Rock’s Classics :: Led Zeppelin – Kashmir

Some of Rock music’s classic anthems deserve a second glance, despite being decades old. Here we examine Led Zeppelin’s giant  “Kashmir”

Led Zeppelin Live 1975

Led Zeppelin Live 1975 © Michael Putland

The term “classic” and “legendary” are words that are now all too overly used in the music industry. It would seem that these phrases, once reserved for being used in traditional format in accordance to their meaning, now are prostituted all over the place with the likes of MTV’s “news” coverage spouting them seemingly every second about the latest pop claptrap. However those more discerning music fans do still champion the right to use the phrases for genuinely great tracks or albums that have defined their beloved genres. Here we take a look at one such “classic” rock track, “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin.

Led Zeppelin of course was and still is one of the biggest bands, not only rock bands but of any genre, that has ever graced planet Earth. With their albums sales, t-shirts, posters, downloads and constant teetering of reunion, the four piece group from London created ripples in the rock music pond that are still being felt forty plus years since their debut album Led Zeppelin was released. With the blues based, ever popularized riffs of Jimmy Page on guitar, Robert Plant’s screaming bravado and John Paul Jones and John Bonham’s flawless percussion, Led Zeppelin changed music forever and inspired countless other musicians to even greater things.

As with many bands of the time and in general, Zeppelin are plagued by a so called defining anthem, namely “Stairway to Heaven”. Like “Hotel California” for The Eagles and “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple, it is often an unfair assumption to make that these so called “masterpieces” are the definite article of the band’s sound. Indeed it now seems inevitable that when Led Zeppelin reunite that the phrase “… and they’re going to play Stairway” ring out like a mocking chorus of lazy expectancy. It is with great pleasure that “Kashmir” then is both critically acclaimed and professed to be the best and most musically accomplished by the band themselves.

Originally released as the last track on the B-Side of the 1975 release Physical Graffiti, the song is a metaphorical and musical journey towards a seemingly unattainable el dorado, far off beyond the horizon. Principally written on a long drive through the arid portion of southern Morocco, Robert Plant intended the song to be more about the journey itself than the geography of northern India. Having he lyrics completed by the autumn of 1973, the juddering rhythm of the music was the result of a late night session held between Page and Bonham at their country estate in England. Upon completion, the track entered straight into the band’s live set list and was an immediate hit with the fans, as it quickly became the showpiece number. Never truly eclipsing “Stairway to Heaven” never the less it was soon apparent that if “Kashmir” were not performed then there would be blood.

Musically, the track was a perfect outlet for Jimmy Page’s increasingly monumental and colossal direction he wished to take the band in. Physical Graffiti is a wide, extensive album that deals heavily with scope and includes both the longest and shortest tracks on any Zeppelin studio album. Thus with a mighty number like “Kashmir” who’s orchestral inclusion for increased enormous tempo, Zeppelin were more than capable of creating an album who’s sprawling vision was more than accomplished. It is therefore no wonder that it is held in such high regard with the personnel of the band, Robert Plant saying it was the best thing Zeppelin ever did with Jimmy Page reiterating that point several times throughout the years.

“Kashmir” is a song with huge ambition and an equally big production that continues to please fans thirty-five years after its original release. Indeed its popularity is so extensive that it is often featured on mainstream sources such as “The X Factor”, quoted in “Ocean’s 12” and arguably murdered in P Diddy’s “Come With Me” from the 1998 motion picture Godzilla. The legacy and enduring popularity of the song is only reinforced by its lack of single release and can be safely labeled as a classic without any echoes of hypocrisy or hackneyed frivolity and is sure to remain a popular piece of music for decades to come

Jonathan Whitelaw

For more information on the band check out their website. Kashmir along with Zeppelin’s discography are available on iTunes:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.