Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin IV – album reappraisal

Or Holy Cows Slaughtered. In the following feature Joe Whyte questions whether Led Zeppelin IV is the classic album most critics claim it to be. Views are those of our writer & not Louder Than War in general!

Beloved of bikers who live with their Mums, guys who actually buy guitar magazines and the twats at my school who were good at physics and had “2112”³ stitched on their denim jackets.

Oh yes, Led Zeppelin, the mighty Zep, Hammer Of The Gods, slayers of virgins and Viking-haired pillagers of hamlets.

Or maybe, actually four session musicians who got lucky.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Zep-hater by any means. The first album is proto-punk brilliance and their continued refusal to play the media game and ass-kiss journalists is admirable in the extreme. But here we have it, the 32-million unit shifting, all conquering, critically acclaimed “ZOSO” and/or “runes” Led Zep IV.

And it stinks. Like a huge, blues-ridden, mandolin-twanging, dancing-round-the-maypole steaming turd on a hot summers day.

It opens with Black Dog, an indulgent call and response vocal/guitar duel between Percy Plant and Jimmy Page. Black Dog is basically one idea flogged to death for the 5 or so minute duration and the solo is an excruciating pig-murdering squeal that seems to never end.

Following this is the execrable Rock And Roll.

As above but with the added torture of a 12-bar chord progression a la Chuck Berry, but with all the fun and life beaten out of it. Painful.

The Battle Of Evermore is a lute-plucking, finger-picking folk madrigal type of thing with God-awful lyrics about Angels of Avalon/Queens of night/Eastern glow ad finitum that wouldn’t look out of place in some 4th year school kid’s attempt at poetry.

I wont even go into Stairway To Heaven as it’s had the piss ripped out of it enough over the years.

Towards the end we have Four Sticks. Plant treating us to some more of his misty-eyed tosh whilst holding his balls very tight and squeezing.

When The Levee Breaks has one of the most sampled drum breaks of all time. So has Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer and you don’t see that getting No.1 album of all time in Rolling Stone magazine, do you?

It’s a long, drawn out blues jam, of the type favoured in rehearsal rooms around the world when the singer is away for a fag.

This album has became one of those “must haves” amongst rock fans.

Why? I don’t know. It’s a boring, long-winded and dreary hour and a bit. If I want that, I can do overtime at work.

They never released any singles, Led Zeppelin y’know.

Thank fuck.

All words Joe Whyte. More articles by Joe can be found here.

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Joe Whyte is guitarist with punk rockin' Johnny Cash tribute Jericho Hill and reformed 70's punks Reaction. He has formerly played with End Result, Reverend Snakehips Country Messiahs, God-Fearing Atheists and many, many other failed attempts at rock notoriety. Joe also writes for Vive Le Rock and Louder Than War magazine. He lives in Glasgow and in his other less glamorous life works in mental health.


  1. Yeah I never really undestood the whole Led Zepplin, best band ever thing either. They’re clearly exceptional musicians but boy do most of thier songs stink! I love how most of thier songs are actualy quite quiet, almost folky and yet people go on an on about how loud they were (in a few songs perhaps). I wouldn’t go as far to be as harsh as Joe, but there are so many better albums than this.

  2. It’s funny, but I can agree with most of your assertions, especially your description of Black Dog – and yet I still bloody love Led Zep 4. Especially Black Dog. It is possible, evidently.
    What I will vehemently and vociferously contest is your woefully lazy and wholly inaccurate description of their first album as ‘proto-punk brilliance’. Utter hogwash.

    I hear no punk in a church organ-led (no pun intended) song of lost love and revenge with close vocal harmonies such as Your Time Is Gonna Come. Nor the Indian raga-rock of Black Mountain Side.

    What’s punk about the reverent blues covers of You Shook Me and I Can’t Quit You Baby, the meat-and-potatoes of any fledgling band of 1968?

    Similarly, while the terse electrified shuffle of How Many More Times features some smokingly acid guitar, it’s clearly steeped in the scotch-and-coke of the late Sixties – it can come from no other time but then. Babe I\’m Gonna Leave You is similarly rooted in the experimental folk-rock scene of the time.
    Admittedly, Communication Breakdown doesn\’t fuck about and riffs like Oedipus on Viagra – but that\’s about it in terms of anything remotely punkoid. And I wouldn\’t consider Good Times Bad Times as there are more chords and key changes in that than in the whole of Never Mind The Bollocks.

    I love my punk, make no mistake – but these boys have no problem with the Establishment. They\’re young, horny, talented and into their shit. They\’re not railing against anything – they believe in a future. It contains girls. And getting laid. But that\’s about it. It shouldn\’t HAVE to be any more than that in 1968/69. And if that\’s what you\’re looking for in it – it\’s not there. Listen to the 1st MC5 album from exactly the same time and then tell me Led Zep’s 1st album is proto-punk.

  3. Is IV as bad as you make out? No. Is it the best album Zep released? Again No. That honour goes to Physical Graffitti, the only Zep album anyone truly needs. IV suffers the same as a lot of massive selling albums in that its just as good as others in the cannon. Take Thriller, a gagillion albums sold but not as good.as.off the wall. Even Back in Black isn’t as good as Highway to Hell. Is Darkside actually the best thing Floyd ever did? I think the only timeca band released their definitive album and sold shitloads was Appetite For Destruction!!

  4. Tell it like it is!!
    I always considered Led Zep to be a pile of bloated old rhubarb, in fact Floyd and The Beatles can fuck off too!

  5. Greta riffs band but you are right on and on they drone – their whole career was like that.

    Its a failure of production IMO.

  6. A great album – its only crime is that it opened the door for a whole generation of over indulgent rock bands and their mindmelting folk-blues-R&R jam marathons. Subsequent Zep albums and their 12 minute-plus guitar wankathons have also diminished IV’s reputation.

    But this album is a lot leaner than memory suggests. Joe states that IV is a “long-winded and dreary hour and a bit”, but it actually clocks in under the 45 minute mark – although I’m sure Whyte will retort that it certainly SEEMS to go on over an hour.

    It’s easy to be sneery about Led Zep – they conform to just about every tired tight-trousered shark-shagging devil-worshipping rock stereotype going. Although (for good or for bad) they were the ones that created many of these cliches in the first place.

    Nonetheless, I suggest that if you’re going to slaughter a Holy Cow you may as well use one that isn’t already riddled with BSE.

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