Why Led Zeppelin Dismissed Claims ‘You Shook Me’ Was Too Much Like Jeff Beck’s Version
By the time Led Zeppelin recorded “You Shook Me” in 1968, the song already had a long history. It began in ’61, when guitarist Earl Hooker recorded an instrumental later titled “Blue Guitar.” After Willie Dixon came up lyrics for the track, Muddy Waters recorded it as “You Shook Me” in ’62.
Like many guitarists on London’s blues-rock scene, Jeff Beck took to “You Shook Me.” After breaking away from The Yardbirds, Beck began playing the track with his newly formed Jeff Beck Group. That band recorded his version of “You Shook Me” in spring ’68. It appeared on Beck’s July ’68 release, Truth, and featured John Paul Jones on organ.
That same summer, Jimmy Page started his own band following the Yardbirds’ demise. And along with Robert Plant and John Bonham, Page brought in Jones to play bass and keyboards. The group, which Page called Led Zeppelin, also started playing “You Shook Me.”
As on Truth, Led Zeppelin I featured “You Shook Me” as the second-to-last track on side 1. The coincidences (or lack thereof) reportedly bothered Beck and Rod Stewart, the group’s lead singer. But Led Zeppelin didn’t see any reason for bitterness on the part of the Beck or Stewart.
Jimmy Page believed Led Zeppelin’s ‘You Shook Me’ was ‘nothing like’ the Jeff Beck Group version
In the freewheeling Zep biography Hammer of the Gods, Stephen Davis describes Beck as in shock (with “tears of anger” flowing) when his friend Page played him Zep’s version of “You Shook Me” that summer. According to Davis’ account, Beck felt Page was trying to upstage him.
Stewart went beyond that, saying Page modeled Zeppelin itself on the Beck Group. “We’re all friends now […], but there was some bad feeling for a while,” Stewart told USA Today in 2012. Stewart cited Page’s attendance at several shows by the Beck Group that summer as evidence he was taking notes.
For his part, Page was offended by such inferences. “It really pissed me off when people compared our first album to the Jeff Beck Group and said it was very close conceptually,” Page told Trouser Press in 1977. “It was nonsense, utter nonsense.”
Page chalked it up to he and Beck having similar taste in music. “It was the type of thing we’d both played in bands,” he added. “Someone told me [Beck] had already recorded it after we’d put it down on the first Zeppelin album. I thought, ‘Oh dear, it’s going to be identical,’ but it was nothing like it.”
Robert Plant once said countless bands were doing ‘You Shook Me’ in the late ’60s
Indeed, the Zeppelin arrangement is much tighter – and far more explosive — than the Beck Group’s recording. However, Page’s claim that he had “no idea” that Beck had recorded the track is less believable. After all, a member of Page’s own band (Jones) had contributed an organ part on Beck’s track.
Yet Page certainly has the right to be annoyed about someone saying Zep’s cover owes a debt to someone else’s cover. Plant didn’t tolerate any of it, either. “Beck’s always moaned about Pagey: ‘He knew what we were doing, Rod and I,'” Plant remarked in a 1988 Rolling Stone interview.
Plant didn’t think the Beck Group or anyone had any special claim on “You Shook Me,” given the song’s ubiquity in the ’60s. “We were all doing ‘You Shook Me’ at the same time,” Plant said. “It was more famous than ‘God Save the Queen’ in England at the time.”