For those familiar with Ocean’s Twelve, in one of the film’s many meta twists, Matt Damon’s Linus Caldwell almost blows the crew’s opportunity at a job when he doesn’t understand the coded language being used by both parties. In a moment of desperation and unwarranted confidence, Caldwell breaks out the lyrics to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’, hoping that the spacey imagery of Robert Plant will mean something, anything to these people.
It does end up meaning something: apparently, the first few lines of ‘Kashmir’ are code for “your niece is a cheap whore”. It’s a hilariously nonsensical part of the movie, but when you need to bust out some surreptitious and possibly profound lines of wisdom, why not go with ‘Kashmir’?
Initially recorded for Physical Graffiti, the song remains one of Led Zeppelin’s most legendary tracks: lengthy, heavy, and unrelenting in its drive, ‘Kashmir’ also gets quite a bit of mileage out of Plant’s mystical lyrics, which he himself admitted came from a drive through the deserts of Morocco, not the titular Indian subcontinent.
Like a lot of Zeppelin’s lyrics, it’s hard to think of anyone pulling off those words without Plant’s Viking-like wail giving the appropriate amount of weight to them. It would be far too easy for these kinds of images to come off as patently ridiculous or overblown nonsense, but Plant never winks. Instead, he imbues pure stadium-rock power into every single syllable.
But Plant’s performance in ‘Kashmir’ is something different: more subtle and languid than the testicle-squeezing majesty of songs like ‘Immigrant Song’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’. Plant sounds wounded and eerie, letting the more fantastical elements come to life in the song’s instrumental arrangement. Plant might be the traveller of both time and space, but he lets the strings and sounds behind him do most of the heavy lifting.
Plant always remained proud of ‘Kashmir’, specifically the vocal performance he laid down for it. “I wish we were remembered for ‘Kashmir’ more than ‘Stairway To Heaven’,” Plant told Q107 in 2010. “It’s so right; there’s nothing overblown, no vocal hysterics. Perfect Zeppelin.”
Check out the iconic isolated vocal down below.