Led Zeppelin Songs
YouTube is filled with wonderful examples of people playing (or trying to play) almost any song you an think of, including Led Zeppelin tunes. I will be posting excerpts or complete videos of the bass/key parts to most Zep tunes as I have learned them, along with comments on the tunes and the challenges in playing the JPJ parts correctly.
Two things that stuck out for me as I learned this material:
- For almost 3 decades I have been playing with a bass sound, originally influenced by Geddy Lee, Chris Squire and John Entwistle, that was very bright and full, agressive and "full ranged". Recently, I have started to appreciate a rounder, bassier sound, which suits Zep music very well. Instead of the cacophany of a bright soloing "Lead Bass" sparring with the guitar, I am finding this music encourages less treble and more bottom, filling the bottom space and groove, but leaving lots of sonic room for the guitar and vocal (JPJ's bass amp consisted of a single 18" speaker, which partly explains the sound he had, even as he used roundwound strings). The bass I built for this gig (active Fender Jazz with flatwounds) is not only a joy to play, but has helped me to appeciate a completely different approach to bass playing and bass parts in a song and arrangement. When I hear other Zep tributes, the bass players (some of whom are very good musicians) all seem to have the wrong brighter sound that became more common from the 80's on. Even listening to the bad audio on all of the O2 Zep bootlegs, JPJ's bass is a steamroller of bass, grounding the music, but without the clicks and high-definition that normally competes with the guitar these days. I guess they really knew what they were doing...
- For me, Zep bass really stresses the GROOVE over the notes. Listen to live recordings of the band in any era - it wasn't about the notes, and there are plenty of "mistakes" (if all you care about is reproducing the records). After cutting my teeth on Yes, Rush and The Who, playing Zep music - and JPJ's bass parts - are a welcomed relief from the sometimes cold technicaity of the other bands and thier bass parts (or maybe I am just getting older, and am appreciating this subtler approach more these days). I am looking for the groove over everything else, and a few botched notes here and there seem unimportant (as opposed to the keyboard parts, some of which are very exacting). After learning each song, I try to rely on muscle memory, and let go a bit more than I used to. I have been pleased with the results.
Update 16 August 2016
Here is the list all of the Led Zeppelin songs I know as JPJ in alphabetical order, and I will add more when learned. These are all ready for performance, and most have been run thru live many times in front of audiences. Some (where noted) have been learned but I have not yet had the opportunity (or the privilege) to perform them live with any Zep band. Videos of complete live performances or excepts included (or added when ready). NOTE: YouTube and Facebook video links can come and go, and many have been updated and/or added in 2016 (including performances as my wigless "alter" ego, Joel Pelletier...). Some complete versions of these songs have been pulled down by publishers after a while, unbeknownst to me, so please excuse if there are any missing links. The Internet is a fickle thing.
Achilles Last Stand
A signature JPJ 8-string bass tune, very fast and relentless strum/picking with lots of choked rythmic notes (or at least as best as I can tell). My cheap Hagstrom 8-string reissue more than gets the job done, and is monstrously loud compared to my 4-string Jazz basses. Heartbreaker does a shorter version, but I have also performed the full-length version (which is rather long with a complicated structure - buyer beware!).
All My Love
Really love this song, and it always goes over great with all audiences. Really happy with the string patch I created with the Roland module; the "trumpet" solo used to be a trumpet patch on the Mtron software, which sounds good but is not quite right, but with the M3000 iPad App there is a great trumpet patch which sounds much closer (I am working with a Moog iPad App to try to nail it better). Here's an except featuring the solo, until into the last verse (excuse the poor sound quality):
The Battle of Evermore
One of the Mandolin tunes I play, along with singing the Sandy Denny part.
Always a favorite (of mine and the audience). The middle riff is tough to sync with the guitarist and drummer sometimes, it always makes the song interesting...
A more obscure Zep tune as far as radio is concerned, it was featured on SONG REMAINS THE SAME, which is probably why Led Zepplica likes to play it. The basscam from the amp does not show the fingerwork, but it's a good take and the bass is certainly prominent in the mix!
This tunes leaves a lot of space for guitar and vocal improv (a la TSRTS). I try to hold off on the low E string until the end to really drive it home.
Here's another clip featuring HEARTBREAKER:
I play it with just the bass, and the groove is fantastic, but it's missing the "horn" parts (a leyboard patch added by JPJ in the studio recording). It's fine without it, and I cannot think of a way of playing it correctly unless I play it all on keys, which is really a drag considering the bass/drum groove of the thing.
Played on keyboards, with piano and layered key bass in the left hand.
