Song 61: Led Zeppelin, “Ramble On” (1969)Posted: March 2, 2013
I owe much of my musical taste to my sister Elizabeth. She’s the one who introduced me to Ill Communication, who borrowed a copy of Sgt. Pepper from someone, who had all three Hendrix albums. And, yes, she loved Led Zeppelin.
She still does, of course, because who loves Led Zeppelin and later decides it’s just not for them? Robert Plant’s banshee voice, Jimmy Page’s heavy but endlessly spry guitar, John Paul Jones’s head-turning bass runs, John Bonham’s… John Bonhamness. They could be a folk troupe, a bunch of proto-metal badasses, a band of drugged-out philosophers. I had a hard time choosing one Led Zeppelin song to write about, but I settled on “Ramble On” because it finds the band being all these things at once, beautifully.
Everybody loves IV (or ZOSO, or whatever you want to call it), but for my money, II is the one to beat. It’s lean and mean, with lots of bombast but no extraneous material. On “Ramble On” alone, there are acoustic guitars, a beat that sounds like it’s being patted out on someone’s leg, that ferocious chorus, and those dreamy solos. It’s a lot to cram into four-and-a-half minutes, but they do it, and it doesn’t sound disjointed in the least. Hell, they even throw in some Tolkein references, and it works.
I always thought of II as Led Zeppelin’s least fussy record, so I was surprised to learn that the band recorded it in many different settings, with a variety of equipment and resources. The record was a huge success, repeatedly knocking Abbey Road from the top of the charts. It’s hard to imagine the two albums sharing the same era, let alone the same sales sheet.