Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 214
Fri. Sept. 13, 2013
At first glance, with it’s diverse song styles, some may see Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti as their very own version of The Beatles’ White Album; but in reality, the band’s 1975 double album parallel’s Rolling Stone’s 1972 epic Exile on Main Street. No song echoes Exile’s down and dirty muddled sound than “The Rover.” Often cited by Led Zep fans as their most underrated song, “The Rover” is a cut that grows on you with age like the rarest fine wine. Far from perfect what makes “The Rover” such a magnificently menacing and memorable of a song is the dynamic between John Bonham and Jimmy Page. Most fans signal John’s brilliant double barrel drum fills from “When The Levee Breaks” as his best but I believe that Bonzo’s powerful backbeat on “The Rover” is what makes gives this Graffiti cut it’s Physical presence.
In Barry Hoskyns’ book Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band, engineer for the Headley Grange recording sessions that birthed Physical Graffiti, Ron Nevison described the dynamics between Bonzo and Zoso when he said, “Jimmy was so well prepared. He used to come into the truck, and he’d listen to the whole thing. At that time, I thought he didn’t like his guitar. But then I realized that he was taking the guitar down to make sure the drum track is solid. The essence to me of the whole Zeppelin thing was John Bonham following the guitar. He would take the riff, and make that his drum part.” You can feel that connection between Bonham and Page on Physical Graffiti and especially on “The Rover.”
So what is it about “The Rover” that many hardcore Zeppelin fans like Queens of Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen have such a connection to this Physical song? In an interview with Guitar Player, Van Leeuwen talked about his love of “The Rover” when he said, “Jimmy Page’s “The Rover” is so slinky, sexy, and bendy. It’s absolutely undeniable from the very first note.” In a 1998 Ray Gun article with Jimmy Page and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, Robert Plant agreed with the QOSTA guitarist when he exclaimed, “I forgot about “The Rover” What a great song. We could do that.”
Although, Page once mentioned to Rolling Stone Magazine that “The Rover” was one of his favorite all-time riffs, this is one of the songs that Led Zep has rarely played in concert. I believe it’s the fact that Page has negative connotations with “The Rover” for the fact that, according to George Case’s Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man: An Unauthorized Biography, engineer Nevison accidently erased one of Jimmy’s more memorable guitar tracks. If it wasn’t for Jimmy’s favorite man behind the boards, Keith Harwood, “The Rover” would have stayed one of the greatest Led Zeppelin unreleased outtakes. Maybe when Page hears “The Rover” as his greatest unfinished masterpiece, thinking what could’ve been instead of the genius of a guitar solo that he crafted for this much unheralded Zep cut.
Whatever Jimmy’s misplaced emotions he has for “The Rover,” in Brad Tolinski’s Light & Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page, Zoso said this about Led Zeppelin’s historic 1975 double album, “I look at Physical Graffiti as a document of the band in a working environment. Some people have said that parts of it are sloppy, but I think this album is really honest. It is a more personal album, and I think it allowed the listener to enter our world. You know, ‘Here’s the door, I’m in.’”
No term perfectly personifies Jimmy Page’s musical journey than this underrated Physical Graffiti gem better known as “The Rover.” [Editor’s Note: “The Rover” is British slang for ‘the wanderer’.] It may have taken me over forty plus years to appreciate the song and specifically Jimmy’s guitar solo so incendiary that Scott Calef, editor of the book Led Zeppelin and Philosophy: All Will Be Revealed, called “Melodic, concise and powerful.” Novice Led Zep fans, don’t wait any longer, do yourself a favor and rediscover Jimmy Page’s explosively magical guitar genius of Led Zeppelin’s “The Rover” today.