JPJ recorded the organ part for this tune with a strange one-off organ that featured a pitch bend bar, controlled by the players knee! I tried finding a way to program the 1/2 step chord bends with velocity controls, but have so far opted for grace notes. This is one of the few Led Zeppelin tunes guaranteed to always always get the crowd dancing.
Dazed and Confused
There are many ways to pay this song; the shorter studio version, the much longer SONG REMAINS THE SAME live version, and anything in between. I learned and have played both versions; most n=bands tend to use some or all of both studio and live, sometimes mixed together. Requires thinking on your feet, but this is one of Zep's hallmark improv tunes, so off we go! Here's a nice extended version with Led Zeppelin 2 in NYC:
Down by the Seaside
I've learned this, really love the song, but have yet to play it live with anyone as of 6/2011. Very nice straightforward Rhodes part with key bass (JPJ didn't even bother with electric bass in the studio on this one, it sounds like key bass just as it would live). This makes a nice solo piano (or electric piano) instrumental piece as well.
Fool in the Rain
This one is a bear to play individually and as a band, and I have only had the pleasure of performing it once. I layer in the steel drums under the piano in the middle section.
For Your Life
Love this song (and the O2 version of this was killer). I would love to learn and perform it (even if it is a bit obscure), and am just waiting for a band to say "we play it"!
Going to California
Another mandolin tune I have played once live (so far). I play mostly the live version, which is mostly little noodling solos throughout, but the structure of the song is the same either way. I do reuse many of JPJ's patterns, but throw in a few of my own as well, including repetitive patterns in odd time signatures.
Good Times Bad Times
The song with one (or two) of the most recognizable bass riff solos ever recorded (not particulary difficult, just to the point and all alone in the mix). This is an updated performance from 9 July 2011 with Chicago's LED ZEPPELIN 2 - fast and powerful!
Signature tune for my Heartbreaker band. The live HTWWW version is rather different from the studio one played endlessly on the radio, but I have always performed the studio version. I use a Danelectro vibrato pedal to match JPJ's vibrato from the Rickenbaker amp used in the studio recording.
Hey Hey What Can I Do
I have played this a couple of times with L.A. Zeppelin, with the guitarist playing the mandolin.
Hots On for Nowhere
I used to play this back in the early 1980's, and would like to dust it off today. It has great JPJ-inspired bass and guitar unison rifs.
Houses of the Holy
Learned and played this live in my first pro full-time band after college. I played keys in the band, but played Chapman Stick (!) and sang lead on this Zep tune (!!). I remember one night sneaking in my then brand new Steinberger bass guitar, handing it to the roadie to stash away, and instructing him to give it to me instead of the Stick when it was time to do the song. The bassist FREAKED out, and after the set I was told in no uncertain terms by the manager (and bass-player's brother) to NEVER play bass on the same stage with him again (methinks he was a bit self conscoius of his bass playing...). Since 2015, Zeppelin Live has incorporated an excerpt from this song in a medley of four rockers from PHYSICAL GRAFFITI.
How Many More Times
Relentless groove, goes on forever, but for some reason I have never tired of it. I guess it just feels right.
I Can't Quit You Baby
Great straight ahead blues tune, the groove and rythm section is simple and very heavy. I have had only a few opportunities to play this - here's one from 2013 with L.A. Zeppelin.
I'm Gonna Crawl
My absolute favorite studio track, Robert Plant's performance at the end always sends a shiver down my spine. Bonham is quoted as saying this is the single finest Plant vocal performance commited to tape, and I agree. I have worked out the keyboard part, but have yet to meet the human being who could sing this live (Plant never tried, which proves how smart of a man he really is). It could happen, and I'm ready when that rare mutant of a singer is located.
A pretty short and very fast song, this bass part continues to be a challenge. In this updated peformance from 30 July 2011 (with a great Jumbo-tron screen behind us and about 3000 people) my hands felt very loose and fast, and I felt I atriculated the lines as good as I have ever done before. Upon further study I am wondering if this bass part was recorded with a pick... Wonderful tritone dissonance with the C hits in an otherwise F#min drone.
In My Time of Dying
Have performed tis song live one time, though not very successfully (let's just say it needed some - any - rehearsal). JPJ had (and still has) a beautiful early 70's sunburst Precision Fender bass with an all-maple unlined fretless neck. I built an almost exact duplicate of this bass since that woeful first-try, but have not had any opportunity since to perform this song.
