Hey, Hey What Can I Do

Album: Boxed Set (1970)

Songfacts®:

  • Until it was released on Led Zeppelin's boxed set in 1990, this could only be found in America on the B-side of "Immigrant Song" and in England on an Atlantic Records record sampler. It's scarcity added to its appeal and helped keep the song on classic rock playlists for many years.
  • This song was recorded with the intention of releasing it as a single. This was odd because Zeppelin put out very few singles in order to put a premium on albums.
  • Led Zeppelin never played this song live, although Jimmy Page and Robert Plant played it on their 1995 tour.
  • Hootie & the Blowfish recorded this for the 1995 Led Zeppelin tribute album Encomium. We know what you're thinking: How can this happen? Well, the album was organized by Led Zeppelin's label Atlantic Records, and guess who ended up with the best-selling album in the history of that label? Yep, Hootie & the Blowfish's debut album Cracked Rear View sold over 16 million copies.

Comments: 92

  • Greg from North Canton, OhNot a great fan of this song even though Zep rules supreme. I'm glad they left this off III and put Hats Off to Roy Harper on instead. Would never have said this 25 years ago. The song should be entitled Both Hats off to Robert Johnson.
  • Lou from New JerseyIf you don't think this song is about a hooker try calling any woman you know a "street corner girl" and watch how fast you get slapped.

    Everyone's entitled to their own opinion and interpretation, but let's keep it real, the song's about a hooker. Read the lyrics, I do not know what more Zep can write to make sure you know the song's about a pro. They call her a hooker 6 ways from Sunday over and over again. It's a great song. Say what you want about it, you'll never convince me this song's not about a hooker. As Freud said, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." Or apply Occam's Razor.

    But please, let's stop over thinking this song. As great as it is, (and it is great) it's just not all that deep. It's a fun song about some poor dude crying his heart out because it was broken by a prostitute. That's it. Men can get really weird when it comes to hookers as shown in The Who song "Trick of the Light." If you need to analyze something, analyze how Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken" is a song about a pro. It is, and it's much more circumspect than this song.
  • Hunter from IndianaI've always thought that the song is about a guy who falls in love with a hooker. From the reference to street corner girl and she works a midnight shift also the "she won't stay true" would make sense as well. It could mean that she does have sex for money but as well as she doesn't love him enough to stop doing it.
  • Till from LovelandRay Charles {rip},yet another icon never given his dues by the Zep... a wonderful ditty indeed, though.
  • Zoso from United StatesPatrick from St. Louis is right, this was played commonly on KSHE in St. Louis, so much that I was amazed others hadn't heard it as much. Didn't know it was a rarity. But KSHE was good at that.
  • Patrick from Saint Louis, MoI registered to this site just to comment about hey,hey what can i do. I am a huge fan of LZ and I live in a city (St. Louis) that at one time had the unprecedented best rock station in the mf'n world (KSHE 95). My point is I am damned sure that I have been listening to this song since I was a kid or my early teens I am 49 now!
  • Joezeppelin from Methuen, MaDon't know how long its been since these comments were made but this is for james from chicago.

    Hey James From Chicago, Hey hey What Can I do was never played by Led Zeppelin live! You say they played in 1972, I do not believe you have any audio of this. My Zeppelin collection consists of each and every show ever taped and its not in there. The only alternate versions appear on the studio outtakes which do not count as a live performance.

