'Gallows Pole' is a traditional song by English rock band Led Zeppelin. The 1970 song was arranged by Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant, and recorded at Olympic Studios, Barnes, London in May 1970; Headley Grange, Hampshire, England in June 1970, and mixed at Electric Lady Studios, New York, and Ardent Studios, Memphis, in August 1970. It appeared as the sixth track on Led Zeppelin's third album Led Zeppelin III, released on 5 October 1970. 'Gallows Pole' is a traditional folk song which opens side two of Led Zeppelin III. The song has its roots in an arrangement of the ancient Scottish border folk ballad 'The Maid Freed from the Gallows', collected by folklorist Francis James Childs. 'Gallows Pole' marked Led Zeppelin's continuing interest in folk music.
'Gallows Pole' was one of the first songs worked out by guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant during their stay at the Bron-Yr-Aur cottage in April 1970. It features Page on banjo, six string, 12-string acoustic guitar, and Gibson electric, and bassist John Paul Jones on mandolin and bass. Page borrowed the banjo from Jones, and was one of the first times he recorded with it. Lyrically Plant adds a twist to the traditional song - in the version collected by Childs, the female protagonist begs her executioner to delay her sentencing until her lover bring the gold required to buy her reprieve. In Plant's version, the protagonist is male and his brother and sister arrive without the silver or gold and he is hanged, so the song takes on a dance macabre stance, with the tension increased with drummer John Bonham dropping into the song towards the climax.
'Gallows Pole' was released as a promotional CD single by Page and Plant in 1994.
'Gallows Pole' was performed on the 1971 United Kingdom and European tours. During 1975, parts of the 'Gallows Pole' lyrics were thrown into the 'Trampled Under Foot' medley. In 1994, Page and Plant revived the song for the MTV Unledded performance, the album No Quarter, and subsequent 1995, 1996 and 1998 tours. In 2003, Plant played the song as part of his 2003 Strange Sensation tour.
- Jimmy Page – acoustic guitar, banjo, electric guitar, backing vocals, producer, remastering, digital remastering
- Robert Plant – vocals
- John Paul Jones – mandolin, bass guitar, backing vocals
- John Bonham - drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Peter Grant – executive producer
- Andy Johns - engineer
- Eddie Kramer - 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).
- 'Gallows Pole' at ASCAP (USA)
- 'Gallows Pole' at United States Copyright Office (USA)
- 'Gallows Pole' at ISWC [T-902.252.904-0]
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