The definitive fusion between blues and rock

By Sergio Ariza

The debut album of the most important rock band of the 70s provided a definitive fusion between blues and rock and created something totally new. Jimmy Page drew heavily on other tunes, mainly blues, to create these songs but the result, once played by the four members of Led Zeppelin is something entirely of their own. It is true that Page could have been a bit more generous when it came to sharing credits for those compositions but on their first album Zeppelin already sounded like the most perfect rock machine in history. Propelled by the riffs of Page and John Bonham's drums, the group hardens the blues to turn it into something else, like on Dazed and Confused, You Shook Me, I Can’t Quit You Baby and How Many More Times, and showed their more folk and acoustic side with Black Mountain Side, but also had time to offer their own wonders such as with Good Times Bad Times, Communication Breakdown (the Led Zeppelin punk?) and flirt with psychedelia on Your Time Is Gonna Come. And so, apart from being Rock Gods, Zeppelin had multiple faces.  

Dazed And Confused
is the song that best defines the album and the band, as well as one of the great songs of their career. Based on a song written by Jake Holmes, which Page ‘forgot’ at the time of the credits, the guitarist had recently started playing the song with the Yardbirds, and so it was one of the first songs he presented to the band, once he had recruited John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Bonham. This became one of the main pieces on which his sound was cemented with Page extracting the most incredible sounds from his 1959 Telecaster, through a Supro amplifier, with a violin bow; with the rhythm section demonstrating that they were unstoppable and Plant demonstrating that he is one of the most gifted singers of all time.

But this first record contains much more than its most remembered song - from the devastating start with Good Times, Bad Times to the end, with How Many More Times - Led Zeppelin I shows that the band was much less monolithic than was said by critics at the time. For example Led Zeppelin is always mentioned as a forerunner of Heavy but almost never as an ancestor of Punk; but
Johnny Ramone had found his sparkling style by playing the riff of Communication Breakdown non-stop; further proof, if it were needed, of the tremendous importance of the band. And things do not end there, Your Time Is Gonna Come proves that ‘those of Page’ were not exempt from a fine pop sensibility and were also able to deliver memorable choruses. Black Mountain Side sees them embrace the tremendous influence that British folk would have on them, although in this case similarities with the great Bert Jansch’s work are evident. Much more successful were his attempts at the blues, as in You Shook Me; a superior version, although again similar, to what the Jeff Beck Group had released a few months before.

And that is the only thing that can be thrown in the face of this incredible album: how Little generous were the band with the original authors. Of course, for Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin blues and folk were traditions which borrowed melodies to create new things, and they took it a step further and created a new sound that would define the next decade. It is not an exaggeration to say that this was the album where the rock of the 70s was started.