Immigrant Song

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"Immigrant Song"
Single by Led Zeppelin
from the album Led Zeppelin III
B-side "Hey Hey What Can I Do"
Released 5 November 1970 (1970-11-05) (US)
Format Seven-inch 45 rpm record
Recorded May–August 1970
Genre Hard rock[1][2]
Length 2:23
Label Atlantic (no. 45-2777)
Writer(s) Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Producer(s) Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin singles chronology
"Whole Lotta Love" / "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)"
"Immigrant Song" / "Hey Hey What Can I Do"
"Black Dog" / "Misty Mountain Hop"
Audio sample
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"Immigrant Song" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. It is built on a repeating riff and features lyrical references to Norse mythology. The song was included on their third studio album, Led Zeppelin III, and was released as a single, which charted in several countries. Several live recordings have also been issued on Led Zeppelin concert albums and other artists have recorded renditions of the song.


"Immigrant Song" was written during Led Zeppelin's tour of Iceland, Bath and Germany in the summer of 1970. The opening date of this tour took place in Reykjavík, Iceland, which inspired vocalist Robert Plant to write the song. He explained in an interview:

We weren't being pompous ... We did come from the land of the ice and snow. We were guests of the Icelandic Government on a cultural mission. We were invited to play a concert in Reykjavik and the day before we arrived all the civil servants went on strike and the gig was going to be cancelled. The university prepared a concert hall for us and it was phenomenal. The response from the kids was remarkable and we had a great time. 'Immigrant Song' was about that trip and it was the opening track on the album that was intended to be incredibly different.[3]

Six days after Led Zeppelin's appearance in Reykjavik, the band performed the song for the first time in concert during the Bath Festival.[4]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

The song begins with a distinctive, wailing cry from Plant and is built on a repeating, staccato riff by guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. It is performed in the key of F minor at a moderate tempo of 112 beats per minute.[5] There is a very faint count-off at the beginning of the track with lots of hiss which appears on the album version, but is trimmed from the single version. The hiss is feedback from an echo unit.[6]

The song's lyrics are written from the perspective of Vikings rowing west from Scandinavia in search of new lands. The lyrics, such as "Fight the horde, sing and cry, Valhalla, I am coming!" make explicit reference to Viking conquests and the Old Norse religion. In a 1970 radio interview, Plant jokingly recalled, "We went to Iceland, and it made you think of Vikings and big ships ... and John Bonham's stomach ... and bang, there it was – Immigrant Song!"[6]

One of the lines from the song became part of Led Zeppelin lore. The line, "the hammer of the gods/will drive our ships to new lands" prompted some people to start referring to Led Zeppelin's sound as the "Hammer of the Gods". The phrase was used as the title of Stephen Davis' biography of the band, Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga. The lyrics also did much to inspire the classic heavy metal myth, of Viking-esque figures on an adventure, themes which have been adopted in the look and music of bands from Iron Maiden to Manowar.


"Immigrant Song" is one of Led Zeppelin's few single releases. It was issued in the US 5 November 1970 by Atlantic Records and reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.[6] "Hey Hey What Can I Do", the single's B-side, was released on the 1972 UK Atlantic Records sampler The New Age of Atlantic and later on the 1990 Led Zeppelin Boxed Set. "Immigrant Song" was also mistakenly released in Japan with "Out On the Tiles" as the B-side rather than "Hey Hey What Can I Do" and is a rare collectible.

First pressings of the US single have a quote from Aleister Crowley inscribed in dead wax by the run-out groove: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."[7]

Live performances[edit]

"Immigrant Song" was used to open Led Zeppelin concerts from 1970 to 1972. On the second half of their 1972 concert tour of the United States, it was introduced by a short piece of music known as "LA Drone", designed to heighten the sense of anticipation and expectation amongst the concert audience. By 1973, "Immigrant Song" was occasionally being used as an encore, but was then removed from their live set.[6] Live versions of the song can be heard on the Led Zeppelin albums How the West Was Won (featuring a performance at Long Beach Arena in 1972) and the Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions (a version from the Paris Theatre in London in 1971). When played live, Page played a lengthy guitar solo, which was absent on the recorded Led Zeppelin III version.[6] "Immigrant Song" was played as part of the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Jeff Beck by both Page and Beck.

Chart positions[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

"Immigrant Song" is one of Led Zeppelin's most recorded songs, with versions by a variety of artists. One of the more recent and popular covers appeared during the title sequence and is set up as the opening theme in the 2011 film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross featuring Karen O.


  • Lewis, Dave (2004) The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9
  • Welch, Chris (1998) Led Zeppelin: Dazed and Confused: The Stories Behind Every Song, ISBN 1-56025-818-7


  1. ^ Hulett, Ralph; Prochnicky, Jerry (2011). Whole Lotta Led: Our Flight With Led Zeppelin. Kensington Publishing Corp. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-8065-3555-5. However, the opener, "Immigrant Song," set a standard for medieval imagery of Viking lust in hard rock. 
  2. ^ "The 40 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs of All Time: 7 – 'Immigrant Song' (1970)". Rolling Stone (Jann Wenner). 7 November 2012. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  3. ^ Welch, Chris (1994). Led Zeppelin. London: Orion Books. p. 55. ISBN 1-85797-930-3. 
  4. ^ Lewis, Dave; Pallett, Simon (1997). Led Zeppelin: The Concert File. London: Omnibus Press. pp. 50–51. ISBN 0-7119-5307-4. 
  5. ^ Fricke, David (2008). Led Zeppelin Mothership. Alfred Publishing Co. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-7390-5317-1. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Lewis, Dave (1994). The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-3528-9. 
  7. ^ "Led Zeppelin III (Led Zeppelin) Easter Egg - Alastair Crowley in the Dead Wax". Easter Egg. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  8. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  9. ^ "Go-Set Australian charts – 6 March 1971". Go-Set. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  10. ^ " – Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  11. ^ CHART NUMBER 731 – Saturday, January 23, 1971 at the Wayback Machine (archived 7 November 2006). CHUM. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  12. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3741." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  13. ^ " – Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  14. ^ "Indice per Interprete: L" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Creative Commons. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  15. ^ "Top 100 Singles – 25 January 1971" (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  16. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Led Zeppelin - Immigrant Song search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  17. ^ " – Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  18. ^ Scapolo, Dean (2007). "Top 50 Singles – May 1971". The Complete New Zealand Music Charts (1st ed.). Wellington: Transpress. ISBN 978-1-877443-00-8. 
  19. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (L)". Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  20. ^ "Top 100 Singles – May 1971". PROMUSICAE. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  21. ^ " – Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  22. ^ "Led Zeppelin Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for Led Zeppelin. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  23. ^ CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending JANUARY 9, 1971 at the Wayback Machine (archived 18 September 2012). Cash Box magazine. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  24. ^ RECORD WORLD 1971 at the Wayback Machine (archived 30 August 2008). Record World. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  25. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 16, No. 20, January 08 1972". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  26. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1971" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 November 2014. 
  27. ^ "Hot Digital Singles – 1 December 2007". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 17 January 2009. [dead link]
  28. ^ "Led Zeppelin Songs – Top Songs / Chart Singles Discography". Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  29. ^ "December 1, 2007 – Rdio". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 2 February 2014. 

External links[edit]