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Top 50 Zeppelin Songs - from Rolling Stone mag. and notes for each …

1

I believe that once a Led Zeppelin fan, always a Led Zeppelin fan so I thought it was cool that I stumbled on the article from Rolling Stone in January 2019.

It lists the song, the year and pretty cool commentary about each and NO!....... "Stairway To Heaven" is NOT #1

https://www.rollingstone.co...

3

Thanks for fun article, NJDevil. I love Led Zeppelin music, and I've been a huge fan since the early 70's. I have performed many of their hits as well as some of the lesser know tunes that they recorded. My brother and I have a power duet that is heavily Zeppelin, we always close the evening with Ten Years Gone and The Rain Song. I play the guitar parts, and my brother plays the bass and keys. When we're in the groove, it's magic! We're looking forward to my shoulder healing and things opening back up again.

4

Thanks for fun article, NJDevil. I love Led Zeppelin music, and I've been a huge fan since the early 70's. I have performed many of their hits as well as some of the lesser know tunes that they recorded. My brother and I have a power duet that is heavily Zeppelin, we always close the evening with Ten Years Gone and The Rain Song. I play the guitar parts, and my brother plays the bass and keys. When we're in the groove, it's magic! We're looking forward to my shoulder healing and things opening back up again.

– Wade H

Glad you like it and hope you'll be in fighting shape without a hint of pain soon.

I just bought Catalinbread's RAH pedal. I don't know how close it comes to Page's tone at the Royal Albert Hall concert but it really dials in to the majority of his tone on albums I thru IV and Physical Graffiti. Think of "The Rover" and I can nail it with the RAH and my Tokai ls-135 LP clone with the bridge pup perfectly.

5

Who chose em though? My number 1 is at 36

6

I'm good with most of the top 5, really in whatever order...except I'd swap "Immigrant Song" up a place and move "Loving You" down.

And, yknow...for all that "Whole Lotta Love" cemented the deal making Zep the singular all-time essential hard-rock/near-metal juggernaut they became, it's also substantially responsible for their simultaneous status as a cartoon caricature of Rock (a popular stance among the snooterati from punk forward to a just a few years ago).

While you can't help but be carried along by Whole Lotta textures and the noises - it's like the tantalizing too-short psychedelic interlude in the middle of "Magic Carpet Ride" blown up to the epic proportions we hadn't known we yearned for - by the end of all the posing, posturing, and puerile coital theatre, one feels a bit over-indulged and cheap. Like the morning after a Bud beer bender or a the aftermath of a sack of White Castles - or one's own bad judgment in coital theatre. By comparison to nearly any other Zepic, it's not really worthy of them.

So I understand why it's on the list, but the fact that it takes the top slot is a disappointing commentary on...well, either on contemporary critical consensus (weighting Zeppelin's crass pandering over the band's finer qualities) - or just RS's reviewers, with whom I've never seen eye-to-eye. (The zippy colorful thumbnail descriptions of the songs are, however, quite entertaining - if a trifle overblown - so there's that.)

I could do without "Whole Lotta Bombast" in the top 5 altogether, and would way rather see "When the Levee Breaks" or "Dancing Days."

Which would probably, inevitably, leave "Stairway to Heaven" at the top. For all that the song, like "Free Bird", "Smoke on the Water," and "Hotel California," was so hyped and overplayed that it became self-pardoy - one of those songs you hoped never have to play or hear a band attempt again - it now affects me differently. You think you've reached your lifetime dosage...and then you hear it again...and it turns out to be all that after all. It's the songcraft, arranging, pacing, performance, textures, recording, everything. It really is a marvel.

(I feel the same about "Smoke on the Water": yeah, it was played till we overdosed, but heard with fresh ears, it remains fresh and vital - and compelling in-the-moment reportage of a time and a place, wrapped around an arresting image. "Free Bird" and "Hotel California," on the other hand, now sound both dated and contrived to me.)

Anyway..."Stairway" would have been a worthier number one. There's less going on in "Whole Lotta" than meets the ear, and it leaves me feeling cheap and decadent; "Stairway" is deep with texture and content you rediscover every time, and seems somehow cleansing and redemptive.

