Gallows Pole (4:56)

Cover of Led Zeppelin III

From Led Zeppelin III and 10 other releases

This is based on an old Blues song called “Gallis Pole,” which was popularized by Leadbelly. The song is considered “Traditional,” meaning the author is unknown. Jimmy Page got the idea for this after hearing the version by California folk singer Fred Gerlach.

The lyrics are about a man trying to delay his hanging until his friends and family can rescue him. Although there are many versions of this song, Led Zeppelin’s is unusual in that it ends with the hangman hanging the protagonist despite all of his bribes. Most other versions end with the hangman setting the protagonist free.

A similar folk song called “Slack Your Rope” was sung by an Arkansan named Jimmie Driftwood. He adapted the words from a fifteenth century British Ballad when any crime could be paid off with money right up to the last step of the gallows. In his version, the criminal is definitely a woman and her lover rides up and pays her fee.

This is the only Led Zeppelin song that features a banjo. Jimmy Page wrote it on a banjo he borrowed from John Paul Jones. He had never played the banjo before.

Page played the 6 and 12-string guitars as well as the banjo on this. Jones played mandolin and bass.

This is Page’s favorite song on Led Zeppelin III.

The band used some lines from this on their 1975 song “Trampled Underfoot.”

This is a rare Led Zeppelin song that speeds up as it goes along, a technique Jimmy Page also used on “Stairway To Heaven.”

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