The centerpiece of their debut album, “Dazed and Confused” was probably first track track where Led Zeppelin truly distinguished themselves as a completely unique band. Unlike the pop song, amplified folk song and blues cover that preceded it, “Dazed and Confused” really had no antecedent.
Which, I know, is ironic, as Jimmy Page had been performing it in the Yardbirds, and it was also a cover of a dark folk song by a guy name Jake Holmes. But gang, nobody knew any of that in the 1970s. Or at least us teenagers didn’t. You had reference points for “Good Times Bad Times,” “Babe I’m Going to Leave You” and “You Shook Me.” Not so for “Dazed and Confused.” What even was it?
It was this spooky, bass-led dirge with a scary-ass wailing guitar floating around Robert Plant as he sang awful things about the soul of a woman, which before you could process the misogyny in the lyrics, you were absolutely hammered by a truly slamming guitar and drums, and the the dirge became a march, and suddenly that march was taking us through the marshes that flanked Hell, or maybe Mordor. Probably Mordor.
And there you were, all alone now, it’s nighttime because it’s always nighttime here and you’re wandering around following a bass guitar and hi-hat, and all around you are these moans and groans and whooshes and swooshes and creaks and crashes and the noises and getting more and more intense and ever closer, and suddenly, the hi-hat is telling you run! Run run run, and now you’re running but not fast enough, run! Because the guitar is spinning through the sky, piling notes on top of notes it’s all around you it’s everywhere and now there more guitars practically covering the universe, and suddenly with a scream the guitars are being beaten away by the drums, which are now somehow overpowering all of those guitars, and suddenly you’re out of the marshes, but still dazed, still confused and then it’s over, and what the hell just happened?
And while the guitar solo was in and of itself, pretty fucking thrilling, my favorite part of “Dazed and Confused” — and one of my favorite moments in all of Zeppelin’s music — is just after the solo where Jimmy Page pulls up short and starts playing chords again trying to slow the momentum, Robert Plant screams in the background while John Bonham just drives through the center of everything like an unstoppable truck driver from Hell, or maybe Mordor. Probably Mordor.
And of course, the album version was just a fucking blueprint, as the live version of “Dazed and Confused” famously (or infamously) ran for nearly a half-hour, with fast parts, slow parts, scary parts, funny parts, and every damn thing in between, as Jimmy Page would whip out the very violin bow that Satan gave him and use it to coax otherworldly noises out of his guitar while Robert Plant occasionally tried to match those noises with his vocal cords.
It was epic, blazing, glorious excess on every level, especially in The Song Remains The Same, which depicts Jimmy Page climbing a mountain top to try and reach a wizard who turns out to be none other than . . . wait for it . . . Jimmy Page! So silly. So awesome.
Fan-Made video “Dazed and Confused”
“Dazed and Confused” from The Song Remains The Same
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