Swinging on the gallows pole

What did you bring me my dear friends to keep me from the gallows pole?
The song exists in many forms, but all versions tell a similar story. Led Zeppelin's version is based on a traditional blues song called "Gallis Pole," popularized by Leadbelly.

Gallows Pole is about a man trying to delay his death, and repeatedly tells the hangman to "hold it a little while" hoping that friends and family will rescue him.

This is a unique Led Zeppelin song in that it features a banjo. Although he had never played the instrument before, Jimmy Page wrote this song on a banjo that he borrowed from John Paul Jones.

I just picked it [the banjo] up and started moving my fingers around until the chords sounded right, which is the same way I work on compositions when the guitar's in different tunings. -- Jimmy Page.
The song speeds up as it goes along, bringing us faster and faster towards the grim conclusion:
Your brother brought me silver, your sister warmed my soul, but now I laugh and pull so hard and see you swinging on the gallows pole... swingin' on the gallows pole... swingin' on the gallows pole... swingin' on the gallows pole... swingin' on the gallows pole... swingin' on the gallows pole...


Photo credit: ORK1

Ramble on

It was crazy really. We were writing the numbers in hotel rooms and then we'd do a rhythm track in London, add the vocal in New York, overdub the harmonica in Vancouver and then come back to finish mixing at New York. -- Robert Plant.
Yes, Led Zeppelin jumped through all the hoops just to get their second album recorded. It was hectic, it was crazy, it was exciting!

The album, simply called Led Zeppelin II, was released in 1969 and contains materials that are somewhat similar to their debut album but with a more refined touch. This album eventually became more widely acclaimed than the first.

Led Zeppelin II was recorded during a much-traveled period after the group finished three US and four European concert tours from January to August 1969. The band was all over the UK and US, separately recording, mixing and producing each song at various studios. There was one particular studio in Vancouver that had an eight-track set up and didn't have proper headphone facilities.

The band, especially Jimmy Page, was so impressed with recording engineer Eddie Kramer's previous work with Jimi Hendrix. Led Zeppelin II would be the band's first teamup with Kramer. The reason for the second album's success can be attributed in no small part to Page and Kramer's tireless efforts in the control room.

That part of "Whole Lotta Love" where everything is in jumble was the result of Page and Kramer turning every knob here and there.
This work served as a precedent to the hard rock music of the 70's. Here, guitar-based riffs define the songs and serve as the refrain. Such arrangements were unheard of at that time where the emphasis was on vocal chorus or verses.

Led Zeppelin II was one of the band's most important work. It was a turning point that helped usher in the era of modern rock music.

Photo credits:
  1. celsoescadarosa
  2. kdog334455

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