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What Is And What Should Never Be

by

Led Zeppelin



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

The production makes liberal use of stereo as the guitars pan back and forth between channels. The vocals were phased during Robert Plant's screaming part.
This was one of Plant's first songs recorded by the band, and also marks the first appearance of drummer John Bonham's Chinese gong, which he set up as part of his drum kit in concerts. The gong appears in the middle part among Jimmy Page's guitar riffs. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Led Zeppelin played this live from 1969 to 1972. (thanks, Adrian - Wilmington, DE)
According to the book Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga, Plant wrote this song reflecting on his affair with his wife's younger sister.
The song was one of the first debut appearances of Jimmy Page's Gibson Les Paul guitar. The guitar is heard here hopping back and forth between stereo channels.
In Billy Joel's 1997 appearance in VH1's Storytellers, Joel plunks this out as part of his medley-intro to "We Didn't Start The Fire."
The Led Zeppelin DVD contains a live version of "What Is And What Should Never Be" performed at the Royal Albert Hall.
Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin Artistfacts
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Comments (59):

What a song! Another great zeppelin song. First time i heard it surprised me every time the chourse ends and the new verse begin...this song makes you sad,angry,happy and relaxed at the same time.....THANK GOD THERE IS LED ZEPPELIN!
- Natu, Addis ababa, Ethiopia
I think the guitar panning back and forth between channels is the coolest thing that Page and Zeppelin ever did to a song. A unique feature to the second track on Led Zeppelin II.
- Thomas, Roswell, NM
That first solo by Page is so smooth, simply amazing
- David, Los Angeles , CA
Instant Classic.

Led Zeppelin, Nuff Said'
- Jimmy, Winnipeg, MB, MB
Old Pink, I think you're confused about the bow. That's slide guitar. No bow.
- Bryan, Morgantown, KY
Between 2:30 and 2:31 in the studio version we can hear something weird.
- Olivier, Alma, QC
This isn't a weird song, it's a GROOVE then a ROCK. One of my favorites. Puts you in a mellow mood. Makes you want to... even if you never have. Use your imagination. Doesn't have to make sense. That's the beauty. You get it.
- Tracy, Tulsa, OK
Speaking as someone who tends to enjoy spooky bits, this one is a favorite.
Really creepy effects at the beginning, and the fiddle bow Page uses is so obvious that even a novice could figure out what it is.
- oldpink, New Castle, IN
Actually Kris, I'm currently listening to this song and it sounds nothing like how you've described it.
- Rea, Monticello, AR
Well, Peter Griffin,
Well i know that it's not what the lyrics say...
but it really sounds like that
and who knows what Robert might of thought when he wrote the lyrics...
- Kris, Tallinn, --
This was played live from 1969-1972.
- Peter Griffin, Quahog, RI
What Is and What Should Never Be has held-up far better than Whole Lotta Love over the yrs & remains my favorite LZ song. Michael, OKC, 4-15-08
- michael, okla. city, OK
NO, KRISTJAN. It's "and you will be mine, by taking our time". You have it wrong.
- Peter Griffin, Quahog, RI
"That you will be mad, by taking a tab" ...


Isn't that a reference to acid ?
- Kristjan, Tallinn, Finland
great song.

my favorite zeppelin songs.
1- the ocean. 2-since ive been lovin you 3.going to california 4. the rain song 5. stairway


