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Old 01-29-2005, 10:24 PM   #1
zharth
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The Roots of Led Zeppelin

I understand that there has been quite a bit of debate about the originality of Zeppelin's songwriting, that is certainly no secret. My personal opinion on the matter is that although the members of Led Zeppelin ripped quite a few things off, in most cases they managed to add enough to the song to at least deserve recognition for their contributions, as much as the original artists deserve writing credit. The band might not have always been original, but they were dreadfully talented, and that's what we all remember them for, right?

Anyway, I thought it might be helpful to have a place to discuss topics related to this issue, since lately I have been very interested in finding the earlier versions of songs Led Zeppelin performed, mostly for curiosity's sake. I found this one site (https://www.turnmeondeadman.net/Zep/Originals.html) that has quite a bit of info about Zep's specific inspirations, including details about 5 cd's that have been available at one time which compile a bunch of originals that may have served as inspiration to some of Zep's material. I picked up Early Blues Roots and Sources of Inspiration, being the only ones I could get my hands on right away, and I am fascinated so far listening to these early songs that bear more or less resemblance to quite a few Zeppelin songs. I recently tracked down potential sources for two of the other cd's listed on the above site, The Roots and Zeppelin Classics, though I haven't secured them yet. I can't seem to find Led Astray anywhere, though.

Especially when the Yardbirds are concerned, credit issues become rather complicated, seeing as Led Zeppelin formed out of the ashes of the Yardbirds, of whom Jimmy Page was a good friend and even member of towards the end of their run. The site I already mentioned had a link to another site (https://www.furious.com/perfect/yardbirds2.html) which has some more information, albeit more accusatory, and I'm wondering just how much of what it claims is really true. I knew that the Yardbirds performed Dazed and Confused before Zeppelin recorded it, but I had no idea that Zeppelin's Tangerine originally comes from something the Yardbirds composed. Plus you have pieces of songs that show up in other songs, like the solo from the Yardbird's Think About It that becomes a solid piece of the solo from Zeppelin's recorded version of Dazed and Confused, and according to this site, pieces of the Train Kept A Rollin' solo showing up in Rock and Roll (hadn't noticed it myself), and supposedly a slowed down version of the Shapes of Things solo in Zeppelin's How Many More Times (haven't verified that, either). This site does give an interesting side to side comparison of Jeff Beck's Truth with Led Zeppelin's debut album. Very interesting points.

As you can see, there is much to discuss, and I am quite curious in finding obscure and rare facts about the origin of some of Zeppelin's material. If you have any information of that sort, it would be great if you could share it with fellow Zeppelin fans (Spike's history of The Gallow's Pole is an excellent example). But there's still one specific thing that I wanted to ask. I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere, so I'm curious if I'm the only one who's noticed it (I know I can't be). But the opening notes to the Yardbirds' New York City Blues (recorded with Jeff Beck), are strikingly similar to the immortal opening notes to Led Zeppelin's Since I've Been Loving You (of course, the latter song is, in the end, much more beautiful than the former, but the connection is still intriguing - I can't help but wonder if that was intentional or not...). So has anyone else noticed this? (And if you haven't, go listen to the very beginning of both songs right now, you'll be shocked.)

P.S. After I acquire enough songs and knowledge, I'm planning on doing a radio special on my own classic rock radio show, celebrating the Roots of Led Zeppelin, where I plan on playing a bunch of blues, folk, and other originals, side by side with Zeppelin's versions. I can't wait.
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Old 01-30-2005, 07:12 AM   #2
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

That radio show sounds awesome!

Anyway, you make some good points and your perspective seems solid.

One thing that often gets me about this business is that sometimes there are huge questions as to who the first person was to play something that Zep later played, there could be 2 or more people in the past that both supposedly wrote it. To some people that might not matter, since either way Zep didn't write it, but to me that shows exactly what kind of business this is.

My personal policy is - if you can play it, cool. It makes sense that Jimmy could have picked up a lot of things from The Yardbirds since he probably played the old songs at live shows (or maybe not, I don't know for sure). And about Tangerine, the word on Zep.com is that Tangerine was a song Jimmy wrote in the Yardbirds days. Supposedly the subject matter is even about a girlfriend he had had. But that may not be right, because Zep.com once told me that the original Dazed and Confused was a blues song called "I'm Confused." My personal view of 'originality' is pretty cynical, but liberating too. No one has experienced everything so no one knows what is original or not, that's my final line. To us, originality is based entirely on our frame of reference and with what ways & factors we evaluate things. I think Silvertide is original because I've never heard anything like that before, but some people think they're a carbon copy of things that have already occured. To the victor go the spoils, everything comes from something so it's all just a matter of if you can pick it out or not. It's all one song.

