Led Zeppelin, it goes without saying, wrote classic song after classic song. One of the most influential bands of all time, the English quartet achieved what was thought impossible when they swooped in and filled the gap that The Beatles left after they called it a day in 1970. Although Zeppelin released a string of iconic tracks in the late 1960s, the ’70s was their decade. They went one step further than countrymen Pink Floyd, and their music reached corners of the earth that were at that point thought impossible.
When thinking of Led Zeppelin, one of the most immediate things that springs to mind is the sheer brilliance of each of its members. Frontman Robert Plant possesses a voice that is so siren-like, so primal that you’d be forgiven for thinking that he was actually a figure from the folklore he so often sang about.
Then we have guitarist Jimmy Page. A guitar icon in every sense, he took the instrument to new levels. There’s proto-punk in his playing, metal, psychedelia, folk and jazz, he’s a six-string extraordinaire, and aside from creating some of the most monstrous riffs in rock history, he also doubled up as the band’s producer, a marvellous feat.
Perhaps the most understated out of the bunch is bassist and multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones. Classically trained, as a musician, he can do it all, and prior to joining the band, Jones was one of London’s most sought after session musicians, performing on tracks by everyone from Donovan to The Rolling Stones. For a time, he even accompanied Dusty Springfield as her bassist for her Talk of the Town performances.
The final piece of the puzzle was drummer John Bonham. Fusing rock and roll with jazz, alongside Ginger Baker, Bonham recreated the role of the modern rock drummer, and without his incredible takes, it is sure that heavier genres of music would not have developed into the behemoth’s they are remembered as today.
A versatile player, Bonham played with purpose and wasn’t a show-off. He served the song, which has given his work such an enduring presence in the minds of contemporary drummers. It was no coincidence that the band ended when he tragically passed away in 1980.
Given that each member of Led Zeppelin was so astute, some of their best songs were written on a whim, as if it was no effort at all. One of these is one of the best-beloved in their whole back catalogue. This is, of course, ‘The Battle of Evermore’, track three on their magnum opus, 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV. The song was written by Page and Plant at Headley Grange when Page was experimenting on a mandolin owned by Jones.
In 1977, the guitarist explained that: “‘The Battle of Evermore’ was made up on the spot by Robert (Plant) and myself. I just picked up John Paul Jones’s mandolin, never having played a mandolin before, and just wrote up the chords and the whole thing in one sitting.”
It’s genuinely mind-blowing to think that a song that is so revered was written in such a haphazard manner. It’s just another reason why the song and band are so hallowed.
Listen to ‘The Battle of Evermore’ below.