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 Post subject: HE THIEVING MAGPIES:Jimmy Page's Dubious Recording Legacy
PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 10:24 pm 

Jimmy Page's Dubious Recording Legacy
(photo courtesy of Epic Records)

By Will Shade (January 2001)

Led Zeppelin: innovators or plagiarists? Jimmy Page: genius or charlatan? Perhaps the question itself is moot. After all, the band no longer exists, having broken up after John Bonham's death in 1980. Further, Led Zeppelin is safely enshrined in the hearts of their fans and in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself. Is an article examining their appropriation of material an exercise in futility? It's preaching to the choir and the heathens at the same time. The detractors have already made up their minds and the camp followers don't care one iota. If nothing else, though, this piece will give readers an opportunity to track down the recordings that Led Zeppelin "borrowed" from.

Led Zeppelin has long had an unsavory reputation for taking music and lyrics from lesser-known artists. Many times the songs were never credited to the rightful owners. Consequently, royalties lined the pockets of the millionaire British musicians. Further, their American heroes, often poor and black, never saw a dime from songs they had written before their heirs ever picked up an instrument. Led Zeppelin has been taken to court over the matter on numerous occasions. For an in-depth study of Led Zeppelin's penchant for stealing others‚Äö?Ñ??‚àö?ë‚àö‚àÇ‚Äö?†??‚àö?´‚Äö?†??¬¨‚Ä¢ work, music fans must turn to Page's first band, the Yardbirds.

Although the history of the Yardbirds has been well documented before, a thumbnail sketch of the band will lay the foundation for analyzing Jimmy Page's later behavior. Formed in 1963, the Yardbirds quickly became the darlings of the British R&B circuit. With Eric Clapton on lead guitar, the quintet cranked up the volume and played looser than any of their contemporaries. Songs were stretched out to 30 minute jams. Clapton's furious fretwork was matched by singer Keith Relf's frenetic harp playing. Further, the band boasted one of the loudest rhythm sections in rock and roll, with Paul Samwell-Smith on bass and Jim McCarty on the drum stool. Chris Dreja rounded out the fivesome, with his chunky rhythm guitar bolstering Clapton's stinging leads. The Yardbirds, while known as a breeding ground for lead guitarists, were definitely a band and a tight one at that.

To survive in that era, a band needed a chart topper. The Yardbirds soon turned themselves to that process. Clapton, a blues purist, was unhappy with the band's new direction. After playing on their first pop hit, "For Your Love," he left the band.

Obviously, the Yardbirds were in dire need of a lead guitar player. They approached London's ace session man, Jimmy Page, with an offer to join the band. Page had played on hundreds of studio tracks by such luminaries as Them, the Pretty Things, the Who, the Kinks as well as many groups that have faded into the mists of time. Amazingly, it is estimated that Jimmy Page appeared on 60% of everything recorded in England between 1963 and 1966.

Back to the Yardbirds though. Page turned their offer down, preferring the steady paycheck from his session work. Instead he suggested a brilliant, yet mercurial, guitarist named Jeff Beck. Beck and Page had been chums since their schooldays. Jeff Beck joined the Yardbirds for a 22-month roller coaster ride that many still consider the high point of rock and roll eclecticism. With Jeff Beck, they forged a futuristic sound that culminated in the proto-psychedelic single, "Shapes of Things."

By 1966, Jimmy Page tired of session work. Fortunately for him the Yardbirds were once again in need of his services. Page was brought in to replace departing Yardbird Paul Samwell-Smith. Jimmy Page initially played bass before switching over to lead guitar. Chris Dreja then filled the bassist slot. Needless to say, with Beck and Page on dual lead guitars, the Yardbirds quickly became the greatest rock and roll band in the world. They recorded only three songs with this configuration, though. One of those songs, "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago," is the zenith of psychedelia, a nuclear meltdown and aural firestorm masquerading as a pop song.

This lineup was short-lived, however. Within six months, and under mysterious circumstances, a volatile Jeff Beck left the band. The Yardbirds were undaunted and decided to carry on as a quartet. While their subsequent studio work may not be up to the standards laid during the Beck era, the unit was still very capable of creating blistering pyrotechnics on stage.

"Live as a four-piece, when Jimmy was playing guitar, I think those were some of our best shows," Chris Dreja said.

