Yesterday, we relayed the news that Led Zeppelin’s immortal, eight-minute “Stairway To Heaven” has been named “Britain’s Favorite Rock Song.”
We considered making a list of 10 Zeppelin Songs Better Than “Stairway,” then went back and listened to Jimmy Page’s climactic solo, and stopped ourselves from doing something foolish and dishonest. There are no Zeppelin songs better than “Stairway.” Here are the nine that come closest.
1. When The Levee Breaks — The drum line, arguably John Bonham’s best, inspired the Beastie Boys (who borrowed it for “Rhymin’ and Stealin’”). And Spike Lee changed the title to past tense for his Hurricane Katrina documentary. It is a brutal song, punctuated by moaning harmonica and a neverending groove.
2. Heartbreaker — Rarely does a song just stop for a guitar solo. But this one does: It comes to a complete halt, and then bursts into a shower of notes.
3. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You — A haunting guitar figure opens the tune, and then come the hair-raising vocals.
4. Immigrant Song — You’ve heard the phrase “Hammer of the Gods” used to describe Zeppelin’s music? This 125-second anthem uses the line in a lyric, while the music justifies the expression.
5. Over The Hills And Far Away — Love the purity of the acoustic guitar, and the timeless psych-out of the fake ending, and the fact that (like “Stairway”) it starts softly and then commences to rock.
6. What Is And What Should Never Be — Page’s psychedelic lead guitar doesn’t really get us. But his crunchy riff at the end certainly does.
7. The Song Remains The Same — A classic Zeppelin shape-shifter, driven by an indelible guitar line and Bonham’s staccato drums.
8. Gallows Pole — In retrospect, we should’ve seen the banjo throwdown as a premonition for Robert Plant’s late-blooming Americana career.
9. Whole Lotta Love — Our favorite moment comes around the three-minute mark, when Page concludes an extended trippy breakdown with peals of electric guitar that make the song’s signature riff seem boring by comparison.