I've looked at rhythmic displacement in Led Zeppelin's music through several previous blogs.
Another rhythm trick Zep loves is changing meters. And this, I suspect, also shows how Zeppelin's music grew out of The Beatles' music because The Beatles also love changing meters. Several John Lennon songs like “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun” are good examples, but it's in the hands of George Harrison that The Beatles took this technique to extremes.
Back in 2014 I blogged about the rhythmic sophistication of “Here Comes the Sun”, and in 2016 I created a BEATLES MINUTE video based on the same concept.
It's significant that these constantly changing meters are used in the bridge – NOT in the verses – because the rhythmic instability accentuates the sense of arrival with the subsequent verse, which goes back to the rhythmically stable meter of 4/4 at 2:12.
It's a technique many composers – both popular and classical – have employed. And Led Zeppelin does something similar in “Stairway to Heaven”.
While the structure of “Stairway” is far more sophisticated than “Here Comes the Sun” (something I'll be blogging about in detail in the next few days), it features a similar climactic arrival at 5:56, right as Jimmy Page launches into his epic guitar solo. And, just like “Here Comes the Sun”, that arrival is emphasized through the use of changing meters immediately prior.
Aaron Krerowicz, pop music scholar
An informal but highly analytic study of popular music.