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It was 50 years ago that Led Zeppelin launched.
There are a number of days that could claim that distinction, their first rehearsal was in the late summer of 1968, while their first show together was Sept. 7, 1968 as The New Yardbirds, fulfilling the obligations that were booked for a Scandinavian tour by then-Yardbirds manager Peter Grant before the original band broke up. Zeppelin’s first album was recorded in October and November, and the latter month also saw the announcement that their first album would come out on Atlantic in early January. They launched their first American tour in Denver on Dec. 26, and the first album, Led Zeppelin I, came out in January.
In fact, the date of their debut is usually cited as Jan. 12, but that was a Sunday in 1969, and blue laws -- in which some commerce and leisure activities were restricted on Sundays on religious grounds -- pretty much ruled out Sunday retail in the U.S. then. More likely, the release was set for the week of Jan. 12., with the album trickling into stores across the country on whatever days it arrived in the mail.
It’s well known by now how the band came together and got its name from the recording session for “Beck’s Bolero” in 1966 for Jeff Beck, with Jimmy Page, Beck, John Paul Jones, Nicky Hopkins and The Who’s Keith Moon, with the latter joking that they should form a band which would probably go over like a lead balloon.
It was Page who brought Jones aboard; the two knew each other from countless sessions backing other bands, including the recordings for Herman’s Hermits which, legend has it, Page often played on; while Jones also often served as the music director for Hermits recording sessions for producer Mickey Most, who also produced the Yardbirds.
Meanwhile, one of the singers Page wanted for his band, Terry Reid, suggested Robert Plant, who’d been trying to launch a solo career when not singing with Alexis Korner. Plant knew drummer John Bonham from the Band of Joy, and when they got together with Page and Jones, magic happened; and it kept on happening right up until the day the band broke up, due to Bonham’s death in 1980.
To coincide with the band’s and LZ 1’s 50th anniversary, as well as Page’s 75th birthday today (Jan. 9), Billboard has ranked the Led Zeppelin catalog, song by song, based on revenue generated by digital activity since the band’s music first became available at download stores like iTunes and on-demand services like Spotify. (The methodology on how this ranking was compiled can be found at the bottom of this post.)
But it's important to note that while revenue serves as the basis of the ranking, Billboard only counted revenue where the consumer made a choice, either by downloading a song or playing a stream on-demand. That means that other revenue generators -- where professionals make choices like which songs to play on the radio, or which song to put in a TV show or to physically release as a single -- were not considered, because the consumer wasn’t involved in those choices.
Therefore, this list is a true gauge of the popularity of the songs within the band’s catalog, because the Zeppelin fans’ actions generated the revenue upon which this ranking is based. Here now is Billboard’s ranking of the most popular Led Zeppelin songs as voted on by U.S. consumers with their time and money, with an observation or two about each of the 94 songs -- total revenue generated: $21,607,542.71 -- in the band’s catalog.
1. "Stairway To Heaven"Total Revenue: $2,903,223.42
It's no surprise that this is the top revenue generator for Led Zeppelin, as it's without a doubt the band’s most well-known song. While for years it might have received too much airplay on FM radio, nowadays its plays are way down -- about 22,000 spins so far this year, versus a song like Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” with 739,000 spins year-to-date, according to Nielsen Music -- which means that it's a pleasure when it comes on the air. Spirit claimed its song “Taurus” was infringed by "Stairway," but a court ruled in Zep’s favor in June 2016, although an appeals court partially vacated that decision due to improper jury instructions and remanded the case for a new trial. While the acoustic melody in the early passages of "Stairway" is slightly reminiscent of "Taurus," when Zep's opus goes full-blown electric and grows into other melodic stages, the resemblance is naught. If Zeppelin did borrow its acoustic part from the same place that "Taurus" gets its guitar melody -- as was argued during the first trial -- Zeppelin’s use of it in "Stairway" certainly seems transformative. (Also, "Taurus" is a completely forgettable song, while "Stairway" has already proved itself to be a song for the ages.)
Early on, almost a year before the song came out, there was a small story in Circus magazine that hinted at the song, talking about how the song was going to build as the melody grows and could be as long as 15 minutes. Around the same time, Page and Plant were talking about creating a song that would live forever like Beethoven’s 5th, a hint of what was coming. Certainly, "Stairway," on the band's most popular album, IV (aka ZOSO), is their best shot at that.
2. "Kashmir"Total Revenue: $1,421,130.32
From the Physical Graffiti album, this is the song that Plant wishes was the band’s most popular song instead of “Stairway.” While it is an otherworldly, epic song, instilled with rhythms and melody patterns from the Middle and Far East, some Zeppelin aficionados will argue that a few other Zep epic numbers surpass this song.
3. "Immigrant Song"Total Revenue: $1,306,140.94
Although always a favorite, it nevertheless turns in a surprise showing in appearing so high in the rankings. It's the lead track and single from the Led Zeppelin III album, one of Zeppelin’s less commercially-successful albums -- only six times platinum -- but one that nevertheless is among the most appreciated albums by the Zep faithful***. While garnering a fair amount of radio play down through the years -- and used as a set opener on early tours -- it returned to the mainstream again when it was used as a major centerpiece in the 2017 movie Thor: Ragnarok.
