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Zharth's Music Log

Week 6: Pre-Ledded

Preface: It's no secret that a huge part of the music world involves a lot of 'sharing' of musical themes and ideas. It's also no secret that Led Zeppelin were a bit stingy, one might say, on the matter of giving songwriting credit for the tunes they recorded. Whether you think the band should be victimized for it, or excused, is your choice. I believe that an honest look into Led Zeppelin's influences can enhance one's appreciation for their music as much as hinder it, depending primarily on your own prior opinions about the band.

With that in mind, we'll spend the week exploring some "Led Zeppelin tunes" that were recorded previously by other bands. These songs will not necessarily be the true originals, but other, pre-Led Zeppelin, versions recorded by rock bands of the era, proving that Zep weren't the only ones borrowing ideas. And if you want to learn more about Zep's influences, check out The Roots of Led Zeppelin Project!

Monday (8/27/07): Jake Holmes - Dazed And Confused [The Above Ground Sound, 1967]
Comments: This dark and epic track which defined Led Zeppelin's early and mid live shows was first adapted by The Yardbirds from an original folk tune recorded by Jake Holmes. Despite the change of hands, Jake Holmes' original is every bit as paranoid as Zeppelin's version (some might argue more), if not quite as heavy, or long.

Tuesday (8/28/07): Quicksilver Messenger Service - Babe I'm Gonna Leave You [Revolution (Soundtrack), 1967]
Comments: This folk tune, popularized by Joan Baez's haunting vocals, is given an independent rock treatment here by San Francisco jam/rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service. For their debut album, Led Zeppelin would re-interpret the song with a dynamic mix between the folk and rock aesthetic, resulting in one of their representative experiments in "light and shadow".

Wednesday (8/29/07): Jeff Beck - You Shook Me [Truth, 1968]
Comments: Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page were friends and transitory bandmates in The Yardbirds, and they both decided (independently) to cover the same blues tune (written by Willie Dixon and originally recorded by Muddy Waters) on their respective first post-Yardbirds albums. Beck's Truth hit the market before Zep's self-titled debut by mere months, but it's no secret which release garnered the larger following.

Thursday (8/30/07): Jimi Hendrix Experience - Killing Floor [BBC Sessions, track recorded in 1967]
Comments: Killing Floor was a popular blues by Howlin' Wolf, here set on overdrive courtesy of Jimi Hendrix, which provided the basis for Led Zeppelin's raunchy underrated blues from their second album, The Lemon Song.

Friday (8/31/07): The Small Faces - You Need Loving [The Small Faces, 1966]
Comments: Though written by Willie Dixon and originally recorded by Muddy Waters, The Small Faces' searing version of this blues tune provide an obvious inspiration (by way of the incendiary Steve Marriott) for Robert Plant's vocals on Led Zeppelin's retitled Whole Lotta Love, one of their biggest hits.

Saturday (9/01/07): Moby Grape - Never [Grape Jam, 1968]
Comments: Among the hippie bands hailing from San Francisco that Robert Plant admired was the unjustly unsuccessful Moby Grape, apparent victims of "over-hype" (5 singles from their debut album were released simultaneously). Though not a direct cover, the track Never from Grape Jam featured as the primary inspiration for Zep's third-album blues, Since I've Been Loving You.

Sunday (9/02/07): Fear Itself - In My Time Of Dying [Fear Itself, 1969]
Comments: In My Time Of Dying is an old blues tune, originally recorded as Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed by Blind Willie Johnson in 1927. Bob Dylan may have been responsible for the title change, when he recorded it folk-style for his riveting 1962 debut album. Led Zeppelin weren't the first band to interpret the song as an epic rock jam, though, as evidenced by this version by Canadian psych-blues-rockers Fear Itself, recorded in 1969.

Afterthought: Not yet discovered by me at the time of posting this theme, the version of I Can't Quit You Baby by John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers (featuring a pre-Rolling Stones Mick Taylor on lead guitar) - from the album Crusade, released in 1967 - is just the sort of track that belongs here.