Led Zeppelin IV

All transcriptions taken from Jeff Lybarger's Song of the Day Webpage!

Click on an album cover to start your flight!

LZ IV

 

"Black Dog"
"In this house, Headley Grange, there was an old black dog...it was really quite old and one night it had been off doing the things that dogs do, and then came back and slept all day. It was quite a powerful image at the time (laughs) so we called it "Black Dog."- Jimmy Page. Ha! That old dog had some life left in him yet! Join me today for a look back at the classic track that kicks off the famous untitled, fourth, runes, or Zoso album, (whatever the hell it's going by now). Track one, clocking in at 4:55, a song of love, "Black Dog."

A rather unorthodox beginning to a song, Jimmy's guitar ringing out a few notes, and then a primitive wail from the golden god of cock-rock:

"Hey Hey mama, said the way you move,
gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove...


The band kicks in with the famous riff for the first time. A catchy, rocking riff that has stood the test of time. A riff written not by James Patrick, but by John Paul Jones! Taking Jonsey's idea and working it into the bridge, turning it around, Jimmy definitely has his share of the input here, but the main seed was planted by Jonsey.

"Ah ah child way you shake that thing,
gonna make you burn, gonna make you sting...
Hey Hey baby way you walk that way,
watch your honey drip, can't keep away..."


Back to the riff, and then the change is heard for the first time, the "oh yeah" part rocks and rolls right along, grooving like a runaway train, Bonham doing things to his kit that are outlawed in all fifty states, (good thing this was recorded in England.) Jimmy's guitar has one of the most incredible tones on this song. When striving for "that perfect tone", this is one of the songs that springs to mind as having found the sweet spot. The build up during this section is so damn hot, creating beautifully the perfect amount of "tension and release", when finally things come to a halt and it's back to the a capella vocal:

"I gotta roll, can't stand still,
gotta flaming heart, can't get my fill...
Eyes that shine burning red,
dreams of you all through my head..."


In a song of this nature, where there is no doubt only one thing is on Robert's mind, to drop a line like "dreams of you all through my head" in is so tasteful. A very beautiful line that could have found it's way into the "Rain Song", "Ten Years Gone", or even "All My Love."

Now we get to the sing along section. The "Ah ah, ah ah", call and response that would never fail to involve the audience in a live setting. Dropping little sections in a song like this are also a neat feeling for the band, to be standing on a stage and have an ocean of your fans singing your songs back to you.

The crunch of the next section is so awesome as well. "Oh baby, oh baby", Robert sings, and just dig the way Jonsey, Bonzo, and Pagey are ROCKIN' behind him. THAT is heavy rock my friends, you can have all the metal bands blasting bar chords all over the place, but Zeppelin shows in this section just how to be heavy, and still be creative!

"Didn't take too long ' fore I found out,
what people mean by down and out...
Spent my money, took my car,
started tellin' her friends,
she's gonna be a star..."


Whoa, where did that come from? Is the little woman taking Robert for a ride, instead of the other way around? Perhaps he learns his lesson, as evidenced in the following line:

"All I ask for, all I pray,
steady rollin' woman gonna come my way...
Need a woman gonna hold my hand,
tell me no lies, make me a happy man..."


As they head for the finish line, (Jonsey once said this song was a race to see who could finish first), Jimmy tears into one of his most amazing solo's. The beauty in his playing can't be underestimated. You have this start/stop riff going on within the rhythm section, and Jimmy cuts loose with a barrage of notes, but every one is perfect. Certain licks are so "right", that you couldn't picture anything else being played at that precise moment. Jonsey once described Jimmy's solo as, "Fucking brilliant", and I would have to agree.

"Black Dog" first found it's way into a Led Zeppelin concert on March 5, 1971, at the Belfast Ulster Hall. It stayed in the set all the way up to the 1973 U.S. tour, then in 1975 at Earl's Court it was used as a medley with "Whole Lotta Love." Very rarely played in 1977, it did find it's way into the July 23rd Oakland show as a second encore. Returned for the Copenhagen warm-up shows as well as Knebworth. In 1980 it was played usually as the third song of the evening, complete with a spoken intro by Jimmy.

Used as part of the "Tall Cool One" sample and again when Robert quoted directly from "Black Dog" in "Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night" from the Manic Nirvana CD. Jimmy threw in a touch of this on his Outrider tour, as a medley with "Custard Pie." Funny thing with this song, Robert once said he would find it sad to be singing "Black Dog" at age 50 stumbling around stadiums in America, but that's pretty much what happened, as Page/Plant brought it out on their "Unleded" tour. Of course Robert didn't stumble, and the song rocked. As usual. A rather bizarre and unusual arrangement was performed on the Andrew Denton show as well, when they were making the promotional rounds.

"Black Dog" is one of the Zeppelin monuments. Everybody knows it, fan or not, and it still receives tons of airplay on American radio. A killer song, with awesome playing, a classic moment captured on tape for all eternity!

"Rock & Roll"
Alright, let’s get back to some good old fashioned rock as only Led Zeppelin could deliver it. Today’s tune was born out of a moment of inspiration and jamming and as soon as it was released it became an instantly recognizable song for the band. So pull out your copy of the fourth album; track two, clocking in at 3:40 of pure ecstasy; “Rock & Roll.”

