Achilles Last Stand

'Achilles Last Stand' is a 1976 song by English rock band Led Zeppelin. The song was composed by Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant, and recorded and mixed at Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany in November 1975. It appeared as the opening track on Led Zeppelin's seventh album Presence, released on 31 March 1976. 'Achilles Last Stand' is a progressive hard rock guitar epic, inspired by the road travels of guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant through the landscape of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Africa. At 10 minutes 32 seconds, it is Led Zeppelin's third longest studio recording.

Overview

'Achilles Last Stand' originated during the band's forced lay-off after Plant and his family were involved in a serious motor vehicle accident on 4 August 1975. Page and Plant had composed the song at Malibu, California, and the title written tongue-in-cheek referred to Plant's broken ankle. Plant actually sang while in a wheelchair, and the composition was sarcastically referred to as 'The Wheelchair Song'. Page spent considerable time building up an army of twelve guitar overdubs for the recording, and arranging the track into two sections. Despite the complexity of the song, it was completed in just one night at the Musicland Studios. Vari-speed was also added to speed up the guitar sound. The overdubs were recorded using Page's Gibson Les Paul Standard. When it came to performing the song on stage, Page considered using the double neck Gibson EDS-1275 but found that the Les Paul Standard did just as well. The galloping bass line by John Paul Jones and hard driving synchronized drum work by John Bonham, drive the song along, and the track can be seen as a precursor for the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) which appeared near the end of the decade. Musically, it also continued the band's quest of epic Eastern inspired themes previously explored with 'Black Mountain Side', and 'Kashmir'.

Live performances

'Achilles Last Stand' was performed from the 1977 North American tour through to the final 1980 Over Europe tour. It was strangely omitted from the band's final ever performance at Berlin on 7 July 1980. It was briefly revived by Page and Plant for their 1995 North American tour.

Credits

Musicians:

  • Jimmy Page – electric guitar, producer, remastering, digital remastering
  • Robert Plant – vocals
  • John Paul Jones – bass guitar, EMS VCS3
  • John Bonham - drums, percussion

Production:

  • Peter Grant – executive producer
  • Keith Harwood - engineer, mixing
  • Jeremy Gee – tape engineer
  • Joe Sidore - original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
  • George Marino - remastered CD engineer (1990)

Bibliography

  • Lewis, Dave (2012) Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1 (OCLC 782996334).
  • Welch, Chris (2009) Led Zeppelin: The Stories Behind Every Led Zeppelin Song. London: Carlton Books. ISBN 978-1-84732-286-9 (OCLC 317254118).

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