Led Zeppelin were purposefully not a singles band. For the majority of their career, the hard rock icons didn’t release a single in their native UK. Since their American audiences were exponentially larger, singles were necessary evils, but Led Zeppelin considered themselves an album-focused group throughout their career. There was never a time when you couldn’t find a song featured on a single that wasn’t already on a studio album.
With one notable exception, that is. Throughout their entire career, only one single released by Zeppelin featured a B-side that never found its way onto a studio album. That was in 1970 when the group released ‘Immigrant Song’ as a single. The track wound up being the first track on what would become Led Zeppelin III, and its B-side was representative of the more acoustic direction that Zeppelin would be taking on the rest of Zeppelin III. Strangely enough, the song itself wouldn’t be included.
‘Hey, Hey, What Can I Do’ is an almost fully non-electric outing for Led Zeppelin. Featuring Jimny Page on acoustic guitars and John Paul Jones on mandolin, the only plugged-in instrument in the mix is Jones’ bass guitar. John Bonham bashes out his signature rhythms while Robert Plant gamely belts out his blues-influenced lyrics about his partner who stays drunk all the time and can’t stay true.
Mixing the classic come-ons of Zeppelin’s past with the folkier direction of their future, ‘Hey, Hey, What Can I Do’ would have made the perfect addition to Led Zeppelin III. But for whatever reason, the track was left off the final album, making its appearance on the ‘Immigrant Song’ single its only appearance in Zeppelin’s catalogue for a number of years. If you were in the UK and couldn’t get your hands on an import copy, there’s a solid chance that you had no idea ‘Hey, Hey, What Can I Do’ even existed.
The track was never performed live by Zeppelin during their contemporary career, and its status as a deep cut was good enough to land ‘Hey, Hey, What Can I Do’ a spot on the 1982 compilation album Coda. By that point, the song was over a decade old before it made its first appearance on a full-length album. The inclusion of the track on subsequent box sets and compilations made it more well-known to the Zeppelin faithful, but for a number of years, you could have been on an elite level of fandom if you knew the folky strums of ‘Hey, Hey, What Can I Do’.
Check out the studio recording of ‘Hey, Hey, What Can I Do’ down below.