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"Immigrant Song" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. It was released as a single from their third studio album, Led Zeppelin III, in 1970.


Overview[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song begins with a distinctive, wailing cry from vocalist Robert Plant and is built around a repeating, staccato Jimmy Page/John Paul Jones/John Bonham riff in the key of F# minor. 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.[4]

"Immigrant Song" was written during Led Zeppelin's tour of Iceland, Bath and Germany in mid-1970. The opening date of this tour took place in ReykjavíkIceland, which inspired Plant to write the song. As he explained:

We weren't being pompous ... We did come from the land of the ice and snow. We were guests of the Icelandic Government on a cultural mission. We were invited to play a concert in Reykjavik and the day before we arrived all the civil servants went on strike and the gig was going to be cancelled. The university prepared a concert hall for us and it was phenomenal. The response from the kids was remarkable and we had a great time. "Immigrant Song" was about that trip and it was the opening track on the album that was intended to be incredibly different.[5]

Just six days after Led Zeppelin's appearance in Reykjavik, the band performed the song for the first time on stage during the Bath Festival.[6]

The song's lyrics are written from the perspective of Vikings rowing west from Scandinavia in search of new lands. The lyrics make explicit reference to Viking conquests and the Old Norse religion (Fight the horde, sing and cry, Valhalla, I am coming!). 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![4]

"Immigrant Song" is one of Led Zeppelin's few single releases, having been released in November 1970 by their record label, Atlantic Records. It reached #16 on the Billboard charts.[4] Its B side, "Hey Hey What Can I Do", was otherwise unavailable before the release of the band's first boxed set in 1990. The single was also mistakenly released in Japan with "Out on the Tiles" as the B-side rather than "Hey Hey What Can I Do." That single is now a rare collectible.

First pressings of the US single of the song 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]

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 mighty Viking-esque figures on an adventure, themes which have been adopted in the look and music of bands from Iron Maiden to Manowar.

"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.[4]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 Theatre in London in 1971). When played live, Page played a lengthy guitar solo, which was absent on the recorded Led Zeppelin III version.[4] "Immigrant Song" was played as part of the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Jeff Beck by both Page and Beck.

Personnel[edit source | editbeta]Edit

In the song, Page probably played his Gibson Les Paul 1959 with a sunburst finish which he began to use in 1969 (prior he played his 1964 Fender Telecaster given as a present by Jeff Beck) with Marshall or Vox Amplification. John Paul Jones played his Fender Precision Bass.

Cultural influence[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Vanilla Ice used "Immigrant Song" as the basis for "Power", a rap metal song performed in concerts in 1999.[8] Karen O from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs collaborated with Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and fellow musician Atticus Ross on a cover version for the soundtrack to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.[9]

The song is used in the movie School of RockJack Black famously asked the band for permission for the rights, as is shown in the DVD extras. In Shrek the ThirdSnow White (voiced by Amy Poehler) sings the song to send her animal friends to attack the living tree guards.

Formats and tracklistings[edit source | editbeta]Edit

1970 7" single (US/Australia/New Zealand: Atlantic 45-2777, Austria/Germany: Atlantic ATL 70460, Belgium: Atlantic BE 650222, Canada: Atlantic AT 2777, France: Atlantic 650 226L, Holland: Atlantic ATL 2091043, Italy/Jamaica: Atlantic ATL 45-2777, Greece: Atlantic 2091 043, Japan: Warner Pioneer P-1007A, Portugal: Atlantic ATL N 28101, South Africa: Atlantic ATS 531, Spain: Atlantic H 671, Sweden: Atlantic ATL 70.460, Turkey: Atlantic 71505)

  • A. "Immigrant Song" (Page, Plant) 2:25
  • B. "Hey Hey What Can I Do" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 3:55

1970 7" radio edit (US: Atlantic 45-2777 PL)

  • A. "Immigrant Song" [stereo] (Page, Plant) 2:25
  • B. "Immigrant Song" [mono] (Page, Plant) 2:25

1970 7" single (Colombia: WEA 167/168, Costa Rica: Atlantic 70.029, Mexico: Atlantic 1701-1919, Philippines: Atlantic 45-3741)

  • A. "Immigrant Song" (Page, Plant) 2:25
  • B. "Tangerine" (Page) 3:10

1970 7" single (Japan: Nihon Gramophone DT-1180)

  • A. "Immigrant Song" (Page, Plant) 2:25
  • B. "Out on the Tiles" (Bonham, Page, Plant) 4:07

1970 7" single (South Africa: Atlantic ATS 528)

  • A. "Immigrant Song" (Page, Plant) 2:25
  • B. "Friends" (Page, Plant) 3:54

1970 7" single (Uruguay: Atlantic 2164013)

  • A. "Immigrant Song" (Page, Plant) 2:25
  • B. "Gallows Pole" (trad. arr. Page, Plant) 4:56

1970 7" single (Venezuela: Atlantic 5-018)

  • A. "Immigrant Song" (Page, Plant) 2:25
  • B. "Whole Lotta Love" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant, Dixon) 3:12

1970 7" EP (Mexico: Atlantic 2207-014)

  • A1. "Immigrant Song" (Page, Plant) 2:25
  • A2. "Tangerine" (Page) 3:10
  • B. "Out on the Tiles" (Bonham, Page, Plant) 4:07

1970 7" EP (Bolivia: Polydor 608030)

1971 7" single (Argentina/Chile/Peru: Atlantic 2091 149)

  • A. "Immigrant Song" (Page, Plant) 2:25
  • B. "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" (Jones, Page, Plant) 4:16

1992 CD single (US: Atlantic 2777-2)

  • 1. "Immigrant Song" (Page, Plant) 2:25
  • 2. "Hey Hey What Can I Do" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 3:55

Chart positions[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Single[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1971) Peak position
Australian Go-Set Top 60 Singles Chart[10] 16
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[11] 13
Canadian CHUM Chart[12] 2
Canadian RPM Top Singles[13] 4
Germany (Media Control AG)[14] 6
Italy (FIMI)[15] 59
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[16] 11
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[17] 9
Japan (Oricon)[18] 13
New Zealand (RIANZ)[19] 4
South African Chart[20] 7
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[21] 11
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[22] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[23] 16
US Cash Box Top 100 Singles Chart[24] 8
US Record World 100 Top Pops[25] 10

Single (Digital download)[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (2007) Peak position
Canadian Billboard Hot Digital Singles Chart[26] 54
UK (Official Charts Company)[27] 109
U.S. BillboardHot Digital Songs[28] 71

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