The band were in the studio working on “Four Sticks” when drummer John Bonham began banging out the intro to Little Richard’s “Keep A-Knocking” and Page improvised the riff… or at least part of the riff that we now know… and after a few bars the song ground to a halt, but it was on tape and the band knew they had something good.

Many times over their illustrious career Zeppelin gave odd names to their songs, names that on the surface appeared to have absolutely nothing to do with what the song was about; but that is far from the case here. This may be their most aptly titled song in their catalog because just looking at the album; you know with this track exactly what you are getting.

Bonzo’s drum intro blows away the Little Richard drummer and after a few seconds Page comes flying in with his 12-bar riff and you are suddenly catapulted into a speeding car blazing down the interstate breaking all kinds of speed laws.

When Robert enters, it is with a classic line that was just begging to be a show opener:

It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled
It’s been a long time since I did the stroll
Ooh Let me get it back, let me get it back, let me get it back
Baby where I come from
It’s been a long time, been a long time
Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time
Yes it has…


And with that, we are only :55 seconds into the song. Bonham’s great intro, Jimmy’s ripping guitar riff, Plant’s great vocal, Jonsey holding it all together and longtime Rolling Stone sideman Ian Stewart on the piano and we haven’t even hit the one minute mark yet!

It’s been a long time since the book of love
I can’t count the tears of a life with no love
Carry me back, carry me back, carry me back
Baby where I come from
Whoa – whoa – whoa –oh
It’s been a long time, been a long time
Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time
Ahhhhhhhhh-Ahhhhhh-Ahhhhhh


And at this point Jimmy seems to be teasing us as to what’s to come, which is simply one of his most fiery and ripping solos ever. Jimmy was – and still is – one of the great masters in the studio. His “Guitar Army” is on full display here as he builds up to the actual solo and when he gets to it he doesn’t disappoint. It may be a simple solo over a standard 12-bar blues progression, but the intensity and passion with which the notes fly from his fingers is jaw-dropping.

Ohhh it seems so long since we walked in the moonlight
Making vows that just can’t work right
Ahh yeah, open your arms, open your arms, open your arms
Baby, let my love come running in
Yeah
It’s been a long time, been a long time
Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time
Yeah – Hey! Yeah – Hey! Yeah – Hey! Yeah – Hey!
Ooh yeah, Ooh-ooh yeah
Ooh yeah, Ooh-ooh yeah
It’s been a long time, been a long time
Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time


And just as he begins the song, Bonzo ends it with a terrific mini-solo before Jimmy joins him for the big finish. Now this is what made Led Zeppelin so special. The ability to take a standard 12-bar blues progression and turn it into something this amazing and hot and they do all this in just under four minutes. Proving my point that the long, drawn out solos they favored in their live shows were completely unnecessary.

After the release of the fourth album, Rock & Roll became a staple at just about every single show they did from then on out. Sometimes it was used as an encore medley with Whole Lotta Love, other times it was its own encore, during various tours it was, appropriately, used as the opening number and at times it was used in the main set.

At Live Aid in 1985, the reformed Zeppelin, with Tony Thompson and Phil Collins on drums, played this as their first of three songs to support Bob Geldof’s plea to “Feed The World.” Jimmy Page played this song in Japan on the Coverdale/Page tour in December 1993, then again with Robert in the Page/Plant days. Heart has long used this as a showcase for Ann Wilson’s vocal range and the fact that Nancy just adores Zeppelin.

On 10 December 2007, when Led Zeppelin reunited for one final full length performance with Jason Bonham behind the kit, they again played this popular track. Then, in 2008, Jimmy and John Paul joined the Foo Fighters on stage at Wembley Stadium and played “Rock & Roll” as well as “Ramble On” in a performance that was simply electrifying. On Rock & Roll, Foo drummer Taylor Hawkins took over the vocal duties whilst Dave Grohl played drums. And Hawkins also sang the third verse second and the second verse third, just as Plant typically did live.

“Rock & Roll” is one of those songs that everybody recognizes the instant it comes on, thanks to the amazing skill of John Bonham and it has long been one of their most popular tracks.

"The Battle Of Evermore"
I remember being 15-years old and going with a good friend of mine to camp out for concert tickets to see an upcoming show. Showing my age here, but this was in the day before Ticketbastard, back when all tickets were purchased through music stores and it was first-come, first-served and those who were first nabbed the best seats.

The show that was coming to town was a very popular band and so it was that on the evening before the tickets were to go on sale, we were at the record store along with another couple hundred people. These camp-outs turned into huge parties with plenty of refreshments and music to keep us entertained throughout the long evenings.

One guy had an old Camaro and was blasting Led Zeppelin’s 4 th album for us all and everybody was rocking out to “Black Dog” and “Rock & Roll…” but when “The Battle Of Evermore” came on, everyone’s attention waned and the guy went back to his car and forwarded the cassette tape to “Stairway.”

I was enraged! How could he do this? How could he just skip past a Zeppelin song? There are no songs on Zeppelin albums that you just skip through. This isn’t some crappy pop-metal band from the 1980’s where an album would have maybe one or two good songs; this was Led Zeppelin dammit! Every song matters! And every song deserves our full attention.

It’s funny – the memories we keep; those little fragments of time that remain with us over the years and through all of our experiences. Why do some stay at the forefront of our minds while others are completely forgotten? I can’t provide an adequate answer for that, but I remember that night so vividly and with such intense detail that I still get mad thinking about it.