In The Light
Wow, the opening sounds are super complex, like a great curry. As of 2015 Zeppelin Live performs a couple 40th Anniversary medleys of lesser-hit PHYSICAL GRAFFITI songs; the keyboard-based medley includes the intro thru first chorus of In The Light, followed by a bit of Night Flight and Trampled Under Foot. I use an iPad App with a sitar-like drone (adding bowed guitar would nail this sound, but the guitarist is not set up for it). The lead with echo sounds great, and always gets a great reaction from the crowd. Anyone want to play the full tune?
A real show-stopper! I am going for the studio version keyboard and orchestral instrument arrangements, and it requires all hands, keyboards and feet to get the strings, horns, bass and Mellotron layers to play nice. This tune requires a bit more concenration to play correctly, and always feels just a bit too long in the 3rd verse, but I have been told that fans get really angry if the song is cut down in any way!
The Lemon Song
Great jam blues tune with lots of space to feature some walking bass lines. Always a blast to play.
Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)
Usually performed right after Heartbreaker (just like the record), this song have four great breakdown sections, each with a different bass part. I am still trying to play each exactly as JPJ recorded them; they lock in with the drums really well, and swing in a real R&B/Motown kind of way. Plant later HATED this song because of the lyrics, and refused to perform it (then again, he kept refusing to perform Stairway for quite a while as well...).
Misty Mountain Hop
Great groove, straight Wurly-style electric piano with key bass layered in the left hand, booming and driving.
Here's another real tight shot from the keyboard:
Not playing this tune would warrant a beating by the drummer in ANY Zep band. It gives me time to check a few keyboard settings, then wander off stage to get a beverage. Once I tried joining Darryl Johnson (the drummer with Zepplica) to play a few bass/drum or keys/drum grooves from tunes the band did not have in the set, which adds a nice touch and is super fun (let's play STUMP THE DRUMMER!).
I play an excerpt from it, playing organ and left hand key bass. The patch is there, so if anyone wants the full tune, I'm happy to oblige.
My take on No Quarter is somewhat a combination of the studio and live version. There's great Taurus Pedal bass in the studio version that is left out in SONG REMAINS THE SAME, so I throw that note in where applicable. The bass keys are velocity layered in the left hand, so it's only the phased Rhodes in the softer sections. The length (and quality, apparently) of the keyboard solo, which switches to a non-phased Wurly sound (al la SONG REMAINS) varies based on the band I perform with (Heartbreaker prefers a shorter solo, Led Zepplica likes longer). JPJ's solo style is based on groups of two repetitive phrases, growing slowly in complexity, but more chordal and rhythmic that virtuosic solo lines (like Wakeman or Emmerson).
The simplicity of the keyboard part is it's charm and beauty - it set the mood immediately as long as you TAKE YOUR TIME.
Here's a longer version with LedZep2, in a nice overhead shot of the band. The keybord solo matches the dynamics of the live TSRTS version.
Nobody's Fault but Mine
Awesome 8-string archetypal progressive blues/rock song. I performed this many times in the very early 1980's, and finally got the opportunity to perform it a few times during a 6-city midwest tour with Led Zeppelin 2 playing a Hagstrom 8-string bass (here's from the last of 7 nights, this one in Grand Rapids on 9 July 2011).
Terrific bass part, always a hit with the audience (come to think of it, anything on The Houses of the Holy is pretty special).
Out On the Tiles
Another of my favorite riffy progressive hard rock numbers, special nod to JPJ for the great bass lines in the song. Have gotten a chance to perform it a couple of times with Zepplica - watch out for the tricky odd time at the end of each section of the verse. Neat fact: the band originally called this song THE BATHROOM SONG, then changed it to OUT ON THE TILES, both titles referring to the natural reverb from a tiled bathroom some of the song was recorded in.
Over the Hills and Far Away
I have seen this performed by other bands and JPJ musicians with either mando or acoustic guitar added to the intro, but I sit the intro out, then come in strong with the bass, but add harpsichord at the very end.
The Rain Song
A combination of studio and live parts. It seems that in the studio JPJ layered lots of stuff, including Mellotron layers to sound like a more authentic string section. Live, the key changed a whole step (probably for the guitarist), and he greatly simplified the string parts, reducing them from chordal to more single Mellotron lines, which starts to sound kinda weak as it goes on (to me, anyway). He also layers lots of piano in the studio, but none live. I am trying to split the difference to add more textures. Note the Zeppelin Live version also shortens the keyboard solo section significantly, which is fine with me here. This one is still a work in progress as far as I am concerned - it has not quite settled in as a "definitive" keyboard version for me, but it's pretty close, and I know it in G, so if bands play it in A, I now just change the tuning of the keyboards for the one song. I was fighting the G-Force M-Tron limitations here - for some reason they are VERY into authenticity, so no expanded range or splitting for them (which limits its usefulness live), plus some of the string patch pithes are off just enough to be noticeable, but as of 2015 I switched to the M3000 HD iPad App, which is easier to manage, without any note limitations.