The Yardbirds, while one of the most innovative bands ever, had always been quick to acknowledge their stone cold blues roots. As an example, their stratospheric adaptation of "I'm A Man" was properly credited to Ellas McDaniel a.k.a. Bo Diddley. The same holds true for a slew of other covers the Yardbirds performed, both on stage and in the studio.

With Jimmy Page's ascendancy as lead guitarist, things began to change. Their final LP, 1967's Little Games, contained a number of traditional songs that the Yardbirds' names appeared on. Consequently, royalties wouldn't go to the American blues artists responsible for the songs, but rather to the English musicians themselves. Whereas in the past cover songs like "Smokestack Lightning" acknowledged the legitimate authors, non-original songs were now ascribed to the band. This was a procedure that would be repeated throughout Jimmy Page's career.

The Little Games album track "Drinking Muddy Water" was a rewrite of the Muddy Waters' tune "Rolling and Tumbling." Muddy Waters' version itself was a pastiche of many earlier blues numbers. In cases like this, it is customary to list the song as "traditional; arrangement by John Doe." Yet the Yardbirds version was credited to ‚Äö?Ñ??‚àö?ë‚àö‚àÇ‚Äö?†??‚àö?´‚Äö?†??‚Äö?¢¬ßDreja, McCarty, Page, Relf.‚Äö?Ñ??‚àö?ë‚àö‚àÇ‚Äö?†??‚àö?´‚Äö?†??¬¨‚Ä¢ The same goes for "Stealing, Stealing," a song usually ascribed to the Will Shade's Memphis Jug Band (yes, that's where I got my nom de guerre!). Some of these lyrics are also traditional. Once again, various Yardbirds were listed as responsible for writing the song with no mention being made of the original black musicians. The irony is obvious in stealing a song of that name.

"Smile On Me" was another song where the credits aren't quite kosher, so to speak. Authorship is given to Dreja, McCarty, Page, and Relf, but the song is basically a rewrite of two earlier blues songs. Jim McCarty was quick to point this out in a recent interview. Asked if it was based on an earlier Yardbirds song, "Rack My Mind," McCarty didn't hesitate in acknowledging the song's lineage.

"Yeah, and 'All Your Love,' too, the Otis Rush tune," he said.

In all fairness, "Rack My Mind" (which appears on the Roger the Engineer album) was a Xerox of "Scratch My Back" usually credited to J. Moore. Beck, Dreja, McCarty, Relf and Samwell-Smith helped themselves to the songwriting credits on "Rack My Mind," though.

Another Little Games album track, the modish "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor" opens with a guitar riff that Page would later use as the opening chords on Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song." Yes, it is his music, but his proclivity for recycling his own and others work shows a distinct lack of originality.

The highlight of the Little Games album is Page's solo acoustic showcase, "White Summer." With its Eastern tuning and dazzling fretwork, this tune has long been regarded as one of his finest performances. And rightly so. Curiously, the song is credited to Jimmy Page. However, it is a traditional English folk song called "She Moves Through The Fair." Many British artists had previously covered the song, including Davey Graham. Graham, along with English folk guitarist Bert Jansch, was one of Page's major acoustic influences. Coincidence? The song should be listed as "traditional; arrangment by Jimmy Page," but it is credited to the Yardbirds guitarist alone.

Perhaps citing these songs is nothing but an exercise in semantics. After all, putting your name on traditional tunes is nothing new. Take the legendary patriarch of country music, A.P. Carter, as an example. Through the early part of the 20th century he and his kin scoured Appalachia, copyrighting dozens of centuries old tunes that had their origins in the British Isles. To this day an ancient song like "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" is credited to A.P. Carter. Those in the know just chuckle and say "Well, A.P. had the smarts to put his name on it before anybody else." However, the last great Yardbirds tune was most definitely not a traditional song, but was written by a contemporary musician. Jimmy Page was to take this song with him to his next band, Led Zeppelin.

On August 25, 1967 the Yardbirds caught an acoustic act fronted by Jake Holmes at the Village Theatre in New York's Greenwich Village. Holmes and his musicians played a song about a bad acid trip. With its descending bass line, jittery lyrics and dramatic caesuras, the Yardbirds knew they were onto something. The very next day Jim McCarty bought Holmes' album, The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes.