    If you ever read this please prove me wrong ! please post the date of the recording so we can sort this out for real.
  • Jared from North Wales, PaHey everybody. I think it is really neat there are a lot of you talking about this song. It is such a good song. Of course it angered me when I read this one particular comment stating that you have proven you have bad taste in music? Why because you like this song? Well you're a woman and this is a man's song. Most times It's difficult to understand women so I don't doubt it would be hard for you to understand this song. Anyway this song is helpful to me because I feel this way about someone and it gives a little comfort and strength to say well nothing to be done but keep on.
  • Kwami from Washington Dc, DcA friend of mine had the single to "Immigrant Song" and this was the B side. I had never heard it before, and still don't think I've heard it on the radio but a few times. Maybe because of its risque content. Then I heard the Hootie & the Blowfish cover quite a bit in the 90s, which absolutely failed. This isn't my favorite Zep tune by any means -- it certainly didn't fit LZIII thematically -- but I always enjoy hearing it, if only because it reminds me of the first time my friend played it for me. We laughed and laughed...
  • Thomas from Roswell, NmThis track is so good that it should have been placed on an album. Hey, Hey What Can I Do would have been a great fit on Led Zeppelin III.
  • Jeff from Greeley, CoI also agree with Jonathan. I think it is about a promiscuous girlfriend the singer had. The second verse talks about them going to church on Sunday morning. Why would a prostitute be going to church with one of her clients?
  • Kelly from Durango, CoI was just listening to "Hallejuha I Love Her So" by Ray Charles and it sounded very similar to this song, it even starts with the line "let me tell you bout a girl I know" and has another line that goes "every mornin 'fore the sun comes up" and in Zep's version it goes ' in the evening when the sun is sinking low" anyone else notice this before? Of course the lyrics in the other song are probably about a mutual love maybe Led Zeppelin was trying to paint a picture of someone whose desperate love is not returned by hinting a bit at this other song...just thought it was interesting! Also wanted to share my love for this song as well, love how the longing and frustration in the lyrics contrast with the beautiful, melodic uplifting guitar
  • Marcus from Fresno, CaThis was the first song i got into by led. i was a sophmore in h.s. back in 2003 and that just opened the door for all the led to come in. My favorite band even though they ripped off a bunch of songs from older blues artists. I still love em.
  • Heather from Los Angeles, CaYes, the song may be good to YOU. I'm referring to the rebuke the poster Carolyn has had to take from some pretty childish bloggers. As Duke Ellington said, "if it sounds good, it is good" meaning, music is a matter of taste. You anonymous bloggers that pick on people whose opinion is different from yours would not be so abusive if you weren't so...how shall we put it... anonymous. If she doesn't like Zep she can use this page like anyone else to tell us so. You might ask her why she thinks it's sexist. (Because actually, a lot of Zep IS) But no, that'd be too insightful. The rest of you seem to view these blog sites as your own personal property to verbally kick someone's ass although she's free to feel and post what she feels. And over what? A rock band. You guys remind me the religious right and their behavior towards anyone who disagrees with them.
  • Douglas from Gold Bar, WaThe reference to staying drunk all the time is not the woman. It is the malady he suffers from not having the woman he loves.
  • Brad from Lexington, KyThe first verse is the man expressing his love for a woman who's "drunk all the time". The second verse describes him discovering she's cheating on him. The third verse describes the man leaving her because "her daughter weren't mine". The chorus follows all three verses and describes the helpless feeling he gets in each situation - "Hey hey what can I do? I gotta woman, she won't be true."
  • Bill from Washington, Dc, DcSheer speculation as to what the song is really about. What is definite is that this song mixes blues and rock in a way that is difficult without a piano being the main instrument.
  • Mike from Madison, WiI believe that Jonathan (Rochester, NY) hits closest to the mark. As he asserts, the promiscuous girl of heartbreak need not walk the streets as a pro, since those descriptions of her as a "street corner girl," who works the "midnight shift" might issue, easily, from a frustrated and resentful lover as hyperbole for a cheating girlfriend. Been there. Jonathan's appraisal best accounts, as well, for the singer's possessiveness. Although the singer pines to make her 'all his, one day,' (and, thereby, admits that he has no monogamous hold upon her) his insistent claim to her, i.e., "I got a girl..." seems an incompatible reference to a prostitute.

    That said, the singer could simply have fallen in love with a prostitute. (As acknowledged by the Police, "Roxanne" posters). Thus, the singer's possession of her remains internal, a hope--but unrequited.
  • AnonymousCarolyn from Philly:

    You are entitled to an opinion of course, but your opinion is a reflection of your character. You have proved that you do not have good musical taste so your opinion is worthless.
  • Anna from Myrtle Beach, ScThis song is not thier best... but it is still good.
  • Peter Griffin from Quahog, RiHey, James, was it from an actual concert, or a soundcheck? And where was it from?
  • Sheldon from Surrey, Arthats hilarious i woke up to this song on my alarm clock this morning to! i love this song, such a mellow beat, and when i here it once, its in my head aaaalllllll day loooongg
  • James from Chicago, IlIt's on a bootleg I own, called "Led Zeppelin - Lighter Than Air"
  • Peter Griffin from Quahog, RiWhere was it performed live?
  • James from Chicago, IlThis is wrong, Hey Hey What Can I Do was in fact performed live by zeppelin in 72, i have the audio
  • Kellen from Springfield, Pamy 3 favorite Led Zep songs aren't played live!!!! Fool int eh Rain, D'yer ma'ker, and this!!!!!!!! I'd still go to a concert because i love over ten other songs by them.
  • John from Somewhere In, MaThis song is about a guy who loves a girl to death, but she is always drunk and is kinda a slut, but he loves her still and needs to tell her

