'Four Sticks' is a 1971 song by English rock band Led Zeppelin. The song was composed by Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant, and recorded at Headley Grange, Hampshire, England in January 1971, and Island Studios, London in February 1971, and mixed at Olympic Studios, London in February 1971. It appeared as the sixth track on Led Zeppelin's fourth album Led Zeppelin IV, released on 8 November 1971. 'Four Sticks' is a hard rock song which takes its title from John Bonham's practice of using two drum sticks in each hand to play its exotic and hypnotic tribal rhythm.
'Four Sticks' features an insistent guitar riff from guitarist Jimmy Page and the use of a Moog synthesizer by keyboardist John Paul Jones. The lyrics reflect singer Robert Plant's mystical Eastern quests emphasized with Page's ascending chords. Aiming for a unique abstract beat, drummer Bonham had originally used the standard two sticks to play this song but found it much more suitable using four sticks. It took two takes in total in the studio, but rehearsing the song took the entire day to get right, as it involved shifting 5/8 and 6/8 time changes. During one break in rehearsal, the band recorded 'Rock and Roll' instead. According to engineer Andy Johns, 'Four Sticks' was the hardest song to mix on the album due to the complexity of the rhythms involved and the amount of compression required on the drum tracks. Both Page and Plant revisited the track in March 1972 when they visited Bombay at the end of their Australasian tour. With the help of the Bombay Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vijay Ragav Rao, they recorded a number of takes at EMI Studios, along with 'Friends', ultimately however these tracks were never officially released. 'Four Sticks' was used as the B-side for the 'Rock and Roll' promotional single.
'Four Sticks' was only ever played once at Copenhagen on 3 May 1971. It was revived for the 1994 MTV Unledded special and the subsequent Page and Plant tours of 1995 and 1996, with a Middle Eastern backing orchestra. Drummer Michael Lee, also used four drum sticks to perform the song. Plant revisited the song for his 2002 and 2003 Strange Sensation tours.
- Jimmy Page – electric guitar, producer, remastering, digital remastering
- Robert Plant – vocals
- John Paul Jones – Moog synthesizer, EMS VCS3, bass guitar
- John Bonham - drums, percussion
- Peter Grant – executive producer
- Andy Johns - engineer, mixing
- Joe Sidore - original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
- George Marino - remastered CD engineer (1990)
- 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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