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Song: Black Mountain Side
Album: Led Zeppelin [released Jan 12, 1969 (US) | Mar 28, 1969 (UK)]
Single: N/A
Credited to: Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones
Related Songs:
Blackwaterside - Bert Jansch (original?, previous cover?)
Blackwaterside - Anne Briggs (original?, previous cover?)
Blackwaterside - Sandy Denny (later cover)



Personal notes: Quite a breather, compared to the energy of the rest of the album. This is a beautiful, short acoustic instrumental, which became part of Jimmy Page's live performance of White Summer, which he wrote and recorded with the Yardbirds. Between this and Bron-Yr-Aur, Zeppelin's other acoustic instrumental, I'd be inclined to pick Bron-Yr-Aur.

Influences: This song has a potentially complicated origin. There is some evidence that it may have been developed from a very old traditional song, but Anne Briggs is also credited with recording one of the original versions. Bert Jansch, who I believe Jimmy Page was a fan of, also recorded a version, although it may have been Al Stewart who taught Jimmy how to play it. Sandy Denny also recorded a version of this tune, which was originally titled Blackwaterside, for her 1971 album North Star Grassman and the Ravens. In order to elucidate the history of this song, here is an explanation from the IFMTL:

According to Page, "I wasn't totally original on that riff. It had been done in folk clubs a lot. Annie Briggs was the first one that I heard do that riff. I was playing it as well, and then there was Bert Jansch's version." However, Briggs cites her source for the song as being Bert Lloyd, a collector of old folk songs, who according to Briggs assembled the song from fragments. The riff though, again according to Briggs, comes from Stan Ellison, who composed the accompaninment on the version Briggs recorded. Bert Jansch went and wrote a different guitar part for his version which appeared on his 1966 album "Jack Orion". Page probably learned the old Irish folk song from folk musician Al Stewart during a session where Page turned up to play on Stewart's cover of the Yardbird's song "Turn Into Earth", the b-side for his single "The Elf". Stewart recalls that between takes he showed Page how to play the riff and that Page seemed really taken with it. Stewart later realised though, that he showed Page the wrong tuning for what he thought was Jansch's version, D modal, but which wasn't. That actual tuning, DADGAD is acknowledged as an invention of folk musician Davey Graham. Out of this confused set of sources, Jansch apparently contemplated legal action but those acting on his behalf gave up. Viram Jasnai plays tabla drums to add a feel similar to an Indian raga.

Black Waterside - Bert Jansch

One morning fair, I took the air
Down by blackwaterside
'Twas in gazing all, all around me
The Irish lad I spied
All through the first part of the night
We did lie in sport and play
Till this young man arose and gathered his clothes
Saying, "Fare thee well today"

That's not the promise that you gave to me
When first you lay on my breast
You could make me believe with your lying tongue
That the sun rose in the west
Go home, to your father's garden
Go home and weep your fill
And think on your own misfortune
That you bought with your wanton will
One morning fair, I took the air
Down by Blackwaterside
'Twas in gazing all, all around me
The Irish lad I spied

Unsolved Mysteries: (Please contact me if you have any information about the following)