Original Artist: Led Zeppelin
Original Album: Led Zeppelin II (1969)
Historian: Martin Acaster (Doctor_Smarty)
"Ramble On," originally released in 1969 on Led Zeppelin’s second album (Led Zeppelin II), provides some of the clearest evidence that one of guitar god Jimmy Page’s song-writing influences has been J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings trilogy. Undeniably, the lyrical references in “Ramble On” to Gollum and Mordor and the wanderings of the song’s protagonist evoke images of Frodo and his time spent since leaving Hobbiton.
With this in mind, the 8/1/98 Phish debut of “Ramble On” at Alpine Valley was not as big a surprise as it may have seemed. Why? Because this crowd pleasing, first set opening, brand new cover song appeared during the summer 1998 “Ring of Fire” tour. So what? Well, Narya, the Ring of Fire, namesake of the Phish summer tour, was one of the three named rings of Tolkien’s elven kings. Furthermore, the next Phish rendition of “Ramble On” (8/12/98 at Vernon Downs) came eleven days later after the band and its touring legion had rambled on by Syracuse, the boyhood home of Phish’s de facto lord of Hobbiton Jon Fishman.
It was over 12 years before Phish would next visit Middle Earth by performing "Ramble On" during their second set “TweeZeppelin” medley on the second night (10/30/10) of Halloween weekend festivities at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. The medley, in addition to “Ramble On,” contained a tease of “Whole Lotta Love,” a brief roll in the hay with "Heartbreaker,” a terse “Thank You,” and the transcendent finale of “Stairway to Heaven.” Trey and Page shared the vocal duties, yet together were largely (“Thank You” being the exception) unable to match the sonic gymnastics of Robert Plant; demonstrating quite clearly why this medley may be as close as we will ever get to Phish covering a Led Zeppelin album for Halloween. Considering that each of the songs featured in the medley except “Stairway to Heaven” appear on Led Zeppelin II, it may actually have been an alternate album considered for the Halloween Costume set at Boardwalk Hall, only to be abandoned due to the inherent vocal challenges it presents.
Led Zeppelin "Ramble On"