But away from originality rants, back to the topic. I think it's particularly interesting that some Zep intros like that of Since I've Been Loving You and Stairway To Heaven are from other places. (Although Stairway is hardly a "borrow" at all, if you ask me, since they aren't even extremely similar). There are only so many who would argue that Stairway To Heaven and Since I've Been Loving You aren't great songs. I'd say they are easily some of the greatest songs, and their predecessors in New York City Blues and Taurus don't at all compare. Also, in my humblest opinion - Truth doesn't hold a candlestick to Led Zeppelin I. But few things can. There are definite similarities. And Truth is good. So if the only thing Led Zeppelin ever did was take previous works and turn them into Led Zeppelin's catolouge, they're still the best. I have nothing against that kind of thing. And I still consider Zep to be master songwriters.
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Old 01-30-2005, 11:13 AM   #3
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

Thank you for starting this thread. And the radio show sounds cool. My hobby -- or, as my family might say, obsession -- is tracking the roots of all kinds of classic rock & soul music. My appreciation of this music is enhanced by understanding its connections to blues, country, pop, gospel, folk, etc. It puts the music that we love within the context of a broader tapestry of time. And the fact that some things are not entirely original does not diminish their value in any way.

But I do have two problems when people claim full credit for something that others have helped to create. The first is economic; no one should claim full songwriter's credit when someone else has a clear claim on authorship. The second is about tradition; even if no living person has a rightful legal claim, it is disrepectful of tradition to claim full authorship when your work is based on a tradition that stretches far into the past. Zeppelin has been accused of both of these sins in the past. IMHO, such criticisms are often justified. And my respect is diminished for anyone who fails to show proper respect for tradition. But that is just one person's opinion.

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Old 01-30-2005, 11:16 AM   #4
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

Yeah but they did end up paying royalties for many of those songs. On another note many of the old bluesmen stole the songs too. It was common from what I have read for them to claim copyright to songs they did not write.
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Old 01-30-2005, 12:27 PM   #5
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

Quote:
Originally Posted by zeppboy
On another note many of the old bluesmen stole the songs too. It was common from what I have read for them to claim copyright to songs they did not write.
We've been around this block before, haven't we?

Of course, that happened. But, IMHO, there's a fundamental difference between claiming songwriter's credit when you are the first to record a song in 1927 and doing the same when you are the umpteenth to record the same song by the time you do so in 1970.

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Old 01-30-2005, 12:30 PM   #6
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

Quote:
Originally Posted by Spike
Quote:
Originally Posted by zeppboy
On another note many of the old bluesmen stole the songs too. It was common from what I have read for them to claim copyright to songs they did not write.
We've been around this block before, haven't we?

Of course, that happened. But, IMHO, there's a fundamental difference between claiming songwriter's credit when you are the first to record a song in 1927 and doing the same when you are the umpteenth to record the same song by the time you do so in 1970.

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I guess we will just have to agree to disagree as I see no difference in it .
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Old 01-30-2005, 01:47 PM   #7
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

There's a difference between rewriting some folkloric tunes, and having a substantial fraction of your catalogue being rip-off versions of songs written by your contemporaries, and fail to pay tribute to the original creators.

You cannot point to a blues player that has a repertoire consisting of that much music written by other uncredited songwriters.

Not only is there a difference, what Led Zeppelin did was pretty nasty. Huge turn off for me. But how can I stay mad at Zeppelin? They're still one of my favorite bands. This kind of stuff just makes it a bit harder for me to like 'em.
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Old 01-30-2005, 01:49 PM   #8
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

Many of those songs where in the public domain and no one really knows who wrote them originally though. So I don't see your point.
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Old 01-30-2005, 01:54 PM   #9
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

Yet many were not
https://www.furious.com/perfect/yardbirds2.html
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Old 01-30-2005, 01:56 PM   #10
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

I'll still take the Zeppelin versions. They took those songs and transformed them into works of art.
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Old 02-05-2005, 02:09 AM   #11
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

So here's a bit of what I've learned through my research thus far. I encourage you to back up or dispute the following statements, as you see fit, since I could use as much help as I can get trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. By the way, my research is certainly not finished yet, so some of these facts I have yet to verify (but am planning to, if possible).

