Achilles Last Stand

Pres­ence, 1976

Classic Rock - - Led Zeppelin -

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

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