Dutch single picture sleeve
|Single by Led Zeppelin|
|from the album Led Zeppelin III|
|B-side||"Hey, Hey, What Can I Do"|
|Released||5 November 1970(US)|
|Recorded||Headley Grange, England, 1970|
|Songwriter(s)||Jimmy Page, Robert Plant|
|Led Zeppelin singles chronology|
"Immigrant Song" is a 1970 song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. It is built upon a repeating riff and features lyrical references to Norse mythology, with singer Robert Plant's howling vocals mentioning war-making and Valhalla. 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.
Though regarded as an album-oriented group, "Immigrant Song" is one of the band's several hit records on singles radio, and the song's popularity has led to its featuring in compilation albums by the band such as in 1992's Led Zeppelin Remasters and 1999's Early Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 1.
"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.
Composition and lyrics
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. 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.
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!"
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 such as Iron Maiden, Saxon, Manowar and Amon Amarth.
"Immigrant Song" is one of Led Zeppelin's few single releases. It was issued in the United States on 5 November 1970 by Atlantic Records and reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. "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.
In a contemporary review of Led Zeppelin III, Lester Bangs of Rolling Stone described "Immigrant Song" as the closest to being as classic as "Whole Lotta Love", praising the song's "bulldozer rhythms and Plant's double-tracked wordless vocal crossings echoing behind the main vocal like some cannibal chorus wailing in the infernal light of a savage fertility rite."
"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. 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. "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.
Note: The official UK Singles Chart incorporated legal downloads as of 17 April 2005.
- 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.
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