Nobody's Fault but Mine

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"Nobody's Fault but Mine"
Song by Led Zeppelin
from the album Presence
Released 31 March 1976 (1976-03-31)
Recorded November–December 1975
Studio Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany,
Genre
Length 6:15
Label Swan Song
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) Jimmy Page

"Nobody's Fault but Mine" is a song recorded 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"[1] and was one of only two songs from Presence to be included in the group's live repertoire. Several other musicians have recorded it as well as 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:

Robert [Plant] came in one day and suggested that we cover it, but the arrangement I came up with was nothing to do with the [Blind Willie Johnson] original. Robert may have wanted to go for the original blues lyrics, but everything else was a totally different kettle of fish.[6]

Led Zeppelin biographer George Case adds "Page was likely more mindful of John Renbourn's 1966 acoustic take [than Blind Willie] Johnson's".[2] Renbourn's version is found on his 1967 album Another Monday.[a]

"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:

Robert was definitely spooked ... he believed that negativity associated with Led Zeppelin's music might be harrowing him ... from all accounts, [he] was also locked into his own remorse and grieving that his family had become victims of something that he might no longer be able to control.[1]

Lyrics and composition[edit]

Lyrically, "Nobody's Fault but Mine" has been called "Led Zeppelin's 'Hell Hound on My Trail'".[1] 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".[2] 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";[7] to overcome, Plant concludes "gonna change my ways tonight". "For Robert [Plant] and perhaps the others, it was a sort of exorcism".[1]

"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.[8] 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."[9]

Live performances[edit]

Beginning with the Led Zeppelin North American Tour 1977, "Nobody's Fault but Mine" became a regular component of Led Zeppelin concerts, with performances at nearly every show up to the group's final tour of Europe in 1980.[8] A live version was filmed and recorded at Knebworth in 1979 and is included on the 2003 Led Zeppelin DVD. Biographer Keith Shadwick wrote:

It's clear from the later film of the Knebworth concert in 1979 that these lines [the song lyrics] cut deep with Plant; at that concert when he sings this song there is a remarkable rush of feeling evident across his face as he spits out the lines, a long way beyond any onstage posing for the crowd. This one was from the heart.[5]

Their performance of the song with Jason Bonham at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert at the O2 Arena, London on 10 December 2007 was released in 2012 on the concert film Celebration Day. At the 2007 O2 performance, Plant joked that they first heard the song in a Mississippi church in 1932.[10]

Reception[edit]

In a contemporary review for Presence, Stephen Davis of Rolling Stone described "Nobody's Fault but Mine" as a "strong" song, showcasing an example of "fine rock" on Presence.[11]

In a retrospective review of Presence (Deluxe Edition), Andrew Doscas of PopMatters gave "Nobody's Fault but Mine" a positive review, describing the track as "a behemoth made from bone-crunching basslines, a maniacal harmonica solo, and its memorable “call-and-response” structure."[4] Reviewing the track in detail, Doscas stated "Nobody's Fault but Mine" "serves as a paradigm for the state of the band’s reputation, as well as the album Presence. It’s a heavy, blues-rock track that like an avalanche grinds down everything in its path."[4] In another retrospective review for the reissue of Presence, Mark Richardson of Pitchfork gave "Nobody's Fault but Mine" a positive review, praising John Paul Jones' bass syncs with John Bonham's kick drum patterns.[12] Richardson further described the song as a "stop/start masterpiece".[12]

Personnel[edit]

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".[13] Their new arrangement also included the "got a Bible in my home" line from Blind Willie Johnson's 1927 original.

Cover versions[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sometimes John Renbourn's albums include a credit to New Orleans jazz musician Bunk Johnson.

References[edit]

  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ a b c Case, George (2011). Led Zeppelin FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Greatest Hard Rock Band of All Time. Backbeat. ISBN 978-1-61713-025-0. 
  3. ^ Masley, Ed (7 November 2008). "Hot list: Best of Led Zeppelin". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 4 May 2015. Other highlights range from the swaggering blues-rock abandon of "Nobody's Fault But Mine" to the funks moves of "Hots On For Nowhere". 
  4. ^ a b c Doscas, Andrew (10 September 2015). "Led Zeppelin: Presence (Deluxe Edition)". PopMatters. Retrieved 28 July 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d Shadwick 2005, p. 248.
  6. ^ Tolinski, Brad (2013). Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page. Broadway Books. ISBN 978-0307985750. 
  7. ^ Welch 2005, p. 73.
  8. ^ a b Lewis, Dave (1994). The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin. Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-3528-9. 
  9. ^ "Fifty Artists Pick Their Personal Top 10s – Rick Rubin: Led Zeppelin". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 11 December 2010. 
  10. ^ Aaron, Charles (February 2008). "Do What Thou Wilt". Spin. 24 (2): 101. ISSN 0886-3032. 
  11. ^ Davis, Stephen (20 May 1976). "Led Zeppelin: Presence". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 25 July 2017. 
  12. ^ a b Richardson, Mark (28 July 2015). "Led Zeppelin: Presence / In Through the Out Door / Coda Album Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved 28 July 2017. 
  13. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Page & Plant / Jimmy Page / Robert Plant – No Quarter". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]