I have a friend who recommends that when you have an annoying song stuck in your head, you should think of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and your problem is solved. It works for me; the song's infectious, ascending hook and monstrous John Bonham drum groove obliterate any remnants of the latest catchy teen pop song that might have been overheard at the grocery store. "Kashmir" takes us back to when it provided an ominous soundtrack to driving aimlessly with friends around the sleepy suburban streets of youth.
The centerpiece to Led Zeppelin's ambitious -- and at times masterful -- 1975 double record, Physical Graffiti, "Kashmir" opens with an explosive cymbal crash, launching into a Middle Eastern-tinged chord progression which alternates with a horn-driven epic second part, and then a sparse, funk rock third section. The main body has the drums playing the standard 2/4 time signature, while the rising musical theme creates tension by playing against it in 3/4 time. The instrumentation blends orchestral brass and strings with electric guitar and mellotron strings. Like much Zeppelin lyrical matter, "Kashmir" teeters on the silly, if not the pretentious. But Plant pulls it off, exploring the mystical; the descriptions are as if from an ether dream: "Oh let the sun beat down upon my face/And stars fill my dreams/I'm a traveler of both time and space/To be where I have been/To sit with elders of the gentle race/This world has seldom seen/They talk of days for which they sit and wait/And all will be revealed." By way of dreaming, meditation, or medication, the singer is searching for the same answers the elders are patiently waiting to have "revealed." In addition to his blues background, Plant shows a Pakistani influence in his singing, like the prayers/chants of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the devotional singer made popular on soundtracks and through collaborations with pop singers in the mid- to late '90s. Plant has called the song "the definitive Led Zeppelin song." Its sprawling eight-minute-30-second form is almost cinematic in scope. This aspect, as well as its Arabic and Indian influences, were emphasized by former Killing Joke brethren Youth and Jaz Coleman in their symphonic arrangement of the song on the 1997 Kashmir: The Symphonic Led Zeppelin. Page and Plant also played up the Eastern influences on their 1994 reunion record, the live souvenir No Quarter. Rapper/entrepreneurPuff Daddy enlisted the help of Jimmy Page himself on guitars for his 1998 song "Come With Me," which is all but an outright cover of "Kashmir," built almost exclusively on a sample loop of the song. Indeed, writing credit is given to the song's original authors.