Dec 142007

So the other day my wife comes home from work and says “My boss says her brother wrote the Zeppelin song ‘Dazed and Confused’ and never got any royalties from it.” She and her boss must have been discussing the recent Zeppelin reunion show (I also know we got our nephew the new Mothership best-of Led Zeppelin collection for Christmas this year), and out of the blue the boss dropped this interesting bombshell.

My wife didn’t have many details and I was skeptical. Later that night I looked up the song on Wikipedia and sure enough there seems to be some controversy regarding the composer of this tune.

Jake Holmes was a folk singer type in the ’60s and wrote and recorded the song on his debut album in 1967. Later that same year he opened for The Yardbirds, who liked the tune and decided to work up their own version of the song. From the Wikipedia entry:

“It was never officially recorded by the band, although an unauthorized live version was included on the semi-legitimate Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page album under the alternate title ‘I’m Confused’.”

Later, Jimmy Page worked up an arrangement for Led Zeppelin, and it was recorded and released on their self-titled debut in 1969.

Holmes eventually sent a letter to Page essentially asking him to do the right thing and acknowledge “co-authorship” of the song, but he never heard back. Apparently Holmes has decided not to pursue legal action. Since the ’70s Holmes has been a successful jingle writer, penning such gems as “Be A Pepper” for Dr. Pepper, “Be All That You Can Be” for the U.S. Army, and my favorite, “Raise your hand if you’re sure!” for Sure Deodorant! Here is an interesting interview with Holmes from 2001 on the Perfect Sound Forever online music magazine.

So my fellow Townspeople, what do you think? Should Mr. Page acknowledge that Mr. Holmes did in fact contribute a fair portion to the writing of a tune that has now become clearly associated with the Led Zeppelin songbook?

[For more on Jimmy Page’s songwriting abilities, check out the two part article “THE THIEVING MAGPIES: Jimmy Page’s Dubious Recording Legacy” written by Will Shade on the Perfect Sound Forever online music magazine website. Part One | Part Two]


  16 Responses to “I’m (Dazed and) Confused!”

  1. Thanks for posting! I’ve always wanted to hear that.

    Uh, Jimmy… Can you cut Jake a six-figure check?

  2. To answer your question: Definitely. Jake should’ve taken them to court years ago. Probably too late now.

    I’d love to hear a collection of the earlier versions of some other Led Zeppelin “originals.” Would make an interesting series of posts.

  3. dbuskirk

    I first heard it on one of those multi-volume Rhino Nuggets comps,I didn’t realize the credit on that. Holmes is being absurdly generous by asking for co-writing status, it pretty much would qualify as a straight cover far as I can hear. It’s not just the song but the tone and arrangement, except for the jammy part at the end.

    Inspiring to hear that Zeppelin’s rip-off reputation extends past racial boundaries.

  4. saturnismine

    There’s also that passage at the end of a Small Faces song where Steve Mariott’s doing the whole “WOMAN….YOOOOO….” followed by a big thumping chord or two from the band, which the zeppelin would later use to great advantage at the end of “whole lotta love”. And wasn’t Marriott on Page’s short list of possible vocalists for his new, post-Yardbirds venture?

    What’s that line in the Simpsons? “Jimmy Page…the wealthiest thief of the black man’s music in history”…or something like that there.

    This is a great post, mrclean!

  5. alexmagic

    This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about, where Zeppelin might be the Bonds of a Mitchell Report on musicians who have artificially enhanced their output with illicit supplements.

  6. I came across an older interview with Page in in Musician magazine, where the interviewer asks him about the song’s origins. Page basically stonewalls him.

    But to be fair, the Stones were notorious for doing the same thing. Ry Cooder claims that they ripped off a bunch of his tunings and riffs.

  7. saturnismine

    Read those articles over a cup of tea this morning.

