Influential, brilliant, and era-defining, Led Zeppelin is one of the biggest and most mesmerizing bands that has ever been. During the 1970s, they ruled the world of classic rock.
The pool of world-class rock n roll bands was deep and vast during that decade with the likes of The Who, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Free to name just a small few.
But, it can be argued that Led Zeppelin was the biggest of the lot and went on to influence more artists than most bands in history.
Comprising of a young Jimmy Page (lead guitar), Robert Plant (lead vocals), John Bonham (drums), and John Paul Jones (bass guitar), the ingredients were there for an iconic sound. Thankfully, the classic rock recipe helped create many incredible songs that still sound as fresh over 50 years on.
You may think that Led Zeppelin has a large collection of songs under their belt but, all in all, there are only around 100 attributed to the band’s original famous line-up.
Compare this to other colossal bands such as The Beatles with over 300 songs or Pink Floyd with over 165 and you come to realize Led Zeppelin’s extraordinary impact from their quality of work rather than the quantity.
The band was formed in 1968 after Jimmy Page left another star-studded band, The Yardbirds (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Keith Relf). Before long, Led Zeppelin was making waves in the music industry and was soon on its way to becoming a pioneering force in music.
With the lineup of Plant, Bonham, Jones, and Page ready, you would think that all musicians would have total faith in the band’s success. However, after The Who’s drummer Keith Moon said the band would go down like a “lead balloon,” they decided to call themselves Led Zeppelin.
Exploring their heavy blues influences, the band hit the road to play a series of live shows before eventually recording a studio album that would alter the course of classic rock history forever.
Of course, the journey had its ups and downs with various lawsuits as other blues artists accused the band of using lyrics and riffs from earlier songs.
But, with Jimmy Page at the helm, the dynamics of the band continued to move into a fresh new sound that was melodic, mysterious, heavy, and totally original.
From the hypnotic stage presence and vocals of Robert Plant, the manic, thumping drum patterns of Bonham, the dynamic tonality of Jones bass, and the exquisite yet smearing riffs of Page, Led Zeppelin remains an iconic force in the world of music.
Although Led Zeppelin only recorded around 108 songs from 1968 to 1980 (until the sad death of John Bonham), trying to choose the top 10 from their discography is a very difficult task.
But, we are up for it! So, read on as we guide you through our choice of the top 10 Led Zeppelin songs.
For many, Dazed and Confused would be their number one Led Zeppelin song but we had to start somewhere! This is by far one of the band’s most popular songs but it is not an original Zeppelin song in the truest sense of the word.
It is actually a reworked version of a 1967 folk song by Jake Holmes who opened for The Yardbirds in various concerts.
Over the years, Led Zeppelin has been plagued by several lawsuits in regards to plagiarism. Dazed and Confused is one song that has come under fire. Jake Holmes tried to contact the band about their version, stating it was plagiarized from his song.
While the lyrics were altered and musical passages and guitar solos were introduced to the band’s recording, it was not enough to go unnoticed. Unfortunately, Holmes couldn’t get a response so filed a lawsuit which was settled out of court in 2012.
To this day, Holmes is credited alongside Page on all new releases of the song as the inspiration behind the classic track (ie Written by Jimmy Page – inspired by Jake Holmes).
Dazed and Confused was recorded for Zeppelin’s first self-titled album which was released on January 12, 1969. The record reached number six on the UK charts and number 10 in the US.
The fourth track of the album was Dazed and Confused and it soon became the centerpiece for the band’s stadium rocking stage performance for many years.
Some versions of the song often stretched out for as long as 45 minutes with Page’s famous and epic bowed electric guitar solos.
Psychedelic blues at its best, Dazed and Confused has everything you would expect from Led Zeppelin with Plant’s powerful vocals and a slow build-up to a manic guitar solo and seminal riffs filled with Bonham’s eccentric playing style and Jones’ thumping bass lines.
