An alien craft descends and for some reason, the intergalactic visitors emerge and asks our world leaders ‘what is classic rock?’ Earth’s proletariat waits on bated breath hoping beyond hope that they answer ‘Immigrant Song’… inevitably the chumps cough out ‘Bon Jovi’. The elaborate point I’m making is that few songs in history have struck the nail of hard rock as firmly as ‘Immigrant Song’. In short, it is the embodiment of all that’s best about an entire genre.
Beginning with Robert Plants iconic wailing cry, the track from Led Zeppelin III crams together a smorgasbord of Norse mythology over a repeating F# minor riff that seems to travel at a lick far greater than its 112 beats per minute owing to the gathering maelstrom of adrenaline that it trails in its wake. It is just about as rousing as rock music comes and, as a result, it has transcended the clutches of rock culture and entered society at large as a touchstone track for things on the heavier side of life.
Naturally, with the song forming such a benchmark, many others have rested on it and turned out their very own version. Since its release in 1970, a swathe of hardy folks have tried their hand at it. Below we’re looking at the five best covers that have been turned out.
The five best covers of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’:
With a voice that could stir honey into tea from the next state over, songwriting chops more mercurial than a two-year-olds mood and a quintessential chisel-jawed rock ‘n’ roll look so on the money that it would come up on clipart if you searched for ‘guitar player’, Chris Cornell was a paradigm of nineties alternative music in much the same way that Plant embodied the seventies.
Thus, he is one of the most befitting artists to take on the challenge that the howl of ‘Immigrant Song’ provides. With a visceral blast of sound, he delivers the same punch that Led Zeppelin packed in this stirring cover.
Foo Fighters, Slash and Tenacious D
School of Rock is now synonymous with ‘Immigrant Song’ as the moment it was benevolently offered up to a new generation. The film – much like the song – celebrated the simple exultant joys of rock music.
In short, Jack Black cut loose in the same way that we all imagine that we do when we wail along to the track. Love it or loath it, it is a song that induces a response, you simply can’t sit through it without at least a heavy toe-tap and Mr Black is more prone to fully cutting loose than most. When he is backed by this much musical talent, the shackles are well and truly off and he certainly soars.
The crisp stylings of Led Zeppelin form a junction with the carefree snarl of Nirvana, however, both bands are quintessentially rock ‘n’ roll in their unfettered approach and as such they share a kinship.
Taken from home-recorded covers, the song is played out as more of a jam than anything else as the distortion goes into overdrive. The beauty of the piece resides in the fact that similar scenes have played out in practice rooms all over the world, it just so happened that this one contained one of the biggest acts in recent history.
Nothing but Thieves
Despite an uncompromising take on grand production, the song itself lives and breathes on a simple repeating riff and it happens to kick like an anabolic-laden mule when it is played live. Many bands have, therefore, borrowed it to offer a hefty mind-wallop amid their set, but few have done it quite as well as Nothing but Thieves.
The date was July 1st, 2018, and Glasgow was experiencing one of the hottest days in its history. What better way to send the whole thing into a furious sun-drenched fever pitch than rattle off a supersonic version of ‘Immigrant Song’! It is one of those YouTube videos that you are forever grateful to the internet gods for, offering up an epochal ‘I was there’ moment every time.
Karen o with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
When it comes to Led Zeppelin there is always something sultry in the mix. They embody the slightly perturbing front that hard rock often initially offers up to the uninitiated. It is this element that Karen o, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross bring right to the fore in their reimagining.
Taken from the score for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo this incarnation is a reminder of how truly cinematic the original song was. Like a lot of the best cinema, it ground the fantastical with realism as Plant explains: “We weren’t being pompous … We did come from the land of the ice and snow. We were guests of the Icelandic Government on a cultural mission. We were invited to play a concert in Reykjavik and the day before we arrived all the civil servants went on strike and the gig was going to be cancelled. The university prepared a concert hall for us and it was phenomenal.”