So, with that guy in the Camaro in mind, today we will journey back to the 4th album, side one, track three, clocking in at 5:52, and a song that should never be skipped over; “The Battle Of Evermore.”

This song came about when Jimmy decided to pick up a mandolin owned by John Paul and even though he hadn’t played a mandolin or known any chords on the instrument, somehow Jimmy started finding the foundation for this masterpiece.

Robert had been reading about Scottish folklore and the Scottish wars, and this provided an impetus for the song, as well, he was again influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien and his own masterpiece, “The Lord Of The Rings.”

The tune begins as Jimmy’s mandolin fades in ever so quietly and subtly. Considering the context of the album and where this song was placed – just after the very raucous “Rock & Roll” – the stark contrast is quite dramatic. But this again shows why Led Zeppelin was so far ahead of their contemporaries - if you could even call them contemporaries – because there isn’t any other band in rock during that time that I could even begin to fathom pulling off a number like this.

Joining Robert on this is Sandy Denny, formerly of Fairport Convention, and the one person who holds the distinction of being the only guest singer to be featured on a Led Zeppelin album alongside Robert. Her performance here is astounding. To make it easy, I will print out Robert’s lyrics in regular print, and Sandy’s will be in italics.

The queen of Light
Took her bow
And then she turned to go
The Prince of Peace
Embraced the gloom
And walked the night alone

OH – DANCE IN THE DARK OF NIGHT – SING TO THE MORNING LIGHT

The Dark Lord rides in force tonight
And time will tell us all…

OH – THROW DOWN YOUR PLOW AND HOE – REST NOT TO LOCK YOUR HOMES

Side by side, we wait the might
Of the darkest of them all…

OHHH- OH-OH-OH

I hear horses thunder
Down in the valley below
I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon
Waiting for the Eastern glow
The apples of the valley hold
The seeds of happiness
The ground is rich from tender care
Repay do not forget
No – no

OH – DANCE IN THE DARK OF NIGHT, SING TO THE MORNING LIGHT

The apples turn to brown and black
The tyrant’s face is red

OH – WAR IS THE COMMON CRY – PICK UP YOUR SWORDS AND FLY

The sky is filled
With good and bad
That mortals never know
OH – NOW
Oh well, the night is long
The beads of time pass slow
Tired eyes on the sunrise
Waiting for the Eastern glow
The pain of war, cannot exceed
The woe of aftermath
The drums will shake the castle wall
The ring-wraiths ride in black
Ride on – ride on

SING AS YOU RAISE YOUR BOW – SHOOT STRAIGHTER THAN BEFORE

No comfort has, the fire at night
That lights the face so cold

OH – DANCE IN THE DARK OF NIGHT – SING TO THE MORNING LIGHT

The magic Runes are writ in gold
To bring the balance back
Bring it back!
At last the sun is shining
The clouds of blue roll by
With flames from the dragon of darkness
The sunlight blinds his eyes…
Bring it back!
Bring it back!
Bring it back!
Bring it back!
Bring it back!
Bring it back!
Bring it back!
Bring it back!
Oh now – oh now – oh now – oh!


Seriously… how can anyone ever possibly imagine skipping over this track? You have more fantastic lyrics from Robert… my personal favorite line being: Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the Eastern glow… you also have two amazingly beautiful voices in a call and response, playing off each other, and the musicianship between Jimmy on mandolin and Jonsey on guitar is transcendent.

It is one of those rarest of songs because it reveals a side of Led Zeppelin that many couldn’t comprehend. This was the same band that had delivered “Whole Lotta Love” and “Immigrant Song” and yet they are able to write such a lovely folk ballad and perform it in a way that just sends a chill down the spine. And I mean that in the best way possible!

Obviously, performing this in concert proved to be a rather difficult task as Zeppelin never toured with any side musicians in their heyday. I’m sure nobody wanted to embark on a tour just to come out and sing on one song and it’s doubtful that such a small contribution would have paid very well. So, Zeppelin only played this live during their 1977 US tour, with the difficult task of singing Sandy Denny’s part falling on John Paul Jones.

Not to put JPJ down, but his voice isn’t of the same quality as Ms. Denny and live, the song suffered a bit. Fortunately, when Jimmy and Robert reunited in 1994 for “Unledded,” they dusted this masterpiece off and introduced the world to the vocal prowess of Najma Akhtar.

The version that aired on MTV was absolutely incredible. The Egyptian Orchestra, Nigel Eaton and his Hurdy-Gurdy, combined with Najma, transformed the song while Page and Plant kept it grounded in the roots that we have all come to know and love. This new version was a bit longer, clocking in at 6:42 and Najma didn’t sing all of Sandy’s lines… sometimes choosing to extend notes instead of singing the second line in a particular lyric. It mattered little though, because the 1994 version of this song was, in a word, mesmerizing.

Nancy and Ann Wilson, noted sisters of the famous rock group Heart, have performed this song a number of times, including in their side project called The Lovemongers. Their live versions of “The Battle Of Evermore” are terrific, even if they don’t seem to know the correct lyrics. One notable error is in the line: I hear horses thunder, down in the valley below. For some reason Ann sings: I hear the voice of thunder, down in the valley below. And Nancy sometimes sings certain lines out of order, but aside from that they really do this number quite well.

