I’d like to nominate Led Zeppelin’s “Bron Yr Aur Stomp” as the most romantic rock song ever – and wouldn’t you know, it was inspired by a dog.
Listen to it here and tell me what you think. Here’s what I think: To hear Robert Plant sing out his love for Strider, his blue-eyed merle Border Collie, is to appreciate the divine inspiration that dogs generously bestow on those with eyes and ears for true beauty.
The song title refers to the cottage in the Welsh countryside where Plant, Jimmy Page, et. al. created some of their most enduring work. It’s also the place where Plant went for walks with Strider, named after the Aragorn character in “The Lord of the Rings.”
Strider is a male, but as the song begins, it sounds like Plant is addressing a lovely young lady (or perhaps groupie):
Yeah, caught you smiling at me, that’s the way it should be
Like a leaf is to a tree
Notice immediately how romantic the bond is between the singer and his love object – it’s a very different tune than, say, the naked lust of the Led Zeppelin song “Whole Lotta Love.” This love story is so fine that looking back on it brings the singer nothing but happiness:
All the good times we had, I sang love songs so glad,
Always smiling, never sad
Yeah, that’s the way it should be, alright. In this rural Eden, walking the dog is a trip for the singer. He hears music in the woods’ naturally-occurring noises, and those sounds broadcast his profound feelings for his beloved:
As we walk down the country lanes, I’ll be singing a song,
Hear me call your name
Hear the wind whispering in the trees
Telling Mother Nature ’bout you and me
On the path walked by a man and his dog, there are no wrong turns – even if it’s dark out.
Well, if the sun shines so bright, or our way is darkest night,
The road we choose is always right
Yes, this love is so fine that the singer must wonder aloud if it’s too good to be true:
Can our love be so strong, when so many loves go wrong?
Will our love go on and on and on and on and on and on?
The answer, of course, is yes it will. At this point, it’s time for the guitar artistry of Jimmy Page to do the singing. Plant is silent, clapping along with the audience as his legendary bandmate takes center stage. It’s a genuine stomp, a hoedown; on stage and in the audience, everyone is enjoying themselves immensely. Drummer John Bonham never looked so happy. Plant resumes vocal duty:
My, my, la-de-la, c’mon now, honey it’s too far!
Haven’t we all, in mid-thought or mid-song, abruptly lost sight of a beloved, unleashed dog out there in the woods, and temporarily panicked that they might vanish? Doesn’t that line capture the panic perfectly? Then:
Tell your friends around the world, ain’t no companion like a blue-eyed merle
Well, let me tell you what you’ve been missing messing ’round these brick walls
That might be the single most persuasive call to action for folks everywhere to go out and adopt a dog. Every home needs a furry presence “messing ’round” its perimeters.
Life and love may be unpredictable (especially for a world-famous rock star), but if there’s one thing the singer can be certain of, it’s the true love of his dog:
Of one thing I am sure, it’s a friendship so pure
Angels singing all around my door
Ain’t but one thing to do, spend my natural life with you
You’re the finest dog I knew
But a human’s natural life runs longer than a dog’s, and after a while Strider’s eyes grow dim. Ultimately, the singer is left to roam the countryside by himself. But he won’t be alone. His dog – peerless companion, true love, being of light messing ’round brick walls – will always be there in spirit:
We’ll still go walking down country lanes, I’ll sing the same old song,
Hear me call your name
And their love will go on and on and on and on and on and on.