An acoustic gem from Led Zeppelin's first album, it features Jimmy Page strumming and picking an acoustic guitar, accompanied by light rhythmic tapping from Viram Jasani (not John Bonham -- sacrilege!) on tabla drums. There's at least one other instrument, almost certainly a bass picked by John Paul Jones, but it could be another acoustic guitar tuned differently to play in lower registers. Page plays the resonances of the guitar throughout the piece, giving the illusion of bells or chimes in the background. The song builds on itself, repeating the initial theme and then sliding into a short bridge, then returning to the theme and adding crashing arpeggios that, left to ring, suggest rain and thunder--you may hear someone slapping their guitar for percussion at that point--and then die down to the quiet conclusion. On the studio album, it fades in after the discordant electric organ in the last chorus of Your Time is Gonna Come, with an echoing dissonance that makes both pieces better. Led Zeppelin occasionally combined it with White Summer, one of their other instrumentals. The similarities (and contrast) between the two makes for a delicious synergy--two great tastes that taste great together. If you like it, you'll probably also like Bron-Yr-Aur, from their album Physical Graffiti.

"Black Mountain Side" is a short instrumental song on Led Zeppelin's first album, and at 2:06, is one of the shortest songs in Led Zeppelin's discography. The song has a simple arrangement of guitar and tabla, and is credited as being written by Jimmy Page.

There is a more complex story behind that: like much of Led Zeppelin's repertoire, this was derived from different sources. There is a traditional folk song entitled "Down by Blackwaterside", which was then rewritten by Bert Jansch in the 1960s, and which was a version that Jimmy Page would have been familiar with. This apparently, from a cursory search of the internet, has caused some consternation. Personally, after hearing the different versions, I can understand both sides: this song borrows from earlier versions, but Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin obviously took it in their own direction.

Also of note is the fact that despite Led Zeppelin basically being inventors of "Heavy Metal" (mostly starting on the next album), and at this time being known as a band that was continuing a "blues rock" sound, this song is a short, mellow acoustic folk song--- an early example of a direction that would continue alongside Led Zeppelin's more kinetic songs. It also would provide a good fodder for "Get the Led Out", since a 2 minute instrumental folk song wasn't part of most of classic rock radio's programming.

There is a lot I know about now that I didn't know about then. The debates about whether Led Zeppelin were pioneers of a new sound, or an overhyped band exploiting the work of others, is something I am sure you can go and read about as much as you want. But what I can't communicate (but wish I could), is what it was like to hear this song, all 2 minutes of it, on a little white Atlantic cassette tape (and Atlantic tapes were always white, remember?) as an impressionable 14 year old full of romantic and mystical expectations. At a certain point for me, this song would have been two pure minutes.

Side Quest 2024

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