Is Led Zeppelin’s ‘Good Times Bad Times’ Anything Like the Rolling Stones Song of the Same Title?
When Led Zeppelin released its debut album in 1969, it caught the attention of musicians for a number of reasons. Jeff Beck and Rod Stewart (then of the Jeff Beck Group) certainly noticed, as Zeppelin’s version of “You Shook Me” one-upped the Beck version. (Stewart stewed over that for decades.)
“Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” the second track on Led Zeppelin (aka “I“), eventually grabbed the attention of Anne Bredon, who’d composed the song prior to Joan Baez recording it on a ’62 album. Though Zep listed it as “Traditional” on the album (as Baez had on hers), Bredon later got songwriting credit.
The Rolling Stones, who knew Zep’s Jimmy Page well, may have done a double-take when they saw the track listing on his band’s debut. That’s because opening song “Good Times Bad Times” had a title that was identical (minus a comma) to that of a Stones song. But the similarities ended there.
The Rolling Stones released ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ as a B-side in 1964
The Rolling Stones scored their first U.K. No. 1 with “It’s All Over Now,” the band’s cover of a ’64 Valentinos track. For the B-side, the Stones recorded “Good Times, Bad Times,” a bluesy original penned by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.
Given the breadth of quality Stones material, it’s unlikely many rock fans (even Stones die-hards) dwell very long on “Good Times, Bad Times.” It’s a B-side for a reason, and that designation hasn’t changed much since its ’64 release.
As far as its themes goes, blues fans won’t find much new in “Good Times, Bad Times.” The narrator says he’s had his share of the bad, and he ties that to losing “you,” the unnamed woman who’s taken her leave of him.
After bemoaning her loss, he asks if his departed love wouldn’t consider returning for more good times. In the final verse, Jagger sings about the loss of trust in the world (or at least his). If there’s no trust, “there’s gonna be war,” he bizarrely concludes.
Led Zeppelin’s ‘Good Times Bad Times’ shares only a title with the Stones song
You only need to hear the opening guitar chords of Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” to conclude it has nothing in common musically with the Stones song of the same name. This is a rocker, with growling guitar licks by Page and aggressive drumming by John Bonham.
When Robert Plant sings the opening lines, it becomes clear the lyrics also have nothing in common with the Stones song. Plant sings about a youngster learning what it means to be man. And, now that he’s grown up, he’s just trying to do just that.
In the chorus, we learn about some of the bad times. Plant sings about the “woman who left home.” Just before, we get the only match between the Zeppelin lyrics and the Stones’: the phrase “I’ve had my share.”
Beyond that everyday expression, there isn’t anything the Zep song has in common with the Stones’ B-side. That goes for song quality as well. When the Zep needed a single from the band’s debut album, “Good Times Bad Times” was the one they selected.