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.