Another Friday is finally here and it is time to get the Led out. Todays song is the song Black Dog by Led Zeppelin. This is probably one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs and in my opinion, Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest rock groups of all time. They incorporated elements of heavy metal, acoustic, and blues to the heights very few ever obtained. Here is a video of one of their performances from Earls Court in 1975.
Here is a rare outtake of them rehearsing the song. This is really good.
Yet another great version of the song.
“Black Dog” is a song by English rock band Led Zeppelin, the lead off track of their fourth album, released in 1971. It was also released as a single in the United States and Australia with “Misty Mountain Hop” on the B-side, and reached #15 on Billboard and #11 in Australia.
In 2004 the song was ranked #294 on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Music sociologist Deena Weinstein argues, “Black Dog” is “one of the most instantly recognisable [Led] Zeppelin tracks”.
Inspiration and Recording
Led Zeppelin bass player John Paul Jones, who is credited with writing the main riff, wanted to write a song that people could not “groove” or dance to with its winding riff and complex rhythm changes.
In an interview, Jones explained the difficulties experienced by the band in writing the song:
I wanted to try an electric blues with a rolling bass part. But it couldn’t be too simple. I wanted it to turn back on itself. I showed it to the guys, and we fell into it. We struggled with the turn-around, until [John] Bonham figured out that you just four-time as if there’s no turn-around. That was the secret.
The song’s title is a reference to a nameless black Labrador retriever that wandered around the Headley Grange studios during recording. The dog has nothing to do with the song lyrics (although the line “Eyes that shine burning red” is similar to the Black dog legend), which are about desperate desire for a woman’s love and the happiness resulting thereby. Regarding the lyrics to the song, Plant later said, “Not all my stuff is meant to be scrutinized. Things like ‘Black Dog’ are blatant, let’s-do-it-in-the-bath type things, but they make their point just the same.” Plant’s vocals were recorded in two takes.
Built around a call-and-response dynamic between vocalist and the band, the start and stop a cappella verses were inspired by Fleetwood Mac‘s 1969 song “Oh Well.” (Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes would later perform “Oh Well” on their 1999 tour and included it on the album Live at the Greek.)
Despite the seeming simplicity of the drum pattern, the song features a complex, shifting time signature that the band has sometimes claimed was intended to thwart cover bands from playing the song. Jones originally wanted the song recorded in 3/16 time but realised it was too complex to reproduce live. In live performances, Bonham eliminated the 5/4 variation so that Plant could perform his a cappella vocal interludes and then have the instruments return to together synchronised. If the volume is turned up loud enough, Bonham can be heard tapping his sticks together before each riff. Page made reference to this in an interview he gave to Guitar World magazine in 1993:
He did that to keep time and to signal the band. We tried to eliminate most of them, but muting was much more difficult in those days than it is now.
Page also discussed how he achieved his guitar sound on the track:
We put my Les Paul through a direct box, and from there into a mic channel. We used the mic amp of the mixing board to get distortion. Then we ran it through two Urei 1176 Universal compressors in series. Then each line was triple-tracked. Curiously, I was listening to that track when we were reviewing the tapes and the guitars almost sound like an analog synthesizer.
Page’s solo was constructed out of four overdubbed Gibson Les Paul fills.
The sounds at the beginning of the song are those of Page warming up his electric guitar. He called it “waking up the army of guitars” — which are multitrack recorded in unison with electric bass guitar to provide the song’s signature.
During the outro-solo Robert Plant can be heard moaning and wailing in the background. Around the 4-minute mark, he says, “Push me babe, push me babe.” It was also during this part of the song that Robert Plant hits his highest note on any Led Zeppelin studio recording. He reaches it between the second and third repetition of the fade-out riff during the guitar solo (at the 3:49 mark in the song). Often known for hitting the high G during the band’s early years, Plant seems to reach A5 here… though it is disputed if, on a live bootleg recording from 1968/9, during an improvisation if the C6 Robert Plant appears to sing is or is not in falsetto, on the subject of Plant’s powerful vocal range between (~)1968 and (~)1973 if he did posess a 4 octave vocal range.
“Black Dog” became a staple and fan favourite of Led Zeppelin’s live concert performances. It was first played live at Belfast‘s Ulster Hall on 5 March 1971, a concert which also featured the first ever live performance of “Stairway to Heaven“. It was retained for each subsequent concert tour until 1973. In 1975 it was used as an encore medley with “Whole Lotta Love”, but was hardly used on the band’s 1977 concert tour of the United States. It was recalled to the set for the Knebworth Festival 1979 and the 1980 Tour of Europe. For these final 1980 performances, Page introduced the song from stage.
When played live, Led Zeppelin often played the first few bars of “Out on the Tiles” as the introduction for “Black Dog”, except for the 1973 tour where the riff from “Bring It On Home” introduced the song.
Also, the “ah-ah” refrains were sung in call-and-response between Robert Plant and the audience.
Page’s guitar playing prowess is well demonstrated in different recorded performances of the song from Madison Square Garden in July 1973, as seen in the group’s concert films The Song Remains the Same and Led Zeppelin DVD. There is also a June 1972 live recording of “Black Dog” which can be heard on the album How the West Was Won, and another live version on Disc 2 of Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions.
Plant sampled the song on his solo tracks “Tall Cool One” and “Your Ma Said She Cried In Her Sleep Last Night”. Page and Plant performed an updated version of this song on their 1995 tour. “Black Dog” was the first song performed by Page and Plant at the American Music Awards, which kicked off their first tour together in almost 15 years. Robert Plant also played a version of the song during his solo tour in 2005, as is included on the DVD release Soundstage: Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation. Former Deep Purple-singer David Coverdale‘s band Whitesnake released the song “Still of the Night” in 1987 which has often been cited similar to “Black Dog”; later, when Coverdale toured with Page in 1993, they played both songs together. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss regularly covered “Black Dog” during their tour of USA and Europe in April and May 2008. It also features on their appearance on the Country Music Television show CMT Crossroads, recorded in October 2007.
by Led Zeppelin
Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.
Oh, oh, child, way you shake that thing, gonna make you burn, gonna make you sting.
Hey, hey, baby, when you walk that way, watch your honey drip, can’t keep away.
Ah yeah, ah yeah, ah, ah, ah. Ah yeah, ah yeah, ah, ah, ah.
I gotta roll, can’t stand still, got a flaming heart, can’t get my fill
Eyes that shine burning red, dreams of you all through my head.
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah.
Hey, baby, oh, baby, pretty baby, tell me that you’ll do me now
Hey, baby, oh, baby, pretty baby, do me like you do me now
Didn’t take too long ‘fore I found out, what people mean my down and out.
Spent my money, took my car, started telling her friends she wants to be a star.
I don’t know but I been told, a big-legged woman ain’t got no soul.
All I ask for when I pray, steady rollin’ woman gonna come my way.
Need a woman gonna hold my hand, won’t tell me no lies, make me a happy man.
Ah ah Ah ah ah ah Ah ah ah ah Ah ah ah