Heartbreaker (Led Zeppelin song)

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Heartbreaker single cover.jpeg
Cover to single released in Italy
Song by Led Zeppelin from the album Led Zeppelin II
  • 22 October 1969 (album)
  • May 1970 (single)
Recorded May 1969, A&R Studios, New York
Length 4:14
Label Atlantic Records
Producer(s) Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin II track listing
"Thank You"
"Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)"

"Heartbreaker" is a song from English rock band Led Zeppelin's 1969 album, Led Zeppelin II. It was credited to all four members of the band, having been recorded at A&R Studios, New York, during the band's second concert tour of North America, and was engineered by Eddie Kramer.

"Heartbreaker" opens Side II of the album, and is famous for its memorable guitar riff by Jimmy Page, along with its unaccompanied solo, which he improvised on the spot. It was voted as the 16th-greatest guitar solo of all time by Guitar World magazine. "Heartbreaker" was ranked No. 328 in 2004 by Rolling Stone magazine, in their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.


The song begins on beat 4, bending the minor 7th (G) up to the root (A), kicking off an aggressive riff constructed around the blues scale, followed by a powerful power chord assault during the verse from not only the guitar but the bass playing power chords also. Robert Plant sings about a woman named Annie, who is up to her old tricks again; the lyrics recall a tale of a man painfully wizened after their encounters.

Following a straight 8ths "rave up" by the band, Page's solo fires off a rapid-fire chain of sextuplet hammer-ons and pull-offs, accented by the guitarist bending the G String behind the guitar's nut. Page plays a few bluesy licks before launching into a "wall of notes" motif in A, finally, bringing it to an end with a blues cliché "goodbye chord." The rest of the band joins Page for another improvisation as an interlude into the final verse.

In an interview Page gave to Guitar World magazine in 1998, Page stated that:

The interesting thing about the guitar solo is that it was recorded after we had already finished "Heartbreaker" - it was an afterthought. That whole section was recorded in a different studio and it was sort of slotted in the middle. If you notice, the whole sound of the guitar is different.[5]

Page also disclosed to Guitar World that this song in general, and the unaccompanied solo in particular, was the first recorded instance of his famous Gibson Les Paul/Marshall Stack combination.

When "Heartbreaker" is played on radio stations, it almost always segues into the next song on the album, "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)", thanks to the similarities of subjects involved between the two songs, and the fact that "Living Loving Maid" segues directly from "Heartbreaker".

Live history[edit]

The song was a crowd favourite at Led Zeppelin concerts, and the band opened many of their live shows in 1971 and 1972 with "Immigrant Song" followed by a segue right into "Heartbreaker". On later concert tours it was often played as an encore. "Heartbreaker" and "Communication Breakdown" were the only songs to be played live during every year that the band toured.

During live performances Page would frequently improvise the playing in his solo, and was also known to include parts of Bach's "Bourrée in E minor" from his Lute Suites (this can be heard on the live albums Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions and How the West Was Won), as well as Simon & Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)", though on official releases this section has been cut. Sometimes the solo would also be stretched out to incorporate sections of the traditional English folk song, "Greensleeves".

A live, filmed version of the song from 1973 at Madison Square Garden, New York, is included in the Led Zeppelin concert film, The Song Remains The Same, although it is only shown in parts. For many years, this recorded version was left off the film's accompanying soundtrack album, until the album was remastered and re-released in 2007, with the full performance of the song included.

Led Zeppelin's last performance ever of the song was on 29 June 1980, in Zürich. Following Bonham's death, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin performed "Heartbreaker" at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert in 1988, at Madison Square Garden in New York, with John's son Jason Bonham on drums. Jimmy Page also performed this song on his tour with the Black Crowes in 1999. A version of "Heartbreaker" performed by Page and the Black Crowes can be found on the album Live at the Greek.


"Heartbreaker" is one of the songs featured in Nick Hornby's book 31 Songs. Record producer Rick Rubin has remarked, "One of the greatest riffs in rock. It ["Heartbreaker"] starts, and it's like they don't really know where the "one" is. Magical in its awkwardness."[6] Steve Vai has also commented about it in a September 1998 Guitar World interview: "This one [Heartbreaker] had the biggest impact on me as a youth. It was defiant, bold, and edgier than hell. It really is the definitive rock guitar solo."[7] American band Nirvana covered the song during their first show on 7 March 1987 in Raymond Washington. The cover was only released on the box set With the Lights Out. Led Zeppelin parody/tribute band Dread Zeppelin recorded a reggae-influenced cover of the song with the lyrics from Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel".

Formats and track listings[edit]

1969 7" single edition (Italy: Atlantic ATL NP 03162)

  • A. "Heartbreaker" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) – 4:14
  • B. "Bring It On Home" (Dixon, Page, Plant) – 4:21

1969 7" single edition (Philippines: Atlantic 45-3735)

  • A. "Heartbreaker" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) – 4:14
  • B. "Ramble On" (Page, Plant) – 4:23

1969 7" single edition (South Africa: Atlantic ATS)

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1970) Peak position
Italy (FIMI)[8] 39


Cover versions[edit]


  1. ^ "Led Zeppelin Biography". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 17 February 2014. their blues-rock approach on such tracks as "Whole Lotta Love," "Heartbreaker" and "Ramble On." 
  2. ^ Williamson, Nigel (2007). The Rough Guide to Led Zeppelin. Rough Guides UK. p. 164. ISBN 978-1-8435-3841-7. 
  3. ^ Courtright, Kevin (2009). Back to Schoolin'. Xulon Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-1-6157-9045-6. 
  4. ^ Rooksby, Rikky (2010). Riffs: How to Create and Play Great Guitar Riffs Revised and Updated Edition (1st ed.). Backbeat Books. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-4768-5547-9. 
  5. ^ Tolinski, Brad; Di Bendetto, Greg, "Light and Shade", Guitar World, January 1998.
  6. ^ Fifty Artists Pick Their Personal Top 10s – Rick Rubin: Led Zeppelin at the Wayback Machine (archived 11 December 2010). Rolling Stone. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  7. ^ Kitts, Jeff; Tolinski, Brad (2002). Guitar World Presents the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time!. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-6340-4619-3. 
  8. ^ "Indice per Interprete: L" (in Italian). Hit Parade Italia. Creative Commons. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 

External links[edit]