Leaps n Bands #41: Lynryd Skynryd – Freebird (1976)


The Jemtunes ‘Leaps n Bands’ series is, throughout 2020, featuring a track by track expose of the albums that have spoken loudest to me over the years.

But Jemtunes 32-41, concluding today, featured 10 singles instead. Mainly because, when many of us now of a certain age first started buying records, the format of choice was the humble 45. And there was a lot of influence there.

On 20 October 1977, just after a month since I started art college, Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines from Lynryd Skynryd were killed in an plane crash. In homage, Freebird (released the year before in the UK) got pretty well continuous airplay on pub jukeboxes and home record players for several weeks.

Allen Collins’ wonderful guitar solo remains (and probably always will now) one of my absolute all-time favourites. Particularly from this 1975 performance on ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’.

Leaps n Bands #9: Led Zeppelin IV – side two, track four: When the levee breaks (1971)


For this first part of the new Jemtunes series for 2010 – Leaps n Bands – I’m taking you through a track by track expose of Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth studio album commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV. Today concludes that with side 2, track 4 – When the levee breaks.

Thus was originally a country blues song written and first recorded by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie in 1929. The lyrics reflect experiences during the upheaval caused by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The flooding affected 26,000 square miles of the Mississippi Delta – hundreds were killed and hundreds of thousands of residents were forced to evacuate.

Ethel Douglas, Minnie’s sister-in-law, recalled that Minnie was living with her family near Walls, Mississippi, when the levee broke in 1927. The song’s lyrics recount the personal toll on a man who lost his home and family.

McCoy and Minnie recorded “When the Levee Breaks” during their first session for Columbia Records in New York City on June 18, 1929. The song features McCoy on vocals and rhythm guitar. Minnie, the more accomplished guitarist of the two, provided the embellishments using a finger picked-style in a Spanish or open G tuning.

Columbia issued the song on the then-standard 78 rpm phonograph record, with “That Will Be Alright”, another vocal performance by McCoy, on the flip-side in August or June 1929.

When considering material for the group to record for their untitled 4th album, Robert Plant had suggested the Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie song and the band decided to place it as the albums’ final track. Jimmy Page developed a new guitar riff that set it apart but John Bonham’s drumming defines the characteristic of the song.

Page and John Paul Jones based their guitar and bass lines on the original. However, they did not follow its twelve-bar blues I–IV–V–I structure, but instead used a one-chord approach to give it a droning sound. Plant used many of the lyrics, but took a different melodic approach. He also added a harmonica part which as a result of the backward echo effect during the mix, the echo is heard ahead of the source.

John Bonham’s drumming, played on a Ludwig kit, was recorded in the lobby of Headley Grange using two Beyerdynamic M 160 microphones which were hung up a flight of stairs; output from these were passed to a pair of Helios F760 compressor/limiters. A Binson Echorec, a delay effects unit, was also used.

Portions of the song were recorded at a different tempo, then slowed down, explaining the “sludgy” sound, particularly on the harmonica and guitar solos. It was the only song on the album that was mixed at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, California (the rest being remixed in London).

A new “Leaps n Bands” album review starts on Jemtunes on 19 January.

Leaps n Bands #8: Led Zeppelin IV – side two, track three – Going to California (1971)


For this first part of the new Jemtunes series for 2010 – Leaps n Bands – I’m taking you through a track by track expose of Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth studio album commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV.

Side 2, track 3 is Going to California with Robert Plant on lead vocals, acoustic guitar by Jimmy Page and mandolin by John Paul Jones, a song written when Jimmy Page, audio engineer Andy Johns and band manager Peter Grant had travelled to Los Angeles to mix Led Zeppelin IV and coincidentally experienced a minor earthquake.

Initially titled “Guide to California”, the band changed ‘guide’ to ‘going’ just prior to the album’s production.

The band’s first live performance of the song was on their Spring 1971 tour of the United Kingdom. One live version, from Led Zeppelin’s performance at Earls Court in 1975, is featured on disc 2 of the Led Zeppelin DVD and again on the Mothership DVD. The song was also performed at all shows on Led Zeppelin’s mammoth 1977 US tour.

Robert Plant played it during his solo tours in 1988/1989, at the Knebworth Silver Clef show in 1990 and again on his Mighty ReArranger tour, with additions of a double bass and a synthesizer.

