RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #109: Kashmir by Led Zeppelin.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #109: Kashmir by Led Zeppelin.

By the time “Kashmir” was released by Led Zeppelin, the band was already an international rock n’ roll juggernaut. In fact, the success of “Kashmir” on the radio helped Led Zeppelin to achieve a very rare feat for a band. “Kashmir” was a single from an album called, “Physical Graffiti”. When that album entered the Top 100 Album chart, it did so along with five other Led Zeppelin albums: “Houses of the Holy”, along with “Led Zeppelin-I, II, III and IV” giving the band six charting albums at the same time.

The song was constructed over a number of years; with the lyrics and the musical structure coming together separately. The lyrics were inspired by a trip that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page took across the top of Morocco by car, as one does. This trip took the pair through parts of the Sahara Desert, as well as, through valleys with mountains so tall it felt as though the sky and stars were their only connection to the rest of the world. It was while driving along, with the Moroccan wind in their hair, that Robert Plant came up with the following lines that open “Kashmir”:

Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face

And stars fill my dreams.

I’m a traveller of both, time and space

To be where I have been.

To sit with elders of the gentle race

This world has seldom seen

They talk of days for which they sit and wait

All will be revealed.”

As for the musical structure of “Kashmir”, that came together because of a guitar riff that Jimmy Page had been using to tune his guitar and a drum rhythm set down by drummer, John Bonham. The two found themselves alone one weekend at Page’s estate and began combining both bits of music which, when done, started to form the foundation of the very strong sound for which “Kashmir” has become known for. The pair recorded the music they had created and then presented it to the rest of the band. Plant thought his lyrics would be a match and, as it turned out, he was correct. However, what really set the song up to another level was the notion of adding an orchestral backing. Plant, Page and Bonham all thought their original work had the potential to produce an epic-sounding song but, that the song was still lacking one final touch which was, as it turned out, an orchestra. With strings and horns at the ready, “Kashmir” developed a sense of fullness and power that has established the song as one of the most unique-sounding songs of all-time. The only problem with this is that, as a result, “Kashmir” is a song that is often challenging to replicate live, due to the sound systems being used or the acoustics of the venue. An example of this is that Led Zeppelin played “Kashmir” during the original “Live-Aid” concert organized by Bob Geldoff but, they were so embarrassed by the sound quality of their performance that they forbid Geldoff from including their portion of the show in the official soundtrack to “Live-Aid”.

For me, “Kashmir” is an awesome-sounding song that is best served coming through good quality headphones or else, coming out of good quality speakers. So, if you have access to a good sound system then, crank this video because “Kashmir” is meant to be played to the fullest extent of its’ capabilities.

So, without further delay, here are Led Zeppelin with “Kashmir” which, for the record, is nowhere near Morocco (Its’ near Pakistan). Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Led Zeppelin, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #7: Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #7: Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin.

“Stairway To Heaven” is consistently rated as being the top Rock song of all-time or, at the very least, one of the top Rock songs ever. The famous Jimmy Page guitar solo that closes the final third of the song is, also, regarded highly and universally revered as being one of the top guitar solos ever created. Finally, “Stairway To Heaven” is the #1 most played song in the history of FM, Album-Oriented-Rock (AOR) radio. It is all of these things even though it is, essentially, an eight-plus minutes long song that defies meaning. Even Robert Plant, who wrote the lyrics, throws his hands in the air and exclaims that even he thinks the song means different things, depending on the date and time he is asked about it by some reporter. However, in the end, all that matters is that “Stairway To Heaven” is a great rock song from, arguably, one of the most stacked albums of all-time, “Led Zeppelin-IV”. Here is the story of how it all came to be.

“Stairway To Heaven” is a song that is constructed in three very distinct parts…..

Part #1 is the slow, gentle introduction of the “lady who’s sure, all that glitters is gold and she’s buying a stairway to Heaven”. This opening segment goes on for almost three full minutes. Bassist, John Paul Jones, recounted the story of the very first time they played “Stairway To Heaven” live, the audience grew bored during the first part of the song because it was so unlike the type of music the band was known for.

Part #2 is the middle section, where several instruments are added and the pace of the music picks up. It is not a full-on rocker yet but, the band is getting there. It is where Plant tosses in the very English line about there being, “a bustle in your hedgerow“. For those who don’t understand the reference……if you have ever seen a photo of the English countryside, you will note that, instead of fences, many neighbours separate their properties with rows of hedging….or, hedgerows, as some would call them. So, if something unusual is happening in your hedgerow then, you should take note.

Part #3 is when “Stairway To Heaven” kicks into high gear…….”And as we wind on down the road…” starts this segment off, …”Our shadows taller than our souls…“. The pace really speeds up. Robert Plant’s voice raises up an octave. All instruments are wailing and then, Jimmy Page starts his grand and glorious solo. The intensity of this segment maintains itself until Page winds down the solo and all becomes still thus, allowing Robert Plant to finish off the song with a slow, controlled, almost whispery breath that states, “And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven” and then, a high hat closeout, the song is finished and so are we, as listeners.

