Pagey Gets Sued - July 2, 2010
Jimmy Page is being sued by the man who wrote and first recorded the song Dazed And Confused.
Jake Holmes, an American folk singer, claims that Page and Led Zeppelin infringed his copyright, as his version came out two years prior to Zeppelin’s more famous one, on their self-titled, debut album. However, even if he is successful in this federal law suit (filed in California), Holmes could only claim money owed during the past three years, due to the statute of limitations.
The story started in 1967 when Holmes recorded this song for his debut album “The Above Ground Sound” Of Jake Holmes. What made it unusual was the whole record was done with just bass, guitar and vocals – no drums.
Released in June 1967, the album wasn’t at all well received, but on August 25 the same year, he supported The Yardbirds (featuring Page) when they played at the Village Theater in Greenwich Village, New York. So impressed were the British band with the song that they decided to develop their own version. This was a much longer one, with Page using a violin bow on his guitar.
Although The Yardbirds never did a studio version of this, there have been a couple of live recordings put out. One from a French TV show in March 1968 (which cropped up on a live album released in 2000) actually has Holmes down as writing the song.
By the time Zeppelin recorded Dazed And Confused, Page had changed so much of the song – lyrically and musically – that he was credited as the sole writer. Holmes did try to contact Page, but with no luck. However, he always refused to take legal action – until now.
In his 2008 book When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin, Mick Wall interviewed Holmes about this controversy (reprinted in Classic Rock Issue 130). This is what the man said at the time:
“I didn’t think it (Dazed And Confused) was that special. But it went over really well, it was our set closer. The kids loved it – as did the Yardbirds, I guess.”
He says it wasn’t until “way later” he first became aware that Page had recorded his own version with Zeppelin – and given it his own songwriting credit. His initial reaction was to be blasé. “I didn’t give a shit. At that time I didn’t think there was a law about intent. I thought it had to do with the old Tin Pan Alley law that you had to have four bars of exactly the same melody, and that if somebody had taken a riff and changed it just slightly or changed the lyrics that you couldn’t sue them. That turned out to be totally misguided.”
Over the years, he says, he has “been trying to do something about it. But I’ve never been able to find [a legal representative] to really push it as hard as it could be pushed. And economically I didn’t want to be spending hundreds and thousands of dollars to come up with something that may not work. I’m not starving, and I have a lot of cachet with my kids because all the kids in their school say, ‘Your dad wrote Dazed And Confused? Awesome!’ So I’m a cult hero”.
In terms of royalties, he just wants “a fair deal. I don’t want [Page] to give me full credit for this song. He took it and put it in a direction that I would never have taken it, and it became very successful. So why should I complain? But give me at least half-credit on it”.
The fact that Dazed And Confused was destined to become one of Led Zeppelin’s great set-piece moments, he astutely points out, “is partly the problem… For [Jimmy Page], it’s probably more difficult to wrench that song away from him than it would be any other song”.
You can make your mind up now as to whether Holmes’ law suit has any validity