Song of the Day 10/13

Posted: October 13, 2011 in J.C. Personal
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My favorite band of all time released today’s song in 1970. From their third album, Led Zeppelin III (easy enough to remember), this single was released against the band’s wishes as they preferred their album to be listened to as a whole. “Immigrant Song” was released with the song “Hey Hey What Can I Do?” on the “b” side. A track that was otherwise unavailable until the release of Led Zeppelin’s box set in 1990. The song was also accidentally released in Japan with “Out on the Tiles” on the flip side. (If anyone comes across one of those, think “J.C. birthday present”).

The song is probably best known for the wailing battle cry of Robert Plant over the driving staccato riff played by Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham at the beginning of the song. The album version contains a very faint count off, which always prepared me to ROCK when I listened to the album.

Since Led Zeppelin is my favorite band, I know loads about them and therefore must be careful not to “Ramble On” (See what I did there?). Formed in London 1966, Led Zeppelin came out of the ashes of The Yardbirds. When Jeff Beck left the band, The Yardbirds were contractually obligated to perform in the Scandinavian region. Page wanted to form a supergroup consisting of himself, Beck, Keith Moon and John Entwistle (both members of The Who) and vocalist Steve Winwood. The group never came to be and the former members allowed Page to use the name The New Yardbirds to fulfill their obligation with the line-up of his choosing. A bunch of backstory and interesting rock & roll connections later, the line-up that would eventually be Led Zeppelin was formed. The band name came from Keith Moon and John Entwistle telling Page that the supergroup would go over like a lead balloon. Page liked the idea and manager Peter Grant suggested that the “a” in Lead be dropped so that Americans would be sure to pronounce it correctly. “Balloon” was changed to “Zeppelin” to give the name the perfect balance of heavy and light.

“Immigrant Song” was written on Led Zeppelin’s tour of Iceland, Bath and Germany. Six days after their appearance at Reykjavik, Led Zeppelin performed the song for the first time on stage. The song was well received and because of the different sound of the song, Zeppelin decided that it should be the first track on their next album.

One line of the song would follow Zeppelin for the remainder of their time together. “The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands” caused some to call Zeppelin’s sound “Hammer of the Gods”. The phrase is even used in the title of a biography of the band. The lyrics have even been said to inspire other bands to adopt a Viking like persona.

The song is about Vikings in search of new lands, rowing onward to see what land they might conquer next “to fight the horde, singing and crying: Valhalla, I am coming”, for anyone even remotely familiar with Norse myth, these words will mean something.

If anyone wants to know all of the places this song is available, just let me know. The song can also be heard in 2003’s School of Rock and marked one of the extremely rare times Led Zeppelin has licensed one of their songs for a movie, or anything else for that matter (this is why the Cadillac commercial with “Rock and Roll” was shocking to many). The song has also been covered by Trent Reznor with Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs on vocals for the upcoming American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, directed by David Fincher, starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, December 21, 2011 in a theater near you.

This is a great song if you just want to scream “Aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh aaaaahhhh!” or thrash around in your seat, but I’m a bit biased.

See ya on the “b” side.


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