Led Zeppelin are generally regarded as pioneers of heavy rock. The immense ferocity of John Bonham’s drumming is legendary and you only need to listen to the opening bars of ‘When the Levee Breaks’ to understand why. With Robert Plant’s lungpower and Jimmy Page’s gargantuan riffs, Led Zeppelin were the defining band of the stadium-rock era. But today we’ll be looking at one of the song’s that guitarist Jimmy Page felt was in complete contrast to everything Led Zeppelin stood for, a song he despised. Today we’re looking at ‘All, my love’, the Zeppelin song Page described as “too soft”.
‘All my Love’ comes from Led Zeppelin’s 1979 album Through The Out Door and is one of only two songs that Page played no part in writing. instead, John Paul Jones took the lead, developing on Plant’s initial version, which the frontman had written during their 1977 tour. As a result, the song is arranged in a markedly unusual style for the heavy-rockers. Jones’ dominion over the song is evident from the off. it begins with a simple rock beat accompanied by a lively, fizzy, synth melody. It’s clear why the song didn’t sit well with Page, who was, by this time, very used to blasting the audience with his virtuosic guitar playing.
‘All my Love’ was just one of a collection of songs that Plant and Jones had developed together. But during recording sessions in Stockholm, the distinctly un-zeppelin song shot to the top of their agenda. At the time, Page and Bonham were of the shared opinion that the tracks were all “a little soft”, with ‘All my Love’ being the worst offender of all:
“I was a little worried about the chorus. I could just imagine people doing the wave and all of that. And I thought ‘That is not us. That is not us.” But Page still allowed the song to feature on the album, saying, “In its place it was fine, but I would not have wanted to pursue that direction in the future”.
Another big problem for Page – as well as for many a Zeppelin Fan – was John Paul Jones’ keyboard work. Jones had cemented himself as an essential part of the Led Zeppelin sound in songs like ‘Black Dog’. But, on ‘All my Love’ the bassist and keyboardist decided to go for a peculiarly Baroque sound which, in contrast to the rest of Zeppelin’s discography, feels utterly harmless -a little nice, even. It certainly gives the song a distinctly Flash Gordon air, stripping the band of the carnal, hot-blooded sound with which they are traditionally associated.
But despite all this, it’s important to remember that any song is more than its instrumentation. Written after the death of Plant’s son Karac in July 1977, ‘All my Love’ is, at its heart, a eulogy. When you realise that, in this song, Plant is saying goodbye to Karac, it becomes clear that to have arranged the song in the band’s traditional hard-edged style would have been insensitive and inapposite to its subject matter. As a result, and much to Page’s dismay, the song was always greeted with many a slow wave from the audience.
Listen to ‘All my Love’ below