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Four Sticks

by

Led Zeppelin



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

This song was named because drummer John Bonham played it with four drumsticks - two in each hand. He only recorded two takes of the song, because, as Jimmy Page says, "it was physically impossible for him to do another."
Like their song "Black Mountain Side," this contains elements of Indian music. A year later, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant recorded a new version of the song (along with "Friends") with local musicians when they traveled to Bombay. Page and Plant weren't happy with the recordings, and they were never officially released. They can be found on bootlegs called The Bombay Sessions.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant wrote this song before heading to the Headley Grange mansion in Hampshire, England to record it with the rest of the band. The song was very difficult to record, and the shifting beats were very unusual. The end result was an oddity. Said Page: "It was supposed to be abstract."
A lot of work was done on this song at Island Studios in London, where overdubs were added. The vocals were heavily processed and given an electronic sound, and a synthesizer solo was added to the second middle eight section.

Engineer Andy Johns put a compressor on the drums when he recorded them, which made mixing the track very difficult for him (you can't uncompress a track if the effect doesn't sound right). "It was a bastard to mix," he said.
Led Zeppelin played this live only once, in Denmark on their 1970 European tour.
When the band was developing this song at Headley Grange, John Bonham was getting quite frustrated with it, but this led to a breakthrough. After downing a beer, he blasted out a riff patterned after the intro to Little Richard's 1957 song "Keep a Knockin'," which featured acclaimed session drummer Earl Palmer on the skins. Jimmy Page quickly came up with a guitar riff, and they had a completely different song on their hands. They postponed work on "Four Sticks" and started working up this new song, which turned out to be "Rock And Roll."
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Comments (55):