As soon as this song kicks in, you can hear the band’s blues influences roaring through. Bonham begins with a subdued drum beat (very subdued for the great man) before a harmonica breaches the lines and takes center stage.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, many rock bands had covered old blues songs and recorded blues songs of their own. For many, this was getting a bit old on the ears.
Bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had a stranglehold on much of the delta blues being aired on commercial radio and while it was loved by many, there was only so much of this country variant genre that music fans could put up with.
So, recording another blues tune wasn’t necessarily a risk in 1971 but it could have simply become another song lost in the wilds of harmonica and slide guitar-heavy music. However, Page, Jones, Bonham, and Plant managed to record When the Levee Breaks with a new dynamism and vitality.
It may not stand out as much as some other riff-dominated Led Zeppelin songs but this song shows the true prowess of John Bonham’s unique and domineering drum playing.
Bonham doesn’t go wild on this track but the drum sound is unmistakably Bonham. The drums were actually recorded in a stairwell to achieve that famous muffled and echoing sound. Not only this, but the beat is almost like a march.
Bonham is at his usual powerful and commanding best with each beat. This drumbeat was so forceful, the rest of the band built the song around it.
Again, there are world-class guitar licks from Page who shows off his slide guitar skills. Jones supports Bonham’s beat with assurance and Plant sings with angst and power. The way Plant always has.
Our number eight position belongs to another classic Led Zeppelin song, Good Times Bad Times. Recorded for their seminal Led Zeppelin II album, this is another example of Bonham taking charge.
In this one song alone, he manages to play with a mind-blowing speed with patterns that just can’t be taught. His technique is almost superhuman as he implemented Carmine Appice’s (Vanilla Fudge drummer) 16th-note triplets to help this song burst into life.
When you listen to this song closely, you will think that Bonham is using a double kick drum but he actually trained his right foot to move double the speed it usually would.
The result is a monumental drumming performance and a song that delivers classic rock melodies interspersed with superb aching vocals.
There’s no doubt that Led Zeppelin had one of the best rock singers of all time, Robert Plant. Not only that, but it also consisted of one of the best rock guitarists of all time and arguably the best rhythm section with Jones acting as the bass valves to Bonham’s drumming heartbeat.
When you have one of the best singers and guitarists in a band, it can be easy for the rhythm section to take a step back but this song is a perfect example of Bonzo and Jones taking center stage. We can’t think of many bands that could achieve this!
Everything about this song is executed brilliantly and although it was part of the band’s second album, Good Times Bad Times was Zeppelin’s first single ever released.
With so much happening in the song, it’s hard to believe it’s one of their shortest songs too at only 2 minutes and 43 seconds. As with the number of songs with Led Zeppelin recorded, it’s all about quality, not quantity.
It may be a short song but Good Times Bad Times packs a punch. It has all the hallmarks of Led Zeppelin and has enjoyed success many years on with cover versions by Sheryl Crow, Phish, and Sammy Hagar to name a few.
And, let’s not forget all the rock guitarists jamming this song out in their bedrooms and garages across the world!
With the giant rock guitar licks and screeching vocals, you can be forgiven for not thinking of Led Zeppelin as a blues band at their core. But, if you ever needed reminding, you should look no further than their 1970 release Since I’ve Been Loving You.
Part of the band’s Zeppelin III album, this song is home to one of Jimmy Page’s greatest guitar solos. It starts with a very bluesy guitar riff and a gentle drumbeat before building up with the help of an organ.
If any band knows how to build songs to a climax, it’s Led Zeppelin. However, the song dies back down to welcome Plant’s supreme vocals.
The blues element of this song is to die for. It has everything. A relaxing, serene intro, frenzied yet powerful vocals, and a rich, sultry guitar solo from Page. It’s no surprise that Page worked tirelessly for months perfecting the solo for this track.
However, he ended up using the original demo version he recorded, finding the raw nature of his playing actually suited the track best. And we couldn’t agree more.