does Plant improvise the lyrics in the end?
- paul, columbia, SC
This song is deeply personal for me. This year, I fell in love with my best friend, against my will, and all my friends kept telling me to get over her, because it was never going to happen. They kept telling me she saw me as a twin sister. Whenever, I got down about the whole I played this song, because it basically partained to my whole plight. I totally relate to the last line, "Everybody I know seems to know me well, but they're never gonna know, 'cause I move like hell." Everyone I know seems to think they have a handle on my whole situation, but I think I'm gonna surprise them. Anyway, excellent song, one of Zeppelin's best.
- Rob, Detroit , MI
I disagree Melanie. He loved them both, I believe.
- Peter Griffin, Quahog, RI
i agree with jeanette, dhani and mark. it has gotta be the most relaxing song out there. i could be totally irate and hear this song and just about fall to my knees. but really, does it really matter what this song is about? it could be about his sister-in-law, his mom, his hatred of big band or whatever you want it to be. all i need to know is that this song is pure rock genius. i love it. probably my favorite zeppelin song.
- jack, Claremont, MN
I dont think Plant wrote it about his wife's younger sister, that would be quite weird especially since this is on the same album as "Thank You," which he wrote for his wife. Anyway, it's a great song.
- Melanie, Seattle, WA
My top 5 favorite zeppelin songs 1. Dazed and Confused 2. Achillies Last Stand 3. Misty Mountain Hop 4. Going To California 5. Since I've Been Loving You. Then again arent all of Zeppelins songs the greatest?
- Axl, Kilgore, TX
You gotta love the ending line, "Ev'rybody I know seems to know me well, but they're never gonna know 'cause I'm gonna move like hell!" Funny stuff.
- Peter Griffin, Quahog, RI
great tune drums come in and hop out and plants whails throught out the whole sond
- Bill, Topeka, KS
This is pretty good music right here. not my favorite, but it keeps you interested
- Dan, Detroit, MI
That's really odd, that Robert Plant wrote this song about his longing for his wife's little sister! Makes sense... oh, and my top 5? Well, that would be: 5.Babe I'm Gonna Leave You 4.You Shook Me 3.What Is And What Should Never Be 2.Hey Hey What Can I Do and 1.Dazed and Confused. That's good, I think.
- Bryan, Super Zero, SC
Robert Plant's vocals are just amazing in the beginning...I love it. His new stuff [The Strange Sensation] is awesome too but I have to be honest..not as good as back then. Led Zeppelin kicks all butt.
- Erin, Edm, United States
This is the best song to listen to in your car!
Swirling all around your head!
It really is one of the best produced Zeppelin's songs! I luv it!



PJ
- PJ, OKC, OK
last lines of this song are written "Everybody I know seems to know me well
--but does anybody know Im gonna move like hell
--but theyre never gonna know cause I move like hell." However it really sounds to me like "but they're never gonna know what a fool I am." I take that to mean old Robbie is a fool in love. Anybody else hear it different?
- mark, worcester, MI
David Corino, Hawley, PA- I agree 100 % about the Page solo. It's so gentle. If I'm in the right mood, and take the time to really get into this song, then the Page solo can bring a tear to my eye. There is much more to Page than screaming riffs. It's a perfect solo to a really touching song. I think had the band gone on we would have heard more of this type of thing.
- mark, worcester, MI
in my opinion its about an affair but plant has never agreed or disagreed that its personal about him and his wife's sis
- Jules, sickelrville, NJ
i dont want to say any one led zeppelin song is my favorite because they are all godly in their own way, but i'd have to say that everything about this song is so incredibly perfect and it has just about every aspect of led zep's music integrated into one song
- Max, Brockton, MA
Farzad, Kelly, Jeanette, yes it's true the song was written for Shirley, Maureen's younger (by 2 years) sister. But he wasn't just lusting. Robert met Shirley first and wanted to be with her, but she couldn't deal with his rock-n-roll lifestyle (touring, philadering, etc.), so they split. He got with Maureen, had Carmen and Karac, etc. Shirley married a local blues club owner and they all hung out in the same neighborhood for years, even going on holiday together. Later he wrote "Rain Song" and "Ten Years Gone" and "Like I've Never Been Gone" and "Greatest Gift" (solos) for Shirley. He never stopped loving her. They finally got together in 1983 after he and Maureen divorced, had a child in 1991, and split shortly thereafter. I met Shirley in England when I went to visit Robert and she was wonderful. I can see why he was smitten for her. The whole thing was quite a scandel back then, but they're all friends now from what I hear from my friends in England.
- amy, Silver Spring, MD
The inspiration for this recording must've come from some very, very faraway place. It has the trappings of a blues song, but it breaks all the rules and invents some new ones. It takes all sorts of surprise twists and turns and you have to just listen with your eyebrows raised in surprise. And then it's a blues song again... What other recording anywhere is like this? Maybe something off of Dark Side of the Moon from a few years later. This one would definitely be on my Top 5 list of Zepp tunes. I can't tell you what the other 4 would be because that would be too limiting. But somewhere on the list, there would be this one.
- dirk, Nashville, TN
I know what you mean, Jeanette. I really like the part when he says "So if you wake up with the sunrise". It's so oddly relaxing...
- Dhani, Casselberry, FL
this song is about page's obsession with children think about it
- alex, cleveland, OH
I don't think it's possible to make a top five list of Zeppelin songs. There are just too many great ones. The same goes for the Beatles.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
Is it just me or does this site tend to post opinion and not fact about the song or its meaning. Anyway, for anyone who was searching for the meaning, this song is about questioning the theory of "everything happens for a reason". The whole chorus basically leave if you wish(in reference to a girlfriend or something), but if something holds you back maybe it was meant to be.
- jared, westmont, NJ
There is no way I can make a top 5 list of Zeppelin songs that I am completely happy with. There are just way to many choices. I could, however, make a list of 5 songs I don't like as much as the rest. It would be a hard task, of course, but if I put some real effort into it, then just maybe... ;)
- Brynj�lfur, Hafnarfjörður, Iceland
My favourites are:
1.Stairway To Heaven
2.Tangerine
3.Friends
4.The Ocean
5.Ramble On
- olivia, Perth, Australia
Whoa...i would have never guessed this song was about Maureen's little sis..but how old was she?
- Lysistrata, Bronx, NY
for some reason...i LOVE the part where he says "and if i said to you tomorrow" in the beginning. and i know its about his lustings for his wifes sister or whatever but i always think of it as someone wanting to just sort of throw away their life and sort of do something crazy that they know they'll never do, in this case the whole wifes little sister thing. come on, everyones secretly wished to trash their life and do something exciting SOMETIME or other.
- Jeanette, Irvine, CA
1.stairway to heaven
2.whole lotta love
3.Kashmir
4.what is and never should be

