The 40 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs of All Time – Rolling Stone
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The 40 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs of All Time

The definitive guide to Zeppelin’s finest recorded moments

Led Zeppelin

Jimmy Page performing live onstage, playing his Gibson Les Paul guitar.

Robert Knight Archive/Getty

World-changing riffs, blues fury, power-ballad grandeur, Hobbits and so much more

This list appears in Rolling Stone’s new collectors edition, Led Zeppelin: The Ultimate Guide to Their Music & Legend.

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Robert Plant

‘All My Love’ (1979)

With a winding synthesizer solo by Jones, the majestic "All My Love" is one of only two Zeppelin songs not written or co-written by Page. It's Plant's mystical tribute to his son Karac, who died in 1977 at age five. According to a friend, Page "hated 'All My Love,' but because it was about Karac, he couldn't criticize it."

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Robert Plant John Bonham John Paul Jones Acoustic Live Performance

‘Traveling Riverside Blues’ (1969)

Recorded at a BBC Radio session, this improvised take on a Robert Johnson song is one of their loosest moments. Page showcases his manic acoustic-slide jangle, and Plant workshops the "squeeze my lemon" soliloquy he'd make famous on Led Zeppelin II.

Led Zeppelin John Bonham Drum Solo Live Performance

‘Four Sticks’ (1971)

Page built this exotic song around a series of needle-stick guitar salvos, but because the meter shifts from 5/8 to 6/8, Zeppelin found it difficult to record and almost ditched it. Then Bonham came into the studio after spending some time in a pub and nailed it, holding two drumsticks in each hand (hence the song's title).

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Robert Plant John Bonham John Paul Jones

‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ (1970)

Page spent months on his solo to this epic – then settled on his original demo. Good thing: The slow blues is one of Zeppelin's most soulful moments, Page's guitar veering between spare and raucous attack, Jones playing blazing organ and Plant shrieking pure heartbreak.

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Robert Plant John Bonham John Paul Jones

‘Tangerine’ (1970)

The band's greatest country excursion dates back to a song written by Page and Keith Relf called "Knowing That I'm Losing You," from the last Yardbirds session, in 1968. Page resurrected it with new lyrics that Plant described as being "about love in its most innocent stages." Page said, "We're not stale, and this proves it."

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Guitar Solo Live Performance

‘The Rain Song’ (1973)

One of Page's most gorgeous guitar displays, with acoustic and electric lines glistening alongside Jones' lush Mellotron chords. Per legend, it's a response to George Harrison's complaint that "you don't do any ballads" – although Plant and Bonham still make it roar at the end.

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Robert Plant John Bonham John Paul Jones Groupies

‘Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)’ (1969)

Think there are no bad songs on Led Zeppelin II? Page disagrees: He left this off their 1990 box set, and Zeppelin never played it live. Still, the fast, hard-twanging rocker about an aging groupie became a radio standard.

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Guitar Solo Live Performance

‘The Wanton Song’ (1975)

"There's not many riffs better than that," Dave Grohl has observed – and even though its galloping, octave-leaping groove is the twin of "Immigrant Song," Page makes it new with a 3D solo. Also awesome: Plant gasping about a woman "who took my seed from my shaking frame."

Led Zeppelin John Bonham Drum Solo Live Performance

‘Moby Dick’ (1969)

Bonham's drum-solo epic from Led Zeppelin II began as a jam based around bluesman Sleepy John Estes' "The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair." In concert it could stretch out as long as 30 minutes; the recorded version is a trimmed-down four minutes of syncopated stomp and rolling tom-tom thunder.

Led Zeppelin Robert Plant Live Performance

‘In My Time of Dying’ (1975)

Zeppelin's longest studio track transmogrified a gospel standard into a stadium hydra via Page's grinding slide, Jones' shape-shifting bass line and Bonham's massive hopscotch groove. Live, Plant dedicated it to Queen Elizabeth in a joking allusion to the band's tax-exile status.

Led Zeppelin Robert Plant Honolulu Hawaii Wife Maureen Wilson

‘Thank You’ (1969)

"Sometimes Zeppelin was gross and very indecent, and sometimes it was delicate and beautiful," Plant said. "Thank You" presents a rare happily married side of the band. Plant sings a grateful declaration to his wife, Maureen Wilson, and Jones' organ part is like a regal processional.

Led Zeppelin John Paul Jones Organ Piano

‘No Quarter’ (1973)

The band's trippiest moment since "Dazed and Confused" was a showcase for co-writer Jones, who gets cool-jazzy on piano in the middle section as Page spins fluid lines. If couplets like "Walking side by side with death/The devil mocks their every step" didn't invent heavy-metal mythology, they planted some seeds.

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Robert Plant Live Performance

‘Houses of the Holy’ (1975)

Recorded for the album of the same name, this stomping come-on was shelved for sounding too much like "Dancing Days," and resurrected for Physical Graffiti. Page sprays shrapnel while Plant evokes fertility rites and drugged-out tarot readings. Rick Rubin has called it "one of their most compact-feeling songs."

