Thievery is the sincerest form of flattery, no? 1 in a series, collect ’em all!
By Uncle Blurt
Several of us here at BLURT have become big fans of the culture blog Willard’s Wormholes, partly because the musical purview tilts towards the left-field music we revere (for example, there’s been recent coverage of Jim White, Spirit, Television’s Richard Lloyd, Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys, etc.), and partly because the attitude and writing is so spot-on and informative. Whole lotta sharing going on, in an intelligent and passionate manner.
So earlier this week WW featured a jaw-droppingly cool feature on Led Zeppelin that’s proposed as a musical trading card collection, Led Zeppelin Took My Blues Away: 25 Tracks Led Zeppelin Took To The Bank. As you’ll discern from the images below, the Willard’s crew has assembled a trove of R. Crumb-inspired images of mostly old bluesmen and folk artists, then posted an audio stream one of their signature tunes alongside a stream of the corresponding Led Zep song that was either inspired by the older track or – in more than one instance – stole shamelessly from it.
For example, everyone probably knows that the band’s hit “Whole Lotta Love” plundered the Willie Dixon-penned blues chestnut “You Need Love” (originally popularized by Muddy Waters). With both audio tracks posted to WW you can read some of the background info behind the original and the cover and compare them as you read. But did you realize that British folk-rocker Jake Holmes had a song in 1967 called “Dazed and Confused” that Zeppelin “adapted” two years later and turned into a song of the same name for their first album? You can listen to both versions and pick up some trivia – such as the fact that Jimmy Page originally took the song credit but in more recent years that credit has been amended to include the notion that it was “inspired by Jake Holmes.” (Since the Willie Dixon estate got involved some time ago on the “Whole Lotta Love” front, it is likely that lawyers go involved at some point along the way on the Holmes tune front, eh?) Below: Zeppelin’s song, followed by the Holmes track.
Interestingly, late American guitarist Randy California is prominently featured here too. His band Spirit had a song called “Taurus” and Spirit also shared some early bills with Led Zeppelin, and as the story goes, the key acoustic guitar riff from “Taurus” reportedly wound up migrating to a little ol’ Zep tuned called… drumroll please… “Stairway to Heaven.” You can listen to the similarities and decide for yourself. WW reports that it’s rumored Randy California’s estate has finally threatened legal action that might derail plans to re-release the fourth Led Zeppelin album in time for Christmas 2014, so some money looks destined to change hands in order to keep things on schedule. Below: Led Zeppelin, followed by Spirit.
It’s quite a gallery of artists to ponder, everyone from blues legends Dixon, Bukka White, Howlin’ Wolf and Sleepy John Estes to seminal pickers Davy Graham and Bert Jansch, and there’s even a sprinkling of rockers like California, Ritchie Valens and Moby Grape’s Bob Mosley.
Writes Willard’s Wormhole, “They’re one of rock’s greatest bands. They’re also one of rock’s worst… when it comes to properly crediting their sources of inspiration. Led Zeppelin’s many incidents of copyright infringement are legendary. There are those who have called it outright theft, and have sworn in a court of law that Led Zeppelin (primarily Jimmy Page and Robert Plant) have repeatedly taken credit for writing music that wasn’t their’s to take credit for. And, many of those cases have been vindicated. Of course… this is not to take away from Led Zeppelin’s greatness; the amazing arrangements, renditions, covers, interpretations, performances and history they’ve created and been a part of. But, the truth is they’ve become rich partly from royalties they were never entitled to.”
Head over to Willard’s Wormhole (keep scrolling down to get to the Zeppelin post) and enjoy.
The way those new 2014 reissues of the first LZ albums are currently selling and the concurrent explosion of interest anew in LZ, somebody’s going to be looking for an uptick in their royalty payments, and it ain’t gonna be just Page, Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham’s heirs….