The Story Behind Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” – Cover Me

The be is a chapter from my record ‘ Cover Me : The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time ’ that got left on the cut room floor due to space. For 19 more stories like it, from Hendrix ’ s “ Watchtower ” to Devo ’ s “ Satisfaction, ” buy the book Variety called “ a music snob ’ s dream come genuine ” at Amazon, IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, or anywhere else .
led zeppelin dazed and confused It ’ s like if your baby is kidnapped at two-years-old and raised by another woman. All these years by and by, it ’ s her kid.
— Jake Holmes
Led Zeppelin ’ s self-titled debut album came out 50 years ago today. But if you ’ ve purchased it more recently, you might have seen the following writing credit under the birdcall “ Dazed and Confused ” : “ By Jimmy Page ; Inspired by Jake Holmes. ”

Those seven words may seem pretty innocuous on the page, but that give voice is the result of decades of controversy and litigation. Those words reveal questions of what counts as a shroud birdcall, how an artist needs to credit a songwriter from whom they draw corporeal, and where the note lies between court and larceny.

Jake Holmes wrote “ Dazed and Confused ” for his introduction album, “ The Above Ground Sound ” of Jake Holmes. A unseasoned California singer-songwriter, Holmes was heatedly tipped by the industry to be the adjacent break star topology in the folky Donovan vein. When he wrote “ Dazed and Confused, ” he knew immediately that it would be a big song. He just thought it would be a big song for him .
On August 25, 1967, Holmes was promoting his new album with a concert at New York ’ south Village Theater. besides on the bill were two bands with similar names : the Youngbloods ( best known for their hit “ Get together ” ) and the Yardbirds. The latter band may have been the best train labor for budding guitar hotshots in history. Their first base guitarist, a young buck named Eric Clapton, had left the band by this point, as had his substitute, Jeff Beck. The Yardbirds had recently hired the third guitarist in this incredible run, a bright seance musician named Jimmy Page .
Though the Yardbirds ’ series of guitarists seems amazing now, at the time of the display with Jake Holmes it felt like a embroil. Tired from all the dollar volume, the isthmus was struggling to find a rhythm with their newest penis. “ We were quite stale and stay creatively ” when page joined, Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty remembers today. “ We were calm playing actually alike things as we had with Jeff Beck. We had very few raw things and running a bit first gear on ideas of songs to cover or songs that we wanted to do. ”
Inspiration last struck at that Village Theater show. Before his ring ’ south set, McCarty stood at the side of the stage watching Holmes play. ( page may have stood there with him ; memories differ. ) “ now and then you go up and you see who ’ sulfur play with you, ” McCarty says. “ Jake Holmes was playing with two other guys. They were playing sort of flashy things. I thought the music was quite pleasant, but didn ’ thymine think much of it. then all of a sudden they started to play this riff. And I thought, oh that ’ s a very well riff, very haunting, quite matter to. ”
The riff was Holmes ’ modern song “ Dazed and Confused. ” “ The take after day I went devour and got his album at Bleecker Bob ’ sulfur read storehouse, ” says McCarty. “ I had a little record actor on the road and I played it to Jimmy and the guys and then we said, we should work out a adaptation. ”
The band agreed, mesmerized by that same guitar line. “ The birdcall had all the feeling of our old fabric, ” McCarty says. “ That descending riff is identical haunting ; it creates an standard atmosphere. That ’ s the sort of music we liked, music that ’ s a little bit dark. ”
Hoping this song would stir them out of their creative funk, the Yardbirds worked up a embrace of “ Dazed and Confused ” at their following rehearsal. It was pass from the begin this would be an opportunity for Jimmy Page to shine. As a replacement for both Clapton and Beck, the new guitarist had massive shoes to fill. On “ Dazed and Confused, ” he could show he was equal to the tax .
