'Friends' is a 1970 song by English rock band Led Zeppelin. The song was composed by Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant, and recorded at Olympic Studios, Barnes, London in May 1970; Headley Grange, Hampshire, England in June 1970, and mixed at Island Studios, London in July 1970, and Ardent Studios, Memphis, in August 1970. It appeared as the second track on Led Zeppelin's third album Led Zeppelin III, released on 5 October 1970. Originally known by the working title of 'My Oh My', 'Friends' was a product of the fruitful collaboration of guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant at the cottage of Bron-Yr-Aur in Wales, in April 1970. An ode to friendship, the song continued Led Zeppelin's experiment with Eastern-influenced scales and modes, begun with 'Black Mountain Side' on their eponymous debut album Led Zeppelin in 1969.
'Friends' was composed at Bron-Yr-Aur, and was mostly complete when taken to Olympic Studios for recording. The song is in contrast with the high energy opener of the 'Immigrant Song'. 'Friends' begins with background chatter, presumed to be Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant talking to the band in the studio, before a repetitive acoustic guitar riff kicks in through an Altair Tube Limiter. Page later explained in a October 1974 interview with NME, that the tuning of the guitar was altered in an experimental way to make the sound as exotic and strange as possible. John Bonham added congas, followed by multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones who arranged the string section. A Steinway grand piano can also be heard in the background mix. Later adding synthesizer for colouration, his efforts were also needed to bridge the gap between the end of 'Friends' and the intro to 'Celebration Day' when part of that track was accidentally erased. The synthesizer was a Moog synthesizer, with an EMS VCS3 drone, with subtle filter sweeps. In March 1972, Page and Plant at the end of their Australasian tour, recorded a number of takes with the Bombay Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vijay Ragav Rao. They recordings were an experiment to see how the music of Led Zeppelin could work with authentic Eastern instrumentation and orchestration, but it was deemed less than satisfactory and never officially released.
'Friends' was performed only once live on 29 September 1971 in Osaka, Japan. Page and Plant revived the song for their 1994 MTV performance and album No Quarter, and it was toured throughout 1995 and 1996, with a Middle Eastern orchestra.
Formats and track listings
1970 7" single (Poland: Prasniewska N-370)
- A. 'Friends' (Page, Plant) 3.54
- B. 'Celebration Day' (Jones, Page, Plant) 3.29
1970 7" EP (Brazil: Rock Espetacular RG 03)
- A1. 'Friends' (Page, Plant) 3.54
- A2. 'Celebration Day' (Jones, Page, Plant) 3.29
- B. 'Since I've Been Loving You' (Jones, Page, Plant) 7.23
- Jimmy Page – acoustic guitar, producer, remastering, digital remastering
- Robert Plant – vocals
- John Paul Jones – bass guitar, Moog synthesizer, EMS VCS3, Steinway grand piano
- John Bonham - percussion
- Peter Grant - background voice at intro [uncredited]
- Viram Jasani - tabla [demo - uncredited]
- Peter Grant – executive producer
- Andy Johns - engineer, mixing
- Joe Sidore - original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
- George Marino - remastered CD engineer (1990)
- 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).
- 'Friends' at ASCAP (USA)
- 'Friends' at United States Copyright Office (USA)
- 'Friends' at ISWC [T-070.056.690-0]
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