Four Sticks

Album: Led Zeppelin 4 (1971)

Songfacts®:

  • 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."
  • This was released as the B-side of Rock And Roll. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France

Comments: 60

  • Laurie Presler from Newaygo Michigan UsaI believe ther whole album is about women, 4 sticks is about a women having her monthly period ( red river)
    then going into menopausal stage if a women life
    (river runs dry how do you feel)
    I have been looking for meaning to this song and have not found it...
    so this is how I feel about this song and its beautiful.
  • Rick from Indianausing 2 drum sticks in each hand may be difficult, but there are other percussion instruments, like the marimba that's played with two mallot type sticks in each hand, each member of Led Zeppelin were outstanding musicians who worked together to complete complicated music. Page was an electrical genious, who also was the first to remaster and create the Box set, still being a trend setter. Zeppelin is my generations answer to Beethovan, and Bach. they were so far ahead of their time, the music they recorded will be remembered for all of time.4 sticks is a great song and I don't rank any song over another, every album had something attractive , alot of bands now have a few good songs then the rest are thrown in for fill, Led Zeppelin albums are filled with great music. ok I'm done....
  • George In ColoradoThis song has always moved me, and that I love, loved Robert at the end and the lyrics, we all might see the rivers run dry in are lifetime, one of them let it all hang out bloody tunes, good job mates!!
  • Patti from MichiganI have always loved this track, and am glad to find out that it's called Four Sticks because it was played with four drum sticks. That's been a guess on my part for years. It's got that driving beat and melody that draw me in like a magnet. Love the synthesizer. JPJ did a fantastic job. Mad props.
  • Lee.h.swan from Saskatoon SkFor all you crap head Led-Zeppelin haters out there that don't think they where the "Greatest" rock band out there at the time or don't think they were the four greatest musicians of there time (the best there's ever been period) Jimmy was one of, if not THE most saute after studio mission in all of London by the time he was 20 yrs old. he wrote and played on music for Cream, Velvet underground even the bloody Beatles...Read "When Giants Walked the Earth" "Hammer of the Gods" Oh ya and by the way anybody that DON"T think BONZO was and is the best there's ever been Try doing(including Niel Peart Keith Moon Buddy Rich) "Four Sticks......case closed
  • Kwami from Washington Dc, DcAlways 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.
  • Juicy from Halifax, United KingdomActually, I think it was "and the boots of those who march". Not sure though, and great job, @Adrian!
  • Jesse from Madison, WiWhat 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.
  • Bryan from Balanga, Philippines@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".
  • Thomas from Nyc, IlAdrian 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.
  • Bill from Midlithian , Txcody: 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.
  • Peter Griffin from Quahog, RiThey didn't, it was played in '71, not '70.
  • Cody from Elmira, Nywhy wouuld they play it on their 1970 tour when the song wasnt released until 1971 on led zeppelin 4?
  • Jesse from East Setauket, Ny, NyWhile 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.
  • Dennis from Jupiter, FlJohn 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!!!
  • Melanie from Seattle, WaNot the best song ever, but still awesome. It's impossible to have a bad Zeppelin song. Bonham's drumming is on FIRE!!!! WOW.
  • Bill from Topeka, KsGood Song but it does get a liitle boring towards the end
  • Ed from York, PaPlant's voice was unusually high pitched in this song
  • Alex from Yorkton , CanadaThis 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!
  • Barry from Gagetown Nb CanadaAny true Led Zeppelin fan , such as myself , will surely say ... " I have never heard a Led Zeppelin song I did'nt like !!!"
  • Mike from Riverside, Cafirst 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.
  • Ed from Newport, CaThis song should not be considered the weakest one of the album. I like it third best on the album.
  • Joe from Oakdale, MnYeah 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.
  • Jeremy from Madison, AlCaitlin 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). :)
  • Kevin from Whitby, CanadaDid anyone else notice the length of the song is 4:44. Interesting because the song is called FOUR sticks.
  • Amy from Dallas, TxI agree with some people here, its my least favorite off the album..
  • Chris from Whitesboro, NyI can't believe that Peter didn't catch this one. Four Sticks was played live in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1971, not '70.
  • Nick from Solvang, Came+four sticks+when the levee breaks+misty mountain hop= YAY
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI don't care what anyone says. This song is great, but "When The Levy Breaks" is my favorite.
  • David from Orlando, FlLed Zeppelin IV truly kicks @ss if people think this is the "weakest" song on the album.
  • Jeremy from Warren , RiKeith 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!
  • Brad from Pittsburgh, PaPlant's vocals were sped up slightly. That's why his voice isn't powerful as it usually is.
  • Nathan from Jacksonville, FlOut 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.
  • Peter from Everett, MaThis was re-recorded in an unknown studio in Bombay, India in March of 1972.
  • Dave from Las Vegas, Nvahem: 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.
  • Chad from Reading, PaFour 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.
  • Nick from Solvang, CaI think this has to be one of the best song on "Zoso" next to misty mountain hop
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScI 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 from Rock Hill, ScJason 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.
  • Michael from Charlestown, RiI 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.
  • Aaron from Cleveland, Ohi 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
  • Jude from Szombathely, HungaryIt 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:)
  • R0zz3r from Somerset, EnglandI 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.
  • Bruce from Melbourne, AustraliaI'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).
  • Jeff from Detroit, MiThis 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.
  • Liam from Campbell River, CanadaI agree with Brian: Worst song offa the best album
  • Angela from Auckland, New Zealandcan 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.
  • Chris from Mt Dora, Flhave you ever played the game "passing through the netherlands"? Its a cool egyptian game and it uses four sticks for turns, instead of dice.
  • Mike from Richmond, VaBonham is my favorite drummer of all time. Keith Moon is close, but Bonham is amazing.
  • Mike from Santa Cruz, CaHenry Rollins reminds me of a cab-driver strangling someone who drove too slow in the fast lane when I hear him sing Four Sticks.
  • Caitlin from Philadelphia, PaAlso...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 from Philadelphia, PaFour 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?
  • Jason from Monterrey, MexicoThe four sticks is also a refrence to the band.
  • Bob from Mt. Laurel, NjI've heard when they played it live, Bonham flipped all the sticks in theair and caught them
  • Paulo from New York, NyMaybe it was simply two sticks in each hand.
  • Jonathan from Ann Arbor, MiActually 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.
  • Adrian from Wilmington, DeHow 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.
  • Chris from Wayne, PaThe intro riff is in 5/8 and it flows seamlessly into 6/8 after a few repititions.
  • Ashley from Charleston, WvFirst 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."
  • Brian from Paoli, InUgh, the worst song on the best album of all time :(
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