    This song relates to my life, because i love this girl and i really need to tell her but she is like a sister to me so its hard...(except the drinking and slut part does not relate to me haha)
  • Peter Griffin from Quahog, RiThis is one of the biggest mistakes Zeppelin ever made in not playing this live.
  • Peter from Nyc, NyWell, I suppose that everyone is entitled to their opinion but let's face it, if you think that Led Zeppelin sucks you probably don't have the best taste in music. Carolyn, I'm curious.....why is this song sexist? Because he's singing about a cheating woman? Do you have a chip on your shoulder? 3/6/08
  • Mike from Lancaster, CaWOW Everybody, this is just crazy putting the emphasis on is she or isn't she. well maybe sometimes she does things that prostitutes also do and maybe it's because that's what she likes to do. The point is WHO CARES IF SHE IS OR ISN'T?
    The bottom line is that from the first note to the last, the song ROCKS and always will. It is one of many gifts to us all by a band the likes of which will never be seen again.
    And for Carolyn in Philadelphia, you are free to feel however you want but you might get more comfort in life by finding things you do like instead of putting time into things that you seem to be so offended by. 2/16/08
  • Erica from Defuniak Springs, FlMe and my man can't wait to dance to this, as our first song at our wedding. -Erica Defuniak Springs,FL (and I'm NOT or EVER have been a prostitute...just a song about LOVE !)2/6/08
  • Aaron from Philadelphia, PaEmmie, Long Island, NY, The "backround singer" your looking for is Jimmy Page. All of the members of Led Zeppelin are singing in the backround but Jimmy's volume is always turned up a bit. As in "Communication Breakdown," what a hot song. DAMN all of this music is turning me on.
  • Jared from Sacramento, CaOk, wait, the terms street corner girl, how can that not refer to a prostitute. She goes to the bars to pick up men, she's fooling around all of the time? i mean come on, an amazing song, but def. a big chance of being about a prost.
  • Melanie from Seattle, WaCarolyn from Philadelphia... I must say its rather weird that despite the fact you hate led zeppelin you take the time to look at all their songs (this one and kashmir, anyway) and leave comments saying how much you hate them, does that seem ironic at all? hmm.
  • Melanie from Seattle, WaI love this song, I wish it had been included on LZ III when they recorded it. I really like the part at the end where Robert sings "Yeah, no, yeah, no, yeah, no" its funny and also I think it could refer to how the girl is faithful, then she isn't, then she is again. Whether that was intentional or not, its a great song!
  • Paul from Columbia, Sci have heard this on an alarm clock too.
    great day to start a morning :D
  • Paul from Columbia, Scthis is like my favorite song. led zeppelin kills.
  • Carmel from Bowie, MdMy brother gave me a copy of the "Immigrant Song" and "Hey, Hey What Can I Do" on 45 in 1983. It's from Japan with the label written in Japanese.
  • Lucyinthesky from Philadelphia, PaJust terrible like most Led Zeppelin (Dred Craplin!) songs and it's very sexist too!
  • Peter from Nyc, NyTo Kendall from Thomasville, GA: "Ball" is an old 70's slang term for f@#k.
    To Johny from L.A.: What exactly does Led Zeppelin sound like? They have several distinct styles. Everything from "Going to California" to "Communication Breakdown".
    To Jamey from Winchester, OH: Your analysis is ridiculous.

    An incredible song. I've lived it. December 21, 2007
  • Heather from Los Angeles, CaI just love this song and I never get to hear it. Radio stations here don't play it much. But when I do hear it, well I sing along with it at the top of my voice.
  • Bill from Topeka, KsVery Good I hear it on the radio and wonder where I can Buy this on an album but i recentlly bought The Complete Studio recordings and it is on there
  • Audrey from New York, NyOkay, people... did anybody ever think that maybe this song is about TWO women? The one he dreams about and idealizes in the first verse...

