Why ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ Was the Toughest ‘Led Zeppelin III’ Song to Record
Love it or underrate it, no one can deny that the third Led Zeppelin album shook things up for the band. After the group’s heavy 1969 debut and even heavier follow-up, Zep showcased its largest selection of acoustic material to date on Led Zeppelin III. And it didn’t win over everyone.
But to call III “an acoustic album” doesn’t cut it. After all, it kicks off with “Immigrant Song,” one of the most metal tracks in the Zep catalog. Then there’s the rugged, driving “Celebration Day” midway through the first half. And side 1 closes with “Out on the Tiles,” a rocker by any estimation.
Side 1 of Led Zeppelin III also features another screamer of sorts: “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” the searing electric blues driven by the guitar work of Jimmy Page. While fans had come to expect blues-rock from the band at that point, Zep struggled a bit with this one in the studio.
In fact, Page once told Guitar World that “Since I’ve Been Loving You” was the track that gave them the most trouble during the making of III. Page cited the challenges of the form itself: Doing with something new with a blues isn’t easy.
Led Zeppelin labored over ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ more than any other track on the band’s 3rd record
Speaking with Guitar World editor-in-chief Brad Tolinski in ’93, Page reflected on the sessions for Led Zeppelin III. (Tolinski collected many of his interviews with Page over the years in the 2012 book Light and Shade: Conversations With Jimmy Page.)
The dates included some issues while recording “Celebration Day.” In the studio, someone accidentally wiped the drum part at the beginning. Page explained that it’s the reason you hear a drone after “Friends” connecting it to the next track.
But Page considered the recording of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” even more laborious. It surprised him in some ways. “That was the only song on the third album that we had played live prior to our sessions, yet it was the hardest to record,” Page told Tolinski. “We had several tries at that one.”
For a band that later fired off the backing track for “In My Time of Dying” in a single take, that might seem out of character. However, Page thought it was par for the course when you’re working with a blues form.
Jimmy Page said a blues was ‘the most challenging thing you could do’ on a record
Page thought the toughest thing about “Since I’ve Been Loving You” was the form itself. “Playing the blues is actually the most challenging thing you can do,” Page told Tolinski in the Guitar World interview. “It is very hard to play something original.”
His idea on this particular track was to retain the blues feeling without sticking to a 12-bar formula. “I do not think it has to have 12 bars to have
that emotive quality,” Page said. “The blues can be anything.” In the end, the band nailed it down in a live track.
That meant multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones playing organ with his hands and bass with the instrument’s foot pedals. All things considered, the band’s effort was well worth it. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” remains among Zep’s strongest expressions of the blues. On III, the interplay between the musicians and Robert Plant hasn’t aged a day in 50 years.