    They’re kind of comical in 1., the author’s willingness to describe *every* incident they can find as evidence of Page’s questionable ethics (so Zeppelin did “You Shook Me” right after Jeff Beck did? And Jeff Beck was upset? The horror!), 2., The author’s moral indignation on the subject, and 3., His teen-ager – writing – for -the – high- school – newspaper- and -trying – to – sound – grownup voice, “gentle reader”.

    Still, if music came with footnotes, Page would be in the Dean’s office, subject to academic dismissal for his egregious and continued plagiarisms.

    By the way, Steve Mariott’s own description of Robert Plant (“just an annoying mod kid”) is pretty great, as is his fatherly description of hearing Plant hork his workout of “you need lovin'” (“go on, son!”).

    I think I would’ve liked Zeppelin a lot more if he or Terry Reid became their singer. I could never stomach Plant.

  8. 2000 Man

    I certainly won’t try to defend the Stones and some of their plagiarism. Calling Love In Vain a Jagger/Richards composition is pretty damned awful. But Ry Cooder? He gets no crediblity with me. Same thing for Mick Taylor and his, “They stole my songs” spiel. If so, why aren’t Ry Cooder and Mick Taylor known outside of rock fan geekdom?

    My other beef with Ry Cooder is that he’s apparently claiming that not only did he show Keith open G tuning and five string guitars, he apparently invented and patented that tuning. Sure, I think the Stones were users, but how come Bobby Keys never said they stole all of his ideas? Or Nicky Hopkins? At least when the Stones saw the mistaken song credits on the back of Beggars Banquet (crediting Jagger/Richards with Prodigal Son) they got it fixed. That cover wasn’t their idea anyway so maybe they really didn’t mean to get extra royalties on that one (unlike Love In Vain).

    But I gotta wonder, why is it that virtually nothing gets into the public domain anymore? Copyright laws have gotten ridiculous.

  9. My main issue, 2000Man, is that the Stones guitar riffs changed rather noticeably during Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky Fingers. Given that Brian Jones, did little of the main riffing at that point (when he did show up) and then Taylor really was just doing embellishments, where did Richards get these ideas?

    It was well known that Cooder was jamming with the Stones at the time. It sounds to me that Richards was more than just influenced by Cooder.

    Sure, you could argue that Cooder was stealing from his own sources. But Cooder never stole anything note for note, for he was too good (and ethical) to do that; he instead reimagined and reformulated what he heard. Richards was either too lazy or too cynical (or both): he had the smarts to realize that these riffs were money makers.

    Then again as T.S. Eliot once said, “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.”

  10. BigSteve

    Ry Cooder is actually relatively famous outside the rock nerd community because of Buena Vista Social Club.

    Cooder claims the Stones stole riffs from him. When you’re playing blues based music, riffs are pretty much your only way of introducing originality and making the music your own (except maybe for changing the lyrics just enough to avoid trouble from publishers). If the Stones used his slide riffs, Cooder couldn’t use those riffs later without appearing to copy the Stones. Cooder’s first album came out in 1970. His first album is brilliant as far as I’m concerned, but I wonder what it would have sounded like if he’d never met the Stones.

    I think Keith didn’t know much slide, because Brian had been the one playing it before. He learned from Cooder’s compositional approach for a bit, but then after they fired Brian, Mick Taylor brought his very different ornamental slide style to the Stones.

    Didn’t Taylor also leave the band thinking his contributions were not really acknowledged in the songwriting credits?

  11. BigSteve you did a much better job of stating what I was trying to get at, with regards to Ry Cooder’s riffs that Richards “borrowed.”

    Again, I’m not sure that the Stones, when it came to thievery, were any worse than anyone else, but one example stands out in my mind as particularly outrageous. They wiped Marianne Faithful’s vocals off of “Sister Morphine” (a song for which she wrote the lyrics) and credited it on Sticky Fingers as Jagger/Richards.

    Only later on the remastered CD was this “error” corrected.

