Warner Edwards, the UK’s Favourite Gin, has contributed a lovely Valentine’s cocktail for two in its Hedgerow Martini. Another UK favourite to reference the hedgerow comes from one of the nation’s most recognized rock songs, Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. The song advises that, “If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now. It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen.”
Although it is rumoured that the song refers to a female acquaintance of guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant, the song is not about love per se; more so a love of the interpretation of art and more generally, a love of the song. A host of theories as to the song’s meaning has over the years enhanced the mystique surrounding the ballad’s eerie chord progressions and cryptic lyrics.
The most popular interpretation of Plant’s words is that the song is about a woman obsessed with material things because she believes them to be the key to happiness. Some think that the lady represents society as a whole as it grows more and more materialistic and that the greed she portrays will actually send humanity down a stairway in the opposite direction to heaven. At the time of writing, Led Zeppelin had been on an anti-consumerism kick, with Plant also delving into the fantasy of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings and Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, which explains the folk feel.
Most of the song was written in a quick forty minutes in which Page laid down the instrumental and Plant followed spontaneously, recounting the event as “all of a sudden my hand was writing the (opening) words…” Religious folk, who thought the band had made a pact with the devil, took this to mean that the devil was guiding Plant’s pencil. Some think that its a jab at the church that buys its way to heaven with ornate architecture and the collection of offerings to God.
But the “hedgerow” has perhaps attracted the most debate, and a little controversy. Historically, hedgerows in Britain typically divided the terrains of the landed classes, leading some to think the trimmed bushes refer to the wealth of the song’s subject. Others think that the
Played in reverse, those still trying to prove Zepp’s links to the devil hear something similar to “And all the evil fools who made us suffer, sad Satan.” Some even go so far as to conclude that the literal movement in the bush and the “spring clean for the May Queen” refers to a young girl’s first menstrual cycle.
The best way to interpret most art, of course, is to go directly to the source of the art. According to Page, the song means whatever the listener wants it to mean. Plant explained that his lyrics portrayed “a woman’s quest for spiritual perfection”, going so far as to calling it “a simple wedding song.”
As for the “hedgerow” line and the menstrual interpretation, when an Australian TV presenter referenced it in an interview with band members, Plant made a strange face and responded, “What it is, it’s the beginning of spring, it’s when the birds make their nests, when hope and the new year begins. And it’s nothing to do with any of that weird stuff you read about in America!”
Sometimes the love of a song and its interpretation just go too far.
70ml Harrington Dry Gin
100ml sloe gin
35ml fresh lime juice
25ml shot of elderflower cordial
2 fresh blackberries
2 frozen blackberries (for the garnish)
Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, pour through a cocktail strainer into the chilled martini glasses. Serves 2.