Robert performed the song with Fairport Convention in 2008 as well as with Alison Krauss on their tour together for “Raising Sand.” The versions I have heard with Alison are the closest I’ve heard to Sandy Denny and they are at a slightly slower pace than Zeppelin or Page/Plant performed it at.

Speaking of Sandy Denny… she died tragically in 1978 at the tender age of 31. Considering her voice and talent, I find it terribly sad that her life ended so abruptly.

In closing, I see “The Battle Of Evermore” as one of the essential Zeppelin songs since it showed the band in a way that so few could have imagined, even after “III” had been released. That many consider their 4th album to be their quintessential album; I believe that this song is one of the reasons for that, even if some people don’t realize it.

In the 2009 movie “It Might Get Loud,” the image of Jimmy sitting outside Headley Grange playing the mandolin – playing this amazing song by himself – is one of my favorite, lasting images of the man. That brief 45 seconds or so on film is just priceless and so too is this song.

"Stairway To Heaven"
There’s no secret what song this is as it is only the most popular song in rock and roll history. So, without further ado, pull out your copy of  and turn to the final track on side one, the biggest epic of all epics, clocking in at 8:00, “Stairway To Heaven.”

Not only is this the biggest song in Led Zeppelin’s history, it is also the one filled with the most controversy. We’ll get to some of the more controversial aspects a little later, but one thing that has been brought up is that the intro for the song isn’t entirely original. A group called Spirit, who Zeppelin opened for in their early days, released a song in 1968 titled “Taurus” that bears quite a strong resemblance to the opening of “Stairway.”

That much is true. And since Spirit played this song whilst on tour with Zeppelin, it is undeniable that Jimmy heard it. However, I must say, once again, that Jimmy took the seed of an idea, and produced an absolute rose garden of a song. Spirit’s version is nowhere near as crisp as “Stairway” nor does it flesh out into so many different areas. This is one instance where I give Jimmy leeway because he added so much more to the intro and, to top it off, he totally changed the way rock ballads would be written from then on.

According to Page, the song was written over an extended period of time and it began during a respite from the road when the band was holed up at Bron-Yr-Aur in Wales. As Jimmy explained it, he had an idea for a song that would speed up and constantly continue building, much like an adrenaline rush, until it would eventually reach a crescendo. One of the reasons he wanted to write a song like this was because both he and John Paul Jones were former studio musicians and the one rule they had to follow was to never speed up. It was a rule Jimmy hated and purposely writing a song that broke that rule was something that really appealed to him.

Robert first began writing lyrics for this at Headley Grange whilst relaxing by a fire. As Plant stated: “My hand was writing out the words, 'There's a lady is sure [sic], all that glitters is gold, and she's buying a stairway to heaven'. I just sat there and looked at them and almost leapt out of my seat."

Plant's own explanation of the lyrics was that it "was some cynical aside about a woman getting everything she wanted all the time without giving back any thought or consideration. The first line begins with that cynical sweep of the hand ... and it softened up after that.”

According to Jimmy, Robert wrote roughly 80% of the lyrics on the spot and early bootleg recordings seem to support this, as only minor changes were made. John Paul picked up a recorder {a flute-like instrument} and created the intro section that plays alongside the guitar whilst hearing it at Bron-Yr-Aur.

Jimmy’s opening guitar piece is so beautifully played and has inspired millions of guitarists, despite what jokes were made during the movie Wayne’s World. The acoustic guitar shows Jimmy picking out the individual notes of the chords; the bass notes descending as the higher notes ascend, creating an absolutely celestial beginning. He then drops down the neck and plays a D/F# barre chord, before switching to the Fmaj7 and then ends with the G/B and Am chords. Then the beautiful slide from the open A note up to the 8th fret on the A string, then the note on the 7th fret on the A string {E} and then he repeats the entire section.

He then shows how beautiful simple chords can be as he articulates the C-G-D-C-D-Fmaj7-Am-C-D-Fmaj7 section that leads us to the entrance of Robert.

There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven

When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh
And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven

There’s a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings

In a tree by the brook
There’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven


At this point Page continues playing the intro, though he is now playing it faster, giving it very much a classical guitar feel. And then the first change appears as Page begins strumming the guitar{s}, both acoustic and electric, and the first sign that this is going to be something special, something unique, is revealed.

Ooh – it makes me wonder
Ooh – it makes me wonder


Jimmy’s use of a twelve string electric really brightens the chords throughout this section and adds a very positive vibe to the song and basically works as a counter to Plant’s lyrics, which takes on a bit of a cynical view.

There’s a feeling I get
When I look – to the West
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking

Ooh it makes me wonder
Ooh it really makes me wonder
And it’s whispered that soon
If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason

And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter


Page continues alternating between the picked notes and the strumming chords, and while the chords he plays are simple, they have such an ethereal quality to them that whole track begins to reveal a completely majestic side to it that nothing else rivals. It is music at its finest and most brilliant and I would be willing to bet that if someone like Beethoven or Mozart could hear this; they would approve.

Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh

And now the third change in the song as Bonham enters and you can feel the song slowly rising, like a morning sun, casting a light – and shadow – over all who stand attentive.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow
Don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a Spring-clean for the May Queen

Yes there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
An’ there’s still time to change the road you’re on

And it makes me wonder…
Ahh…oh-oh

Your head is humming and it won’t go
In case you don’t know
The piper’s calling you to join him

Dear lady can you hear the wind blow?
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind
Ahh…


Page then leads us into change number four and a beautiful interlude based around the D chord. Playing the “Da-Da-Da… DaDa-Da” section, we are being prepared for an onslaught of the senses. A simple Dsus4/2 – D – Dsus4 chord progression, combined with Bonham’s thunderous drums, signal the war cry and a fair warning. To me, this section has always seemed to be connected to “Immigrant Song,” even though that probably makes no sense. It’s like the call of the Viking god as he descends upon his enemies and the chant: “Valhalla I am coming” seems to fit perfectly with what is played here.

Bonham then kicks into high gear as Jimmy lays down one of his greatest solos ever and the solo voted best ever in rock music by Guitar World. The chord progression that Page solos over is a standard Am – C/G – Fmaj7 progression and he solos in the key of Am. Yet he uses a very clever idea by landing on the F note, which is not in the Am pentatonic scale, yet it fits here because of the F chord that is played. That F note in the solo gives the solo its very distinct sound quality and really adds flavor to it in a way that would not have been possible had he avoided the note simply because it isn’t in the Am pentatonic scale. It was a brilliant decision by Page and one that has influenced many guitarists since.

Jimmy’s solo is just perfect and he brought out his old Telecaster for this one. Listen as he gradually builds the solo, ranging from lower notes in the scale to quickly flying up to higher notes and at the 6:26 mark he adds a slide guitar melody to which his lead guitar responds to in a classic call and response that Page seemed to make a trademark in Zeppelin’s music and is deeply rooted in the blues.

During this part Jimmy adds some tasty bends, squeezing every last drop of emotion out of his Tele as Bonham and Jones are locked in a tight groove underneath him. As Jimmy’s solo reaches its apex, Bonham delivers a punishing pattern on the drums, leading us into the final, furious section.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
Yeah…
To be a rock – and not to roll
Ohh…

And she’s buying a stairway - to Heaven


For more evidence of how great John Bonham is, just listen to him between the 7:15-7:29 mark; he is absolutely magnificent throughout that entire section. As the song slows down, all the instruments fade out as Robert sings the final line alone and the single greatest song in rock history is done. Hearing this song, whether for the first time or the millionth time; feels like an absolute roller-coaster ride.

The song made its stage debut on 5 March 1971, in Belfast at the Ulster Hall. It was then played at every Led Zeppelin show onward save for the two shows that were cut short; Tampa in 1977 and Nuremburg 1980. The final show that Led Zeppelin played, in Berlin, on 7 July 1980, saw, ironically, the longest known live version of “Stairway” ever.

There were many great things about the live versions of this wonderful song, including the fact that Jimmy would add a lot to his playing; during the intro he would add hammer-ons and pull-offs, trills, slides and would take what was an already amazing piece of music and make it better. In the solo sections he would often venture off into new realms, never playing the same solo on a given night. He always kept the main structure intact, as that was so classic and well-known, but he always stretched it out, constantly adding and searching for new ways to express himself in the solo.

Robert was well known for creating certain vocal additions as well; his famous “Does anybody remember laughter?” is one notable addition, his humorous “Does anybody remember… forests?” is another. The line, “And I think you can see that” is another, that one made famous from the movie “The Song Remains The Same.” After the lyric: “There’s still time to change the road you’re on” he would add “I hope so!” And of course, this was also known as a “song of hope,” an edited version of what Robert said that night in 1973 that made it onto the soundtrack for the film.

In 1983 Jimmy was invited to take part in the A.R.M.S. Benefit Concerts for Ronnie Lane, noted bassist for The Small Faces and The Faces and Page played an instrumental version of the song on that tour. Then, on 13 July 1985 when the remaining members of Led Zeppelin took the stage to support Bob Geldof and Live Aid, during their brief, three-song set, they closed with “Stairway” with Robert’s bassist from his solo band at the time, Paul Martinez, filling in on bass as John Paul played the organ.

It was then revived again on 14 May 1988 for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert, this time featuring Jason Bonham on drums.

Later that year Jimmy embarked on the Outrider Tour and he would play “Stairway” as an instrumental with Jason encouraging the crowd to sing until it was time for him to play. When Jimmy would introduce the song, he would tell the crowd “you can sing along, air guitar along… do what you want!”

The 1988 versions were good, and showed that Jimmy was still very proud of this song and sincerely appreciated the warmth he received from the crowd as he played this longstanding favorite.

In 1993, on the Coverdale/Page tour of Japan, on the final night, 22 December, during “Take Me For A Little While,” which Jimmy was playing on his double-neck, just before launching into the solo, he played the first few opening notes of “Stairway,” which must have certainly caught the Japanese audience off guard.

In 1994, in Japan again, this time promoting the “Unledded” album with Robert, they played a brief, just over three minute acoustic version on a talk show they were on. While Robert has tried to distance himself from the song, he sang it that night due to losing a bet with Jimmy. And while Robert maintains that he doesn’t care for the song as much as he once did, he sang it very beautifully that evening and seemed to be enjoying himself.

It was then played, perhaps for the final time, on 10 December 2007 at the O2 reunion. After finishing the song Robert said; “Ahmet! We did it!”

