"Rock and Roll" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, which was first released as the second track from the band's fourth album in 1971, with a guest appearance by The Rolling Stones pianist Ian Stewart.


 [hide*1 Overview


Befitting its title, the song is based on one of the most popular structures in rock and roll, the twelve-bar blues progression (in A). "Rock and Roll" stands as one of the best-known songs in the band's catalogue.

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page has said that this song came to be written as a spontaneous jam session, whilst the band were trying (and failing) to finish the track "Four Sticks".[3][4] Drummer John Bonham played the introduction to Little Richard's "Keep a Knockin'" and Page added a guitar riff.[5] The tapes were rolling and fifteen minutes later the basis of the song was down.[6] Said Page:

We were recording another number [Four Sticks]; we’d just finished a take and John Bonham did the drum intro and we just followed on. I started doing pretty much half of that riff you hear on Rock n Roll and it was just so exciting that we thought, "let’s just work on this". The riff and the sequence was really immediate to those 12-bar patterns that you had in those old rock songs like Little Richard, etc, and it was just so spur-of-the-moment the way that it just came together more or less out of nowhere.[4]

Page also commented:

It actually ground to a halt after about 12 bars, but it was enough to know that there was enough of a number there to keep working on it. Robert [Plant]even came in singing on it straight away.[7]

"Rock and Roll" is one of the few Led Zeppelin songs where all four members share the composer credit.

The lyrics by singer Robert Plant reference a number of 1950s and 1960s early rock hits, including "The Stroll," "The Book of Love," and "Walking In the Moonlight."

To achieve the distinctive guitar sound on the track, Page plugged his guitar directly into the mixing console, bypassing the traditional amplifier and microphone setup.

Live performances[edit]Edit

"Rock and Roll" was a key component of the band's setlist at Led Zeppelin concerts from 1971 on. Initially, Plant referred to it on stage as "It's Been A Long Time", which is the first line of the song.[5] In 1972 it was elevated to the opening number of all concert performances and it retained this status until 1975. For the band's 1977 North American tour, it became part of a medley encore with "Whole Lotta Love", and during 1979 and 1980 it became an encore in its own right.[5]

When performing the song live, singer Robert Plant usually switched the second verse with the third. From late 1972, Plant altered the vocal melody to a lower overall pitch to suit his changing vocal range.

A live performance of the song from Madison Square Garden in July 1973 was recorded for the band's concert film The Song Remains the Same and accompanying soundtrack album. There is also a June 1972 live recording of "Rock and Roll" which has been captured on the album How the West Was Won.

In 1985 Page, Plant and Jones reunited and performed the song at the Live Aid concert at JFK StadiumPhiladelphia, as part of the Led Zeppelin set featuring drummers Tony Thompson and Phil Collins. "Rock and Roll" was also performed as the final encore at Led Zeppelin's reunion show at the O2 ArenaLondon on 10 December 2007, where, due to Robert Plant's ageing voice, it is played down a whole step.[8] On 7 June 2008, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones joined Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl and drummer Taylor Hawkins on stage at Wembley stadium to perform "Rock and Roll," along with "Ramble On".

Formats and tracklistings[edit]Edit

1972 7" single (US/Australia/New Zealand: Atlantic 45-2865, Austria/Germany: Atlantic ATL 10156, Brazil: Atco ATCS 10.005, Canada: Atlantic AT 2865, France: Atlantic 10156, Holland: Atlantic ATL 2091190, Japan: Warner Pioneer P-1123A, Lebanon: Atlantic AT 16005, Mexico: Atlantic G-1136, Poland: Atlantic XN 82, Portugal: Atlantic ATL N 28128, Spain: Atlantic HS 823)

  • A. "Rock and Roll" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) — 3:40
  • B. "Four Sticks" (Page, Plant) — 4:44

1972 7" single (South Africa: Atlantic ATL 590)

  • A. "Rock and Roll" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) — 3:40
  • B. "Going to California" (Page, Plant) — 3:31

1972 7" EP (US: Atlantic LLP 171 SD 7-7208)

  • A1. "Rock and Roll" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) — 3:40
  • A2. "Black Dog" (Jones, Page, Plant) — 4:56
  • B. "Stairway to Heaven" (Page, Plant) — 8:02

Chart positions[edit]Edit

Chart (1972) Peak


Australia (Kent Music Report)[9] 51
Belgium (VRT Top 30 Flanders)[10] 30
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[11] 38
Germany (Media Control Charts)[12] 13
Japan (Oricon)[13] 34
Spain (AFE)[14] 14
US Billboard Hot 100[15] 47
US Cash Box[16] 42
US Record World[17] 38




Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Dave Marsh United States "The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made"[18] 1989 424
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame United States "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll"[19] 1994 *
Radio Caroline United Kingdom "Top 500 Tracks"[20] 1999 21
VH1 United States "The 100 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time"[21] 2000 66
Q United Kingdom "The 50 Most Exciting Tunes Ever.."[22] 2002 17
Q United Kingdom "The 1001 Best Songs Ever"[23] 2003 201

(*) designates unordered lists.

In media[edit]Edit

In 2001, "Rock and Roll" became the very first Led Zeppelin song to be licensed for a television series—It appeared in The Sopranos Season 3 episode "Fortunate Son."[24] In 2002, it became one of the first famous classic rock songs to be licensed for use in a series of television ads by General Motors for their Cadillac line of automobiles. They ended their use of the song and slogan "Break Through" in late 2006.[citation needed] The song was used as an opening theme of the Serbian 2011 documentary series Rockovnik.

Performance with Foo Fighters[edit]Edit

As part of their 2007–2008 Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace Tour, the Foo Fighters performed for two nights in a row at Wembley Stadium in London, England on Friday, 6 June and Saturday, 7 June (respectively) in 2008. During the Saturday show after playing "All My Life," Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones appeared onstage as special guests and then played "Rock and Roll" alongside the Foo Fighters. The line-up for the song was Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins on vocals, Page on lead guitar, Jones on bass guitar, and Foo Fighters lead singer/guitarist Dave Grohl on drums. The Foo Fighters then played a second Led Zeppelin song, "Ramble On," with Page and Jones afterward. The Saturday show that both Zeppelin songs were played on, as well as the Friday show the day before, were both included on the Foo Fighters' DVD release Live at Wembley Stadium, which was released during the same year.

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