    ... and the cooze he ended up with in the rest of the song.

    and he's stuck. "Hey, hey, what can I do?"
  • Peter Griffin from Quahog, RiThis is most certainly NOT about a prostitute. And I've heard this song on an alarm clock before, too.
  • Mike from Lancaster, CaShe is NOT a prostitute. She can't be true and it breaks his heart but there is no mention of her selling herself as with the song Roxanne. "You don't have to sell your body to the night". I can't believe anyone would think these two songs are even comparable in any way. Led Zeppelin stands alone in a class all to themselves and all forms of rock since have been directly or indirectly influenced by them. This song should not be analyzed or compared or debated. It should just be listend and enjoyed for the rare work of art that it is.
  • Steven from Chesapeake, Vanot only is this my fav song by zeppelin it may be my fav all time song i think its a shame zeppelin never put this out before the box set because it may be some of their best work
  • That Hippie Kid from La La, Lamy friend played this song for a girl over the phone. it was really funny. btw he choose this song cause, she got around
  • Paul from Muskegon, Msone hell of a song.underrated too.
  • Mark from Worcester, MiDanny, Philadelphia, PA don't worry about how long it takes people to reply. I LIKE that about this site. When you're in a music mood you check it out. It's not a message board that needs instant replies. Just a place we can drop musical thoughts when we're in the mood. It's not work for cripes sake. It's music.
  • Mark from Worcester, MiHow powerful the band was at the time that this was spun off as a b side. Almost a beatles type thing. A pure classic sent out in throwaway format.
  • Tim Boyd from Sydney, AustraliaAhh, this is a great song. Always will be.
  • Stan from Hop Bottom , PaAmazing song, one of the best Led Zeppelin songs.

    P.S. The Golden God, Led Wallet, Jonsey, Bonzo are gods.
  • Jonathan from Rochester, NyIt's not necessarily a prostitute; it could be just a really promiscuous girl. It seems like the terms "midnight shift" and "street corner girl" are derisive exaggerations: like if your girl cheated on you, you might call her a slut, even though she didn't actually sell herself. I think it would be more likely that a bunch of drinking buddies, sitting around playing guitar, would be more likely to be boasting about a really fine girl that they all happened to have banged than to be sitting around talking about a mutual prostitute that each of them hired. So, in that light, I would think that the comparison to Roxanne is completely out of line. Not to mention the fact that Sting's trying to win the hooker's monogamy, in Roxanne, while Plant says he's gonna leave his girl because he was duped into thinking that she was faithful- "sharing what I thought was mine."
  • Amy from Ambler, PaI have loved this song the summer of 1995. I had a boyfriend who sang this song to me. He was so hot! Here I am 12 years later and that song always will remind me of him.
  • Paul from Muskegon, MsThis song is great. I love it.
  • Jason from Florence, KyI can relate to this song. I had a girlfriend who was as sweet as she could be, but she was always going to clubs and flirting. She was always cheating. The sad thing is, I still loved her and still do, but I had to leave her. You can't change women like that. Lesson learned.
  • Johnathan Allen from Lubbock, TxI feel this creation of Zeppelin as a dejavu of my last Girl even though she wasnt a whoe but she was the girl "who stay drunk all the time" and wanting to "ball all day" and all that stuff but uh yea Robert,Jimmy,John, and the greatful drummer of all time John Bonham rocks hard and they keep on "Rambin" "and leave when the guitars play"- zep's the shzznit
  • Jamey from Winchester, OhHE is leaving his girl where (men play guitars) unless there are still saloons out there I will say he leaves her in a bar. She gets drunk cant handle being pretty and sleeps with the charming and handsome. She gets drunk at her job so she cant drive so she has to ride the bus home or to their house, hince my little street corner girl.
  • Cowticket from Indiana, InYea I think this is a Gem that never made it. I wish I could find some vynal with this song on it. Another thing hootie and the blowfish aint no led zepplin.
  • Emmie from Long Island, NyDoes anybody know which band members sing the backing vocals ("Hey, hey, what can I do" and "Hey, hey what can I say"? It sounds like the same person (or people) in the band who does the Communication Breakdown backing vocals.
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaThis doesn't sound like a led zeppelin song. More of the Rolling Stones or something.
  • Jonathon from Clermont, FlThis has to be one of my favorite songs from Zep, and my favorite from the ones nobody has ever heard. It's a gem.
  • Adam from Poplar Bluff, MoHootie's version stinks.
    - Paulo, New York, NY