"We played with Jake in New York and I was struck by the atmosphere of 'Dazed and Confused.' I went down to Greenwich Village and bought his album and we decided to do a version," McCarty said. "We worked it out together with Jimmy contributing the guitar riffs in the middle. Don't you think he's the riff-master?"

Apparently, Page also bought the album the same day. According to Yardbirds historian Greg Russo, a certain John Alusick witnessed Jimmy Page purchasing it at Bleecker Bob's Record Store on Bleecker Street. The Yardbirds quickly set about adapting the song that had captured their collective imagination.

Yardbirds singer Keith Relf rewrote the lyrics while drummer Jim McCarty and Jimmy Page expanded the song structure itself. The song stuck to the original arrangement until the bridge. Even at this point, the fret tapping acknowledged Holmes' original. Then Page threw in some eerie effects, bowing his guitar like a violin. Whereas a violin's neck is curved, a guitar neck is flat. Consequently, Page was only able to bow a couple strings at a time to produce an bizzare melody. When he bowed all six strings, the effect was startling. Strange moaning and whooping sounds were produced. This was a gimmick he had incorporated into his bag of tricks back in his studio days. He had first used it on two tracks on the Little Games LP, "Glimpses" and "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor."

Page was not the first guitarist to use a violin bow. He was a favorite session musician of famed producer, Shel Talmy. Talmy had used Page on session work for the Who and the Kinks among others. One of Talmy's pet projects was a band called the Creation. Eddie Phillips, lead guitarist of said group, had employed a violin bow on his guitar on two 1966 singles, "Painter Man" and "Making Time." It's worth musing over whether Page ever happened to see Phillips use the violin bow in the studio.

Talmy himself had no doubts about it. In the book, Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll, he shared his views on Eddie Phillips and Jimmy Page with author Richie Unterberger. "He (Phillips) was one of the most innovative guitarists I've ever run across. Jimmy Page stole the bowing bit of the guitar from Eddie. Eddie was phenomenal," Talmy said.

Page himself has claimed he didn't meet Eddie Phillips until Jim McCarty's 50th birthday party in 1994. Further, and to be fair, there are also pictures of Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett using a violin bow in concert. Eddie Phillips' underrated guitar work is now widely available with the reissue of the Creation's entire recorded legacy in the late '90s. Further, the movie, Rushmore, includes "Making Time" on the soundtrack.

There is a noticeable difference in the two guitar players' approach, however. Phillips' violin bowing is organic, much more integrated into the song structure itself. During the bridge in "Making Time," his bowing sounds very similar to feedback. When Page utilizes the effect, though, the song comes to a halt, with all attention being focused on the bowing. In "Dazed and Confused," Page followed up the violin bowing with a furious spitfire solo, which he had lifted from the flipside of the Yardbirds' last single, "Goodnight Sweet Josephine" b/w "Think About It." While it is undoubtedly his own solo, Page was exhibiting a tendency to recycle motifs and ideas.

The Yardbirds' version of "Dazed and Confused" became their dramatic showstopper. They played it for the final six months of their existence. It was never heard outside the concert circuit until Epic Records released Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page in 1971. Epic had taped a show at New York City's Anderson Theatre in the spring of 1968, during the Yardbirds final American tour. When the band heard the masters several days later, they decided that Epic should not release it as an album.

By 1971, Led Zeppelin was a colossal success and Epic obviously hoped to ride on their coattails. The track in question was erroneously called "I'm Confused" on the LP, a title the band never used. Nevertheless, Page quickly gained a court injunction and the album was withdrawn from the market. He cited the fact that Epic had overdubbed crowd noises on the original tracks. Further, he was dissatisfied with the band's original performance. In an interview from the spring of 1999, Jim McCarty revealed that he had no problem with the band's performance. "The Anderson Theatre show I didn't think was too bad- Jimmy says Keith had a bad night," McCarty said. "I think it was more a case of doing 'Dazed and Confused' pre-Zeppelin that made him withdraw it."

Page also had the LP withdrawn in 1975. It is still easily available as a bootleg and was recently remastered and distributed by Mooreland Street Records.

How was Jimmy Page able to wield this clout, seeing as how he was the last member to join the Yardbirds? Interestingly, there is a myth that he talked the other members of the Yardbirds into selling him the rights to the band's very name just before their final dissolution in the summer of 1968.