“ Anything with a riff like that would be a guitar showcase, ” McCarty says. “ We worked it up and added early bits. Jimmy added that other riff in the center [ a bridge borrowed from another Yardbirds track, ‘ Think About It ’ ]. He played all those nice little wah-wah things. It had all the trademarks of the Yardbirds legal. ”
Their musical arrangement of the song besides added something new to the band : a violin bow. page had begun experimenting with running a bow over his guitar strings in the studio for an aeriform, swirling effect, and found the proficiency worked absolutely with such a trippy song. What would later become such an iconic part of Led Zeppelin was then good a young and unproved guitarist trying to bring something new to his instrument .
The Yardbirds quickly added “ Dazed and Confused ” to their live shows and tied performed it once on a french television receiver show. But, in one of music history ’ s big miss opportunities, they never recorded the song. Though they enjoyed playing it, ultimately the birdcall had not inspired the rejuvenating spark they ’ five hundred hoped for. They never recorded another album with the Jimmy Page batting order, abandoning a session in New York after lone three songs due to debilitation .
“ That was the alone actually big song we produced with that batting order, ” McCarty remembers. “ All the others were covers that were more or less the lapp as the original records. But that was different since we created that placement. We created it—but we didn ’ triiodothyronine in truth get anything out of it. ”
indeed, the Yardbirds ’ shroud of “ Dazed and Confused ” would probable be forgotten today had the band ’ sulfur latest ace guitarist not remembered the song when he began putting together his next group .
They were billed as “ The New Yardbirds ” on their first go, but the mention didn ’ t stick retentive. The quartet Jimmy Page formed with Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham soon adopted their own nickname : Led Zeppelin .
In those early on days, though, “ New Yardbirds ” was not that far off as a description. The group had not however found its own identity—the four guys barely flush knew each other—and this was still very much Page ’ sulfur show ( notably, the press turn announcing Led Zeppelin ’ s constitution spends fourteen paragraph on Page alone ahead flush mentioning Plant, Jones, or Bonham ) .
ever the taskmaster, Page decided after only a few shows that the band should record an album. He would select the songs himself .
“ For material we obviously went right polish to our blues roots, ” Page told Rolling Stone in 1975. “ I still had enough of Yardbirds riffs left over. On the first LP I was hush heavily influenced by the earlier days. I think it tells a piece excessively. ”
But Page brought in more than equitable old riffs. He carried with him a number of complete songs he had played with the Yardbirds, much covers. In fact, the first song Led Zeppelin always played together was the Yardbirds ’ version of the 1950s blues song “ Train Kept A-Rollin ‘ ” ( “ it was reasonably bally obvious from that first number that was going to work, ” Jones said former ). They did Howlin ’ Wolf ’ s “ Smokestack Lightnin ‘ ” and Garnett Mimms ’ “ As Long As I Have You, ” both songs Page had covered with the Yardbirds. And they did “ Dazed and Confused, ” basically doing a cover of the Yardbirds ’ cover charge .
Led Zeppelin ’ s recording of “ Dazed and Confused ” shares most of its musical cues with the Yardbirds translation, including the violin bow. The lyrics, though, are about entirely different. page replaced most of the original Jake Holmes lines with his own ( though his fresh lyrics did not appreciably change the song ’ randomness meaning ). none of the four were proper songwriters yet—Plant in finical was contributing very little at that point, fair singing what he was told to—but Page could paraphrase well adequate .
The band recorded “ Dazed and Confused ” during sessions for their debut album. It ’ s been said that specify time in the studio has rarely been used more productively. The solid album took under 30 hours, with Page controlling every expression : finance the record, dictating the songs and arrangements, and producing it himself .
