..they didn’t half present themselves as the Artful Dodgers of rock music throughout their tenure as global-shagging rock gods. With a cheeky grin, a sly wink and mutterings of “public domain“, Jimmy Page was something of a sticky-fingered riff lifter. I’ve written about this before and I’m sure you know anyway, but any old blues tune that happened to catch his ear would be lifted in whole before being coated in volume, augmented by a slick bit of frettery and re-packaged as the big new thing. “I got those West Bromwich blues“, as Robert Plant moaned on one of those fantastic BBC sessions. Not that Robert Plant is entirely innocent in the whole thing either…
Jake Holmes. Not exactly a household name, but in the late 60s he was a regular of the Greenwich Village folk scene. In fact, in 1967 The Yardbirds caught him at the Village Theater where they watched him play the tracks that made up his debut album, ‘The Above Ground Sound Of Jake Holmes’. As Holmes put it in 2001,
“and that was the infamous moment of my life when ‘Dazed & Confused’ fell into the loving arms and hands of Jimmy Page.”
If you were being kind you could say that a keen-eared Page took the paranoid scratchy folk of the original and transformed it into a much bigger, more frightening rock song. If you were being honest though, you’d have to say that Page lifted it all, from those wee pinged harmonics at the start, to the descending riff and the whole sense of impending doom. Even Robert Plant got in on the act. His quietly sung vocals at the start are a carbon copy of the original’s. Did Holmes get credited when the track surfaced on Led Zeppelin I? Nope! Just like Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Albert King et al before him, he was conveniently un-acknowledged and forced to watch from the sides as his tune made someone else lots and lots of money.
The one thing Page did add to the original was the bowed guitar section, where he scraped a violin bow across the top of his heavily-echoed strings. But even this trick wasn’t original! Mod pop outfit The Creation had been doing this in their stage show since the mid 60s. Watch 1966’s Painter Man for proof….
This is a hot topic right now. 5 weeks ago, Jake Holmes began legal proceedings against Jimmy Page, claiming original copyright on the song. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out. Poor Jake certainly neeeds to see things set to right. Sadly for him though, legalities mean that, if successful, he’ll be allowed to claim back just 3 years of royalties. That should be a decent sum, but peanuts compared to what his rightful share should be.
Go Compare dot com:
Dazed & Confused (Jake Holmes)
Dazed & Confused (Led Zeppelin)
Dazed & Confused (Led Zeppelin, live Paris Theatre, London, April Fool’s day 1971. 18+ minutes. Can you handle it?)
When writing this piece, I was checking my facts and figures online when I stumbled across this fantastic site. All of the above, bar the quote from Jake Holmes is my work, out of my own head and arranged accordingly by me me me, but credit where it’s due and all that. I don’t want Perfect Sound Forever chasing me for royalties in 40 years time.