4. "Black Dog"Total Revenue: $1,167,232.19
Another surprise for appearing so high on the list, "Black Dog" was released as a single off IV and broke into the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 15, but certainly wasn’t a hit by any stretch of the imagination, i.e. the oldie stations don’t play it when they’re playing music from 1971. (Though the classic rock stations certainly do.) The song’s main riff was composed by John Paul Jones, and with its shifting time signatures, off-beat drum pattern and the riff folding almost back in on itself, musicians say it's a hard song to cover. Still, it's got one honey of a guitar line and a good vocal melody, too. Of all the songs Zeppelin is known for, this is one of those paramount in owing its livelihood to electricity. Jones would revisit "Black Dog" for inspiration on “Crackback," a song with Page on guitar off the Scream For Help Soundtrack album that he composed and recorded after Zeppelin.
5. "Whole Lotta Love"Total Revenue: $1,034,129.29
Zeppelin’s second-most well-known song, even if it's only the fifth-most popular one, made it all the way up to No. 4 in the Billboard Hot 100 back in 1969, becoming the band's highest-charting song. Zeppelin has a reputation for not being a singles band; legend has it that they didn’t release any singles at all. but that was only true in the U.K. They released plenty of singles in the U.S. from the get-go -- at least one from each album. (But they never put “Stairway To Heaven” out as a single, helping that album to sell like a hit song.) “Whole Lotta Love” is the song that Plant once feared he would be forced to sing when he was old and in a wheelchair. While Plant seems to dislike the heavier side of Zeppelin nowadays -- and this song appears to be at the heart of what he is trying to avoid by not doing a Zeppelin reunion -- it's still one he plays with the Shape Shifters, and he also does a pretty faithful rendition.
6. "Ramble On"Total Revenue: $888,793.61
Another surprise in being up so high in the rankings. If Zeppelin ever deigned to release a fully acoustic album, this would be on it. Like more than a few Zep tunes, it blends sparse acoustic passages that explode electrically into hard rock motifs.
7. "Over the Hills And Far Away"Total Revenue: $757,125.57
This was the B-side of a single from Houses Of the Holy and shares the soft-LOUD dynamics displayed in the previous song. The acoustic intro tunings are borrowed from Page’s "White Summer," a song from his Yardbirds days; and which Page apparently borrowed then from Davy Graham’s interpretation of the traditional Irish folk song “She Moves Through The Fair.”
But this time around, the guitar riff upon which the song is built loses the jagged-edged, raga-sounding tuning and is transformed into crystal-clear, prettified Western chords to produce a nice acoustic melody -- that is, until Page unleashes an in-your-face rock tsunami. While some say this tune has one of Page's least-distinct guitar solos, they might be missing the point: He seems to be concentrating more on experimenting with different guitar tones than worrying about what notes to play, a tactic that would be more on display on later albums.
8. "Goin' To California"Total Revenue: $694,689.56
Zep’s ode to Joni Mitchell. Certainly one of the Blimp’s prettiest songs, it was a staple in the live set for many a tour.
9. "Rock n’ Roll"Total Revenue: $636,985.97
It was supposedly created out of a jam between Page and Bonham, where the lads knew immediately they had struck a big fat rock progression, so they rolled back the tape to hear that they had created a unique repackaging of a classic rock n' roll riffs. Sometimes used as a set opener; always a guaranteed rocker.
10. "D'yer Mak'er"Total Revenue: $553,459.73
A joke song lyrically, this shows the band stepping way beyond the musical bounds they had established on their first four albums. It was the first song played by radio ahead of the Houses Of The Holy album and is remembered by many for initially being a big disappointment -- the Zep faithful weren’t prepared for this new side of Zeppelin. But when radio started playing the rest of the album, fans reacted accordingly and the album became a big seller, and with hindsight this song grew on Zep fans. “Houses Of The Holy” was at the heart of the tour that would establish the group as the biggest band in the world to the mainstream. Before, only music fans and the industry executives were aware of how successful they were.
11. “When the Levee Breaks”Total Revenue: $547,514.60
This song from IV, along with “No Quarter” from Houses Of The Holy, finds Zeppelin stretching the traditional blues idioms into new metallic directions. The drumming sound achieved by Bonham and captured by producer Page on this track has been known to be sampled on many another recording.
12. “All My Love”Total Revenue: $536,716.87
Appearing on the band's last studio album, 1979’s In Through The Out Door, Robert Plant's tribute to his son who died tragically at an early age was written with John Paul Jones, who brings his multi-instrumental prowess to the fore in turning in one of Zeppelin's prettiest songs. That’s a phrase that most would think an oxymoron, but for the existence of this song and its competitors for that title: "Going To California," "The Rain Song," “Ten Years Gone” and "Tangerine," among others.
13. “Fool In The Rain”Total Revenue: $497,152.94
El Zep takes a left turn yet again surprising fans by blending various South American rhythms and melodies with Zeppelin's own inimitable sound. Found on the band’s final album, In Through The Out Door, where Page's touch is at its lightest, it showcases the other three members, particularly Jones and Bonham, until the latter practically overtakes the track in the accelerated middle section.
