Led Zeppelin’s Welsh, English, And Norse Influences
In the passing of time, it should come as no surprise to most hardcore Led Zeppelin fans that the colossal British rock band integrated a considerable number of fine literary elements stemming from the traditions, mythologies, and folklores of Wales, England, and even the Norse lands, into their music.
So it is that the combination of folklore and mythology played a pivotal part in the band’s creational process, commencing from the blues-based days dating to Led Zeppelin I (1969) up to the mostly folk-tinted Led Zeppelin III (1970) and even beyond, to Physical Graffiti (1975) respectively.
It would also be wise not to neglect the literary influences of Robert Plant, who made use of a multitude of allegations pinpointing towards J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy upon writing the lyrics for some of the songs on Led Zeppelin IV (1971), such as, most notably, ‘The Battle of Evermore’, which bears a lot of references to the Anglo-Saxon lore and, more broadly, to the Germanic mythology as well. Therefore, it is definitely not bewildering that Robert Plant has been a tremendous long life fan of Tolkien’s literary universe. What can be more eloquent in this particular regard than the following line from ‘Ramble On’:
‘Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor/I met a girl so fair/But Gollum and the evil one crept up…’
Yet there’s a folklore-related influence which is even more profound if it is to be sought deeply within the band’s folk-tinted days spent in the charming Welsh countryside. During the making of the the group’s third studio album, Plant and Page had been rehearsing at the Bron-Yr-Aur (Golden Hill) cottage situated just outside of the picturesque market town of Machynlleth. The cottage in question was purchased by Plant’s family as early as the 1950s, serving as holiday home for most of the vocalist’s childhood.
In 1970, it was Plant’s decision that influenced Page to spend some time in that 18th century Welsh cottage in order to boast their inspiration and take a short break from the worldwide popularity that had just been thrusted upon them given their previously successful ‘Led Zeppelin II’ (1969).
Consequently, the mesmerizing natural landscapes of Snowdonia coupled with the tranquility of the cottage’s atmosphere made it possible for Page and Plant to lay the foundation of what will soon enough be known as ‘Led Zeppelin III’.
Interestingly enough, the legacy of that cottage did not cease to exist solely to the point of the third LP’s release. Other noteworthy compositions such as ‘Over The Hills and Far Away’, ‘The Crunge’, ‘The Rover’, ‘Down by the Seaside’, or ‘Poor Tom’ are songs which would subsequently be issued on the albums ‘Physical Graffiti’ (1975) and ‘Coda’ (1982).
And while nearly all of the tracks on ‘Led Zeppelin III’ are quite Welsh-influenced, there is also a rendition of a popular English folk song called ‘The Maid Freed from the Gallows’ which is represented by the song ‘Gallows Pole’.
Moving a little bit further away from the Anglo-Celtic historical space, when it comes to serval titles such as ‘No Quarter’ or ‘Immigrant Song’, credit must equally be given to the Norse mythology and its place of origin, namely Scandinavia. This can be proven by the following opening stanzas in both aforementioned pieces:
‘Close the door, put out the light
No, they won’t be home tonight
The snow falls hard and don’t you know?
The winds of Thor are blowing cold’
‘We come from the land of the ice and snow
From the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow
The hammer of the gods
W’ell drive our ships to new lands
To fight the horde, and sing and cry
Valhalla, I am coming!’
Nonetheless, Led Zeppelin were not the only classic rock band of their time to reference legends from bygone times in their songs. The likes of Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, or Deep Purple (just to name a few) have been greatly influenced as well by the Middle Ages.
Documentation sources and external links:
- The Machynlleth cottage that inspired Led Zeppelin on www.bbc.com
- The hobbits and the hippies on www.bbc.com
- The West Midlands Folklore That Inspired Robert Plant on www.spinditty.com
- The Maid Freed from the Gallows on www.wikipedia.org (in English)
- Led Zeppelin’s Welsh Inspiration on www.walesonline.co.uk
- How Led Zeppelin Embraced Trippy Folk Side on ‘III’ on www.rollingstone.com
- Ramble On: Rockers Who Love ‘The Lord of the Rings’ on www.rollingstone.com