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 » Since I've Been Loving You
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Misty Mountain Hop and Since I've Been Loving You had been played back to back since the 1972 tour of Japan. A rather strange pair of songs to segue together, really, but the guitar frenzy that linked them was always a moment of high drama. We don't get to experience that sudden transition in the film, because of the absence of the first song of the pairing. Instead, we just hear Pagey rip straight into the Since I've Been intro.
This is a mixture of the versions from the first night (27th) and the third night (29th) in a total of nine different sections. We're no strangers to edits and cuts by this stage of the proceedings, but everything up to now has been very neat and tidy. By contrast, some of the edits in this number do no sort of justice to Pagey's well renowned studio perfectionism.
Sections are as follows, with timings from the DVD shown in brackets:
Pagey obviously chose what he considered to be the best available excerpts from the available recordings, but it has to be said that they were stitched together in a very hit and miss fashion. On top of that, this song probably suffers more than any other from the sound being out of synch with the visuals. It's testimony to the brilliance of the musical content that the song survives the rough treatment and is thought by many to be one of the most memorable and captivating in the film. "Why didn't they include it on the album?" fans often ask, but in this form it couldn't possibly have been put on the album.
What's all that NTSC PAL rubbish? All right, just a quick word about that. NTSC (National Television Standards Committee) and PAL (Phase Alternating Line) are different television broadcast standards. NTSC is the standard used in America, Japan and some other Asian countries whereas PAL is used in the UK, most of Europe and Australia. The two systems are totally different and incompatible with each other. For technical reasons, movie film converted to NTSC runs at almost exactly the correct speed whereas movies converted to PAL very often run 4% fast. In the case of The Song Remains The Same, this means that, for example, the USA Region 1 NTSC DVD plays at the correct speed but the UK Region 2 PAL DVD plays noticeably too fast. This is an interesting and complex subject but I'll resist the temptation to go on about it at great length and return to the immediate point, which is that the timings are inevitably different on the NTSC and PAL DVDs, hence the somewhat long-winded DVD time references given above! If you want to check out any of the cuts and edits for yourself, just pick the time references for your format.
It was a great relief to find that not only the pitch but the genuine correct running speed had been preserved for all material, regardless of its original source, on both the NTSC and PAL versions of Led Zeppelin DVD. This is no straightforward task and can involve compromising the video quality to some degree but for a music DVD it's hugely important. This means that timings are virtually the same on both formats of Led Zeppelin DVD and one set of time references will suffice.
Since I've Been Loving You was the only song to be included in the Madison Square Garden 1973 portion of Led Zeppelin DVD that had already been presented in full in The Song Remains The Same. Nobody could have complained too much if Led Zeppelin DVD had featured the same sequence of parts with improved editing. But no, Pagey went out of his way to give us something quite different. Most of this version is once again from the 27th and 29th but different passages have been used and we even get a little taste of the 28th for good measure.
In total, there are eight sections sewn together:
This version boasts a vastly more professional splicing job than the one in the original film. There are still some major anomalies with the matching of the visuals to the music, but I don't intend to get into that! The edit between sections 7 and 8 is cunningly executed, the vocal track remaining with the 29th for a few moments after the rest of the band have been switched to the 27th. Manipulating the tracks individually would have been straightforward enough with the technology available and I dare say some other edits were smoothed out in a similar way.
Although the Led Zeppelin DVD version is far more presentable to polite society, the musical passages chosen for the original Song Remains The Same version were, for the most part, superior. Wouldn't it be nice if the new Song Remains The Same DVD featured the parts from the original film, but with the editing quality of the version on Led Zeppelin DVD? Well, what we get is actually very close to that.
The same nine sections from the 27th and 29th are used for the new DVD as in the original film, with just some small differences. Near the end of the first verse, the line "Oh, baby, since I've been loving you" has been replaced using the vocal track from the 27th. In the second verse, as Robert starts to sing, "Oh, I really tried to do the best I could", a briefly muted guitar moment has been filled in by borrowing some notes that were actually played a couple of seconds later. There's a different type of guitar fix just at the end of the second bar of the central solo, where a dissonance created by two natural A notes, that don't really fit the F minor scale within which Jimmy is flying around, has been eliminated by 'tuning down' those notes to A flat.
Immediately after the guitar solo, in "Wooooh, yes, I've been crying", we have yet another variation for the word "crying". In the original film, it was a vocal overdub, on Led Zeppelin DVD it was the genuine vocal from the 27th, and here on the new Song Remains The Same DVD it's been replaced by the same word from the 28th!
Further vocal patches follow. The first is in "My, my, my...can't you see them falling?"; we're on the 27th here, but the word "falling" has been replaced by the same word from the 29th. Into the third verse, and exactly the same applies to the word "nerve" in the line "You had the nerve to tell me...". Then, after the switch to the 29th, the word "night" in "to eleven every night" is from the 28th.
The final switch back to the 27th, near the end of the third verse, happens about five seconds later than in the original film, just after "Oh, baby, since I've been loving you" instead of just before it, which is a good thing as the line was sung more powerfully on the 29th. Near the end, as everything is slowing down, Robert's last "whoa-oh" has been replaced by the corresponding utterance from the 28th.
All the best bits that we know and love from the original film, with improved sound, perfectly timed edits and a bit of tidying up in a few other places, resulting in a version that is almost everything that could be desired. Almost? Yes, because there's one small and perplexing imperfection. In the first verse, just after "I've really been the best, the best of fools", there's a tiny cut that results in a loss of the correct beat, effectively reducing the length of one bar from 12/8 to 11/8. This does not occur at a point where two different pieces of music are joined together, as we've already switched from the 27th to the 29th a few seconds earlier, so how do we account for it?
The answer lies in the fact, previously mentioned, that the visuals from the original 1976 film could not be altered in any way, so wherever even the smallest changes were made to the soundtrack - for example, by tidying up cuts and edits - there was a likelihood that the synchronisation with the visuals would be lost, and this is exactly what had happened at this point in Since I've Been Loving You. Something had to be done to get the audio back in synch, and this was achieved by simply chopping out a fragment of the soundtrack. The cut is very small, just a fraction of a second, but such fractions are of course vitally important in music. So we end up with a situation whereby some untidy and off-time editing has been greatly improved, but to compensate for that a cut has been deliberately introduced elsewhere, causing a timing error and effectively just kicking the original problem a few seconds down the road. Regrettable, but with the visuals set in stone we have to accept that such compromises had to be made. We shall encounter this phenomenon a few more times as we continue on our journey.
The version on the new CD is exactly the same as on the new DVD, including, I'm sorry to say, the small cut and resulting timing error just described and discussed. It would be an exaggeration to say that it sticks out like a sore thumb, but anybody with a sense of rhythm is likely to notice the missing beat. There are no visuals to worry about here, so how can this disturbing and embarrassing fault be justified? Quite clearly it cannot. This particular cut is just under half a second in length and that is about how long it should have taken to decide that lazily reusing the DVD soundtrack was out of the question and that, exactly as was done for the original album, a bit of extra time and effort would need to be put in for the audio-only release. Astonishing, really, that any professional artist, let alone Led Zeppelin, would willingly release a CD containing an entirely unnecessary fault of this nature. Is it a one-off oversight, or will the new CD be plagued further with problems that should exist only on the DVD soundtrack? We shall see.
To wrap up this lengthy chapter, here are the timings from the new CD of the various events of interest:
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