A study of the Led Zeppelin film and album The Song Remains The Same
by Eddie Edwards
The Garden Tapes » The Song Remains The Same
"I love the live version of No Quarter, it blows the studio version away," a friend of mine said to me once, some time ago.
"Which live version are you talking about?" I enquired.
"The one from The Song Remains The Same, of course," said my friend, slightly bemused by this question. He's never been the type to go in for collecting bootleg recordings.
"Oh, right," I said. "But which version, the film or the album?" At this point my friend began to regret the foolishness of starting a conversation like this with me and decided to go away and find somebody normal to talk to.
If you think you would have had a similar reaction to that of my friend, then it might be a good idea for you to stop reading now. If, on the other hand, you're no more normal than I am, then welcome to the complete guide to the construction of Led Zeppelin's film and album The Song Remains The Same from the three concerts at Madison Square Garden, New York on the 27th, 28th and 29th of July 1973.
The Song Remains The Same consists of a selection of material from those three concerts. Every Led Zeppelin fan knows that. But how exactly did Jimmy Page and his associates create the finished products? Was it a simple case of picking the best version of each song? Are the songs cut at all? Are there any overdubs? How come there are some obvious differences between the film and the album, and not just in the track listings? What's the deal with the Two-Disc Special Edition DVD and the Remastered and Expanded CD that were released in November 2007?
This analysis is based on a study of all the official releases alongside unofficially circulating recordings of the three shows. The bootleg tapes of the 28th and 29th are complete, or very nearly so. Much of the 27th is available as well, although the first hour or so of this show has never surfaced. From these tapes it's possible to work out exactly where each part of each song has come from.
Before getting down to the song-by-song analysis, I'd just like to comment on a few things that I've often heard said about The Song Remains The Same, to try to clear up some misconceptions:
"The Song Remains The Same is not live because it's full of overdubs."
There are a number of reasons why The Song Remains The Same cannot be classed as a genuine, straightforward presentation of a live concert. Studio overdubbing is certainly among those reasons, but is probably not the most significant, and 'full of overdubs' would definitely be an exaggeration. On the original 1976 releases, overdubbing is restricted to some occasional, minor tampering, usually with the vocals. No new studio overdubs were created for the 2007 releases, although some of the original overdubs were re-used and a different technique that could be termed 'cross-dubbing' is employed quite extensively. We'll find out more about that very soon.
"The film is full of cuts and edits but the album features complete live performances."
False. The amount of cuts and edits is roughly equal on the two formats. The big difference is that the cutting and pasting on the album is much more carefully done. Nobody could miss some of the jarring cuts in the film, but the edits on the album are much more difficult to spot.
"The visuals are often completely out of synch with the music."
There's certainly some truth in that. At this point I should make it clear that this analysis concentrates on the music rather than the visuals, although some more general comments on the visuals are included. It's much more difficult to carry out a detailed study of the visuals because the complete, original footage from all the various cameras on the three nights is not available (at least, not to me).
Read on, then, and find out just what you'll be listening to each time you put one of the various releases of The Song Remains The Same into your CD or DVD player.
Rock and Roll
Over The Hills and Far Away
Misty Mountain Hop
Since I've Been Loving You
The Song Remains The Same
Dazed and Confused
Stairway To Heaven
Whole Lotta Love
Two-Disc Special Edition DVD Menus
Visuals and summary