Did George Harrison bet Jimmy Page that he couldn’t write a ballad?
Not really—but he practically dared him to write one. When Harrison met Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, the Beatle told him, “The problem with your band is that you don’t do any ballads.” Of course, this ignores a glorious history of Zeppelin ballads on their first four records, which by 1973, included “Tangerine,” “Going to California,” and even “Thank You,” which dates all the way back to Led Zeppelin II in 1969. Nevertheless, Page took the comment as a spur, and wrote “The Rain Song,” which was included on Zeppelin’s fifth album, Houses of the Holy. If you listen carefully to the intro, there’s a subtle but unmissable musical tribute to Harrison. Page has explained, “I purposely stuck the first two notes of ‘Something’ on ‘The Rain Song.'”
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)