Led Zeppelin (album) - Composition


Tracks such as "Good Times Bad Times", "Dazed and Confused" and "Communication Breakdown" displayed a distinctively heavy sound that was uncommon in the late-1960s. Led Zeppelin also featured steel-string acoustic guitar by Page on "Black Mountain Side", and a combination of acoustic and electric approaches on their adaptation of "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You".

"Dazed and Confused", based on the 1967 Jake Holmes song of the same name, is often considered to be the album's centerpiece; its arrangement features a descending bass line from Jones, heavy drumming from Bonham and distorted guitar riffs and soloing from Page. It also showcased Page playing guitar with a violin bow (an idea suggested by David McCallum Sr., whom Page had met while doing studio session work). This technique was also employed on "How Many More Times", a song which features a "Bolero" riff and an improvised shift in cadence.

Many of Led Zeppelin's earliest songs were based on blues standards, and the album also included three songs composed by others: "You Shook Me" and "I Can't Quit You Baby", both by blues artist Willie Dixon, and "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You". Regarding the last of these, at the time Page mistakenly believed he was adapting a traditional folk song he had heard on a Joan Baez record, but this was corrected on subsequent rereleases after it was revealed that the song was composed by Anne Bredon in the 1950s. On "You Shook Me", Plant vocally mimics Page's guitar effects, a metallicised version of the "call and response" blues technique.

Beck had previously recorded "You Shook Me" for his album, Truth, and accused Page of stealing his idea. With John Paul Jones and Keith Moon, Page had played on (and says he arranged) "Beck's Bolero", an instrumental on Truth that would be grooved into the mix of the Led Zeppelin jam "How Many More Times". These cross-pollinations led to a rift between Beck and Page, who had played in the Yardbirds together and been friends since childhood. In fact, it was Page who first suggested Beck for the Yardbirds' guitarist position when he was contacted by the band after Eric Clapton's departure.

In an interview he gave in 1975, Page offered his own perspective on the album's music:

For material, we obviously went right down to our blues roots. I still had plenty of Yardbirds riffs left over. By the time Jeff did go, it was up to me to come up with a lot of new stuff. It was this thing where Clapton set a heavy precedent in the Yardbirds which Beck had to follow and then it was even harder for me, in a way, because the second lead guitarist had suddenly become the first. And I was under pressure to come up with my own riffs. On the first LP I was still heavily influenced by the earlier days. I think it tells a bit, too... It was obvious that somebody had to take the lead, otherwise we'd have all sat around jamming for six months. But after that, on the second LP, you can really hear the group identity coming together.

Plant is credited on the album with "occasional bass". In an interview he gave to Rolling Stone magazine in 2005, Plant made reference to this:

In truth, I was an occasional bass player. It says so on Zeppelin I, next to my name: vocals, harmonica and occasional bass. Very occasionally – once, I think, since 1968. How in God's name that ended up on the cover is so funny. I'm sure Jonesy didn't like it . But I suppose every time he fucked up he could say it was me.

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