Monday, 9 November 2009

Get the Led Out & The Roots of Led Zeppelin tells me that the origin of the phrase is 1930's America and means 'Move!', although of course there is a different spelling, with a crucial inserted letter 'a,' hence 'Get the lead out of your ass/britches/but/feet'.

I was quite surprised to see my co-blogging partner Peter 'Get the Led out' in his previous post Led Zeppelin IV although I think his swinging of it in such an enthusiastic manner may have something to do with Villa winning at home (incidentally, while watching the Wolves v Arsenal game on Saturday, broadcast here in Chile on the Argentinian based Fox Sports, there was a shot of a rather crumpled looking Robert Plant watching the game from the stand, and as the commentator didn't know who it was, he simply described him as 'exotico'). I fear for the safety of Peter's Ford Fiesta if he moves over to heavy raaawwk full time.

In his post he alluded to the fact that I might know a bit about the blues influence of the album, and indeed I do (up to a point), but this influence is only the half of it really as there was the music of the time and the clear folk flavours of parts. Of course Led Zep are one of those bands that seem to provoke a reverent, obsessive type following on the internet (the hobbly gobbly mystical magic references are enough to inspire this, let alone the music), and I am not the man to add anything new to this, although I can pick out bits of interest related to their 4th album, as this is the music that fuels Peter's automobile and propels him into the breach / Birmingham.

Before I start passing off information I have copied as my own, I should mention that there is a dirt cheap 4 CD boxset simply called The Roots of Led Zeppelin, as well as another single CD called the Early Blues Roots of Led Zeppelin.  The blues CD has the obvious Gallis Pole by Leadbelly (which Page and Plant were still doing in the 90's) and When the Levee Breaks by Memphis Minnie. I'm always slightly peturbed to see John Lee Hooker's Boogie Chillen, as if it isn't that it's Dimples, and of all the fantastic songs he recorded why only focus on those? Anyway, half the time the songs on these types of CD's seem to be more based on what labels they have access to, rather than meeting the criteria set out in the title of the disc.

Memphis Minnie When the Levee Breaks

In his Dazed & Confused - The Stories Behind Every Song Chris Welch says that it would be difficult to track down the true creators of the blues songs Led Zeppelin incorporated into their work (according to an interesting piece here at Turn Me On Dead Man), other than the outright covers obviously. Here's another cover, Blind Willie Johnson's Nobody's Fault but Mine, which is on Led Zep's Presence album.

Of course there are others, although some less straight covers, more re-workings or just bits borrowed. Robert Johnson's Travelling Riverside Blues was done by Zep, although it's quite different. They also borrowed some of the lyrics for the Lemon Song, although Wikipedia report that Robert Johnson may well have borrowed them himself, from Roosevelt Sykes. Killing Floor by Howlin Wolf is also present during the Lemon Song. It goes on and on. Who borrowed from who? Led Zep settled out of court with Willie Dixon in the mid 80's as Dixon's You Need Love had been re-imagined by the long haired Brits for a number called Whole Lotta Love (they also did a cover of Willie Dixon's You Shook Me).

Apart from the obvious blues related links there were other folk influences, and of course the sounds of the contemporary music of the late 60's and early 70's. A chap called Zharth has put together a site called The Roots of Led Zeppelin Project and his mission statement is to provide a comprehensive database of information regarding the musical influences and sources that inspired the songs of Led Zeppelin. If you have a look at Peter's beloved Led Zep IV there are all sorts of influences listed. Black Dog is said to have been inspired by Muddy Waters and based on Fleetwood Mac's Oh Well.

Rumour has it that Fleetwood Mac's cover of the Little Richard classic Keep a Knocking inspired Zep's Rock and Roll, with Bonham pounding out the intro to the song, and Page just adding a new riff. Judge for yourself.

And finally, to wrap things up, there is the song that right now is being played badly in 14 year old boys bedrooms all over the world even as I type this, Stairway to Heaven (there is a record shop in Leura in the Blue Mountains in Australia, called Stairway to Kevin), said to sound not at all like Taurus by Spirit.

And I think it's now time to put the led back in the box.


  1. Years ago I think you told me a lot of this, in the days when I wrote off Led Zeppelin in favour of some watered down indie and therefore ignored you. You are pretty educational. Like Charlie, the fun quashing cat of the 70's public information films. Obviously minus the fun quashing element.

  2. Oh good God, I'm educational again.