I’ve just come back from a holiday where I drove my family through France, took a train to Barcelona, drove to Algeciras in Spain, took the ferry to Tangiers, took the overnight train to Marrakech, drove to Essaouira, returned to Marrakech, flew to Paris and took the train home.
So of course much of my time was spent thinking about the greatest band in the history of the world: Led Zeppelin.
I love Led Zeppelin.
From about fourteen I listened to them every day for at least ten years (gone), I have a picture of Page and Plant in their pomp on my living room wall and Achilles Last Stand is my ringtone. They wrote the best songs but they also had complete creative control over everything they did, which meant that they could do strange things like release an album with no title, disappoint many of their fans by following up a massive rock album with an acoustic one, and pretty much never release any singles.
They also had a producer who was a minutely detailed sound freak who obsessed over the placement of microphones in unusual spaces, pioneering the use of non-musical sounds and creative overdubbing. He was also their guitarist, Jimmy Page.
Who was also a reputed occultist whose groupie girlfriend was fourteen years old.
Very rock and roll…
As were many of their legendary antics on the road, one of which involved fishing for a shark out of their hotel window, then making use of said shark with a groupie.
Anyway, here are my ten favourite Led Zeppelin tracks in order, because lists that aren’t in some kind of order are boring:
1. Tea For One. This is a rather overlooked track from the end of side two of Presence, but I love it. It has this oddly irrelevant opening that soon moves aside for a bluesy journey into Robert Plant’s sadness at being away from his wife and kids after they’d all nearly died in a car crash. Happily, I’ve never taken heroin, but I imagine it feels a little like this:
2. Achilles Last Stand. Epic, over the top madness. Zeppelin at their best with Page and Bonham trading ridiculously bombastic thunderbolts of drum and guitar:
3. Ten Years Gone. Another woozy, trippy one, this time from Physical Graffiti. A slow builder that heads off in all sorts of different directions, all of which feel just right:
4. Heartbreaker. This one saw me though ages 14-18. The best riff in rock, with an insane guitar solo to follow. ‘Hey, fellas have you heard the news, you know that Annie’s back in town…’
5. For Your Life. Another under-appreciated monster, funkily examining the downside of drug addiction, “With the fine lines of the crystal payin’ through your nose”. This version is the one they played at the O2 in 2007:
6. Dazed And Confused. This often took half an hour to play live, mainly because Page was having fun playing his guitar with a violin bow. In the middle section it’s quite easy to forget where you are, but then that riff comes back in:
7. Kashmir. The favourite of most Zep Fans. Page and Bonham are playing in quadruple meter, while Plant and Paul Jones are playing in triple meter, and it all meshes perfectly, like an army on the march, but an army you’d quite like to go for a drink with:
8. When The Levee Breaks. The best drum beat in rock, followed by screaming harmonica, slide guitar and crazy overdubs. It sounds like a brontosaurus on its way to its first shag in a decade, hence the lyrics: ‘Crying won’t help you, praying won’t do you no good…’:
9. The Ocean. It’s the live version on How The West Was Won that does this for me. The ‘La la la-la-la-la’ bit is quite a chance to take, but is the cherry on a great big cake made out rusty girders:
10. Bring it on Home. Also check out the HTWWW version. It’s that point where the slow beginning gives way to the riff that’s amazing, but also the cracking double drum beat that Bonham puts in straight afterwards that grabs you by the guts and turns you into a yo-yo:
So the fun of having this blog is being able to put this out there and see what comes back.
Whether you love them, hate them, copped off to Tangerine or were beaten up to Immigrant Song, let me know your Zep thoughts in the comments section.