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(Credit: Daniel Zappe)

Music

The Led Zeppelin song that made Ozzy Osbourne's "world stand still"

Asked to name some of the songs that inspired him to become a singer, Ozzy Osbourne offered a list that included Elton John, The Animals and The Beatles. And then he paid tribute to Birmingham’s favourite Robert Plant when he said that Led Zeppelin’s cover (yes, cover) of ‘Dazed and Confused’ made his world “standstill”. Listening to the song in 2022, it’s easy to see why, because it sounded so different to virtually everything that was released at the time.

The song opens with a haunting bass pattern, before Plant’s eerie vocals rise up, offering a tale of discontentment and willful abandon. He remembers a woman who tore everything from him, and then the guitars enter, barrelling through the proceedings like a hunter searching for his favourite prey.

It’s not a happy song, and it’s definitely no Herman’s Hermits, but ‘No Milk Today’ aside, who wants Herman’s Hermits? Instead, it corners the ear of the listener, grabbing their attention, until the piece pushes past the six-minute mark, making it one of the few extended instrumentals that could play on daytime radio. It stands with the best of Led Zeppelin’s work and stands with the most inventive work from the 1960s. Seismic. Cosmic. Powerful.

Now, back to the comment, we made about it being a cover. The song was originally recorded by Jake Holmes, and the songwriter was greatly annoyed to see that guitarist Jimmy Page claimed sole authorship of the track. “We were on the bill with The Yardbirds,” Holmes recalled. “We performed it there and blew the place apart with that song, and that’s when Jimmy Page saw it. From what I gather from The Yardbirds, Page sent somebody out to get my album. He did a great job, but he certainly ripped me off.”

It wasn’t the last time Page played fast and loose with authorship credits, simply take a look at their second album, where everything from the jaunty ‘Whole Lotta Love’ to the turbo charged ‘Moby Dick’ borrowed heavily from its influences. It’s hard to think of another artist who has leaned on so many influences so liberally and measured against Page.

But there were many bands, including Osbourne’s Black Sabbath, who borrowed from Zeppelin. Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler was concerned that their anthem ‘Paranoid’ bore a striking resemblance to ‘Communication Breakdown’. Plant publicly admonished David Coverdale and Whitesnake for borrowing too much from his performance style, and in a 2018 interview with We Are Cult, Wax guitarist Graham Gouldman admitted that ‘Ball and Chain’ was inspired in part by Zeppelin’s frenzied ‘Immigrant Song’. Gouldman later admitted to “nicking”, but pointed out that Zeppelin had done enough of it.

But there’s no denying that Zeppelin’s rendition of ‘Dazed and Confused’ is a propulsive, psychedelic rocker that grows more infectious with every re-listen. The song was extended in concert, offering Page the chance to demonstrate every element of his artillery as a guitarist. It was, as Osbourne pointed out, mind-blowing to watch, making the world stand still.

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