What Is and What Should Never Be

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What Is and What Should Never Be
Appears on Led Zeppelin II
Published by Superhype Music
Registration ASCAP 530162753
Release date 22 October 1969
Recorded June 1969 at
Groove Studios, New York and Olympic Studios, London.
Mixed at A&R Studios, New York.
Genre Hard rock, blues rock
Language English
Length 4 minutes 44 seconds
Composer Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Label Atlantic Records
Producer Jimmy Page
Engineer George Chkiantz

'What Is and What Should Never Be' is a song by English rock band Led Zeppelin on their 1969 album Led Zeppelin II. It was written by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.


This was one of the first songs on which Page used his soon-to-become trademark Gibson Les Paul for recording.[1] The production makes liberal use of stereo as the guitars pan back and forth between channels. The vocals were phased during Robert Plant's choruses.

This was also one of the first songs recorded by the band for which Robert Plant received writing credit.

'What Is and What Should Never Be' was performed live at Led Zeppelin concerts between 1969 and 1972. A live version taken from a performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970 can be seen on the Led Zeppelin DVD.

The song inspired the name of an episode of the popular Teen Drama One Tree Hill, and the name of an episode of the paranormal drama Supernatural, as well as an episode of popular half-hour comedy That 70s Show. Billy Joel also played it as part of the intro to the 'We Didn't Start the Fire' medley on the 1997 VH1 Storytellers episode on his career.[2]


  • 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
    • George Chkiantz - engineer, mixing
    • Joe Sidore - original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
    • George Marino - remastered CD engineer (1990)


  1. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 32. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  2. Story Tellers by Billy Joel. MTV (1997). Retrieved on 10 April 2013.