Song of the Day: “Dazed and Confused”

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One of Led Zeppelin’s signature songs, “Dazed and Confused” went through several iterations before it became the song fans know and love today.

This week, we’ve been looking back through the catacombs of music history to guide our hand in choosing each song of the day. This method predictably led us into the genre of classic rock, as well as towards some of the most thoroughly recorded bands of the time. Monday, we looked at the Beatles’ whimsical “Octopus’s  Garden”. Tuesday, we moved to Pink Floyd’s progressive rock epic, “Echoes”. And yesterday, we covered the release of The Who’s “Who’s Next” by looking at the cultural powerhouse, “Baba O’Riley”.

Today, we’re taking a skip back from the past few days to the year 1969, exactly fifty years ago to the day, Led Zeppelin was on a North American tour, and appeared along with Jethro Tull at the HemisFair Arena in San Antonio, TX. “Dazed and Confused” was on the set list, as well as a handful of songs that would appear on “Led Zeppelin II” later that year. But considering the history and significance of “Dazed and Confused”, we couldn’t pass it up.

But before we get too far into the song itself, let’s take a look at the album it was released on.

Led Zeppelin

“Led Zeppelin” was the band’s debut, eponymous album released in January of 1969. Few bands over the years have released as explosive of a first album as Led Zeppelin. The record was recorded in 30 hours stretched over a three week period, which was insanely fast. While a lot of that had to do with the fact that they were recording material that had already been arranged and practiced, they also got some help by including several blues standard songs. In fact, four out of the nine songs on “Led Zeppelin” had been previously recorded by other bands.

This wasn’t unusual or sneaky or anything. It just helps to take some of the mysticism out of how such a powerful album came to be. And next, we’ll continue by shedding some light on the creation and evolution of one of Led Zeppelin’s most popular songs.

Dazed and Confused

Before they were Led Zeppelin, they briefly went by the name of The New Yardbirds, taken from Jimmy Page’s previous band, The Yardbirds. Before this time, the band re-purposed the song “Dazed and Confused”, a song written by Jake Holmes that Page had overheard at a Yardbirds show. Page took the song to The Yardbirds, then later, to Led Zeppelin, adapting it further with each iteration.

While the version of “Dazed and Confused” released on Led Zeppelin’s debut does have the same riff as Holmes’ original, the two still sound measurably different. However, that didn’t stop Holmes from suing the band in 2010 for damages. The case was later dismissed, with the two parties settling out of court. The credits for “Dazed and Confused” have since been altered to, “written by Page; inspired by Jake Holmes”.

The song itself is structured around a descending chromatic bass line in E minor. But coupled with Page’s impressive solos and Plant’s full-throated vocals, Led Zeppelin’s arrangement sets fire to the bare bones of Holmes’ framework. Page also adds his signature use of a violin bow on guitar, which he also used in the Yardbirds recording.

Final Thoughts

“Dazed and Confused” is one of my all time favorite Led Zeppelin songs, so it’s a little weird to learn that they didn’t actually come up with it themselves. But there can be a problem with expecting too much from those you look up to. Especially when it comes to music and originality. Everything created by a musician or band is an amalgam of previously heard material in one way or another. And that’s art, and it’s great. From straight up covers, to highly edited samples and remixes, musicians will always find a way to re-purpose older material for a new audience.

That about wraps up our discussion for today. I hope you enjoyed listening to “Dazed and Confused”, and maybe learned something new about its origins. We’ll be back tomorrow with another song to celebrate the end of the week.

 

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