Led Zepplin Played Kashmir at almost every concert

Video: Led Zeppelin performing Kashmir Live

Srinagar, Nov 12, 2010 (Washington Bangla Radio / PRLog) "Kashmir" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin from their sixth album Physical Graffiti, released in 1975. It was written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (with contributions from John Bonham) over a period of three years, with the lyrics dating back to 1973.

The song centres around a signature chord progression guitar riff, which first appeared on Page's home-studio work tapes. It was initially created in a guitar tuning D-A-D-G-A-D, and was an extension of a guitar-cycle that Page had been working on for years. This was the same cycle that produced "Black Mountain Side", "White Summer" and the unreleased track, "Swan-song". As bass player and keyboardist John Paul Jones had been late for the recording sessions, Page used the time to work on the riff with drummer John Bonham. The two demoed it late in 1973. Plant later added the middle section and in early 1974 Jones added all the string parts.

The guitar was played in an alternative guitar tuning: the strings are tuned to 'Open Dsus4' or DADGAD. Bonham's drums feature a phasing effect (giving the bass drum its heavy, thundering "thump" sound) courtesy of an early Eventide phaser supplied by engineer Ron Nevison. Plant has stated that Bonham's drumming is the key to the song: "It was what he didn't do that made it work".

The song also includes many distinctive musical patterns of classical Moroccan, Indian and Middle Eastern music. Page explained that "I had a sitar for some time and I was interested in modal tunings and Arabic stuff. It started off with a riff and then employed Eastern lines underneath."

Orchestral brass and strings with electric guitar and mellotron strings are also used in the song. This is one of the few Led Zeppelin songs to use outside musicians. Session players were brought in for the string and horn sections. According to Jones, "the secret of successful keyboard string parts is to play only the parts that a real string section would play. That is, one line for the First Violins, one line for Second Violins, one for Violas, one for Cellos, one for Basses. Some divided parts [two or more notes to a line] are allowed, but keep them to a minimum. Think melodically".

The lyrics to the song—originally called "Driving to Kashmir"—were written by Plant in 1973 immediately after Led Zeppelin's 1973 US Tour, in an area he called "the waste lands" of Southern Morocco, while driving from Goulimine to Tantan in the Sahara Desert. This was despite the fact that the song is named for Kashmir, a region in the northwestern part of the Himalayas. As Plant explained to rock journalist Cameron Crowe:

The whole inspiration came from the fact that the road went on and on and on. It was a single-track road which neatly cut through the desert. Two miles to the East and West were ridges of sandrock. It basically looked like you were driving down a channel, this dilapidated road, and there was seemingly no end to it. 'Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dreams...' It's one of my favourites...that, 'All My Love' and 'In the Light' and two or three others really were the finest moments. But 'Kashmir' in particular. It was so positive, lyrically.


Plant has also commented on the challenges he faced in writing lyrics for such a complex piece of music:

It was an amazing piece of music to write to, and an incredible challenge for me ... Because of the time signature, the whole deal of the song is… not grandiose, but powerful: it required some kind of epithet, or abstract lyrical setting about the whole idea of life being an adventure and being a series of illuminated moments. But everything is not what you see. It was quite a task, ’cause I couldn’t sing it. It was like the song was bigger than me. It’s true: I was petrified, it’s true. It was painful; I was virtually in tears..

In an interview he gave to William S. Burroughs in 1975, Page mentioned that at the time the song was composed, none of the band members had even been to Kashmir.

The song runs for 8:28, a length that radio stations usually consider too long to play. However, upon its release radio stations had no problem playing "Kashmir", especially after seeing "Stairway to Heaven", which was almost as long, do so well. (Original LP releases of Physical Graffiti incorrectly list the song's length as 9:41.)

"Kashmir" was played live at almost every Led Zeppelin concert from its debut in 1975. One live version, from Led Zeppelin's performance at Knebworth in 1979, is featured on disc 2 of the Led Zeppelin DVD. This performance came from the band's first show at the venue on 4 August. The surviving members also performed the song at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert in 1988. It was again performed at Led Zeppelin's reunion show at the The O2, London on 10 December 2007.


When the band performed the song live, Robert Plant would switch the last verse with the second verse after singing the first verse normally. As originally sung, the last verse would be "Oh father of the Four Winds fill my sails - 'cross the Sea of Years - with no provisions but an open face - along the Straits of Fear." The second verse would be "To sit with Elders of a gentle race - this world has seldom seen - They talk of days for which they sit and wait - when all will be revealed."

The third verse would also be sung normally in its original spot. When Led Zeppelin came together for Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary, Robert accidentally sang the second verse twice. He admitted to doing this by singing "Oh father of the four winds fill my sails (again) across the sea of years" during the fourth verse. He never ended up singing the third verse ("Oh pilot of the storm...") before the mistake. However, he did sing "With talk and song from tongues..." during the third verse while trying to correct it by singing "I will return again..." half way through.

Plant, known generally for his improvisation while performing live, would ad lib during live performances of "Kashmir". He would add in "sweet mama", "slowly dyin'", "now just a minute", "sweet darlin'", and he would stutter the words "baby" and "mama". He would also end that section with "there's no denyin' what ma gunna do yeah."
Page and Plant recorded another live version of "Kashmir" in 1994, released on their album No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded. For this arrangement, they added an orchestra and Egyptian musicians.

- PRLog