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 » Celebration Day
Even to those who had noticed that the versions of Rock and Roll in the film and on the album are not identical, it may have come as a bit of a surprise to find out just how many differences there are. With Celebration Day, the middle instalment of the opening trilogy, the differences are rather more obvious. On the album, the song is there, but in the film, it's not! Actually, that's not absolutely true, as we do get the opening five accented chords in the film, but that's all. We might as well deal with that little fragment in the film first; it's from the 29th.
On the album, the very first accented chord is from the 27th, following on naturally from the drum solo at the end of Rock and Roll which was also from that night, but then there's an immediate switch to the 28th. The Celebration Day intro is still part of track 1 on the CD, and the switch is at 03:54. The first two-thirds of the song, up to near the end of the vocal ad lib after the last verse (02:24) are from the 28th, but with vocal overdubs in a couple of places. The very first lines, "Her face is cracked from smilin', all the tears that she's been hidin', and she wonders pretty soon everybody's gonna know" are clearly different from the original 28th vocal, and they do not match the 29th either. The same applies to the first lines of the first chorus, "My, my, my, I'm so happy, I'm gonna join the band." It can't be absolutely ruled out that these lines were lifted from the 27th, but the cross-dubbing technique is not known to have been used anywhere on the original 1976 releases and, in any case, these overdubs have a definite studio feel about them.
The section from the last couple of runs through the riff and Robert's last cry of "Aaah yeah, it's all right", through the guitar solo and almost to the very end of the song (02:24-03:32) is from the 29th. It's back to the 28th, though, just for the final sustained chord.
Before we find out what the new releases add to the story, this is an opportune moment for a bit of background information about them. When it was finally confirmed that new DVD and CD versions of The Song Remains The Same were to be released in November 2007, there was much speculation among fans as to exactly what form they might take. Would the DVD feature any songs that were not in the original film? For the songs that were in the original film, would the music on the new DVD simply be a remastered version of the original audio, or would different selections from the three nights be used? Would the songs that had been cut be restored to a more complete state? Would the fantasy sequences still be there, or would we get more stage footage? What about the new CD - would that be a remaster of the original album, a genuine soundtrack featuring exactly the same audio as the new DVD, or yet another variation?
One very important question was answered before the new releases hit the shelves. The visuals on the DVD, it was announced, would be exactly as in the original film. Nothing would be added, taken out or altered. This was more of a legal decision than an artistic one, as it would apparently have been a very complicated business - maybe impossible - to obtain permission to make any alterations from the various people and organisations who had a say in the matter. The soundtrack, though, was fair game, and would be completely revisited. And, crucially, additional songs would be included in the bonus features.
As a result of the restrictions regarding the visuals on the new DVD, the musical cuts that were in the original film had to remain in place, although their exact nature could be altered somewhat. The first of these cuts is, of course, Celebration Day, and as expected, all we get on the new DVD is the familiar accented chord intro fragment. Not entirely familiar, though, as it's not from the 29th like in the original film, nor from the 28th as on the original album. No prizes, then, for guessing that it's from the 27th.
A quick swap to disc two and, sure enough, Celebration Day (cutting copy) is available as a bonus feature. I'm pretty sure every fan would have been more than happy if the exact same, magnificent version that was on the original album had simply been made available with accompanying visuals for the first time. But this is not quite what we get.
The version on the new DVD is basically from the 28th, all the way through. The vocal overdubbing is less extensive than on the original album, with most of the original 28th vocal remaining in place. There are just two very small vocal fixes; "My, my" at the beginning of the first chorus, which is actually borrowed from the second chorus of the same version (and is therefore heard twice), and the word "dance" in the second chorus, which is taken from the corresponding chorus of the 29th version.
The first three or four bars of the middle 'fanfare' guitar solo are from the 29th, although the rhythm section from the 28th continues. There's a moment in there where Pagey plays ever so slightly more fluently on the 29th, with an A note that is very briefly sustained instead of being muted, which is presumably the reason for the use of this short extract. Depending on your point of view, this provides an example either of the impressive care and attention to detail that went into creating the new soundtrack, or of almost ridiculously fussy over-tampering! It's difficult to tell precisely when the guitar track switches back to the 28th as there's virtually no difference between the two nights, but the patched-in section is probably about 6 seconds long, up to the point where there's an obvious momentary pause before Jimmy moves down to play the same theme an octave lower.
The version on the new CD is exactly the same as the one on the DVD, apart from the fact that the accented chord intro is intact here, whereas on the DVD bonus feature a couple of seconds are missing as the song fades in abruptly. This intro is entirely from the 28th, unlike on the original CD where the very first accent was from the 27th. For reference, the vocal fixes on the new CD are at 00:52 and 01:43 and the guitar patch runs from 01:49 to 01:55.
We already know by now, having looked at the details of Rock and Roll, that the new CD is going to be different from the original album in terms of musical content, but here is the first really substantial difference, as we get the guitar solo section from the 28th instead of the 29th. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, we have a minute of music that wasn't previously available in anything like the quality offered by official releases, and that's nothing to sneeze at. On the other, that particular minute on the original album is one of the greatest examples anywhere of Page, Jones and Bonham at their magical, masterful best, and that passage as played on the 28th simply didn't have quite the same impossible levels of inspiration.
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