What Is Happening


Our Mike Olszewski is going to take a look at some of the controversies that come up about bands “borrowing” from other musicians. This will be a series of stories where he will take an album or song and break it down for us.

This week he is taking a deep dive into Led Zeppelin 1 the debut album of Led Zeppelin:

Let’s make something clear right from the start. People should be fairly paid for their work, and if it’s creative work they should take steps to protect it. The entertainment world is a good example. The music business is just that, a business, and over the years laws have been refined and artists have found representation that stresses ownership of their work. That obviously wasn’t always the case, and many of the old-time troubadours hopping trains between gigs and playing in living rooms, street corners and juke joints didn’t have the assets or acumen to get that kind of representation. They were just trying to make a buck to get by. Were they taken advantage of over the years? Even folks who made a tremendous amount of money doing just that would admit they probably were.

Let’s also look at the old saying, “There’s nothing new under the sun”. That came from the King James bible and in so many ways that rings true today. There may be innovative ways of presenting something, but just how original is the source material? Years ago, there was speculation that every series of notes has already been used and musicians were simply reusing previous works. Maybe, but again, if it’s done within the letter of the law everyone can benefit. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a difference between inspiration and outright theft, and that’s not the purpose of this column. This isn’t an endorsement of anyone using material that was previously issued without proper acknowledgement, but a lot of music that may have been forgotten has seen new life when it was reissued in a new form. It also benefited many of the original artists. This column is aimed at pointing out similarities and nothing more.

Having said that, let’s take a look at Led Zeppelin. The band introduced a lot of music that had previously been heard by limited audiences, especially on the group’s debut album. Some examples:
“Babe, I’m Going to Leave You” – Hard to believe but the most popular version of this song by folkie Anne Bredon prior to Zeppelin was done by Joan Baez. Bredon was later credited for her contribution. Here’s the way Baez interpreted it.

Now, Led Zeppelin’s version:

You Shook Me” – No question that this song was written by Willie Dixon and later showed up not only on Zeppelin #1 but was also done by Jeff Beck with help on both tracks by John Paul Jones. Willie’s version:

Zeppelin’s take:

And now Jeff Beck:

All presented with distinctive styles focusing on the artist as well as the song.

“Dazed and Confused” – Jimmy Page had been doing this song since he was with the Yardbirds as “I’m Dazed”, and it was always a showstopper. The credit reads by Jimmy Page, but Jake Holmes may have thought otherwise. Here he is from his album The Above Ground Sound with his “Dazed and Confused”.

And the more familiar version by Led Zeppelin:

Here’s a link to the debate over who wrote, or more accurately, owns the song.

No real argument over “Your Time is Gonna Come” credited to Page and Jones, but that’s not the case with “Black Mountain Side”, again credited to Page, which sounds quite a bit like Bert Jansch’s version of “Down by the Waterside”

Here’s what Zeppelin recorded:

Originally titled “Too Good”, it’s a pretty sure bet that “Communication Breakdown” can only be traced to Jimmy Page and company, and the next song…”I Can’t Quit You, Baby”…has Willie Dixon again as the author. Dixon’s version:

There’s also no question that Zeppelin took it in a unique direction.

Which brings us to the final song, “How Many More Times” credited to all members of Led Zeppelin. Some would argue that it was borrowed from Howling Wolf’s “How Many More Years” but, frankly, I can only see a remote similarity to the title. Here’s the Wolf:

We’ll continue to compare various versions of songs, some that have been debated for years and others that remain fairly obscure. You be the judge.

Mike Olszewski

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