The Story of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog”

 I’ve been listening to Led Zeppelin’s fourth album quite a lot these days and even though many people claim that the crown jewel of the record is undoubtedly “Stairway to Heaven”, I say that that’s not necessarily the case. As much as I love the gorgeous ballad, I’ve always been drawn to the other classics from the album, such as “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll” and “Misty Mountain Hop”. I want to specifically focus on “Black Dog” because I just can’t really express how much I adore this song and how empowering it is to me. On top of that, it’s probably my favorite Led Zeppelin live act due to its musical complexity and even chaotic patterns which became a true testament to the band’s musicianship. Believe me, even by Led Zeppelin standards this is a very hard song to perform and even harder to dance to.

“Black Dog” Live

Led Zeppelin - Black Dog 2– “Black Dog” is the opening track of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, which is also their best-selling album, released back in 1971.

– The title of the song – “Black Dog” has nothing to do with and doesn’t appear in the lyrics of the track. The story behind the title goes like this: While Led Zeppelin were working on the song in a mansion in England, a nameless black Labrador was wondering around the grounds and the band would befriend and feed it. The song is named after it.

Let me tell you ’bout this poor old dog because he was a retriever in his early days, and the only thing he could ever find in his late days was his old lady who lived two houses away from where we were recording. And he used to go see the old lady quite regularly, but after he’d “boogied” and everything else he couldn’t get back. And we used to carry him back,” Robert Plant once said.
(Apparently, despite his old age, the doggy was quite “adventurous” – quite like the song’s protagonist)

Led Zeppelin’s bassist player – John Paul Jones was credited for writing the main riff of the song.

I wanted to try an electric blues with a rolling bass part. But it couldn’t be too simple. I wanted it to turn back on itself. I showed it to the guys, and we fell into it. We struggled with the turn-around, until Bonham figured out that you just four-time as if there’s no turn-around. That was the secret,” John

– The song begins with Jimmy Page warming up his guitar. He called it waking up the army of guitars”.

– The lyrics of the song are not quite complex or difficult to comprehend (as compared to “Stairway to Heaven” for instance). The way I see it is that Plant is simply singing about a very attractive, “long-legged” woman who is obviously triggering the protagonist’s prurient thoughts. Also, there’s this line – Eyes that shine burning red, dreams of you all through my head” which made a lot of people conclude that the song was talking about a hellhound (or a black dog) and was related with Satan.
(Because of course a relation to Satan had to be made – it was the ‘70s after all…)

LED Zeppelin - Black Dog
– The track reached number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

– “Black Dog” ’s sophisticated shifting time signature was intended to stop any attempts from other cover bands to duplicate the song. Originally John wanted it to be recorded in 6/8 but since it’s too difficult to reproduce it live, John Bonham would eliminated the 5/4 variation. The guitar riffs are heavily layered and distorted.

– The start-and-stop a cappella verses were inspired by Fleetwood Mac’s 1969 song “Oh Well.”

 

– A Led Zeppelin cover band, named Dread Zeppelin did a version of the song and mixed it up with Elvis “Hound Dog”. The vocalist was an Elvis impersonator. Here’s the result, you be the judge

 

“Black Dog” Clean


“Black Dog” Lyrics

Hey, hey mama, said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.
Unh nh child, way you shake that thing, gonna make you burn, gonna make you sting.
Hey, hey baby, when you walk that way, watch your heart-ache drip, can’t keep away.

Ah yeah, ah yeah, ah, ah, ah, ah yeah, ah yeah, ah, ah, ah.
I gotta roll, can’t stand still, got a flamin’ heart, can’t get my fill.
Eyes that shine, burnin’ red, dreams of you all through my head.

Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah.

Hey hey baby, oh baby, pretty baby, darlin’ can’t you do me now?
Hey, baby, oh, baby, pretty baby, move me while you do me now.

Didn’t take too long ‘fore I found out what people mean by down and out.
Spent my money, took my car, started tellin’ her friends she gonna be a star.
I don’t know, but I been told, a big legged woman ain’t got no soul.

Oh yeah, oh yeah, ah, ah, ah, oh yeah, oh yeah, ah, ah, yeah.

All I ask for, all I pray, steady loaded woman gonna come my way.
Need a woman, gonna hold my hand will tell me no lies, make me a happy man.
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah.

La-da ah e ah yes I will. And yes I really, really do baby, baby, baby.
I can really do you, huh? Ooh, wew, you do it baby.
Push it, baby, push it, baby, push it, baby, push it, baby,
Push it, baby, push it, babe babe.
Ooh, ooh, aah ooh. Ooh. I’d really like to do it now. I’d really like to do it now.


 

References and Credits:

“Black Dog” Official Wikipedia Page, retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Dog_(song)
Led Zeppelin Lyrics, retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/ledzeppelin/
“Black Dog” SongFacts, retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=334

P.S. I don’t own any audio or visual material used in this publication. All the rights and credits go to the owners and/publishers.
Cheers~
The publication expresses my personal opinion and in no way is trying to make a generalized statement. Please be kind and considerate when you read and/or comment.

 

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