Now here’s a real test for anyone who’s been reading this series… if you recall SOTD XLV {that’s 45 for those who don’t like Roman Numerals} I made a promise at the end of that SOTD to talk about my feelings on Zeppelin and the rumors of their alleged “Satanic pact.” I said, at the end of that SOTD that you’ll have to wait till I get to the Stairway… Well, we’re here… finally… and so I will make good with my promise on this.

There are several things that we know as fact; one, Jimmy was interested in and intrigued by the Occult and by Aleister Crowley; two, Zeppelin had an “aura” around them that outsiders simply could not explain and three; the members of Zeppelin didn’t really go out of their way to dispel some of those crazy rumors. To me, there’s a very good reason why they chose to remain silent and it’s called; marketing.

There’s a phrase that any press is good press, even if it’s bad press. And if you think about it, Zeppelin’s fan base was mostly teenagers at the time when they were starting out… from 1968-1971, and probably through their entire career, though some of those teens grew into their twenties and still followed the band. And what appeals to teens? Anything that is antiestablishment and anything that will frighten their parents.

I feel that Zeppelin used mystique as a huge marketing tool and that’s been pretty well documented with Peter Grant’s insistence on controlling every single aspect of the band, from concert tickets to tour shirts to albums to singles… or the lack thereof.

Peter Grant was a smart man, and he knew that the more “mysterious” Zeppelin were, the bigger they would become. It’s like anything in life; if you tell someone they can’t do something, they want to do that exact thing. And so I feel that Zeppelin used the “rumors” to help create even more mystery around them and ultimately, help them sell albums and concert tickets.

There are tons of videos on You Tube declaring Zeppelin as “Satanists” and they even have the lyrics to “Stairway” printed out for you as the song plays backwards. All I can say is that some folks have way too much time on their bloody hands.

Back in the early 1990’s, I had a four-track tape recorder; as a musician I needed one to record ideas and I decided to listen to “Stairway” backwards at the insistence of a friend. We popped the tape in, hit play, and we heard what sounded like Satanic messages. Then I popped in a tape of a bootleg… and sure enough, the same “messages” were there.

So, I looked at my friend and asked him how Zeppelin could infiltrate some bootleggers tape and get their evil, Satanic message on that, when Peter Grant would kick the crap out of anyone he caught bootlegging the band?

He didn’t have an answer, but I suggested that he sing the song into my four-track player while I played the guitar. He did, and then we listened to that backwards. And guess what? We heard the same “messages.”

Now some will have you believe that Led Zeppelin sat down and figured out which words would sound one way forward, but would actually be a Satanic message backwards. And to that; I call, horseshit! It comes down to this… the word “Yes” when played backwards sounds like “Satan.”

This means, of course, that every song that has ever used the word “Yes” in it is Satanic in nature. And every time you are having sex and you utter the word “Yes” you are actually praising Satan. In fact, if we take this even further, the rock band Yes… are actually Satan.

Do you see how crazy and stupid this whole thing gets?

I think Robert Plant summed it up best when he said: "To me it's very sad, because 'Stairway to Heaven' was written with every best intention and as far as reversing tapes and putting messages on the end, that's not my idea of making music." Well stated Robert!

"Misty Mountain Hop"
With summer just around the corner, the time is perfect for sunshine, good music, long talks with those close to us and the promise of brighter tomorrows. Also the perfect time for complete silliness. So today we shall take a look back to the 4th wonder of the world, Zeppelin 4 that is. Untitled, Runes, Zoso or the one between III and Houses. HaHa! Track five, clocking in at 4:39, a truly wacky song, "Misty Mountain Hop."

Jonsey gets everything started on his electric piano, then Jimmy joins him, doubling the riff on the Gibson. A catchy, goofy kind of riff, with an infectious groove to it. One simply cannot sit down when listening to this song. You just have to get up and move, dance, jog, jump, roll around on the ground or go jump on a swing and let your spirit soar high into the sky.

"Walking in the park just the other day baby,
waddya, waddya think I saw...
crowds of people sitting on the grass with flowers
in their hair said,
"Hey boy, do you wanna score?"
... and you know how it is
I really don't know what time it was,
woah oh oh
so I asked them if I could stay awhile"


Once you can figure out what the heck he's singing here it makes the song so much more enjoyable. These lyrics are so... what's the word? Funny? Off-the-wall? Just a typical day in the park in the late '60's early '70's I suppose. It just kills me at the "do you wanna score" part when he says, "and you know how it is." The way he says that line is hilarious. The next part gets better.

 "I didn't notice but it had gotten very dark and I was
really, really out of my mind
Just then a policeman stepped up to me asked us said
"please, hey, would we care, to all get in line, get in line"
Well ya know...
They asked us to stay for tea, and have some fun
whoa, oh oh
He said that his friends would all drop by
whoo hoo hoo"


You following this story? A party in the park, people wasted and having tea with the police? Ok. Hmmm. This is what I love about Robert's lyrics, his tongue is so far in his cheek at times you don't know when to take him serious. A good, upbeat, fun song like this shouldn't be about the environment though, which is why the lyrics fit perfectly.

Then Robert gets serious, changes direction and hits on some interesting points.

