Dazed and Confused (song)

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"Dazed and Confused" is a song written by American singer-songwriter Jake Holmes in 1967. Music critic Richie Unterberger described it as "a stark, spooky folk-rock track with stinging reverbed lead guitar, Holmes' own pained vocals, and furiously strummed rhythm guitar that winds itself into an anguished climax."[1] Holmes recorded the song for his debut album "The Above Ground Sound" of Jake Holmes and performed it in the late 1960s and early 1970s on the New York City folk scene and the college coffee house circuit. The lyrics refer to the effects of a girl's indecision on ending a relationship.

After hearing Holmes perform the song in 1967, English rock group the Yardbirds reworked it with a new arrangement. It became a centerpiece of the group's tours in 1968, several recordings of which have been released. "Dazed and Confused" was further adapted later that year by guitarist Jimmy Page's "New Yardbirds" group (soon to be rechristened Led Zeppelin) for their debut album, Led Zeppelin.[2] "Dazed and Confused" became a concert staple with solos that sometimes stretched performances to 45 minutes.

Jake Holmes[edit]

"Dazed and Confused"
Dazed and Confused.png
Promotional single label, 1968
Song by Jake Holmes
from the album "The Above Ground Sound" of Jake Holmes
Released 1967 (1967)
Length 3:45
Label Tower
Songwriter(s) Jake Holmes
Audio sample

Singer-songwriter Jake Holmes wrote and recorded "Dazed and Confused" for his debut solo album "The Above Ground Sound" of Jake Holmes, released in June 1967. Like the other tracks on the album, the song does not include any drums and was recorded with the trio of Holmes on guitar, keyboard and vocals; Ted Irwin on guitar; and Rick Randle on bass.[4]

The arrangement is a modular dirge in the key of E minor[5] built on a descending chromatic bass line alternating between the 3rd (E-G-F#-F-E) and the 7th (E-D-C#-C-B). The guitar chords ring and drone on the root E minor, augmented by bent notes over a menacing strummed beat.[citation needed]

When asked in 2001 whether or not "Dazed" was influenced by the early psychedelic rock of the previous year or the current psychedelia of 1967, Holmes acknowledged that he was influenced by psychedelic rock and the Byrds:

It's kind of hard for me to remember which came first, the chicken or the egg. We were certainly watching the Blues Project at the time. There wasn't anything that they were doing, though, that I remember thinking "Wow, that's cool. I'd like to do something like that." I was very arrogant in that I wanted to be my own person. Nowadays, I think everybody's amazing. Back then I thought nobody could do anything. I thought it was all bad ... I was influenced by the rock thing in a sense. I didn't want to be rock and roll, but I did like the energy and the mysteriousness and the darkness and the blues of it all. I did like that. I loved the Byrds.[4]

Holmes' singing is pitched, edgy, and the dark paranoia of some of the song's lyrics ("you're out to get me/you're on the right track") and ("I'm being abused/I'm better off dead"), coupled with the dissonant string bends of the instrumental break led some music writers and other sources to assume the song was about a bad acid trip;[citation needed] but Holmes said "Dazed" was a "song about a girl":

I never took acid. I smoked grass and tripped on it, but I never took acid. I was afraid to take it. The song's about a girl who hasn't decided whether she wants to stay with me or not. It's pretty much one of those love songs.[6]

In August 1967, Holmes opened for the Yardbirds at a Greenwich Village gig in New York.[7] According to Holmes, "That was the infamous moment of my life when 'Dazed and Confused' fell into the loving arms and hands of Jimmy Page."[8] When the track appeared on Led Zeppelin's eponymous debut album in 1969, Holmes was aware of it at the time, but didn't follow up on it: "In the early 1980s, I did write them a letter and I said basically: 'I understand it's a collaborative effort, but I think you should give me credit at least and some remuneration.' But they never contacted me."[4]

