John Paul Jones’ spooky bass line, Jimmy Page’s singing Les Paul, Robert Plant’s distinctive voice and those classic Bonham drums – As with most classic Zeppelin tracks, Dazed and Confused intrigues from the start with a glimpse of what might be to come, that kind of excitement of anticipation of this new journey that is about to begin.
Dazed and Confused is everything I want from a Zeppelin track, for me it IS Led Zeppelin, it’s what I want from my Led Zeppelin – I want John Bonham’s drums as loud as fucking possible in perfect unison back and forth with Jimmy Page’s over-exuberant guitar playing and John Paul Jones bass keeping it all flowing, I want Robert Plant making love to the microphone – THIS IS LED ZEPPELIN! Unfortunately the song is completely fucking plagiarised! Ha.
Of course this is not the only Zeppelin song that is a cover, “You Shook Me”, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “In my time of dying” are just a few on the list.
Dazed and Confused was first written and recorded by Californian singer/songwriter (and later jingle writer) Jake Holmes in 1967 for his debut album “The Above Ground Sound” . Said to have been written about a girl’s indecision to end a relationship, although many speculated that it was about a bad acid trip, but then again this was 1967 and every song was either about a girl, boy or a bad acid trip right?!
Jake Holmes was influenced by psychedelic rock and dark blues, amongst other styles but you can certainly hear the former influences in his original recording, yes it’s dark, yes it’s psychedelic, but at it’s core it’s acoustic guitar screams folk with dipping bass lines and daggers of electric guitar on cheap amps not to mention Holmes’ haunting vocal, singing every word likes he means it which I guessing he did. Holmes’ version is the original and by right is more personal to him and I guess that’s what you hear in the lyrics.
Jimmy Page was heading up the Yardbirds in 1967 when he heard Holmes sing Dazed and Confused after he opened up for them in Greenwich Village, a moment Holmes describes as when “Dazed and Confused fell into the loving arms and hands of Jimmy Page”, perhaps the quote tinged with sarcasm or maybe he genuinely like what Page did with it. The lyrics from Holmes’ original composition have been altered through various recordings but the Yardbirds stayed fairly true to the lyrics and the folk roots in early shows before as shown here in a rare recording on French television
Holmes, now in his late 70’s filed a lawsuit against Page in 2010 for copyright infringment after Page had taken full songwriting credits on Led Zeppelin’s debut album. Holmes was aware at the time but didn’t do anything about it until 1980 when he wrote a letter to the band stating “I understand it’s a collaborative effort, but I think you should give me credit at least and some remuneration” – An undisclosed settlement was reached out of court in 2011.
Jake Holmes has recorded 7 studio albums since 1967 with varying degrees of success, however he has forged a great career as a jingle writer and doing commercial voice overs in the US, all of which pail into complete insignificance knowing that he was the true artist behind Dazed and Confused.
Dazed and Confused, whether Jake Holmes, Yardbirds or Led Zeppelin is a song with meaning, it’s a song that will take you on a journey. In Holmes case, a personal journey through his lyrics as he experiments with the musical landscape that was shaping the late 60’s, in Zeppelin’s case, a journey through 4 musicians that were born to play together, that were put on this earth to be together like a force of nature and a band will take you on a musical journey for around six and a half minutes on the album version.
After listening to each version countless times over the last few hours, I can only come to the conclusion that I’m “Dazed and Confused for so long it’s not true” as to my preference and I think it’s one of those that is going to depend on which version of me I would rather be tonight, for now I just have to bow down to Jake Holmes and say thank you for giving the world Dazed and Confused. The jingles may have paid you well over the years but fuck it, this is the one to dine out on.