Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin song)

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"Rock and Roll"
Single by Led Zeppelin
from the album Led Zeppelin IV
B-side "Four Sticks"
Released 21 February 1972
Format 7" 45 RPM
Recorded December 1970–March 1971
Genre Hard rock, rock and roll, heavy metal
Length 3:40
Label Atlantic
Writer(s) Page/Plant/Jones/Bonham
Producer(s) Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin singles chronology
"Black Dog" / "Misty Mountain Hop"
"Rock and Roll" / "Four Sticks"
"Over the Hills and Far Away" / "Dancing Days"
Zoso.svg (Led Zeppelin IV) track listing
"Black Dog"
"Rock and Roll"
"The Battle of Evermore"

"Rock and Roll" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, which was first released as the second track from the band's fourth album in 1971, with a guest appearance by The Rolling Stones pianist Ian Stewart.


Befitting its title,[1] the song is based on one of the most popular structures in rock and roll, the twelve-bar blues progression (in A). "Rock and Roll" stands as one of the best-known songs in the band's catalogue.

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page has said that this song came to be written as a spontaneous jam session, whilst the band were trying (and failing) to finish the track "Four Sticks".[2][3] Drummer John Bonham played the introduction to Little Richard's "Keep a Knockin'" and Page added a guitar riff.[4] The tapes were rolling and fifteen minutes later the basis of the song was down.[5] Said Page:

We were recording another number [Four Sticks]; we’d just finished a take and John Bonham did the drum intro and we just followed on. I started doing pretty much half of that riff you hear on Rock n Roll and it was just so exciting that we thought, "let’s just work on this". The riff and the sequence was really immediate to those 12-bar patterns that you had in those old rock songs like Little Richard, etc, and it was just so spur-of-the-moment the way that it just came together more or less out of nowhere.[3]

Page also commented:

It actually ground to a halt after about 12 bars, but it was enough to know that there was enough of a number there to keep working on it. Robert [Plant] even came in singing on it straight away.[6]

"Rock and Roll" is one of the few Led Zeppelin songs where all four members share the composer credit.

The lyrics by singer Robert Plant reference a number of 1950s and 1960s early rock hits, including "The Stroll," "The Book of Love," and "Walking In the Moonlight."

To achieve the distinctive guitar sound on the track, Page plugged his guitar directly into the mixing console, bypassing the traditional amplifier and microphone setup.

Live performances[edit]

"Rock and Roll" was a key component of the band's setlist at Led Zeppelin concerts from 1971 on. Initially, Plant referred to it on stage as "It's Been A Long Time", which is the first line of the song.[4] In 1972 it was elevated to the opening number of all concert performances and it retained this status until 1975. For the band's 1977 North American tour, it became part of a medley encore with "Whole Lotta Love", and during 1979 and 1980 it became an encore in its own right.[4]

When performing the song live, singer Robert Plant usually switched the second verse with the third. From late 1972, Plant altered the vocal melody to a lower overall pitch to suit his changing vocal range.

A live performance of the song from Madison Square Garden in July 1973 was recorded for the band's concert film The Song Remains the Same and accompanying soundtrack album. There is also a June 1972 live recording of "Rock and Roll" which has been captured on the album How the West Was Won.

In 1985 Page, Plant and Jones reunited and performed the song at the Live Aid concert at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, as part of the Led Zeppelin set featuring drummers Tony Thompson and Phil Collins. "Rock and Roll" was also performed as the final encore at Led Zeppelin's reunion show at the O2 Arena, London on 10 December 2007, where, due to Robert Plant's ageing voice, it is played down a whole step.[7] On 7 June 2008, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones joined Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins on stage at Wembley stadium to perform "Rock and Roll," along with "Ramble On".