In June 2010, Holmes brought suit against Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page for copyright infringement, claiming to have written and recorded "Dazed and Confused" two years before it appeared on Led Zeppelin's debut album. In court documents Holmes cited a 1967 copyright registration for "Dazed and Confused" which was renewed in 1995.[7] The case was "dismissed with prejudice"[a] on January 17, 2012 after the parties reached an undisclosed settlement out of court in the fall of 2011.[9]

The Yardbirds[edit]


By late-1966, English rock group the Yardbirds' presence in the Top 40 market had been replaced by constant touring. In July 1967, they began their second tour of the U.S. as a quartet, with Jimmy Page as the sole guitarist.[10] The group performed at more countercultural venues, such as the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco.[11] Their sets became more varied with extended medleys[12] and featured guitar instrumentals by Page, such as "White Summer" and "Glimpses".[13]

On August 25, 1967, the group headlined at the Village Theater in New York City, with opening acts the Youngbloods and Jake Holmes.[14] Yardbirds' drummer Jim McCarty was the only Yardbird to catch Holmes' performance.[6][b] He recalled "Dazed and Confused":

I thought it was a really moody song and I bought Jake's album [the next day] and played it for the other guys in the Yardbirds, and all four of us kind of rewrote and rearranged the song based on the riff [descending bass line].[6]

Page purchased his own copy of "The Above Ground Sound" of Jake Holmes[18] and McCarty noted, "We worked it out together with Jimmy contributing his guitar riffs in the middle."[6]


The Yardbirds began to develop a new arrangement for "Dazed and Confused" while still on tour in the U.S.[19] Holmes' brooding atmosphere and descending bass line were retained, as well as most of the lyrics.[19] Page doubled the bass line, echoing Holmes' live performances with two acoustic guitarists.[20] However, propelled by drums and an overdriven Fender Telecaster,[11] the song quickly took on a new, distinctly non-folk sound.[15] Singer Keith Relf initially followed Holmes' verses, but later often changed the order or mixed lines from different verses.[21] He sometimes improvised new lines, such as:

I'm dazed and confused, hangin' on by a thread
Come on baby, do you want me dead?
I can arrange that, for a dollar or two
I can't remember, anything about you[22]

Led Zeppelin biographer Mick Wall feels that Relf only "slightly altered" the lyrics,[18] while Page biographer Martin Power credits Relf with "writing new lyrics".[11] Yardbirds chronicler Greg Russo describes that gradually the song "moved from Holmes' original lyrics to an alternate set of lyrics that combined words from Jake Holmes and Keith Relf."[6]

The Yardbirds' major innovations were the instrumental breaks and an extended instrumental middle section.[23] Writer-educator Susan Fast describes the breaks, appearing between the verses and after Page's solo, as "a detail that contributes significantly to the drama of the piece, creating enormous tension at the end of each verse before moving on to the next.[23] Power comments on the middle-section:

By the time 'Dazed [and Confused]' hit its middle-section, the Yardbirds hit their stride, with McCarty providing icy snare-drum blasts, Dreja long sustained bass notes and Page a torrent of solo guitar, his notes cutting like shards of glass.[11]

It begins with a bowed electric guitar phrasings by Page, answered by vocal and harmonica interjections by Relf. Page attributed the idea of using a violin bow on the guitar to a suggestion from violinist David McCallum, Sr., whom he met in his pre-Yardbirds days as a session musician.[24] The bowed section gives way to Page's riff-laden guitar solo, propelled by a bass ostinato and fast driving 4/4 meter.[25] The song returns to the slow tempo 12/8 verse structure before the coda.[26] The Yardbirds' new arrangement, contributed by the four members, soon amounted to a major reworking of Holmes' original piece.[11] As bassist Chris Dreja summed it up, "We found it, arranged it and played it. In a way, it was a great epitaph, because we were feeling very dazed and confused about what the hell was going on!"[6]


"Dazed and Confused" was a highlight of the Yardbirds' performances during their final tours in 1967 and 1968.[18][20][19] Power noted "The atmospheric and ominous qualities of 'Dazed and Confused' were also well suited to the types of venue in which the Yardbirds now found themselves appearing."[11] Led Zeppelin biographers Ralph Hulett and Jerry Prochnicky added:

The Yardbirds never sounded so otherworldly. The song lasted close to fifteen minutes. This was a tour de force for Page's bowing in the show—a song no one had ever heard before, 'I'm Confused.' It was dramatic and scary ... an eerie, menacing guitar solo by Page that droned forth from his bow and then exploded into a furious lead.[15]

The song debuted during their short US tour in late 1967, which included a date at the Village Theater.[27] When they returned to England, the group performed a nine-minute version in January 1968, around the time the full quartet recorded their last single "Think About It".[28][c] On March 5–6, the Yardbirds performed "Dazed and Confused" for BBC Radio.[29] In his Led Zeppelin biography, When Giants Walked the Earth, Wall notes that the relatively concise 5:48 version "sounds almost identical musically to the number Page would take credit for on the first Zeppelin album".[18] (Led Zeppelin's studio version lasts 6:28.) Another short (5:46) performance was filmed by French television on March 9 for Bouton Rouge.[28] AllMusic critic Bruce Eder notes it "comes off much better than the official [sic] Anderson Theater version from later the same month."[30]

On March 28, 1968, the Yardbirds returned to New York to begin their final US tour.[31] Before their March 30 concert at the Anderson Theater, representatives from Epic Records, the group's American label, informed them that it was going to be recorded for a live album.[32] The group felt that it was not sufficiently prepared, but proceeded, with "Dazed and Confused" as their third number.[33] Disappointed with the playbacks, the Yardbirds rejected any idea of releasing the recordings as a live album.[32] However, after Page's rise to fame in Led Zeppelin, Epic released the album in 1971, with "Dazed and Confused" retitled "I'm Confused" (with no composer credit or performance rights organization).[34] (Within a week, Page responded with an injunction, which prevented further sales of the album.[32]) Although the recording and the group's performance is a bit rough, in a review Eder singled out the song as "something new, a slow blues as dark, forbidding, and intense as anything that the band ever cut – it showed where Page, if not his band, was heading."[35]

Recordings and releases[edit]

The Yardbirds never attempted to record the piece in the studio.[19] However, Page used an abbreviated version of his guitar solo from "Dazed and Confused" for the middle-section guitar solo of "Think About It".[15]

Several live recordings of "Dazed and Confused" are in release. If the song was introduced, it was announced as "Dazed and Confused" – it is unknown why Epic re-titled it "I'm Confused".[36]

Led Zeppelin[edit]

"Dazed and Confused"
Song by Led Zeppelin
from the album Led Zeppelin
Released January 12, 1969 (1969-01-12)
Recorded October 1968
Studio Olympic, London
Length 6:27
Label Atlantic
Songwriter(s) Jimmy Page (inspired by Jake Holmes)
Producer(s) Jimmy Page
Audio sample

When the Yardbirds disbanded in 1968, Page planned to record the song in the studio with the successor group he had assembled that summer.[42] According to Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, the first time he heard the song was at the band's first rehearsal session at Gerrard Street in London, in 1968: "Jimmy played us the riffs at the first rehearsal and said, 'This is a number I want us to do'."[43] The future Led Zeppelin recorded their version in October 1968 at Olympic Studios, London, and the song was included on their debut album Led Zeppelin (1969). "Dazed and Confused" was the second song recorded at the Olympic sessions.

Page recorded the song in one take with a Telecaster and violin bow as he had performed it with the Yardbirds.[13][d] Singer Robert Plant wrote a new set of bluesier lyrics, according to Page,[4] though Plant is not credited on the album.[e] Other sources say Page wrote the new lyrics himself. Whichever the case may be, Plant's vocal is raw and powerful, delivered with "unrelenting passion."[44] Other than the lyrics and vocal, the song remained very similar to that performed by the Yardbirds earlier that year.[1][45][46]

