Immigrant Song

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"Immigrant Song"
Dutch single picture sleeve
Single by Led Zeppelin
from the album Led Zeppelin III
B-side"Hey, Hey, What Can I Do"
Released5 November 1970 (1970-11-05)
RecordedMay—June 1970 (?); 29 May 1970[1]
StudioRolling Stones Mobile Studio, Headley Grange, Hampshire; Olympic Sound Studios, London[1]
Songwriter(s)Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Producer(s)Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin US singles chronology
"Whole Lotta Love"
"Immigrant Song"
"Black Dog"
Audio sample

"Immigrant Song" is a 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.[6] The song was included on their 1970 album, Led Zeppelin III and released as a single. Several live recordings have also been issued on various Led Zeppelin albums. Other artists have recorded renditions of the song or performed it live.

Though Led Zeppelin are typically regarded as an album-oriented group, "Immigrant Song" is one of the band's several hit singles.[7] The song's popularity has led to its inclusion in such compilation albums as Led Zeppelin Remasters (1990) and Early Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 1 (1999).[7][8]


"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 Plant to write the lyrics. 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.[9]

Six days after Led Zeppelin's appearance in Reykjavik, the band performed the song for the first time in concert during the Bath Festival.[10]

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.[11] There is a very faint count-off at the beginning of the track with much hiss which appears on the album version, but is trimmed from the single version. The hiss is feedback from an echo unit.[12]

A phrase from the song was used as the title of Stephen Davis' biography of the band, Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga.[13] 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 lyrics of bands such as Iron Maiden, Saxon, Manowar and Amon Amarth.[14]


According to Jean-Michel Guesdon and Philippe Margotin:[1]


"Immigrant Song" is one of Led Zeppelin's few releases on the 45 rpm single format. It was issued in the United States on 5 November 1970 by Atlantic Records, with the non-album track "Hey, Hey, What Can I Do" on the B-side, and reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.[12] 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."[15] The Japanese single included "Out on the Tiles" as the B-side.


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."[16] In March 2023, Rolling Stone ranked "Immigrant Song" at number 18 on their "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Songs of All Time" list.[17]

Cash Box described the song as "filling the aural spectrum once again with wall to wall power," stating that the song has "biting vocals and an unmatched instrumental impact."[18]

Live performances[edit]

"Immigrant Song" was used to open Led Zeppelin concerts from 1970 to 1972.[19] [20][21] 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".[22] By 1973, "Immigrant Song" was occasionally being used as an encore, but was then removed from their live set.[12] 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 the song was played live, Page included a lengthy guitar solo, which was absent on the recorded Led Zeppelin III version.[12] "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.[23]

Use of the song in media[edit]

Led Zeppelin originally denied Richard Linklater permission to use "Immigrant Song" in School of Rock (2003), but star Jack Black was able to convince them by making a video of himself performing the song.[24] In the movie Shrek the Third (2007), "Immigrant Song" appears in a battle scene involving the character Snow White.[25] A cover of "Immigrant Song", produced by Atticus Ross and Nine Inch Nails member Trent Reznor with vocals from Yeah Yeah Yeahs lead singer Karen O, plays in the trailer and throughout the title sequence of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).[26] "Immigrant Song" was included in both the trailer for Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and twice in the film itself, due to director Taika Waititi's suggestion of the song from the time of his first involvement with the film and to the persistent efforts of the movie's music supervisor Dave Jordan.[27]

