50. “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)” (Led Zeppelin II, 1969)
The lyrics rank among Zep’s most vile, as unapologetically misogynistic as Zeppelin would get on record. For better or worse, though, the hooks come out of this thing from so many different directions — not to mention that at a scant 2:39 (and bursting out of the speakers after the surprise end to “Heartbreaker”), it’s one of the group’s tightest jams — that it remains impossible to deny completely. (Unless you’re Jimmy Page, anyway, who allegedly hated the song and never once played it live.)
49. “The Crunge” (Houses of the Holy, 1973)
Oft-derided by Zep fans for its faux-funk awkwardness and general frivolity, “The Crunge” nonetheless has its charms. The stop-start intro groove, the band’s unwillingness to determine any kind of pocket to get into, and of course, Plant’s dogged, James Brown-like pursuit of that ever-elusive bridge… it’s all very silly, but it’s good fun from a band that certainly needed an injection of lightheartedness every now and then. It’s not like anything the Godfather of Soul would sign off on, but it’s also not really like anything else, ever.
48. “Tangerine” (Led Zeppelin III, 1970)
A pleasantly sighing, pedal steel guitar-tinged ballad that isn’t LZIII‘s best track by any means, but maybe its most definitive. It was also Zep’s first song to bear any kind of obvious country influence, a direction that would get them into more trouble the further they followed it, but which is deployed quite perfectly here. Cameron Crowe liked it enough to make it Almost Famous‘ last musical will and testament, so there you go.
47. “Black Mountain Side” (Led Zeppelin I, 1969)
46. “Bron-Yr-Aur” (Physical Graffiti, 1975)
Two instrumental interludes, both totally essential on their respective albums, and both about as stately and gorgeous as the band ever got. The guitar-only “Bron-Yr-Aur” gets the slight nod over the tabla-featuring “Black Mountain Side,” mainly for the awesome whooshing sound of the guitar riff that’s seemingly reversed on itself every so often — but both represent a key (if rarely seen) side of Zeppelin’s power.
45. “Hey Hey What Can I Do” (“Immigrant Song” B-Side, 1970)
Easily the most famous Zeppelin song to never appear on a studio album, and certainly one of the best. Why the breezy “Hey Hey” was left off LZIII when it would have fit so snugly into that second side — unless someone actually protested the misogynistic lyrical content, which in 1970, hah — remains a mystery, but it’s a folk-rock jam to rival any of the band’s best on LP, and AOR radio deservedly turned it into a Zep standard anyway.
44. “Your Time Is Gonna Come” (Led Zeppelin I, 1969)
An inspired exercise in musical contrast, as explained by legendary rock producer and Zep superfan Rick Rubin: “It’s like the drums are playing a big rock song and the guitars are playing a gentle folk song. And it’s got one of the most upbeat choruses of any Zeppelin song, even though the words are so dark.” All true, making it the first album’s biggest grower of a track.
43. “Moby Dick” (Led Zeppelin II, 1970)
Just straight flexin’. Bonzo certainly earned the right to have one song a concert that he could turn into a ten-minute solo for his own self-gratification if he so desired, and “Moby” was that song — though in the studio, they at least keep that whale of a solo down to a (relatively) trim three minutes or so. Don’t sleep on that ridiculously grungy Page riff either, though — or Bonham’s underrated intro fill, sampled for the Beastie Boys’ “What Comes Around.”
42. “Trampled Under Foot” (Physical Graffiti, 1975)
One of the band’s thickest, tightest stomps, largely thanks to the superlative work of John Paul Jones on the clavinet and a melody generously pinched from the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Running.” As fun as it is, though, it goes on a minute or two too long after the groove starts to feel repetitive and Plant’s cars-as-sex (sex-as-cars?) exhortations get considerably tiresome, keeping it comfortably out of the group’s top tier of hits.
41. “Celebration Day” (Led Zeppelin III, 1970)
Responsible for one of the most exhilarating moments on a Zeppelin record, when the Moog echoes that end “Friends” give way to this song’s galloping opening riff. The rest of the New York-inspired song is fine, if mostly unextraordinary, but it does contain a fairly blistering eight-bar Page solo and a solid chorus hook: “My my my I’m so happy / I’m gonna join the band!” Sounds like fun.
40. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” (Led Zeppelin I, 1969)
The best of LZI‘s traditional blues numbers, an Otis Rush cover done in a similar style to “You Shook Me,” but keeping things light and engaging enough that it never feels like the same kind of drag. Plant’s banshee wailing is on point and the rhythm section is as locked in as ever, but really, it’s a showcase for Page, who kills every little mid-verse fill he gets — and he gets a lot of them — before out-Claptoning Clapton on the song’s proper solo(es).
