Let it in you.

When the Levee Breaks is the final track on Led Zeppelin IV. It's the kind of song you'd play for your friends who can't picture Zeppelin without Stairway to Heaven. It's the kind of music you play for your friends who are stuck on some of the tripe they call music these days.

Levee is the rockingest rock song that has ever been played. It is the quintessential heavy blues rock song. You cannot truly understand Rock and Roll (any rock and roll) until you have come to grips with this song. It is #1 in my 12-step program for understanding blues rock. Heck, I'll make it #12 too.

The thunderous, oft-copied drum track was recorded at the bottom of a plaster stairwell at Headley Grange, with microphones suspended from the ceiling at the first and second floors. The sound was then processed through a guitar echoer and "compressed like hell" in the words of Andy Johns, their producer. To reproduce this effect for their stage performances, they constructed a big pit in the stage for John Bonham's drum set to go in. Needless to say, they only played it twice live.

Turn it up

This song is best listened to with lots of bass. Better yet, lots of everything. High-end studio headphones are ideal. It will make you bang your head and flail your limbs, even if you've never been to a hardcore show. You may even get whiplash. You may believe you can punch through the wall. You probably can. Yes, I realize that it's concrete.

The song was originally recorded by blues legend Memphis Minnie in 1929. Minnie's recording, while still a good example of heavy blues, is much more traditional in nature, and far less crushingly brash. The lyrics are about the original blues artists who played in levee camps on the Mississippi River flooplains in Tennesee. Normally I really care about a song's lyrics (I can listen to Dylan all day), but in this case they don't really matter. It's all about the sound. This is the sound that inspired Rock and Roll to become something other than Beatles-esque pop.

Rock Heavy

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