Led Zeppelin–Rock & Roll

Everyone knows the brilliance of Led Zeppelin’s Rock & Roll.  It’s a blazing sharp track that epitomizes the hard rock ground they paved in the early 70s.  But the really wonderful thing about it is how it does so very intentionally and cleverly on the foundation of some of the earliest bits of rock music.  It starts with a drum intro that could have been a haphazard solo on a song by The Surfaris, before Jimmy Page kicks in with some blistering electric guitar work.  But if you listen carefully, you’ll notice a very familiar chord progression, one that hearkens back to early rockabilly and even jump blues songs like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.  Here it’s all about the delivery though.  No longer playful and plodding, the chords are electrically charged.  Then comes Robert Plant’s angelic, shattering blues belting.  “It’s been a long time since I rock and rolled….It’s been a long, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time,” he howls.  You feel the desperate urges screeching out of your speakers.  This is not a song with gentle momentum.  It’s belted and yelped and wailed.  By the end, when everything’s kicked off all the way, we even get a touch of manic Little Richard piano, just to drive it home.  Sure, the song’s not really about rock and roll, but it embodies it as musically, thematically and soulfully as any track before or since.

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