Heartbreaker (song)

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Appears on Led Zeppelin II
Published by Superhype Music
Registration ASCAP 380135817
Release date 22 October 1969
Recorded 30 - 31 May 1969 at
A&R Studios, New York.
Mixed at A&R Studios, New York.
Genre Hard rock, blues rock
Language English
Length 4 minutes 15 seconds
Composer Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham
Label Atlantic Records
Producer Jimmy Page
Engineer Eddie Kramer

'Heartbreaker' is a song from English rock band Led Zeppelin's 1969 album, Led Zeppelin II. It was credited to all four members of the band, having been recorded at A&R Studios, New York, during the band's second concert tour of the United States, and was engineered by Eddie Kramer.

'Heartbreaker' opens side two of the album, and is famous for its memorable guitar riff by Jimmy Page, along with its unaccompanied solo, which he did not compose but rather improvised on the spot. It was voted as the 16th greatest guitar solo of all time by Guitar World magazine.


The song begins on beat 4, bending the minor 7th (G) up to the root (A), kicking off an aggressive riff constructed around the blues scale, followed by a powerful power chord assault during the verse from not only the guitar but the bass playing power chords also (through a rotating Leslie cabinet nonetheless).

Following a straight 8ths 'rave up' by the band, Page's solo fires off a rapid-fire chain of sextuplet hammer-ons and pull-offs, accented by the guitarist bending the G String behind the guitar's nut. Page plays a few bluesy licks before launching into a 'wall of notes' motif in A, finally bringing it to an end with a blues cliché 'goodbye chord'. The rest of the band joins Page for another improvisation as an interlude into the final verse.

In an interview Page gave to Guitar World magazine in 1998, Page stated that:

[T]he interesting thing about the [guitar] solo is that it was recorded after we had already finished 'Heartbreaker' - it was an afterthought. That whole section was recorded in a different studio and it was sort of slotted in the middle. If you notice, the whole sound of the guitar is different.[1]

Page also disclosed to Guitar World that this song in general, and the a cappella solo in particular, was the first recorded instance of his famous Gibson Les Paul/Marshall Stack combination.

When 'Heartbreaker' is played on radio stations, it almost always segues into the next song on the album, 'Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)', thanks to the similarities of subjects involved between the two songs, and the fact that 'Living Loving Maid' segues directly from 'Heartbreaker'. However, they would never be played together at concerts.

Live history

The song was a crowd favorite at Led Zeppelin concerts, and the band opened many of their live shows in 1971 and 1972 with 'Immigrant Song' followed by a segue right into 'Heartbreaker'. On later concert tours it was often played as an encore. 'Heartbreaker', along with 'Communication Breakdown', were the only songs to be played live during every year that the band toured.

During live performances Page would frequently improvise the playing in his solo, and was also known to include parts of Bach's 'Bourrée in E minor' from his Lute Suites (this can be heard on the live albums BBC Sessions and How the West Was Won), as well as Simon and Garfunkel's 'The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)', though on official releases this section has been cut. Sometimes the solo would also be stretched out to incorporate sections of the traditional English folk song, 'Greensleeves'.

A live, filmed version of the song from 1973 at Madison Square Garden, New York, is included in the Led Zeppelin concert film, The Song Remains the Same, although it is only shown in parts. For many years, this recorded version was left off the film's accompanying soundtrack album, until the album was remastered and re-released in 2007, with the full performance of the song included.

Led Zeppelin's last performance ever of the song was on June 29th, 1980, at Denmark. Following Bonham's death, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin performed 'Heartbreaker' at the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert in 1988, at Madison Square Garden in New York, with John's son Jason Bonham on drums. Jimmy Page also performed this song on his tour with the Black Crowes in 1999. A version of 'Heartbreaker' performed by Page and the Black Crowes can be found on the album Live at the Greek.


The solo's trickery purportedly inspired Eddie Van Halen to develop his influential tapping technique after he had seen Led Zeppelin play 'Heartbreaker' live:

I think I got the idea of tapping watching Jimmy Page do his 'Heartbreaker' solo back in 1971. He was doing a pull-off to an open string, and I thought wait a minute, open string ... pull off. I can do that, but what if I use my finger as the nut and move it around ?" ... I just kind of took it and ran with it.

'Heartbreaker' is one of the songs featured in Nick Hornby's book 31 Songs. In 2004, the song was ranked #320 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Chart positions

Chart (1970) Peak position
Italian Singles Chart[2] 39
  • Musicians:
    • Jimmy Page – electric guitar, producer, remastering, digital remastering
    • Robert Plant – vocals
    • John Paul Jones – bass guitar
    • John Bonham - drums, percussion
  • Production:
    • Peter Grant – executive producer
    • Eddie Kramer - engineer, mixing
    • Joe Sidore - original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
    • George Marino - remastered CD engineer (1990)


  1. Brad Tolinski and Greg Di Bendetto, "Light and Shade", Guitar World, January 1998.
  2. Top 100 Singles - 1970. hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved on 2009-01-19.