Babe I'm Gonna Leave You

'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' is a 1969 song by English rock band Led Zeppelin. The composition was credited 'traditional arranged Jimmy Page' on initial album releases. It was long assumed the song was a traditional American folk song, this being based on an early copy of a 1962 Joan Baez recording Joan Baez in Concert, Part One. Singer Robert Plant later received a credit because he did not originally receive a mention on the debut album version due to his contractual obligations with CBS Records. 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' was one of the first songs prepared for the eponymous debut album Led Zeppelin, and was recorded in September 1968, at Olympic Studios, Barnes, England and mixed in October 1968. It appeared as the second track on the album, released on 12 January 1969. 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' was also issued as a promotional single in the United States, and Greece.

Overview

'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' has its origins in July 1968, when Plant was invited to guitarist Jimmy Page's Pangbourne boathouse to discuss joining a proposed new line-up of the Yardbirds. The Yardbirds had drifted apart after a performance at Luton Technical College on 7 July 1968. Plant had been recommended to Page by Midland's singer-songwriter Terry Reid. While in Page's house, Plant looked through his record collection and came across the live album Joan Baez in Concert, Part One (Vanguard 2122). Page and Plant were fans of Joan Baez, and Page liked Plant's taste in music so they began working out an arrangement part-acoustic and part-electric, stamped by Page's use of 'light and shade' dynamics. Coincidentally Page had originally sketched out an idea for the song while as a session musician, prior to meeting Plant, but never went any further with it. Over the next week, Plant had made a decision to try his luck and sign up for Page's band full-time. When multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones also joined Page's group, Page, Plant, and Jones performed an early arrangement of 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' during another get-together at Page's Pangbourne boathouse in early August 1968.

After drummer John Bonham joined Page's band, the song was rehearsed before their scheduled tour of Scandinavia in September 1968. There it formed part of a basic early set list of songs. 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' was among the first songs recorded at Olympic Studios, on 27 September 1968, completed in three takes. For the song, Page mostly played a 1963 Gibson J-200 flattop acoustic, his 1958 Fender Telecaster for the electric lead breaks, and a Fender 10-String 800 Pedal steel guitar. Plate reverb is heavily used throughout and at 1 minute 41 seconds into the song the famous 'I can hear it callin' me' ghost track can be heard. The microphone bleed on the drum track was left intentionally in the mix to provide a haunting ambiance to the song. Plant's performance throughout the recording is controlled using a close miking technique, and he doesn't really let go until the climactic final chorus. After 'Good Time Bad Times' on the album, 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' provided much levity displaying the band's fondness for dynamics and not pigeonholed within one genre of music. 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' was issued as a promotional single in the US by Atlantic Records, backed with 'Dazed and Confused', and this very hard-to-find release today commands as much as US$150, on the collectors market.

Live performances

'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' was performed often during their first tours in 1968 and 1969, before being dropped from the set list after the second North American tour. A version of this song was recorded for Danish television on 17 March 1969, and later released as part of the 2003 DVD set. During Plant's solo years, he sang 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' with Fairport Convention at the 1992 Cropredy Festival, and included it as part of his 1993 tour. It was performed on the 1995 and 1996 Page and Plant tours as a simple, sparse acoustic arrangement sometimes stretching out to over nine minutes. Plant later performed it as part of the Strange Sensation tour list throughout 2001 and 2002.

Babe I'm Gonna Leave You front cover

Accolades

Mixmag - Singles of the Year (1995) 49

Formats and track listings

1969 7" promo EP (US: Atlantic EP 1019)

  • A. 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' (Traditional, arranged Page) 6.41
  • B. 'Dazed and Confused' (Page) 6.26

1969 7" single edition (Greece: Atlantic 2019 003)

  • A. 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' (Traditional, arranged Page) 6.41
  • B. 'How Many More Times' (Page, Jones, Bonham) 8.28

Credits

Musicians:

  • Jimmy Page – acoustic guitar, producer, remastering, digital remastering
  • Robert Plant – vocals
  • John Paul Jones – bass guitar
  • John Bonham - drums, percussion

Production:

  • Peter Grant – executive producer
  • Glyn Johns - engineer, mixing
  • Joe Sidore - original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
  • George Marino - remastered CD engineer (1990)

Bibliography

  • Lewis, Dave (2012) Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1 (OCLC 782996334).
  • Welch, Chris (2009) Led Zeppelin: The Stories Behind Every Led Zeppelin Song. London: Carlton Books. ISBN 978-1-84732-286-9 (OCLC 317254118).

Registrations

  • APRA: GW03237282
  • ASCAP: 320158361
  • GEMA: 714422-002
  • ISWC: T-071.854.298-3
  • US Copyright Office: EU0000096055

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