10 Illustrative Classic Rock Songs About The Middle Ages

Below you can find a list comprising 10 fine classic rock songs that reference, in a way or another, the Middle Ages, from instrumentation reminding of historical events that unfolded during bygone times to lyrical allusions concerning mythology, fantasy, and legends.

Page from a medieval music manuscript. Image source: www.pixabay.com

10. Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song

A well-known classic from Led Zeppelin’s early catalogue, ‘Immigrant Song’ references both the Norse mythology (which is represented by mythical realm of Valhalla in this particular case) as well as the Norse invasions of Anglo-Saxon England during the turbulent Viking Age. It is the first track on the band’s third studio album ‘Led Zeppelin III’ released in 1970.

9. Led Zeppelin – The Battle Of Evermore

Yet another classic from the early Led Zeppelin catalogue, ‘The Battle Of Evermore’ makes references to the high-fantasy ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien (naturally stemming from a lifelong Tolkien fan, specifically Robert Plant).

In addition to Robert Plant, backing vocals on the song were provided by Sandy Denny of English folk band Fairport Convention. ‘The Battle Of Evermore’ is the third track on the band’s fourth studio album ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ released in 1971.

8. Led Zeppelin – No Quarter

‘No Quarter’ is a song written by Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and Jimmy Page that appears both on ‘Houses Of The Holy’, the band’s 5th studio album released in 1973, and on the live album ‘The Songs Remains The Same’ from 1976.

It references the Norse god Thor in the 4th line of the first stanza (‘The winds of Thor are blowing cold’) and can be wholly interpreted as the journey of several housecarls delivering an important message to their earl.

7. Jethro Tull – Minstrel In The Gallery

‘Minstrel In The Gallery’ is a song by British rock band Jethro Tull that appears on their 8th studio album of the same name released in 1975. The song is the title track that opens the album. It was written by Ian Anderson and Martin Barre.

6. Jethro Tull – Cold Wind To Valhalla

Just as the above song, ‘Cold Wind To Valhalla’ is a track from ‘Minstrel In The Gallery’. The second song of the album, ‘Cold Wind To Valhalla’ clearly references the Norse mythology. It was written by the band’s frontman, Ian Anderson.

5. Jethro Tull – Songs From The Wood

‘Songs From The Wood’ is the title track of the eponymous 10th studio album released by Jethro Tull in early 1977. The song, as the entire album for that matter, is very much folk-tinted. With respect to its lyrics, ‘Songs From The Wood’ might be perceived as a reference to the legend of Robin Hood.

4. Jethro Tull – Broadsword

‘Broadsword’ is the 6th track on the band’s 14th studio album entitled ‘The Broadsword And The Beast’ released in 1982. Its lyrics can be interpreted as the tumultuous struggle of the indigenous populations of Britain against invading armies which landed from either the south or the west, having sailed across the North Sea during the Migration period (i.e. the Celtic Britons who faced the Anglo-Saxons, and/or, later on, both the Scotsmen and the Anglo-Saxons fighting the Norsemen) or across the English Channel at the Battle of Hastings (1066).

3. Focus – House Of The King

‘House Of The King’ is a song by Dutch progressive rock band Focus. It is featured on their third studio album ‘Focus 3’ released in 1972. The song was written by Jan Akkerman, the band’s guitarist. ‘House Of The King’ was also used as the theme song for ‘Saxondale‘ (a British sitcom serial) as well as for ‘Dont Ask Me‘ (a popular British science learning programme of the 1970s).

2. Focus – Hocus Pocus

‘Hocus Pocus’ is the first track of the band’s second studio album ‘Focus II’ which was released in late 1971. Better known by its international title, namely ‘Moving Waves’, the LP charted very high in the UK, US, and the Netherlands and was critically acclaimed.

Although it lacks precise lyrics, with the band’s singer and flute player Thijs van Leer providing the usual four-octave vocal range onomatopoeia, conceptually it can be perceived as a reference to wizardry during medieval times. Additionally, excerpts of the song were also featured at the end of each episode from ‘Saxondale’.

1. Deep Purple – Listen, Learn, Read On

Ending the list with a rather obscure and quite underrated early Deep Purple gem, ‘Listen, Learn, Read On’ is the first track from Deep Purple’s second studio album entitled ‘The Book of Taliesyn’. It makes lyrical references to the Book of Taliesin, a 14th century renowned Welsh poetic manuscript, as well as to kingship and, perhaps, even to the legend of Merlin (according to a separate interpretation).

The song was written by almost all members of the original Deep Purple line-up, namely by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, vocalist Rod Evans, keyboardist Jon Lord, and drummer Ian Paice, the sole exception being bassist Nick Simper.

Documentation sources and external links:

Liked it? Take a second to support Victor Rouă on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.