This bolt of lightning likewise illuminates the already thick and portentous soundscape further setting a tone for the impending sonic onslaught. John Bonham (drums) sneaks in with a rock solid downbeat beneath Plant’s opening line. During the bridge [Bonham] explodes front and centre with his trademark blend of keen rhythmic gymnastics and straight-ahead swinging percussive support. The band collectively combust throughout the remainder of the cut as they alternate between scintillating and scorching."[44]

In June 2010, Holmes filed a lawsuit in United States District Court, alleging copyright infringement and naming Page as a co-defendant.[47] The suit was "dismissed with prejudice" on January 17, 2012,[a] after an undisclosed settlement between Page and Holmes was reached out of court in the fall of 2011.[9] Subsequent Led Zeppelin albums, such as Celebration Day (2012) and the remastered and deluxe editions of the group's debut album (2014), expanded the songwriter's credit for "Dazed and Confused" to "By Page – Inspired by Jake Holmes."

Live performances[edit]

Author Luis Rey analyzes a 1975 live version of the song by dividing it into sections or stages:[48]

  • 1: Bass intro and wah-wah interludes
  • 2: Main vocal theme
  • 3: Fast instrumental and 'oriental' riffs
  • 4: "San Francisco/Achilles Last Stand" or "Woodstock"
  • 5: Violin bow episode including echo-slapping from the guitar; interlude with Plant's 'instrumental voice'; improvised bowing leading up to a full bowed crescendo of the main theme from Gustav Holst's Mars, the Bringer of War ,and return of the rhythm section
  • 6: Fast guitar solo and battle with Plant
  • 7: Slower tempo solo and 'funky' moods
  • 8: Violent breaks and call and response interlude
  • 9: Faster solo in crescendos and occasional break-up tempo, some occasions combined with "Walter's Walk" or "St. Tristan's Sword"
  • 10: New arrangement of Mars, the Bringer of War (slow and fast versions) and final frenzy
  • 11: Return to main theme
  • 12: Coda. Final instrumental and vocal battle inside syncopated rhythms, drum-solo and final explosion.[48]

"Dazed and Confused" was performed on every Led Zeppelin concert tour up to and including their 1975 shows at Earls Court.[49] It was then removed from their live set, although Page continued to perform parts of the bowed guitar segment during solo spots on subsequent tours, as preludes to "Achilles Last Stand" (1977 tour) and "In the Evening" (Knebworth 1979 and Tour Over Europe 1980).

A live version of "Dazed and Confused" recorded July 1973 at New York's Madison Square Garden was featured in the Led Zeppelin concert film The Song Remains the Same (1976), with the bowed guitar section used as the soundscape for Page's fantasy sequence. The version on the accompanying soundtrack clocked in at 29:22. Other live recordings are found on the following official releases:

  • Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions (1997), two versions, March 3, 1969 (Playhouse Theatre) and 1 April 1971 (Paris Theatre); a third version, recorded 27 June 1969 (Playhouse Theatre) appeared on the bonus disc of The Complete Sessions (2016)
  • Led Zeppelin DVD (2003), three versions filmed January 9, 1969 (Royal Albert Hall, London), March 17, 1969 (Gladsaxe Teen Club, Denmark) and March 25, 1969 (Staines Studio, London)
  • How the West Was Won (2003), a 25:25 version recorded June 25, 1972 (LA Forum)
  • Celebration Day (2012), recorded and filmed December 10, 2007 (O2 Arena, London) during the band's reunion concert in tribute to Ahmet Ertegan; played a whole step lower than previous Led Zeppelin recordings and performances[50]
  • Led Zeppelin (Deluxe Edition) remastered series (2014), recorded October 10, 1969 (Olympia Theatre, Paris) and released as a companion disc to the Led Zeppelin I remaster.