Contrary to rumors, the Yardbirds never did lay down a studio version of "Dazed and Confused." However, there was one last studio session in April 1968, which figures into the scheme of things. More on this later.

The Yardbirds' live take on "Dazed and Confused" certainly outshines Led Zeppelin's studio and live versions. Jim McCarty's drumming is much more fluid than John Bonham's, propelling the song along at breakneck speed. Further, Keith Relf's frantic harmonica playing on the tune is not replicated by Robert Plant's absurd wailing. In the hands of the Yardbirds, the song is a psychedelic masterpiece, not the metal monstrosity that Led Zeppelin performed.

Much later, Led Zeppelin's live version would incorporate another Yardbirds song into "Dazed and Confused." Page quotes the main riff to "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" during the bow solo on Led Zeppelin's live album, The Song Remains the Same (as it does indeed).

 Post subject: THE THIEVING MAGPIES:Jimmy Page's Dubious Recording Legacy
PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 10:26 pm 
Jimmy Page's Dubious Recording Legacy
Part 2

Yardbirds photo courtesy of Epic/EMI Records

By Will Shade
In July 1968, the Yardbirds finally threw in the towel. Relf and McCarty made the fatal decision that heavy, guitar-dominated music was on the way out. They formed the art rock/progressive band, Renaissance. McCarty is still rueful, yet bemused, about the path he chose to follow. He has since reformed the Yardbirds several times. The latest configuration, with Chris Dreja, toured America and Europe in 2000. They do an incredible version of "Dazed and Confused," seguing straight from a note perfect "Still I'm Sad." It would seem that McCarty and Dreja feel some right to the song.

Relf and McCarty's foray into prog rock was short lived. They released only one album with Renaissance. A second Renaissance LP was half done before they packed it in and John Hawken took it upon himself to locate other musicians to finish it. Keith Relf apparently realized the error of his ways, forming a heavy metal band in the mid-70s. Their one and only album, the self-titled Armageddon, is one of the great lost classics. It easily stands cheek by jowl with his former bandmate's work in Led Zeppelin.

Chris Dreja was initially slated to be the bass player in Page's new lineup, but bowed out gracefully once a more enthusiastic replacement was found. Page obviously made the right choice. He walked away with a stockpile of songs, including heavy metal's nascent anthem, "Dazed and Confused."

The stalwart Jimmy Page soon assembled a new band, which still called itself the Yardbirds. Comprised of Page, fellow session man John Paul Jones on bass, drummer John Bonham and vocalist Robert Plant, they fulfilled the original band's final contractual obligations, touring Sweden in September 1968. Contrary to accepted facts, the band was not known as the New Yardbirds at the time. Scandinavian ads billed them as either the Yardbirds or Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page.

Now back to the name "Yardbirds" itself. Chris Dreja recently revealed an incredible fact to Yardbirds historian Greg Russo. The document McCarty and Relf signed was to authorize Page and Dreja to fill out a Yardbirds group to satisfy the Scandinavian dates only. Page and Dreja had the name, even when Dreja left the band.

When Chris Dreja found out that manager Peter Grant was sending the group out to tour England (October 18-19) under the name, the ex-Yardbird filed a "cease and desist" order against Page and Grant to stop them from using said name. The name change was announced in the October 19, 1968 issue of DISC Magazine. Dreja's order caused the name change! Page has never owned the name.

Back in England, the band finally dropped the old moniker and entered the studio to record their eponymous debut album.

Amusingly enough, the name Led Zeppelin itself was not an original one. In May 1966, Jeff Beck was growing disenchanted with the Yardbirds. He and Jimmy Page entered the studio to record a number of tracks along with John Paul Jones and the Who's great drummer, Keith Moon. Moon's bandmate, John Entwistle, was also involved in some capacity. Apocryphal legend says the recording session went so well that the four musicians discussed forming a band. Moon and Entwistle were dissatisfied with Pete Townshend's increasing dictatorial grip on the Who. They were quite keen on the idea as were Page and Beck. They bantered back and forth over what would be a fitting epithet for the band. Someone said they would "go over like a lead balloon." Entwistle's rejoinder was to the affect that the band should be called "lead zeppelin." Moon brayed with delight. Page filed the name away in that steel trap that serves as a brain. One of the songs recorded at this session, "Beck's Bolero," figures into the scheme of things at a later point.

