"Four Sticks" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin from their 1971 fourth album and is the sixth track from the LP. The title came from the fact that drummer, John Bonham, played with two sets of two drumsticks, totalling four. His decision to play the song with four sticks was a result of him being very frustrated with not being able to get the track down right during recording sessions at Island Studios. After he grabbed the second pair of sticks and beat the drums as hard as he could, he recorded the perfect take and that was the one they kept. This song was particularly difficult to record, and required more takes than usual. John Paul Jones played a VCS3 synthesizer on the track.
Guitarist Jimmy Page once said of the song: "It was supposed to be abstract." The abstract effect is further achieved by the unusual time signature of the song, featuring riffs in a mixture of 5/8 and 6/8 time signatures. After another failed take during the recording, Jimmy began to play an improvised guitar riff out of frustration. That riff was later on developed into the second track of the album, "Rock and Roll".
The song was re-recorded by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant with the Bombay Symphony Orchestra in 1972, during their trip to India, along with another track, "Friends" from Led Zeppelin III. This version featured tabla drums and sitars. The recordings were finally released officially on the 2015 remastering of Coda. The project is said to have run into problems because the orchestra didn't keep time in the Western style and some of them drank rather a lot.
The band is only known to have played this song live once, in Copenhagen on their 1971 European tour, as has been preserved on some bootleg recordings.
Also in 1994, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page had rejoined in musical collaboration as Page and Plant. On 25 August and 26, live performances were taped in London, Wales, and Morocco with Egyptian and Moroccan orchestration of several Led Zeppelin tunes - "Four Sticks" was one of them, and the arrangement features drummer Michael Lee playing with four sticks as well as multiple percussionists such as Hossam Ramzy. This new version of "Four Sticks" was also included on the album No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded, and live performances were so successful commercially and artistically that the ensemble coordinated a 1995/1996 world tour.
Robert Plant played a version of the song during his solo tour in 2005, as is included on the DVD release Soundstage: Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation, although drummer Clive Deamer only plays with two sticks.
A different version of this song is featured on the remastered deluxe two-CD version of Led Zeppelin IV. Known as "Four Sticks (Alternate Mix)", it was recorded on November 2, 1970, at Island Studios, No. 2, in London with engineer Andy Johns and assistant engineer Tony. This mix runs 4:33, while the original version runs 4:45.