St. Pete Rockers Worry: Is Led Zeppelin Jewish?

During a recent journalistic exploration of the wonderful world of Russian Heavy Metal, I was put in touch with a gentleman who was the proud owner of St. Petersburg's largest metal archive. As our meeting was drawing to a close he leaned towards me and whispered: "Do you know much about Led Zeppelin?"

"Yes," I answered. I had been a sad, pimply, obsessed fan of the band in my youth.

"Well, tell me this then," he continued, "Jimmy Page, [the lead guitarist] is it true that he was ... a Jew?"

I stared at him in slack-jawed amazement. "Because his real name was Jimmy Goodwin," he said, beaming nervously. "It's a very Jewish name, don't you think? In the West, you may think nothing of it. But this is a very, very important question among heavy rock fans here in Russia."

Now, I have always found anti-Semitism in this country a baffling phenomenon. Even in St. Petersburg, a politically liberal center that has never experienced any major pogroms, casual anti-Semitism is a disconcertingly common occurrence.

Shortly after arriving here, I attended a play written by an avant-garde playwright of the 20s which was laced with anti-Jewish jokes. It was with a distinctly Western brand of horror that I slowly became aware of the atavistic force stretching out to the chortling, well-educated, middle-class audience -- which included a number of friends and relatives -- across the gulf of a century. Since then, I have almost grown inured to the accusations that they killed Christ, the diatribes against the Judeo-Bolshevik coup plotters and Alexander Lebed's sundry outbursts.

What is most curious is that now, more than at any time since Catherine the Great annexed the Polish territories in the 18th century, does the Jewish threat exist only in the skewed, tainted imaginations of certain sections of the Russian people.

The Jewish population has dwindled to less than half of 1 percent of Russia's total. Around a million have emigrated in the past 25 years. In St. Petersburg, a city of 5 million, the Jewish community numbers only around 100,000 or 2 percent of the total population. In light of this, any claims by Lebed or Zhirinovsky are no less outlandish or preposterous than the Led Zeppelin theory. Anti-Semitism is just another symptom of the regressive mentality that keeps Russia locked in a terrifying era which the rest of Europe has managed, somehow, to live through.

Which brings me to my final point: James Patrick Page, born on Jan. 9, 1944, in Middlesex, England, is not, and has never been called Jimmy Goodwin. Nowhere during my exhaustive adolescent research did I ever come across any mention of his being a Jew. The controversy is over. All you metal-plated bigots out there can sleep soundly in your beds tonight.