ON THIS DATE (39 YEARS AGO)
May 24, 1973 – Led Zeppelin: “Over The Hills And Far Away” b/w “Dancing Days” (Atlantic 45-2970) 45 single is released in the US.
“Over the Hills and Far Away” is the third track from Led Zeppelin’s 1973 album Houses of the Holy. It was Houses of the Holy’s first US single, reaching #51 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, later becoming a staple of the classic rock radio format.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant originally constructed the song in 1970 at Bron-Yr-Aur, a small cottage in Wales where they stayed after completing a gruelling North American concert tour.
Page plays a six-string acoustic guitar introduction with a melody reminiscent of “White Summer”. Page repeats the theme with 12-string acoustic guitar in unison. In an interview published in Guitar World magazine’s November 1993 issue, Page commented on the construction of the song:
GW: There’s an acoustic guitar running throughout the song. Did you play a main acoustic and then overdub an electric?
Page: No, we played it through entirely as you know it, but I was playing electric.
GW: So you simply edited out of the beginning?
Page: Yeah, that’s right. “Presumably”. It sounds that way. It sounds like the acoustic is going straight through.
Plant’s vocals enter on the next repetition. He tenderly offers himself to the “lady” who’s “got the love [he] need[s].” The acoustic guitars build in a crescendo toward the abrupt infusion of Page’s electric guitars along with drummer John Bonham’s and bass guitarist John Paul Jones’ rhythm accompaniment.
Through the pre-verse interludes and instrumental bridge, “Over the Hills and Far Away” stands out as an example of Jones and Bonham’s tight interplay. Following the final verse, the rhythm section fades out, gradually replaced by the echo returns from Page’s electric guitar and a few chords played by Jones on harpsichord. In the final 8 bars, Page executes a linearly descending/ascending sequence and then concludes with the idiomatic V-I cadence on synth imitating a pedal steel guitar.