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Robert Plant John Bonham John Paul Jones

‘Trampled Under Foot’ (1975)

Possibly the funkiest Zep track: Jones (inspired by Stevie Wonder's "Superstition") rocks a clavinet and Page a wah-wah, and they ride Bonzo's proto-disco beat. Plant works a sexual metaphor with automobile imagery echoing Robert Johnson's "Terraplane Blues."

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Portrait

‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’ (1969)

Page picked up this tune from a Joan Baez record. Their cover is the kind of heavy jam on a familiar song that bands like Blue Cheer and Vanilla Fudge were doing – but few were drawing on American folk music, and no one was jamming as precisely and viscerally.

Led Zeppelin Robert Plant John Paul Jones

‘Fool in the Rain’ (1979)

"Zeppelin is not a nostalgia band," Page said defiantly when punk rockers were denouncing his group. You can sense their eclectic restlessness here; Jones and Plant heard a samba song while watching the 1978 World Cup, which influenced the Latin-jam middle section. Page called it "a springboard for what could have been."

Led Zeppelin Robert Plant Live Performance

‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ (1976)

A sci-fi blues lament that amplifies Blind Willie Johnson's stark original; Plant confesses his sins and scrapes notes from the bottom of his throat, and the opening may be Page's last truly epic blues riff – billowy and distant, like an SOS from an alien world.

Jimmy Page Led Zeppelin Live Performance Guitar

‘Heartbreaker’ (1969)

Page's solo was a heavy-metal textbook full of pyrotechnics that, per legend, inspired a young Eddie Van Halen to reimagine the possible. A takedown of "Annie," a two-timer who leaves the singer "alone and blue," it became a live staple during which Page would slip Bach's "Bourrée in E minor" and other quotes into the jam.

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Robert Plant John Bonham John Paul Jones

‘Dancing Days’ (1973)

After recording this at Mick Jagger's country home Stargroves in England, the bandmates were so excited they went out on the lawn and danced to it. The music – most strikingly, the searing slide-guitar line – was inspired by Page and Plant's trip to Bombay. The lyrics are an almost Beach Boys-like vision of Edenic summer ease.

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Robert Plant Live Performance

‘D’yer Mak’er’ (1973)

Not "Dire Maker," as it's generally known, but a rough phonetic riff on "Jamaica," this began with the notion of playing reggae music, a new phenomenon in 1972. What emerged was a sort of rock-steady heavy-metal doo-wop jam; Plant's giddy vocals turn a string of stuttered vowel sounds into one of the band's catchiest pop songs.

Led Zeppelin Robert Plant John Paul Jones Mandolin Live Performance

‘Gallows Pole’ (1970)

The oldest song in Zeppelin's repertoire, "Gallows Pole" first appeared several centuries ago as the folk song "The Maid Freed From the Gallows." Page and Plant added the frantically escalating arrangement (on which Page makes his banjo-playing debut, with Jones joining in on mandolin) and the horror-show ending.

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Robert Plant John Bonham John Paul Jones

‘The Song Remains the Same’ (1973)

Written shortly after Page and Plant's 1972 expedition to Bombay, this raga-tinged track was originally intended as an instrumental. It's Zep at their sunniest, celebrating music's universality just as they had become arguably the biggest band in the world.

Led Zeppelin Robert Plant Sandy Denny

‘The Battle of Evermore’ (1971)

One of the most arresting displays of their love of folk music – Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention is featured, with Page on mandolin (which he'd never played before). It's also their fullest evocation of The Lord of the Rings, with allusions to wraiths and mountainside warfare.

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Robert Plant John Bonham John Paul Jones

‘Over the Hills and Far Away’ (1973)

Amazingly, this uncharacteristically poppy boogie-rock sugar shot was Zeppelin's first single that didn't make the Top 50. Plant sings a pure-hearted come-on over Page's open-road strumming, then the band kicks in for three minutes of fleet, booming choogle.

Led Zeppelin Robert Plant

‘What Is and What Should Never Be’ (1969)

One of Plant's earliest songwriting attempts is allegedly about an affair with his wife's younger sister. Its woozy production and bulldozer gearshifts from tender, pastoral verse to demon-steed chorus make for music strung between lover's plea and torrid fantasy.

Led Zeppelin Robert Plant Live Performance

‘The Ocean’ (1973)

Dedicated to their sea of fans, "The Ocean" drops a knotty, funky beat that air drummers have been screwing up for decades. It's also a showcase for Bonham the vocalist; he and Jones make a rare appearance on backing vocals for the outro, and when he counts the band in at the opening, he sounds like a cross between a pirate and a rapper.

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Bowed Guitar Solo

‘Dazed and Confused’ (1969)

This psychedelic-blues beast became the centerpiece of their stage performances for years. Singer-songwriter Jake Holmes recorded the original version in 1967. Page reimagined it for Zeppelin's debut, and their ever-expanding live jam on his arrangement, featuring Page's epic bowed solos, often stretched out as long as 45 minutes.

Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page Robert Plant John Bonham John Paul Jones Backstage

‘Communication Breakdown’ (1969)

The down-stroke riff of "Communication Breakdown" comes very close to punk seven years ahead of schedule. The lyrics allude to Eddie Cochran's "Nervous Breakdown," but if the song got its spark from the Fifties, Zep's deranged attack was something brutally new.