"Battle of Evermore" was made up on the spot by Robert [Plant] and myself. I just picked up John Paul Jones's mandolin, never having played a mandolin before, and just wrote up the chords and the whole thing in one sitting.
[The song] sounded like an old English instrumental first off. Then it became a vocal and Robert did his bit. Finally we figured we'd bring Sandy by and do a question-and-answer-type thing.
To thank her for her involvement, Denny was given the symbol on the album sleeve of three pyramids (the four members of Led Zeppelin each chose their own symbols for the album). This is the only song Led Zeppelin ever recorded with a guest vocalist. In an interview he gave in 1995 to Uncut magazine, Plant stated:
[F]or me to sing with Sandy Denny was great. We were always good friends with that period of Fairport Convention. Richard Thompson is a superlative guitarist. Sandy and I were friends, and it was the most obvious thing to ask her to sing on "The Battle of Evermore". If it suffered from naivete and tweeness—I was only 23—it makes up for it in the cohesion of the voices and the playing.
"The Battle of Evermore" was played live at Led Zeppelin concerts during the band's 1977 North American Tour. For these live performances, Jones sang Denny's vocals and played acoustic guitar whilst Page played mandolin. Sometimes John Bonham sang Denny's vocals along with Jones.
Fairport Convention performed "The Battle of Evermore" with guest vocalists Plant and Kristina Donahue at Fairport's Cropredy Convention on 9 August 2008. Plant and Alison Krauss regularly performed "The Battle of Evermore" on their tour of US and Europe in spring and summer 2008.
Alison Krauss and Robert Plant perform "The Battle of Evermore" at Denver's Red Rocks, 21 June 2008
A different version of this song is featured on the companion audio CD on the remastered deluxe 2CD version of Led Zeppelin IV. Known as "The Battle Of Evermore (Mandolin/Guitar Mix From Headley Grange)", it is an instrumental version recorded on 29 January 1971, at the Rolling Stones Mobile at Headley Grange with engineer Andy Johns. This version runs 4:13, while the original version runs 5:51.
Carruthers, Bob (2011). Led Zeppelin – Uncensored on the Record. Coda Books Ltd. ISBN978-1-9085-3846-8. High points included the twisty complexity of 'Black Dog', the folk whimsy of 'The Battle Of Evermore' and the career best of 'Stairway To Heaven'