14. “Good Times, Bad Times”Total Revenue: $484,799.06
One of Zeppelin's finest moments in the view of the Zep aficionados, “Good Times, Bad Times” is the first song on the band’s first album -- and what a fine way to debut the band. At less than three minutes, the song showcases Zeppelin at their finest hard-rocking selves.
15. “Dazed And Confused”Total Revenue: $443,730.10
The first Led Zeppelin classic opus is also on the first album and became a highlight of their live shows. It’s also one of two songs -- “How Many More Times” being the other -- where Page takes out his violin bow and pulls out all of his showman stops. On the recording, while Zeppelin's playing and arrangements make the song their own, the melody, some of the lyrics and the use of dynamics and long instrumental passages were lifted from “Dazed and Confused” by Jake Holmes, who was uncredited on the album until an out-of-court settlement in 2011 set things right. (Holmes’ original version is highly inventive and amazing as well; all Zeppelin fans and even haters should check it out.) As for Zeppelin's version, in addition to what they borrowed from Holmes, Page re-channels the guitar solo from "Think About It," a song he wrote and played with the Yardbirds -- it was the last track they ever recorded, according to legend -- and places it at a key juncture in “Dazed and Confused,” making it one of his most well-known, and best, guitar solos.
16. “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You”Total Revenue: $407,165.31
The song is the first of many that would exemplify the band’s name, Led Zeppelin: Light or acoustic, but heavy or electric, guitar. A cover of a Joan Baez song, which turns out to have been written by Anne Bredon -- or at least the acoustic passages were -- Baez listed it as a traditional song in the credits of her recording, as did Zep in theirs. But the thunderous rock passages in Zep’s version are inspired by Page. Around the same time, Chicago released its self-titled album containing “25 or 6 to 4,” and back then a DJ would occasionally line up the Zep song’s hard rock passage with the opening riff of the Chicago song to show how similar they were.
17. “Hey, Hey What Can I Do”Total Revenue: $383,439.92
The B-side to “Immigrant Song” -- yet absent from the album itself -- contains one of the band’s catchiest melodies. For years, it was also one of Zeppelin's rarest and little-known songs, because even though it was recorded for Led Zeppelin III, it didn’t appear on any albums until the band started releasing compilations years later. If Zeppelin ever allows its catalog to be cut up into different themes, this is a must as the lead track for the band's all-acoustic album -- see suggested track list elsewhere.
18. “The Ocean”Total Revenue: $356,840.76
As the last song on Houses Of The Holy, it’s a highlight of the band’s fifth album, which represented a turning point for the group: Their first four albums showcased a band with fierce, even malevolent-sounding metal and hard rock riffs, but the fifth album somehow saw the band's songwriting infused by all the time they spent in Los Angeles. The result -- with the exception of “The Song Remains The Same” and about 45 seconds of the closing segment of this one -- was an album filled with happy-go-lucky, sun-drenched pop metal.
19. “Heartbreaker”Total Revenue: $347,498.72
Malevolent-sounding? Here is a case in point. From their classic and beloved second album -- though it would fall into least-favorite status for a minority of Zep fans -- this song is one of the best showcases for Page's guitar playing: A killer riff into great power chords into a frantic guitar solo that leaves the rest of the band trying to play catch up. This one has it all.
20. “Misty Mountain Hop”Total Revenue: $306,642.32
While it still retains some of the Zep sound from its early days, this song, from the band’s fourth album, actually points the way for the lighter metal sound that Zep would display on Houses Of The Holy. Probably the last song in the Zep canon to display Plant's fascination with J.R.R. Tolkien -- although, I guess the "Dogs of Doom" line from “No Quarter” might be its last lyrical gasp.
21. “What Is and What Should Never Be”Total Revenue: $268,812.43
A highlight from Led Zeppelin II. Like “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” from the first album, “Ramble On” from II and “Gallows Pole” from III, it paved the way for the evolution of the group that resulted in “Stairway To Heaven.” This one begins lazily enough, with a beautiful melody that explodes into a fast hard rock song, and is also considered one of Zep's finest moments, according to aficionados.
22. “Tangerine”Total Revenue: $259,820.89
From Zeppelin III and a sure bet to be included in the Zeppelin acoustic compilation album if it is ever made. Like Houses Of The Holy, Zeppelin III might have been a disappointing release for some Zep fans, what with half the songs on the album having an acoustic base. But not to diehard Zep fans, who regard it as among their best. Regardless, this surely is one of the band's prettiest tunes; and a song that Page actually wrote and recorded when he was with the Yardbirds, though it had never previously been released until recently, on Yardbirds ’68.
23. “Thank You”Total Revenue: $258,971.23
Another one of the band's prettiest songs -- hey, don't blame me that they wrote so many of them -- this is from the second album and was a live fan favorite.
24. “Houses Of the Holy”Total Revenue: $225,027.40
It would have been the title track to the fifth album -- except it didn't appear until the sixth one, Physical Graffiti. It’s catchy pop-metal, although similar in feel and style to “Dancing Days” from the album for which it’s named. Surprisingly, it appears higher than expected in the revenue ranking.
25. “The Rain Song”Total Revenue: $218,588.41
Beloved by many Zeppelin fans, this song is a slow acoustic number, beautifully embroidered with Jones’ strings from his mellotron.
