Led Zeppelin was one of the first rock bands I ever got seriously into. My first true exposure to the legendary group, besides when the occasional song would play on the radio, was their greatest hits compilation, Mothership. And while Mothership is an amazing compilation that highlights most of the band’s great songs, there are still many classic Zeppelin tunes that don’t get enough credit. So, today, I thought I’d countdown my top 10 favorite Zeppelin tracks that aren’t on their mega-compilation, Mothership.
I can understand why this two-minute instrumental piece wasn’t on a greatest hits album, but this song is just so splendid that it probably should have been. Jimmy Page demonstrates why he’s considered to be an all-time great guitarist on this gorgeous track from Physical Graffiti.
#9: What is and What Should Never Be
Given the rate at which this song is played on the radio, it’s bizarre that this track from Led Zeppelin II was omitted from Mothership. This song exhibits the classic Zeppelin sound and is always a joy to revisit.
#8: Out on the Tiles
Led Zeppelin III is probably my second favorite Zeppelin album, after IV, mostly due to the amazing job they do implementing folk sounds into their traditional blues rock sound. But this track is a bit of a deviation from the rest of the album, instead displaying pure, hard, powerful rock and roll. This heaviness is mostly due to John Bonham’s intense drumming and Jimmy Page’s great riff. This track is definitely one of Zeppelin’s most underrated songs.
#7: How Many More Times
An 8-minute blues epic, this track is one of the highlights of Led Zeppelin’s legendary debut record. John Paul Jones’ driving bassline, built upon by Page’s innovative playing and Bonham’s terrific drumming make the instrumentals on this song some of Zep’s greatest. Even if Robert Plant’s stream-of-consciousness delivery in the later portion of the song is kind of hilarious.
#6: Ten Years Gone
One of Zeppelin’s more reflective tunes, “Ten Years Gone” is built upon Page’s amazing riff and Robert Plant’s passionate vocal delivery. And when Bonham’s drums kick in, the song immediately jumps to classic status.
Another track from Led Zeppelin III, and another song heard frequently on classic rock radio, this song is dripping with nostalgia and regret. A straightforward love ballad, this song is undoubtedly one of their best tracks.
#4: Gallows Pole
Led Zeppelin created something truly special when they decided to rework this classic folk tune for their third album. But while the song’s original title, “The Maid Freed From the Gallows,” kinda gives away the ending, Led Zeppelin decided to change the last verse to make it a bit darker. Spoiler alert: the person dies.
#3: Hey Hey, What Can I Do
Strangely enough, this was the only song Led Zeppelin released during their run that was never featured on a studio album. It was only released as a B-side to “Immigrant Song.” And that’s a real shame, because this song kicks absolute ass and would’ve been more than fitting on the folksy Led Zeppelin III. Featuring some nice mandolin touches from John Paul Jones and soul-tinged vocals from Robert Plant, this song is easily one of my favorite from the group.
#2: Going to California
I’m sure most of you all were expecting to see this classic on the list, and I certainly can’t deny that this acoustic folk ballad is one of Zeppelin’s finest. From the immaculate Led Zeppelin IV, this song also has John Paul Jones playing mandolin (I wonder if R.E.M. took a cue from Zeppelin for their later mandolin use?), and Plant’s vocals just convey so much emotion. If you haven’t heard this track, do yourself a favor and give it a listen.
#1: Misty Mountain Hop
Probably my favorite Led Zeppelin song ever, “Misty Mountain Hop” just has so much groove and funk going on. Built on John Paul Jones’s electric piano riff and John Bonham’s heavy drumming, this song also features some great lyrics from Robert Plant. I also really love the way Plant’s vocal delivery matches the main riff of the song. Jimmy Page also has a killer guitar solo, and Bonham’s mini-drum breakdown is equally amazing.
Thank you all so much for reading today’s article. Disagree with me? Let me know in the comments, and make sure you check out all the other articles here on the site, as well as our weekly playlist. Follow me on Twitter @coryedwards50, and follow Mid-American Culture on Twitter @M_American_C. See you all next time!