BUT. My #1 can't be anything other than "Kashmir."

7

I really agree with Proteus' insight on 99% of everything he wrote. The value in the list for me is both a published perspective from columnists in the industry and the commentary contributed for each song. I actually feel the article's intent was to lend a creative input towards Zep's baskets of many goodies as a way of "giving the nod" to their place in music since the late '60s.....the list is secondary and serves as the easiest, if not really the only, way to produce the larger dynamic of commentary on the songs.

"Whole Lotta Love" as #1.....yeah, I'll just say that I'm with Proteus. It was as if they thought they needed the short "balls-to-the-wall" hard rocking tune that best defined the link between "heavy Rock" to what became Metal as the most valuable contribution. I find it serves more like a commercial for a decade plus of inspiring music by an iconic band. Should've been "Stairway..." for the reasons Tim covered but would very much say that "Kashmir" is my #1 also.

8

I don’t think I even know anyone who can tolerate this band. Different strokes...

9

I don’t think I even know anyone who can tolerate this band. Different strokes...

– Viper

You dropped in just to say that?

Don't drown in the pool with your "different strokes", but look out for that Stairway To Heaven if you do.

11

The rating is weird. I wouldn't have Whole Lotta Love in the top 10 either. For me, Led Zeppelin's strength was in the breadth of their musical scope and the their excellent arrangements that combined many elements, acoustic electric and otherwise. They could do the driving visceral rock too which is great, but so could many people. I'm a huge Led Zeppelin fan!

12

I guess the lyrical content is 'of the time'. Whole Lotta Love is probably the most grotesque example of that and maybe that's why folks are twitchy about it being number one? As a riff, an arrangement, a concept, it's mighty fine. How many records chug along successfully without the drums for so long? You hardly notice until they do appear. And knock you down the stairs.

13

Anyone notice how the drums mimick the guitar riffs in a lot of Led Zeppelin songs? Odd thing to do, plus you have to have a drummer who actually listens to the instruments around him. Maybe that's one of the things that made them great

14

I guess the lyrical content is 'of the time'. Whole Lotta Love is probably the most grotesque example of that and maybe that's why folks are twitchy about it being number one? As a riff, an arrangement, a concept, it's mighty fine. How many records chug along successfully without the drums for so long? You hardly notice until they do appear. And knock you down the stairs.

– Vince_Ray

The only reason the lyrical content would bug me would due to it's inanity and frankly mundanity, for me it's mostly about the music. It's just never been much of a favourite. I know it gets a lot of airtime and agree it shows their power and ability, but I think it falls far short of being their best song.

15

I guess the lyrical content is 'of the time'. Whole Lotta Love is probably the most grotesque example of that and maybe that's why folks are twitchy about it being number one? As a riff, an arrangement, a concept, it's mighty fine. How many records chug along successfully without the drums for so long? You hardly notice until they do appear. And knock you down the stairs.

– Vince_Ray

I think the song rocks and Bonham really raises hell with the drums and I think this with Page's "guitar answer" created a brash/in-your-face sound that really was unique.

Good point about the lyrics but I have a different take. This was some raw Chicago Chess material Muddy Waters recorded in the early '60s that Willie Dixon wrote. It certainly is "of the time" for that raw blues material Willie Dixon had the talent to conjure. Let Muddy record it and you had soulful and raw blues.

Robert Plant loved the song and thought the lyrics dabbled into some cool territory and decided to push it a bit further. Late '60s, teenage angst, physically raw and revealing lyrics with Plant's howl, Page's crunch, and Bonham's earthquake was just what the doctor ordered to leave an impact. I think the shock value leaves many with the perception but they definitely had way more powerful songs that could be counted as #1. I might barely have "Whole Lotta Love" in the top 20......real more like around 30.

I have a solid Muddy Waters collection, although my favorites are with his collaboration with Johnny Winter. Overall, I liked Howlin' Wolf more......not to say one is better but just preference. Here's Muddy...........

