Certain Songs #918: Led Zeppelin – “Kashmir (Knebworth, 1979)”

Album: Led Zeppelin DVD
Year: 1979

This is really a quick little postscript capping a month or so of Led Zeppelin posts. For the longest time, “Kashmir” was the one Certified Led Zeppelin Classic that I just couldn’t get behind.

On Physical Graffiti it was, as needs be, too perfect. It was like an impenetrable tank that was impossible to get inside of, every attempt at understanding its deep dark mysteries beaten back by a phase-shifted drum roll. So it wasn’t like I skipped it, or even changed the channel when it came on, I just didn’t love it, even though I could hear how amazing and groundbreaking it was.

That all changed when I saw & heard this version from the career-spanning DVD (called, of course, Led Zeppelin DVD) that accompanied How The West was Won in 2003. For the first time ever, really got “Kashmir.”

On this live version, it’s all about the performance: Robert Plant scatting and missing notes and improvising howls, John Paul Jones playing that imperial forces advancing on the rebels riff on the keyboards, Bonham doing extra drum rolls where they don’t belong and Jimmy Page tossing in little fills for the hell of it. It made “Kashmir” feel like something that was made by humans after all. Something fun. Which I’ve never gotten from the Physical Graffiti version.

What I always loved about Led Zeppelin was that — at the heart it all — they were just four guys who stood around in a room and just played together. Or at least it sounded that way. Even on songs with a shitload of overdubs, there was always that feeling of the basic track they all did together. And they really fucking enjoyed it, no matter massive their songs got.

That’s what I get from the Knebworth version of “Kashmir,” the ongoing vibe of “man, we’re really getting away with this, aren’t we?”

And that they did. That they did.

“Kashmir” performed live at Knebworth, 1979

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One Response to “Certain Songs #918: Led Zeppelin – “Kashmir (Knebworth, 1979)””

  1. Ira Brooker says:

    See now, I’m generally lukewarm on Zeppelin, but this is the one song of theirs I’ve always loved unabashedly. That’s probably telling of something.