Certain Songs #903: Led Zeppelin – “Black Dog (Los Angeles 1972)”

Album: How The West Was Won
Year: 1972

Since noone involved was ever quite satisfied with how The Song Remains The Same came out, I can remember reading stories about Jimmy Page wanting to put out another Led Zeppelin live album as far back as the early 1980s.

In fact, I seem to remember that it was going to be a monster three-disc (at least!) set that would be culled from performances from their whole career. But, of course, things moved slow in Zepland after John Bonham died, and — after countless bootlegs — in 2003 they put out How The West Was Won, culled from a couple of nights in 1972 from Los Angeles & Long Beach, and left the career-spanning retrospective to the live DVD they simultaneously issued.

Even for those of us who had dabbled in Led Zeppelin bootlegs over the years, the performances on How The West Was Won were what the kids today refer to as “fire,” reminding folks just what kind of insane live band they truly were.

Best of all for me was “Black Dog,” the intricate tricky blues inversion that showcased just how well the four of them worked together. Kicking off with the “Out on The Tiles” riff as a bit of misdirection, it then froze in place so that Robert Plant could gather every inch of his lasciviousness to sing the opening lines:

Hey, hey mama said the way you move
Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove

With John Bonham & John Paul Jones leading the way, “Black Dog” continually turns around on itself, with Bonham practically playing backwards and Page spinning notes around the groove as it continually stops and starts seemingly under its own free will.

That’s the amazing thing about “Black Dog:” it’s built around a series of stops and starts, but with Robert Plant’s screams, wails, and moans as the connective tissue throughout, it never loses any kind of momentum, and, in fact, continually finds its own funky groove, even as Page decides to abandon all pretense of the groove to fly around with his electric guitar for awhile.

It’s an absolutely bravura performance, with each member of the band contributing equally — one false move and the whole thing falls apart, but of course, there aren’t any false moves, because that’s the only way the West is going to be won in the first place.

“Black Dog (Los Angeles 1972)”

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