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 » Black Dog
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No trace at all of Black Dog on the original album, but it was included in the film, although in very incomplete form.
After the opening chords of Celebration Day, we're taken straight to the Bring It On Home riffs that were used in the 1973 American shows to link Celebration Day with Black Dog. These riffs are from the 29th, as is almost all of Black Dog itself. We get about a minute-and-three-quarters into the song without interference, up to the "ah-ah" call and response between Robert and New York City, but then there are almost two minutes mercilessly consigned to the cutting room floor. Robert's rising "Aaaaah" is not the one that leads into the "Hey baby, oh baby, pretty baby" section and another handful of verses, but the one that introduces the guitar solo that brings the song to a conclusion. This cut gives a rather unbalanced feel to the song, although the brilliance of the playing and the spectacularly exciting stage act soon help us to forget that.
Still on the 29th, then, until near the very end of the song. After the return to the riff and the 'beginning of the ending', there are two big power chords (C and D) - these, and the last 15 seconds of mayhem, are from the 27th.
Some four-and-a-half years before the arrival of the new Song Remains The Same releases, we were treated to some new official material from Madison Square Garden 1973 on disc two of Led Zeppelin DVD. Although that momentous release is discussed at length in a separate Garden Tapes feature, we're going to deal with the songs from that segment as we go through the Song Remains The Same analysis, as they are an important part of the Garden Tapes story and it wouldn't be right to leave them out.
The first of these songs is, of course, Black Dog, and how nice it was to have a complete version at last. So is it just the same version as featured in the original Song Remains The Same film, but with the middle section reinstated? Far from it. While that original version is from the 29th apart from the last few seconds which are from the 27th, as described above, Led Zeppelin DVD features the complete version from the 28th!
You may have noticed that the timings displayed on your DVD player are different depending on whether you simply 'play' Led Zeppelin DVD disc two from the beginning, or select the Madison Square Garden tracks through the menus. All timings given for Led Zeppelin DVD tracks are ones produced by the latter method, with Black Dog starting at 0:00:00.
The Bring It On Home riff introduction has been omitted and a few vocal cracks have been smoothed over. "Take too long 'fore I found out" (0:01:58) and "Now I don't know" (0:02:19) have been patched using the vocal track from the 29th. "Spend my money" (0:02:09) has been touched up with a part that is not from the 29th so is presumably from the 27th, but there's still no reference bootleg available for the first part of that show to provide confirmation. There's also a fix in the middle of the first run through the main guitar riff, at 0:00:14, where a missed note has been reinstated.
On, then, to the new Song Remains The Same releases. Because of the aforementioned restrictions on altering the visuals from the original film, the version on the new Song Remains The Same DVD had to remain incomplete. But of course, that doesn't mean it had to be the same as it was in the original film.
I have to admit that it's virtually impossible to be certain of the exact editing details in some places on the new releases, and the Bring It On Home bridge between Celebration Day and Black Dog is a perfect example. Where telltale imperfections in Pagey's guitar riffing have been patched up using little bits and pieces from other nights, how do you tell which was the 'main' night used and which night(s) supplied the patches? Jonesey and Bonzo can help, but any differences in what they played on the various nights are often extremely subtle in parts such as this, the sound quality on the bootlegs is far from perfect and there's the added difficulty, in this early part of the show, of not having the recording from the 27th for reference.
With a degree of uncertainty, then, we can proceed. The very first riffs are from the 28th, but as Bonzo and Jonesey enter we switch to the 27th for the remainder of the Bring It On Home interlude. Jonesey is the main clue here, as his bass licks seem to differ slightly from what can be heard on the recordings of the 28th and 29th. We don't know whether the guitar part is genuinely from the 27th or whether it's been patched at all.
As Robert takes over for the start of Black Dog itself, we can be more certain of our facts. The first part of the song is from the 28th, which makes it different from the original film, but the same as Led Zeppelin DVD. On the latter, one missed guitar note in the first run through the main riff was fixed and, sure enough, that same note has been fixed here. The fix is not identical, though, as here the inserted note cuts off fractionally sooner; evidence that the editing work done on this particular song for Led Zeppelin DVD was not re-used for the new Song Remains The Same DVD.
After about 50 seconds, there's a switch to the 29th. This comes just before Robert sings "Whoa yeah, oh yeah" for the second time, prior to the "I gotta roll, can't stand still" verse. The transition is very clean and perfectly timed but the change in sound can be heard quite easily if you listen for it. We're now hearing the same night as was in the original film and, in fact, this remains the case until the end of the song, including the switch to the 27th for the last 15 seconds.
Now, the new CD. Up to now, all that has needed to be said about this release is that it contains the same audio as the new DVD, but surely here this will not be the case. Black Dog had to remain incomplete on the new DVD for reasons already stated, but on the new CD we could look forward to a complete version. Would it be the one from Led Zeppelin DVD or a new creation, perhaps something a bit closer to the new Song Remains The Same DVD version, but complete?
Amazingly, almost unbelievably, the opportunity to put a complete Black Dog on the new CD, and so to present the opening sequence of songs in all its power and glory for the first time, was spurned. The song is exactly the same as on the new DVD, with that middle two-minute section missing.
Now, I suppose some might say that Black Dog was missing entirely from the original album, so at least we're better off than we were before, but I find that to be a very small consolation. It's true that this version as it stands contains much to enjoy, but it could have been made complete, and there's simply no good reason why it should not have been. If the practice of using the exact same audio on the new CD as on the new DVD is to be maintained rigidly throughout, then those who hold the original album dear to their hearts will be in for some major disappointments, as some of its best-loved music will inevitably be lost. We shall see in due course whether this is the case.
Just some final details to mop up regarding timings on the new CD: the guitar note fix is at 00:28, the switch from the 28th to the 29th is at 01:08, the cut is at 01:43 and the final switch to the 27th is at 03:17.
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