  12. 2000 Man

    Mick and Keith have always lived up to the Sister Morphine thing with Marianne. They both said she was the “main inspirer” for that one and they pushed to get her credited on the sleeve. I think if she’d have pitched a legal bitch about it, they’d have been called by her attorney and not by their own. I don’t think they’d have fought that at all and I’ve never understood why the mistake was allowed to fester for so long, other than Marianne just didn’t care.

    My beef with Ry Cooder is that when he complains about the Stones, he makes it sound as if he invented the blues, open tuning, slide guitar, the riff to Honky Tonk Women, and wrote Beggars Banquet himself. Keith’s slide guitar playing is very distinct, and it’s not exactly smooth. Brian was a lot better at it, and I’ve always felt that Keith’s biggest strength is knowing his limitations and letting the rest of the band make the song. He’s not a very selfish player.

    Ry also didn’t hang with the Stones until Let It Bleed. They came up with a “new” old direction all on their own. Ry certainly showed Keith a lot about different tunings, but Keith is a fan of old blues, too. I think this is from a Guitar Player magazine in 77 (I pinched it from Time Is On Our Side)

    During that long recording lay-off after Between the Buttons, I got rather bored with what I was playing on guitar – maybe because we weren’t working, and it was part of that frustration of stopping after all those years, and suddenly having nothing to do. So my playing sort of stopped, along with me. Then I started looking into some ’20s and ’30s blues records. Slowly I began to realize that a lot of them were in very strange tunings. These
    guys would pick up a guitar, and a lot of times it would be tuned a certain way, and that’s how they’d learn to play it. It might be some amazing sort of a mode, some strange thing. And that’s why for years you could have been trying to figure out how some guy does this lick, and then you realize that he has this one string that is supposed to be up high, and he has it turned down an octave lower. Anyway I eventually got into open-D tuning, which I used on Beggars Banquet. Street Fighting Man is all that, and Jumpin Jack Flash.
    – Keith Richards, 1977, on discovering open tunings in 1968

    Ry and keith just didn’t seem to get along, hence the Jamming With Edward album (blech). It seems if Ry was around, keith often didn’t show up.

  13. Well, it still seems like it took a rather long time to give Faithful a credit for a song that first came out on her solo album (unless it’s really that difficult to grant songwriting credits; other bands seem to have no problems).

    Granted, Richards does not play with the technical dexterity as Cooder, yet everytime I hear Cooder play on rock albums as a session person, I hear plenty of “Stonesey” passages. As yet, there has not been an adequate explanation. And that Richards and Cooder didn’t get along makes no difference, as they had plenty of tapes of Cooder’s playing.

    Lastly, just because Faithful and Parsons (from whom they also took ideas) were relatively easygoing and not inclined to legally apply pressure, doesn’t excuse Jagger and Richards’s actions. They still strike me as unethical.

  14. I have a soft-spot for the Stones “Metamorphosis” album and was surprised to notice that their romp through Chuck Berry’s “Don’t Lie To Me” is credited as “Jagger-Richards”. Just before writing this, I pulled the album up on and see that it is now credited as “Berry-Jagger-Richards” – huh?? Also, I recall reading in one of my Stones books that one of the things that drive Taylor to quit was that he excitedly told someone in their camp about the new songs he co-wrote with Jagger and Richards for the ‘It’s Only Rock N Roll’, but then that someone told Mick T that they had just seen the sleeve artwork and he did not have any songwriting credits.

    The Led Zeppelin thing is awfully disappointing. I first heard about this a few years ago on (of all places) the Howard Stern Show. HS had Philly-music-biz guy Denny Somach on to expose pretty much the whole first Led Zep album. Somach made a compekking argument and was armed with a lot of audio evidence.

  15. that should be “compelling” argument, not “compekking”. I don’t know what “compekking” means – altho, if I invented it, it will now probably appear on a Led Zep reunion album and credited as “Page-Plant”. 😉

  16. […] rock fan’s dream episode. As you listen, read up on the album’s surprise collaborator, Jake Holmes. (And whaddayouknow, our old Holmes piece was written by mrclean, whose drumming graces this […]

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