Cultural influence[edit]

In film[edit]

  • Chad Smith and various others can be heard listening to it in the Red Hot Chili Peppers documentary Funky Monks (1991).
  • The song was used as the basis for the title of the film Dazed and Confused (1993), which chronicles the lives of various American youths on their last day of high school in 1976. However, it is not found on the film's soundtrack. The film's director Richard Linklater appealed to Led Zeppelin band members to use their music for the film but was refused.[51]
  • Led Zeppelin's live performance of the song, featuring Page playing the guitar with a bow, is parodied in This is Spinal Tap, where Nigel Tufnel plays a guitar bowed with a violin instead of a violin bow.[52]

In television[edit]

  • In 2012, the song opened the last episode of season 5 of Californication wherein the main character Hank Moody dreams that he is in hell.
  • The song is featured in the drama series Shabatot VeHagim episode, "Air Guitar" (2003).[53]
  • The song also appears in an episode[which?] of British television period set hospital drama The Royal.
  • In the television show The Simpsons, the Itchy & Scratchy episode, "The Front" (1993), a song is titled "Dazed and Contused", an obvious pun on the song. It was used again as a pun ("abraised and contused") in the episode "Bart Has Two Mommies" (2006), wherein Ned Flanders addresses himself as Ned Zeppelin.


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame USA "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll"[54] 1994 *
Pause & Play USA "Time Capsule Inductions - Songs"[55] 1998 *
NME UK "117 Songs to soundtrack your summer"[56] 2003 *
Toby Creswell Australia "1001 Songs: the Great Songs of All Time"[57] 2005 *
Pitchfork Media USA "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s"[58] 2006 11
Q UK "The 20 Greatest Guitar Tracks"[59] 2007 2
Q UK "21 Albums That Changed Music - Key Track"[60] 2007 6

(*) designates unordered lists.



  1. ^ a b "Dismissed with prejudice" signifies that the plaintiff/litigant (Holmes in this case) is permanently barred from filing another case on the same claim.
  2. ^ Several music writers indicate that the Yardbirds heard Holmes perform "Dazed and Confused" at the Cafe au Go Go and/or the Bitter End in New York's Greenwich Village, where he was playing around the same time.[15][16][17]
  3. ^ For the A-side, "Goodnight Sweet Josephine", producer Mickie Most replaced Dreja and McCarty with studio musicians Clem Cattini (drums), John Paul Jones (bass) and Nicky Hopkins (piano).
  4. ^ Page only used a bow on a few Led Zeppelin songs, including "How Many More Times", "In the Light", and the intro to "In the Evening".
  5. ^ Plant was not credited for any contributions on Led Zeppelin I, due to previous contractual obligations.


