Why Richard Linklater Couldn’t Use Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock and Roll’ in the ‘Dazed and Confused’ Film

When Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993) hit theaters, it didn’t take much to get the reference to the classic Led Zeppelin song. After all, the film took place at a high school in 1976, and the soundtrack featured classic songs by Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, and Bob Dylan.

Naturally, the main characters who smoked weed and worshipped the day’s rock bands would be Zep fans. At one point, you hear Slater (Rory Cochrane) explicitly reference John Bonham’s drum solo on “Moby Dick.” (Slater notes how Bonzo “couldn’t handle” a one-hour solo “on strong acid.”)

But Dazed and Confused never does “get the Led out.” How could there be such a lapse? Well, in this case you don’t need to search far for the answer, given Led Zeppelin’s reluctance to license its music in the decades following the group’s 1980 demise.

Richard Linklater tried but failed to get Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock and Roll’ for the ‘Dazed and Confused’ film

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin perform in Denmark, March 1969. | Jorgen Angel/Redferns

Given the title Linklater chose for his film, you might think he had the Zeppelin track of the same name in mind for the soundtrack. Apparently, that wasn’t the case. Instead, the director wanted to use “Rock and Roll” from Led Zeppelin IV (1971).

He didn’t get his wish. Speaking with The Daily Beast in 2013, Linklater acknowledged it was difficult to deal with the band in the early ’90s. At the time, the group just wasn’t licensing its music. “They notoriously weren’t letting their songs in movies,” Linklater said.

Indeed, Zeppelin seemed to keep a lid on its music until the end of the ’90s. That’s when you could hear “Rock and Roll” played in the background of an episode of The Sopranos. The Zep also let Cameron Crowe use songs for Almost Famous (2000) around the turn of the century.

But the band’s three surviving members weren’t so hospitable to directors in the ’80s and ’90s. As Linklater pointed out, it went beyond protecting the music. Around that period, you wouldn’t find Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones on the same page too often.

Linklater thought the relationship between Zep band members made it harder to license its songs in the ’90s

Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Zoe Bonham, Jason Bonham, and Robert Plant in 1995| Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

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The Led Zeppelin policy toward licensing music should explain why Linklater couldn’t get a Zep track into Dazed and Confused. But the director thought the relationship between band members might have played a part in it as well.

“I think in ’92, ’93, they weren’t really talking much and not getting along,” Linklater told The Daily Beast in 2013. “It was just a communication-timing thing with them.” That suggestion matches up with accounts of Plant saying no to Linklater’s request while Page said yes.

In Led Zeppelin All the Songs, the authors also wrote that Plant nixed the idea of involvement in Dazed and Confused. By ’94, Page and Plant at least had set aside their differences and begun collaborating together again. (They had previously worked together in the ’80s.)

Yet their relationship with Jones had clearly deteriorated by the mid-’90s. If Zeppelin fans needed proof of that, they only had to witness Zep’s awkward Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in early ’95.