A study of the Led Zeppelin film and album The Song Remains The Same
by Eddie Edwards
The Garden Tapes » The Song Remains The Same » Dazed and Confused
From about a minute-and-a-half into Rain Song, we're finally in a position where we have bootleg recordings of all three nights for reference. This is very fortunate, because the first night plays a big part in the Dazed and Confused story. In fact, the version on the original album comes entirely from the 27th. Nice and simple? Not really, as it's been cut in no less than ten separate places.
Details of that in a moment, but first a word about the version in the original film. The 27th dominates here as well, but there are three short sections from the other nights, one from the 28th and two from the 29th. So most of the time, the film version is the same as the album, but, curiously, the film version does NOT have all those cuts. Nine out of the ten sections that are cut from the album have been left intact in the film. Nine pieces of music that were good enough for the film, but which Pagey did not allow onto the album. The other missing section did not survive because the film is using a passage from one of the other nights at that point.
So we have the following situation. The film version is mostly from the 27th, but has three inserts from other nights, so it is actually in six sections. The album version is all from the 27th, but because of all the cuts it could be said to be in eleven sections. Which is closer to being a genuine live version? Difficult to give a meaningful answer to that but, as usual, the editing is much neater on the album.
Here are the details of the cuts on the album. CD timings are given, along with the approximate length of missing music. Some of the cuts are small, almost insignificant, and you need to compare album to film pretty carefully to spot the difference:
The cuts are all perfectly done and absolutely unnoticeable to the casual listener. The most obvious explanation for them is that Pagey felt there were slight imperfections, the removal of which would improve the overall effect, although in most cases I really can't see the need. Another possibility is that there was a requirement to lose a minute or two in order to fit the song onto one side of vinyl without compromising sound quality.
On to the six sections that make up the film version, with DVD timings in brackets:
The version on the new DVD is made up of the same six parts. The edits are in roughly the same places but are, for the most part, much tidier. As usual, there are some new features to note.
In the second verse, a squeaky first syllable of the word "talkin'" in the line "Everybody's been talkin', Lord" has been patched by using the corresponding syllable from either the 28th or 29th, but I have to admit defeat in trying to determine which!
By the time we reach the third verse we've switched to the 28th, but the vocal for the first line, "Said you hurt and abused tellin' all of your lies", is from the 27th. So at that point we hear the vocal that was used on the original album, over the music that was used in the original film.
The switch back to the 27th for section 3 occurs about three seconds later than in the original film and is much cleaner, although it's not perfectly timed, as it results in one missed beat.
The next switch, to the 29th towards the end of the fast instrumental, once again occurs a couple of seconds later than the original edit. This edit was pretty clean in the original but is better still in the new version, although a shift in the stereo positioning of the guitar is detectable if you're listening for it.
In the last reprise of those fast riffs, just before the start of the mellower section that leads to San Francisco, a guitar note has been re-tuned from F to E.
The first "If you're going to San Francisco" line is a curiosity. On the original album, it was from the 27th, and in the film it was from the 29th. In the new version, the music is from the 29th as in the original film, but the vocal has been replaced using the corresponding line from the 28th. So you can now hear how Robert sang this line on all three nights!
Section 4 continues for 15 seconds longer than in the original film, with the switch back to the 27th occurring just before we meet the Devil People.
We're now on section 5, the long section from the 27th. On the original album, there were seven cuts in this section (cuts 4-10 in the list above) but here, as in the original film, those cuts do not occur. About two-thirds of the way through the violin bow section, Robert begins to supply some accompanying moans; the first 20 seconds or so of these have been removed almost completely from the mix, but the remainder of them are still there. Five minutes on, it's Pagey's turn to receive some attention, as some sloppy string-bending has been re-tuned and also slightly re-timed. After a further four minutes or so, there's another one of those small but disturbing timing glitches, as the tap on the hi-hat before the powerful "Mars" riffs occurs fractionally early. There's no splice or anything like that at this point, so we'll have to put it down as another adjustment for synchronisation with the visuals. The rest of the song is the same as in the original film, including the late switch to the 29th for the closing drum solo.
Reverting to what we recognise by now as standard procedure for the new releases, the version on the new CD is exactly the same as on the new DVD. This version is different from the one on the original album in a number of places but in this case there's no clear cut winner as far as musical content is concerned. The earlier part of the song has a more consistent flow on the original album, as everything is from the same night, but the new CD scores well later on as it's nice to have some of those unnecessary cuts restored. In the end, though, the original album emerges victorious once again because of the two timing errors in the remastered version, which are understandable on the DVD but unforgivable on the CD.
Here are the new CD timings of the events described in the preceding paragraphs:
If, after that little lot, your state of mind is quite accurately summed up by the song title, I can't say I blame you.
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