Exhilarated by the experience, Page realized the unit would need a dynamic vocalist. One of those approached was the Small Face's diminutive, yet powerful singer, Steve Marriott. Page was quickly rebuffed by the Small Faces' management, which had shady underworld connections. Jimmy Page was asked if he could "play guitar with broken fingers" or words to that affect. Needless to say, Page never contacted Marriott. Marriott's work with the Small Faces would figure into the Led Zeppelin saga, though.

Page returned to the Yardbirds until the summer of 1968. As already documented, he formed a new unit, which became known as Led Zeppelin. Once the tour of Scandinavia was over, the band entered the studio to record their first LP in the fall of 1968. Led Zeppelin's self-titled debut was recorded in under thirty hours and it shows in the lack of originality.

Jeff Beck in the mean time had formed his first solo band. The Jeff Beck Group took the Yardbirds' formula to its logical conclusion, i.e. loud and hard psychedelic blues mutating into what we now call heavy metal. This crackerjack unit was comprised of Beck on lead guitar, Steampacket's Rod Stewart on vocals, Birds' guitarist Ron Wood on bass and Mick Waller on drums. They recorded what is arguably the very first heavy metal album, Truth. Released in August 1968, Jimmy Page was to use his ex-bandmate's album as a veritable blueprint for Led Zeppelin's debut.

A track-by-track comparison of Truth and Led Zeppelin I is an intriguing process. Both albums had a reworking of a Yardbirds' song. The Beck album opened with a roaring, albeit less effective, version of "Shapes of Things." Led Zeppelin also used a Yardbirds' song, "Dazed and Confused." Page at this point rewrote the lyrics yet again, but he stuck strictly to the arrangement he and Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty devised. The Led Zeppelin version is solely credited to Jimmy Page, with no mention being made of Jake Holmes. Years later, Holmes heard Led Zeppelin's version but he decided not to pursue any legal action.

Both albums also contained a traditional English folk song. Beck's LP had a lovely acoustic arrangement of "Greensleeves." He didn't take any credit for the song. Page, on the other hand, showcased his companion piece to "White Summer." The song was called "Black Mountainside." It is credited solely to Page, yet humorously enough it is a centuries old tune. He probably picked it up from Bert Jansch, who is one of Page's primary acoustic influences. Further, Jansch had been playing the song for years, using its original title, "Black Waterside." He never took credit for the song. Jimmy Page, however, boldly stamped his name on the tune. As a side note, Davey Graham probably devised the D-A-D-G-A-D tuning used on "Black Waterside" and on "White Summer." Annie Briggs, another influence on Page, was also known to do a version of "Black Waterside."

This contrasting of heavy songs with light acoustic numbers was to become Led Zeppelin's trademark. Yet the Jeff Beck Group did it first and to better affect. Beck is as dazzling a guitar player as Jimmy Page, yet he is far more precise and capable of restraint. Interestingly, Jeff Beck's solo debut contained a rock 'n roll interpretation of Ravel's "Bolero." Entitled "Beck's Bolero," the piece came from the aborted 1966 supergroup session that had found Beck, Page, John Paul Jones and Keith Moon collaborating. Page provided some propulsive acoustic rhythm work upon which Jeff Beck overlaid stinging lead guitar. The song is once again credited only to Jimmy Page. Beck and Page have feuded over the songwriting rights in numerous interviews. To this day, Beck insists he came up with the arrangement. After all, it wasn't called "Page's Bolero."

Strangely, this is what Jimmy Page himself had to say about the song in a Trouser Press article, (October 1977, number 22 "Paging the Yardbirds" part two of a three part interview with Dave Schulps):

"Keith Relf had a melody on tape and we used that as the main part of the song. I don‚Äö?Ñ??‚àö?ë‚àö‚àÇ‚Äö?†??‚àö?´‚Äö?†??¬¨‚Ä¢t think that Beck actually came in on the backing tracks - he just did the overdubs and wrote the central section - the riffy bridge," Page said. It is left up to you, gentle reader, to make up your own mind as to where the origins of this song truly lie.

