Robert Plant aimed to outdo the Beastie Boys in 1988 when creating “Tall Cool One,” by incorporating samples of Led Zeppelin songs, including “When the Levee Breaks,” “The Ocean,” and “Custard Pie,” along with parts from “Black Dog,” “Whole Lotta Love,” and “Dazed and Confused” into his song. This was Plant’s response to the Beastie Boys’ sampling of Led Zeppelin songs on their debut album two years prior.
“I just didn’t think the samples that had been used on other people’s records had been EQ’ed properly,” Plant revealed in an interview at the time. “So I figured if you get the CD and you actually do EQ them — and stick them in an AMS [digital delay unit] and just tune them up a bit, or down a bit, to give them, even more, sharpness, or more effect and intensity — then if I can’t do it, I’m fucked if I know anybody who can.”
Plant criticized the group that sampled Led Zeppelin songs on their debut album, saying “I thought the bit of ‘The Ocean’ on ‘She’s Crafty’ could have been a bit more sparkly…you’re leaving it in the hands of amateurs, really, so that’s what you get. It wasn’t supposed to be high-tech.”
The song “Tall Cool One” was co-written by Plant and Phil Johnstone, who sent tapes of his work to Plant’s office. Johnstone revealed that Plant was looking for new music because he felt that everything on record at the time was average and that they listened to around 500 tapes together to find the best song.