|Song by Led Zeppelin|
|from the album Physical Graffiti|
|Released||24 February 1975|
"Kashmir" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. Included on their sixth album Physical Graffiti (1975), it was written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (with contributions from John Bonham) over a period of three years with lyrics dating to 1973. The song became a concert staple, performed by the band at almost every concert after its release. The song has been described as one of Led Zeppelin's two most overtly progressive epics.
The riff for the song uses a non-standard guitar tuning. Page explained, "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." The song's time signature combines duple and triple meter; the drums and vocal melody is in bars of 4
4 + 2
4 while the guitar riff is played in cycles of 3
8. Bonham's drums were recorded through an Eventide Instant Phaser PS-101 supplied by engineer Ron Nevison. Plant stated that Bonham's drumming is the key to the song: "It was what he didn't do that made it work".
Page recorded a demo version with drummer John Bonham late in 1973 when John Paul Jones was late for the recording sessions. Plant later added lyrics and a middle section and, in early 1974, Jones added orchestration. Page and Plant had previously travelled to Bombay in 1972 and worked with various Indian musicians, gaining production ideas from recording sessions of "Four Sticks" and "Friends". Session players were brought in for the string and horn sections for "Kashmir", but Jones also used a Mellotron; he commented: "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 were written by Robert 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 after Kashmir, a region disputed by India and Pakistan. 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 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.
"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. 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 O2, London on 10 December 2007 and later released on Celebration Day in 2012. That concert's rendition of the song, was nominated in 2014 for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance at the 56th Grammys.
Page and Plant recorded a longer, live version, with an Egyptian/Moroccan orchestra for No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded (1994) and performed the song with an orchestra on their 1995 tour.
All four members of Led Zeppelin have agreed that "Kashmir" is one of their best musical achievements.John Paul Jones suggested that it showcases all of the elements that made up the Led Zeppelin sound. Plant has stated that "Kashmir" is the "definitive Led Zeppelin song", and that it "was one of my favourite [Led] Zeppelin tracks because it possessed all the latent energy and power that wasn't heavy metal. It was something else. It was the pride of Led Zeppelin." During a television interview in January 2008, he also named "Kashmir" as his first choice of all Led Zeppelin songs that he would perform, commenting "I'm most proud of that one". Page has indicated he thinks that the song is one of the band's best compositions. "If you listen to 'Kashmir' very loud, it's just unbelievable," enthused Swans front man Michael Gira. "Jimmy Page's guitar is lyrical and soulful - just beautiful. I don't understand what Robert Plant is saying, though I suppose that's a good thing. I don't know the lyrics. I think they're about hobbits or something."
Led Zeppelin archivist Dave Lewis describes "Kashmir" as follows:
Unquestionably the most startling and impressive track on Physical Graffiti, and arguably the most progressive and original track that Led Zeppelin ever recorded. 'Kashmir' went a long way towards establishing their credibility with otherwise skeptical rock critics. Many would regard this track as the finest example of the sheer majesty of Zeppelin's special chemistry.
In a retrospective review of Physical Graffiti (Deluxe Edition), Brice Ezell of PopMatters described "Kashmir" as Physical Graffiti's "quintessential track". Ezell called "Kashmir"'s "doomy ostinato riff and rapturous post-chorus brass/mellotron section" as "inimitable moments in the legacy of classic rock".
The song is listed highly in a number of professional music rankings:
|Classic Rock||United States||"The Top Fifty Classic Rock Songs of All Time"||1995||20|
|Classic Rock||United Kingdom||"Ten of the Best Songs Ever!!.. (Bubbling under)"||1999||23|
|VH1||United States||"The 100 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time"||2000||62|
|Rolling Stone||United States||"The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time"||2003||141|
|Blender||United States||"Standout Tracks from the 500 CDs You Must Own"||2003||*|
|Q||United Kingdom||"1010 Songs You Must Own!"||2004||*|
|Q||United Kingdom||"Ultimate Music Collection - Rock"||2005||*|
|Q||United Kingdom||"100 Greatest Songs of All Time"||2006||74|
|VH1||United States||"VH1 Greatest Hard Rock Songs"||2009||21|
|Triple J||Australia||"Hottest 100 of All Time"||2009||98|
(*) designates unordered lists
|Chart (2007)||Peak position|
|UK Singles Chart||80|
|Swiss Singles Chart||64|
|US Billboard Hot Digital Songs Chart||42|
|US Billboard Hot Digital Tracks Chart||49|
|Canadian Billboard Hot Digital Singles Chart||33|
Note: The official UK Singles Chart incorporated legal downloads as of 17 April 2005.
The 1988 Schoolly D song "Signifying Rapper", which samples "Kashmir", was the target of lawsuits following its use in the 1992 film Bad Lieutenant. In 1994, Page and Plant successfully sued Home Box Office to have the song removed from televised showings of the film and Live Home Video and distributor Aries Film Releasing were ordered to destroy any unsold copies of Bad Lieutenant as part of a copyright infringement ruling.
The basic melodic and chordal material in "Kashmir" is in 3/4 (or 6/8) time, yet Bonham's relentless drum beat is in straight 4/4...Additionally, the song has sections in full 4/4 which provide a stabilizing counterpoint.