Truth also contained a version of the Muddy Waters classic, "You Shook Me." For some reason, Page also decided to include this song on Led Zeppelin's first album. While the song is properly accredited to its author, Willie Dixon, Jeff Beck was less than enthusiastic upon hearing Led Zeppelin's demo. With Truth still in the charts, he was unable to understand Page's decision to record the song for Led Zeppelin I. As recounted in the Led Zeppelin biography, Hammer of the Gods, Beck's eyes teared with rage as he demanded, "Jim, why?" Page just shrugged sheepishly, unable to explain why he wanted to upstage his former bandmate.

A rewrite of Eddie Cochran's rockabilly classic "Nervous Breakdown" appeared on Led Zeppelin's first album. Entitled "Communication Breakdown," this interpretation made no mention of Cochran, being credited to Bonham/Jones/Page.

Annie Briggs' fingerprints were all over another song on Led Zeppelin I. Her original, "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You," was appropriated by the foursome with the credits reading Bredon (her real name)/Page/Plant. Whether Page and Plant added anything to the song is debatable.

Led Zeppelin I closed with the ultimate pastiche. "How Many More Times" opens with a bass riff that came straight from the Yardbirds' reworking of "Smokestack Lightning." Lyrically it is comprised of Howlin' Wolf's "How Many More Years," Albert King's "The Hunter" and bits of Gary Farr and the T-Bones' "How Many More Times." Further, there was a direct quote of Jimmy Rodgers' pop hit, "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." Page's solo is Jeff Beck's solo from the Yardbirds classic, "Shapes of Things," slowed down to a crawl.

A listen to the Yardbirds Last Rave-up in L.A. bootleg reveals an interesting fact. "Smokestack Lightning" has the bolero section from "Beck's Bolero." Page also used this on "How Many More Times." The only thing original about the song is Page's violin bowing. "How Many More Times" is credited to Bonham/Jones/Page, though.

During 1969, Led Zeppelin toured continually. They recorded their sophomore effort in various studios while they were on the road. The resulting album is uneven and shows less originality than its predecessor.

"Whole Lotta Love" opens Led Zeppelin II. As mentioned earlier, Steve Marriott and the Small Faces figure into the Led Zeppelin saga. That mod foursome were known for a killer live version of the Muddy Waters "You Need Love." The following paragraph is from "Small Faces: The Young Mods' Forgotten Story" by Paolo Hewitt (1995, Acid Jazz Books).

'A few years later, one of the LP's outstanding tracks, the Marriott/Lane 'You Need Loving,' cropped up again to create rock history, albeit in a different format. '"Whole Lotta Love" by Led Zeppelin was nicked off that album,' Marriott pointed out. 'Percy Plant was a big fan. He used to be at all The Small Faces gigs. We did a gig with The Yardbirds which he was at and Jimmy Page asked me what that number was we did. "'You Need Loving'," I said, "it's a Muddy Waters thing" which it really is, so they both knew it, and Percy used to come to the gigs whenever we played in Kidderminster or Stowbridge, where he came from. He was always saying he was going to get this group together. He was another nuisance. He kept coming into the dressing room, just another little Mod kid. We used to say, "That kid's here again." Anyway we used to play this number and it became a stock opener after that album. After we broke up they took it and revamped it. Good luck to them. It was only old Percy who'd had his eyes on it. He sang it the same, phrased it the same, even the stops at the end were the same, they just put a different rhythm to it.' He laughs. 'For years and years I would hear it come on the radio while driving in America, and I would think, "Go on, my son," until one day I thought, "Fucking hell, that's us, that is. The bastards!"'

"Whole Lotta Love" is obviously, as Steve Marriott pointed, a direct nick of the Small Faces take on "You Need Love." The lyrics are basically the same as the Muddy Waters version. Further, Robert Plant's vocal stylings are indeed modeled directly on Marriott's delivery. One listen to the Small Faces version will lay any doubt aside. Unfortunately, the Small Faces songwriting credits made no mention of Willie Dixon. Of course, neither did Led Zeppelin.

Interestingly enough, Willie Dixon's own daughter, Shirley, brought it to her father's attention. As reported in the October 8, 1994's edition of The Los Angeles Times by Steve Hochman, Shirley Dixon first heard Led Zeppelin's version when she was thirteen. She played it for her father, who agreed it was his song. Willie Dixon was receiving no royalties from it. In 1985, Dixon sued Led Zeppelin for royalties to "Whole Lotta Love." The case was settled out of court two years later, with a generous settlement to Willie Dixon. Today, Shirley Dixon heads the Blues Heaven Foundation (established by her father), which helps blues artists recover their royalties and rights.