those are mine how about yours
- nick, houlton, ME
o yeah and this song shows plant's genius.
- Jeanette, Irvine, CA
its about his wifes sister because its saying it would be fun to totally give up his life and go somewhere with her, but then thats totally impossible. i just don't get the last line "but does anybody know i'm gonna move like hell".
- Jeanette, Irvine, CA
weird about it being about his wife's sister. o well it makes sense i guess. well anyways i love this song!!!!!!!!!!! i wouldn't exactly put it as a FAVORITE, but i'd put it as a favorite if that makes any sense.
- Jeanette, Irvine, CA
For some strange reason, I love Pages solo in this song
- David Corino, Hawley, PA
God, this song is wonderful!
I have no idea about the meaning off the lyric either.. And I don't understand how it could be about Roberts afair with his wifes sister. That's wierd.
Bye all you pretty people!
- Isa, Sthlm, Sweden
I love Led Zeppelin and i think that tis song is one off their best.It's fantastic!!
But I don't really get what the text is about... Is it true that the lyric off this song is all about Roberts affair with his wifes sister??
Would be happy if someone could tell me her/his thoghy about it..

with love from sweden
- t, Göteborg, Sweden
I love this song! One of zeppelins originals and its mad good
- jane, New York City, NY
I love this song! It was the first song i ever heard from led zeppelin. JImmy page does an awsome solo. It took me a while but try to hear the bass part during the solo. they first porfurmed it at royal albert hall in england.--nate waggoner
- nate, stockholm, Sweden
It's Jazz, Man!! The first song Led Zep played using Jazz as an influence and a refernece... With Psychodelic florishes, too! My dad was wigged out hearing it comin' outta my bedroom 20 Years after it came out and when I was just getting into this band!
- Dave, Oak Park, MI
Agree totally Dylan
- Jon, Chicago, IL
i looooove this song that's all there is to say
- sal, ny, NY
Jones plays the bass awesome in this song one of his greatest and the lemon song
- Dylan, marietta, PA
love it love it love it. plant is great at improvising lyrics at the end of their songs. Has anyone ever seen clips of the band playing their early songs such as this? Plant and Page were sooooo cute. Ah, if only I had a time machine.
- Amanda Craigie, winnipeg, Canada
"The vocals were phased during Robert Plant's screaming part." Not the screaming part, but the quiet verses.
- Pants, Calgary, Canada
Yeah Kelly, Plant was attracted to his wife's underage sister. This is referenced in the line, "Take my hand child come with me." Aside from that, this is a definite Zeppelin classic.
- Adrian, Wilmington, DE
farzad, you're sure? i do love this song. there is no band like led zeppelin, not even close.
- kelly, los angeles, CA
Man I love this song, Plant sounds as good here as he ever did.
- Brian, Paoli, IN
It's actually about Plant lusting after the sister of his wife, Maureen, and seeing for himself "what is and what should never be"
- Farzad, Gainesville, FL
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