26. “No Quarter”Total Revenue: $214,791.48
A progressive blues song, John Paul Jones’ synthesized electric piano adds a new dimension to the groove, while Page gives the guitar riff the song is built around a foreboding texture of sound. It’s one of Zep's most beloved live songs, even if it’s too long for the ears of some fans.
27. “Ten Years Gone”Total Revenue: $208,209.71
One of Zep's finest moments and lyrically a companion piece to “Tangerine,” it’s considered to be in the magnum opus stratosphere of the Zeppelin oeuvre, along with such classics as “Stairway” and “Dazed and Confused.” From the Physical Graffiti album considered by many to be the band’s best, the song is built on one honey of a chord progression and contains one of Page’s greatest guitar solos amidst a multi-layered guitar track. Other songs held in high esteem by Zep aficionados on this album are “In My Time Of Dying,” “Trampled Under Foot, “Kashmir” and “In The Light.” These five songs, and either “The Wanton Song” or “The Rover,” if released as a single album instead of double, likely would have placed it in the rarified double-diamond territory, instead of merely 16x platinum.
28. “Since I've Been Loving You”Total Revenue: $203,495.81
The band’s finest exploration of the blues, this song treads a backwater of the idiom, with Page turning in one of his best moments in yet another song known for its guitar solo. Meanwhile, Plant lifts every blues lyric not nailed down, but does so in his most convincing manner, making each phrasing his own.
29. “Communication Breakdown”Total Revenue: $192,795.10
The song that likely launched what would become speed metal and, by inference, hardcore, too. On the first album, and another of the main reasons why Led Zeppelin I, along with Physical Graffiti, are considered the band's best work.
30. “Trampled Under Foot”Total Revenue: $188,227.11
One of Zeppelin's funkiest songs (along with “Royal Orleans” and “The Crunge”) this one sounds like the band were listening to Stevie Wonder's “Superstition” and then moved onto Beck, Bogert & Appice’s version of that song. A single from the Physical Graffiti album, when played live the band’s jam on the middle of the song back into its main framework shows why they are considered by many to be one of the best live bands of all time.
31. “The Battle of Evermore”Total Revenue: $162,968.95
One of two Zep songs to have an outsider play on it -- the other being “Boogie with Stu” -- the track features the late songbird and Fairport Convention lead singer Sandy Denny on co-lead vocals in a duet with Plant. This acoustic number, on the band’s fourth album, also benefits from Jones’ multi-instrumentalist capabilities.
32. “In The Evening”Total Revenue: $152,868.76
This is one of the band’s most melodic, hard-rocking numbers from the later years. Even though it’s on their last studio album, it’s based on a riff that is more reminiscent of the early days than its latter-day offerings. In fact, if someone were to compile the “best of the rest” of Zeppelin from the group’s last four albums -- including the post-breakup compilation of leftovers that became Coda -- this might very well be the lead track of that album.
33. “Dancing Days”Total Revenue: $152,117.20
Houses Of The Holy was one of two albums to have two singles released from it, and “Dancing Days” was the flip side of one of them (“Over The Hills And Far Away,” for those curious). The multi-layered guitars that embellish and add various melody ideas throughout are a highlight of the song, as is Jones’ organ sound on the track. Yet this song may contain Plant’s lamest lyric: “I saw a lion, he was standing alone, with a tadpole in a jar.” Sheesh!
34. “Moby Dick”Total Revenue: $148,890.14
Here you go: A John Bonham drum solo packaged in the middle of a killer Jimmy Page riff, vaguely similar, it’s been reported, to the guitar line in Bobby Parker's "Watch Your Step." While highly entertaining live, it also served as the bathroom break for both the band and the audience; and even if there were long lines, you could still catch at least half of the drum solo by the time you got back to your seat. As a drummer, Bonham was often known for following his guitarist rather than the traditional role of playing with the bassist, which is one of the ingredients that made his playing so dynamic. While there are many drummers who could watch Bonham solo all day, more often than not his magnificent and intricate playing is better enjoyed within the confines of a structured song.
35. “The Song Remains The Same”Total Revenue: $147,615.69
The only true epic on the Houses Of The Holy album, it supposedly began life as an instrumental, reportedly dubbed "The Overture." In fact, if Zep fans want to investigate further, they would discover that the power chords that, well, power the song are re-channeled and supplemented from The Yardbirds "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor,” which Page co-wrote as a member of that band.
36. “That's The Way”Total Revenue: $145,411.36
An acoustic number from the third album that, while it has pretty elements, is probably two minutes too long.
37. “Nobody Fault But Mine”Total Revenue: $145,218.67
From the Presence album, the blimp supposedly lifted the melody and lyrics of a classic Delta blues number. But the boys back it up by adding some original sounding Zeppelin-esque riffs for a song that rocks and rocks hard.
38. “Your Time Is Gonna Come”Total Revenue: $144,974.49
From the get-go, Led Zeppelin showed its light side as displayed in this acoustic number embellished by John Paul Jones’ multi-instrumentalist capabilities, the first hint of which was displayed here with him on organ. A fan favorite from the first album.