Let's start with the first album.

Good Times Bad Times [Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones]
As far as I can tell, this is an original tune.
Babe I'm Gonna Leave You [Anne Bredon (Earthchild), Jimmy Page, Robert Plant]
Credited to Anne Bredon (a.k.a. Anne Briggs). Was recorded by Joan Baez. Jimmy Page supposedly recorded a version with Marianne Faithful. Page also allegedly recorded a version with Steve Winwood that never saw the light of day. Quicksilver Messenger Service also recorded a song of the same name.
You Shook Me [J.B. Lenoir, Willie Dixon]
Written by Willie Dixon, performed by Muddy Waters. Jeff Beck recorded a version on his album Truth shortly before Led Zeppelin's debut album was released. The lyrics about the birds that whistle and sing is from a Robert Johnson song titled Stones In My Passway.
Dazed and Confused [Jimmy Page]
A song by Jake Holmes, from his album "The Above Ground Sound Of Jake Holmes." Jake Holmes apparently shared the bill with the Yardbirds at some point, and this song became a live Yardbirds number. [The Yarbirds version was released with the incorrect title of "I'm Confused" on the Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page album that was quickly recalled by Page. Another version was released on the late Yardbirds album Cumular Limit.] Page then recorded it for release with Led Zeppelin. Parts of the solo in the version on Led Zeppelin's debut album can be heard in the guitar solo of the Yardbirds song Think About It.
Your Time Is Gonna Come [Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones]
As far as I can tell, this is an original tune.
Black Mountain Side [Jimmy Page]
An original song titled Black Waterside by Bert Jansch. I believe it was also recorded by Anne Briggs.
Communication Breakdown [Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones]
Possibly inspired by Eddie Cochran's "Nervous Breakdown".
I Can't Quit You, Baby [Willie Dixon]
Written by Willie Dixon. It is my understanding that Otis Rush recorded a version of this song in 1956, and then rerecorded it in 1968. Another version was recorded (in 1968) by Little Milton, who also recorded a live version in 1970 on the album Grits Ain't Groceries.
How Many More Times [Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones]
Inspired by Howlin' Wolf's No Place To Go, also called You Gonna Wreck My Life. Also allegedly inspired by Howlin' Wolf's How Many More Years (though beyond the title I can't see the similarity). Some of the lyrics are from Albert King's The Hunter. I have also seen references to a song called How Many More Times by Gary Farr and the T-Bones and another song titled Kisses Sweeter than Wine by Jimmy Rodgers, though I'm not entirely sure in what context.

Again, please make comments as necessary. I intend to update this information as I acquire more data, and listen to more songs. And information on the rest of the albums is coming as well!

Last edited by zharth : 02-11-2005 at 11:33 PM.
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Old 02-05-2005, 12:08 PM   #12
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

I'm a huge Zep fan. They were my first and will always be my favorite rock band. But I do have to acknowledge a lot of how they handled writing credits was messed up, though in many cases they have corrected things, in some they haven't. But nevertheless I have to honestly say it doesn't affect my love for their music much.

Quote:
Originally Posted by zharth
Black Mountain Side
Probably inspired by a song titled Black Waterside by Bert Jansch. I believe it was also recorded by Anne Briggs.
But you have to call a spade a spade. Black Mountain Side is more than inspired by the Jansch tune, it's practically identical except that it has no lyrics. Definitely a lift.

On the up side in the case of Boogie with Stu the song is basically Ritchie Valens's Ooh My Head. In this case they credited all four of themselves but also "Mrs. Valens" who I *think* is Ritchie's mother, so she would get some money from the song. I think they did this rather than credit him so she'd get the money directly. That was pretty cool.

BTW: it would be good for your analysis if you included who the songs were actually credited to. And I understand in some cases this changed over time as new versions were released.
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Old 02-05-2005, 01:32 PM   #13
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

Quote:
Originally Posted by infidel
But you have to call a spade a spade. Black Mountain Side is more than inspired by the Jansch tune, it's practically identical except that it has no lyrics. Definitely a lift.
Thanks, I haven't been able to listen to the song, yet.