Formats and tracklistings[edit]

1972 7" single (US/Australia/New Zealand: Atlantic 45-2865, Austria/Germany: Atlantic ATL 10156, Brazil: Atco ATCS 10.005, Canada: Atlantic AT 2865, France: Atlantic 10156, Holland: Atlantic ATL 2091190, Japan: Warner Pioneer P-1123A, Lebanon: Atlantic AT 16005, Mexico: Atlantic G-1136, Poland: Atlantic XN 82, Portugal: Atlantic ATL N 28128, Spain: Atlantic HS 823)

  • A. "Rock and Roll" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 3:40
  • B. "Four Sticks" (Page, Plant) 4:44

1972 7" single (South Africa: Atlantic ATL 590)

  • A. "Rock and Roll" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 3:40
  • B. "Going to California" (Page, Plant) 3:31

1972 7" EP (US: Atlantic LLP 171 SD 7-7208)

  • A1. "Rock and Roll" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 3:40
  • A2. "Black Dog" (Jones, Page, Plant) 4:56
  • B. "Stairway to Heaven" (Page, Plant) 8:02

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1972) Peak position
US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart[8] 47
US Cash Box Top 100 Singles Chart[9] 42
US Record World 100 Top Pops[10] 38
Canadian RPM Top 100 Chart[11] 38
Japanese Singles Chart[12] 34
German Singles Chart[13] 13
Spanish Singles Chart[14] 14
Australian Kent Music Report Singles Chart 51




Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Dave Marsh United States "The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made"[15] 1989 424
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame United States "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll"[16] 1994 *
Radio Caroline United Kingdom "Top 500 Tracks"[17] 1999 21
VH1 United States "The 100 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time"[18] 2000 66
Q United Kingdom "The 50 Most Exciting Tunes Ever.."[19] 2002 17
Q United Kingdom "The 1001 Best Songs Ever"[20] 2003 201

(*) designates unordered lists.

In media[edit]

In 2001, "Rock and Roll" became the very first Led Zeppelin song to be licensed for a television series—It appeared in The Sopranos Season 3 episode "Fortunate Son."[21] In 2002, it became one of the first famous classic rock songs to be licensed for use in a series of television ads by General Motors for their Cadillac line of automobiles. They ended their use of the song and slogan "Break Through" in late 2006.[citation needed] The song was used as an opening theme of the Serbian 2011 documentary series Rockovnik.

Cover versions[edit]


  • 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
  • Davis, Stephen (2008). Watch You Bleed: The Saga of Guns N' Roses. Gotham Books. ISBN 978-1-59240-377-6. 


  1. ^ Philip Bashe (1985). Heavy Metal Thunder: The Music, Its History, Its Heroes. Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-3851-9797-7. "Besides his inspired phrasing and his extemporaneous howls and asides, Plant could convincingly convey slow blues ("You Shook Me"), gutbucket rock & roll ("Rock and Roll"), and even folk ballads ("Going to California"), in a strong, cutting voice" 
  2. ^ "Classic Albums", "Led Zeppelin IV", first broadcast on BBC Radio 1, 1992.
  3. ^ a b James Jackson, "Jimmy Page on Led Zeppelin IV, the band's peak and their reunion", The Times, 8 January 2010 .
  4. ^ a b c Dave Lewis (1994), The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9.
  5. ^ Australian Broadcasting Corporation - Triple J Music Specials - Led Zeppelin (first broadcast 12 July 2000)
  6. ^ Dave Schulps, Interview with Jimmy Page, Trouser Press, October 1977.
  7. ^ "Critiquing the Celebration Day Performance". Retrieved 2 February 2014. 
  8. ^ "Hot 100 Singles - 15 April 1972". Billboard. Retrieved 17 January 2009. [dead link]
  9. ^ "Top 100 Singles - 22 April 1972". Cash Box. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  10. ^ "Top 40 for 1972 - April 1972". Record World. Retrieved 19 January 2009. [dead link]
  11. ^ "RPM Singles Chart - 29 April 1972". RPM. Retrieved 15 January 2009. 
  12. ^ "Top 100 Singles - 1 May 1972". Oricon. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  13. ^ "Top 100 Singles - 19 June 1972". Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  14. ^ "Top 50 Singles - June 1972". PROMUSICAE. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  15. ^ "The Heart of Rock and Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made - 1989". Da Capo Books. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  16. ^ "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll - December 1994". Jacobs Media. Retrieved 10 February 2009. [dead link]
  17. ^ "Top 500 Tracks - 1999". Radio Caroline. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  18. ^ "The 100 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time - July 2000". VH1. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  19. ^ "The 50 Most Exciting Tunes Ever.. - January 2002". Q. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  20. ^ "The 1001 Best Songs Ever - 2003". Q. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  21. ^ Martin, Brett (30 October 2007). ""This Thing of Ours": Creating The Sopranos Universe". The Sopranos: The Complete Book. New York: Time. p. 169. ISBN 978-1-933821-18-4. 

External links[edit]