39. “Gallows Pole”Total Revenue: $138,066.33
It was the first song of what was practically an all-acoustic suite of material on side two of Led Zeppelin III. The band's second foray into building a track from acoustic balladry to hard rocker, this is a traditional folk song adapted by the mighty Zep that grows with each verse, until it bursts into a full-force ending. Page stuns throughout, ranging from melodic acoustic passages buttressed by Jones on the mandolin, to electric guitar-cum-fiddle riffing, with Plant banshee-wailing over the top. A fine progression in crafting a formula that would ultimately deliver the majestic “Stairway To Heaven.”
40. “The Lemon Song”Total Revenue: $131,022.38
Another song where Zeppelin borrowed from a blues classic, partially quoting -- or, depending on your point of view, outright stealing -- some lyrics from Robert Johnson's “Traveling Riverside Blues." But its instrumental accompaniment couldn't be more Zep -- loud, hard, bombastic, dirty and in your face. Naturally, it’s from the band's second album.
41. “Bron-Yr-Aur”Total Revenue: $128,681.08
An acoustic instrumental from Physical Graffiti which was written during the creation of Led Zeppelin III, this song remains a favorite among the faithful. It was used in the Song Remains the Same film on the segment that supposedly portrayed the band’s ride from the airport to the Madison Square Garden shows, July 27-29, 1973.
42. “Out On The Tiles”Total Revenue: $127,268.99
A honey of a descending melodic guitar riff that might have inspired Hot Chocolate's "Every 1's A Winner,” it’s a high point on Led Zeppelin III, closing out side one.
43. “I Can't Quit You Baby”Total Revenue: $121,856.53
One of two Willie Dixon songs -- do yourself a favor: if you don’t know who that is, look him up -- on Led Zeppelin I, this one is a band favorite that was played at many of their shows on the early tours. It’s also about the closest the boys get to traditional electric blues.
44. “How Many More Times”Total Revenue: $111,449.50
A Jimmy Page tour de force, the song starts off with a killer riff before breaking up into sections segueing from what one music journalist once termed an an upside-down version of “Beck's Bolero” (which Page wrote); quoting the lyrics of Albert King’s “The Hunter,” with Page eventually bringing out the violin bow; into a jam that builds to a crescendo before winding up with the band taking a roundabout route back into the powerful riff that opens the song. Yet another of Zep's finest moments, one that occasionally subbed in for “Dazed & Confused” in the band's concerts.
45. “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp”Total Revenue: $104,689.97
A happy, upbeat acoustic song with Plant singing to -- or about -- his dog, naturally from Led Zeppelin III.
46. “You Shook Me”Total Revenue: $98,490.28
The other Willie Dixon song on the band’s first album, this one gets the full Zeppelin treatment, meaning the blues riff is inflated into full-bore metal and comes at you like a steady sledgehammer slowly beating an anvil. Plant shows off his harmonica skills and also plays call-and-response with Page's guitar. This version is heavier than the Jeff Beck Group’s, recorded when Rod Stewart was in that band, which came out a few months before Zep showed what they could do with the song.
47. “Traveling Riverside Blues”Total Revenue: $91,620.52
A Robert Johnson blues cover that Zeppelin often played live. Again, when Zeppelin borrows from the blues, more often than not they come up with riffs and dynamics not part of the original versions, as is the case with this song.
48. “Living Loving Maid”Total Revenue: $83,710.98
From Led Zeppelin II, this track clocks in at less than three minutes, but there's not a wasted note in it. Page was throwing off so many hard rock riffs back than that II remains the quintessential hard rock album to this day.
49. “The Rover”Total Revenue: $83,414.79
An outtake from either the Led Zeppelin IV or Houses Of the Holy eras, this is a favorite among Zeppelin fans who stuck with the band through until the end. A review of Physical Graffiti back then written by Lisa Robinson, the First Lady of hard rock reportage, described the song as one that “Out-Company’s Bad Company,” as it has a swagger similar to what Zep’s then-Swan Song labelmates were known for.
50. “In The Light”Total Revenue: $82,704.23
Another tour-de-force from Page and a song considered up there with “Stairway To Heaven” by the Zep cognoscenti, it’s a multi-part song that closes out with the catchy main riff being embellished by layered melodic guitar parts -- with a honey of a metal riff built into it as well. Some critics complained that Page was trying to make another “Stairway” with this recording; to some ears -- this reporter -- he succeeded; to others -- [ Ed. Note: Ahem...] -- not.
51. “Four Sticks”Total Revenue: $77,438.31
An otherworldly hard rock blues song. By the end of the band’s run, Zeppelin were masters at taking the blues genre into new realms, and that experiment began with with this song on Zeppelin IV. Just in case you are unsure -- yes, the sticks refer to drums.
52. “Custard Pie”Total Revenue: $76,743.92
Depending on who you talk to, this is either an obscure track but a fan favorite, or one of the few forgettable hard rockers that Zep turned in over the years. Plant’s singing -- which lost something somewhere between the end of 1972 and the 1973 Houses Of The Holy Tour -- no longer had the firepower that this song requires.
53. “The Wanton Song”Total Revenue: $62,515.55
Also from the Physical Graffiti album, this track showed there was still plenty of ammunition in Page's quiver. The song swaggers with a killer riff that might have been on Led Zeppelin II. As it evolves into one of Zeppelin's best rockers -- at least among Zep die hards -- the band brings forth one of their most melodic bridges, which leads to one of Page's finest guitar solos, all embellished by a lead guitar that somehow comes off sounding like an organ.
