Behind the Well-Traveled Led Zeppelin Song, “Ramble On”

You may not have noticed it the first one- or two-thousand times you listened to the song—and we wouldn’t blame you (Jimmy Page’s acoustic is stirring and Robert Plant’s vocals are electrifying), but the bass player by Led Zeppelin’s low-end master, John Paul Jones, is sublime.

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The playing never gets “tinny” or thin. It moves like a gymnastics ace and ducks, weaves, and punches like a gold medal-winning boxer. The playing is noteworthy because the song by the group, released on the 1969 album Led Zeppelin II, is propulsive yet pleasant.

It’s not an earthquake as much as a race through the fields—toward a new adventure. How does the band achieve this, and what is the meaning of the song’s lyrics? For more on all that, let’s dive in below.

The Summer Is Over

For the singer of the song, the summer is over. With it, most likely, love and luster. Now, he’s to pay for the joy he’s experienced. The fall and then the dreaded winter. So, of course, he must go. The weary traveler is out on his journey again. Indeed, to ramble on.

Leaves are falling all around
It’s time I was on my way
Thanks to you I’m much obliged
For such a pleasant stay
But now it’s time for me to go
The autumn moon lights my way
For now I smell the rain
And with it pain
And it’s headed my way

The Lord of the Rings

Of course, you can’t get too far talking about Led Zeppelin and the lyrics of Robert Plant without talking about mythology and/or writer J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings.

In the song, Plant references the storybook quest’s evil land of Mordor and the once-Hobbit now-ring addict Gollum. Even the song’s opening line, some believe, is a reference to a Tolkien line: “Ah! like gold fall the leaves in the wind,” which comes from the fictional elf poem, “Namárië.”

I ain’t tellin’ no lie
Mine’s a tale that can’t be told
My freedom I hold dear
How years ago in days of old
When magic filled the air
‘T was in the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair
But Gollum, and the evil one
Crept up and slipped away with her
Her, her, yeah
Ain’t nothing I can do, no

Final Thoughts

Written by Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page, the song has gone on to much acclaim and is today recognized as one of the band’s best. The reason why, in the end, is for its dual-pronged sonic attack. On the one hand, there is much on the surface to love: Plant and Page, the references, the rock. But on the other hand, the song has more meaning, it’s about one’s own journey, one’s own question. For Plant it includes fantasy literature; whereas, yours may not.

But either way, we all must continue to ramble on.

Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage

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