Nobody's Fault but Mine

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This article is about the Led Zeppelin song. For the gospel blues song first recorded by Blind Willie Johnson, see It's Nobody's Fault but Mine.
"Nobody's Fault but Mine"
Song by Led Zeppelin from the album Presence
Released 31 March 1976 (1976-03-31)
Recorded Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany, November–December 1975
Genre Blues rock,[1][2] rock,[3] hard rock[4]
Length 6:16
Label Swan Song
Writer Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Producer Jimmy Page
Presence track listing
"Royal Orleans"
(3)
"Nobody's Fault but Mine"
(4)
"Candy Store Rock"
(5)

"Nobody's Fault but Mine" is a song by English rock band Led Zeppelin, which was included on their 1976 album Presence. Adapted from Blind Willie Johnson's "It's Nobody's Fault but Mine", it has been described as "a blistering portrayal of a man looking for deliverance from his misdeeds and perceived sins".[5] Although the song's roots are in the blues, it has been called "one of the most relentless pieces of pure rock this group ever mined"[3] and was one of only two songs from Presence to be included in the group's live repertoire (the other being the album opener "Achilles Last Stand"). Several other musicians have recorded it, including an acoustic arrangement by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant for their No Quarter album.

Background[edit]

"Nobody's Fault but Mine" is a gospel song that has been recorded by many musicians over the years. The first known recording of this song was by American gospel blues musician Blind Willie Johnson in 1927, titled "It's Nobody's Fault but Mine". In an interview, Jimmy Page explained:

Led Zeppelin biographer George Case adds "Page was likely more mindful of John Renbourn's 1966 acoustic take (credited to [trad. arr.] Renbourn) than [Bilnd Willie] Johnson's".[4] Renbourn's version is found on his 1967 album Another Monday (Transatlantic Records TRA 149).[7]

"Nobody's Fault but Mine" was developed and recorded by Led Zeppelin during the difficult period they faced after Plant's 1975 automobile accident in Rhodes. The incident left him with serious injuries to his ankle and leg and there was fear that he might not recover completely. With their misfortunes and the increasing drug use around the band, biographer Stephen Davis wrote:

Lyrics and composition[edit]

Lyrically, "Nobody's Fault but Mine" has been called "Led Zeppelin's 'Hell Hound on My Trail'".[3] Robert Johnson's 1937 Delta blues song tells of a man trying to stay ahead of the evil which is pursuing him, but it does not address the cause or lasting solution for his predicament. In Blind Willie Johnson's "It's Nobody's Fault but Mine", the problem is clearly stated: he will be doomed, unless he uses his abilities to learn (and presumably live according to) biblical teachings. Led Zeppelin retain Blind Willie's admission that he ultimately is to blame, but add Robert Johnson's sense of despair. However, they shift the focus from religion to one "relevant to the Zeppelin lifestyle of the day".[4] Their lyrics include "that monkey on my back", a commonly used reference to addiction, and "the devil he told me to roll, how to roll the line tonight";[8] to overcome, Plant concludes "gonna change my ways tonight". "For Robert [Plant] and perhaps the others, it was a sort of exorcism".[3]

"Nobody's Fault but Mine" follows a "call-and-response method of dramatic construction".[5] Page's slide guitar intro has been described as like "a supersonic 1970s interpretation of Johnson's beautiful slide guitar technique".[5] Page triple-tracked his guitar intro; playing one guitar an octave higher than the others and using a phaser. Plant adds a blues-style harmonica solo mid-song.[9] Drummer John Bonham and bassist John Paul Jones maintain the rhythm of the song, adding some syncopated accents during repetitions of the introductory phrase. Record producer Rick Rubin remarked on the song's structure, "A traditional blues, twisted through a trippy, psychedelic filter. They [Led Zeppelin] played with such precision, doing these odd arrangements that sound like loose jams but are really choreographed."[10]

Live performances[edit]

Beginning with the Led Zeppelin North American Tour 1977, "Nobody's Fault but Mine" became a vital component of Led Zeppelin concerts. The song was performed at nearly every show up to the group's final tour of Europe in 1980.[9] A live version was filmed and recorded at Knebworth in 1979 and is included on the 2003 Led Zeppelin DVD. Biographer Keith Shadwick wrote:

Their performance of the song with Jason Bonham at Ahmet Ertegün Tribute Concert at the O2 Arena, London on 10 December 2007 was released in 2012 on the concert film Celebration Day".[11]

No Quarter version[edit]

In 1994, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant recorded an acoustic arrangement of "Nobody's Fault but Mine". It was included on their No Quarter album, which featured their interpretations of Led Zeppelin songs using different instrumentation and backing musicians; "[some of] the songs are given rather drastic reinterpretations — "Nobody's Fault but Mine" brings the brooding undercurrent of the original to the surface".[12] Their new arrangement also included the "got a Bible in my home" line from Blind Willie Johnson's 1927 original.

Renditions by others[edit]

Several musical artists have recorded "Nobody's Fault but Mine", credited to Page and Plant.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Presence - Led Zeppelin - AllMusic". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 2012-02-02. ...lumbering blues workout... 
  2. ^ Henderson, Alex. "Destroyer - Led Zeppelin - AllMusic". Allmusic.com. Retrieved 2012-02-02. ...amplified power blues... 
  3. ^ a b c d e Davis, Stephen (1985). Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga. New York: Ballantine Books. pp. 256–257, 264. ISBN 0-345-33516-3. 
  4. ^ a b c Case, George (2011). Led Zeppelin FAQ. Backbeat. ISBN 978-1617130250. 
  5. ^ a b c d Shadwick, Keith (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music 1968–1980 (1st ed.). San Francisco: Backbeat Books. p. 248. ISBN 0-87930-871-0. 
  6. ^ Tolinski, Brad (2013). Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page. Broadway Books. ISBN 978-0307985750. 
  7. ^ Sometimes John Renbourn's albums include a credit to New Orleans jazz musician Bunk Johnson.
  8. ^ Welch, Chris (2005). Led Zeppelin: Dazed and Confused: The Stories Behind Every Song (2nd ed.). London: Omnibus Press. p. 73. ISBN 1-56025-818-7. 
  9. ^ a b Lewis, Dave (1994), The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9.
  10. ^ The Playlist Special: Fifty Artists Pick Their Personal Top 10s. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  11. ^ At the 2007 O2 performance, Plant joked that they first heard the song in a Mississippi church in 1932. Aaron, Charles (February 2008). "Do What Thou Wilt". Spin (Spin Media) 24 (2): 101. ISSN 0886-3032. 
  12. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "No Quarter — Album review". Allmusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved January 23, 2014. 

External links[edit]