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BTW: it would be good for your analysis if you included who the songs were actually credited to. And I understand in some cases this changed over time as new versions were released.
That's a good idea.
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Old 02-05-2005, 02:16 PM   #14
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

Little nit pick - the Jake Holmes album isn't the Under Ground Sound but rather the [i]Above Ground[i] Sound. It's an ironic title, considering how below ground both Jake Holmes's sound and the album itself are, but whatever.

Zep's all about the music, baby.
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Old 02-05-2005, 02:21 PM   #15
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deja Vu
Little nit pick - the Jake Holmes album isn't the Under Ground Sound but rather the [i]Above Ground[i] Sound. It's an ironic title, considering how below ground both Jake Holmes's sound and the album itself are, but whatever.
Wow, good call. I can't believe I actually wrote Under Ground... It just got into my subconscious, ya know. Crazy...
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Old 02-07-2005, 05:06 PM   #16
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

Ok, here's the second album:

Whole Lotta Love [Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Willie Dixon]
You Need Love was originally written by Willie Dixon and performed by Muddy Waters. The Small Faces recorded a version before Zeppelin got to it, and Steve Marriott's vocals in the Small Face's version are the likely source for Robert Plant's treatment of the song. Led Zeppelin added a catchy new riff, a killer guitar solo, and retitled the song, giving Willie Dixon no credit, until his daughter noticed the similarity, leading to a law suit, after which Willie Dixon was credited for the song.
What Is And What Should Never Be [Jimmy Page, Robert Plant]
As far as I can tell, this is an original tune, and also one of Robert Plant's first original lyrical compositions.
The Lemon Song [Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant]
Originally titled Killing Floor, by Howlin' Wolf, this version also features the famous 'lemon' lyrics from Robert Johnson's Traveling Riverside Blues (which Led Zeppelin also covered in complete). Jimi Hendrix also performed his own version of Killing Floor live in the late 60's (at least as early as Feb. 4 1968) - there's a version on Jimi Hendrix's BBC Sessions release.
Thank You [Jimmy Page, Robert Plant]
As far as I can tell, this is an original tune, though one might notice the similarity of the lyrics "If the sun refused to shine, I would still be lovin' you, when mountains crumble to the sea, there will still be you and me" in this song, to the lyrics "If the sun refused to shine, I don't mind, I don't mind, if the mountains fell in the sea, let it be, let it be' in Jimi Hendrix's If 6 Was 9, released on his second album Axis: Bold As Love. I'm not sure if this is just a coincidence.
Heartbreaker [Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Robert Plant]
As far as I can tell, this is an original tune.
Living Loving Maid [Jimmy Page, Robert Plant]
As far as I can tell, this is an original tune.
Ramble On [Jimmy Page, Robert Plant]
As far as I can tell, this is an original tune, and an excellent lyrical composition by Robert Plant.
Moby Dick [Jimmy Page, John Bonham, John Paul Jones]
The guitar riff in this song resembles that of a song called Watch Your Step by Bobby Parker. This riff was allegedly developed from Zeppelin's cover of The Girl I Love She Got Long Curly Hair by Sleepy John Estes (which Zeppelin titled The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair).
Bring It On Home [Jimmy Page, Robert Plant]
Written by Willie Dixon, and recorded by Sonny Boy Williamson. Zeppelin added a high-energy rock'n'roll middle section to the song, but the blues opening and closing are very similar to the original.

Last edited by zharth : 02-10-2005 at 09:15 PM.
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Old 02-07-2005, 05:09 PM   #17
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

Good stuff, zharth. One thing:

Quote:
Originally Posted by zharth
What Is And What Should Never Be [Jimmy Page, Robert Plant]
As far as I can tell, this is an original tune, and also one of Robert Plant's first original lyrical compositions.
Not sure, but if you're saying that because Plant was uncredited on the first album, that's only because he was still under contract to CBS Records at the time. I have a feeling he had a hand in writing some of the lyrics from the first album, too.
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Old 02-07-2005, 05:24 PM   #18
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Re: The Roots of Led Zeppelin

Quote:
Originally Posted by infidel
Not sure, but if you're saying that because Plant was uncredited on the first album, that's only because he was still under contract to CBS Records at the time. I have a feeling he had a hand in writing some of the lyrics from the first album, too.
You're right. I guess what I was trying to say is that it marked a point where Plant began to deviate from the old cliched blues phrases and the countless derivations thereof and began to write his own words, in a rather poetic sense, as can be seen on this track and Ramble On, for example.
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