“ Led Zeppelin was created in a very crispen businesslike fashion, ” Plant has said of the first album. “ Nobody actually knew each other. The record and the jam was what it was, and it was a very western fence lizard session. ”
Engineer Glyn Johns—later to become a major manufacturer in his own right—agrees. “ They were truly well-rehearsed, ” he said. “ They ’ five hundred picked all the corporeal and they knew precisely what they were doing. so half the job had already been done by them, and credibly by Jimmy—who would surely take the citation for it. ”
Though he had little production experience, Page ’ s years as an in-demand studio apartment musician with the likes of Joe Cocker had given him enough familiarity to record the basic sound of how the band performed alive. That was enough to satisfy their modest ambitions ; Led Zeppelin had neither the money nor the tilt to tinker in the studio for days. For “ Dazed and Confused, ” they only did two takes ( they released the second gear ), capturing most of it hot and later overdubbing Page ’ s violin-bow alone .
other than the lyrics, the major difference between the Yardbirds ’ adaptation and Led Zeppelin ’ mho came in the vocal delivery. Yardbirds singer Keith Riff ’ s performances of the song were mesomorphic and straightforward, whereas Plant sang it lighter and looser, playing with the melody and adding batch of improvise shouts .
plant ’ s swooping vocals echo another instrumental role on the track : page ’ sulfur guitar. “ I never consciously had the idea of mirroring the guitar work with my voice, ” Plant said later, “ but I remembered Robert Johnson had done it, and when I started singing with Jimmy, it good seemed natural. ”
In late years, though, Plant began to regret singing with his voice careening between notes and octaves. “ I think in review I was slenderly hysteric, ” he said. “ I took it way besides far with that open-throated falsetto. I wish I could get an eraser and go round everybody ’ s replicate of Led Zep I and take out all that ‘ Mmm, mmm, baby, baby ’ stuff. ”
“ Hysterical ” vocals and all, the simply-titled album Led Zeppelin came out on January 12, 1969. In a press release, Page proudly announced, “ between us we wrote 8 of the [ 9 ] tracks. ”
In subsequent decades, early musicians would disagree with this writing claim .

From the start, Led Zeppelin were accused of being, at best, talented mimics—and at worst, copycats. Rolling Stone ‘ sulfur ( in ) famously harsh review of the first base album called Page “ a writer of weak, stereotyped songs ” and Plant “ a dandified as Rod Stewart, but he ’ s nowhere near so exciting. ” The album was constantly compared to Cream and, humorously in review, Jeff Beck ’ s coincident debut LP Truth ( now about forgotten, but at the time fans and critics heatedly debated which ex-Yardbird ’ south album would be considered a classical ) .
And as people listened more closely to Led Zeppelin ’ s album, some heard more than equitable aesthetic similarities to other bands. In fact, many thought that stallion songs sounded pretty familiar .
Some of the album ’ s cover songs were credited as such : the two Willie Dixon numbers ( “ You Shook Me ” and “ I Can ’ t Quit You Baby ” ) and the folk music song “ Babe I ’ m Going to Leave You ” ( miscredited as “ Traditional, ” even though the true songwriter Anne Bredon was animated and well ). Led Zeppelin didn ’ triiodothyronine claim to have written those .
other conversant songs, though, were listed as being wholly original. “ Black Mountain Side ” struck many listeners as sharing an frightful bunch with Bert Jansch ’ s arrangement of the traditional “ Black Waterside. ” And “ How Many More Times ” seemed to some ears that it borrowed more than equitable a few words from Howlin ’ Wolf ’ s “ How Many More Years. ”

And then there was “ Dazed and Confused. ” On the original album ’ s rear traverse, lone one line appeared underneath : “ By Jimmy Page. ” There was no “ Inspired By. ” The name “ Jake Holmes ” appeared nowhere. “ Dazed and Confused ” was not a traverse, at least not according to Page .
Crediting a songwriter like Jake Holmes when you cover their birdcall earns that songwriter more than barely bragging rights. The songwriter earns royalties from every sale of the report, which can be solid. In the late 1960s, Bob Dylan was making so much money off of hit covers that he even attempted to fund his brief retirement after his motorbike crash by having his coach pitch his songs to more artists to cover .
