There’s a lady who’s sure, all that glitters is… no, not that one, the other one! Most of this is fairly straightforward, although there are one or two problem areas if you wish to play it exactly the same.
It’s every transcriber’s nightmare! The phone rings: it’s Da Boss… “Can you do that classic Zep number?” The blood runs cold, those little hairs on the back of your neck that serve no useful purpose other than to signal when you’re feeling uncomfortable start to prickle. “No… not ‘Stairway’, please! Anything but that! I’ve been good, honest, I did that Steve Vai thing recently didn’t I? And 17 pages of Floyd! They’d like this one!”
Rock and Roll, however, is a different bag of jelly babies entirely. I’ve always loved that track, in fact I’ve probably played it more times than Mr Page himself! There are two versions commercially available so what we decided to do was combine the best bits from the live version (from the 1976 album and video The Song Remains the Same) and, where it gets a bit too messy, used bits from the fourth studio album Four Symbols. This way you get the best of both worlds with a version that works for just one guitar without losing out on any of the important elements.
As the title suggests, the tune is a basic rock and roll 12-bar, but there are enough little interesting twists and turns to keep you on your toes! The main riff is based around an A5 chord with some cool interplay between the major third (C#) and the minor third (C natural). The С natural is also bent very slightly sharp for a bit of added tension. This minor/major third trade-off is found in practically all great blues tunes, so if you’re not sure what to do with it then here’s a great introduction on how to use it effectively.
At the end of bar 2, Jimmy plays a diad containing the major third and the flattened seventh (C# and G respectively). These two fabulous notes are a tritone (three tones) apart and produce what used to be referred to as the Devil’s interval! (For more on this check out article on soloing over dominant seventh chords (Seven’s Up. Dominant Seventh Soloing)). The great thing about this little shape is that if you move it down a semitone (as in bar 4) you get а С and F#, which is the flattened seventh and major third of D (our IV chord). If you move it up a semitone from the original starting point (as in bar 8) you get a D and G#, which is the fllattened seventh and major third of E (our V chord). This little semitone side-step thing is used to add some extra harmonic interest to the basic 12-bar phrase. On the original recording, these diads (two notes played at once) were overdubbed but these can obviously (as demonstrated on the live album) be played as part of the main riff.
The verse starts at bar 13 and uses another common little move, variations of which can be heard in ‘You Really Got Me’ (the Van Halen version), My Generation (The Who) and ‘Ogre Battle’ by Queen. If you hit the G note on the bottom E string pretty hard with enough distortion it will almost sound like a chord.
Life is pretty easy until the guitar solo kicks in at bar 73. As I’ve hinted at already, Jimmy can be a little messy sometimes (it’s difficult to be anything else when the guitar is slung around your knees!) so the first two bars are taken from the studio recording, kicking off with a neat open-string lick before launching into some nice phrases derived from the A major pentatonic scale (А, В, С, E and F#). Most rock dudes tend to think of this in terms of its relative minor pentatonic, though, in this case F# (F#, А, В, С and E). Same notes, different outlook.
Bar 80 probably sounds more difficult then it actually is with Jimmy performing a simple pull-off phrase which is moved up the neck one fret at a time to arrive at the 10th fret in time for the D chord. A variation of this phrase can be heard in bar 91 when the band drops out and Mr P plays the same thing but with an open G string included. Did he mean to do that? I don’t know, but it sounds cool!
In bar 129 Jimmy changes pick-up and plays yet another phrase containing an open string, this time the open D. A lot of Page’s tunes have a certain Eastern flavour (‘Kashmir’ being a great example) and this technique of using open strings as a drone is typical of this form of music. Finally, after the mad drum fill (bar 140), I transcribed the end lick from the studio version (the live version segues into ‘Celebration Day’) complete with that open D string right at the end. I always wondered whether that was played on purpose or if it was an accident… I do rather like it, though.
Jimmy has written some wonderful music and his mastery of guitar orchestration and production in the studio have rarely been equalled, but this track shows that he can rock out with the best of ‘em so I hope you enjoy playing through this as much as I did recording it! See you soon!
Although everybody from Whitesnake to the Stone Roses have been accused of ripping off Led Zep, no one has really come close to matching their unique power, mystique and musical diversity, so a recommended listening list can only really contain Led Zeppelin albums! Try Four Symbols (where this track comes from) Physical Graffiti, Presence, Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin III… it’s all good stuff. If you’re not sure which one to go for then maybe try one of the compilations to see which period you prefer.
It’s a part of Led Zeppelin Rock and Roll guitar lesson.
Below you can download PDF guitar tabs and sheet music of
Rock and Roll with backing track