A different version of this song is featured on the second disc of the remastered 2CD deluxe edition of Led Zeppelin IV. This version, known as “Going to California (Mandolin/Guitar Mix),” is an instrumental recorded on January 29, 1971, with the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio at Headley Grange with engineer Andy Johns. This mix runs to 3:34, while the original version runs to 3:32.

Leaps n Bands #7: Led Zeppelin IV – side 2, track 2: Four Sticks (1971)

For this first part of the new Jemtunes series for 2010 – Leaps n Bands – I’m taking you through a track by track expose of Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth studio album commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV.

Track 2 on side 2 is “Four Sticks”, named quite simply because John Bonham plays the drum pattern that runs throughout the track using four drumdsticks.

It has a very unusual time signature with riffs in both of 5/8 and 6/8 time. So it was therefore not only difficult to play but also to record, requiring multiple takes. Four Sticks was only played live once by the band.

Leaps n Bands #6: Led Zeppelin IV – side 2, track 1 (Misty Mountain Hop) 1971

For this first part of the new Jemtunes series for 2010 – Leaps n Bands – I’m taking you through a track by track expose of Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth studio album commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV.

The first track on side 2 – “Misty Mountain Hop” –  was written at Headley Grange and features John Paul Jones on electric piano. Robert Plant wrote the lyrics which are all about dealing with the clash against students and police around drug possession. The title comes from J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Leaps n Bands #5: Led Zeppelin IV – side 1, track 4: Stairway to Heaven (1971)

For this first part of the new Jemtunes series for 2010 – Leaps n Bands – I’m taking you through a track by track expose of Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth studio album commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV.

And what can be said about the final track on side one that hasn’t already? Stairway to Heaven was mostly written by Jimmy Page, and the bulk of the chord sequence was already worked out when recording started at Basing Street Studios. The lyrics were written by Robert Plant at Headley Grange, about a woman who “took everything without giving anything back” and the final take of the song was recorded at Island Studios after the Headley Grange session.

The whole group contributed to the arrangement John-Paul Jones playing recorders on the introduction, and John Bonham’s distinctive drum entry halfway through the piece. Page played the guitar solo using a Fender Telecaster he had received from Jeff Beck and been his main guitar on the group’s first album and early live shows. He put down three different takes of the solo and picked the best to put on the album.

The song was the standout track on the album and was played on FM radio stations frequently, but the group resisted all suggestions to release it as a single. It became the centrepiece of the group’s live set from 1971 onward, Page using his signature Gibson EDS-1275 double neck guitar in order to replicate the changes between acoustic, electric and twelve-string from the studio recording.

Footage of the song being played live is preserved on the band’s concert film The Song Remains the Same, featuring a performance from Madison Square Garden in 1973, and on the Led Zeppelin DVD, featuring a performance from Earls Court Arena in 1975. Official audio versions are also available on The Song Remains the Same’s accompanying soundtrack, on Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions (a performance from London’s Paris Theatre in 1971) and on How the West Was Won (a performance from the Long Beach Arena in 1972).

 

Leaps n Bands #4: Led Zeppelin IV – side 1, track 3 – The battle of evermore (1971)

For this first part of the new Jemtunes series for 2010 – Leaps n Bands – I’m taking you through a track by track expose of Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth studio album commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV.

The informal setting at Headley Grange where tracks for the album were mostly laid down inspired the band, and allowed them to try different arrangements of material and create songs in a variety of styles. Following the lukewarm reviews from critics for Led Zeppelin III, they decided their fourth album would officially be untitled, and would be represented instead by four symbols chosen by each band member, without featuring the name or any other details on the cover.

Unlike the prior two albums, the band was joined by some guest musicians. Joining Robert Plant (vocals), Jimmy Page (guitar), John Paul Jones (bass, multi-instrumentalist), and John Bonham (drums) were Fairport Convention vocalist Sandy Denny on “The Battle of Evermore”, and Rolling Stones pianist Ian Stewart on “Rock and Roll”.

The Battle of Evermore was written by Page on the mandolin, borrowed from Jones andPlant added lyrics inspired by a book he was reading about the Scottish Independence Wars. For the duet between Plant Sandy Danny, Plant played the role of narrator in the song, describing events, while Denny sang the part of the town crier representing the people.

 

Leaps n Bands #3: Led Zeppelin IV – side 1, track 2 – Rock n roll (1971)


For this first part of the new Jemtunes series for 2010 – Leaps n Bands – I’m taking you through a track by track expose of Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth studio album commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV. It was released on 8 November 1971 by Atlantic Records, was produced by Jimmy Page and recorded between December 1970 and February 1971, mostly in the Hampshire country house, Headley Grange.