But Dylan ’ s name was credited on all of those covers. The phonograph record ’ s label did not read “ All Along the Watchtower ( Written by Jimi Hendrix ). ” so when Led Zeppelin became superstars and album sales of their debut with “ Dazed and Confused ” kept growing, Holmes never saw a dime bag .
so did Led Zeppelin intentionally steal Holmes ’ song ? Jimmy Page would say no. For years, he and his bandmates have aggressively pushed back against accusations of sung larceny. “ As a musician, I ’ m merely the product of my influences, ” Page said once when questioned about it. “ The fact that I listened to indeed many diverse styles of music has a lot to do with the means I play. Which I think set me apart from indeed many other guitarists of that time. ”
In another case, Page pointed the finger elsewhere. “ a far as my end of it goes, I constantly tried to bring something fresh to anything that I used, ” he said. “ I always made certain to come up with some magnetic declination. In fact, I think in most cases, you would never know what the original generator could be… So most of the comparisons rest on the lyrics. And Robert was supposed to change the lyrics, and he didn ’ thymine always do that—which is what brought on most of the grief. They couldn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate get us on the guitar parts or the music, but they nailed us on the lyrics. ”
The lyrics on “ Dazed and Confused, ” though, are in fact different. The similarity many listen was in the guitar parts and the music .
Consider one end exchange, in 1990 in musician magazine :

musician : I understand “ Dazed and Confused ” was originally a song by Jake Holmes. Is that true ?
page : [ Sourly ] I don ’ triiodothyronine know. I don ’ t know. [ Inhaling ] I don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate know about all that.
musician : Do you remember the serve of writing that sung ?
page : well, I did that with the Yardbirds originally…. The Yardbirds were such a good dance band for a guitarist to play in that I came up with a batch of riffs and ideas out of that, and I employed quite a bunch of those in the early Zeppelin material.
musician : But Jake Holmes, a successful jingle writer in New York, claims on his 1967 record that he wrote the original birdcall.
page : Hmm. Well, I don ’ triiodothyronine know. I don ’ t know about that. I ’ vitamin d preferably not get into it because I don ’ t know all the circumstances. What ’ sulfur he got, the riff or whatever ? Because Robert wrote some of the lyrics for that on the album. But he was only listening to…we extended it from the one that we were playing with the Yardbirds.
MUSICIAN : Did you bring it into the Yardbirds ?
page : No, I think we played it ’ round a screen of melody lineage or something that Keith [ Relf ] had. so I don ’ metric ton know. I haven ’ t listen Jake Holmes so I don ’ metric ton know what it ’ sulfur all about anyhow. Usually my riffs are pretty bloody original [ laughs ] What can I say ?

page ’ sulfur cavalier “ What ’ second he got, the flick or whatever ? ” does not come close to account for the debt Led Zeppelin ’ s “ Dazed and Confused ” owed to Holmes. At least, Holmes didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate think indeed .

When asked today, Holmes says he is “ not allowed ” to talk about “ Dazed and Confused. ” not allowed by who ? Well, in 2010 he sued Page over the birdcall, and two years later signed a colonization with him for undisclosed terms. But before Holmes signed that liquidation, he talked about it enough .
For years, Holmes didn ’ triiodothyronine seem to be excessively bothered by the uncredited blanket. He told Zeppelin biographer Mick Wall about his reaction when he first gear heard their interpretation : “ I didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate give a shit. At the prison term I didn ’ triiodothyronine think there was a law about intent. I thought it had to do with the old Tin Pan Alley law that you had to have four bars of precisely the same tune, and that if person had taken a flick and changed it equitable slightly or changed the lyrics that you couldn ’ t sue them. That turned out to be wholly misadvise. ”
It took him decades to care. But the song wouldn ’ thyroxine go away, and he began to think he was being cheated. Though it was never a one, “ Dazed and Confused ” became one of Led Zeppelin ’ s most last songs, largely due to their concerts. It runs six minutes on phonograph record, but a survive translation could stretch up to 20 minutes or more with Page ’ s guitar solo. In the band ’ second celebrated 1976 concert film The song Remains the Same ( an ironic title for a dance band dodging accusations of sonic plagiarism ), “ Dazed and Confused ” runs for 27 minutes. Holmes didn ’ triiodothyronine care at first base, but over the years he couldn ’ t escape from their version of his song .
