Led Zeppelin's famously untitled fourth album, commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV, would completely blow the doors off of rock and roll. As copies of the record flew off of store shelves, the band's label would capitalize on the momentum by doing something the band notoriously hated: they released a single.
The song's run time of 3:40 made it an ideal choice, as its relative brevity helped it fit into the classic pop radio format. With Led Zeppelin pioneers in the world of "album oriented rock," and fans buying their full-lengths in the same numbers that many purchased singles, they never needed to go down the singles route.
Released on February 21, 1971, in America, this promo single with "Four Sticks" on the B-side was enough to drive the tune up the charts to peak at #47 on April 14, 1972. The #1 song in America that week: Roberta Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."
"We just thought rock and roll needed to be taken on again," singer Robert Plant told Creem in 1988 about writing the song. "I was finally in a really successful band, and we felt it was time for actually kicking ass. It wasn't an intellectual thing, 'cause we didn't have time for that - we just wanted to let it all come flooding out. It was a very animal thing, a hellishly powerful thing, what we were doing."
In 2002, "Rock and Roll" would be the first song Led Zeppelin would allow to be licensed for use in a television commercial. The ad was for Cadillac. Watch it below.