39. “In the Evening” (In Through the Out Door, 1979)
The Zeppelin equivalent to Pink Floyd’s “Young Lust,” a strutting, disco-flicked number with pounding drums and a creepy, bad-ass intro lead-in. Something about the mix of “Evening” keeps it from being the dance-rock scorcher it probably should have been — the bass is barely audible, the synths are way too high, and Plant’s non-chorus vocals are thoroughly unintelligible (though the latter may have been purposeful and possibly for the best) — but it’s still a mostly successful expansion of the Zep sound, and a much-needed blast of energy coming off their least-propulsive album to date.
38. “Traveling Riverside Blues” (Boxed Set, 1990)
37. “The Lemon Song” (Led Zeppelin II, 1969)
Two songs inspired by the same Robert Johnson original, both among the group’s best blues reinterpretations. “Riverside” is all about that slide-guitar riff, one of the lithest, slipperiest, and generally arresting in Page’s oeuvre — if it didn’t directly inspire the similar intro riff to Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye,” it had to have at least indirectly informed it. On the whole, though, “Lemon” is stronger, with a riff as mean as the “Riverside” hook is gleeful, a great mid-and-late-song tempo switch, and a much better deployment of the infamous “squeeze my lemon” section — about as subtle as the band’s songwriting thievery, but as shamelessly inspired as well.
36. “D’yer Maker” (Houses of the Holy, 1973)
One of the ultimate Love-It-or-Hate-It Zep tracks, a cloying reggae tribute with purposefully thoughtless lyrics and one of the most frequently mispronounced song titles in rock history. (Hint: It’s supposed to sound like a country.) It’s very good in album context and great for the occasional drunk radio sing-along, though maybe not so much filtered into Sean Kingston bubblegum hits.
35. “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” (Led Zeppelin III, 1970)
As much as we use the word “stomp” to talk about Led Zeppelin’s sound, only one song of theirs actually includes it in the title, and it certainly earns it. With Page’s endless acoustic riffing and Plant’s double-tracked rhapsodizing laid over Bonham’s boom-bap drums, with handclaps and castanets and even spoons (!!) adding to the fun, it sounds like the whole village is in on this one, giving Zep the traveling-folk-band air they seemed determined to cultivate on LZIII‘s first half. Despite hardly being the band’s most popular number, they played this one live throughout the ’70s, and it’s not hard to see why.
34. “Four Sticks” (Led Zeppelin IV, 1971)
Not the proper invention of “math rock” per se, but one of the first songs where you can actually hear the band members counting along in their heads as the song goes on. Considering the time-signature trickery on display, it’s a little amazing that “Four Sticks” remains as enjoyable as it does — likely a tribute to the supernatural time-keeping ability of Bonham, who keeps the song pulsing along at a tense, almost suspenseful clip, long enough for the band to get to the song’s foreboding-synth climax. It peters out a little at the end, likely due to understandable exhaustion.
33. “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” (Presence, 1976)
One of two songs from Presence anyone still bothers to remember, because of its fully-formed riff, locked-in groove — even with constant interruption — and the band’s wise choice to give Plant able vamping room on the title-repeating chorus. The production is perfect, the harmonica solo comes screaming in from out of nowhere, and the guys seems to be talking to each other on a level they reached (disturbingly) infrequently in the late ’70s. To stretch as few ideas as this song does over six minutes without ever being less than awesome is pretty damn hard to do.
32. “Rock And Roll” (Led Zeppelin IV, 1971)
Among the group’s most popular rave-ups, earned through the sheer frenzy of Bonham’s cymbal-crashing, Page’s fret-racing, Jones’ keys-on-fire piano, and Plant’s dog-whistle shrieking. There’s not really a whole lot of song there, truly — it’s a repetitive and largely meaningless chorus, and the melody is pretty standard issue — but the band is just in such top form that “Rock and Roll” was able to become a classic worthy of exemplifying its title anyway.
31. “The Rover” (Physical Graffiti, 1975)
Not a radio standard, but a devoted fan-favorite — Wikipedia says so, even if it’s citation needed — thanks to the mega-sized, phase-shifted guitar riff and steady bass groove. It’s just the sound of Zeppelin at their most generally unimpeachable, heavy without being overbearing, epic without being self-indulgent, anthemic almost just by showing up.