Always loved this song. One of the tunes I learned to play 12-string on. The last part took me a loooong time, but it was worth it.
- Kwami, Washington DC, DC
Actually, I think it was "and the boots of those who march". Not sure though, and great job, @Adrian!
- Juicy, Halifax, United Kingdom
What kind of fool would say this is the worst song? Idiot! This song prominently featured the Moog synthesizer, which appeared on many Zep tunes beginning with their III album. JPJ was hip to new sounds and made that synthesizer known on many more Zep songs than what are known. This one is features that Moog perhaps more prominently than say - Kashmir. Yes, it was in there. A synthesizer. A "weak" song? Perhaps more realistically, "weak" listeners vs. "weak" songs. Every band needs to explore, and Zep did that in spades. Otherwise, go back to your Britney Spears if you need two-dimensional pop.
- Jesse, Madison, WI
@Adrian. i also tried looking for the last lyrics on the web coz its my fave, but to no avail.. i think your right on, except maybe it was "it can hold the wrath of those who war".
- bryan, Balanga, Philippines
Adrian from DE.
Whatever he sings there...it is my favorite part.
And, why it is not mentioned anywhere else has always been a mystery to me.
I could never piece it together.
So...Thanks for your contribution.
- Thomas, NYC, IL
cody: you are correct it was done live in 1971. But BEFORE the album was released. In fact in the intro Plant says they have not named it yet.
- Bill, midlithian , TX
They didn't, it was played in '71, not '70.
- Peter Griffin, Quahog, RI
why wouuld they play it on their 1970 tour when the song wasnt released until 1971 on led zeppelin 4?
- cody, elmira, NY
While not a favorite of my mine, its done really well on the Page/Plant live concert on "No Quarter". Great Stuff. While on same CD/DVD, The Battle of Evermore and Friends will blow you away.
- jesse, East Setauket, NY, NY
John Bonham is awesome! 2nd best drummer of all time. Only Neil Peart of Rush surpasses Bonham. I would love to hear Neil give 4 sticks a go!!!
- Dennis, Jupiter, FL
Not the best song ever, but still awesome. It's impossible to have a bad Zeppelin song. Bonham's drumming is on FIRE!!!! WOW.
- Melanie, Seattle, WA
Good Song but it does get a liitle boring towards the end
- Bill, Topeka, KS
Plant's voice was unusually high pitched in this song
- Ed, York, PA
This is the best song ever.
And then The Ocean and The Song Remains the Same.
The whole album is amazing! I can't understand why anyone thinks this is the worst song on the album, but I can see how you love the other songs, I love all of Zeppelin's songs, and which is my favorite has changed about 8 times, but right now this is it!
- Alex, Yorkton , Canada
Any true Led Zeppelin fan , such as myself , will surely say ... " I have never heard a Led Zeppelin song I did'nt like !!!"
- Barry, Gagetown NB Canada
first of all, in terms of weakness on Led Zeppelin IV, it goes like this: Stairway To Heaven is the strongest song on there. the other 7 are tied for 2nd strongest. Four Sticks is a beautiful piece of music. the absolute genius of john bonham on this track does put it par with when the levve breaks and kashmir. and the acoustic guitar/synthesizer solo in the middle is genuinely gorgeous. i myself have played in bands that have covered this song and i swear i get LOUD response from the people who hear it. its not fair to say that four sticks is the weakest song on the album. its holds up quite well to the rest of the pack.
- Mike, Riverside, CA
This song should not be considered the weakest one of the album. I like it third best on the album.
- ed, newport, CA
Yeah I can hear the sticks clicking against eachother thoughout most of the song. BTW with e 4:44 lengh it really depends on where you got the song. The one I have is 4:45 and ther ecould be a 4:43 version you never know.
- Joe, Oakdale, MN
Caitlin and Paulo, Bonham did play this song with two drumsticks in each hand. If you really listen to the drums (and I guess it's easier for me to pick up on since I'm a drummer) it has a distinct, unique sound that you really don't hear in other Zeppelin songs. It almost sounds like the two drumsticks in one hand aren't hitting the drumhead at the same time. I've tried playing this song with four drumsticks, it is not easy (or comfortable). :)
- Jeremy, Madison, AL
Did anyone else notice the length of the song is 4:44. Interesting because the song is called FOUR sticks.
- Kevin, Whitby, Canada
I agree with some people here, its my least favorite off the album..
- Amy, Dallas, TX
I can't believe that Peter didn't catch this one. Four Sticks was played live in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1971, not '70.
- Chris, Whitesboro, NY
me+four sticks+when the levee breaks+misty mountain hop= YAY
- Nick, Solvang, CA
I don't care what anyone says. This song is great, but "When The Levy Breaks" is my favorite.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
Led Zeppelin IV truly kicks @ss if people think this is the "weakest" song on the album.
- David, Orlando, FL
Keith Moon is not even close to Bonham, not even the same style, Moon didn't even own a hi-hat! Bonham, Moon = Apples and Oranges!
- Jeremy, Warren , RI
Plant's vocals were sped up slightly. That's why his voice isn't powerful as it usually is.
- Brad, Pittsburgh, PA
Out of the eight tracks on "Zoso", I would rank this song #7th, not because it's bad--it's just that the other tracks kick so much "A". Personally speaking, I would nominate "the battle of evermore" for worst ZOSO track. As much as I try I can't get into that song.
- Nathan, Jacksonville, FL
This was re-recorded in an unknown studio in Bombay, India in March of 1972.
- Peter, Everett, MA
ahem: alternating bars of 5/4 & 6/8 respectively & a lyric which cries foul of our ever increasingly 'McWorld' reality (sic)..Some folks can't get over the mix on this song which partially suffers from the bass guitar being tracked with a fixed compression setting -- making it hard to mix later & as a result is sometimes a bit tubby in the mix,..... but the adveturous use of panning the drums & cymbals (panned throughout while being subgrouped or mixed) compared to the stark contrast of acoustic & electric guitars hardpanned.
The class A chimey guitars of the devilish Page (temprarily shifting in the chorus & bridge to spell-out IV Dom. add 9's, II Dominant add 6 chords & add 9 chords) resonating with the tape flanged synths/organs of John Paul Jones building the bridge into more sonic architechture than mere pop song.
No it doesn't have the wallop of 'Levee' or the grace of 'Stairway', but it is assuredly one of the most adventurous songs on the album, if only from a compositional point of view.
- Dave, Las Vegas, NV
Four Sticks is an amazing song. I like it much better than Stairway. It was played live too. It was at the KB Hallen in Copenhagen, Denmark on May 3, 1971. I have heard the bootleg containing it. It was even better live then in the studio as with most Zeppelin material.
- Chad, Reading, PA
I think this has to be one of the best song on "Zoso" next to misty mountain hop
- Nick, Solvang, CA
I can see why Bonnam would have played it with two sets of drum sticks. During certain parts of the song, you can hear the drum sticks in his clicking against each other.
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
Jason from Mexico. I know which band refverence you're talking about. Apparently, critics thought that Led zeppelin were 'four sticks' in the mud.. Meaning that they weren't that great.
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
I think that if this song was on almost any other album, it would receive a lot more recognition for being the great song that it is. Also, it follows up misty mountain hop well.
- Michael, Charlestown, RI
i think this song is pretty amazing, i get tired of stairway and misty mountain hop, and evenm y favorite when the levee breaks...the drive in this song is sweet
- aaron, cleveland, OH
It might be the worst on Untitled, but on an album liek that it doesn't mean it's bad, it's just that the others are better. At least that's how I see it cos I simply LOVE this song:)
- Jude, Szombathely, Hungary
I don't care what others think, this is a great song. Also although it hasn't been played live in full, listen to the Whole Lotta Love medley on disc 2 of BBC sessions. you can CLEARLY hear Bonham playing some of the Four Sticks beat about 2 mins in.
- r0zz3r, Somerset, England
I've just registered to express my disbelief at the opinions here. It's the best song on the album - maybe their best full-stop (period).
- Bruce, Melbourne, Australia
This a decent song. It isn't "horrible" like some you have said. However, it does sound bad when listened in context in the album. I would compare Four Sticks to an average looking woman lost at a model's convention.
- jeff, detroit, MI
I agree with Brian: Worst song offa the best album
- Liam, Campbell River, Canada
can i jst say 'lyk father lyk son' jason bonham is an AMAZING drummer, NEARLY as amazing as the real deal john, but i gess its quite hard to live up to sucha great musician.
- angela, auckland, New Zealand
have you ever played the game "passing through the netherlands"? Its a cool egyptian game and it uses four sticks for turns, instead of dice.
- chris, mt dora, FL
Bonham is my favorite drummer of all time. Keith Moon is close, but Bonham is amazing.
- Mike, Richmond, VA
Henry Rollins reminds me of a cab-driver strangling someone who drove too slow in the fast lane when I hear him sing Four Sticks.
- Mike, Santa Cruz, CA
Also...they never played it live. There is a quote by John Paul Jones has a quote in the book I've read saying that Four Sticks was a very hard song for all of them to play (mainly John Bonham). So much so that they never dared to play in at a concert.
- Caitlin, Philadelphia, PA
Four Sticks is an amazing song by Led Zeppelin. Anyone who says otherwise obviously doesn't know what they are talking about. It takes a lot of talent to play this song.

