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Robert Plant wrote the words to this acoustic song after reading a book on Scottish history. The lyrics are about the everlasting battle between night and day, which can also be interpreted as the battle between good and evil.
This is the only song Zeppelin ever recorded with a guest vocalist. Robert Plant felt he needed another voice to tell the story that plays out in the song, so Sandy Denny from Fairport Convention was brought in. Her vocals represent the people as the town crier, while Plant's voice is the narrator. Fairport Convention was a British folk group Zeppelin shared a bill with in 1970.
This collaboration with Sandy Denny marked the first time Robert Plant did a duet with a woman. In later years, he had tremendous success singing with Alison Krauss; their 2007 album Raising Sand won a Grammy award for Album of the Year.
Sandy Denny was given a symbol on the album sleeve - three pyramids - to thank her. The four members of Led Zeppelin each designed their own symbols for the album. Denny died in 1978 from a brain hemorrhage resulting from a fall down the stairs.
Jimmy Page wrote the music on a mandolin he borrowed from John Paul Jones. He explained to Guitar Player magazine in 1977: "On 'The Battle of Evermore,' a mandolin was lying around. It wasn't mine, it was Jonesey's. I just picked it up, got the chords, and it sort of started happening. I did it more or less straight off. But, you see, that's fingerpicking again, going back to the studio days and developing a certain amount of technique – at least enough to be adapted and used. My fingerpicking is a sort of cross between Pete Seeger, Earl Scruggs, and total incompetence."
Led Zeppelin rarely played this live, but when they did, John Paul Jones sang Sandy Denny's part.
Many J.R.R. Tolkien fans see the lyrics as a reference to his book Return Of The King
, where the lyrics could describe the Battle of Pelennor ("The drums will shake the castle wall, The ring wraiths ride in black"). Plant is a huge Tolkien fan, and referred to his books in "Ramble On" and "Misty Mountain Hop."
A lot of this fits the battle of the Pelennor fields: "At last the sun is shining, The clouds of blue roll by" - as Sauron's army and influence advanced the sky darkened and when he lost this battle it became light again. But a lot doesn't fit to that particular battle/book, including the part about the angels of Avalon, as Avalon was not from Tolkien's world but the legends of Merlin and King Arthur. The song is not completely about that battle but there are references to Lord Of The Rings
things like Ringwraiths and most of the song can be interpreted to be about it if you choose.
The word "Avalon" is Latin for "place with apples," and here is the part of the song Avalon is mentioned - "I'm waiting for the angels of Avalon, waiting for the eastern glow. The apples of the valley hold the seeds of happiness," so it may just mean "I'm waiting for the angels of place with apples."
Sound engineer Andy Johns said of the recording: "The band was sitting next to the chimney in Headley, drinking tea, when Jimmy grabbed a mandolin and started playing. I gave him a microphone and stuck a Gibson echo on his mandolin. Jimmy had brought this stuff before and had asked me to take a look at it. Suddenly Robert started singing and this amazing track was born from nowhere."