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“Dolby’s Top 25 Led Zeppelin Songs (And Why it Matters)”

Because as we all know, what’s a hipster’s favorite cheap, easy way to sound cultivated and superior? Profess a dislike for Led Zeppelin. Ooh, hipster, you got me good. But not good enough.
Ok. Let’s just operate, for some odd reason, under the premise that it actually matters what music you’re listening to, that music is not simply an arbitrary noise factor which exists for the sole purpose of just embodying something other than sex and violence. Let’s humor ourselves, and think that maybe music actually has different qualities — that even things like key changes are good (executed yess in Korn’s “Freak on a Leash,” for all you ‘90s buffs), that things like most bodacious drummers of all time are sort of a plus (New Pornographers’ Kurt Dahle is another favorite). Maybe this makes our identities liquid, in some way, and not solid.
Ahem… I’m going to shift gears briefly here and talk about Catcher in the Rye. For my other blog, to be honest, I wanted to do a readers’ poll entitled “Does Catcher in the Rye Make You Angry, and Why?”, but to be honest, it’s pretty exhausting dealing with humanity, plus the fact that I can’t actually ascertain that any of them actually READ my blog. So I’m just going to spew it here: this book is so damned anti-establishment it’s scary, probably excessively so (though give it props for making fun of The Atlantic Monthly, having his old, decrepit professor stooped over with it when he visits at the beginning)… Holden disapproves of every little thing so palpably that he actually becomes verifiably crazy, as any psychologist would agree: “It has a very good academic rating, Pencey. It really does.” What the heck is this all about?
Well, to the 17 year old mind, if I’m any indication, it’s funny, or just preferable to Shakespeare. But I think you get older and you don’t want this sort of thing: you just want to fall in line, continue toiling for the man at your day job. Catcher in the Rye gets cumbersome, because it reminds you about real carelessness, and how da**ed fun it can be.
Maybe that’s what Led Zeppelin is to people, I dunno. To me Led Zeppelin is rock and roll holy scripture, from the sound, to the melodies, to the lyrics, but maybe to some people they STAND for something that isn’t good (well I just saw this thing on facebook about this chick “twerking,” no I don’t know what that is and proud of it, and they said she was like a national treasure, so it looks like the morality tallies are still coming in). Fu** it. Just listen.
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Brief Addenda: The Who
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It’s impossible to overstate The Who’s influence on this band (actually Keith Moon even invented the name, saying upon a description that “You guys will go over like a lead zeppelin”… and then apparently the “a” vacated from the name because the guys were afraid Americans (that’s us, dude) would mispronounce it. I just got the urge to put “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” on this list, but I was like dag, wrong band. This was the first song to ever mark a purposeful use of electric guitar FEEDBACK in a studio track, and it boogies, er, it BOMBS in clumsily as if drunk, like the madman that it is. If there’s a man in rock history more underrated than Roger Daltrey I’ll eat sh**.
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25 “Friends” (III)
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Any listener to the riff in this song would be in love instantly, feelings arguably to cause reactions in excess of the “friend” territory.
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24 “The Song Remains the Same” (Houses of the Holy)
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Saw Umphrey’s cover this on ’02 in Bloomington… that was easily the best Umphrey’s cover ever, stacking up next to certain gems like “Trenchtown Rock,” “The Girl is Mine” and the Beatles Abbey Road side B medley.
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23 “The Rain Song” (Houses of the Holy)
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Challenged by… I believe it was Pete Townshend or some hoity toity big shot like that to “write a ballad,” something the person purported he’d never done (um, “Thank You”), Page sat down and penned this one for that exact purpose. It ebbs just like a gentle rain, and then swells with magnanimity that comes close to dwarfing the rest of the album.
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22 “Misty Mountain Hop” (Zoso)
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This is one of those songs I used to think was so ANNOYING, haha. But it always made an impression. I’d hear it on the “classic rock” station (an entire concept which is now defunct in South Bend, Indiana, interestingly enough), [1] and it seemed to steal the show in the most grating sort of way, mm-hmm. Nearly made me spill my cup of tea.
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21 “Ten Years Gone” (Physical Graffiti)
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Sneaky lil’ snack here on disc two of Graffiti, included on a couple sort of odd-ball best-ofs too I believe. My favorite part of it is the incredibly intricate guitar riffs (at least by guitar riff standards), something the band would master on a lot of this later stuff.
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20 “When the Levee Breaks” (Zoso)
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I might catch some heat from a lot of Zep heads for placing this one so low, but patience, patience! At least I’ve got it on the list at all. The capping off of a great album, aptly so, but I think it sounds better in the context of the album than on its own.
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19 “Dancing Days” (Houses of the Holy)
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There is absolutely no improving upon this scintillating mid-tempo Houses album track, the only song I know of in history with a half-step key change from verse to chorus, a song that somehow sounds so orchestral, even with three instruments. I’ll take it.
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18 “The Ocean” (Houses of the Holy)
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There’s some songs like this, that are like, every time I hear them, they remind me how good they are, prove my “left brain” wrong, so to speak. This was the Rolling Stone “Essential Track” on this album, from what I remember. So I’m part of the grey masses. I can vibe with that.