    Speak for yourself, I think it's a decent cover.
  • Ryan from Richmond, CanadaMy alarm woke me up one morning to the sound of a classic rock radio station. This great guitar riff came out. I was blown away by the song. I had never heard it before. It sounded like Zeppelin, but was it? Zeppelin is my favorite band, I should know this song. I googled some of the lyrics and found out that it was "Hey, Hey What Can I Do". I really can't believe this song never made it to Zepp III, or they never performed it live. Incredible! My favorite Zeppelin song.
  • Danny from Philadelphia, Pahmmmm, no one seems to be responding too quickly to other people's comments at Songfacts... I am beginning to wonder if this site is as cool, efficient and functional as I thought it was at first glance ... (April 20th 2006)
  • Danny from Philadelphia, PaOh and by the way, I made this comment on April 13. It might be a good idea if we all put a date after our comments as it gives us an idea of how often people check these songs and comment on them.
  • Danny from Philadelphia, Pathis song is most definitely about a prostitute because not only does Robert sing that she is "a street corner girl" but also that she "does the midnight shift"
  • Kendall from Thomasville, GaIs this a sexual reference?: "I got a woman, wanna ball all day" I've been going around to see if the "ball" might actually be bawl instead (as in crying)... so far it all points to ball, but who knows? They both sound the same.
  • Pepper from Virginia Beach, Vaexcuse me but how else would you interpret "street corner girl" other than a prostitute?
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScPaulo. Don't worry it doesn't have to be about a prostitute, as you said. It could be about a woman who cheats a lot. I just noticed the similarities between this and "Roxanne" when somebody else posted that observation.
  • Paulo from India, United StatesD'oh! OK, I'm an idiot. Never mind my previous comment. :/
  • Paulo from India, United StatesWhy is it necessarily about a prostitute? Can't it just be about a woman who cheats a lot? After all the lyrics are "she won't be true."
  • Jessica from Hillsboro, Njthis is one of my all time favorite led zeppelin songs, this song is so uplifting and just amazing, like all there other songs.
  • Lenny from MelbourneA very nice acoustic touch to this song, very moody
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScI noticed the led Zep and Police songs were pretty much about the same thing too.
  • Mike from Ontario, CanadaYes Police' Roxanne is about the same thing, but this song was written before the Police even existed.
  • Johnny from San Francisco, CaI have this song on an old 45, it's one of my favorite zep songs. Does anyone know how much the record is worth?
  • Chad from Philadelphia, PaI saw Robert Plant and he did this song. Before he did it, he mentioned Chet Atkins.
  • Erik from Buffalo, NyI saw Robert Plant play this song live on 7-6-05 in Toronto Canada. Before he played the song he made some comment regarding Rod Stewart in reference to this song. It was something to do with the lyrics. Maybe they collaborated. Either way, a great song. I love how at the end he keeps saying 'keep on', almost like he is telling the band to 'keep on playing' the chorus one more time. Awesome.
  • Mario from Chicago, Iajust about anything from led zeppelin is great.. jimmy page is the reason why i picked up a guitar....
  • Matthew from Indy, InIf anybody listen's to the lyrics they would be shocked at what it's about the same damn thing as the song Roxanne by the Police...or am I the only person that noticed this?
  • Loretta from Liverpool, EnglandI have it on an atlantic records compilation which is fantastic. it's funny how robert plant can throw his voice up into the screaming falsetto.
  • Tom from Port Kent, NyThis is one of Zep's best songs...I love how it is so mellow
  • Ben from New York, NyGreat song, JPJ's bass makes an otherwise rather forgettable song a treat to listen to.
  • Cassie from Detroit, Mithe lesson learned from this song: don't fall in love with a prostitute.
  • Blackdog from New Milford, NjActually, there is one season of "That 70's Show" where every episode is titled after a Zep tune.
  • Paulo from New York, NyHootie's version stinks.
  • Will from Portland, Orthere was a "That 70s Show" episode that had this name. seems like a lot of episode titles from that show are names of Led Zeppelin songs
  • Adrian from Wilmington, DeAnd this song was only a B-side! A tragedy...
  • Matthew from New York, NyOn the Zeppelin tribute album "Econmium" (sp?), Hootie and the Blowfish cover the song.
  • Farzad from Gainesville, FlJust think of being in a big group of your chums...drinking the heartache away...thinking about your ol' ladies who just won't be true
  • Brian from Huntington, NySong is about a man (robert plant) being in love with a prostitute. i love this song
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