Achilles Last Stand
Having used up their backlog of material on Physical Graffiti, the sixth Zep album would have to be built from the ground up. One of the first tracks to take shape was Achilles Last Stand, the lengthy opus that opens Presence’s
side one. Built on the sort of strident guitar figure that bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden would later build careers out of – Page attempting to create something, he said, that reflected “the façade of a gothic building with layers of tracery and statues” – Achilles Last Stand also featured the first of a string of intensely autobiographical lyrics Plant now felt compelled to write.
Originally nicknamed The Wheelchair Song – in tragi-comic recognition of the fact the singer was now wheelchair-bound following the 1975 car crash that nearly killed him – the subject, in this instance, was the enforced exile that had forced the band to become what Page later described as “technological gypsies” and led indirectly, Plant seemed to suggest, to their current malaise. ‘The devil’s in his hole!’ he wailed balefully.
Page later described his guitar solo as “in the same tradition as the solo from Stairway to Heaven”. In truth, few would now agree, but he insisted: “It is on that level to me.” MW