Led Zeppelin II

All studio and live performances from Led Zeppelin II. 

Recording sessions for the album took place at several locations in the United Kingdom and North America from January to August 1969. Production was credited to lead guitarist and songwriter Jimmy Page, while it also served as Led Zeppelin's first album to utilise the recording techniques of engineer Eddie Kramer. It was released in October 1969 on Atlantic Records. With elements of blues and folk music, Led Zeppelin II also exhibits the band's evolving musical style of blues-derived material and their guitar and riff-based sound. It has been described as the band's heaviest album.

Whole Lotta Love

Overview:  While Led Zeppelin I established John Bonham as an incredibly inventive composer and talented player, it wasn't until Whole Lotta Love that he established his trademark sound. Now recording with his custom Ludwig Maple Thermogloss kit and utilizing Eddie Kramer's engineering ingenuity, Bonham was able to lay down what would be the first of many iconic drum sounds for the world to hear.

 

The single entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart on 22 November 1969. It remained on the chart for 15 weeks, peaking at no. 4 and becoming the band's only top 10 single in the US. Live, the song debuted 26 April 1969. When performed live, "Whole Lotta Love" also occasionally included segments of other Led Zeppelin songs such as "I Can't Quit You Baby", "You Shook Me", "How Many More Times", "Your Time Is Gonna Come", "Good Times Bad Times", "The Lemon Song", "The Crunge", "D'yer Mak'er", "Black Dog", "Out on the Tiles" and "Ramble On". A famous show closer at Led Zeppelin concerts, it was since mid-1970 performed as a medley of blues and rhythm and blues interpolations favoured by the band. Many of these included classics by Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley and John Lee Hooker.

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Versions Worth Checking Out: How The West Was Won (Los Angeles / Long Beach 1972)

What Is And What Should Never Be

Overview:  Recorded at Olympic Studios in 1969, What Is And What Should Never Be was one of the first songs on which Page used his soon-to-become trademark Gibson Les Paul for recording. The production makes liberal use of stereo as the guitars pan back and forth between channels. Robert Plant's vocals were phased during the verses. This was also one of the first songs recorded by the band for which Robert Plant received writing credit.

 

What Is and What Should Never Be was performed live at Led Zeppelin concerts between 1969 and 1972 (and played once in 1973).

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Versions Worth Checking Out: BBC Sessions 'Top Gear' 1969 - A good balance between the studio and live versions. I like the more song a little more up-tempo, but Bonham could go a little crazy with his fills into the chorus sometimes for such a spacious song. I enjoy them a little more when he exercises a little discretion and keeps it simple.

The Lemon Song

Overview:  The Lemon Song was recorded at Mystic Studios in Hollywood in 1969 while the band was on their second tour of North America. It was recorded virtually live in the studio, and no electronic devices were used to create the echo on Robert Plant's vocal. It was made solely by Plant's voice and the acoustics in Mystic Studios, which was a 16 × 16 foot room with wooden walls. John Paul Jones is phenomenal on the bass for this track.

 

The song borrows from Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor", which was a song Led Zeppelin often incorporated into their live setlist during their first tour of the United States. For the second and third North American tours the song evolved into The Lemon Song, with Plant often improvising lyrics onstage. The Lemon Song was performed live on Led Zeppelin's first three concert tours of the United States (on the first tour as "Killing Floor"), before being dropped from their live set in late 1969. However, the 'squeeze my lemon' sequence continued to be inserted into the "Whole Lotta Love" medley and ad-libbed elsewhere.

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Versions Worth Checking Out:  Studio

Thank You

Overview:  Thank You was recorded at Morgan Studios in London in 1969. It signalled a deeper involvement in songwriting by singer Robert Plant; it was the first Led Zeppelin song for which he wrote all the lyrics. According to various Led Zeppelin biographies, this is also the song that made Jimmy Page realise that Plant could now handle writing the majority of the lyrics for the band's songs. Plant wrote the song as a tribute to his then-wife Maureen. For the recording of this track, Page played on a Vox 12-string guitar.[1] It was also one of the few Led Zeppelin songs on which Page sang backing vocals.

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Versions Worth Checking Out:  BBC Sessions (1 April, 1971)

Heartbreaker

Overview:  Heartbreaker was recorded in May of 1969 at A&R Studios in New York, NY. The song was a crowd favourite at Led Zeppelin concerts, and the band opened many of their live shows in 1971 and 1972 with "Immigrant Song" followed by a segue right into "Heartbreaker". On later concert tours it was often played as an encore. "Heartbreaker" and "Communication Breakdown" were the only songs to be played live during every year that the band toured.