Another blues classic on Led Zeppelin II became famous as "The Lemon Song." Derived directly from Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor," there is also the infamous quote about squeezing lemons that comes from Robert Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues." Chester Burnett, a.k.a. Howlin' Wolf, received no credit for "The Lemon Song." In the early '70s, Arc Music sued Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement. The suit was settled out of court.

The album closed with a song credited to Page/Plant, "Bring It On Home." Discerning listeners realized it was the old Sonny Boy Williamson song of the same name, albeit with a furious Page solo. Once again, the song's author, Willie Dixon, won a settlement.

Led Zeppelin III found Page still delving into his bag of Yardbirds leftovers. An album track, "Tangerine," was one Page had worked on with the Yardbirds in the spring of 1968. Page claimed authorship of the entire song, including the lyrics. The Yardbirds had never copyrighted the piece, which made it easy for Page to usurp it in its entirety. The flower-child verses smack of Keith Relf, though. "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" is basically an original song with Jones/Page/Plant being listed as the song's authors. However, the intro is lifted from "The Waggoner's Tale" by Bert Jansch.

1971‚Äö?Ñ??‚àö?ë‚àö‚àÇ‚Äö?†??‚àö?´‚Äö?†??¬¨‚Ä¢s Led Zeppelin IV showed the band to be up to their old tricks. The drum intro to "Rock 'n Roll" was a direct lift from Little Richard's "Keep A-Knocking." One listen to that early nugget will prove the point. Further, elements of the solo from the old Yardbirds warhorse "Train Kept A-Rollin" show up in "Rock 'n Roll."

But it is that holiest of Holy Grails, "Stairway To Heaven," that will shock the faithful. On one of Led Zeppelin's early tours, they had opened for the California art-rock group, Spirit. In the liner notes to the reissue of Spirit's 1968 eponymous debut, the band's guitarist Randy California mentions the fact that Jimmy Page took special interest in an original entitled "Taurus." There is no doubt that Page appropriated the opening guitar lines note for note on "Stairway To Heaven." Further, the chord progression in "Stairway To Heaven" is incredibly similar to a song by the Chocolate Watch Band, "And She's Lonely." The Yardbirds played with the Chocolate Watch Band during Page's tenure. It would be quite ironic if he did indeed lift the chords from the Chocolate Watch Band. The Chocolate Watch Band, to those in the know, was the ultimate Yardbirds clone. Wouldn't it be fitting that a former Yardbirds guitarist ripped off something from a band that based an entire career around sounding like that famed quintet?

Led Zeppelin IV also found the band tackling a Memphis Minnie original, "When The Levee Breaks." In this case, Memphis Minnie is credited, but so are the four members of Led Zeppelin. What they contributed to the song is once again debatable.

Led Zeppelin continued to appropriate songs throughout the rest of their career, albeit with less frequency. For the most part, the songs examined in this article are the most notorious cases of Led Zeppelin lifting others artistic works.

Is this hair-splitting? Isn't rock and roll all about taking influences, warping and twisting them until they come out sounding new? Yes and no. Rock and roll's great idiot savant, Elvis Presley, married blues to country, creating the 20th century's most popular form of music. And while his first single at Sun Studios, a breath-taking version of Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup's "That's All Right Mama," doesn't sound anything like the sluggish original it is still properly credited to the rightful author. Same goes for all three of the Beatles covers of Carl Perkins songs. Taking a stray riff is one thing. Appropriating an entire song's music and lyrics while listing yourself as the author is quite another.


In the summer of 2000, two Yardbirds CD‚Äö?Ñ??‚àö?ë‚àö‚àÇ‚Äö?†??‚àö?´‚Äö?†??¬¨‚Ä¢s from the Jimmy Page era were released. The first release was a limited edition of the famed Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page issued by Mooreland Street Records. Contrary to rumors, Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja are quite content with the quality of the show as is Keith Relf's family. Page had this album surpressed twice before in the '70‚Äö?Ñ??‚àö?ë‚àö‚àÇ‚Äö?†??‚àö?´‚Äö?†??¬¨‚Ä¢s.