"Why don't you take a good look at yourself and describe
what you see, and baby baby baby do you like it?
There you sit sitting spare like a book on a shelf rustin',
ahhh, not trying to fight it
You really don't care if their coming,
whoa oh oh
I know that it's all, a state of mind...
whoo ooh ooh"


Jimmy embarks on a very melodic solo, short and to the point and we're back to Robert and his words of wisdom.

"If you go down in the streets today baby you'd better,
you'd better open your eyes
whoa ohh yeah
folk down there really don't care really don't care, don't care, really don't
which, which way the pressure lies
... So I've decided what I'm gonna do now,
So I'm packing my bags for the Misty Mountains...
where the spirits go now
Over the hills where the spirits fly
ooh ooh ooh"


Bizarre, sometimes hard to understand lyrics, but yet fun. Gotta love that "really don't care" section. The neat thing about Robert's vocals on this song is the way he doubles, maybe even triple tracks some of the parts, and doesn't sing in the conventional way, kind of talk-singing if you will, then when he enters with just the one single track he does so with much force. The vocals, the way they were recorded, and the effect they have are such a vital part to this song. Jonsey and Page lock in on the riff, and Bonzo plays some very cool drum patterns, but the vocals really grab your attention... and hold it.

Zeppelin didn't really pull this one out on the raod that much. The European 1971 tour being an exception, as well as the Japan 1972 tour and the US 1973 shows. The wouldn't bring it back out until much later, at Copenhagen and Knebworth in 1979. Robert loves this song and jammed on it on his last few solo tours. Post Zeppelin airings with Jimmy included the Knebworth 1990 show, a one-off at the Hammersmith 1988 show, and of course the Atlantic 40th birthday party.

So throw some flowers in your hair, crank up the stereo, and let the music be your master. "Misty Mountain Hop" allows us to see that humourous side of Zeppelin, a side they allowed us to see every so often. Great groove, great vibes, the perfect tonic for anyone needing the right pick-me-up.

"Four Sticks"
Today's selection comes from that mysterious fourth album with the little old man with all the sticks on his back, track six, clocking in at 4:44, "Four Sticks."

A super charged riff from the fingers of Jimmy Page kicks this track off, with John Bonham laying down a frantic yet perfectly controlled attack on the skins. The sound of this track is something that has always been such a pleasure to this listeners ears. It has a "quality" unlike any other song that Zeppelin recorded. There is something about this song that is too hard to describe, but the "feel" and "emotion" are quite evident. A majesticness that really lifts this song into another level of craftsmanship.

One of the things that I love so much about this song is Jimmy's main riff. Most people probably don't even notice this, it's such a subtle thing, but the way Jimmy sees music is so different than any other guitarist/songwriter, and that is perfectly evident on this song. The riff kicks in and he plays through it four and a half times, then hit's the "A" chord, where there is a slight pause, then bashes in with the "G" chord which leads him right back to the main riff. The second time through the riff though he only plays it two and a half times, then the "A", pause, then "G." To make this easier to explain, let's say that four and a half is actually five and two and a half is actually three, the "A" chord making up for the last two notes of the riff, in effect the other "half." Then, when Robert enters with the vocals he plays the riff ELEVEN times, then the "A" and "G", then back to three times. The overview that Jimmy has just amazes me sometimes. I can just imagine him trying to explain this song to Bonzo and Jonsey: "OK, we're gonna go five, then three, then eleven, then three, and then, when we get to the second verse we'll go nine and three. Got it? Right, let's give it a go."

To those who are not musicians you have to understand that five and three and eleven and three and nine and three are not too common in most musical structures. I am not talking about the time signature of the song, but the overall structure. Perhaps this is what Jimmy was going for in the first place, a song that defied most musical "laws", yet in the end, works perfectly. Whatever the intentions, the track is most mesmerizing. The addition of John Paul on Moog Synthesizer is the perfect choice for creating that "aura" that is so evident here. Very subtle, yet if you took the synth out of the mix it would be quite noticeable that something was lacking.

Another grand display of the genius that is Jimmy Page in the studio. Another amazing fact about "Four Sticks" is that they almost threw the track away. It was taking them forever to get this on tape and one day out of complete frustration Bonham picked up two sets of sticks and they nailed it within two takes. Jimmy stated in the Robert Godwin book, "The Making Of Led Zeppelin's (Fourth)" that after those two takes it was "physically impossible" for Bonham to do another take. Hence the title of the song, "Four Sticks", and it all happened out of the bands frustration at not being able to get it right before.

As the song winds its way through they get to the change, the "when the owls cry in the night" section, and once again Jimmy displays his vision of what a song CAN be. On the left side of the stereo channel you will hear beautiful acoustic guitars, playing octaves and sounding truly heavenly, while on the right an electric pumping out chords for effect. This section is somewhat bizarre as it hits you out of nowhere, but what a beautiful counterpart to the main riff. When the main riff re-enters it sounds even more powerful following this brief acoustic interlude.

For all those who wonder what the new Page/Plant album will be like, just listen to songs like "Four Sticks", realize that this is JIMMY PAGE, and trust that the new album will be most special. "Four Sticks", as most of you know, was recorded with the Bombay Symphony Orchestra in 1972, along with "Friends", and was perhaps the seed for the inspiration on the "Unleded" unplugged special that first reunited Jimmy and Robert on a permanent basis.

