The Lost Led Zeppelin Song That Never Emerged From the BBC Vaults
Since Led Zeppelin had the final say on every one of its studio recordings, fans always got what the band wanted released — and not an outtake more. Before all those bonus tracks emerged with the remastered LPs in the 2010s, most Zep fans probably didn’t know they existed.
But some Zeppelin recordings did slip through the cracks during the band’s 12 years together. Following the release of BBC Sessions in the late ’90s, Jimmy Page began hearing a bootleg circulate of a song the Zep had never attempted at an album session.
After Page investigated, he realized the track must have come from a series of BBC performances the band made in early ’69. However, the BBC lost the tapes from that day. Page eventually tracked down a copy of the song someone had recorded off the radio.
Led Zeppelin’s ‘Sunshine Woman’ was lost after a ’69 BBC session
Following the release of the remastered studio albums in 2014-15, Page kept going with The Complete BBC Sessions in ’16. As with Zep’s LPs, that release came with a bonus disc. It included nine songs that weren’t on the original two-CD set released in ’97.
Among that set of tracks was “Sunshine Woman,” a pulsing blues Zep created in the studio for Alexis Korner’s Rhythm and Blues show. “We did something that we made up on the spot, from a guitar riff,” Page told Rolling Stone in ’16. “It was done, I guess, for amusement really — although we were playing very seriously.”
The band recorded “Sunshine Woman” along with “You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby” at that March ’69 session. Then the tracks went out on the BBC World Service the following month. Yet sometime after that, the BBC lost the recordings.
That didn’t mean they were gone, though. “From what I’m led to believe, it was recorded off the radio by someone in Eastern Europe,” Page told Rolling Stone of the set. “It managed to travel around.” And that allowed Page and Zeppelin to release the songs officially.
It’s unclear who played piano on ‘Sunshine Woman’
The mysteries don’t end with the sourcing of “Sunshine Woman.” Obviously, Page is playing guitar; John Bonham is on drums; Robert Plant vocals and harmonica; and John Paul Jones bass. But what about the piano part? Upon the first listen, it doesn’t sound like Jones.
Since it seems to be a live take, you’d have to assume someone else was playing piano with Zeppelin that day. It wouldn’t be the last time the band used a guest piano player, of course. Ian Stewart (“Stu”) recorded “Rock and Roll” and “Boogie with Stu” with the band for IV.
There is also an outside chance the band had the opportunity to record an overdub. If that were the case, Jones would have added the piano later. Regardless, “Sunshine Woman” gives fans a peek inside the band as they’d rehearse in ’69. You can already hear what an unstoppable force Led Zeppelin was, less than a year into its existence.