Moistworks has a fantastic three-part series (1, 2, 3) on the music behind Led Zeppelin. Lots of fascinating stuff here, including The Small Faces’ “You Need Lovin” and Jake Holmes’s “Dazed and Confused,” either of which could easily be a Zeppelin rehearsal demo. Other gems available over at MoistWorks: the original Joan Baez version of “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” and the beautiful early Dylan number listed above, not to mention a bunch of great blues tunes that Zep lifted.
To be fair to Zeppelin, they were never particularly secretive about their borrowings. Led Zeppelin III includes a song called “Hats Off to Roy Harper,” while Jimmy Page’s instrumental version of Bert Jansch’s “Blackwater Side” is called “Black Mountainside.” And I think it’s also worth noting how little control rock musicians had in the late ’60s over the business side of the business. When the Rolling Stones or Zeppelin took credit for other people’s music, they certainly knew this would be to their financial advantage, but they probably took the credit on the advice of the managers and record company people who were also telling them what they could record, how it would be engineered and so on.
Anyway, whether it’s theft or not is sort of beside the point. What’s interesting is to hear these songs and realize at once how directly Zeppelin borrowed from others, and how dramatically they transformed what they borrowed into something tighter and harder.