Tangerine (Led Zeppelin song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Song by Led Zeppelin
from the album Led Zeppelin III
Released5 October 1970 (1970-10-05)
StudioHeadley Grange, England
Composer(s)Jimmy Page
Lyricist(s)Jimmy Page (disputed)
Producer(s)Jimmy Page

"Tangerine" is a folk rock song by the English band Led Zeppelin. Recorded in 1970, it is included on the second, more acoustic-oriented side of Led Zeppelin III (1970). The plaintive ballad reflects on lost love and features strummed acoustic guitar rhythm with pedal steel guitar.

The Yardbirds, with guitarist Jimmy Page, recorded an early version of the song in 1968, titled "Knowing That I'm Losing You". When it was released on the Page-produced 2017 album Yardbirds '68, Keith Relf's vocal was left out. "Tangerine" has been performed in concert by Led Zeppelin at different points in their career and has been recorded by other musicians.


"Tangerine" dates back to Page's time as lead guitarist with the Yardbirds.[2] In April 1968, the group recorded demos for several songs at the Columbia Studios in New York City.[3][a] Page biographer George Case notes that "Knowing That I'm Losing You" is very similar to "Tangerine"[6] and suggests that Jackie DeShannon inspired the tune.[7] Recordings from these sessions (with producer Manny Kellem) and the concert performance later used for Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page were rejected for release at the time,[8] but were issued in 2017 on the Yardbirds '68 compilation album produced by Page. While the demo recorded by the Yardbirds featured a vocal by Keith Relf, the 2017 release does not include it.

To develop material for a follow-up album to Led Zeppelin II, Page and singer Robert Plant took a working holiday at Bron-Yr-Aur, a rustic retreat in South Snowdonia, Wales.[9] Plant in particular was inspired by the back-to-the-land trends in northern California and the British folk scene.[10] Accompanied only by acoustic guitar, hand-claps, and harmonica, the pair created tunes that served as the basis for several songs on Led Zeppelin III and later albums.[11] Although written earlier, "Tangerine" reflects this rural sensibility[12] and journalist Nigel Williamson includes it with the acoustic material born of the Bron-yr-aur sojourn.[13] Other earlier influences include songs recorded at Mickie Most's Donovan sessions, when John Paul Jones and Page were studio musicians.[2]

Composition and recording[edit]

The song begins with a guitar figure, then a pause to set the right tempo. The guitar proceeds with a A minor–G–D guitar progression.[6] Page actually plays two guitar parts – one on a six-string and the other on a twelve-string acoustic guitar – which, due to the audio mixing, almost sound as one.

Plant then sings the first verse accompanied by the backing guitar chords:

Measuring a summer's day
Only finds it slips away to grey
The hours, they bring me pain[14]

Bassist John Paul Jones complements Page on mandolin.

The second verse contains the chorus, at the beginning of which Jones on bass and drummer John Bonham come in – Jones follows the chord changes and Bonham plays a straight-forward, backing beat. Through the use of double tracking, Plant provides a harmony vocal line.[15] Page also adds pedal steel guitar fills; however, he departs from the typical American country music approach by adding a wah-wah pedal tonal effect.[16] For the third verse, Plant returns to singing accompanied by guitar chording.

The verses are broken up with an instrumental middle section with Page, Jones, and Bonham. Page solos on a heavily sustained Gibson Les Paul Standard electric guitar, which is also double tracked. Led Zeppelin biographer Dave Lewis calls it "a smooth woman-tone solo"[16][b] After a second chorus, the song winds down with pedal steel fills and ends with an acoustic guitar figure.

Led Zeppelin recorded the song at Headley Grange, Headley, East Hampshire, using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio.[17] The song was engineered and later mixed by Andy Johns at Olympic Studios in London.[17]

Disagreement over lyrics[edit]

Although writers do not question who composed the music for the song,[c] there is some disagreement over who wrote the lyrics. In addition to being credited as the songwriter on all Led Zeppelin releases, Page claims to be responsible for the lyrics: "I'd written it after an old emotional upheaval and I just changed a few of the lyrics for the new version".[19] "Tangerine" and "Dazed and Confused" are the only Led Zeppelin songs with lyrics that credit Page as the sole songwriter.[6][d]

However, Case, Shadwick, and Williamson identify the Yardbirds' song as a joint or co-compostion by Page and Yardbirds' singer and primary lyricist Keith Relf.[6][2] Yardbirds' drummer Jim McCarty and bassist Chris Dreja both assert that Relf wrote the words for "Knowing That I'm Losing You";[18] they and Jane Relf (sister and singer who also performed with Relf) believe some of his original lines found their way into "Tangerine".[6]

Release and influence[edit]

"Tangerine" was issued as an album track on Led Zeppelin III on 5 October 1970 in the US and 23 October 1970 in the UK and quickly went to number one on the album charts.[21] It was included on the LP record's second side, which featured more acoustic- and folk-influenced tunes.[22] Williamson notes that "the song also points the way to the future ... the acoustic guitar intro can easily be seen as an early template for 'Stairway to Heaven'".[15] During Led Zeppelin's 1971–72 tours, they regularly performed the song and recordings appear on several bootleg albums.[23]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Several writers use a date in May or June 1968 for the recording session, although 4 April 1968, appears in Yardbirds' biographies by Gregg Russo[4] and Alan Clayson.[5]
  2. ^ Eric Clapton used what he called a "woman tone" for several guitar parts in Cream's "I Feel Free" and "Sunshine of Your Love".
  3. ^ Page/Led Zeppelin biographer Case notes: "The strummed A minor–G–D guitar figure and pedal steel licks are doubtless all Page's invention".[6] Yardbirds' drummer Jim McCarty also believes the music was Page's: "Jimmy must have had that musical idea already – he had those chords. When he did it, I thought it was the strongest song."[18]
  4. ^ After legal action, the credit for "Dazed and Confused", which the Yardbirds also performed, was changed to "By Page – Inspired by Jake Holmes".[20]


  1. ^ a b Moskowitz 2015, p. 388.
  2. ^ a b c Shadwick 2005, p. 138.
  3. ^ Russo 2016, pp. 105–106.
  4. ^ Russo 2016, p. 105.
  5. ^ Clayson 2002, p. 191.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Case 2011, eBook.
  7. ^ Case 2007, pp. 53, 96.
  8. ^ Russo 2016, pp. 106–107.
  9. ^ Shadwick 2005, p. 1112.
  10. ^ Shadwick 2005, p. 112.
  11. ^ Shadwick 2005, p. 114.
  12. ^ Case 2007, p. 102.
  13. ^ Williamson 2007, p. 77.
  14. ^ Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
  15. ^ a b Williamson 2007, p. 226.
  16. ^ a b Lewis 2012, eBook.
  17. ^ a b The Complete Studio Recordings (Boxed set booklet). Led Zeppelin. New York City: Atlantic Records. 1993. Led Zeppelin III CD liner notes. OCLC 29660775. 82526-2.CS1 maint: others (link)
  18. ^ a b Russo 2016, p. 106.
  19. ^ Yorke 1993, p. 116.
  20. ^ Led Zeppelin (Reissue liner notes). Led Zeppelin. Burbank, California: Atlantic Records. 2014. Inside gatefold. OCLC 884474979. R2-536127.CS1 maint: others (link)
  21. ^ Wall 2010, p. 185.
  22. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Led Zeppelin III – Album Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  23. ^ Lewis & Pallett 2005, pp. 155–182.