16

I don’t think I even know anyone who can tolerate this band. Different strokes...

– Viper

You must hang with a rather intolerant bunch.

17
– AllModCons

Funny. I have said the same thing about The Who.

18

Wish I'd thought of that. Got no time for the Who, too rich. And creepy. Townshend has a really annoying smirk on his face all the way through that

19

I’m a drummer. Moon annoyed me. He played without a hint of swing and he never met a 16th note he didn’t play.

20

I’m a drummer. Moon annoyed me. He played without a hint of swing and he never met a 16th note he didn’t play.

– Bob Howard

I don't have any reference right now but read a couple Bonham interviews where he talks about his admiration of Gene Krupa and how he is his biggest influence. I love watching clips of Krupa.

I never got into The Who.....I like Roger Daltrey but Townshend always seemed a bit pompous.

21

How the hell is D'yer Mak'er 2 places above Heartbreaker!?

and where in the good goddamn is Out On The Tiles!?

22

Ah well, details. To me, in my unenlightened over-tolerance, the whole Zep catalog is essential. A list like this just serves to remind initiates of the range of gems in the box - and makes a decent primer in Zeppicana for new listeners. (Or for those who formerly didn't get the band, and whose tastes changed and/or ears opened - and I know several now-fans who fall in this category. But of course not Viper.)

For all the consistency of overall sound, texture, dynamic dimension, and musical quality in the Zeppelog, every single album has its own identity and character. There can no mistaking who it is, as certain strains of influence, approach, and arrangement flow through the whole arc; there's also something Beatlesque in the uniqueness of each guy's style, strength of contribution, and the way the whole is immeasurably greater than the sum of the parts. And, like the Beatles (but perhaps less sonically chameleon-like), there's range and evolution over their career. (Sad as Bonzo's premature departure was, I think the band was wise to let it close the chapter; any post-Bonham attempt to soldier on would likely have diluted the strength of the catalog. I think they'd said what they had to say.)

Anyway. For me there are pleasures galore on all the albums. The freshness and in-the-room immediacy of the first album and its surprising variety changed Rock as We Knew It, and they had our attention. Zep II, with all the epic size and bombast, consolidated their position as undisputed masters of the new territory they'd carved out. (But is the one I listen to least.) III - after the epic martial fanfare that is "Immigrant Song" - was equal parts a breather and a surprisingly bucolic folky venture, serving notice that the band was not going to slip into the proven formulae of their first successes.

At the tail end of their output, Presence and In Through the Out Door have their charms, making several crucial contributions to the legacy, but in very different ways. Presence is cohesive, in its way, a record that is a record of the short period in which it was made. It represented an intended return to the directness and production simplicity of their first album - but was compromised by Plant's recovery from the car wreck that wrecked the band's 1975, a too-short and too-harried rehearsal regimen for the band to learn the Page-Plant-penned songs, and a rushed recording-and-mixing schedule that got the album done in 18 days. It's interesting, from a Zep-studies point of view, but not as strong an outing as - and with less variety than - any previous Zep album. (Still, I wouldn't want to be without "Achilles" and several other tracks.)

Out Door, on the other hand, is, if anything, too diverse, with Zeppelin trying on several hats that seemed at the time not to fit them, and directly acknowledging musical sources and interests more overtly than they had previously. At the time, it seemed they'd lost their way and were thrashing about for a direction; now it sounds to me more like they were stretching toward something new, musically restless and refusing to stay in the giant box they'd built for themselves. But while Zeppelin had always been more musically diverse than their reputation as rampaging Viking stomp-rockers suggests, for me Out Door is so diverse as to threaten coming apart. And at any rate, then it was over.

So much for the band's first chapter (I-II-III) and their final act. That leaves the incredibly rich tapestry of IV, Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti, which for me comprise a peak of creativity and accomplishment that widened into a high plateau with ample territory to explore. To me, they're the heart of Zeppelin's legacy, and the albums which give me the most consistently rewarding listening. The band couldn't have got there without * I-II-III*, but these are the albums for the ages.

