Get This!, Gone but not forgotten

Plant-Based Diet

How are your eating habits these days? With COP26 taking place a couple of farmers’ fields and a few country miles over the horizon from my back window, I, like everyone else I suppose, should be making more of an attempt to cut out the red meat. Our eldest is full-on vegetarian, something I’m proud of her for having the conviction to stick to, but it does make dinner time a mess of multi-cooking. As a family we try and have a couple of meat-free meals a week, but we could be doing more. Mike Joyce (clang) told me that when Morrissey (clang!) pointed out to the other Smiths one day that you wouldn’t eat a dog, so why would you contemplate eating a cow, he had no answer to it and turned vegetarian there and then. I nodded earnestly while in a non-preachy way Johnny Marr (clang!!) outlined the benefits of veganism and urged me to “give it a try for a bit“, but an hour later I was in a chip shop stuffing a smoked sausage supper down my brass neck. Shamefully and with a side dollop of regret, I must say, but still…

Someone I doubt very much who, in their early days, gave much thought to being carbon neutral and eco-aware is Robert Plant. Led Zeppelin came galloping into town like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, cruising on the jetstream of The Starship – their own private Boeing 720, crash-landing only to pillage and plunder and play some rock and roll before gallivanting out again in a haze of hennaed hair and the sighing swoons of every female within radius. Simpler times the ’70s, so they say. Eco-schmeco.

I met Robert Plant once. July 1995. I was working for Our Price, helping train the counter staff to use a new-fangled barcode scanning stock control system we’d invested in. The job took me everywhere from Inverness to Leeds and many places in-between. I travelled mainly by rail, read a ton of books as I did so and spent the duration of the job finding out where my £15 a night meal allowance would stretch to best. (The Qismat Tandoori in Elgin, if you’re interested.) In the July I was to go to our new shop at Glasgow Airport and begin training the staff on the ins and outs of our new payolla-proof system. Emptying my bag at my mum’s, I dumped most of the stuff I now deemed unnecessary for my time at the airport, including, crucially, my well-thumbed copy of Hammer Of The Gods, the infamous, unauthorised Led Zeppelin biography that dug the dirt on groupies, snapper fish and the physical and metaphorical muscle of Peter Grant. Of course, the first customer – the first customer! – through the door was only yer actual Robert Plant. As he arrived at the counter and the wee stack of CDs he was buying were being rung through, I engaged him in conversation.

I’ve just being reading a book about you.”

Oh yeah?” he said, genuinely interested.

Yeah… Hammer Of The Gods…” I offered.

Oh!” he said, with a wry smile, looking straight at me. He didn’t quite twirl those golden curls through his fingers the way he absent-mindedly did mid set in ’73, but he might as well have done. He was still a bit of a looker. The light from the Albert King CD he had been inspecting glinted in his clear blue eyes – rock god eyes that have seen more than you or I will ever see – and he spoke his words of wisdom.

Yeah… Jimmy didn’t come out of that one looking too good, did he now?!

It was at this point I was wishing I could get him to sign a CD, but with the counter being small, narrow and unpassable, there was no opportunity to squeeze past the most famous rock star I’d ever met and pick one from the racks. And by now I was cursing myself for having dumped the book from my bag. Then, out of the blue, the girl serving him presented him with the shop’s autograph book. “Yeah, sure,” he smiled, taking the pen she had offered.

Whoever had the foresight to stick an autograph book at the till in an airport record shop deserves a medal for quick thinking. It was full of all sorts – Bjork, Keith Floyd, Robert Downie Jr. There was even a wee Rolfaroo in there. Can we still mention that? Anyway, Robert happily obliged, adding his name in a large, swooping, blue inked signature. I noticed at the time (and can still picture in my head now) that it looked very similar to the ‘ZOSO‘ logo on Led Zep IV. A neat coincidence.