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Versions Worth Checking Out:  23 September 1971 - Tokyo, Japan

Studio Version

Live - 23 September 1971 - Tokyo, Japan

Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman)

Overview:  Living Loving Maid was recorded in May of 1969 at Morgan Studios in London. For the recording of this track, Page played on a Vox 12-string guitar.It is often noted that this is guitarist Jimmy Page's least favorite Led Zeppelin song, and was thus never performed in concert. It was also one of the few Led Zeppelin songs on which Page sang backing vocals. Conversely, singer Robert Plant took a liking to the song, and played it on his 1990 solo tour promoting his album Manic Nirvana.

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Versions Worth Checking Out: Studio

Ramble On

Overview:  Ramble On was recorded June 1st, 1969 at Groove Studios in New York and completed the next day at Juggy Sound Studios (also in New York).  This was recorded with Bonham’s Maple Thermogloss – a 26x15 kick, a 14x12 rack tom, and he only had the 18x16 floor tom at this point.  For the percussive element that he plays throughout the verses, I know there has been a lot of conjecture about what he used; speculation ranges from it being a guitar case, practice pad, drum throne, and even possibly the sole of his shoe (removed and resting on one of the drums). While I don’t know specifically what he used, I think there are two things to consider here: 1) He exited the choruses and solo with the ride cymbal every time and then would instantly be right back into eighth notes on the mystery item. As a result, my guess would be that whatever he was using was placed on either his floor tom or rack tom, although it may also be possible he set something on the small bongos he employed at the time. 

Difficulty: Depending on how detailed and accurate you want to play this, I think this song ranges from beginner to intermediate. It’s a good song to learn if you are new to drums because of the compositional ideas in dynamics and the idea of pushing and pulling with the beat. It’s also important to keep consistent time with the 8th notes you are playing, as opposed to a regular drum beat. If you are looking for note-for-note accuracy, you’ll need to be capable of executing ghost notes with some amount of feeling and good technique.

 

Versions Worth Checking Out: Studio / 

Moby Dick

Overview:  Moby Dick was recorded in 1969 at Mirror Sound in Los Angeles, CA. Studio outtakes from the Led Zeppelin II sessions reveal that the drum solo recorded was edited down from a much longer version (see below for a link to the unedited solo from these sessions). The guitar riff can be traced back to the BBC unused session track "The Girl I Love" which was recorded in the summer of 1969. The riff is also similar to that of Bobby Parker's 1961 single, "Watch Your Step", although the progression is in a different key. Jimmy Page was a fan of Parker's, and at one point in the 1970s offered him a recording contract with Led Zeppelin's Swan Song Records label.

 

Bonham's drum solo was often played at Led Zeppelin concerts from the first North American tour in November 1968, being his solo performance showcase on concert tours through 1977. Over this period it went through three different name changes. During their early 1968-1969 tours it was known as "Pat's Delight" (a reference to Bonham's wife), from 1969-1975 it was "Moby Dick", and during Led Zeppelin's 1977 North American Tour it was "Over the Top" as the solo began with the opening riff to "Out on the Tiles" before segueing into a lengthy drum solo (in the same time ending with a "Moby Dick" riff). The last time "Moby Dick" was played by Led Zeppelin was on 17 July 1977 at the Seattle Kingdome, and can be found on various audio and video bootleg recordings.

 

When played live, Bonham's drum solo would last as little as 6 minutes or, more frequently, as long as 30 minutes, while the rest of the band would leave the stage after having played the introduction.

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Versions Worth Checking Out:  A Mix Of All Of Them - Particularly, the intro and beginning of the solo from The Song Remains The Same film (so smooth!), a good chunck of the middle section from How The West Was Won (so ferocious!), a good chunk of the Royal Albert Hall performance, and any number of things he did on bootlegs from 68-75. 1977 wasn't his best year for captivating solos from what I've listened to...

Bring It On Home

Overview:  Recorded in 1969 at Atlantic Studios in New York, NY, the intro and outro were deliberate homages to the Sonny Boy Williamson song, whereas the rest of the track was an original Jimmy Page/Robert Plant composition. However, Dixon was not given a lyric writing credit for the song. In 1972, Arc Music, the publishing arm of Chess Records, brought a lawsuit against Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement over "Bring It On Home"; the case was settled out-of-court for an undisclosed sum. Plant's harmonica part was recorded in Vancouver. The band went on tour with the master tapes from Led Zeppelin II and now and then stopped into a studio to record parts.

 

Led Zeppelin frequently performed this song live at Led Zeppelin concerts, first appearing as an encore on the band's 1970 UK tour. When played live, the song exhibited sharp interplay between Jimmy Page's guitar, John Bonham's drums and John Paul Jones' bass. From 1973, the song was dropped from the band's live set list. However, the middle section riff was retained and served as the introduction to "Black Dog" on the band's 1973 tour of the United States, as documented in the concert film The Song Remains the Same.

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Versions Worth Checking Out:  How The West Was Won (Los Angeles / Long Beach 1972)