All of us nerds have tried our hand at writing fanfiction at some point or another ( Don’t deny it)… Well Led Zeppelin took writing fanfiction to the next level by writing a song based on J.R.R.Tolkien’s classic novel series, Lord of the Rings called Ramble On.
“Ramble On” is a part of their 1969 album Led Zeppelin II. It was co-written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and was recorded in 1969 at Juggy Sound Studio, New York, during the band's second concert tour of North America. In 2010, the song was ranked #440 on list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The guitar intro is a Jimmy Page classic: using regular open chords, superimposed higher on the fretboard. There is ambiguity regarding the kind of percussion instrument used to bring about that kind of resonance. It has been speculated that bongos, a plastic bin or a vinyl seat pad were used. Bonham, in the book John Bonham: A Thunder of Drums reports instead of a hard case for guitar on which he improvised percussion background with bare hands. The song gives way for bassist John Paul Jones’ melodic verses to and ascending motif following the soft percussions by John Bonham. When asked in an interview how he achieved that smooth, sustaining violin-like tone on the solo, Page Said:
"I used the neck pickup on my Les Paul and backed off on the treble knob on the guitar, and ran it through the sustainer Roger Mayer made for me years before. When I was recording it, I was thinking in terms of making a sound sort of like a string arrangement.”
The song, penned down by massive Tolkien fan Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, is often considered to be an ode to Frodo and Sam’s journey through Mordor. The first line of the poem is reminiscent to the beginning of Frodo Baggins’ journey to Mordor.Frodo Baggins, a hobbit, had been tasked with carrying the One Ring , the ring that had the power to destroy Middle Earth. The immense power of the ring and the attention it could attract meant that Frodo and his companion Sam, could not stay in one place for long and had to ‘Ramble On’ their journey. During his journey towards Mordor, Frodo stays in Rivendell, the Elvin city, where the Council of Elrond decides what is to be done with the Ring. Frodo and his best friend Samwise enjoy their stay very much but they know that they have to "Ramble on,/ And now's the time, the time is now/ To sing my song. / I'm goin' 'round the world, I got to find my girl."
The first line of the song, "Leaves are falling all around", can also be considered as a paraphrase of Tolkien’s poem, “Namarie”. Throughout the song, there are mentions of a ‘girl’ that the adventurer seeks. This is by and large considered to be a reference to the One Ring.
“Ramble On, And now's the time, the time is now, to sing my song.
I'm goin' 'round the world, I got to find my girl, on my way. “
In a later section, the Gollum in mentioned in connection to the ‘girl’.
“Mine's a tale that can't be told, my freedom I hold dear.
How years ago in days of old, when magic filled the air.
T'was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her....yeah.”
The direct references to Mordor and Gollum are sure and intriguing signs that this song is about Frodo, yet part of it does not make sense. Frodo was not in Mordor when he was given the Ring, "the girl so fair," but he was "in the darkest depth of Mordor" when he met Shelob, the giant Spider, who is far from fair. But it was in Mordor that Gollum took the Ring of Power from Frodo.
The references of the Ring as woman can also be found in other songs of Led Zeppelin such as “Over the Hills and Far Away”.
Led Zeppelin peppered unspecific references to LOTR through out their works. These references seem to be from the perspective of the hobbit main characters or a general adventurer-observer perspective. Led Zeppelin’s other Tolkien-inspired songs include “Over the Hills and Far Away”(another song about Frodo’s journey), “Misty Mountain Hop”(the title itself is clearly a Middle-Earth reference). The battle of Evermore(considered as a reference to the Battle of Pelennor Fields) has possibly the most number of references- the Ringwraiths are mentioned, as well as a Prince of Peace, who could be Aragorn, who "embraced the gloom" and "walked the night alone" - resembles Strider. Other speculation is that it could be Frodo. There is also a Queen of Light alluding to Lady Galadriel.
Led Zeppelin’s arguably most famous song, “Stairway to Heaven” is also rife with LOTR references. The first line “There’s a lady who’s sure/ All that glitters is gold/” can be seen as a reference to the poem “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring; Renewed shall be blade that was broken, The crownless again shall be king.” It I also seen as a reference to Galadriel. Another line "There's a feeling I get when I look to the West, And my spirit is crying for leaving" may be an allusion to the Undying Lands, of Middle Earth. The next part of the same verse “In my thoughts I have seen rings of smoke through the trees,And the voices of those who stand looking” could refer to Gandalf.The last reference to be found in this song is “And it's whispered that soon, if we all call the tune,
Then the piper will lead us to reason. And a new day will dawn for those who stand long, And the forests will echo with laughter” which could refer to Gandalf or Aragorn as a leader taking everyone to salvation and the forests echoing with laughter could be seen as the brave people of Middle-Earth rejoicing at the end of the war. However, in spite of all this, the band has denied any connection between this particular song and LOTR.
Also, fun fact : One of Robert Plant’s dogs was named Strider. So if you thought naming pets (or even children) after fictional character was a trademark of this generation’s fanboys and fangirls, then you thought wrong. Also if you thought, nerds were quiet, unassuming people who generally stayed indoors, then you were wrong. If you thought that the rockers were drug addicts who wrote about angsty stuff and lost love, then you were wrong. Kudos to Led Zeppelin for breaking these stereotypes… which is what rock is all about.
J.R.R.Tolkien is undoubtedly a prolific writer whose influence on various forms of arts is immeasurable.. In the same light, Led Zeppelin's influence and impact is the greatest ever. Their music is still as extremely popular today, if not more so, from when it originated over thirty years ago. Their sound has been borrowed, interpreted, rearranged, mixed, and many times ripped off by almost every artist since the beginning of Led Zeppelin's reign. VH1 and Rolling Stone Magazine have given them the title of "Greatest Rock Band Ever". "Stairway to Heaven" is the most played song in radio history, voted as being the greatest song ever written, as well as having the second highest number of covers, right after the Beatles "Yesterday". Two hundred years from now people will still be listening to and enjoying the music of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and the late, great John "Bonzo" Bonham, thanks in part to an author who will continue to fascinate readers long into the future, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Fan made video for the song over footage fro "Fellowship of the Ring" -

Led Zeppelin- The band



December 2016

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