Led Zeppelin are masters when it comes to soulful moments in music. You have Jones’ fiery organ playing, Page’s raucous attacking guitar-playing style, Bonham’s authoritative beats, and Plant’s shrieking vocals concocting a blues style like no other and, all the while being perfectly unique.
As soon as this song kicks in, you immediately know it’s Led Zeppelin. It begins with a quintessential Jimmy Page guitar sound and now world-famous riff. Within just a few seconds, you know you’re in for a wild ride.
Taken from the band’s album Sophomore, Heartbreaker is one of our favorites but tends to divide many Zeppelin fans worldwide. Compared to many of the band’s recordings, Heartbreaker verges on the instrumental side with limited vocals throughout the track.
In fact, almost two minutes during the middle of the song is taken up by an extraordinary guitar solo by Page.
This song’s solo is said to have inspired a young Eddie Van Halen to go where no guitarist had ever been before. Just listening to this solo takes you into another realm where anything is possible.
You can imagine the pyrotechnics and huge stage shows that Zeppelin was renowned for as each note hits you in the face with a bang. And, don’t think Page improvised any parts of the solo.
He even samples classical composer Bach’s Bourree in E Minor as well as other pieces of music when jamming the solo out. A true testament to the wisdom and knowledge behind his guitar playing.
As well as the huge guitar solos, Heartbreaker’s rhythm section is on top form and plays as if they want to get on with the song with every beat having incredible force.
And, although Robert Plant’s contributions to this song are minor compared to many other Led Zeppelin songs, he still manages to shine.
During the instrumentals, you are left in awe of the talent this band had but when Plant steps in to sing, the song is transformed into another Robert Plant masterpiece.
He provides another layer of power with lines so far-reaching, you could probably listen to them Acapella and still manage to rock out.
Immense. That’s the only way we can describe Communication Breakdown by Led Zeppelin. A song that was part of their self-titled debut album, Communication Breakdown was in the band’s repertoire from their earliest beginnings.
This song is one of the band’s most energetic performances with an intensity that was close to the punk songs that were still several years away. Released in 1969, this song gave music fans a glimpse of the special sound Led Zeppelin would make for the next decade or so.
The song starts with a down-stroke riff which, on closer inspection, sounds very similar to the style of many punk songs. We’re pretty sure Johnny Ramone of The Ramones was listening intently to this track when making his own brand of unique punk songs a few years later.
As for the lyrics, these allude to Eddie Cochran’s song Nervous Breakdown, a musician the band would have grown up listening to in the 1950s. While it may have been inspired by the 1950s, its raw attacking sound was something fiercely new.
Just about every Led Zeppelin song is focused on the whole band rather than any individual in particular. However, you can’t help but gear your attention toward Page’s blistering guitar playing which is deliberately punchy throughout.
For 1969, this style was almost unheard of and was certainly unparalleled apart from a few exceptions such as Jimi Hendrix. It could be perceived as the band’s first anthem and one that remains as popular as ever today.
Jimmy Page explained his technique to Guitar Player magazine in 1977. He said, “I put it in a small room, a tiny vocal booth-type thing, and miked it from a distance. You see, there’s a very old recording maxim that goes, ‘Distance makes depth.’
I’ve used that a hell of a lot on recording techniques with the band generally, not just me.
You’re always used to them close-miking amps, just putting the microphone in front, but I’d have a mic right out the back, as well, and then balance the two, to get rid of all the phasing problems; because really, you shouldn’t have to use an EQ in the studio if the instruments sound right.”
He goes on to say, “It should all be done with the microphones. But see, everyone has gotten so carried away with EQ pots that they have forgotten the whole science of microphone placement. There aren’t too many guys who know it.
I’m sure Les Paul knows a lot; obviously, he must have been well into that, as were all those who produced the early rock records where there were one or two mics in the studio.”
This is evidence of how much thought and preparation went into these recordings and how Page was able to get such a gritty, distorted sound before the heavy metal guitar was even a thing. There’s a reason these rock Gods are considered pioneers!
