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A new contender for "The Ocean" lyric question


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I have to give credit to someone who calls himself "Petto" on the old "Misheard Zeppelin Lyrics" page ("Hey Whoopee Cat"), but I think he/she may be onto something ...

I think most of us would agree that on the original sleeve for HOTH the lyrics for The Ocean are not quite right, especially in regards to the line, "I got a date, I can't be late, for the high hopes hailla ball."

Now, at one time, I have guessed it to be:

For the hell fire that must fall

For the hell hound and her spawn

For the hell I'm headed for

For the hell high Hades ball

-- Most likely, all wrong!!

But, now, thanks to Petto, I now believe it is:

"I've got a date, I can't be late, when the held high hammers fall"

It sounds like that on the studio version, as well as the DVD version. As for HTWWW, I'm too lazy to fish out my copy, but who knows if by then Percy had the lyrics completely finished (then again, maybe the track was already laid down in the studio by then).

Anyhoo, that's my two cents.

Edited by dpat
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  • 1 year later...

I have to give credit to someone who calls himself "Petto" on the old "Misheard Zeppelin Lyrics" page ("Hey Whoopee Cat"), but I think he/she may be onto something ...

I think most of us would agree that on the original sleeve for HOTH the lyrics for The Ocean are not quite right, especially in regards to the line, "I got a date, I can't be late, for the high hopes hailla ball."

Now, at one time, I have guessed it to be:

For the hell fire that must fall

For the hell hound and her spawn

For the hell I'm headed for

For the hell high Hades ball

-- Most likely, all wrong!!

But, now, thanks to Petto, I now believe it is:

"I've got a date, I can't be late, when the held high hammers fall"

It sounds like that on the studio version, as well as the DVD version. As for HTWWW, I'm too lazy to fish out my copy, but who knows if by then Percy had the lyrics completely finished (then again, maybe the track was already laid down in the studio by then).

Anyhoo, that's my two cents.

I have always wondered what the exact lyrics to this line in the song is. I read that the lyrics to the "Ocean" were deliberately mistranscribed on the inside album sleeve on "Houses of the Holy" as to not mention or reference Hell.

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Its "the hailla high hopes ball". Not different lyrics, just written in the wrong order. Simple.

Agreed, and it's logical within the context of the preceeding lyic...I've got a date, I can't be late...

...when the held high hammers fall is illogical within the context of the preceding lyric...

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Robert, collaborate with Genesis and give us finely crafted book consisting of your Led Zeppelin lyrics. Sign and number each copy and include rarely seen photos of yourself and the band. It's a niche worth considering. Thanks.

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There is a web page with some interesting comments. Mostly nothing new, but the penultimate paragraph was interesting ;

26 Jul 2005

High Hopes Hailla Ball

The liner notes for Led Zeppelin's album Houses of the Holy contain the lyrics for all of the songs therein, and The Ocean is clearly shown to contain the line "Got a date, can't be late for the high hopes hailla ball." Even so, the last four words of that line bear scant resemblance to what's in the actual song, and many different theories have been sugested about what Robert Plant sings, usually revolving around the somewhat specious suggestion of "hellhound", as in the famous Robert Johnson song Hellhound on my Trail.

Unfortunately, there's no mention as to whether the lyrics are directly from the artist or transcribed by the record company, but they're definitely unreliable in other places too. They say, for example, that the line before the one in question starts with "ain't" whereas in actual fact it starts with "got", and even the beginning of the line in question itself goes "I got a date, I can't be late", so that's different too.

On a site devoted to Song Meanings, one commenter has noted that the lyrics seem to be "hell high hella ball" in the version on How The West Was Won, which is actually how I'd transcribe the Houses of the Holy version were it not for the liner notes. Jeff Lybarger, too, agrees that the album version seems to start with "hell high", and both the How The West Was Won and Led Zeppelin DVD versions also sound like they start with "hell high", though more interestingly it seems that the third word in both of those versions ends with an "s". Only one site contained the transcription "hell high haillas ball", and even that's now down, preserved only in the Web Archive.

Googling for the word "hailla" brings up only 1,320 results, and about half of those refer to the song with the rest being names of things or otherwise unrelated. On the other hand, the word "heilla" brings up 16,300 results, mainly Icelandic, and some of those are pretty interesting. I doubt this is related, but in a page on Old Norse it says that the word "holy" is related to the word "health", and moreover to the Old Norse word "heilla", which means "to invoke spirits".

It may just be that the syllables are space fillers, an inside joke, or something like a placename or actual event that therefore has a slightly weird pronunciation, but until Robert Plant himself clears the mystery up I don't think we'll find out for sure.

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Oh noooooo! :slapface::blink:

You mean there are people who are confused about The Ocean? This is almost as ridiculous as the knuckle-draggers trying to say that the Beatles were not a rock 'n' roll band.

!NEWS FLASH PEOPLE!

IT'S EXACTLY AS KNEBBY SAYS:

"I gotta date

I can't be late

for the hailla high hopes ball"

There's no conspiracy...no secret pact with the devil...just a simple case of transposed lyrics.

"When the held high hammers fall"?!? Really? That's some imagination you've got there. It doesn't remotely sound like that at all and when you take into account the context of the song, it really doesn't make sense. Sounds like you've got Immigrant Song on the brain, hehe.

I don't know, maybe it's because a generation or more have grown up listening to music on shoddy mp3's and ipods and whatnot...but whenever I play the Ocean on my stereo, it's clear as a telephone ringing that Plant is singing hailla high hopes ball.

In fact, it wasn't until I got on the internet that I discovered that there were actually people who questioned the lyric...it boggled my mind and it still does to this day. It's like some people think there's got to be a link to hell and the devil in everything Led Zeppelin does.

Oh, and don't get me started on the mental midgets that accuse Zeppelin of pedophilia because of 1) the HOTH cover from which The Ocean comes from; and 2) the line in The Ocean that goes "she is just 3 years old", not realizing that Plant is talking about his daughter.

It's a pity, as The Ocean is such a slamming song; one of my favourites, and it deserves better than to have nitwits picking it apart on false notions based on misheard and misunderstood lyrics.

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These lyrics have already been discussed several times on here - why the new thread? I'm Icelandic, and hence English is a second language for me, but Knebby's suggestion seems right to my ears. Robert would often change lyrics when singing live in concert with the band, so that's a separate issue. A reference to Robert Johnson's 'Hellhound on My Trail' makes absolutely no sense within the context of the song.

But what I always wonder about is the word "hailla". As somebody has already pointed out, if it's Norse or Icelandic (which pretty much amounts to the same thing), then the spelling should be heilla, and in that case, Robert's pronunciation is also completely wrong. The noun is really heill, but for grammatical reasons you get a few different forms, like heilla. The word has a lot of variously interconnected meanings - "health" is a bit narrow, although health certainly is important for a person's fortune/well-being - which is what we still use the word for in this country. In the form of a verb it also means: to charm or enchant somebody.

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