By the time he spoke to Wall in 2008, Holmes ’ position had changed. “ I don ’ t want [ Page ] to give me fully credit for this sung. He took it and put it in a guidance that I would never have taken it, and it became identical successful. then why should I complain ? But at least give me one-half credit on it. [ Page ] is gon sodium be so plug in to that sung by now, it ’ s like if your child is kidnapped at two-years-old and raised by another woman. All these years former, it ’ s her pull the leg of. ”
Holmes sued in 2010. The details of the settlement Holmes received two years late are not public. We don ’ metric ton know what he got ( and he won ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate discourse it ). All we know is that in new Led Zeppelin releases, the songwriting credit “ By Jimmy Page ” has been changed to “ By Jimmy Page ; Inspired by Jake Holmes. ”
Though we don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate know what Holmes received beyond the credit, in other cases where Led Zeppelin was sued over their songs, we do know what the original songwriters won. Those reveal a lot about what can happen if person thinks a musician is taking a shortcut with a overlay birdcall .
In 2016, another Led Zeppelin lawsuit was in the news. The estate of the late guitarist Randy Wolfe had sued Zeppelin, claiming they had copied his band Spirit ’ south birdcall “ Taurus ” for the iconic “ Stairway to Heaven ” initiation. After two years of litigation, Page, Plant, and co. won the case ( at the clock time of this write, Wolfe ’ second estate is appealing ). But Led Zeppelin didn ’ thyroxine always win .
That lawsuit included a chart laying out seven prior cover-song lawsuits that Led Zeppelin had lost. The lawyer ’ s deduction was clear : these were accustomed offenders. In each case, a court had forced Led Zeppelin to give credit and/or royalties to another songwriter for a chase they had billed as entirely original ( there are besides numerous other alleged infringements where legal legal action was never taken ) .
In 1972, Willie Dixon—the blues songwriter Zeppelin covered doubly on that debut album ( with proper citation ) —sued the band, alleging that Led Zeppelin used his lyrics to Sonny Boy Williamson ’ s “ Bring It On Home ” for their song of the lapp name. He won that suit, earning royalties and songwriting credit. then a ten late, he sued the band again, this prison term saying their hit “ Whole Lotta Love ” used lyrics from “ You Need Love, ” a birdcall he wrote for Muddy Waters. He won again .
Led Zeppelin was sued for “ Babe I ’ meter Gon na Leave You ” and lost. They were sued over two discriminate songs by Howlin ’ Wolf ’ sulfur estate of the realm and lost. They were sued over “ Boogie with Stu ” even though they did credit dead songwriter Ritchie Valens ’ mother—because they besides credited themselves, and the lawyers argued they hadn ’ t changed adequate to earn any of the songwriting royalties. In fact, each of Led Zeppelin ’ s first four albums generated cover-song lawsuits over the years .
Led Zeppelin ’ s many lawsuits bring up the thorny side of screen songs and copyright jurisprudence. Because these cases were by and large not about Led Zeppelin ’ s square covers ( “ Babe I ’ thousand Gon na Leave You ” and “ Boogie with Stu ” being exceptions ). In most cases, the charges were that Led Zeppelin had mixed in parts of another birdcall ’ south melody and/or lyrics with their own contributions. For “ Dazed and Confused, ” no one disputes that page did rewrite the lyrics. Accusers argued that it is function cover, part original .
A partial cover – where a musician pulls bits and pieces from another song – is, legally, a very different entity than a entire overlay. With a full top, where an artist sings the original words precisely as written, that artist can record it without getting anyone ’ s license. They plainly have to credit the songwriter and pay the appropriate royalties ( it ’ randomness called getting a “ mechanical license ” ) .
