"One song Jimmy Page clearly ripped off"
A previous blog about the song “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” was subtitled “One song Led Zeppelin didn’t purposely steal.” The same cannot be said of “Dazed And Confused,” also on their 1969 self-titled debut album.
Zep’s guitarist, the renowned Jimmy Page, first came to public attention in the Yardbirds, that influential British band whose members also included Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. A notable gig for the Yardbirds was their August 25, 1967 appearance at New York’s Village Theatre. What makes this important was that one of the group’s opening acts was singer-songwriter Jake Holmes. Holmes’ haunting, acoustic-based performance of his composition “Dazed And Confused” immediately captivated the Yardbirds. Wasting no time, Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty went into Greenwich Village the next day and purchased the album The Above Ground Sounds Of Jake Holmes, which included the song. Jimmy Page has said he doesn’t know where “D & C” came from, but was reportedly spotted buying a copy as well. Years later, regarding Page's supposed ignorance of the song's source, McCarty said “He’s a fibber. We’ll have to bust him on that one.”
Inspired by the song’s dramatic descending bass line and seemingly trippy lyrics (more on this later), the Yardbirds worked up their own version. It was a perfect vehicle for their “rave up” style that often included wild improvised sections. “Dazed And Confused” became part of the band’s live act, giving Page an opportunity to incorporate his show-stopping, violin bowed guitar theatrics.
How I wish I could have seen the Yardbirds back then! The best audio evidence of that era is a 1971 LP that was short-lived and IS tough to find. (Read that as a challenge!) Epic Records issued a U.S. album titled Live Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page, culled from their March 30, 1968 NYC show. It included a cut titled "I'm Confused" which is clearly "Dazed and Confused." Songwriting credit for that track is conspicuously absent. Jimmy Page didn't like the poorly engineered recording, accusing the record company of "sweetening" it with cocktail party sounds and bullfight cheers. He quickly forced Epic to withdraw the record, although it was briefly marketed again in 1975 as a bargain bin item on Columbia Special Products. Page once again insisted on its removal.
Following the split of the Yardbirds in mid-1968, Page set about assembling his new group, provisionally called the New Yardbirds. They settled on Led Zeppelin following a joke by Who drummer Keith Moon who said the band would go over like a lead balloon. Page changed “lead” to “led” to avoid any mispronunciation. The group cut their first album that fall and used the arrangement he had done with the Yardbirds for their “Dazed And Confused.” In fact, credit for the song on Led Zeppelin (1) is none other than Jimmy Page.
What does Jake Holmes have to say about all this? He, along with most people, wasn’t aware of the Yardbirds’ short-lived issue. It was years after the fact that he learned of Led Zeppelin’s treatment and assumed he didn’t have a case. In a 2005 interview, Jake added “The cachet of rock victim has stood me in good stead over the years.” In June, 2010 Holmes did file a copyright infringement lawsuit against Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin’s publisher Superhype Music. It’s unclear what the status of the suit is, but the statute of limitations would severely limit any judgment in Holmes’ favor. How odd that he waited so long to take action.
As to the song’s lyrics, Jake refutes the notion it’s about a bad acid trip. While Holmes has admitted to smoking grass, he says he always avoided LSD. To him, “Dazed And Confused” is a love song focusing on a woman who hasn’t decided whether to continue the relationship or leave. Yardbirds vocalist Keith Relf took some liberties with Jake’s lyrics, making them more bluesy. Led Zeppelin also didn’t use Holmes’ words verbatim but there’s no questioning the source for their recording.
Jake Holmes - Dazed And Confused
Yardbirds - I’m Confused