Northern Star Playlist: Led Zeppelin

By Parker Otto

This past Wednesday, 38 years ago, rock and roll lost one of its greatest stars when Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham was found dead after a long drinking binge the night before. Bonham’s death lead to the dissolution of the group because its remaining members, vocalist Robert Plant, bassist John Paul Jones and guitarist Jimmy Page, felt that they couldn’t continue without Bonham. So, in honor of one of rock’s greatest groups, here is a selection of tracks for anyone who wants to get the led out.

  1. Whole Lotta Love — Led Zeppelin II

The opening track of the album “Led Zeppelin II,” “Whole Lotta Love” is one of the most sensual rock songs ever. The song is simple with the chorus “want to whole lotta love” blaring throughout the track. But in the middle of the song, the hard rock track goes quiet with a simple drum beat courtesy of Bonham with Plant howling on the track. Top that off with Page’s guitar riffs and one of the greatest openings for an album was born.

  1. Misty Mountain Hop — Led Zeppelin IV

The members of Led Zeppelin are well-known lovers of J.R.R. Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” novels, with characters and ideas from the books making their way into Zeppelin tracks. “Misty Mountain Hop” is a confirmation of this with the titular mountain range appearing in “The Hobbit.”

The track opens with an electric keyboard melody composed by John Paul Jones which is backed up by Page on the guitar. The track is less of a head-banger compared to previous tracks, but the song has a hypnotizing atmosphere that one will get sucked into.

  1. Immigrant Song — Led Zeppelin III

While the album “Led Zeppelin III” gained a mixed reaction upon release, the change in musical tone compared to the band’s previous efforts ultimately worked in their favor. Opening the album’s A-side, “Immigrant Song” is a brash and iconic track that guides the fan of Led Zeppelin’s hard rock stage into the more refined and soft tracks the record offers. The song has become very popular in media with its use in films such as “School of Rock” and “Thor: Ragnarok.” 

  1. Kashmir — Physical Graffiti

One of Led Zeppelin’s longer tracks, “Kashmir” runs at eight and a half minutes with a thunderous opening which sounds like an anthem from a sporting arena. The biggest asset the song has is John Paul Jones’ keyboard skills, which lead the song while Page and Bonham stick to maintaining rhythm. Plant’s bluesy vocals, combined with spiritual lyrics make the track feel like a religious awakening akin to The Beatles’ “Within You Without You.” 

  1. When The Levee Breaks — Led Zeppelin IV

Starting with Bonham’s simple but effective drum beat, combined with Page, Jones and Plant on guitar, bass and harmonica, “When The Levee Breaks” is one of Led Zeppelin’s best tracks from their best album. The song brings the group back to their blues rock roots and is a good return to form. It’s a perfect conclusion to “Led Zeppelin IV” and a brilliant song on its own.

  1. Ramble On — Led Zeppelin II

Another Led Zeppelin song with “Lord of the Rings” references, “Ramble On” contains the characters of Gollum and Sauron, the location of Mordor and an amazing hard rock track that will get heads banging and listeners screaming.

Compared to other songs on “Led Zeppelin II,” “Ramble On” contains a rather mellow opening with a simple rhythm of bass, acoustic guitar and light percussion before transforming into a hard rock masterpiece. The song is like a coin, constantly being flipped from folk rock to hard rock and it is an absolute pleasure to listen to.

  1. Dazed and Confused — Led Zeppelin

This song was originally sung by Jake Holmes before The Yardbirds, of which Page was a member, picked up the track and started performing it live. After Page left and formed Led Zeppelin, he decided to feature it on the A-side of the band’s debut album. It’s a slow moving track that dabbles in pure psychedelic rock with Plant’s vocals carrying the track.

  1. Good Times Bad Times — Led Zeppelin

The first song of Led Zeppelin’s first album, “Good Times Bad Times” attracts attention immediately with Page’s guitar riff followed by all four members harmonizing perfectly with a hard rock anthem. Also worthy of mention is John Paul Jones’ playful bass riff which gives the song an interesting life. Page’s guitar solos are everything that classic rock should be. It was a song that proved that Led Zeppelin was something completely new. 

  1. The Battle of Evermore — Led Zeppelin IV

“The Battle of Evermore” is a folk influenced track that primarily focuses on Robert Plant in a duet with guest vocalist Sandy Denny. Their vocal ranges are so similar that it feels the track was overdubbed, but it was actually two different people. Page contributes with an unforgettable melody which is a combination of the acoustic guitar and mandolin. It’s a good track for those who wish to explore Led Zeppelin’s folk influenced discography.

  1. Moby Dick — Led Zeppelin II

An instrumental track from “Led Zeppelin II,” “Moby Dick” gives Page, Jones and Bonham a chance to completely chow their versatility with their instruments. Bonham in particular is able to give one of the greatest drum solos in the history of rock with his work making up the majority of the song. It’s a classic of rock and a standout of Led Zeppelin.

  1. Trampled Under Foot — Physical Graffiti

This track resembles the funk rock tracks of the 70s perfectly, and is enjoyable to listen to. “Trampled Under Foot” can be played at both a rock concert and a disco and is a perfect amalgamation of the two genres. 

  1. Stairway to Heaven — Led Zeppelin IV

One of the greatest rock songs ever written, “Stairway to Heaven” is an iconic song that allegedly frightened people. This was due to the fact that if one played the record backwards, one could hear prayers to Satan. Despite this, “Stairway to Heaven” is a classic with the eight minute track balancing a folk ballad intro with a hard rock finale which creates an epic experience that one can never forget.