The Leapfrog Hook: Led Zeppelin, “Heartbreaker” live (1972)

Led Zeppelin 2Here’s one more post on Led Zeppelin dedicated to my Hooks colleague and keen Zeppelin analyst Andrew Goodwin (1956-2013).[1]

Music is always an expectation game. Every new event plays on what should have or could have come from every event prior.

A pleasingly brazen way to play the game is to perform a hit song, taking for granted that listeners know the words and are ready to repeat them, and then at some auspicious point sing something else, launching an extra event by leapfrogging over the song’s obedient back.

In Led Zeppelin’s 1972 Long Beach performance of “Heartbreaker,” Robert Plant starts in on “the way you call me another guy’s name when I try to make love to you,” but at “name” he uses the energy of the line’s melodic ascent to repeat that word, that high note, over and over—he can’t get past the guy’s name! and yet musically he’s leaping forward, catapulting his furious relationship with his rival over his futile attempt to make love.[2]


This makes a nice little model of the whole Led Zeppelin project as a leapfrogging of the blues.


[1] See his Hooks posts on “Black Dog” and “Whole Lotta Love.”

[2] At 1:32 on track 3, disc 1 of How The West Was Won.


About Steve Smith

Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies and Director of Film Studies at Millsaps College
This entry was posted in Arrangements and Sounds, Rock Aesthetics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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