How The West Was Won

A Garden Tapes feature
by Eddie Edwards

The Garden Tapes » How The West Was Won » Immigrant Song


Immigrant Song

The business of winning the West actually begins with a 14-second track that has been officially named "LA Drone". It's an enigmatic choice of title as this particular drone is not from LA, but from Long Beach. At least, that's what the liner notes tell us, and The Garden Tapes finds no reason to dispute that. John Paul Jones reportedly favoured the title "Fragment of Introductory Drone Used at Numerous Concerts on the 1972 North American Tour" but was overruled. Mystique trumps accuracy. Of course, the Long Beach drone was not selected for its superior droning qualities, but simply because it preceded the chosen version of the song that followed it, so let's dwell no further on this vexatious matter and proceed to that very number.

Immigrant Song is essentially from Long Beach, but a little magic has been worked on the vocals. The bootlegs reveal that Robert Plant couldn't quite gain the western shore that night, but on the official release he attains his goal with no problems at all. This happy change of fortune has been brought about by transplanting some sections of the vocal track from the LA recording into the Long Beach mix. For example, Robert hits the high E on "western shore" on the first LA chorus, but not on the second LA chorus or either of the Long Beach choruses. So, those words from the first LA chorus have been used in both choruses on the official release.

Although there are other substitutions, it seems that they have been kept to the minimum necessary. In the second chorus, for instance, the slightly unusual straight rhythm of the words "Our only goal will be the..." reveals that these are from the genuine Long Beach recording, whereas "...western shore" immediately afterwards has been substituted.

Some, if not all, of the battle cry screams are fixed up in a similar way, either by using screams from LA or by duplicating the more successful Long Beach screams. I'm not going to pretend that I can identify with absolute certainty the precise source of every sound produced by Robert in these passages, but you get the idea.

next - Heartbreaker