This Day in Music, June 22: Hammer of the Gods

By , Contributor

Ever been to Iceland? No I haven't either, although it is on my bucket list. The country is most recently famous for last year's eruption of Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH'-plah-yer-kuh-duhl), one its many still active volcanoes, which gave most of Europe the volcanic ash cloud causing sever disruption to air travel for days.

Not widely regarded as a major influence on pop culture, Iceland has given us some damn fine music; Björk, Emiliana Torrini, Gusgus and post-rock band Sigur Rós. The country is also famous for its geysers and has the largest waterfall in Europe.

I've heard the food is nice. One of the country's most famous dishes is hákarl, which consists of beheaded, gutted shark which is left buried underground to ferment for several months, then consumed with extreme caution. Nice.

Anyway, why am I telling you this? The reason is on this day in 1970, rock gods Led Zeppelin appeared at Laugardalsholl Hall, Reykjavik, Iceland, as guests of the Icelandic government on a cultural mission. Singer Robert Plant was inspired to write the lyrics to one of their most memorable tunes, "Immigrant Song", during the group's one and only visit to Iceland.

Famous for its distinctive, wailing cry from vocalist Robert Plant at the beginning of the track, the song was written from the perspective of Vikings rowing west from Scandinavia in search of new lands - the song's lyrics are rousing to reinforce Zeppelin's pounding track. One of the lines from the song became part of Led Zeppelin lore: the line referring to "...the hammer of the gods", prompting some people to start referring to Led Zeppelin's sound as the "Hammer of the Gods".

Plant later stated: "We weren't being pompous ... we did come from the land of the ice and snow. We were invited to play a concert in Reykjavik and the day before we arrived all the civil servants went on strike and the gig was going to be cancelled. The university prepared a concert hall for us and it was phenomenal. The response from the kids was remarkable and we had a great time. 'Immigrant Song' was about that trip."

"Immigrant Song" was released in November 1970 by Atlantic Records, peaking at #16 on the US chart (Zeppelin's second US Top 20 hit), and also reaching the Top 10 in Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand, South Africa, and The Netherlands. A UK release was scheduled at one time, but Zeppelin pulled the release, sticking to their 'no singles' rule. (Zeppelin never released a single in the UK).

I don't suppose the locals in Iceland have had that many other rock Gods grace them with their presence. So, well done, Zeppelin.

"A-ah-ahh-ah, ah-ah-ahh-ah".


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A former musician, Neil was in the 80's group The Cheaters who were once signed to EMI's Parlophone label, and released three albums. He was also a radio presenter and is still a regular music pundit on various BBC stations. Neil is the founder of the award winning web site This Day in Music which is…

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