September 15, 2016

Led Zeppelin's Top 10 Guitar Riffs
by James

by James Forryan

hmv London; 15/09/2016


"Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor,

Led Zeppelin's Top 10 Guitar Riffs

This week Led Zeppelin unveil a brand new collection The Complete BBC Sessions. 

The collection of tracks recorded in various BBC studios, which features 33 songs in all, is available on a three-CD and five-LP box set as well as a deluxe package containing both, on the right-hand side of the page. 

Among the rarities featured are a three-song session from March 1969, which had been unheard since it was first broadcast the following month. The session has only come to light recently after a fan who taped it from AM radio in Europe came forward with a recording, which has been restored to releasable quality by guitarist Jimmy Page. The sessions includes the only performance of 'Sunshine Woman', a track the band never recorded, as well 'I Can’t Quit You Baby' and 'You Shook Me'.

Also featured is a rare rendition of 'Stairway To Heaven', which was aired in April 1971 from BBC Paris Cinema in London’s Regent Street. 

You can purchase the collection here in hmv's online store. 

Still one of the most popular bands of the 20th century, Led Zeppelin’s signature sound is comprised of John Bonham’s pounding drums, John-Paul Jones’ thudding basslines and, of course, Robert Plant’s soaring, wailing vocals, but if there’s one thing that makes Led Zeppelin what they are, it’s Jimmy Page’s guitar riffs. So, to celebrate the new collection, we’ve picked out 10 of our favourites…

Led Zeppelin II

10. Moby Dick

(taken from Led Zeppelin II)

Taken from Led Zeppelin II, ‘Moby Dick’ is, above all, a showcase for John Bonham’s considerable drumming abilities, with an extended drum solo taking up most of the track. But before Bonham’s solo kicks in, there’s that riff. Essentially it’s just a 12-bar blues at its core, but in the hands of Jimmy Page it turns into something else entirely…

Led Zeppelin II

9. The Lemon Song

(taken from Led Zeppelin II)

Another track taken from their second album, ‘The Lemon Song’, Bonham’s backbeat is verging on hip-hop, but the riff is glorious, slinky, discordant and powerful. One of our favourites for sure.

Houses Of The Holy

8. The Ocean

(taken from Houses of the Holy)

Taken from Houses of the Holy, ‘The Ocean’ features a heavy yet funky riff set to a shifting time signature pounded out by Bonham and Jones. Although it isn’t one of their most highly rated albums by many, this is definitely one of its best moments.

Led Zeppelin III

7. Immigrant Song

(taken from Led Zeppelin III)

Somebody once said of the band that their lyrics were about three things: Vikings, sex and Vikings having sex. Nowhere is that more true than on 'Immigrant Song', taken from Led Zeppelin III and featuring Robert Plant wailing about Valhalla, but underpinning it all is that guitar riff. If this doesn’t get your head nodding, nothing will.

Led Zeppelin II

6. Heartbreaker

(taken from Led Zeppelin II)

One of the best moments on Led Zeppelin II (not there are any bad ones, really), the riff from ‘Heartbreaker’ had to go on our list. Helped along by Bonham’s powerful drums and Jones’ bass doubling up the riff, it’s an absolute monster.

Led Zeppelin

5. Communication Breakdown

(taken from Led Zeppelin)

Taken from their debut album, the stuttering, muted chugging of the riff to ‘Communication Breakdown’ is probably the heaviest thing on Led Zeppelin I and heralded the beginning of a new era of hard rock. The solo isn’t half bad either…

Led Zeppelin II

4. Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman)

taken from Led Zeppelin II)

No, the lyric ‘a fifth percent hair’ doesn’t make any sense, but when it’s backed up by Jimmy Page’s guitar licks then who cares? Another cut from Led Zeppelin II, this track is constantly missing from compilations, which is a shame because we think it’s brilliant. Guess you’ll just have to buy the album…


Led Zeppelin IV

3. Black Dog

(taken from Led Zeppelin IV)

Any guitarist will recognise this track taken from Led Zeppelin IV as one of their best, as well as being one of the trickiest to perform thanks to the way Page’s riff shifts across the 4/4 time signature, starting on a different beat each time around. Then there’s the gaps, which aren’t exactly the same as each other, the band presumably relying on some form of telepathy to keep time. However they do it, the effect is stunning.

Physical Graffiti

2. Kashmir

(taken from Physical Graffiti)

Taken from Physical Graffiti, 'Kashmir’s climbing, Eastern-influenced verse riff is Jimmy Page at his best. A re-recorded version was used as the basis for P Diddy’s ‘Come with Me’ and featured Page along with another legendary guitarist, Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, doubling up on guitar duties, but nothing beats the original.

Led Zeppelin II

1. Whole Lotta Love

(taken from Led Zeppelin II)

Without doubt Led Zeppelin’s most iconic riff ever, it’s been sampled, re-recorded and borrowed too many times to list, even becoming the theme tune to the BBC’s legendary but now defunct chart show Top of the Pops in the mid-90s. Heavy, hypnotic and utterly compelling.