Led Zeppelin I

All studio and live performances from Led Zeppelin I

Led Zeppelin I was recorded in October 1968 at Olympic Studios in London and released on Atlantic Records on 12 January 1969 in the United States and 31 March in the United Kingdom.  Featuring integral contributions from each of the group's four musicians, the album established their fusion of blues and rock.

Good Times, Bad Times

Good Times, Bad Times is arguably the one of the greatest debuts of a drummer in the history of Rock and Roll, and instantly established John Bonham as a drummer worthy of legend. This song is notable for many reasons, but John Bonham's repeated use of a series of two sixteenth-note triplets on a single bass drum, an effect many subsequent rock drummers have imitated, and as well as keeping the hi-hat playing eighth notes throughout almost the entire song with his left foot, is amongst its greatest assets.

 

The riff was composed by John Paul Jones, and he later reported that it was the most difficult one he ever wrote.

 

Favorite version: Studio

Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You

As Spin stated: "A sneakily weird early Zep cut, "Babe" tears through its tense acoustics with some of the band's most unexpectedly ferocious playing — when the guitars and drums come crashing in pre-chorus, it's about as metal as anything your'e likely to hear in pre-Sabbath rock[.]" It's the first recorded demonstration of Led Zeppelin's use of shattering dynamics. The haunting vocals and ominous acoustic guitar are driven to their peak once Bonham makes his entrance. Despite the heavy nature of his accents on the toms, he still displays a great sense of technicality and dynamic in his fills by throwing quick flurishes on the snare between each pummeling, syncopated blow to his kit. There's a great groove on the choruses, as well.

 

Favorite version: Studio     

You Shook Me

While relatively straight forward, 'You Shook Me' fully demonstrated Led Zeppelin's approach on the source material with which they were inspired. It also gave Bonham the opportunity to throw in some of his early-day signature drum fills.

 

Favorite version: Live at the Fillmore '69

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused became the centrepiece for the group at Led Zeppelin concerts, at least through the release of "Whole Lotta Love" from their second album.  When performed live, it was gradually extended in duration (up to 45 minutes by 1975) as a multi-section improvised jam.  Although initially performed in a manner similar to the studio version, some noticeable differences were gradually developed in live performances.  By June 1969, in the section where Page plays guitar with a violin bow, the rest of the band dropped out completely, allowing him to perform a lengthier free-form improvisation.  By 1972, another improvised section had been added between the verses and this.  The fast section was extended to allow changes in dynamics and volume, as well as changing the beat, sometimes segueing in and out of another song altogether.  There was a short jam at the end of the song after the final verse.  In 1972, the song incorporated riffs from the Led Zeppelin songs "The Crunge", and "Walter's Walk", as can be heard on the live album How the West Was Won.  By 1973, the song featured an extended transition before the violin bow solo, which incorporated a melody that would later be used in 1976's "Achilles Last Stand".  Plant sang lyrics from either Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco" or Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" during this transition.

 

Bonham was partilcarly amazing on this song, especially while Led Zeppelin were still on their rise to conquering the world.  As more of the traditional blues numbers were dropped from the set in place of more original compositions, this song still gave Bonham the opportunity to throw in all of the fills he'd devised for the 6/8 time signature songs. Performances like the 1969 appearance on Danmark's Radio are legendary, and completely demonstrate why Bonham is worthy of worship.

 

Favorite version: June 25th, 1972 - L.A Forum (How The West Was Won)

Your Time Is Gonna Come

A pretty straight forward song, record producer Rick Rubin nails why the song still has Zeppelin's paws all over it: "It's like the drums are playing a big rock song and the guitars are playing a gentle folk song.  And it's got one of the most upbeat choruses of any Zeppelin song, even though the words are so dark."  Jimmy Page played an out-of-tune Fender 10-string steel guitar on this track.  In an interview he gave in 1977, Page stated that he only learned how to play the steel guitar during the sessions for the first album.

 

Favorite version: Studio (Never played live during Led Zeppelin's initial run) However, if you're a fan of the song, I highly recommend you check out this performance from Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience. In my opinion, this song has never sounded better...

 

Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience - Your Time Is Gonna Come

 

Communication Breakdown

Communication Breakdown was a popular live number at Led Zeppelin concerts, and was the only song to be played during every year that the band toured.  It is also one of the few songs on which Page sang a backing vocal.

 

While relatively simple from a drummers point-of-view, it still requires a bit of dexterity and stamina with your foot. The jams at the end also gave Bonham the opportunity to implement plenty of triplets between hand and foot that he was so well known for.

 

Favorite version:  June 27th, 1969 - BBC Sessions (Disc One, Track 11) - No fat on the jam what-so-ever. Funky and rock solid without any excess noodling.

I Can't Quit You, Baby

Led Zeppelin regularly performed "I Can't Quit You Baby" in concert from 1968 to early 1970.

 

Favorite version: January 9th, 1970 - Royal Albert Hall (Led Zeppelin DVD) - Bonham is an absolute beast on this one, demonstrating awesome but raucous control over the 6/8 time signature of the song.

How Many More Times

The song is credited in the album liner to Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham, but is listed by ASCAP as written by all four members of the band.  As with all the other tracks on Led Zeppelin's debut album, Robert Plant didn't get a writing credit for this song due to unexpired contractual obligations.  Though listed at a time of 3:30 on the album sleeve, the correct length of the track is in fact 8:28.  The incorrect listing was deliberate as it was intended to help promote radio play.  Page knew that radio stations would never play a song over eight minutes long, so he wrote the track time as shorter on the album to trick radio stations into playing it.

 

Favorite version: