There's something about Led Zeppelin that gets rock fans really fired up. Last week, we asked for your favorite Zep songs of all time, and the response was overwhelming: nearly 2,000 people voted for 78 separate songs. The top 10 isn't the greatest-hits list many might expect; some genuine deep cuts made it in. Click through to see the results.
Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones was quite pissed off when he learned that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were reuniting without him in 1994, but he was especially upset when he learned they were calling the project "No Quarter." He co-wrote the seven-minute song on Houses of the Holy, and his long keyboard intro to the track was his spotlight moment at concerts all through the 1970s. The haunting number is a real fan favorite and onstage, it took on a life of its own, sometimes stretching over 30 minutes. Zeppelin are often pigeonholed as an aggressive hard-rock band, but songs like "No Quarter" show their incredible range.
Much like Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate," Zeppelin's 1975 track "Ten Years Gone" is a nostalgic look at a lost love from a decade back. In Zeppelin's case, the woman insisted that her man pick the music or her; needless to say, he went with the former. "I was working my ass off before joining Zeppelin," Robert Plant said in 1975. "A lady I really, dearly loved said, 'Right. It's me or your fans.' Not that I had fans, but I said, 'I can't stop, I've got to keep going.' She's quite content these days, I imagine."
When Led Zeppelin released "Ramble On" in late 1969, the nerds and the burn-outs finally had something to discuss on the playground: the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. "T'was in the darkest depths of Mordor/ I met a girl so fair," Robert Plant sings. "But Gollum and the evil one crept up/ And slipped away with her, her, her." It's one of the greatest songs told from the perspective of a creature from Middle Earth, but it prompts some questions: What's a "girl so fair" doing in Mordor? What are you doing in Mordor, for that matter? It's a freaky, fucked-up place. It's a place you go to battle evil and destroy all-powerful rings. It's the furthest thing from a pick-up bar ever imagined. Furthermore, why is Gollum after this chick? Does she have the One Ring?
These are questions for the nerds and burn-outs to sort through together, but the song is an absolute classic. For some reason, Led Zeppelin never performed it until their 2007 reunion concert at London's 02 Arena.
According to legend, Led Zeppelin wrote "The Rain Song" after George Harrison told them that writing some ballads might be a good idea. (Apparently, he hadn't spent much time with their catalog.) They took him up on the challenge, writing one of their most mellow and lush songs. Taking a page out of the Genesis playbook, they even put a mellotron on the track. "I don't even know what kind of music this is," Rick Rubin told Rolling Stone in 2011. "It defies classification. There's such tasteful, beautiful detail in the guitar and a triumphant feel when the drums come in – it's sad and moody and strong, all at the same time. I could listen to this song all day. That would be a good day."
Led Zeppelin II opens up with one of the most famous guitar riffs in rock history. The guitar parts in "Whole Lotta Love" are largely original, but Robert Plant's lyrics borrowed quite heavily from the 1962 Muddy Waters song "You Need Love." The Small Faces nicked the words in 1966 for their track "You Need Loving," and it's quite clear that Led Zeppelin were familiar with both songs when they wrote "Whole Lotta Love." In 1985, Willie Dixon (who wrote "You Need Love") sued Zeppelin, and he now gets credit on the song. Controversy aside, the song is one of Led Zeppelin's most famous and it was the centerpiece of most of their concerts, often stretching well past 30 minutes.
The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 inspired countless folk and blues songs. Perhaps the most famous one is "When the Levee Breaks" by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. Robert Plant had the song in his collection, and the band dug it out when they were cutting their fourth album in 1971. John Bonham's drums sound absolutely ferocious on the track; he cut the song in a hallway at Headley Grange with a pair of microphones hanging over the first floor landing. They gave Memphis Minnie credit on the album; at the time, she was 74 and living in a nursing home. Bob Dylan also cut his own version of the song in 2006. The track was very rarely played live, though they did play it with Neil Young when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
This eight-minute blues standard is a clear highlight from Led Zeppelin III, even though John Bonham's bass pedal is squeaking through much of the song. Jimmy Page does some of his best-ever guitar work here, but it's obvious to even a casual listener that they "borrowed" parts of the song from Moby Grape's 1968 tune "Never." The opening lines of "Since I've Been Loving You" are taken almost verbatim from "Never" and the songs echo each other in many other ways. All that aside, Zeppelin definitely put their own spin on the material and it remains a killer song.
Robert Plant broke his ankle in a car crash shortly before Led Zeppelin cut Presence in 1975, and he was in a wheelchair when they recorded the 10-minute epic "Achilles Last Stand." The song is largely about Plant's time in Morocco, and he got so into the song that he almost made his injury even worse. "Enthusiasm got the better of me," Plant said. "I was running to the vocal booth with this orthopedic crutch when down I went, straight on the bad foot. There was an almighty crack and a great flash of pain and I folded up in agony." Luckily, he didn't have a fresh break and they were able to finish the song.
Robert Plant wrote the lyrics to "Kashmir" while driving through the Sahara Desert. "I kept bumping down a desert track and there was nobody for miles," he said, "except a guy on a camel. The whole inspiration for the song came from the fact the road went on and on and on. It was a single-side road which cut neatly through the desert… It looked like you were driving down a channel. I thought, 'This is great, but one day… Kashmir. That's my Shangri-La.'" Jimmy Page used an Eastern-flavored riff he'd created on a recent home demo and John Paul Jones arranged the piece. The members of Led Zeppelin have repeatedly said it's their single greatest song.
Some of you are probably groaning that this won but for many people, this was their introduction to Led Zeppelin. The song has been played on FM radio countless times over the past 40 years, to the point that even Robert Plant is horribly sick of it, but it remains an absolute classic. The track slowly builds and builds over the course of eight minutes to a blistering climax, which partially explains its huge appeal over the years. "It crystallized the essence of the band," Jimmy Page said. "It had everything there and showed the band at its best… as a band, as a unit. Not talking about solos or anything, it had everything there. We were careful never to release it as a single. It was a milestone for us." When Page and Plant reformed in the mid-1990s, they refused to perform the song, though the band did break it out at their 2007 reunion concert.