Tangerine (Led Zeppelin song)

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Song by Led Zeppelin from the album Led Zeppelin III
Released 5 October 1970
Recorded May–August 1970 (1970)
Genre Folk rock
Length 3:11
Label Atlantic
Writer Jimmy Page
Producer Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin III track listing
"Gallows Pole"
"That's the Way"

"Tangerine" is a folk-rock song recorded by English rock band Led Zeppelin and released on their 1970 album Led Zeppelin III. "'Tangerine' had been written by [Jimmy] Page years earlier and The Yardbirds had attempted to record it on at least one occasion".[1] It features a strummed twelve-string acoustic guitar rhythm with pedal steel guitar fills that give it a "country-tinged, Neil Young-inspired" flavour.[2] "Tangerine" has been performed in concert by Led Zeppelin at different points in their career and has been recorded by other musicians.


As with some Led Zeppelin tunes, "'Tangerine' was a song dating back to Jimmy's Yardbirds' days".[3] Page explained "I'd written it after an old emotional upheaval and I just changed a few of the lyrics for the new version".[1] It has been suggested that it may have been influenced by his relationship with Jackie DeShannon, whom he had been involved with around the time.[4] On April 4, 1968, the Yardbirds recorded "a very similar demo called 'Knowing That I'm Losing You'"[5] during their last recording sessions at the Columbia Studios in New York City.[6] Page composed the music and the Yardbirds' singer Keith Relf contributed the words.[7][8] The lyrics, that "smack[ed] of the classic flower-child-isms of Keith Relf",[2] included:

Measuring a summer's day
You'll only find it slips away to gray
The hours will bring you pain[9]

However author and music documentarian Bob Carruthers writing in Led Zeppelin: Uncensored on the Record, claims it was a sole composition by Jimmy Page.[10]

"Knowing That I'm Losing You", along with the other demos recorded during their last sessions, have been seen as half-hearted attempts by the Yardbirds to meet contractual obligations.[4][7]

Recording and composition[edit]

Although written earlier, "Tangerine" fit in with the California-inspired folk-rock numbers that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were creating for Led Zeppelin III at Bron-Yr-Aur, their rustic retreat in South Snowdonia, Wales.[11] The arrangement and feel have also been likened to that of "'lost love' ballads from 1966–68" that had been "used effectvely on Mickie Most's Donovan sessions in the Yardbirds years when both Jones and Page were still hired hands".[7] Led Zeppelin recorded it at Headley Grange, Headley, East Hampshire, using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio.[11] The song was engineered and later mixed by Andy Johns at Olympic Studios in London.[11]

The song begins with a "nicely low-key, deliberate-mistake intro",[2] after which Page pauses to set the right tempo with a twelve-string acoustic guitar "strummed A minor–G–D guitar figure".[5] Jimmy Page explained when previewing the song for Melody Maker in 1970: "That's commonly known as a false start. It was a tempo guide, and it seemed like a good idea to leave it in – at the time. I was trying to keep the tempo down a bit. I'm not so sure now it was a good idea. Everybody asks what the hell is going on."[12] Plant then sings the first verses and bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham come in at the chorus. Page also adds pedal-steel guitar accompaniment. For the choruses, Plant adds a double-tracked harmony vocal.[13]

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.[2] It was included on the LP record's second side, which featured more acoustic- and folk-influenced tunes.[14] It has been suggested that "Tangerine" "points the way to the future ... the acoustic guitar intro can easily be seen as an early template for 'Stairway to Heaven'".[13] During Led Zeppelin's 1971–72 tours, the song was regularly included in their sets and included on several bootleg albums[15] (see Led Zeppelin bootleg recordings). Several musical artists have performed or recorded it. For cover versions, see List of cover versions of Led Zeppelin songs, "Tangerine". The song was played during the final scene of the 2000 Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous, during the touring bus departure.



  1. ^ a b Yorke, Ritchie (1993). Led Zeppelin: The Definitive Biography. Underwood-Miller. p. 116. ISBN 0-88733-177-7. 
  2. ^ a b c d Wall, Mick (2010). When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-312-59039-0. 
  3. ^ Cole, Richard; Turbo, Richard (1992). Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored. Harper Paperbacks. p. 164. ISBN 0-06-109021-2. 
  4. ^ a b Case, George (2007). Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man — an Unauthorized Biography. Hal Leonard. pp. 52–53. ISBN 978-1-4234-0407-1. 
  5. ^ a b 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. 
  6. ^ Russo, Greg (1998). Yardbirds: The Ultimate Rave-Up. Crossfire Publications. p. 89. ISBN 0-9648157-3-7. 
  7. ^ a b c Shadwick, Keith (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music 1968–1980 (1st. ed.). Backbeat Books. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-87930-871-1. 
  8. ^ Shadwick also quotes Russo's 2001 The Ultimate Rave-Up p. 114.
  9. ^ Yardbirds Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja and Relf's sister Jane Relf attribute these lines to Keith Relf. Case 2011.
  10. ^ Carruthers, Bob (2011). Led Zeppelin: Uncensored on the Record. Coda Books. p. 65. ISBN 978-1-908538-46-8. 
  11. ^ a b c The Complete Studio Recordings (Media notes). Led Zeppelin. Atlantic Records. 1993. 82526-2. 
  12. ^ Chris Welch, Melody Maker, October 1970
  13. ^ a b Williamson, Nigel (2007). The Rough Guide to Led Zeppelin. Rough Guides. p. 226. ISBN 978-1-84353-841-7. 
  14. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Led Zeppelin III — Album Review". Allmusic. Rovi Corp. Retrieved December 15, 2013. 
  15. ^ Lewis, Dan; Pallett, Simon (2005). Led Zeppelin — The Concert File. Omnibus Press. pp. 155–182. ISBN 1-84449-659-7. 

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