The Joke Led Zeppelin Was Trying to Make With ‘D’yer Mak’er’
If you were a Led Zeppelin fan who bought the group’s first albums, you wouldn’t think the band had a big sense of humor. Just the titles on Zep’s self-title debut — from “Your Time Is Gonna Come” to “How Many More Times” and “Dazed and Confused” — were enough to feel the dark vibe.
The band’s dynamite second album (1969) also took itself seriously across the board. Mixed in among the blues numbers (“Heartbreaker,” “Bring It On Home”) and “What Is and What Should Never Be,” the most you got were a few winks on “Livin’ Lovin’ Maid (She’s Just a Woman).”
By Led Zeppelin III (1970), Zep was trafficking in hangmen (“Gallows Pole”), dying fish (“That’s the Way”), and other “tales of gore” (“Immigrant Song”). And the band’s powerhouse fourth album (1971) stuck with serious stuff like “Stairway to Heaven” and “The Battle of Evermore.”
On Houses of the Holy (1973), the band felt ready to crack a few jokes. “D’yer Mak’er,” the track with the reggae guitar and ’50s-style Robert Plant vocal, flashed a bit of Zep’s humor. But not everyone got the joke.
It sounds like ‘Jamaica’ when spoken with the right accent
Fans who have been seeing (and saying) “dire maker” when they refer to the track haven’t been doing it right. As Plant once confirmed, the joke is in the pronunciation — and how someone with a cockney accent might sound when they’re saying either “Jamaica” or “Did you make her?”
In the old joke, a man tells a friend that his wife has just gone on vacation. After he asks if it’s Jamaica (“D’yer mak’er”) she’s gone to, the man replies, “No, she went on her own accord.” (Get it?)
If you didn’t get it, you’re not alone. (This Zep fan of several decades didn’t.) But that came as a surprise to Jimmy Page. “I didn’t expect people not to get it,” Page said in a 1977 interview. “I thought it was pretty obvious.”
Of course, the other part of the joke came in the song itself. Zeppelin’s stab at a reggae guitar part on Houses of the Holy took its cue from musicians working in Jamaica.
‘D’yer Mak’er’ even went out as a rare Zeppelin single
Given the limitations of radio formats and the band’s desire to strictly sell albums, Led Zeppelin wasn’t big on single releases. In fact, during the band’s 11-year run as recording artists, Zep never released a single in the UK.
Of the occasional Zep single Atlantic released in America, you wouldn’t find the band supporting a track with TV appearances and the like. (They just didn’t have to do these things.) According to Zep authority Dave Lewis, Plant wanted to do away with the policy and release “D’yer Mak’er” as a single.
Indeed, that actually happened. The Houses of the Holy track went out in the U.S. in September ’73 and managed to get all the way to No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 just after Christmas.