In keeping with my celebration of music from the 1960s I’m going to share another one of my favorite songs from the decade. Dazed and Confused is a song taken from Led Zeppelin’s first record, Led Zeppelin, and displays the groups experimenting with sound like never before.
Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused is probably one of the most interesting and innovative songs ever to be recorded and performed. Diverging from mainstream chord accompaniments, Dazed and Confused begins with a strong bass line which is then paralleled by the guitar, supplementing and vocal line.
The song is written in E minor descending chromatic scale starting from G and pausing in E and then continuing from D and ending the phrase in B.
Dazed and Confused Counterpoint
Dazed and Confused ( Led Zeppelin ) differs from most rock’n roll tunes of its time (and later) in that while most rock’n roll pieces used a strummed chord form of accompaniment, this Led Zeppelin song combines the bass-guitar linear accompaniment along with the vocal melodic line forming a simple voice –bass guitar counterpoint.
Dazed and Confused begins with a thick bass line followed by a parallel bass-guitar descending the E minor scale chromatically, making its way to the dominant B chord and climbing back to E minor.
The middle of the song diverges totally from the tonal system and immerses itself into a John Xenakis type of electronic music, frequently atonal, heavily dubbed with synthesizers, mixing and remixing, dubbing and nonlinear modulators while the bass and bass drum rhythm section sustains the E reference point to make it easier on the non accustomed listener.
A Led Zeppelin Innovation
The middle part is bridged back into the tonal system through a fall to the dominant B major chord where the guitar solo, licks and riffs retune the listener’s ear and prepare through a assortment of heavy guitar and strong rhythm the return to the E minor scale and central chromatically descending theme of the song.
With the use if innovative synthesizers, chorus devices, and sustains, Dazed and Confused successfully projects a shrilling atmosphere projecting a mood of sarcasm, self doubt, irony and disorientation, and a grey color of frustration, especially during the “question answer” sessions (during the synthesizer based middle part of the song) between Robert Plant’s voice hinting at the central theme and the synthesizer – bass – barrel drum response to the vocal line.
The same general approach is used in the song Whole Lotta Love, in the Led Zeppelin II album.
Dazed and Confused Live
Producing Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused in the studio must have taken a lot of effort, but performing it live is a task of herculean proportions. The introduction of the bowed guitar, aside from its showmanship value, provided a valuable tool in reproducing the song’s recorded effects in a live concert.
Since bowed instruments like the violin, cello and double base are instruments that, because of their lack of frets or Pythagorean string divisions, can adapt to any musical system whether it is modal, atonal, or well tempered, the bow used by Page coupled with sustainers and distortion devices goes a long way in repeating, if not enhancing Dazed and Confused in a concert.
Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused, dated 1969, can be found in the band’s first album, first side, and fourth track.