The CDs sold out quickly. Apparently Mooreland Street Records had dealings with Page's representatives. Russ Garrett, head of the company, also runs a Yardbirds fan forum on the Internet. He has alluded to legal scuffling with "800-pound gorillas in buisness suits" on the website. Garrett would not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

The other recent Yardbirds release was issued by New Millenium. It contains the legendary final studio sessions from New York City in April 1968. Called Cumular Limit, the CD had fans salivating. This was especially true, because McCarty hinted in a interview from the spring of 2000, that a take on "Tangerine" would be included. The Yardbirds version was called "Knowing That I'm Losing You." However, that track does not appear on the new release. "I was advised that one of the members wasn't exactly delirious with the album," Carlton Sandercock at New Millenium said. Considering that Keith Relf was tragically electrocuted in 1976 and that both McCarty and Dreja participated in the CD's liner notes, it doesn't take much detective work to figure out which member is unhappy with the release. Asked what happened to the inclusion of "Knowing That I'm Losing You on the CD, Sandercock would not go into details. "Unfortunately, one of the songs was not released," he simply said.

Cumular Limit also has a live version of "Dazed and Confused" from French television in the spring of '68. For once, the song is credited properly, reading Jake Holmes; arr. Yardbirds. "I would really like to release Jake Holmes' original album," Sandercock related. "We can't seem to find him, though." Re-issuing The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes would undoubtedly unsnarl a tangled web.

The evidence is laid out. It is up to you, gentle reader, to assess whether Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin deserve the prestige they have been accorded. Now, this may appear to be nothing but gratuitous Page-bashing. Far from it. To this day, Jimmy Page is unacknowledged as one of the two the greatest psychedelic guitar players ever. The other one is not Jimi Hendrix, but rather the aforementioned Syd Barrett. Page's criminally underrated work with the Yardbirds and on countless sessions (take note of his hypnotic work on Donovan's "Sunshine Superman") reveal him to have set the standard for lysergic discord par excellence.

Further, in light of the fact that Page played on 60% of everything released in Britian between 1963-66 and then adding his work with the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin, he is undoubtedly the most recorded major guitarist ever. His fretwork itself is never in question. Even on the lightweight session material he appears on, Page's guitar playing itself is impeccable (which is amazing if you consider that the majority of those forgotten groups should not have been within ear-shot of a studio). But it his habit for putting his name on others materials that is being examined here, not his guitar sorcery.


Thanks to Greg Russo for providing valuable insight and information.

Greg Russo's acclaimed history of the Yardbirds, Yardbirds: The Ultimate Rave-Up is available outside North America for 12 pounds plus 3 pounds shipping from: NMC Music Ltd. B11 Lanterns Court, Millharbour, London E14 9TU http://www.n-m-c.co.uk or e-mail them at music@n-m-co.uk VISA/Mastercard accepted.

In North America, the book is $19.95 plus $3.20 shipping ($6 air mail to Canada) and available from Crossfire Publications, P.O. Box 20406, Floral Park, New York 11002. Phone/fax: (516) 352-3037. http://www.crossfirepublications.com or e-mail Greg directly at Grusso2787@aol.com VISA/Mastercard accepted.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2006 8:59 pm 
I read this article about a year ago. Yes, Jimmy "Sticky Fingers" Page blatantly stole quite a few riffs.

Jake Holmes just sat back and let him steal Dazed and Confused, albeit Page had the decency to change the lyrics. The Jake Holmes version of that song is certainly worth owning.

Of course, Led Zeppelin stole a great deal of old blues songs and claimed authorship in the songwriting credits/liner notes in an effort to avoid having to pay any royalties to the original writers. In another book I read about Led Zeppelin, it said the band was going to donate some money to build a Delta Blues Museum somewhere in the Deep South. I dont know if they ever made good on that promise, but it hardly compensates for their years of thievery.

I believe Page has no qualms about taking what he pleases from the songs of others because he began his career as a studio musician. He toiled away on the albums of others without having little input into the creative process of actually nurturing a song from idea to product. That being the case, I feel Page sees the business side of making music moreso than most musicians. I also believe the knows the fine legal lines involved in copyright infringement issues. He always seems to escape unscathed when he robs others of their intellectual/creative property.

I always complain when I hear one band stealing a riff from another band because I can do so as an impartial bystander. However, Page can never be taken seriously if he were to complain about someone "lifting' his riffs. :lol:


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