Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Writing a Blues-Rock Song in the Style of Led Zeppelin II (Part 1)


Led Zeppelin was accused of stealing! Willie Dixon got a settlement from Whole Lotta Love, while the Small Faces did not. Hard to imagine Mississippi John Hurt getting sued for playing a Robert Johnson tune. Hard to imagine Robert Johnson suing Son House. That's just not how it works.
Blues songs are a thread of history, and when you play them, or adapt them, you become connected with all the others who have done the same. You learn something you can't learn any other way.
So I'm going to try not to feel too guilty when I use Lemon Song (which was adapted in part from Howlin Wolf's Killing Floor) as a guide, and use as many versions of Hard Time Killing Floor (an entirely different song by Skip James) as I can find for inspiration.
The goal is to re-discover a song-writing process - maybe one that Led Zeppelin understood organically - and start to develop some skill in that process.
I'm sure the results will be rough at first, but with work and focus, maybe they'll get better. And I really want some other Led Zeppelin disciples to join me in this journey. Contribute to, borrow from, help figure this thing out, because I really cannot do this alone.
What's the worse that could happen? We could learn something. Maybe recover some of the art, technique and even advance it. I can think of worse things to do.
To me, the first step is to grok the Lemon Song and Hard Time Killing Floor. If you're not familiar with the term "grok", here's a definition for you:
grok - pronounced just like it's spelled.
Verb:
1. Understand (something) intuitively or by empathy.
2. Empathize or communicate sympathetically; establish a rapport.
I'm going to suggest that the gateway to grok-ing a song is to start by listening to different versions of it very carefully and to try to understand what happens inside me as I listen. In other words, what am I feeling? What do I feel compelled to do? Or not do? What movement happens in my gut? This is a really hard process to put into words, so I'll need help figuring out how to express it. I might have to just grab a snippet of the sound and say one word about it - if a word even exists. Or maybe images or memories will resurface? Maybe I'll try to draw those? Maybe sound-alike musical motifs or themes will emerge.
I have a feeling this is going to be a door to a place of massive self-discovery. I'd love to share this journey, and hear from any who have had similar journeys already, or who are interested in taking one themselves.
I've set this up as a 30 day goal. I'm going to do something towards this goal, and write about it every day for the next 30 days. If you can't join me, please send me good wishes!
If you are a fan of Led Zeppelin, and of Blues or Blues-Rock, you may want to check out a band called Echo Raynes. There are free songs to download, and I promise you will find few bands who invest as much time and energy in remaining true to the Blues tradition, while keeping it moving on.
You can also get a Free copy of their Newest Zepplinesque Single "Dance"

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