Built in 1795, Headley Grange is a three-storey stone structure which was originally used as a workhouse for the poor, infirm and orphaned. It was the centre of a well-publicised riot in 1830, which is the subject of a 2002 book by local author John Owen Smith, entitled One Monday in November – The Story of the Selborne and Headley Workhouse Riots of 1830. The building was bought in 1870 by builder Thomas Kemp for £420; he converted it into a private residence, and named it Headley Grange. In the 1960’s and 70’s, the house was used as a recording studio by ‘The Pretty Things’, ‘Fleetwood Mac’, ‘Genesis’, ‘Peter Frampton’, ‘Ian Dury’ and, of course, ‘Led Zeppelin’

After opening with the cracking’ Black Dog’ side one of the the album keeps up the pace with ‘Rock n Roll’, ” a collaboration with ex-Rolling Stones keyboardist Ian Stewart that came out of a jam early in the recording sessions at the Grange. Drummer John Bonham wrote the introduction, which came from jamming around the intro to Little Richard’s “Keep A Knockin”. Ian Stewart would later also co-write ‘Boogie’ with Stu’ from Physical Graffiti (but that’s a whole different story). Suffice to say here that Ian Stewart was brought into the early work on ‘IV’ as he accompanied engineer Andy Johns with the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio the band used to lay down most of the album’s eight tracks.

Leaps n Bands #2: Led Zeppelin IV – side 1 track 1 (Black Dog) (1971)

I can still remember the day, more or less the time and definitely the place where I purchased my first ever album. It was a cold and frosty morning and I can see vividly see me, aged 12½ armed with the £3.75 from my money box, walking down Park Lane, crossing the green to the Square and up to doors of Woolworths not long after opening. It was Saturday 11 December 1971 and I was here to purchase my own copy of the album I’d seen Mark Austin carry around at school. I still hadn’t heard a single track, had no idea what the band sounded like or even whether I’d like the music; I just knew that I had to have that album. And with the hindsight I now have 48 years later, it was a wise choice!

From my first glimpse of the inside illustration of Barrington Coleby’s “The Hermit” covering the entire inner gatefold, the mystery of the four symbols in place of an album title, the whimsey of the peeling wallpaper image on the front and rear cover of a broken wall with Birmingham’s Salisbury Tower from the Ladywood district in the background and, to the fore, the 19th century rustic oil painting purchased by Robert Plant in a Reading antiques shop, coupled with the power of that lyric from the opening track on side 1, I was hooked (hook, line and sinker). And I still am!

So, here and over the next seven Jemtunes postings, is a track-by-track expose of this wonderful album. From its first playing on my Dad’s Garrard SP25 stereogram through to now via my recent Apple Music subcription, I’ve never one tired of any track. Each has a special place. And from now through to 17 January, I’ll share a little of that with you.

Track one, side one is Black Dog – named after a dog that hung around Headley Grange during recording. The riff was written by Page and Jones, while the a cappella section was influenced by Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”. Robert Plant wrote the lyrics, and later sang portions of the song during solo concerts. The guitar solos on the outro were recorded directly into the desk, without using an amplifier.

I never did get to see the band back in the day. My one regret. Lapped up everything they ever did until John Bonham’s passing in 1980 and soaked up all they’d done before I discovered them in 1971. But I never saw them live.

Having said that, I have seen the one tribute band which both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have endorsed and supported since their formation in 1996 – Whole Lotta Led. Several times. Most recent was a couple of summers back when they performed the whole of Led Zeppelin IV at Brighton’s Concorde II. And the image I have in my mind’s eye of my daughter Grace and I screaming out the opening lines to ‘Black Dog’ as vocalist Lee Pryor opened the gig sums it all up – “Hey hey mama, said the way you move. Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove”.

Led Zeppelin – Moby Dick (Starters for Ten #282) 2.10.29

Starters for Ten 2019 – #282: Top Ten Drumming tracks: 191009

Led Zeppelin – Moby Dick (1969)


Throughout 2019 Jem of Jemtunes is taking you through 36 top tens and one top five. Tunes for a whole gamut of reasons including genre, mood, time of year or simply time itself. Sometimes there’s be words but mostly it’ll simply be the music. Because music always speaks for itself.

Continuing my 29th top ten –  featuring my top ten drumming tracks – here’s Led Zeppelin’s Moby Dick, released as part of their 2nd album ‘II’ in 1969 and featuring the late John Bonham on drums.