Black Mountain Side

'Black Mountain Side' is a 1969 instrumental song by English rock band Led Zeppelin. The song was composed by Jimmy Page, and recorded and mixed at Olympic Studios, Barnes, England in October 1968. It appeared as the sixth track on Led Zeppelin's eponymous debut album Led Zeppelin, released on 12 January 1969. 'Black Mountain Side' is the first song by Led Zeppelin to record with a guest musician - tabla player Viram Jasani. It became a solo showcase for guitarist Page, performed often with another song 'White Summer'.

Overview

The roots of the song originated during Page's session days, when he had heard the traditional 'Down by Blackwaterside' being performed live in London's Soho clubs, in particular versions by Anne Briggs, John Renbourne, and Isla Cameron. In a 1977 Guitar Player magazine interview, Page cites Briggs as the first person whom he heard perform 'Blackwaterside'. From his early session years Page had a fascination for the emerging folk music scene in Britain. During studio work in early 1966, Page's experimenting with chords came up with a DADGAD modal, removed from the standard tuning Briggs and Renbourne were using, which created a very Middle Eastern/Indian feel to the song.

On 'Black Mountain Side', Page used a Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar, on the recording. For live performances Page used a 1959 electric Danelectro DC guitar. On the studio recording, Page's guitar is tuned a half step down from a DADGAD tuning, technically D♭-A♭-D♭-G♭-A♭-D♭. This so-called CIA tuning (Celtic, Indian and Arabic) was also used for the song 'White Summer' and 'Kashmir' on Physical Graffiti, and when played live, it was not unusual for 'Black Mountain Side' to be incorporated with both songs. The beginning of the album track is arranged over the end of the previous song on Led Zeppelin, namely 'Your Time Is Gonna Come'. The overall Eastern feel, would be further enhanced by session musician Viram Jasani guesting on the recording, playing tablas.

The name 'Black Mountain Side' may be alluding to the Black Mountain which is a barren granite marilyn, situated along the road between Fort William and Stirling, in Argyll, Scotland. 'The Black Mountain Reel', a traditional Scottish Ceilidh dance is named after it. The Page family have ancestral roots in the Highlands.

Live performances

'Black Mountain Side' with 'White Summer' was performed up until Led Zeppelin's fifth North American tour in 1970. It was restored to the set list as part of the band's 1977 US tour, and also appeared at the Copenhagen warm-up shows in 1979 and Knebworth. On the Tour Over Europe 1980 programme, it was performed as the opening to 'Kashmir'. The song would be performed by Page on his tours with the Firm as part of 'Midnight Moonlight', and also his Outrider tour in 1988, and the Coverdale & Page shows in 1993.

Credits

Musicians:

  • Jimmy Page – electric guitar, producer, remastering, digital remastering
  • Viram Jasani - tabla, 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: GW05513587
  • ASCAP: 320158432
  • GEMA: 714459-001
  • ISWC: T-070.014.082-4
  • US Copyright Office: EU0000096057

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