Most of us – at least, those over the age of 30 – have heard Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” time and again. This classic was originally entitled, “Driving to Kashmir.” In the lyrics, Kashmir indeed refers to the Northwestern India region long disputed between India, Pakistan and China.
Through Kashmir’s words, you can imagine the desert drive these world-famous band members endured through the Spanish Sahara of southern Morocco, while on tour in the early 1970s. During that journey, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant started writing the masterful work still considered one of Plant’s all-time favorites. In fact, all surviving members of the group look back on this quintessential Zeppelin song as their best.
What many people forget, or never even realized, is that until Kashmir released in 1975, Zeppelin faced harsh judgment from rock critics. With the unveiling of this impeccable work, however, those critics fell into line like camels in a caravan.
In Plant’s lyrics, you can feel the desert heat and see the sand as it drifts across the seemingly never-ending road the band bumped along in their bus:
Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream
I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been
To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen
They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed
Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace, whose sounds caress my ear
But not a word I heard could I relate, the story was quite clear
Oh, I been flying… mama, there ain’t no denyin’
I’ve been flying, ain’t no denyin’, no denyin’
All I see turns to brown, as the sun burns the ground
And my eyes fill with sand, as I scan this wasted land
Trying to find, trying to find where I’ve been.
Oh, pilot of the storm who leaves no trace, like thoughts inside a dream
Leave the path that led me to that place, yellow desert stream
My Shangri-La beneath the summer moon, I will return again
Sure as the dust that floats high in June, when movin’ through Kashmir.
Oh, father of the four winds, fill my sails, across the sea of years
With no provision but an open face, along the straits of fear
When I’m on, when I’m on my way, yeah
When I see, when I see the way, you stay-yeah
Ooh, yeah-yeah, ooh, yeah-yeah, when I’m down…
Ooh, yeah-yeah, ooh, yeah-yeah, well I’m down, so down
Ooh, my baby, oooh, my baby, let me take you there
Let me take you there. Let me take you there℗ 2007 Atlantic Recording Corporation for the United States and WEA International Inc. for the world outside of the United States. Producer: Jimmy Page | Writer: John Bonham | Writer: Jimmy Page | Writer: Robert Plant
In truth, the descriptive landscape of this song provides the backdrop for deeper thought, Plant’s reflections on the band’s journey until that time. Still, as the song requests, “Let me take you there,” they do take you to that time and place. You can imagine yourself in that hot bus in 1972, churning along to Bombay as sand blows through open windows, some of the grit getting into your eyes.
As you play Kashmir, take in Paige Bradley’s incredible work entitled, “Expansion,” part of her Metamorphosis series of sculptural work. It was clearly created with one aspect of India’s culture and a certain transcendence in mind. Few works of art exist that serve as the perfect accompaniment to Led Zeppelin’s own lyrical metamorphosis. But this one? This one works.
In Bradley’s piece, you sense the expansion and evolution of the subject, as she spiritually travels time and space.
Of the work, Bradley says, ” From the moment we are born, the world tends to have a container already built for us to fit inside: A social security number, a gender, a race, a profession or an I.Q. I ponder if we are more defined by the container we are in, rather than what we are inside. Would we recognize ourselves if we could expand beyond our bodies? Would we still be able to exist if we were authentically ‘un-contained?'”
For the answers to these questions, one might defer to Robert Plant and his band mates. Plant might very well say, ” Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream. I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been. To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen. They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed.”
Take us there. Take us there.
You can find Paige Bradley’s incredible work at PaigeBradley.com. As for Zeppelin, you know where to find them. If you do not, just wait. They find all of us.
Check out more Sight & Sound couplings of music with art in Roulez Magazine.