I’m not a rock fan by any means – all that pillaging and plundering and bare-chested daftness and whathaveye – but I do love a good amount of Led Zeppelin; those first four albums mainly, plus selected parts of Physical Graffiti. They’ve had their shameful moments, well-documented in that (genital) warts ‘n all book, but sometimes – most of the time? – it’s OK to separate the art from the dubiously-moralled artist. And shallow as I am, I am a sucker for a sloppily-played, turned up to 10 guitar riff. Sometimes, when the urge strikes, and usually only if the house is empty, nothing other will do than a proper baws oot blasting of Led Zeppelin.

Led Zeppelin Custard Pie

Custard Pie is the perfect example of that tight-but-loose label that Led Zep acquired, Jimmy’s guitar to the fore, slapdash and funky but ultra-together, propelled by a wall of thunder behind, the drums almost leading on the off-beat, John Paul Jones riffing around on a clavinet or something similar in the gaps in-between. Robert opts for a restrained guttural croon, rockin’ yet soulful. Swathes of wah-wah and wailing harmonica carry the song to its conclusion, a no-frills, no nonsense rock and roll boogie, Jimmy up the frets and playing to the very limits of his abilities.

Custard Pie is the riff my fingers fall into whenever I pick up a guitar these days. It’s a beauty, ideal for stretching the pinky and working on the timing of the right hand, although I usually give up sometime around the first notes of the lightning flash solo. I’ve no patience for cock rock wizardry such as that. Nor have I much truck with the outdated and iffy subject matter (a Plant-based diet of a very different sort). Great rockin’ tune but.

Cover Versions, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Sampled

Step Brothers

In the latest Mojo, the one with the big piece on Physical Graffiti, Jimmy Page throws away a comment about The Beatles stealing an old r’n’b riff and fashioning it into their own I Feel Fine. Pots ‘n kettles, Jimmy! Pots ‘n kettles!

What Jimmy omitted to reveal is how the same riff more than informed Led Zep’s own Moby Dick.

bobby parker

The track in question is Bobby Parker‘s smokin’ hot 1961 r’nb stomper, Watch Your Step;

Bobby Parker’s story is the classic struggling musician versus the world tale of rip-offs, bad management and lack of recognition. Mention his name ’round these parts and folk like my father-in-law will wax lyrical about the Rangers and Everton player with the same name. The Bobby Parker we’re concerned with earned his chops tackling the music business and playing alongside Bo Diddley, Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson. He toured extensively, sharing stages with rock ‘n roll’s founding fathers – Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Buddy Holly to name but a few. We’re all well aware of those names, but Bobby Parker? He remains niche, known only by contemporary musicians and musos, waiting to be discovered and elevated to his rightful place amongst the greats. An early b-side of his, You Got What It Takes, was recorded by Marv Johnson as one of the first singles for Motown, but upon release, to Parker’s dismay his name had been wiped from the credits and replaced, not for the last time, by that of the ever-canny Berry Gordy.

Stung by this, (“What was I to do? Fight Motown?!?“) Bobby Parker wrote what has since become his signature tune, Watch Your Step. Unlike the movers and shakers over at Hitsville USA, Parker was quick to acknowledge his references – the 12 bar blues, the similar riff and structure of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say;

and also to Dizzy Gillespie’s Manteca, a skronking, relentlessly driving riff-laden jazz instrumental;

When asked about this a few years ago, he was admirable in his honesty.

I started playing Gillespie’s riff on my guitar and decided to make a blues out of it. What came out was ‘Watch Your Step.’

john lennon ukelele

Also admirably honest was John Lennon.

“‘Watch Your Step’ is one of my favourite records. The Beatles have used the lick in various forms.”

Most noticeably, as Jimmy Page was quick to point out, Watch Your Step‘s taut, snappy riff and structure lends itself quite well to I Feel Fine.

I was flattered,” said Parker later on. “I thought it was a cool idea. But I still had, in the back of my mind, the idea that I should have gotten a little more recognition for that.”

Sound familiar?

