Monday, February 21, 1972

Led Zeppelin released “Rock and Roll”

Rock and Roll

Led Zeppelin

Writer(s): John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant (see lyrics here)

Released: February 21, 1972

First Charted: March 11, 1972

Peak: 47 US, 38 HR, 1 CL, 38 CN, 51 AU, 3 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 52.33 video, 131.8 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

In a review of a 1972 Led Zeppelin concert, rock critic Robert Christgau called the band “the personification of heavy rock,” RC specifically referring to “Rock and Roll” as “simply the most dynamic hard-rock song in…music.” RC Rolling Stone said “the music recasts rock & roll as something fierce and modern.” RS In 2002, Q magazine selected the song as one of the 50 most exciting tunes ever. From 1972 to 1975, Led Zeppelin used “Rock and Roll” as the opener for their concerts. WK

The song “is based on one of the most popular structures in rock and roll; namely the 12-bar blues progression in A.” SF Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page said the song grew out of a spontaneous jam session. Drummer John Bonham started playing Little Richard’s “Keep A-Knockin,’” which became “the now-famous snare and open-high-hat drum intro to ‘Rock and Roll.’” RS Page followed with a Chuck Berry-style guitar riff. WK Page says the song was “written in minutes and recorded within an hour.” SF

Singer Robert Plant wrote the lyrics in response to critics who said their previous album, the more acoustic-folk-sounding Led Zeppelin III, wasn’t really rock and roll. SF He told Creem in 1988, “We just thought rock and roll needed to be take on again…It was time for actually kicking ass.” SF He made references to the Monotones’ 1958 doo-wop classic “The Book of Love” as well as an old dance called The Stroll. RS

The song features Ian Stewart, who’d played piano with the Rolling Stones since their 1962 beginning. Led Zeppelin were using the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording unit to record the Led Zeppelin IV album. Stewart came as a technician to assist in recording, but came in handy when the band “needed some serious boogie-woogie piano.” SF


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First posted 11/5/2021; last updated 8/4/2022.

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