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"Immigrant Song" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. It is built on a repeating riff and features lyrical references to Norse mythology. The song was included on their third studio album, Led Zeppelin III, and was released as a single, which charted in several countries. Several live recordings have also been issued on Led Zeppelin concert albums and other artists have recorded renditions of the song.

Contents[]

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  • 1 Background
  • 2 Composition and lyrics
  • 3 Releases
  • 4 Live performances
  • 5 Chart positions
    • 5.1 Original release
      • 5.1.1 Weekly charts
      • 5.1.2 Year-end charts
    • 5.2 Digital download
  • 6 Cover versions
  • 7 Sources
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links

Background[edit][]

"Immigrant Song" was written during Led Zeppelin's tour of Iceland, Bath and Germany in the summer of 1970. The opening date of this tour took place in Reykjavík,Iceland, which inspired vocalist Robert Plant to write the song. He explained in an interview:

Six days after Led Zeppelin's appearance in Reykjavik, the band performed the song for the first time in concert during the Bath Festival.[4]

Composition and lyrics[edit][]

The song begins with a distinctive, wailing cry from Plant and is built on a repeating, staccato riff by guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. It is performed in the key of F♯ minor at a moderate tempo of 112 beats per minute.[5] There is a very faint count-off at the beginning of the track with lots of hiss which appears on the album version, but is trimmed from the single version. The hiss is feedback from an echo unit.[6]

The song's lyrics are written from the perspective of Vikings rowing west from Scandinavia in search of new lands. The lyrics, such as "Fight the horde, sing and cry, Valhalla, I am coming!" make explicit reference to Viking conquests and the Old Norse religion. In a 1970 radio interview, Plant jokingly recalled, "We went to Iceland, and it made you think of Vikings and big ships ... and John Bonham's stomach ... and bang, there it was – Immigrant Song!"[6]

One of the lines from the song became part of Led Zeppelin lore. The line, "the hammer of the gods/will drive our ships to new lands" prompted some people to start referring to Led Zeppelin's sound as the "Hammer of the Gods". The phrase was used as the title of Stephen Davis' biography of the band, Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga. The lyrics also did much to inspire the classic heavy metal myth, of Viking-esque figures on an adventure, themes which have been adopted in the look and music of bands from Iron Maiden to Manowar.

Releases[edit][]

"Immigrant Song" is one of Led Zeppelin's few single releases. It was issued in the US 5 November 1970 by Atlantic Records and reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.[6] "Hey Hey What Can I Do", the single's B-side, was released on the 1972 UK Atlantic Records sampler The New Age of Atlantic and later on the 1990 Led Zeppelin Boxed Set. "Immigrant Song" was also mistakenly released in Japan with "Out On the Tiles" as the B-side rather than "Hey Hey What Can I Do" and is a rare collectible.

First pressings of the US single have a quote from Aleister Crowley inscribed in dead wax by the run-out groove: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."[7]

Live performances[edit][]

"Immigrant Song" was used to open Led Zeppelin concerts from 1970 to 1972. On the second half of their 1972 concert tour of the United States, it was introduced by a short piece of music known as "LA Drone", designed to heighten the sense of anticipation and expectation amongst the concert audience. By 1973, "Immigrant Song" was occasionally being used as an encore, but was then removed from their live set.[6] Live versions of the song can be heard on the Led Zeppelin albums How the West Was Won (featuring a performance at Long Beach Arena in 1972) and the Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions (a version from the Paris Theatrein London in 1971). When played live, Page played a lengthy guitar solo, which was absent on the recorded Led Zeppelin III version.[6] "Immigrant Song" was played as part of the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fameinduction ceremony for Jeff Beck by both Page and Beck.

Chart positions[edit][]

Original release[edit][]

Weekly charts[edit][]

Chart (1970–1971) Peak

position

Australia (Kent Music Report)[8] 20
Australia (Go-Set National Top 40)[9] 16
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[10] 13
Canada (CHUM)[11] 2
Canada Top Singles (RPM)[12] 4
Germany (Media Control Charts)[13] 6
Italy (FIMI)[14] 59
Japan (Oricon)[15] 13
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[16] 11
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[17] 9
New Zealand (RIANZ)[18] 4
South Africa (Springbok Radio)[19] 7
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[20] 11
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[21] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[22] 16
US Cash Box[23] 8
US Record World[24] 10

Year-end charts[edit][]

Chart (1971) Position Canada (RPM Top 100 Singles)[25] 92
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[26] 91

Digital download[edit][]

Chart (2007) Peak

position

Canadian (Hot Canadian Digital Singles)[27] 54
UK (Official Charts Company)[28] 109
US Billboard Hot Digital Songs[29] 69

Note: The official UK Singles Chart incorporated legal downloads as of 17 April 2005.

Cover versions[edit][]

Main article: List of cover versions of Led Zeppelin songs

"Immigrant Song" is one of Led Zeppelin's most recorded songs, with versions by a variety of artists. One of the more recent and popular covers appeared during the title sequence and is set up as the opening theme in the 2011 film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross featuring Karen O.

Sources[edit][]

  • Lewis, Dave (2004) The Complete Guide to the Music of Led ZeppelinISBN 0-7119-3528-9
  • Welch, Chris (1998) Led Zeppelin: Dazed and Confused: The Stories Behind Every SongISBN 1-56025-818-7
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