Gallows Pole by Led Zeppelin

This song is him pimping out his sister, right?

I’d say it’s more about the singer trying to literally save his neck, and if having his sister use her ways to accomplish that, so be it.

Here are the lyrics.

I wouldn’t call it “pimping” exactly when the price is your life. It’s not like he’s making a profession of it. He implores his sister to save him by having sex with the hangman, but although she does so he hangs him anyway.

It’s a variant of a traditional song known as The Maid Freed From the Gallows.

I always thought the lyrics at the end were “She’s swinging from the gallows pole”, like a double entrendre.

They aren’t.

Well, maybe.

But here is a live version

and it’s clear to me he is saying “she’s” at the end

So I guess this is another example of sexual misconduct by a government official.

If the setting is medieval or as Leadbelly suggests in an intro to his version, treatment of blacks in the (whole) history of America, the story is constructed around abuse of power. The hangman accepts bribes offered by both brother and sister—then commits the act in the end anyway. Disgusting on both levels.

That being said, at one point “she” does swing from his pole to save her brother from the Hangman’s other pole.

When, exactly?

It still isn’t a double entendre. That would be stupid.


I’ve heard this song literally thousands of times. Love it, especially during my Zepplin phase. But never ever have I put thought into the lyrics. And, as usual, now that I know them, the song is worse for it. To me, the voice is just another instrument. The words shouldn’t matter. Very few bands does the actual meaning of lyrics add to the song.

Really? I think the lyrics are pretty cool, as opposed to most Zeppelin lyrics. I guess it helps that it comes from a traditional song.

Perhaps. Like i said, I don’t read/listen to the lyrics for too many songs on purpose. Once i know what a song is about, then it is as lways about that. If i remain ignorant, the same song can take me on different journeys depending on my mood and situation.

Ah, I see. I tend to ignore lyrics myself, but not for this particular song, I guess. Just gives it an extra depth and haunting quality.

That seems harsh, jeez.

“She’s swinging on the gallows pole”

You know, the hangman’s dick?

Call me stupid, call me lyric-deaf, but I have always thought the song ended with the sister literally swingin’ from the literal gallows pole (dead, not sex). She traded places with the singer. And I hated the song for it.

"He said “pole”! hnhnhnhn. I had been hoping it wasn’t that.

Once again, Led Zeppelin murders the classics. I only hope (but wouldn’t be surprised) they didn’t take the songwriting credits.

It’s a very grim and serious song. Having the sister “swinging from the hangman’s dick” makes the whole thing into a juvenile joke. This is Led Zeppelin, not Beavis and Butthead. (And is the narrator begging not to be “swinging from the hangman’s dick” earlier in the song?)

It doesn’t make the whole thing into a juvenile joke. It makes the hangman a jerk.

And it’s possible that “gallows pole” could have more than one meaning.

Next up, what does “I want to give you every inch of my love” mean? :slight_smile:

Sorry, I mean “I’m gonna give ya every inch of my love”

I don’t see anything lyrically that supports that interpretation. At the end, the condemned implores the hangman to tell him that he’s “free to ride,” and the hangman says, yeah, your sister “warmed my blood/brought my blood to boiling hot” and that his brother brought him silver, but, haha, joke’s on you, you’re still gonna die.

And the lyric I hear is “see you swingin’ on the gallows pole,” not “she’s swinging’ on the gallows pole.”

Yeah, it does. It’s one of the most nonsensical interpretations I’ve heard of any song lyric. “Swinging from the hangman’s dick” is a ridiculous image for a song about death and betrayal.

The hangman is a jerk for hanging the victim after accepting bribes not to.

Not in this song. And it certainly doesn’t mean “dick.”

Irrelevant to this song.