Chart history[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[51] Gold 25,000
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[52] Gold 30,000
United Kingdom (BPI)[53] Platinum 600,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Guesdon & Margotin 2018, p. 168.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "The 40 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs of All Time: 7 – 'Immigrant Song' (1970)". Rolling Stone. 7 November 2012. Archived from the original on 22 November 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  4. ^ Popoff, Martin (2003). "Immigrant Song". The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time. ECW Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-55022-530-3. The first Viking metal song ever, Immigrant Song might also be the first smudge of gothic rock evidenced by Plant's exotic pre-Dio vocal melodies which turn an almost casual, incidental song into a quickly attacking then evaporating classic.
  5. ^ Pitchfork Staff (22 August 2016). "The 200 Best Songs of the 1970s". Pitchfork. Retrieved 13 October 2022. ...Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" represents the first tick on the folk-metal timeline.
  6. ^ Curtis, James M. (1987). Rock Eras: Interpretations of Music and Society, 1954–1984. Popular Press. p. 292. ISBN 978-0-87972-369-9.
  7. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Led Zeppelin – Early Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin, Vol. 1". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  8. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin Remasters". AllMusic. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  9. ^ Welch, Chris (1994). Led Zeppelin. London: Orion Books. p. 55. ISBN 1-85797-930-3.
  10. ^ Lewis, Dave; Pallett, Simon (1997). Led Zeppelin: The Concert File. London: Omnibus Press. pp. 50–51. ISBN 0-7119-5307-4.
  11. ^ Fricke, David (2008). Led Zeppelin Mothership. Alfred Publishing Co. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-7390-5317-1.
  12. ^ a b c d Lewis, Dave (1994). The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-3528-9.
  13. ^ Wall, Mick (2010). When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin. St. Martin's Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-1-4299-8561-1.
  14. ^ Daniels, Neil (2016). Iron Maiden – Updated Edition. Voyageur Press. pp. 23–26. ISBN 978-0-7603-5254-0.
  15. ^ "Led Zeppelin III (Led Zeppelin) Easter Egg – Alastair Crowley in the Dead Wax". Easter Egg. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  16. ^ Bangs, Lester (26 November 1970). "Led Zeppelin III". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  17. ^ "The 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 13 March 2023. Archived from the original on 13 March 2023. Retrieved 13 March 2023.
  18. ^ "Singles Reviews > Picks of the Week" (PDF). Cash Box. Vol. XXXII, no. 21. 14 November 1970. p. 22. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  19. ^ Bream, Jon (2010) [2008]. "Unledded, 1970". In Dregni, Michael; Pernu, Dennis (eds.). Whole Lotta Led Zeppelin: The Illustrated History of the Heaviest Band of All Time. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Voyageur Press. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-7603-3507-9. The band cleaned up with its performance at Bath, from the opener, a new number called 'Immigrant Song', to its - count 'em - four encores.
  20. ^ Carr, Roy (27 November 1971). "Led Zeppelin, Stone the Crows: Empire Pool, Wembley". New Musical Express – via Rock's Backpages. Obviously a little nervous. Zeppelin kicked off with 'Immigrant Song' and slowly built varying degrees of climax in their 167-minute spot.
  21. ^ Everett, Todd (August 1972). "Led Zeppelin: The Forum, Inglewood, California". Phonograph Record – via Rock's Backpages. What better way for Led Zeppelin to begin their three-and-a-half hour onslaught on the eardrums than with a crash of the drums? A crash of the drums it was, and straight on into 'Immigrant Song'.
  22. ^ John Paul Jones; Jimmy Page (2003). How the West Was Won (Compact disc). Atlantic Records.
  23. ^ Soeder, John (5 April 2009). "Live, from Cleveland! City basks in the glitter of Rock Hall induction ceremonies". The Plain Dealer.
  24. ^ Lifton, Dave (28 October 2017). "How Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song' Wound Up in 'Thor: Ragnarok'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  25. ^ Lateer, Abigail (27 April 2023). "Shrek Soundtrack Review". The Hill News. Retrieved 13 October 2023.
  26. ^ Ford, Rebecca (12 December 2011). "'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' Soundtrack Music Video Debuts". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  27. ^ Guerrasio, Jason (6 November 2017). "It took the entire making of 'Thor: Ragnarok' for Marvel to finally nab the rights to a Led Zeppelin song". Business Insider. Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  28. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  29. ^ "Go-Set National Top 60". Go-Set. 6 March 1971. Archived from the original on 12 May 2013. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  30. ^ "Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  31. ^ "CHUM 30 (week of January 23, 1971)". CHUM. Retrieved 18 May 2022.
  32. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3741." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  33. ^ "Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin". Danske Hitlister. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  34. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  35. ^ "Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  36. ^ Okamoto, Satoshi (2011). Single Chart Book: Complete Edition 1968–2010 (in Japanese). Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. ISBN 978-4-87131-088-8.
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  38. ^ "Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  39. ^ Scapolo, Dean (2007). "Top 50 Singles – May 1971". The Complete New Zealand Music Charts (1st ed.). Wellington: Transpress. ISBN 978-1-877443-00-8.
  40. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website SA Charts 1969 – 1989 Acts (L)". Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  41. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  42. ^ "Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  43. ^ "Led Zeppelin Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  44. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending JANUARY 9, 1971". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 18 September 2012.
  45. ^ "The Singles Chart" (PDF). Record World. 16 January 1971. p. 27. ISSN 0034-1622. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  46. ^ "RPM 100 Top Singles of '71". RPM. 8 January 1972. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  47. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1971" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  48. ^ "Hot Digital Singles – 1 December 2007". Billboard. Retrieved 17 January 2009. [dead link]
  49. ^ "Led Zeppelin Songs – Top Songs / Chart Singles Discography". Retrieved 17 January 2009.
  50. ^ "December 1, 2007 – Rdio". Billboard. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  51. ^ "Italian single certifications – Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  52. ^ "Spanish single certifications – Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song". El portal de Música. Productores de Música de España. Retrieved 3 March 2024.
  53. ^ "British single certifications – Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 23 July 2022.


External links[edit]