Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” Song Analysis
Speaking about Led Zeppelin, one should note that the band comes from the UK – the motherland of rock and progressive rock, in particular. The most popular songs of the band are “Stairway to Heaven” and “Kashmir”. This paper will analyze the former one. The main points of analysis are musical elements, the feelings this song evokes, cultural elements, and delivery. To summarize the material, the song “Kashmir” will be compared to the Pink Floyd’s “Money” to find out certain points in common.
The song “Kashmir” was released on the album Graffiti by Swan Song Records (Led Zeppelin, 1974). It lasts for 8:28 minutes, which is peculiar for Led Zeppelin though not appropriate for progressive rock pieces. Nevertheless, it appears to stay capturing through the whole length. Led Zeppelin always uses the classical pattern in their compositions, so the rhythm drums produce is 4/4 meter throughout the whole song. The meter varies principally in verses to 6/8 against the drums parties and comes back to 4/4 in introduction and bridges. Speaking about the form of the song, it looks like this: Intro | verse | chorus | intro (once) | verse | chorus | intro (once) | chorus | bridge 1 | chorus | bridge 2 | intro (twice) | verse | intro (once) | verse | chorus | intro (once) | chorus | bridge (fade). This form shows a multiple repetition of intro, but the subtle change of the arrangements, while powerful orchestra keeps a listener in interest throughout the song.
The timbre of the instrumental part seems harsh, while it bursts in from the very beginning with its drum and bass harmony, which emphasizes on the song power according to its stylistic direction. The clear but persistent vocals timbre is embodied in Robert Plant’s famous vocal manner different from the manner of instrumental section. In addition, the interesting fact is that the song lacks vocal in choruses which are introduced instrumentally only.
The arrangement of the song consists of drums in the middle, guitar on the left, and strings on the right in the intro and during the first verse, where the vocals enter. As it was mentioned above, the chorus is instrumental and includes horns in the centre of the composition and an additional guitar harmonizing the right line. The second verse is the same, but with addition of the lowest note of the basses producing the string counter line. In the second chorus, the string doubles the guitar on the left.
The first bridge differs from the rest of the song. It remains the same as the second chorus, but Page’s guitar plays the harmony with the left string line, which makes an interesting effect. The next chorus remains identical to the previous one. The second bridge differs from the first one with Mellotron strings on the left. This part appears to effect as a melodic conversation between leading by the horns first, accompanied by the orchestra strings and Mellotron with the more active drum beats.
The lyrics of the song say about the adventurous life and are generally positive, despite the fact that the repeating multiple intros seem to contradict positive mood. The lyrics was written as poetry with specific rhymes and iambic rhythm. The bridges interrupt the poetry in sections irrelevantly by means, so they seem to be improvised. The band paid more attention to the instrumental side of the song, but not the poetic one. Kashmir is a mountain in a Pakistan region not far from Sahara Desert. This place is also known as the “waste land”. The original title of the song was “Driving through Kashmir” and, indeed, Robert Plant wrote the song while driving through Kashmir during the 1973 U.S. Tour on the way to the National Festival of folklore held in Morocco (Songfacts, n.d.).
Musical elements are always significant in the way a listener percepts a music piece. Speaking about “Kashmir”, the feelings are controversial. As it was said before, the general mood of the lyrics is positive, but the melody invokes other feelings. The powerful guitar riffs and insistent beats create the atmosphere of anxiety. The multiple repetitions of the intros create a sound image of the road and wheels periodically meeting stones on the way.
The changes of the melody create a musical metaphor of the unexpected occasion which may happen at any moment. The interesting fact is that the area Plant and Page were passing when they created the song is famous for its poppy fields, from which heroine is made. It is possible that this fact could influence the anxious manner of the song.
The poetry of the lyrics seems to have no end and the song fades as if it continues, but the sound is gone with the car. This makes the song incomplete, hinting on the eternity of the human’s soul and its way in this world, which continues in the other world. The song intrigues a listener with its confident classical start and captures them from the beginning, keeping interest through the whole length.
Speaking about the cultural aspects of the song, the historical background was uncovered in the lyrics analysis, as it was essential for understanding the idea of the song. To add, there are Asian influences in the song, where the strings counter and Mellotron enters in verses and bridges, and they sound like a sitar. Some moments in the song support the words of the lyrics, where the sun or the hot weather are mentioned.
The song “Kashmir” is peculiar in classical rock discourse. It was the most popular in the late hippie movement. Nowadays, it is still on top of the hit parades among the old-school music admirers. In addition, it influenced the development of progressive style in music a lot, as it stood at the origins of this style. For the current generation, the song is of a strong cultural and aesthetic value, reflecting the moods of the middle 1970s and evoking subconscious nostalgia for the times known for rebellious movements and glut of subcultures.
“Kashmir” is an iconic song for Led Zeppelin. To produce it, the outer musicians for the string and horns sections were invited. Jimmy Page introduced the lead guitar, Robert Plant – lead vocals, John Paul Jones – bass guitar, mellotron, strings and brass arrangements, John Bonham – drums
The song became as popular as their “Stairway to Heaven” and it has been keeping the high rates since 1973. It was used in some films, for instance, Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Almost Famous and in the trailer to X-Men (2014) (Songfacts, n.d.). Kashmir was played live on almost every Led Zeppelin’s concert. In 2007, it took a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance for its appearance in the film realized on the Celebration Day. In 1994, Page and Plant recorded a live version of "Kashmir", released on their album No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded. An orchestra and Egyptian musicians arranged their song to create a greater intensity of the song.
To compare the song to the Pink Floyd’s “Money”, it sounds more naturally and classically, while both of them have an odd meter. “Money” contains more sound effects. The specificity of “Kashmir’s” sound effects lies in its way of performing and recording of drums (with several microphones for a stereo effect). The Led Zeppelin’s song is split into lines, which support this stereo effect. The same thing one may notice in Pink Floyd’s practice.
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Therefore, the common points of each song are experimentation with the sound and sound recording, rarely used in rock style instruments. Both songs use horn sections, both “Kashmir” and “Money” were performed in movies and were parts of personal band’s performances on the DVD (The Wall and Celebration Day); both songs were written in the middle 1970s and gave inspiration for developing progressive rock style.
To conclude, “Kashmir” is a capturing song which keeps listeners intrigued throughout the play. The song does not seem boring because of its changeable intensity and confident mood. As the legendary band, Led Zeppelin created a legendary song which has been keeping high rates for more than 50 years. The experimentation with the instruments led the song to become a classical piece of rock music.
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