54. “Bring It On Home”Total Revenue: $61,961.78
Exhibit No. 1 that Zeppelin are thieves and charlatans among those who still hate the band, it’s a Willie Dixon song most famously covered by Sonny Boy Williamson back in 1963. Yeah, the haters are right in that the first minute of the track, the opening acoustic blues melody and the lyrics are all lifted directly from Williamson's version, as are the closing 45 seconds or so. But the heart of the track -- which all Zep fans wait for while wishing the acoustic intro would end -- contains a killer hard rock song built around one of Page’s catchiest and most original riffs.
55. “Down By The Seaside”Total Revenue: $60,087.41
A hidden gem on Physical Graffiti and another outtake from Zep’s earlier days. A favorite for the fans willing to go deep into the band’s catalog, it begins as a catchy mid-tempo ballad with some of Plant's finest lyrics and melodies. In the middle, the song briefly rocks, courtesy of a bunch of Pete Townshend-like power chords, before nicely segueing back into its main melody, all accompanied by Jones on electric piano.
56. “Friends”Total Revenue: $53,524.44
An acoustic track with Page's guitar tuning inspired by the melodic structures coming out of India, naturally it appears on Led Zeppelin III and ends with what some maintain is an interlude that appears to be mimicking an actual zeppelin blimp in flight, until it lands and the next track rocks out of the speakers.
57. “Hot Dog”Total Revenue: $53,110.16
Another of the few throwaway tracks Zep did during their career, this time they try to take on country music, to uninspired effect. It’s at least redeemed by Plant’s rockabilly vocals, however.
58. “Boogie With Stu”Total Revenue: $51,444.03
This is an outtake from Zeppelin IV and is the only other track to have a guest musician on it in Zep’s repertoire, in this case longtime roadie, fill-in piano player and, some say, sixth member of the Rolling Stones, Ian Stewart. While many consider it a throwaway track, it’s another tune that stretched the boundaries of Led Zeppelin's sound.
59. “The Crunge”Total Revenue: $49,164.62
This one stretched their sound so much that listeners at first might not recognize it as being Led Zeppelin, but for Robert Plant's vocals. Call it their tribute to James Brown, and a B-side of “D’yer Maker.” No wonder the Zep faithful were in shock by what they were first hearing from House Of The Holy.
60. “Celebration Day”Total Revenue: $47,008.90
The third track on Led Zeppelin III and one of three out-and-out rockers on the album, along with “Immigrant Song” and “Out On the Tiles,” which are all on side one (back when albums actually had sides). This song points the way toward where the band's sound would evolve by the time they got around to recording the Houses Of The Holy album.
61. “In My Time of Dying”Total Revenue: $43,020.69
Yet another song beloved by the Zep faithful. It may start out as a slow blues, but it’s about as hard- and fast-rocking a song as any in their oeuvre. Zep adds so many layers to the song’s traditional blues base that only the lyrics and melody are similar to earlier cover versions by other artists. It’s a Page-Bonham tour-de-force, with Page driving the song with his frantic slide and rhythm guitar playing -- right up until Bonham takes over at and kicks things into overdrive.
62. “Royal Orleans”Total Revenue: $42,722.89
Zep turns up the funk one more time, though it’s tied to a classic-sounding riff.
63. “Achilles’ Last Stand”Total Revenue: $34,603.85
When Zeppelin starts talking about the hammer of the gods, this is the song to which they are referring. With a rhythmic track similar to the one Bonham cooked up on “Immigrant Song,” this cut evolves into a guitar-orchestration piece for Page, who amazingly doesn't run out of new riffs during its 11 minutes, the longest studio song Zep recorded. It’s up there alongside “Stairway,” “Kashmir,” “Dazed & Confused,” “Since I've Been Loving You,” “In My Time of Dying,” “Ten Years Gone” and “In The Light” among ultimate epics in the catalog.
64. “Night Flight”Total Revenue: $31,357.76
An outtake from Zeppelin IV, this is a short but fun rocker from the Physical Graffiti album.
65. “Black Country Woman”Total Revenue: $31,335.44
With Physical Graffiti weighing in as a double album, this song is, surprisingly, the only acoustic number on the four sides.
66. “The Girl I Love”Total Revenue: $29,136.04
A song supposedly inspired by Sleepy John Estes and played in the boys’ early days, it’s got a riff that might have evolved, eventually, into the guitar piece that holds down “Moby Dick.”
67. “For Your Life”Total Revenue: $28,755.66
Considered by some a lesser track in the Zep catalog -- at least, until it really shone through in a live rendition at the O2 Arena reunion show in 2007, the only time it was played in concert.
68. “Carouselambra”Total Revenue: $27,825.52
The band's only other attempt at recording another “Kashmir.” This one also got Zep accused by some critics of being a prog-rock band in disguise when it came out on In Through The Out Door, the group’s 1979 final full release. It’s another epic in terms of length, but falls well short of the classic status conveyed upon the contenders named above. Nevertheless, it has some compelling guitar work from Page and imaginative keyboard playing from Jones.
