“When the Levee Breaks” is so heavy and filled with so much drama and despair that it actually scared me when I first started listening to music. When Robert Plant chants “Going to Chicago,” I didn’t know anything about Chicago at the time except that it was nowhere near California, which is where we were headed in the previous song, “Going To California.”
Listening to music when you’re a kid was so fun, so inspiring, and super confusing. I would take the album so literally that it felt like a road trip. Led Zeppelin IV was one of my fav trips. There’s big black dogs and battles, we go to the heavens and back, cruise through some epically moist mountain ranges, and then get to go to California where all the girls wear flowers in their hair.
But then the last song comes around and the levee is about to break and we have no place to go… FUCK THIS! This is not what I signed up for. Why did we have to leave so soon? It really feels like we just got to California and now we’re splitting for Chicago? Is this a band expense? Is this a business trip? I was riddled with questions and had no answers yet I kept restarting the track.
I would listen to the intro on repeat while acting out the drum parts until the vocals started. Then back to the beginning, I really just didn’t want to hear it, sorry Robert! As naive and confused as I was, I was smart enough to realize this was perhaps the most bad ass intro to any song ever. I just knew it. This was later solidified by the Beastie Boys sampling said beat for “Rhyming and Stealing.” One of those “See, I told you so” moments to everyone who would yell at me for touching the record needle and re-starting the song every 90 seconds!