But if you change evening a discussion of the lyrics, you need explicit license. If Led Zeppelin had sung the like words to “ Dazed and Confused ” that Jake Holmes did—and if they ’ five hundred credited him as the writer from the start—they could have avoided any legal issues .
To illustrate the remainder, take that blues songwriter who ’ s come up a copulate times, Willie Dixon. He presents a special lawsuit because Led Zeppelin both covered him the common way in two songs and, he says, ripped him off in two others .
Imagine a conjectural scenario in which Dixon didn ’ t wish Led Zeppelin to record a second of his songs. possibly he hated the ring name, Robert Plant ’ s haircloth, whatever. In the event of Led Zeppelin ’ s beginning two, by rights credited covers, he couldn ’ thymine to a thing to stop them except ask nicely .
But in the font of the two songs Dixon sued the band over, songs that incorporated alone some of his original lyrics, he would have had total control. In those cases, Led Zeppelin would need his explicit license to use Dixon ’ south work. He could have refused and not let the band release them at all. This might be another reason Page never asked in the first place : person can ’ t say no if you don ’ thyroxine ask .
This brings us back to those seven words now under “ Dazed and Confused ” : “ By Jimmy Page ; Inspired by Jake Holmes. ” Though awkward and wordy, the phrase is accurate. Because “ Dazed and Confused ” international relations and security network ’ thyroxine entirely a cover ; most of the lyrics are technically different. But, Jake Holmes argued, you can ’ t precisely call it wholly original either .
Cover-song lawsuits will not be going away any time soon. In fact, the position may be getting worse .
It is relatively rare that a musician will perform a straight binding without getting citation. That would be easy to catch, specially with the internet, and impossible to argue your way out of. But since the click of rock roll, performers like Led Zeppelin have been sued for these more dim semi-covers. Two of the Beatles have lost suits : John Lennon for borrowing from Chuck Berry for “ Come Together ” and George Harrison for incorporating a Chiffons girl-group song into “ My Sweet Lord. ” Johnny Cash had to shell out $ 75,000 to a composer named Gordon Jenkins for borrowing a little excessively heavily on “ Folsom Prison Blues. ”
More recently, the number of headline-making lawsuits seems to be increasing. Joe Satriani sued Coldplay, alleging they ripped off his guitar line in their “ Viva La Vida. ” Marvin Gaye ’ s class sued Robin Thicke, alleging he and his cowriters copied Gaye in Thicke ’ south hit “ Blurred Lines. ” And bands like Led Zeppelin are in many cases being sued today for songs that are decades old .
“ I don ’ triiodothyronine think these sorts of cases would have had a casual when the songs were first released, ” says Nova Southeastern University professor Jon Garon, a legal technical on copyright and covering songs, “ but a draw has changed conceptually in the last five to ten years. Musicians didn ’ t use to think of things like musical riffs as protectable under copyright. It was that old estimate in folk music and blues, where musicians like Woody Guthrie think of these things as build blocks anyone can use. But in the ’ 90s culturally the law started to provide a bunch of copyright protection for those kinds of riffs. There has been a re-conceptualization of music because of technology, sampling in particular, and it ’ mho going to keep increasing. ”
Another reason for the increase in cover song lawsuits, he says, is merely economics : “ The music industry is a trace of what it was 20 years ago. The ability to shrug your shoulders and move on is lost. When you have then many fewer gross sources, it makes the stakes much higher. ”
In the case of “ Dazed and Confused, ” Jake Holmes waited over forty years to file his lawsuit about being covered without credit. The fact that he and so many exchangeable accusers have won could mean we will be seeing many more lawsuits—or, hopefully, musicians will get more careful about by rights crediting cover songs the first base time .
Buy ‘ Cover Me : The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time ’ on Amazon, Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, or anywhere else books are sold .
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