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When you think of arena rock bands, you almost always have to include Led Zeppelin in the conversation. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Baby Boomer, Gen-X’er, Gen-Y’er, whatever. You’re going to know who this band is because they essentially changed the face of hard rock. And if drummer John Bonham hadn’t left this earth suddenly in 1980, who knows how much more rock they would have brought. In this Deep Cuts piece, we’ll look back at some of the more obscure Led Zeppelin tracks that you likely haven’t heard a million times on classic rock radio.
“You Shook Me” – Led Zeppelin
In this slow, practically dragging bluesy track, Robert Plant sounds like he is singing while under water. He also sings in time, and note for note in spots, with Jimmy Page’s guitar lines. And if you don’t think this is cool, you’ve been jaded by the whiny pop/punk kids of today.
“Your Time Is Gonna Come” – Led Zeppelin
This one starts out with a church organ solo that eases into the song itself, and somehow John Bonham’s booming drums come in at just the right time. But what makes the track so compelling is its downright pop sensibility – a melodic, sing-along chorus that is very “Hey Jude”-like.
“Thank You” – Led Zeppelin II
The closest thing to a love song this band could conjure, as Plant sings, “If mountains crumbled to the sea / There’d still be you and me.” The organ is a nice touch and the song has peaks and valleys that make it one of Zep’s best-kept secrets. Of course, the fact that Duran Duran recorded the track on a collection of their influences in 1995 makes it a bit less obscure, but still a Deep Cut.
“The Lemon Song” – Led Zeppelin II
This song is classic Zeppelin, even if it never had the radio impact that several of their other songs did, because it is a perfect example of how the soulful blues of the ‘60s gave way to ‘70s arena rock. Plus, it was a staple of the band’s live shows, and had the rock-tastic lyric: “Squeeze my lemon / Till the juice runs down my leg.” I bet Robert Plant had enough unprotected groupie sex to wipe out a small nation – but that was then.
“Since I’ve Been Loving You” – Led Zeppelin III
In its day, this album may have been the least critically acclaimed Zep release, because it goes off in different directions that at times were hard to follow. But when you dig into this set of songs as a whole, it really does measure up to some of the band’s more acclaimed music. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” reaches into the bluesy roots of Jimmy Page, and his solos at the beginning and in the middle of the song are nothing short of spectacular. At about seven and a half minutes long, it’s basically Page and Plant noodling for that length of time, but who among us can’t handle that?
“Tangerine” – Led Zeppelin III
This is another one of those instances where Robert Plant follows the guitar line, something he did better than any of his peers. The verses are a bit melancholy but the chorus is uplifting and full of harmonies. This is the one song on Zeppelin III that could have been a big single, but for whatever reason never was.
“That’s The Way” – Led Zeppelin III
An acoustic track that has some chiming electric guitars thrown in, the most endearing thing is that it’s a laid-back Plant who reserves his screaming for the latter part of the song. Mostly, he proves that he can just sing (rather than scream most of the time), and do it really, really well. Page’s alternative tunings make this a nightmare for a pimply-faced kid trying to figure out how to play it. I’ll give you one guess who that pimply-faced kid was.
“The Battle of Evermore” from Led Zeppelin IV
Though we’ve been beaten to death with other songs on this album, such as overplayed classic rock radio mega-hits “Stairway To Heaven” and “Black Dog,” as well as Cadillac commercials ramming “Rock & Roll” down our throats every five minutes, we tend to forget that there were eight songs on it. Jimmy Page effectively adds mandolin to an epic rock song that builds into screaming bliss, even without drums.
“When the Levee Breaks” – Led Zeppelin IV
This is Led Zep at its most bombastic. John Bonham kicks things off and Robert Plant sings hauntingly about what could have been the theme to the disaster of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans 34 years later. The way the slide guitar and traditional electric guitar parts meld with the harmonica riffing make this simply one of the most powerful rock songs of all time, not just from the Zeppelin catalog. And while it’s technically a Deep Cut, we have to mention that the drum riff is one of the most sampled in history.
“The Rain Song” – Houses of the Holy
This just might be my favorite Led Zeppelin track of all. Hauntingly beautiful in a way the Death Cabs of today couldn’t even fathom, the song is aptly titled because you could literally feel the rain lightly coming down all around you as you listen to it. Jimmy Page is officially one of the greatest guitar players ever, because he can do it all: playful acoustic styling, rock riffs, blazing solos, bluesy soft-touch leads. Yeah, he’s the fucking man.
“No Quarter” – Houses of the Holy
Another seven-minute track (in the seventies, radio stations just dealt with it). Even more underwater-sounding than “The Rain Song,” this track features a guitar solo that also interplays with John Paul Jones’ bass lines, and it’s pure magic. It’s very psychedelic too, what with all kinds of weird keyboard parts and Plant’s vocals having that underwater effect.
“Ten Years Gone” – Physical Graffiti
Almost as beautiful as “The Rain Song,” you have to marvel at the way Jimmy Page can go from a sad acoustic guitar progression to a riff-laden, uplifting electric guitar romp, and how Plant can somehow weave his melodies throughout. It works because they are Led Zeppelin, and it’s damn near a masterpiece. Stairway to what?
“The Rover” – Physical Graffiti
This one just struts, and what it says when it struts is, “We are Led Zeppelin and you are not.” It’s a great example of how an epic rock band can break the rules of songwriting, and just riff their way into creating amazing music. The chorus features a sliding-down guitar part that is almost a precursor to grunge. As good as Zep was, they were occasionally so far ahead of their time, and this track is a perfect example of that.
“Achilles Last Stand” – Presence
While not the prettiest Zeppelin song ever, it’s a 10-minute romp that delves more into prog rock than anything else the band ever did. At times this song has some of the same qualities as Yes’ “Roundabout,” especially the blazing harmony guitars, thundering bass lines and lightning fast snare drum hits. It’s not nearly as melodic, but if you want to smoke a bowl and put on some classic Zep, you could do worse than this track.
“Nobody’s Fault but Mine” – Presence
The riff to this song almost mirrors the riff from Led Zeppelin II’s “Moby Dick.” But then it launches into a standard rock song, what with the standard noodling and riffing and screaming. Yes, this album was a bit of a clunker by Zeppelin standards, but it still rocked with some authority.
“In the Evening” – In Through the Out Door
This track kicks off the album, which at the time was Led Zeppelin’s first studio release in three years. It starts out with psychedelic guitar and keyboard parts, almost like “Your Time Is Gonna Come,” but way creepier. Then when Plant bellows the title line, it’s time to rock, and rock they do. Page’s guitar never crunched like it did on this track, and thought it’s more of a mid-tempo, pulsing rocker, it’s still a song that will make you want to drive really, really fast.
“South Bound Suarez” – In Through the Out Door
A shuffling, downright danceable track that features a recurring keyboard part. Even though this band didn’t have an official keyboard player, they sure added it (and added it well) to a lot of their tunes. And who are we to argue with that?
“Hot Dog” – In Through the Out Door
This track is possibly the happiest thing Led Zeppelin ever recorded. It’s pure fun for a whole three-plus minutes, bluesy rock with a ‘50s influence. Plant even shows off just a bit of Elvis influence in this, and it’s a track the King himself would have covered proudly. Hell, Steven Tyler would probably have a blast with it as well.