There are several rumours of note about this song. The first being that the construction of the song was based upon the physical act of making love to someone. If you look at how the song starts slow, almost tenderly and then, picks up in action and intensity in the middle part, eventually, ending in an action-packed climax that leaves everyone drained and still in the end….I guess there may be something to that rumour. No one in Led Zeppelin has ever confirmed that rumour, though. The second rumour concerns the theory that if you play the song backwards, Satanic messages will appear. Part of the crux of that they comes from the fact that neither Robert Plant nor Jimmy Page have ever really stated where the inspiration for the song originated. Sure, they will speak of Page playing guitar in front of a fire in a cottage and Plant composing the lyrics on the spot but, neither says how the magic happened, just that it did. The further bit of lore to this rumour goes way back to legendary Bluesman, Robert Johnson, who was reported to have sold his soul to The Devil in exchange for insight into how to properly play The Blues. Those who promote the “Satanic messages” rumour on “Stairway To Heaven” pull from the mythical take of Robert Johnson and state that Page and Plant made a similar bargain in that cottage, before that roaring fire and that “Stairway To Heaven” is actually, The Devil playing and singing through his servants in Led Zeppelin. I, personally, have never played the album backwards to find out if there is anything of note to be discerned so, feel free to do with this rumour what you will.

All that I really know is that, for me, “Stairway To Heaven” is a heck of a song. Sure, we have all heard it played hundreds of times but, having said that, I don’t mind listening to it at all, even today. It is one of the best songs of all-time for a reason.

So, without further delay, here is Led Zeppelin with their signature song, “Stairway To Heaven” from the album, “Led Zeppelin IV”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Led Zeppelin, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #209: When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #209: When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin.

As I have said many times in posts during this countdown, Rock n’ Roll is built upon a foundation of The Blues. There is no better proof of that saying than “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin. “When the Levee Breaks” is actually based on an old Blues song that was written in the 1920s, not long after the mighty Mississippi River overflowed its banks, causing levees to fail and catastrophic flooding to occur all along the Mississippi Delta. The original song was written and recorded in 1929 by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. Many of their original lyrics can be found in the Led Zeppelin version found on the album simply known as, “Led Zeppelin IV”.

While the lyrics to “When the Levee Breaks” pays faithful homage to the original version, the song was updated by Robert Plant and his excellent harmonica work off of the top, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones (for their guitar parts) and, most notably, by the monstrous, thundering drumming of John Bonham (who was recorded at a stately manor, in a tall room with a soaring stair case, using special mics and sound recorders, which helped to give his beats an extra echo-y sound). The result of these musical innovations is to take a traditional Blues-sounding song and elevate it with modern orchestration. Jimmy Page is on record as saying the final mix of “When the Levee Breaks” is among his favourite of any song the band recorded. In particular, he likes how steady Robert Plant’s vocals were, amid the swirling sounds of guitars and drums near the end.

Even though this song is about a flood that happened almost 100 years ago, any time I listen to this song, I think about New Orleans and surrounding area when the levees broke there during Hurricane Katrina. Despite what we foolish humans may think, the fact remains that Mother Nature is not one to be trifled with. “When the Levee Breaks” is a Blues-based account of the devastation that follows when Nature wreaks its vengeance on those who don’t live as one with the land. It is a bleak song, filled with plaintive cries for Mercy. But, as the lyrics so clearly state:

“Cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good.

No, cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good.

When the levee breaks, Mama you’ve got to move.”

Of course, Led Zeppelin, like so many other bands before them and after them, give a shout out to Chicago, as the home base of The Blues in America. But, if Chicago is the home base of The Blues, the absolute cradle is the Mississippi Delta, where this song was originally speaking of. So, as you get to listen to “When the Levee Breaks”, listen to the story being told but, also, listen to how the members of Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant singer, Jimmy Page-lead guitar, John Paul Jones-bass and John Bonham-drums) update the original song with some of the most epic playing (harmonica, guitars, drumming) of all-time.

Without further delay, here is Led Zeppelin with one of their biggest hits; a song built squarely on a foundation of The Blues, “When the Levee Breaks”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “When the Levee Breaks” by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, can be found here. ***Listen for exactly how many of the original lyrics made it into Led Zeppelin’s version intact. You might be surprised at the number.

The link to a video that shows you how Robert Plant played the harmonica as he did, can be found here.

The link to the video containing a short documentary of behind-the-scenes information about “When the Levee Breaks”, can be found here. *Specifically, this is about how John Bonham’s drums were mic-ed.

The link to the official website for Led Zeppelin, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for playing music by legendary bands and newcomers, alike. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #87: Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #87: Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin.

If the “Classic Rock” genre was ever to have its own anthem, “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin would fit the bill quite nicely. In fact, I have heard this song used many times in ads for Classic Rock radio stations. “Rock and Roll” was born from the union of two of the foundational members of the genre itself. The story is that while working on the song, “Four Sticks” for the band’s fourth album, “Led Zeppelin IV”, drummer John Bonham took some time and started wailing out a Little Richard drum set which, in turn, inspired Jimmy Page to start playing some Chuck Berry guitar licks. In no time at all, both men recognized that something new and fresh and reverential, at the same time, was being created, almost by accident. So, they set “Four Sticks” aside and went straight to recording what they had come up with. What they had managed to come up with was the musical structure for “Rock and Roll”.

