It’s hard to dispute the case for ‘Kashmir’ being Led Zeppelin’s brightest day in the sun, a track that remains the sound of the band at the peak of their dynamic powers. The song is worthy of a plaque in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alone and is a sacred part of music history that should be left alone — however, Diddy had other ideas.
The track is the stand-out moment from 1975’s Physical Graffiti and, quite possibly, the high-water mark of Led Zeppelin’s career, according to the band, that is. Robert Plant was once quizzed about his favourite tracks by the group and professed, “‘Kashmir’ in particular. It was so positive, lyrically. It’s the quest, the travels and explorations that Page and I went on to far climes well off the beaten track. That, really to me is the Zeppelin feel.”
As recently as 2018, in a feature-length piece with Dan Rather, Plant delved in further detail about the track’s precious intricacies. Noting: “It was a great achievement to take such a monstrously dramatic musical piece and find a lyric that was ambiguous enough, and a delivery that was not over-pumped,” said the singer.
Diddy was evidently in agreement with Plant’s opinion on the track when he decided to incorporate it into the hip-hop world back in 1998. The rapper had been selected to create the soundtrack for Godzilla and recreated ‘Kashmir’ for his track, ‘Come with Me’.
The track indeed split opinion, with Public Enemy’s Chuck D telling Rolling Stone: “I like Jimmy Page and P. Diddy, but what they did to ‘Kasmhir’ was a debacle. They are giants in their own way – and you can print this – but that was a fucking travesty.
“When I get involved with a classic, I knock the fucking ceiling out of it or I leave it the fuck alone,” he passionately added.
Page involved himself in the production of the track and supplied additional guitar parts for the recording. “After we recorded the track, [Diddy] told me he wanted to put an orchestra on it,” Page later recalled. “It turns out he overdubbed two orchestras on it to create this massive stereo effect,” he added.
The unlikely collaboration was a chart hit internationally, topping the tables in Iceland, landing at number two in the United Kingdom and number four in the United States. The song’s journey even took Diddy and Jimmy Page to 30 Rock for a performance on Saturday Night Live. While it might not be one of the most exemplary moments of musical magic to have happened there, it was undoubtedly one of the most memorable.
“He kept changing the arrangement all through soundcheck and rehearsals,” the Led Zeppelin guitarist commented about that SNL performance. “I thought, ‘He’s never going to remember all these changes. He’ll never get this right,'” Page came around to Diddy’s maverick ways, however, adding: “But he was right on the nail every time. So you’ve got to give him his due for that.”
When you’ve achieved everything that Jimmy Page has achieved in music, you have earned the pass to do whatever the fuck you want to do, and if he wants to tear up ‘Kashmir’ for a Godzilla soundtrack, then who are we to argue. Thankfully, this obliteration of the Physical Graffiti classic hasn’t dismembered the original, which is still there for us all to devour.