I'm a huge fan of John Bonham and I'm pretty sure that he played two sticks in each hand...not four...otherwise the song would be called Eight Sticks, right?
- Caitlin, Philadelphia, PA
The four sticks is also a refrence to the band.
- Jason, monterrey, Mexico
I've heard when they played it live, Bonham flipped all the sticks in theair and caught them
- Bob, Mt. Laurel, NJ
Maybe it was simply two sticks in each hand.
- Paulo, New York, NY
Actually Chris, the intro riff is in 5/4 and it gos into 3/4 for the other part. Not 5/8 to 6/8. It's easy to make that mistake though. Also, how the hell did Bonzo play it with 2 sets of 4 sticks? That just dosn't make sense to me.
- Jonathan, Ann Arbor, MI
How come on almost every website I look at, the last verse of this song is left out?! Plant actually does sing words before going into his extended moan. From what I've gathered, the lyrics (which begin right after the synthesizer solo) are "Wooo yeah, brave I endure/Wooo yeah, strong shields of lore/We can't hold a wrath with those who walk/And the groups of those who marched/Baby, through the roads of times so long ago" Anyone feel free to correct me.
- Adrian, Wilmington, DE
The intro riff is in 5/8 and it flows seamlessly into 6/8 after a few repititions.
- Chris, Wayne, PA
First off, I don't know how anyone can say this is a bad song. It is a flat-out masterpiece. My only other comment is that Henry Rollins did an impressive cover of it on the Led Zepp tribute album "Encomium."
- ashley, Charleston, WV
Ugh, the worst song on the best album of all time :(
- Brian, Paoli, IN
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