“Rock and Roll” found its home as the lead track on one of the most potent albums by any artist of all-time. The track listing for “Led Zeppelin IV” reads like a Greatest Hits album but, at the time, it was simply the band deciding to get back to their rock roots, after having gone a little more folksy and experimental on their previous album, “Led Zeppelin III”. “Led Zeppelin IV” contains “Rock and Roll” but, also, “When the Levee Breaks”, “Black Dog”, “The Battle of Evermore” (which I heard for the first time when Heart covered it for the movie soundtrack to “Singles”), Misty Mountain Hop”, “Going to California”, the afore-mentioned, “Four Sticks” and that most classic of classics, “Stairway to Heaven”. In fact, these are all of the songs on the album. An entire album of classic bangers! Definitely, a strong, strong effort by the boys in the band!

As for the song, itself. The lyrics pay homage to some elements from music history such as the song, “The Book of Love”, as well as dances like, “The Stroll”. “Rock and Roll” was inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the Song Category. It was, also, selected by Rolling Stone Magazine as being one of the 500 most influential tracks, in any genre, of all-time. For my money, one of the ways you can judge how a band feels about a song of theirs is where they place the song on their setlist during their live shows. For Led Zeppelin, “Rock and Roll” either opened their show, closed their show or else, opened the encore. It was never left in the mushy middle of the set. So, without further delay, let’s get to some of the finest classic rock n’ roll ever recorded. Here is Led Zeppelin with “Rock and Roll” from one of the biggest, baddest albums ever, “Led Zeppelin IV”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Led Zeppelin, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #337: Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #337: Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin.

Alright! Now we’re talking! “Led Zeppelin” makes its’ first appearance on the list and does so with one of its biggest and most recognizable hits, “Whole Lotta Love”. The song was released in 1969 and was from their second album, simply called, “Led Zeppelin-II”. The band was comprised of singer, Robert Plant, lead guitarist, Jimmy Page, bassist, John Paul Jones and drummer, John Bonham. As a band, “Led Zeppelin” has sold almost 300 million albums worldwide, making them one of the most successful bands of all-time. They featured a heavy rock sound that incorporated many aspects of Blues (which becomes important, musically and legally, in this song, in particular). Some of “Led Zeppelin’s” hits are considered to be among the best songs of all-time such as “Stairway to Heaven”, Kashmir”, “All of My Love”, “When the Levee Breaks”, “Rock and Roll”, “Immigrant Song” and many, many more. “Led Zeppelin” was inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

The song, “Whole Lotta Love”, like any song, has lyrics and it has a music structure. It is worth taking a little time and examining how the aspects of both played a part, both famously and infamously, in the history of this song. Let’s start with the musical structure. “Whole Lotta Love” is driven by one of Rock n’ Roll’s best loved guitar riffs. Jimmy Page is at his forceful, vital best on this song. His riff reminds me of a powerful locomotive chugging on down the tracks to its destination. Muscular. Strong. Insistent. The guitar work on “Whole Lotta Love” has been ranked at, or near, the top of numerous polls over the years.

While Jimmy Page was creating one of the classic guitar riffs of all-time, Robert Plant was stealing the lyrics…..quite literally! The lyrics to “Whole Lotta Love” were copied, almost verbatim, from a song by Bluesman, Willie Dixon, called, “You Need Love”…..and, by “love” both Dixon and Plant mean, “sex”! Lots of sex! Way deep down inside….sex! Anyway, Dixon was not given any songwriting credit on “Whole Lotta Love” when it was released. But, those who know music and, in particular, those who know the Blues, immediately noticed how similar the lyrics were in both songs. Here is a sample of Dixon’s lyrics from “You Need Love”.

“You’ve got yearnin’ and I’ve got burnin’ Baby,

you look so sweet and cunnin’ Baby,

way down inside,

woman you need love.

Woman you need love,

you’ve got have some love

I’m got give you some love.

I know you need love.”

Robert Plant writes:

“A-way down inside,

A-honey you need it.

I’m gonna give you my love

I’m gonna give you my love

Wanna whole lotta love (x4).”

The lawsuit was settled in Dixon’s favour and he now receives co-songwriting credit for “Whole Lotta Love”. After the lawsuit was over, Plant commented by shrugging his shoulders and saying, “It was a nick, happily paid for”.

“Whole Lotta Love” is a song about sexual intercourse. There is nothing subtle about it. In the video, there are long sections where Robert Plant does nothing other than moan and groan, as if in sexual pleasure, while Jimmy Page pounds away on the guitar. Yet, as much as the Blues are a part of the foundation of Rock n’ Roll, so is sex, as this song makes abundantly clear. “Whole Lotta Love” is one of “Led Zeppelin’s” signature songs and just the first of several appearances they will make in this countdown. So, ready or not, here comes “Led Zeppelin” with “Whole Lotta Love”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Led Zeppelin, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, KEXP, for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.