Thursday, April 2, 2009

From Led Zeppelin to Zack the LEGO Maniac.

Warning: This post contains some serious nerd shit. Not World of Warcraft type of nerd shit, but still pretty serious nerd shit.

I haven't been able to sleep comfortably for weeks. To keep myself busy in the wee hours, I've been scouring You Tube for video clips of some of my favorite, hard-to-find musical artists.

In the midst of my "research" I stumbled upon some great early Yardbirds videos. The Yardbirds were of course the band that spawned two of my favorite guitarists of all time, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Yeah Eric Clapton was once in the band too, but seriously, Slowhand can suck on a bag of dongs as far as I'm concerned.

One of my favorite finds was the Jimmy Page line-up playing an early rendition of Dazed and Confused. The song that was later a staple of Led Zeppelin live performances and arguably one of the original heavy metal songs. I was unaware that the Yardbirds played this song, although it didn't surprise me considering a lot of the early Zep stuff were tunes Jimmy had been saving in his back pocket from the Yardbirds sessions.

The lyrics are a little different, but it's obviously the same number, with the same blistering guitar parts from Page. Keith Relf can't hold Robert Plant's jock on the mic, but he adds a kind of eery, foreboding tone to the song that is less bombastic than the Zeppelin version.

After watching the video I started looking for Yardbirds vinyl where Dazed and Confused might have appeared as a b-side or something. My journey brought me to an interesting essay by Will Shade, where he in turn documents the failures by early Zeppelin to acknowledge and credit the original musicians who penned some of their songs. No revelation to die-hard Zep and blues fans. Afterall, the Willie Dixon settlements of the late 80's and 90's are all well documented.

What I didn't know is that a New York folk musician lays claim to the original Dazed and Confused recording. The one Chris Dreja and Page perfected with the Yardbirds. A similar version to the one that became synonymous with a Led Zeppelin live performance.

That musician's name is Jake Holmes. From the Will Shade essay...

In 2001, this author asked Holmes when he became aware of Led Zeppelin's version.

"When the album came out! And then, stupidly, I never followed up on it," Jake Holmes said. "In the early 1980's, I did write them a letter and I said basically: 'I understand it's a collaborative effort, but I think you should give me credit at least and some remuneration.' But they never contacted me."

Holmes shared this writer's assessment of the Yardbirds proto-psychedelic version as oppossed to Zeppelin's bombastic numbskullery. Previous to 2001, Holmes had been unaware that the Yardbirds even covered it until receiving a copy of their Anderson Theatre performance.

"The Yardbirds' 'Dazed & Confused' is really good. I understand what 'garage' people see in all this craziness. I like their version much better than Led Zeppelin's," Holmes said.

Wow. The Will Shade essay also has a link to Jake Holmes' Myspace page where you can listen for yourself, his version of the song.

The Myspace page also reveals that Jake Holmes wrote and recorded another memorable song of my childhood. Zack the Lego Maniac!

So let me get this straight. The dude who penned the most monumentally awesome song in the history of rock music also wrote and performed the jingle for the LEGO brand?



The Dude said...

Very interesting, certainly not a surprise to anyone that Led Zep would take rather than create. Its been done by countless musicians and will continue. The most interesting part though is the pedestal that those four chaps have sat on for so many years and continue to do so, all the while on the backs of Lego theme song creating folk singers. While Robert Plant is playing small theaters with a talent like Alison Krauss and Jimmy Page is doing the closing ceremonies in Beijing, their accountants back in the UK count their millions like a room full of Peter Grant's.
Bravo for the honest post Brew...

Casey Brewer said...

I think the earlier Zep stuff is an example of Page "taking" something known, and putting his fresh paint job on it. I can see why he might have thought that was being original. They were kids after all, and those early Zep recordings were thrown together much faster than any musician would have liked.

That said, the guy is one of the most prolific studio musicians of all time as a songwriter and composer, and he has tons of original material known as quintessential classics.

While his skills on the guitar waned from drug abuse, his mind continued to work as he was stumbling around on stage playing fucking Chopin sloppily, but soulfully.

In another strange but awesome story, read about Beck and Page's session for Beck's Bolero. Both players lay claim to writing the song, and continue to argue about it to this day, despite the fact that they're good friends. That band was Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, John Paul Jones, and Keith Moon......


Anonymous said...

The seminal Page moment was his guitar work in the later day Yardbird's, Think About It. In this, Page's heavy psychedelic riffs with elements of "Dazed and Confused" signaled the end of the Yardbirds and the beginning of Led Zeppelin.

Page often talked about his affinity for blues guitar master, Robert Leroy Johnson which legend has it, met Page at the crossroads lending him the ragged, dark and foreboding "Delta Blues Sound". Read about this in Hammer of the Gods.

It's ironic that critics routinely panned early Zeppelin albums. But if they had known the depth of the band and the people who influenced them, they might have understood why Zeppelin went on to impact nearly every rock genre thereafter.

-The Uncs

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