The 50 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs
48. “Custard Pie” (Physical Graffiti)
This opening track from Physical Graffiti features a punchy, Les Paul–through-Marshall–driven “crunch riff” behind Plant’s sexually euphemistic lyrics, many of which were borrowed from songs by early American bluesmen of the Robert Johnson era, specifically “Drop Down Mama” by Sleepy John Estes, “Shake ’Em on Down” by Bukka White, and “I Want Some of Your Pie” by Blind Boy Fuller.
Like “Houses of the Holy,” “Custard Pie” is built around a repeating two-bar riff based on an open A chord.
As in other songs, Page makes great use of rests in the song’s main riff, which allows it to “breathe” nicely and draws attention to the vocals and drums. Jimmy’s penchant for jazz/R&B harmony is manifested in the G11 chord he plays—in place of the perfectly acceptable straight G chord—near the end of each of the song’s verses, which are loosely based on the 12-bar blues form.
The guitarist makes clever use of the wah pedal in his solo, which he begins with a repeating oblique-bend phrase that, with added wah-wah inflections, sounds like a toddler throwing a tantrum. The solo is also noteworthy for the way Page melodically acknowledges the chord changes by touching upon their chord tones as opposed to simply riffing away on the key’s major and minor pentatonic scales.