I’m dazed and confused, is it stay is it go?
Am I being choosed? Well I’d just like to know
Give me a clue as to where I am at
Feel like a mouse and you act like a cat
I’m dazed and confused, hanging on be a thread
I’m being abused, I’d be better off dead
I can’t stand this teasing, I’m starting to crack
You’re out to get me, you’re on the right track
Yeah, I’m dazed and confused and it’s all upside down
Am I being choosed? do you want me around?
Secrets are fun to a certain degree
But this one’s no fun ‘cause the secret’s on me
No, not that Dazed and Confused.
Or that one, actually.
No, this is the one that you’ve likely never heard of — the one by Jake Holmes that came out in 1967. The one that sounds suspiciously like the Dazed and Confused you might have thought of in the first place: the one off Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut album. Even more suspiciously, that Led Zeppelin album came out in 1969. The words are different, but the song — well, it remains (almost) the same.
I am hardly the first person to point this out; in fact, surviving members of Led Zeppelin even acknowledged the plagiarism in 2012. I think probably the only reason they got away with it so long is because before the Internet era, there weren’t a lot of ways for anyone to realize it had happened. Jake Holmes was never famous enough for people to notice the similarities between the songs. It’s likely the same reason that Spirit didn’t get their due for years when Page lifted an acoustic guitar part almost note for note from the song Taurus. It would eventually become the opening of Stairway to Heaven. Bert Jansch never kicked up a fuss about Black Mountainside’s uncanny resemblance to his arrangement of Black Waterside. Donovan doesn’t seem the type to get particularly upset about the fact that the opening to Babe I’m Gonna Leave You came out sounding like a sped-up version of Hampstead Incident off his 1967 album Mellow Yellow.
Those are just a few off the top of my head.
I don’t know why I bother with Led Zeppelin, really. There doesn’t seem much point. I suppose I could claim nostalgia. I was introduced to them at a young age when my parents bought Led Zeppelin IV on CD. That album went into heavy rotation for my sister and me, along with I’m Your Man by Leonard Cohen, and possibly also Thick as a Brick by Jethro Tull. Those three albums may have been the only CDs my parents had at the time. We thought “Led Zeppelin” was a member of the band, because apparently Led seems like a perfectly normal first name when you’re at the age of seven or nine.
Ironically, we didn’t make the same mistake about Jethro Tull.
At the ages of seven and nine, we had no idea what the band looked like, or any other albums they might have made, and I think it might have taken a few years before we realized that Led Zeppelin wasn’t a guy. As we got older, though, we wanted to know more about who bands were and listen to more albums than the ones our parents had in their collection. We bought cheap LPs from record stores around town and we went to the library to find out more about the albums we’d bought (we were dorks from a very young age).
My sister started getting books by and about different bands, and sometimes I would read them, as well. She particularly liked a book about Led Zeppelin that was a series of interview excerpts; it was about their artistic process, the music they listened to, and their experiences as musicians. Then, lulled into a false sense of security, we read an unauthorized biography of the band called Hammer of the Gods.
If you have any experience with rock biographies, authorized or not, you will know that this book is just the sort of thing to dash the illusions of young teenaged girls who thought that being in a band was about making music, and they were probably all nice people who were doing nice things when they weren’t making said aforementioned music. According to this biography, they really, really weren’t.
In fairness, the veracity of the biography has been called into question many times. That said, it’s not the sort of thing one can recover from easily, reading a book like that — especially when you were only about 12 at the time. And so, my sister and I decided then and there that we were never again going to look into the personal lives of bands that we liked. We didn’t articulate it this way at the time, but we decided we should separate art from artist
This proved to be a bit of a tall order. With many bands, it’s relatively easy to steer clear of their personal lives. With Led Zeppelin, though, the legends surrounding them are almost inseparable from the music. Within that, it’s probably impossible to separate fact from fiction, but accusations range from abducting a 15-year-old (Jimmy Page) to trying to rape or beat to death everything in sight (John Bonham). All we know for sure is that their bassist, John Paul Jones, usually travelled separately from the rest of the band (I don’t blame him).
And yet, we never quite gave up listening to the band. Separate the art from the artist. Maybe. You’re supposed to do that, right? If you don’t, there is a whole lot of music you can’t listen to, art you can’t look at, and books you can’t read. To be honest, that idea has never sat incredibly well with me, but for expediency’s sake, let’s go with it.
Then, recently, I had a conversation with my sister about this very thing. She had been listening to the Jake Holmes song, and sent it to me, saying she might like it better than Led Zeppelin’s. On the one hand, she said, you could separate the art from the artist. On the other hand, though, if the art is a bit of a sham in itself, given the band’s propensity to steal from their opening acts (Holmes, Spirit) and bands on whose albums they played (Donovan), and Scottish guitarists they admired (Jansch), then where do you go?
I’ll tell you now, we’re not quite sure yet. For myself, I’m going to be listening to some Jake Holmes, and I’m going to put the Led Zeppelin albums away for a while.