Listen closely and you’ll hear little flashes of what could be Day Tripper too;

led zep

The big baddies in the whole thing though are Led Zeppelin. For the record, I love Led Zeppelin. For the rocking, the rolling and the riff-riff-riffing there was no-one better, but they have nowhere to hide when it comes to this sort of thing. They’re certainly no strangers to the rape and pillage of the blues. Jimmy brazenly ‘borrows’ little riffs, indeed whole songs from blues’ back catalogue. I’ve written about this before, but much of the Zep’s entire recorded career was based on long-forgotten blues standards, arriving fully formed but twisted and turned into fantastically sounding ear-crunching slabs of heavy blooze rock. But nicked all the same. If they’d been more honest in their sticky fingerdness they might have been given more leeway, but it’s the deception and the credits to Page/Plant that rankle. Anyway, there are entire books and websites dedicated to uncovering such things, but this isn’t one of them.

When Jimmy was pointing out the similarities between Watch Your Step and I Feel Fine, he might, after all these years, have admitted to basing his own riff for Moby Dick on Bobby Parker’s single.

But he didn’t. Perhaps the pangs of guilt were such that at the start of the 70s Parker was offered a paltry $2000 to record a demo for the nascent Swan Song label, but nothing came to pass of this. If Jimmy truly felt guilty, he’d have given Parker a credit on Moby Dick.

Not for the first time, Jimmy got away with it. And not for the first time, Parker missed out on the credit.

Trivial post-script!

Have you ever heard the dogs barking during the fade out of I Feel Fine? The smart money is on Paul doing the yelping, but you never know…

You can hear tons of this sort of stuff over at What Goes On – The Beatles Anomalies List. It’s great!

Cover Versions, Hard-to-find, Live!

I Love Led Zeppelin But…

..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.

Rubber Plant

Cover Versions, Sampled

Hey Joe! Where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?

Don’t point it at wee Chris Martin. He didnae mean it! I see gazillion-selling guitar virtuoso and purveyor of a thousand beedly-beedly-beedlies Joe Satriani is wanting to take Coldplay to court. He thinks that their track ‘Viva La Vida’ has “copied and incorporated substantial original portions” from his track ‘If I Could Fly’, released in 2004. Satriani’s lawsuit demands damages and “any and all profits” related to the alleged copyright infringement. Of course. You be judge and jury. Take a listen…..

Joe. Coldplay. See? A wee bit samey. In much the same way that the Red Hot Chili Peppers “borrowed” some of Tom Petty’s ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ for their own ‘Dani California’. “Borrowed” mmm hmmm, or indeed “totally ripped-off“. To these ears, the sock-jocks had much more of a case to answer than Coldplay, but old hippy-spirited Tom Petty let them off, saying that this kind of thing happens all the time. Of course it does. Led Zeppelin were absolute masters at it. Like the Viking warriors they holler about with great bluster on ‘Immigrant Song‘, they raped, pillaged and plundered the whole of the Mississippi Delta for much of their output. And they even had the cheek to put ‘Page and Plant’ in the brackets after the song. I’ve written about this a couple of times before, if you’re really interested. There’s tons of cases of musical plagiarism. There are probably whole blogs dedicated to this subject. At the very least, Wikipedia is a good first stop.

Interestingly, Joe Satriani used to be a poodle-haired rock God. Now he looks a bit like an extra from The Matrix.


And only a couple of years ago, Chris Martin was a poodle-haired rock God who’d even managed to snare his own Hollywood wife. In more recent snaps, it looks like he’s heading down the same extra-from-The-Matrix road as Satriani.


Joe. Coldplay. See? A wee bit samey. Round our way, Satriani is rhyming slang. In much the same way as Shereen Nanjiani, Giorgio Armani or chicken biryani. I think you know what I mean.

Bonus track. Here‘s the bleepy, slightly ambient wahp remix of ‘Viva La Vida’. It’s no’ very good. Nothing like chicken biryani at all.