While Zeppelin only performed this song once in their illustrious touring career, on May 3rd, 1971 in Copenhagen, Page/Plant pulled it from the cobwebs and used it as a staple on their 1995/1996 tour. Played at just about every stop on the tour, 108 times in all, it was one of those fun moments for the band, with Michael Lee employing four sticks and Jimmy on the acoustic. My only complaint with the "new" version is that you lose that change from electric to acoustic and back to the electric. With the song performed on acoustic only that sudden change in mood wasn't quite the same. The addition of the orchestra and the Egyptian ensemble however did make for some serious rocking, especially as the tour progressed.

"Four Sticks" is a classic example of Zeppelin working as a band, and Jimmy trying different things than just the standard fare. It may have been a bit frustrating at first for them, trying to get this together, but in the end everything worked out just fine.

"Going To California"
Today we journey back in time to the fourth album, Zoso, if you will, track 7, clocking in at 3:36, "Going To California".

A very beautiful, relaxing guitar from Jimmy begins this little journey down memory lane. A lilting, delicate side of the man who can touch us in the most intense way. Robert sings this so calm and mellow, his voice blending perfectly with the guitar and mandolin.

"Spend my days with a woman unkind
smoked my stuff and drank, all my wine
Made up my mind to make a new start
Going to California with an aching... in my heart

Someone told me there was a girl out there
With love in her eyes and flowers...
In her hair"


When Robert gets to the change, right after the "watch out", it never fails to amaze me the way his voice hits those high notes with such ease. And he pulled this off live all the time. As we get back to the main melody Robert gives us some of his best lyrics ever, deep and thought provoking.

"To find a queen without a king
they say she plays guitar and cries... and sings
Lalalalaa
Ride a white mare in the footsteps of doom
trying to find a woman who's never never never been born

Standin' on a hill in my mountain of dreams...
telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems"


That just chills me. "Going..." was inspired by Robert and Jimmy's love of Joni Mitchell and her music. Jimmy was sTaid to be quite smitten with her, having the fantasy of lying in a bed with Joni sitting at the foot and playing and singing to him. Hmmm.

"Going" was introduced on the spring 1971 tour in the UK. Some of these versions are my favourite, they play the song so soft and Robert sings it beautifully. By the time they got to 1977 it had become very popular and their approach had changed, the song lost some of that "innocence". Not that they were bad versions, another song they always played perfectly, just the style of it had changed by then.

Jimmy and Robert added this to their "Unleded" tour set, after the first American leg. Playing this with the orchestra just added another touching element. Robert played it on some of his solo tours as well, and at Knebworth ' 90.

Perhaps a little known fact about the origins of this song. Jimmy has stated that he wrote this while in the Yardbirds. Interesting. It's funny how some of their songs took years before being fully realised and completed. Just shows you can't rush perfection.

"When The Levee Breaks"
Today we travel back to the magical 4th album. Untitled, Zoso, Runes, Four Symbols or whatever you want to call it one thing remains constant, this is the album they will always be remembered for. Over 16 million units sold, if memory serves me correctly, and in the top 10 of all-time. Today we go to track eight, clocking in at 7:08, "When The Levee Breaks".

Those incredible drums get us going and Robert plays some very spirited and bluesy harmonica. This track has an "aura" about it. After a lengthy intro we come to a brief pause, and then Robert warns us, "If it keeps on raining, levee's going to break". We immediately get drawn into this song. It's very hypnotic and the effect is mesmerizing.

It still blows me away that this was recorded in 1971. This is a wonderful example of the genius that Jimmy Page is in the studio. It, like almost all of Zeppelin's material sounds as if they could have recorded it yesterday. The drums in this song were recorded in the hallway of Headley Grange, with two microphones suspended above the kit. Jimmy has said the kit Bonham played on for "Levee" was brand new, just delivered from the factory. What a way to break in your new drums.

Jimmy plays some very bluesy bottleneck electric guitar, one of those songs where he is supporting more than right out front. As that groove rolls along Robert tells us that "crying won't help ya, praying won't do you no good". Sounds a bit depressing, but a key lyric in creating the atmosphere that is so prominent here.

The solo, courtesy of Jimmy, is at once gut-wrenching and smooth. Robert shows his harmonica ability to be in fine form, (something I wish he would have done more of), and we get to the "goin' down, goin' down now" section. Isn't it funny how Zeppelin is known not only for their songs, as a whole, but little sections of songs. Those two words, "goin' down", and the way he says them are as popular a phrase as any he's ever sung.

"When The Levee Breaks" was originally recorded in 1929 by Memphis Minne and Kansas Joe McCoy. On the Zeppelin Box Set, they give credit to Memphis Minnie as one-fifth of the songwriting team. On the "Unleded" album Jimmy and Robert play this entirely in a new arrangement, and on acoustic guitar. "Levee", in it's new format, was also one of the songs played at their Rock n Roll Hall-of-Fame induction ceremony. Played quite a bit on the 95/96 tour as well. What is unfortunate is that in Zeppelin they only played this briefly at the beginning of the ' 75 tour. Another great song that would have been quite incredible in a live setting. Do you get the feeling that they just had too much great material?

This is one of those songs everybody loves. Great playing, great emotion, and incredible "atmosphere" that only happens every so often. Crank this up loud and enjoy the fruits of Led Zeppelin playing a timeless classic.