Song of the Week – Ten Years Gone, Led Zeppelin


Most of you that read this weekly missive are music nerds, so you’re probably already aware that this week marks the 40th anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s classic double album Physical Graffiti.

The story of Physical Graffiti really starts in earnest in January 1974 when the band assembled at Headly Grange (the Grange), a dank 18th century English estate where the band had recorded albums starting with Led Zeppelin III, to work on some new tracks. By March they had tapes of eight very strong songs that would become enduring classics in the Zeppelin catalog. Those rough mixes were for:

• Custard Pie
• In My Time of Dying
• Trampled Under Foot
• Kashmir
• In the Light
• The Wanton Song
• Sick Again
• And today’s SotW, Ten Years Gone

When the mixes for these songs were finished over the summer, there was too much music to fit on a single album, but the band couldn’t stomach the idea of dropping any of them. So they decided to release a double album and filled it out with seven leftovers from recordings dating back as far as 1970.

But let’s get back to “Ten Years Gone.”

It has been well documented that Robert Plant’s lyric was inspired by the memory of a 10 year past relationship he had with the younger sister of the woman he was then married to.

In a 2010 article in Classic Rock magazine, the great rock critic Barney Hoskyns wrote:

The song’s feel suggests a less dramatic ‘Kashmir’, with another airy dose of mysticism in the lyrics: “Then as it was, then again it will be/And though the course may change sometimes/Rivers always reach the sea…” Personally I love Plant’s hippie-dippiness because it’s shot through with empathy and compassion: give me his flowery poetics over the flip worldliness of a Mick Jagger any day.

Old wounds are keenly felt in the song’s hoarse middle-eight outpouring of “Do you ever remember me, baby/Did it feel so good…”

And the music is in my favorite Led Zep style – you know, those songs like “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” where they start out with gently picked acoustic guitar then go all dinosaur stomp, loud hard rock.

In a Rolling Stone article called “50 Artists’ Favorite Playlists”, producer Rick Rubin described “Ten Years Gone” as “A deep, reflective piece with hypnotic, interweaving riffs. Light and dark, shadow and glare. It sounds like nature coming through the speakers.” That about covers it.

Jimmy Page’s guitar riff was too good to pass up, so 2Pac sampled it for 1997’s “Life’s So Hard.”

Enjoy… until next week.