69. “South Bound Suarez”Total Revenue: $27,717.06
A piano shuffle composed by John Paul Jones and Robert Plant, the band squeezes out a nice little rocker that doesn't show any signs of being a Zep song, but for the vocals.
70. “I'm Gonna Crawl”Total Revenue: $27,600.51
An overly-long, syrupy, piano-bar take on the blues, complete with some of Plant's worst lyrics. Despite that, it’s not completely irredeemable: it probably would have worked better at half the length.
71. “Hots On For Nowhere”Total Revenue: $25,801.93
Another obscure Zeppelin track -- to the mainstream rock masses, at least -- that’s nonetheless revered by the Zep faithful. A great catchy, mid-tempo ballad that erupts in the middle, with a fierce Jimmy Page riff that calls back to the era of Zep I and II. But it also sounds like Page could never figure out how to build a whole song around the riff, so he stuck it in the middle and end of this track.
72. “Bonzo's Montreaux”Total Revenue: $24,167.02
A variation on Bonham’s extended drum solos from the band’s live show, with added electronic drums and other effects meant to spice it up -- if you’re a drummer, at least.
73. “Black Mountain Side”Total Revenue: $22,890.85
Like “Over the Hills” owes its existence to Davy Graham’s take on “Move Through The Fair,” this song borrowed generously from Bert Jansch’s “Black Waterside.” Zeppelin certainly knew how to take advantage of inspiration.
74. “Sick Again”Total Revenue: $21,837.55
Although it appears on Physical Graffiti, this short rocker would have fit in very nicely on Zeppelin II -- and would have held its own there, too.
75. “Hats Off To (Roy) Harper”Total Revenue: $19,760.24
A wailing, distorted blues number that might be the only song that die-hard fans skip over -- except for maybe Roy Harper himself, a British folk musician who was friends with the band and was occasionally the beneficiary of the boys’ accompaniment on his own albums.
76. “We're Gonna Groove”Total Revenue: $17,953.74
A fast blues rocker left off Zeppelin I that nonetheless saw plenty of action on tour. It’s a cover of a Freddie King song and showcases Plant when he could really sing, howl and shriek like no one else.
77. “White Summer/Black Mountain Side”Total Revenue: $16,589.39
Obvious companion songs, the two were probably both written near the end of the Yardbirds era. The first appeared on the Yardbirds’ last album, 1967’s Page-led Little Games, and helped inform what would become “Over the Hills,” while the latter appeared on Zeppelin I. The two were frequently included in the band’s live sets.
78. “Poor Tom”Total Revenue: $14,161.43
Another acoustic number, obviously left off Led Zeppelin III, that leans a bit towards the blues. Another must for the all-acoustic album that never was.
79. “Darlene”Total Revenue: $13,806.22
A great rocker, updating the sounds of the 1950s as played by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard, it found a home on the post-breakup Coda album, though it would have been a welcome addition to In Through The Out Door, the band’s final album and the one for which it was recorded. In fact, if “Darlene” and another song recorded for that album, “Wearing and Tearing,” were added to the mix, ITTOD would have been much stronger.
80. “Tea For One”Total Revenue: $12,442.26
From Presence, this was Zep's attempt at coming up with another “Since I've Been Loving You,” six years after releasing the epic original. It’s got one honey of a blues riff, with some nice Page solos, but it’s another cut that probably suffers from being simply too long.
81. “Baby Come On Home”Total Revenue: $12,199.16
A soul song that sounds like something from Robert Plant’s earlier, truncated solo career, or something that might have been recorded by Garnet Mimms. While most well known for his song “Cry Baby” -- itself made famous by Janis Joplin -- Mimms’ “As Long As I Have You” was frequently covered by Zeppelin in the band’s very early days. In fact, while legend now has it that the Yardbirds’ “Train Kept a Rollin’” was the first song the lads ever played together when they met in a rehearsal room, back in the early 1970s, rock mags cited the Mimms song as the Blimp’s first.
82. “Wearing and Tearing”Total Revenue: $11,756.53
This might be the last song Zeppelin ever recorded, and boy did the band go out in style with one of the great rockers of their career. As one point the song was supposed to be given away as a single at Knebworth, a festival in Britain that turned out to be among Zeppelin’s now-legendary final gigs. It was said to be Zep’s answer to the punk era that was burgeoning in the U.K. at the time. (Page liked to go out on a high note: supposedly, the last song the Yardbirds ever recorded was “Think About It,” which would have been right at home on Zeppelin I but for the fact that the solo for that song was used for “Dazed And Confused.”)
83. “Candy Store Rock”Total Revenue: $10,465.65
Heavy metal rockabilly, with a malevolent rhythm guitar driving the song. Another great late-period entry on Presence.
84. “Ozone Baby”Total Revenue: $9,822.45
Another catchy mid-tempo rocker that eventually found a home on Coda, despite sounding like it was left off of Houses of The Holy.
85. “Walter's Walk”Total Revenue: $8,278.74
A lesser rocker from Coda, supposedly left off Zeppelin IV. One of its main riffs would later be reworked into part of “Hots On For Nowhere.”