  1. ^ a b c Unterberger, Richie. "The Above Ground Sound of Jake Holmes – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  2. ^ Fast 2001.
  3. ^ Floman, Scott. "Led Zeppelin". Retrieved April 10, 2013. Even better is "Dazed and Confused," (...) which was actually an uncredited cover (...) of a psychedelic folk song originally done by the largely unknown Jake Holmes 
  4. ^ a b c d "Jake Holmes: Artist Bio". classicmusicvault.com. Retrieved April 23, 2017. 
  5. ^ "Chords in the key of E minor natural". www.guitar-chords.org.uk. Retrieved April 24, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Russo 2016, p. 89.
  7. ^ a b Michaels, Sean (June 30, 2010). "Led Zeppelin sued for alleged plagiarism of Dazed and Confused". The Guardian. London. 
  8. ^ Russo 2016, pp. 89, 92.
  9. ^ a b Gee, Federal Judge Dolly (January 17, 2012). "Order Dismissing Action With Prejudice". Justia.com. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 1, 2012. Retrieved April 16, 2017. 
  10. ^ Clayson 2002, pp. 183–187.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Power 2016, eBook.
  12. ^ Russo 2016, p. 115.
  13. ^ a b Tolinski 2012, eBook.
  14. ^ Clayson 2002, p. 187.
  15. ^ a b c d Hulett & Prochnicky 2011, p. 33.
  16. ^ Davis 1985, p. 34.
  17. ^ Colby & Fitzpatrick 2002, p. 106.
  18. ^ a b c d Wall 2008, p. 63.
  19. ^ a b c d Shadwick 2005, p. 20.
  20. ^ a b Russo 1998, p. 54.
  21. ^ Clayson 2006, p. 162.
  22. ^ Lyrics of the Yardbirds live versions at MetroLyrics
  23. ^ a b Fast 2001, p. 21.
  24. ^ Welch 1998, p. 23.
  25. ^ Fast 2001, pp. 22–23.
  26. ^ Fast 2001, p. 23.
  27. ^ Russo 2016, p. 94.
  28. ^ a b c Russo & Paytress 2011, Disc 4 back cover.
  29. ^ a b Russo & Paytress 2011, Disc 5 back cover.
  30. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. The Yardbirds: Cumular Limit – Review at AllMusic. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  31. ^ Clayson 2002, p. 191.
  32. ^ a b c Russo 1998, p. 58.
  33. ^ Russo 1998, pp. 58, 89.
  34. ^ Kaye 1971, Record label and back cover.
  35. ^ a b Eder, Bruce. Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page – Review at AllMusic. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
  36. ^ Power 2016, p. 414.
  37. ^ Unterberger, Richie. The Yardbirds: Last Rave-Up in L.A. – Review at AllMusic. Retrieved 2017.
  38. ^ Bashe, Philip (1985). Heavy Metal Thunder: The Music, Its History, Its Heroes. Doubleday. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-61579-045-6. Included was "I'm Confused," which would appear on the first Led Zeppelin album as "Dazed and Confused," a hard-rock classic. 
  39. ^ Case, George (2009). Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man : An Unauthorized Biography. Backbeat Books. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-87930-947-3. 
  40. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Jake Holmes – Dazed and Confused". AllMusic. Retrieved April 10, 2014. 
  41. ^ "Sundays With Marty: Buddy Miles, Billy Preston, David Essex, Led Zeppelin, John Lennon and More". Magnet. Retrieved July 21, 2016. 
  42. ^ "Events | Led Zeppelin - Official Website". www.ledzeppelin.com. Retrieved April 24, 2017. 
  43. ^ Mat Snow, "Apocalypse Then", Q magazine, December 1990, p. 77.
  44. ^ a b Planer, Lindsay. "Led Zeppelin: Dazed and Confused – Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved April 23, 2017. 
  45. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (2008). Song Man: A Melodic Adventure, Or, My Single-Minded Approach to Songwriting. p. 129. 
  46. ^ Schinder, Scott. Icons of Rock. p. 385. 
  47. ^ "Led Zeppelin sued by folk singer for alleged plagiarism". New York Post. June 29, 2010. Retrieved January 18, 2015. 
  48. ^ a b Rey 1997, p. 253.
  49. ^ Dave Lewis (1994), The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9.
  50. ^ Strawman, Jeff. "Critiquing the Celebration Day Performance". Retrieved April 28, 2017. 
  51. ^ Stern, Marlow (2013-09-24). "'Dazed and Confused' Director Richard Linklater on Its 20th Anniversary". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2017-04-28. 
  52. ^ Dickinson, Kay (2003). Movie Music, the Film Reader In focus. Psychology Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-415-28160-7. 
  53. ^ ""Shabatot VeHagim" Air Guitar (TV Episode 2003)". IMDb. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  54. ^ "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll - December 1994 (archive.org version)". Jacobs Media. Archived from the original on July 19, 2009. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  55. ^ "Time Capsule Inductions: Songs - July 1998". Pause & Play. Archived from the original on 2011-05-15. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  56. ^ Songs to soundtrack your summer "117 Songs to soundtrack your summer - May 2003" Check |url= value (help). NME. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  57. ^ Creswell, Toby (2005). "Dazed and Confused". 1001 Songs: the Great Songs of All Time (1st ed.). Prahran: Hardie Grant Books. p. 745. ISBN 978-1-74066-458-5. 
  58. ^ "The 200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s - August 2006". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  59. ^ Greatest Guitar Tracks "The 20 Greatest Guitar Tracks - September 2007" Check |url= value (help). Q. Retrieved 2017-03-31. 
  60. ^ Albums That Changed Music "21 Albums That Changed Music: Key Track - November 2007" Check |url= value (help). Q. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 


External links[edit]