Led Zeppelin is the greatest thing that ever happened. As someone who has dedicated a large amount of his free time expressing his love of music online it follows that my favorite band of all time would carry tremendous importance to me. Like all things music, Led Zeppelin, are part of the endless evolution of music and while they have their obvious admirers who have followed in their footsteps their heroes are not so well known, largely because Zeppelin eclipsed them all in every way.
I love the blues, and I doubt I would love it so, if it not for Led Zeppelin. This is one of those working backwards discoveries, where I love one band so much I want to know where they got their ideas so unavoidable the eventuality of discover moves in the reverse chronological direction.
The first installment of Led Zeppelin, their self titled debut album, is the clearest example of direct blues inspiration on them. There are three straight cover songs on Zeppelin One, “You Shook Me” by Muddy Waters, “I Can’t Quit You Baby” by Willie Dixon and while not a blues cover “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” is a folk song originally written by Anne Johannson, more on that next review.
It does not end there though, possible my favorite song from this iconic album is “How Many More Times.” It is this song which may have dubbed John Paul Jones bass guitar playing as “galloping” as the punch behind the bass is at it’s highest. Everything about “How Many More Times” feels like a blues inspire rock song, and it is doubtless that it is, but unlike the afore mentioned covers this is primarily original material, and I am unable to pinpoint any direct connection to previous blues song, though that tragically may have something to do with my ignorance of blues music.
There is one clear blues inspiration in “How Many More Times” and that is the melody at the end of the song where two unique changes in pace and sound emerge. The first being Robert Plant breaking into an ode to a woman named Rosie:
“Oh, Rosie, oh girl.
Oh, Rosie, oh girl.
Steal away now, steal away.
Steal away now, steal away.
Little Robert Anthony wants to come and play.
Oh, why don’t you come to me baby?
For the longest time when I was young I was convinced this was the beginning of blues medley and that “Oh Rosie” must be a cover of sorts, but with the all human knowledge in one place device (the internet) I have been unable to confirm this as true, which leads me to believe this is actual a true to form classic ramble from our friend Robert Plant.
The only meaningful connection I can draw between Rosie and the blues is the old African American work, or negro prison, blues song titled, simply, “Rosie.” Which is a song about the men working and in the distance, there is a woman named Rosie who none of the men can ever speak to or touch, but she tempts them daily. Which would make sense if this influenced Robert Plant in some way.
"Rosie" - Recorded at Mississippi State Penitentiary:
“Well they call me the hunter, that’s my name,
They call me the hunter, that’s how I got my fame.
Ain’t no need to hide, Ain’t no need to run.
‘Cause I’ve got you in the sights of my……… gun.”
This portion of “How Many More Times” is a blues cover. The original is by Albert King and is titled "The Hunter.”
Albert King - The Hunter
In live versions, the medley is longer and includes more rambling that I have been forced to believe are additional creations of Plant’s mind as I have been unable to draw any connection and usual it functions as an extension to the “Oh Rosie” portion of song.
I very much like the BBC sessions which includes the short repetition of “It’s alright, it’s alright,” which perhaps too little to find a proper connection to a blues song, or more likely it is Plant doing his rambling thing. However, the inclusion of:
“Squeeze my lemon 'til the juice runs down my leg.
Squeeze my lemon 'til the juice runs down my leg.
If you don’t squeeze me the way I want you to baby,
Swear I’m gonna kick you out of bed.”
Will be immediately identified as part of Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song” from their second album, which is a cover of Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues,” which is yet another blues cover by Led Zeppelin.
Robert Johnson - Traveling Riverside Blues
It is a fine thing looking to our hero’s heroes. The first couple Zeppelin albums we see just how much blues and African American music meant to Jimmy Page and the boys, and in turn I appreciate all the unique changes they made to all of these songs, even their covers dramatically differ from the originals, but I will be discussing more of that in the next review.
- King of Braves