Four Sticks – Page & Plant

Why post this version over the Led Zeppelin original? It’s a seminal moment on the Four Symbols album (or Led Zeppelin IV, or Man with a bale of sticks on his back the album, or to some… Four Sticks) that elemental riff bringing everything in together like a series of waves crashing in between your ears. Dung Dun Dung Derr, Dung Dun Dung Derr. If you know it, it’ll take you away.

Led Zep IV is undeniably a complete and perfect listening experience. If I were to pick a song from it though, to exhibit in it’s original form. It wouldn’t be Four Sticks. I’d probably pick Battle Of Evermore because I’m in love with the Sandy Denny contribution in the back ground vocals. Those two voices, Plant and Denny twisting around one another like trees growing in a forest where light only gets to the canopy most days is beguiling. Four Sticks though. It has another lease of life. In the 1990’s Jimmy and Percy got back together to do a little project.

Jimmy had been schleping his axe around guesting for and playing in bands for much of the 80’s whose music was derivative of the cathedral architecture he’d been instrumental in building back in the days when Bonzo and JPJ were his collaborators. Percy had made some respectable Yacht Rock with Phil Collins and various other single button suit jacket wearing sleeve rollers. By the middle of the 90’s however it was clear Led Zeppelin had been gone so goddamn long anyone who cranked a blues riff and squeezed a little juice could pretend to their throne.

Now. Percy was older (not as old as he is now but the man has dignity) so he didn’t want to do the Meg Ryan in the Diner every night while JP wanked about with a violin bow. This reunion could work because they had more to their sound than the ‘rock out with your cock out’ elements when they were still in LZ. It made perfect sense during the middle of M-TV’s Unplugged phenomenon that Page And Plant could go Un-Led-Ed. So, they revived the hippy, earthy, eastern, mystic parts of their old band and left the chest beating to the pups.

So they did a show. Filmed for MTV (if not actually for MTV then for the format) with lots of classic Led Zeppelin tunes reworked the way Unplugged had reworked the heavy rock of Neil Young and that racist fuck Eric Clapton. Neil and Eric now played alongside the Aerosmith’s, Nirvana’s, Pearl Jams, Black Crowes, Bon Jovi’s and even the Hip Hop Special on MTV as if they were down with it. If the old guard could get a new audience by stripping things back to instruments, arrangements and songs then Led Zeppelin needed to get back out there. Sabbath were doing it with the reunion. They were staying electric though.

Led Zeppelin couldn’t do a full and proper reunion without John. And he was almost 20 years gone now. So JPJ sat this one out and Page And Plant used all that Himalayan rock salt they’d experimented with over the years. The Moroccan rhythms that Plant fell in love with and the strings and things that John Paul Jones would have brought along if he weren’t arranging operas about cheese played by cats on instruments made of plumbing supplies in Portland at the time were brought in. There were dozens of musos on stage while Jimmy played double neck twelve string semis that probably cost the price of a sports car. They added stuff to songs like Gallows Pole, That’s The Way, Kashmir (obvs) and Four Sticks. The songs were modernised. Made respectable and delivered to the middle of the 1990’s as World music. It was pretty ruddy great.

Only a couple of years later the reunion of sorts yielded an album of new material. It rocked somewhat more conventionally and stank up the legacy a little bit with some fustiness. That maybe a little unfair, it had it’s moments. Please Read The Letter would get a do over a decade later and well into the 21st Century when Robert teamed up with Country Legend Alison Krauss. That song started life on the Page And Plant Studio Album. It also won a grammy for nobodies favourite rock track of 1999 Most High. Honestly those award shows are embarrassing.

So No Quarter delivered the goods while Walking Into Clarksdale could pretty much jog on.

That riff man. Four Sticks. Add some strings and a bit o’ eastern rhythm. Cock rock is all grows up.

11 thoughts on “Four Sticks – Page & Plant

      1. You have your finger on the pulse of the music scene and so have seen more, I’m sure. I just finished a really good book on racism that I’m writing a review on right now. Be looking for it in the next couple of days.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. When the tracks from LZ “IV” get mentioned, “Four Sticks” never seems to be included among them. It is a very good track and I prefer the original to this one but that’s me being old fashioned I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really enjoyed this one, Steve. I’ve said before that I never truly loved Zep. Dunno why. I really dig a lot of their stuff, but I never really fell for them.

    This is great, though… mostly cause of what Plant brings. I said elsewhere recently that Plant’s solo stuff (especially over the last 15 years or so) is really strong and I have a lot more time for him and JPJ than I do for listening to Page.

    Also, “he didn’t want to do the Meg Ryan in the Diner every night while JP wanked about with a violin bow.“… I’m pretty sure I’ve split my sides.

    Liked by 1 person

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