Black Mountain Side
|"Black Mountain Side"|
|Instrumental by Led Zeppelin|
|from the album Led Zeppelin|
|Released||12 January 1969|
|Genre||English folk music|
"Black Mountain Side" was inspired by a traditional Irish folk song called "Down by Blackwaterside". The guitar arrangement closely follows Bert Jansch's version of that song, recorded on his 1966 album Jack Orion. This arrangement was learnt by Al Stewart, who followed Jansch's gigs closely, and who in turn taught it to Jimmy Page, who was a session musician for Stewart's debut album.
The beginning of the song is cross-faded over the end of the previous track on Led Zeppelin, "Your Time Is Gonna Come". An overdubbed rapid guitar lick can be heard with the tempo then steadying to 114 beats per minute throughout the song. Page did this to simulate the sound of a sitar, for which the song's dropped-down D♭-A♭-D♭-G♭-A♭-D♭ tuning leads into. Page played a borrowed Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar for this recording. To enhance the Indian character of the song, drummer and sitarist Viram Jasani played tabla on the track.
The overall Eastern-flavour of the structure was to lead writer William S. Burroughs into a suggestion to Jimmy Page about Led Zeppelin's music:
[I] did a joint interview with William Burroughs for Crawdaddy magazine in the early Seventies, and we had a lengthy discussion on the hypnotic power of rock and how it paralleled the music of Arabic cultures. This was an observation Burroughs had after hearing "Black Mountain Side", from our first album. He then encouraged me to go to Morocco and investigate the music first hand, something Robert [Plant] and I eventually did.
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When the song was played at Led Zeppelin concerts it usually featured as part of Jimmy Page's instrumental "White Summer", with the combined arrangement "White Summer-Black Mountain Side" typically running at 11 minutes. Page would sit on a stool for the duration of the two songs and usually played them on a 1959 Danelectro DC "Double Cutaway" guitar, tuned differently from his favored Gibson Les Paul. These songs were used by the band to showcase Page's skills as a guitarist, because he played them almost entirely by himself, with drummer John Bonham adding some fills later in the song. The "White Summer"/"Black Mountain Side" combination was first performed as part of their first-ever concert at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, on 10 January 1969; the Spokane show from 30 December 1968 features the arrangement without "Black Mountain Side".
This song was a component of Led Zeppelin's live set list until their fifth US Tour in 1970. Years later it was restored to their set for the 1977 US Tour, the 1979 concerts and 1980 European tour. "Black Mountain Side" was also used to lead into "Kashmir" on this latter tour.
A live version of this song can be seen on the Led Zeppelin DVD, during Led Zeppelin's 1970 Royal Albert Hall appearance. A similar version can be heard, most likely from the Playhouse Theatre sessions from 27 June 1969, on the expanded version of Coda, an album of outtakes released in 1982. This arrangement has the "White Summer" segment being played for around eight minutes, and "Black Mountain Side" is heard somewhere in the middle.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Led Zeppelin: Led Zeppelin – Review at AllMusic. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- Kennedy, Doug (1983). The Songs and Guitar Solos of Bert Jansch. New Punchbowl Music. p. 21.
- Harper, Colin (2006). Dazzling Stranger: Bert Jansch and the British Folk and Blues Revival (2006 edition). Bloomsbury. pp. 99–100. ISBN 0-7475-8725-6.
- Dave Lewis (1994), The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9.
- Interview with Jimmy Page, Guitar World magazine, 1993