The 50 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs
Guitar World presents a critical analysis of Led Zeppelin's 50 best tracks.
16. “Black Dog” (Led Zeppelin IV)
“Black Dog” was built around a snakey blues riff, initially written on bass by John Paul Jones and doubled an octave higher on guitar by Page. The rhythmic orientation of the song’s main riff to the beat has been the subject of heated debate among working musicians over the years, the point of contention being specifically where “one” is.
When pressed for an explanation, Page was vague. But Jones, in his Lo and Behold column in Guitar World December 1996, states that this deceptive riff should be counted with the first A note — the root note of the song’s key and the fourth note of the riff—falling squarely on beat one. (Drummer John Bonham’s big cymbal crash on beat two is one of the things about this riff that throws a lot of people off.)
Page enhanced the riff later in the song, at 3:18, by overdubbing a parallel-thirds harmony line. In the 1993 GW interview, the guitarist noted, “Most people never catch that part. It’s just toward the end, to help build the song. You have to listen closely for the high guitar parts.”
Page and recording engineer Andy Johns tried a novel and ultimately successful experiment by triple-tracking the song’s rhythm guitar parts. As Page explained, “Andy used the mic preamp on the mixing board to get distortion. Then we put two 1176 Universal compressors in series on that sound and distorted the guitars as much as we could and then compressed them. Each riff was triple-tracked: one left, one right, and one right up the middle.”
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