Not least of their pleasures is that they all contain so many undisputably weird elements - jarring moments and techniques on their own, rendered no less weird by how well the band makes them fit together. It's nothing like "fusion," but the music does fuse a wealth of disparate influences and ideas, making them essential materials in the always sturdy, strong, and compelling architecture of the band's unique blend of acoustic and electric. There's sturm und drang (of course), light and shade, sparkle and darkness, lightning and thunder. It's as innovative as prog without being as precious, as elemental as blues or rock and roll without the limitations, and as big and wide as...

...well, as nothing before or since. On these three albums, Zeppelin builds a sonic landscape all its own. Unlike quite anything else I can think of, it has scope, grandeur, majesty - while Rocking with a capital R.

23

Since I've been loving you. The first few notes. So beautifully understated. It could have a big loud fanfare, screaming, histrionic, over driven and face melting. So many other players would do it that way. But no, it's simple, quiet and melancholic, it just sounds resigned, aiming to ask us to sit down and listen for a while to a tale of woe. The story unfolds and at times, it rages. Desperate anguish. Window smashing, door punching frustration. The guitar solo is really quite incredible in this, apparently one take. Not about precision or technical dexterity... not that it's shabby either. Just a hurricane of emotion. So yeah, I'm a fan and I love it. It's unique in spite of their reputation for 'borrowing'. Wonderful drumming too, it just sets up the guitar playing superbly, pushes it forward and leans back when needed. Hey ho, just had to get that off m'chest, Byeeee

24

As much of a Zeppelin fan as I've been over the years, I've always struggled with the latter years of Plant's vocals.

I understand in addition to the heavy touring, already a strain on such singing, Plant allegedly began having issues with his vocal chords around 1974-75. There remains some speculation whether he had some polyps removed (often a result of excessive singing or loud stage talking) or ruptured his chords, and he did have a tonsillectomy around 1977.

One can hear the difference in vocals between their 4th LP and Houses Of The Holy.
His higher register is still pretty strong, but noticeably more reedy and thin in timbre. Not like the full-throated wail from Whole Lotta Love or Black Dog. About the best you get is on 'The Ocean'.

Physical Graffiti still works on a lot of levels for me, if as kind of a 'kitchen sink' album (like The Beatles; White LP), but they had a lot in the can from being off the road for more than a year. They clearly needed the break, and it produced a rich release of material. Some of their best and most ambitious, musically.

I enjoy parts of Presence and Out Door, but still of the opinion that they're Zeppelin's weakest efforts.

All that said, their catalog itself is impressive and definitive. It is the 70s for so many, musically.

And not to slag on Robert Plant too much; I've really enjoyed where he's taken his own music in recent years.
He's found a new range in which he's comfortable, a seasoned tone but still soulful and expressive, always his other strengths.

One of the things that made me fall into Zeppelin all over again, years later, was finally being able the see and hear the previously unreleased live material. The BBC recordings are a real treat, and especially the film of their 1970 Royal Albert Hall performance.

That footage probably comes closest to capturing how incredibly raw, dynamic and powerful Led Zeppelin were on the stage, firing on all cylinders.

..And it is extra cool that they do a couple of old Eddie Cochran songs for part of their encore.

25

I've always struggled with the latter years of Plant's vocals.

There have been times - through albums from the entire run - that I wished I could hear the mixes without Percy prancing all over them. I'm a fan and all; I greatly admire his post-Zeppelin trajectory, in its diversity and his maturing style, as well as the artistic integrity he's always displayed. And his keening, sometimes microtonal wailing turns are essential to the core of what Led Zeppelin has even come to mean. But recognizing that doesn't keep me from observing that sometimes there was a bit much of the muchness (the health of his vocal cords aside), and wishing sometimes he'd get out of the way so I could better hear the underlying architecture of the music.

(Likewise, my admiration for Page doesn't prevent my recognizing that a certain degree of technical slop is almost always part of the delivery. And, unfortunately, that seems to be the Page influence I've most perfected in my own playing.)


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