No. 11: ‘Rock and Roll’ – Top 50 Led Zeppelin Songs
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‘Rock and Roll’ holds the distinction of being one Led Zeppelin composition that is credited to all four members (most were credited only to Jimmy Page and Robert Plant), as it came about during a warm-up session in the studio. The track, No. 11 on our countdown of the Top 50 Led Zeppelin Songs, was later recorded at the Headley Grange Mansion with the assistance of adjunct Rolling Stone Ian Stewart on piano.
The song is based off the 12-bar blues progression in A and even though it’s rocked out, a closer look at what’s being played would show the blues influence on the song. The phrase “rock and roll” was also a euphemism among blues musicians for “sex.” As for the lyrical content, Plant dropped references to such classic songs as ‘The Stroll,’ ‘The Book of Love,’ and ‘Walking in the Moonlight’ within the track.
According to ‘The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin,’ Plant used to refer to the song as ‘It’s Been a Long Time,’ which is the opening line of the song. Between 1972 and 1975, it either turned up as the band’s concert opener or as part of their encore while on tour.
On the charts, the song topped out at No. 47 on the Billboard Hot 100, but that didn’t stop it from becoming legendary. The track was chosen by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll, and it’s also been covered by Heart, Stevie Nicks, Van Halen, John Waite, and the Foo Fighters (who had Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones on hand for their version) among others.