Certain Songs #899: Led Zeppelin – “Rock and Roll”

Year: 1971

Man, that drum intro! Right?

Using nothing but his kick, snare and a wide-open hi-hat, John Bonham spontaneously created an intro that will be imitated by drummers for just about ever. The legend has it that they were trying (and failing) to tame the rather tricky “Four Sticks,” and Bonzo just came up with what became the intro to their simplest and most straightforward rock and roll song.

As always, the secret is in the rhythm section: Bonham & John Paul Jones are chugging along, nearly unstoppable, while Jimmy Page isn’t even trying to keep up. Instead, he’s playing long, sustained chords on the verses, content to let the others do all of the work.

It’s only when they motorvate into the chorus that he joins the rest of them, playing Chuck Berry licks because what the hell else he going to do, but even cutting out at the stop time parts so Bonzo can bring the rest of the band in whenever the hell he pleases.

And when it comes time for the guitar solo, Page lays back a little bit, letting his guitar slink low in the mix, until it comes spiraling out of what seems like nowhere into yet another stop time part for Bonzo to sink his teeth into.

After that, they import Ian Stewart from the Rolling Stones to play some one note boogie-woogie piano as Robert Plant continues to invoke the spirits of rockers from the past.

Seems so long since we walked in the moonlight
Making vows that just can’t work right
Open your arms, opens your arms
Open your arms, baby, let my love come running in
It’s been a long time, been a long time
Been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time

Sitting on their fourth album in between the sophisticated hard rock of “Black Dog” and the etherial dreamscape of “The Battle of Evermore,” “Rock and Roll” was both a palate-cleanser and a reminder that Led Zeppelin loved the basics as much as anyone.

“Rock and Roll”

“Rock and Roll” performed live in New York, 1973

“Rock and Roll” performed live at Knebworth, 1979

Official Video for “Rock And Roll (Alternate Mix)”

Comments are closed.