best James-Brown-guitarist interpretation, and Robert Plant started belting it out. While it’s un-syncopated rhythm renders it virtually impossible for most pedestrIans to dance to, Zep wanted to add steps for it on the album, but it proved to be a logistical stumper. As to the my holy grail question about why there was a reference to a bridge, the answer turned out to be an inspirational bummer. The bee-bop was a reference to “the James Brown song they took the guitar riff from where Brown asks his band to ‘Take it to the bridge.'”

As in the bridge in a traditional pop song separating the verse and the chorus.

Be that as it may, I prefer to believe that somehow, someway, Robert Plant was also winking at the Colorado Street Bridge, Pasadena’s most mysterious, jawbreaking hunk of concrete and steel. That’s why one of Robert’s relatives, as imagined by yours truly, plays an outsize role in Arroyo. Yeah, I found the bridge, and I have Zep to thank for it.