The influence of the Beatles can be felt across our culture in numerous different ways, and they are even considered by many to be the early pioneers of heavy metal. Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne has previously spoken about their impact on hso own creative vision, and the same can be said for Led Zeppelin.
In 1976, Jimmy Page spoke about the impact of The Beatles, not just musically but socially. He said: “I don’t know about today. Certainly, at the time, you know, the social question poised by The Beatles, with the long hair and the sandals – it was cool the long hair then – it had a lot of impact. A lot of change went down a lot of social barriers. We broke down the class barriers even though it may have been resented afterwards, but nevertheless, they (The Beatles) helped to do that.”
Page continued: “Over the years that they were very musically prominent and productive, I think there is a classic example of a group who shows so much development and maturity within their music, within the years that they were together. I mean, let’s face it, the early records aren’t really anything to write home about. But by the time they’re at Magical Mystery Tour, I mean it was really going somewhere.”
It was impossible to not be influenced by The Beatles on some level, whether it was conscious or unconscious. Although Page has never admitted to being inspired directly by The Beatles’ output, there’s one Led Zeppelin track which bears a staggering resemblance to ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.
The Beatles’ track appeared on the White Album towards the end of 1968, and a couple of months later, ‘Baby I’m Gonna Leave You’ appeared on Led Zeppelin’s debut album, which featured an almost identical chord progression near the end of the song.
Although The Beatles’ effort was yet to be officially released by the time Led Zeppelin recorded ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’, it is possible they had already heard a version of the track because they associated in similar circles. However, the likelier truth is that it was purely coincidental and a pair of great minds thinking alike.
The Zeppelin track was a cover of a 1950s folk track that they reimagined. Before they recorded their take on ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’, the most notable version was by Joan Baez, but the two tracks are starkly different.
While Page has never discussed the influence of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’, he did deny a claim made by their former tour manager Richard Cole that Robert Plant played a pivotal part in the evolution of the riff on ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’. He said: “I used to do the song in the days of sitting in the darkness playing my six-string behind Marianne Faithfull.”
Listen to the two tracks below, and conclude whether Harrison influenced Page or if the similarity is purely coincidental.