As one fan perfectly sums up on Youtube, “Kashmir isn’t just a song. Kashmir is like a journey.”
This is one of Led Zeppelin’s biggest sounding tracks thanks to strings and brass corps that are entwined with John Paul Jones’ Mellotron swirls, and Bonham’s processional drum beat marching the song into the land of legendary status.
Then, there is Jimmy Page’s Arabian-Indian guitar playing vibe which was influenced by his sitar playing days. He even said that he had a sitar before George Harrison did. We’ll take your word, Jimmy!
Although no one in the band had ever been to Kashmir, Plant and Page had performed some shows in small venues throughout Bombay, India, and Morocco. The lyrics are said to have been written when Plant and Page were on a boundless car ride through Morocco.
Where his 15-second howl comes from about four minutes into the song may be how Plant felt on those never-ending journeys. Oh, and this howl – it has to be one of the most astounding vocal moments in rock music.
It’s not only Zeppelin fans who are fans of this song. Plant has said that Kashmir is “the definitive Zeppelin song” while the whole band considered it to be one of their best pieces of work.
Kashmir was released during the peak of the band’s success in 1975 and is off their Physical Graffiti album. Plant has even gone on record to say “It’s so right, there’s nothing overblown, no vocal hysterics. Perfect Zeppelin.” Maybe he never heard his iconic howl!
There’s no getting away from it. Kashmir is one of the greatest rock and roll compositions of all time. And, it is backed up by one of the greatest performances by any band ever. As soon as the four members start playing, they are transformed from humble human beings into rock Gods.
And that’s exactly how Zeppelin fans have always considered them. Led Zeppelin always had some sort of mystique about them and Kashmir’s flow and energy is symbolic of the band’s otherworldliness.
It is as if an alien species landed on earth and this song was their magical gift to all humanity.
There’s something about listening to classic songs with no autotune and real instruments. It fills you with a feeling that much modern-day, computerized music fails to do. It’s simply real. It makes you feel alive!
A perfect example is the Immigrant Song, a beastly, loud, in-your-face record from the band’s 1970 album Led Zeppelin III.
Immigrant Song is an ode to the Nordic Gods of war and its assaulting, dominating sound could easily be used on a march into war. At the time the song was written, the Vietnam war was raging and many have likened Plant’s howling vocals as a war cry of the time.
Over the years, the meaning of this song has not stopped it from being used in many TV shows and films such as School of Rock and Thor: Ragnarok. It was even introduced to children in the 2000s thanks to its use in the Shrek movie franchise.
Opening the Led Zeppelin III album, the Immigrant Song is one of the best album openers of all time. It comes out of the traps with all guns blazing and it is arguably Plant’s finest vocal performance on the whole record.
While the lyrics could be and have been studied for decades, it’s Plant’s ethereal “Ahhhhh” during the song’s intro that has gone down in history as one of the most iconic moments in rock music.
Luckily for us, Plant continues his fine form throughout the entire song, hitting notes that are hard to comprehend for human ears. If we were told Lucifer had come up and possessed Plant for this one song, we would not hesitate in believing it for one moment.
Of course, the rest of the band shines as well with Page performing some of his finest guitar work. Like Plant’s luciferous vocals, Page’s solo seems to rise like fire from the doldrums of hell before taking us into the heavens.
Monstrous as well as timeless, the Immigrant Song is a true powerhouse of a record.
From Plant’s golden vocals to Page’s searing guitar solo, this song is one of Led Zeppelin’s most famous and has been covered by some of the world’s most revered artists such as Van Halen, Ann Wilson of Heart, and Nirvana.
Even after 50 years, there is no doubt generations will continue to be awestruck by this song’s sound for years to come.
Okay, it may have been overplayed by about a million times over the years but there’s no getting past the enchantment and genius-like songwriting involved with Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven.
Our guess is that you already know Stairway To Heaven pretty well. Not only is it one of Led Zeppelin’s most famous tracks but it’s one of the most covered and played songs of all time. There’s Happy Birthday and then there’s Stairway To Heaven.
