For garage-band toilers, bedroom noodlers or the occasional weekend cover-band warrior, the correlations between themselves and some of rock’s most-iconic stars are almost non-existent. But every now and then, tape surfaces that serves as a reminder that no matter whether you’re rocking out in a basement or on stage in front of a stadium-sized audience, musicians, their process, their craft and their expertise, are all indeed cut from similar cloths.
Just take Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog,” the rock anthem that first appeared on Led Zeppelin IV in 1971 that has kept necks swaying for generations. And luckily for us, there’s audio of the band working the track out in rehearsals, an ear-witness account of four players coming together to solidify one of their biggest hits.
Far from the well-known album version, the song’s genesis is Jimmy Page’s effortless acoustic strum, a blues-soaked boogie that seems born of the Mississippi Delta. A few minutes later, John Paul Jones, the man credited with penning the iconic main riff, provides the low end while John Bonham’s thundering drums begin to encapsulate Zeppelin’s signature sound. Even Robert Plant’s soaring vocals emerge, the finishing touches that render the track unmistakably theirs.
There are moments of teaching, moments of hesitation and moments of doubt. But the thrill of pulling back the curtain, an insight to a song taking shape is the real treat. It’s a journey down a creative path with the Zeppelin boys without knowing where it will eventually lead. And while we all are well-versed with the finished product, sometimes the journey is just as exciting as the destination.