After the Yardbirds disbanded in 1968, a new musical powerhouse emerged: Led Zeppelin. This iconic band was the brainchild of guitarist Jimmy Page, who handpicked three exceptionally talented musicians to complete the lineup. Robert Plant took on lead vocals, John Paul Jones handled bass guitar and keyboards, and John Bonham commanded the drums.
As the 1960s drew to a close, Led Zeppelin had already unleashed their first two albums, establishing themselves as a formidable presence in the music scene. They stood shoulder to shoulder with rock legends like The Rolling Stones and The Who, vying for the throne of rock supremacy. Instant classics such as ‘Good Times Bad Times’, ‘Dazed and Confused’, ‘Whole Lotta Love‘, and ‘Ramble On’ had already captivated audiences, but the band was about to unleash their greatest work.
Throughout the early 1970s, Led Zeppelin released a string of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums, commencing with the highly regarded “Led Zeppelin III.” The album burst onto the scene with the fierce and martial-sounding “Immigrant Song,” a track that Plant regards as a historically significant and slightly absurd hit for younger listeners.
Reflecting on the song in a 2023 interview with Vulture, Plant remarked, “It’s a shame ‘Immigrant Song’ isn’t easy for kids to play. Everyone, young and old, gets it. It’s not just slightly ridiculous; it’s downright ludicrous. Considering we wrote it while airborne, leaving Iceland—a truly inspiring and adventurous gig beyond words, never to be replicated.”
He continued, “I thought ‘Immigrant Song’ was fantastic because it taps into the impact the Dark Ages had on me. Here I am, sitting in a building erected in the 15th century. It’s not a grand structure; it’s just a building that has withstood countless trials. I know that before the Civil War, before Cromwell’s reign, and before everyone went into hiding—before, before, before, before. That Viking aspect of things is quite amusing.”
Elsewhere on “Led Zeppelin III,” the band showcased their penchant for complexity with the enigmatic track “Four Sticks.” The title was derived from the incredibly challenging drum beat that constantly frustrated Bonham during the recording sessions. In fact, Bonham’s impatience reached a boiling point, leading him to abandon “Four Sticks” momentarily and instead lay down the intro for Little Richard’s “Keep a Knockin’.”
While “Four Sticks” was put on hold, the band turned their attention to refining Bonham’s rhythmic foundation. Within a mere 30 minutes, Jimmy Page’s guitar structures were woven together, and the song began to take shape under the working title of “It’s Been a Long Time.” Once Plant’s lyrics were finalized for the album, the track was appropriately renamed “Rock and Roll.”
Explaining the inspiration behind this classic song in a 1988 interview with Creem, Plant expressed, “We felt that rock and roll needed to be revived. We were finally part of an immensely successful band, and we believed it was time to truly kick ass. It wasn’t a cerebral endeavor because we didn’t have the luxury of time for that. We just wanted to let our raw energy flow uninhibitedly. It was an instinctive and immensely powerful force that fueled our creative process.”
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