Led Zeppelin was rarely predictable, from extended drum solos (“Moby Dick”) to multiple epics that stretch past 10 minutes (“Stairway to Heaven,” “Achilles Last Stand”) and mid-song psychedelic detours (“Whole Lotta Love”).
As a testament to their underrated strange side, none of those moments appear on the following list of 10 Weirdest Led Zeppelin Songs. Each of these tracks is uniquely head-scratching within the band’s catalog, from a foray into rockabilly to a late-career synth-heavy prog number.
Here are Led Zeppelin’s 10 Weirdest Songs.
10. “Hot Dog” (from 1979’s In Through the Out Door)
Cooked up during the Out Door rehearsals while workshopping Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson covers, this retro rockabilly lark is more playful and low-stakes than almost anything else in the Zeppelin songbook. It also might be the all-time sloppiest take for Jimmy Page, who plays with the grace of a man tumbling down a staircase during the intro and solo. “Hot Dog” may be fluff, but it has its charms, notably Robert Plant’s overt Elvis cosplay on the chorus.
9. “Black Dog” (from 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV)
This gargantuan hard rocker is signature Led Zeppelin, oozing the swagger of a band at peak power. But it’s also built on one of their weirdest musical foundations, a call-and-response arrangement between Plant’s sexual bravado and a riff that continues to stump the world’s small-town cover bands. Bassist John Paul Jones wrote that guitar/bass pattern, which pokes and prods against John Bonham’s straight-ahead beat. “We struggled with the turnaround,” Jones later told Cameron Crowe, “until Bonham figured out that you just four-time as if there’s no turnaround. That was the secret.”
8. “In the Light” (from 1975’s Physical Graffiti)
Arriving one track after another eight-minute epic (“Kashmir”), “In the Light” opens Physical Graffiti‘s third side with one of the band’s most mystical moments. The opening section is all atmospheric drone, dominated by Jones’ bent-note synthesizers and Plant’s hazy harmonies. (Those vocals “always sounded like some choral music that I had heard from the Music of Bulgaria,” Page told Rolling Stone in 2015.) But the storm clouds part midway through, ushering in a bright, triumphant guitar lick that carries us home.
7. “Boogie With Stu” (from 1975’s Physical Graffiti)
When the Physical Graffiti sessions spawned too much material for one LP, Led Zeppelin had two choices: cut some quality stuff or throw on filler to pad out a double. They chose the latter path, salvaging sub-B-side rejects like “Boogie With Stu,” left over from the sessions of their fourth album. The song itself is beneath them, an obvious boogie-woogie borrowing elements of Ritchie Valens’ “Ooh My Head.” It’s redeemed only by sheer novelty: the odd combo of Ian “Stu” Stewart’s rickety upright piano, Jones’ mandolin and those slappy percussion sounds.
6. “Four Sticks” (from 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV)
Unlike “Black Dog,” which wrapped its weirdness around an irresistible Plant hook, “Four Sticks” is just plain difficult — and, likely as a result, the most overlooked cut on the band’s fourth LP. The Eastern-tinged song, with its restlessly shifting time signatures, was a challenge to record: They famously took a break and cranked out the much simpler “Rock and Roll.” But after watching a public drum battle between Ginger Baker and jazz icon Elvin Jones, Bonham returned to the studio reenergized, grabbing two pairs of sticks and pounding out the track’s hypnotic rhythm. Everything else — the VCS3 synthesizer, the alternating acoustic and electric riffs — suddenly locked into place. (Still, it’s no surprise rock radio went with “Stairway to Heaven.”)
5. “Friends” (from 1970’s Led Zeppelin III)
As far as Page was concerned back in 1970, this droning, folk tune was legitimately sinister. “It has a menacing atmosphere,” he told Melody Maker. “A friend came into the studio during the recording, and it was bloody loud and he had to leave. He said: ‘You’ve really done something evil!'” Surrounded by so much darkness — the Indian-styled strings, the churning open-string strums, the splashes of Moog synthesizer — Plant’s images of loneliness and grief come across like warnings from some unknown beyond (“Any time somebody needs you / Don’t let them down, although it grieves you”).
4. “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper” (from 1970’s Led Zeppelin III)
Developed from a duo jam between Page and Plant, this folk-blues oddity brings Led Zeppelin III to a warped conclusion. The song itself is nothing more than rattling slide guitar and a hollered vocal drenched in vibrato — a departure for the band, even within this album’s more stripped-down aesthetic. But “Harper,” named as an homage to their folk singer friend, is mostly a throwaway. Its most notable element is a brief wash of echoing, distorted noise.
3. “The Crunge” (from 1973’s Houses of the Holy)
“Where’s that confounded bridge? A rare Led Zep track co-written by all four members, this unabashed James Brown tribute sprung from an in-studio jam session led by Bonham’s battering-ram 9/8 attack: “Bonzo started the groove on ‘The Crunge,'” Page told Guitar World in 1993, “then [Jones] started playing that descending bass line, and I just came in on the rhythm.” Everything about the track is a bit goofy, from Jones’ neon-toned synthesizer leads to Plant’s nonsense lyrics (“She’s my lover, baby, and I love her so” — how profound).
2. “Fool in the Rain” (from 1979’s In Through the Out Door)
Across six delightfully weird minutes, Led Zeppelin meander from a booming half-time shuffle groove to polyrhythmic density to a random salsa interjection — then back to where they started. Plus, Page throws in one of his most underrated guitar solos: a slinky little flurry of notes lathered in fuzz and octave effects. The lyric itself couldn’t be more ordinary (Plant’s bummed-out narrator gets stood up at the movies), but he delivers the highest notes in a shouted, grating style uncommon for the era’s so-called “Golden God.” Hey, no one’s 20s last forever.
1. “Carouselambra” (from 1979’s In Through the Out Door)
Come on, Zeppelin fans — give this song its due! A lot of people breeze past “Carouselambra” because of its uncharacteristically springy synths (Rolling Stone famously dismissed them as “lame”), but that’s what makes it so unique. Jones’ playing dominates this 10-minute epic, but Page adds plenty of color with his stunning sustained flourishes – created in part by the Gizmotron, a guitar device invented by 10cc members Kevin Godley and Lol Creme.
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