The Reason Led Zeppelin Rarely Played Four Sticks Live

Legendary rock group Led Zeppelin released their debut album in 1968 after spending just nine days recording it, according to the Society of Rock. The short time it took to record the album is impressive, and it was just a taste of what was to come in the years after. Led Zeppelin became a heavy rock powerhouse that took the world by storm through Robert Plant's unique vocal range, the intricate and beautiful guitar riffs from Jimmy Page, and the overall cohesion of the band's sound that, up until that point, had never been heard.

The amount of complexities interwoven into Led Zeppelin's music catalog is even more apparent when you realize that there's a song they'll hardly ever play live due to its difficulty — not that they haven't given it a go and pulled it off. Led Zeppelin doesn't play all of their songs live, and there's a whole list on Loudwire of the songs that the band hasn't ever performed at all, but their song, "Four Sticks," from the 1971 album "Led Zeppelin IV," despite being hard to play, has been part of a performance or two, and it no doubt pleased the ears of the hardcore Led Heads.

John Bonham felt music more than he counted time making Four Sticks a challenge

"Four Sticks" is the sixth track on Zeppelin's fourth album, and the song has that classic, hard-hitting, psychedelic blast that comes with every Led Zeppelin song, but very few people have ever heard it performed live. This is because the song's creation was a bit more complex than the band members would have liked. 

According to Far Out Magazine, the band's drummer, John "Bonzo" Bonham, had trouble mastering the song. Bonham struggled with the first initial beat, leading to a hard time counting the song in. Bonzo is a master of the drums and entirely self-taught. Being self-taught clearly never held Bonzo back, though his mastery of feeling the music over counting it made "Four Sticks" one of his trickiest tracks. Unfortunately, the headache that "Four Sticks" caused the group during the recording process caused them to shy away from performing the song live, and they've only ever tried it a handful of times — and there is only one known recording of the 1971 effort in Copenhagen, per Far Out Magazine. 

The difficult recording process helped the song get its name

The rough recording process of "Four Sticks" shouldn't lead anyone to conclude that Led Zeppelin shied away from complex tracks. After all, they did create "Stairway to Heaven." The band is actually well-known for their onerous compilations, and it's arguably one of the reasons they're so iconic. The frustrating making of "Four Sticks" is actually what helped the song get its name.

While working on the song, Bonham decided to try something different to see if it would help him out. He grabbed an extra pair of drum sticks, adding a second stick for each hand, and began to play the song literally with four drum sticks, according to Far Out Magazine. This addition created a unique type of clangor sound that can be heard on the final recording of the track. 

Song Facts reported that Jimmy Page said they only did two takes of the song for the album "it was physically impossible for [Bonham] to do another." Because of the extra set of drum sticks, the band decided to title the song "Four Sticks." But they also decided it was best to leave that one out of their live shows.