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17 “For Your Life” (Presence)
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“Sunburn babe! Nothin’ I can dooooo!” Typical Brits here. Sorry. It would of course be tempting here to comment that Robert Plant is fishing for any source of calamitous strife to sing about, even if it is just a “sunburn,” but Presence happens to be the album the majority of which they wrote while he was recovering from a near-fatal car accident.
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16 “Kashmir” (Physical Graffiti)
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Ah, just classic. This eight minutes goes by like five, every time, and for all the complexity, all the sheer cathedral mass here, what you’re perplexed by again and again is the level of acute pain and strife going into this thing — the whole thing is undeniably real, which is crazy, for how big and messy it is.
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15 “Whole Lotta Love” (II)
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Just another transcendent track here, from the band which would treat “transcendence” like it was a deck of Crazy Eights. Funny story: I put this song on a mix tape (tape) in high school (I had this cassette boom box I’d pimp with in the back seat of my car), and somehow I fu**ed up putting this song on, and it cut in and out, so it spliced the “Looooove” exclamation into this trippy multi-layered three-part caterwaul. Sorry, I know, I need to get out more.
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14 “The Crunge” (Houses of the Holy)
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Like a band celebrating its success with an inane groove so original and goofy that it catches on, this song perfected the unusual time signature as not artsy-fartsy, but just plain dumb. Check Almost Famous for the “Have you seen the bridge?” shoutout.
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13 “Four Sticks” (Zoso)
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Deep, dark, hollow and somber, like a petulant soul on the lonely road to total nadir. Oh yeah, it’s only a rock band playing a rock song. Sometimes I have to remind myself that. With four drum sticks, mind you.
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12 “Achilles Last Stand” (Presence)
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Just another later Zeppelin song that’s utterly stupefying here: 10 minutes that goes by like seven. Or is it 11 minutes that goes by like eight? Or is it maybe just… the FU**ING amount OF TIME IT SEEMS LIKE? Fu** it, I’ll you decide.
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11 “Sick Again” (Physical Graffiti)
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Last song on Physical Graffiti, the band’s only double album. Led Zeppelin’s “bid for artistic respectability,” according to Rolling Stone. Well, we all know how that turned out.
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10 “Rock and Roll” (Zoso)
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Singly, pringly! It’s not often that you hear a Zeppelin song and you think, Wow, this would really make a good single, but this one does, and this one did… it even made a great car commercial. Mmm, maybe not.
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9 “Gallows Pole” (III)
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It’s sort of hitting me: a lot of the songs I put in this top 10 are covers. Well, if the critics thought Led Zeppelin were bad, apparently they hadn’t heard Taylor Swift, or the guy who does that “I’ll be your crying shoulder” banger.
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8 “Darlene” (Coda)
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I’m pretty sure this is the only Coda song I put on here, but really, it’s not too bad of a listen I don’t think at all: a smattering from what I understand of outtakes from various albums, and some precociously death-defying “grooves” along the way, wouldn’cha know.
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7 “In My Time of Dying” (Physical Graffiti)
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Ooh. Simmer this one in the back, it’s a sizzler. This is the band showing off their impeccable sense of giving a song multiple phases — like a sleeping giant which soon awakens and rapes and pillages an entire town. What town would that be? Boy, I really sound misanthropic here, don’t I.
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6 “How Many More Times” (I)
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I gotch’er multiple phases right here, along with the band’s early fetish for all-out STOPS, pauses, and… John Bonham just imposing his will. Eventually, as was reported in LZ ’75 I believe, the well written chronicle, Bonzo would start imposing his will physically while drunk on women who were around… just a reminder there has to be reins on this sort of thing or it gets out of hand. Let’s just say this is the song that presaged that sort of thing.
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5 “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” (Presence)
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Again, stops and starts. I’m going stops and starts crazy here. The production on Presence though happens to be some favorite stuff in my book though — every little strum and twang is just so grainy, in a good way, like organic grainy. And the drums are more booming and eardrum-annihilating than ever too… that doesn’t hurt. Ooh, yeah it does.
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4 “The Battle of Evermore” (Zoso)
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Ah, yes, a favorite amongst many of my friends, and a favorite among Armistead Maupin, too. Don’t believe me? Ok, it might be KIND of a stretch, but I swear to God in his book The Days of Anna Madrigal he makes a reference to a “valley below,” which is at the end of a clause, and somehow I just know it’s lifted, if only unconsciously, from this song’s “Down in the valley below” line. Boo-yah.
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3 “The Rover” (Physical Graffiti)
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One of the main reasons why Graffiti is so lauded, right here… the second song is crucial, crucial. It follows “Custard Pie,” which is actually just a pretty pedestrian little blues-metal etude, sort of a crowd warmer-upper, and then “The Rover” is the real stomper. This would have made a great concert setlist one-two punch, and maybe did.
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2 “Going to California” (Zoso)
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Fast approaching the “uncoverable” territory, this song is likewise memorable for its inclusion on live album How the West Was Won, and Robert Plant’s stage banter, which sort of makes you hate him, except that you’re sort of in awe, too. And the fact that you don’t even hate them for suing Pearl Jam for “Given to Fly” over this song should tell you something, too.
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1 “Thank You” (II)
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(I could never say it any better.)
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[1] Although the “oldies” DJ’s (besides not really spewing what I consider “oldies”) have been known to do some pretty interesting things when they do what they do, like splicing John Mellencamp’s “I Need a Lover” straight onto Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time,” without that god forsaken annoying early part of that second song.

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