Wonderful bass part, with some difficult lines in the chorus and solo section to help keep focus. I am performing here with L.A. Zeppelin on 8/13/2016.
Here's another earlier performance with Led Zepplica, recorded 19 April 2011.
Rock and Roll
A must play every time song. I am starting to appreciate the groove more after hearing JPJ's O2 live version.
Since I've Been Loving You
Great keyboard part; I play it either with the 60's electric piano/Wurly patch on the Casio like the live TSRTS version, or layered organ patches (one for standard organ, velocity triggered for Leslie) for the studio versions. Someone shot a phonecam of the very first time I performed the tune (with Zepplica, without rehearsal), and it felt very special. Performance based on the live TSRTS version using a rhodes (to be reposted soon...).
Here's a complete organ (like the studio) version, performing sans wig, etc., with L.A. Zeppelin, recorded on 8/13/16. Great view of the left hand, which is much busier than the right.
The Song Remains the Same
My favorite Zep song to play on bass - not sure why, but I first learned and was performing it in 1980, and playing it is like riding a bike, once you learn you never forget (I guess I learned it right the first time).
Here's another performance clip excerpt, this time with my band ZEPPELIN LVE in front of 5000 Zep fans at the OC Fair in August 2015 (love the vibrations from the bass rig I clamped my iPhone onto):
Stairway to Heaven
Certainly THE classic Zep tune, and one we are all familiar with, but since learning it on the electric piano (with left hand key bass) I have come to truly love this beautiful song.
Ten Years Gone
Nice groove, fairly simple part. I go back to the original to remind me to play LESS notes, and the less I play the better it grooves (and gets out of the way for the guitar and vocal). Not one that we play that often, but it's a nice mood change when we play 2-set evenings and have the time to stretch a bit.
Not one of my personal favorites due to the somewhat childish poetry (in my humble opinion), but I make use of my custom Roland 2020 organ patch, which kicks in the Leslie when required.
That's the Way
I learned this on mandolin for Led Zepplica, but never actually performed it, except in a recent rehearsal. Note that the studio version lyric describes a youthful same-sex boy/boy crush, but Plant changed the object of affection to a girl when performing it live. Perhaps times have changed enough that he would go back to the original lyrics today.
Trampled Under Foot
A great Clavinet song that gives me some space to solo a bit, while trying to retain the two or four-pattern riffs that JPJ utilized when soloing. I used to play the whole song, but as of 2015 I only perform an excerpt from it in a medley with Zeppelin Live.
The Wanton Song
I have played this with the 4-string and 8-string bass (it makes a huge sound, and helps fill in during the guitar solo)! The opening groove is very similar to Immigrant Song, and there's some nice dissonant John Paul Jones lines (some of which I may have missed by a note or two in this take...), but it steamrolls along quite nicely.
We're Gonna Groove
Have gotten a chance to play this a few times with Led Zepplica, based more on the live version that really drives hard.
What Is and What Should Never Be
One of my favorite bass parts, great feel and groove. I never paid much attention to this song in the past, and it is certainly not one of their bigger "hits", but it is so smooth and nice, and works live everytime beacuse of the way it builds. The first video here is from Heartbreaker; with my back to the camera so much you can't see my hands most of the time, but the bassline is VERY prominent:
When the Levee Breaks
Such a wonderful drum/bass groove, it's like a giant machine that rolls down the raod crushing everything in its path. In this version, opening an evening performing with L.A. Zeppelin, they had a guest 2nd guitarist and a harmonica player to get this right (it's almost impossible to be full enough with only 4 guys on this one). Recorded 8/13/2016 in Lake Arrowhead, CA; mic was a bit hot, but you get the point...
Here's a June 2020 COVID "Socially Distanced" rendition with Mr. Jimmy's LED ZEPPELIN REVIVAL performing on my Funster '51 JPJ Tribute Precision Bass.
Whole Lotta Love
Versions of this song range from a short 4-5 minute studio to an almost 25 minute live TSRTS version (with other live versions available on bootlegs and How The West Was Won). I have most of all the different extemnded version sections, but have yet to need them all.
Your Time Is Gonna Come
I am in the process of learning this. So far I have not found a Zep band that does it, probably because the opening organ intro is so intricate and at times very difficult to figure out (and then play). The challenge is intriguing, so I am determined to crack it!
© 2011-2020 Joel Pelletier, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated 30 July 2020
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