Ed. Note: The following are extra songs and semi-complete snippets from the remastered releases. The rest are all live versions or outtakes that didn't appear on the main Zeppelin albums, but were included on reissued remastered versions or live releases.
86. “Something Else”Total Revenue: $5,614.45
When Plant’s voice still had its vocal power and acrobatic scaling ability, this is their cover of the Eddie Cochran rock classic. It sounds like almost a studio version off the BBC sessions.
87. “Sugar Mama”Total Revenue: $4,663.05
A blues song recorded around Zeppelin I that shows off Plant’s voice before he lost a bunch of his power and vocal versatility somewhere between 1972 and 1973. The results of that are evident on the live album Song Remains the Same, where he didn’t know how to accommodate his new vocal limitations, something he eventually mastered over time.
88. “Jennings Farm Blues”Total Revenue: $4,663.05
An electric instrumental version of “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” from Led Zeppelin III that makes the case that this would have been pretty good, if completed, this way, too.
89. “La La”Total Revenue: $4,347.12
An organ-led instrumental that morphs into an acoustic interlude and again into an electric passage before reverting back into an acoustic section and then back into the main melody, this time with a great guitar solo -- and then the lads said, that was fun, let’s do it again. While some describe this as an unfinished track, it sounds more like a sketch pad for about five different songs the band never got around to writing. Or it could be, as is described in other reports, an instrumental that they decided not to include on Zeppelin II.
90. “Key To the Highway/Trouble In Mind”Total Revenue: $4,066.19
Led Zeppelin taking on Delta acoustic blues, blending two songs with Plant on harmonica and quavering vocals, a sound he would even more-annoyingly revisit for “Hats Of To Roy Harper.”
91. “Sunshine Woman”Total Revenue: $3,640.77
An amalgamation of standard blues riffs held together by a young Zeppelin. Still, it’s a pleasure to hear because it displays Plant’s vocals when he still had all that firepower.
92. “St. Tristan’s Sword”Total Revenue: $3,015.62
An instrumental jam featuring just Page, Plant and Jones, with the three of them having themselves a fine old time.
93. “10 Ribs & All/Carrot Pod Pod”Total Revenue: $2,268.63
Left off Presence, it’s a wide-ranging instrumental led by Jones on piano that finally breaks into another wistful acoustic melody. If this song had ever been completed, it likely would be lovely to hear complemented with a Plant melody and vocals sprinkled over the top.
94. “Swan Song”Total Revenue: $241.20
“Swan Song” was described a number of times in many rock magazines back in the day when the band was introducing their same-named label to the world. Zeppelin said the label was named after an unfinished song, which was described as having sparse vocal sections, separated by long acoustic instrumental passages. It was a big disappointment when it didn’t show up on the first version of Coda, back in 1982, though “Swan Song” finally saw the light of day when it went on to become the basis for The Firm’s “Midnight Moonlight.”
***Who are the faithful? While some older Zeppelin fans seem to have lost track of the band after the first four albums, and some younger Zep fans seem to favor the Houses Of The Holy album above all others, the Zep faithful are the thousands of Led Zeppelin fans who stuck with and/or revered the band all the way from the beginning to the end, and who can can hold their own in a conversation on any aspect of the band’s career -- and who have done so with this author some time over the last 50 years.
This is not a list of songs which made the most money, but which songs are the most popular with fans, so it’s not all revenue for each song.This list is based on just revenue from song downloads and on-demand streams because consumers make the choice for each song download and each on-demand stream. Thus, the song list is measured and ranked by revenue streams where the consumer has the say. So it excludes revenue from programmed streams, radio play and synch because industry professionals are choosing to play those songs, not the fans. It also excludes album sales revenue, and physical single sales. While buying the latter configuration would seem the fans are voting, that revenue was also excluded because they could only buy songs chosen to be released from the album by the label and/or band as physical singles.
The ranking was compiled by combining the various versions, as tracked by Nielsen Music, of Led Zeppelin songs, whether from the original studio album, or one of their live albums? or as an add on to the re-mastered album, even if another name is used, all streams and downloads from all version were added together. Then using current pricing, an average wholesale price of 90 cents per song -- most Led Zeppelin songs sell for $1.29 -- is multiplied against all downloads tracked by Nielsen Music in the U.S.
For on-demand audio and on-demand video streams Billboard chose to use a blended rate since streaming subscribers are likely unaware of the differences in royalty payouts to labels for on-demand audio, which Billboard estimates average $0.0054, and on-demand video, which Billboard estimates averages $0.0018. Consequently, Billboard chose to use a blended audio/video rate, by multiplying the 77 percent of total Zeppelin streams that are audio by the per-play rate of $0.0054; and multiply the 23 percent of total Zeppelin streams that are video by its per-play rate of $0.0018; and then add the results together to get a blended rate of $0.0046. So with all downloads for each song being multiplied by 90 cents and then all on-demand streams for each being multiplied by almost a half a cent, those amounts were added together to produce a revenue total for each song, which were than ranked by the largest amount to the smallest.
Finally, as this is a ranking based on U.S. digital revenue, all the streams and downloads that were compiled and calculated to build this list cover the time range from when Zeppelin first allowed its tracks to be available as downloads in November 2007 and in streams in December 2015, both through July 12, 2018, as counted by Nielsen Music.
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