Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 210
Fri. Sept. 6, 2013
From the track that gave Stephen Davis most infamous rock bio its name, Hammer of the Gods, comes the song that has one of my favorite intros. We all know it, there’s this moment when it sounds like the volume is being turned up, louder and louder, before Robert Plant’s now immortal howling of “ahhh-ah-ah,” that one section that sounds like the Mothership is coming inside the aural air space of mind, body and soul. I remember holding each and every Zep LP cover trying to uncovering the mythos of this band. On any other band’s recording, that sound of the volume being turned up would be just another audio anomaly but because of the myth surrounding legend of Zeppelin, every little noise on any Led song meant something to me.
“Immigrant Song” leads off Led Zeppelin’s third album like a sonic invasion so brilliantly brought to life my Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones, this opening track was a call to arms, a warning shot to the rock music world that Led Zep would be ruling the airwaves of the seventies. Jimmy told author Brad Tolinski, in his book Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page, about how “Immigrant Song” magic riff came to life when he explained, “It’s a black chord that people never get right. It pulls the whole tension of the piece into another area of dimension just for that moment…and a bit backwards echo makes it a bit more complete. It’s putting all these elements together that makes music have depth.”
It’s amazing how one of the shortest songs in Zeppelin’s canon can have such substance and depth. Under three minutes, “Immigrant” captures the furious intensity of a futuristic 1970’s outer space punk song featuring the glorious catcalls of Robert Plant. Page praised his singer’s contribution to “Immigrant song” to author Tolinski when he said, “I have to say Robert’s input on that song was also absolutely magical. His sort of “Bali Ha’” [a song from the classic Broadway musical South Pacific] melody line was really inspired and completely spontaneous. I can remember working on “Immigrant Song” and all the piece coming together. John Bonham and I playing the riff in the E to A “Rumble” chords, and Robert singing his wonderful melodies.” Who would have guessed that a song from Broadway’s South Pacific would turn Page’s combustible genius riff into an interstellar rock masterpiece.
Often imitated but never to be duplicated, get ready to be transported back to the mothership and relive the rock invasion led by Jimmy Page’s ferocious guitar riff and Robert Plant’s now classic howls, Led Zeppelin will take back, over the hills and further away, within the timeless sonic greatness that is “Immigrant Song.”
Editor’s Note: Starting Oct. 1, 2013, Brad Tolinski’s Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page will be available in paperback at any online or retail bookstore near you.