Certain Songs #908: Led Zeppelin – “The Rover”

Album: Physical Graffiti
Year: 1975

Physical Graffiti is officially my favorite Led Zeppelin album.

It’s also their most atypical album. A combination of freshly-recorded tracks and songs that didn’t quite fit the records they were recorded for, it could have been a complete mess, with the stylistic variety turning the whole thing into a hodge-podge.

Instead, because none of the leftovers were from their first two albums, and because the newer tracks incorporated pretty much every trick they’d learned since those records, what we were left with was an album that displayed the depth of their ambitions as well as the breadth of their mastery.

“The Rover,” originally recorded for Houses of The Holy, just drips with that mastery, almost strutting through John Bonham’s opening drum beat and Jimmy Page’s phase-shifted waka-waka guitar riff, until after a minute, Robert Plant decides to come in and humblebrag:

I’ve been to London, seen seven wonders
I know to trip is just to fall
I used to rock it, sometimes I’d roll it
I always knew what it was for

And with an Bonzo drumbeat that doesn’t even break a sweat, John Paul Jones sliding away from the root and Page chiming after every line, “The Rover” glides into one of the biggest hooks on any Led Zeppelin album:

There can be no denying
That the wind’ll shake ’em down
And the flat world’s flying
And there’s a new plague on the land

If we could just join hands
If we could just join hands
If we could just join hands

As always, the band interplay is almost beyond belief: listen carefully and you can hear a perfectly-placed cymbal smash, a subtle bass run, and on the bridge, yet another riff where Page leaving enormous amounts of space between every chord until he decides to solo for a while.

And not once in all of this has “The Rover” even broken a sweat, from start to finish it’s strutting down the street, not even paying attention to its surroundings, but knowing damn sure that it’s got everybody else’s full and undivided attention.

“The Rover”

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