Back in 1971, when [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Led Zeppelin[/lastfm] first released “Misty Mountain Hop”, the cool kids were smoking marijuana and the nerds were reading The Hobbit. Today, the cool kids are (supposedly) saying ‘no’ to drugs and going to watch Peter Jackson’s big-screen interpretations of Tolkien classics. Times have certainly changed, even since the band recorded this 1979 version of “Misty Mountain Hop” live from Knebworth, but both drugs and epic fantasy factor into the lyrics.
The song’s lyrics appear to describe an encounter with police after engaging in a little illicit drug use in the park. The narrator then talks about escaping to The Misty Mountains ‘where spirits fly.’ The connection to a Tolkien locale of the same name might be a little tenuous, if not for the fact that Led Zeppelin included references to the British author and language scholar’s work in several of the other songs, most notably “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp,” “The Battle of Evermore,” and “Ramble On.”
The song features a bit of an instrumental shuffle from the usual Zep lineup.[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]John Paul Jones[/lastfm] jumps over from his usual spot on the bass to play the keyboards, and manages to team up with guitarist[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Jimmy Page[/lastfm] for a memorable, harmonized riff.[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]John Bonham[/lastfm] keeps to his usual station on drums, but his performance is nonetheless notable for being one of the strongest in-studio efforts of his career.
Though only a B-side release (to the “Black Dog” single), “Misty Mountain Hop” is one of the band’s more well-known and recognizable songs.
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