But, while many music lovers across the world can listen to this song over and over again, the band themselves are not the biggest fans. Plant once paid $10,000 to a radio station to simply stop playing it.
While it may have been overplayed, it’s hard to ignore the majesty and brilliance of this song and how important it is in the fabric of rock and roll history.
All in all, Stairway To Heaven is eight minutes of incredible songwriting excellence. The lyrics are abstract yet poetic while the music can be considered a classical piece that even Mozart would have been proud of.
Topped off with Plant’s tender vocals, the song is layered like a delicious Led Zeppelin cake with Bonham’s driving beats, Jones’ searing bass lines, and Page’s famous guitar riffs all making for one of the most perfect rock records of all time.
Released on the band’s fourth album Led Zeppelin IV in 1971, it is no surprise that this song helped the record become the band’s biggest-selling of their careers.
For years, three-minute pop songs had reigned supreme on the airwaves but all of a sudden, this five-part, eight-minute-long mini rock opera ruled the radio. Its enchanting, mystical lyrics struck a chord with listeners worldwide helping it become one of the most groundbreaking songs ever.
If it wasn’t for Stairway To Heaven breaking the three-minute pop song barrier, we may have never got Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody or Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird, both very popular songs on the radio over the years.
The guitar intro has become so iconic that generations of budding guitar players have picked up 12 strings and attempted to learn the opening lines. Even today, almost 50 years on, kids are learning this riff as you read this. There’s no escaping Stairway To Heaven’s significant impact on music and pop culture.
This song has not gone without its fair share of drama since its release, however.
Another Zeppelin song embroiled in plagiarism accusations, court cases raged on until 2020 when the Skidmore vs. Led Zeppelin law case was concluded, affirming that “the district court’s conclusion that “Stairway to Heaven” does not infringe on Taurus’s copyright.”
This stemmed from the fact that Page’s opening acoustic guitar arpeggios were very similar to a 1968 instrumental recording by the band Spirit. It wasn’t until after Randy California, Spirit’s songwriter, died, that his family pursued the case.
If you want to check how similar the songs are, have a listen to Spirit’s Taurus track here and make your own mind up.
Back to Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven, it remains one of the band’s best pieces of work and a true emblem of their songwriting prowess.
Believe it or not, there was a time before Stairway To Heaven. This was the time of Whole Lotta Love. Recorded for the band’s second album Led Zeppelin II, this has one of the most recognizable melodies and riffs in the history of rock music.
And, not only is the song very catchy, it saw Jimmy Page use a violin bow to play a guitar solo, something very new to most audiences of the time.
If you wanted to make a list of some of the most revolutionary songs of the past 60 years, Whole Lotta Love would certainly be on there. Its production was and still is exceptional with an iconic middle section.
Released in 1969, this song was ahead of its time with a blend of pop and metal. The guitar riff, played on a 1959 Gibson Les Paul, helps Page perfectly phrase his meaty guitar licks as he moves around the first, third, and fourth notes of the B minor scale.
When John Paul Jones joins us with his equally rich bass lines, rock n roll music becomes something it has never been before.
Robert Plant’s howling introduction of “You need cooling, Baby I’m not fooling” is probably one of the coolest and smoothest vocal introductions in rock music. It was at this point, the world truly fell in love with Led Zeppelin.
The song soon grew in popularity from radio airplay and the band’s prominence also gathered pace. The Whole Lotta Love train was in full motion and the Led Zeppelin journey was unstoppable.
This song is a perfect example of the band’s musicianship where each member shows off their expertise from their respective instruments, Plant’s voice being his.
As the opening track of their album, it shoots out of the traps like a rocket gone wild. Jimmy’s guitar is disgustingly dirty but beautiful, Plant’s voice is commanding, Bonham’s drumming is godly, and Jone’s bass playing is booming.
This song set the band apart from their competition and helped the world open their eyes to the glory that was Led Zeppelin.