When the four members of Led Zeppelin played their first shows together in 1968, they went by the name “The New Yardbirds.” And while that name wouldn’t last beyond a few concert dates it was an accurate description of the assembled musicians.
After The Yardbirds fell apart in early ’68, guitarist Jimmy Page was left holding the pieces. It had been whirlwind of a ride for Page since he joined the group as the Yardbirds’ bassist in ’66. Following the departure of Jeff Beck that year, he began experimenting as the group’s lead guitarist.
If you listen to the Yardbirds material from that period, you’ll notice riffs and songs that turned up on Zeppelin’s explosive 1969 debut. The list includes parts of “How Many More Times” and nearly all of “Dazed and Confused.”
But The Yardbirds didn’t die with the first Zep record. On the second side of Led Zeppelin III (1970), Page revived a Yardbirds song he’d written and recorded with the band in ’68. (They never released it.) The track was titled “Knowing That I’m Losing You” and became reborn as “Tangerine.”
Jimmy Page revived The Yardbirds’ ‘Knowing That I’m Losing You’
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At the end of the Yardbirds’ run, the band had hit-maker Mickie Most as its producer, and everyone can agree now that it wasn’t a good fit. After a number of unsuccessful sessions, Most was out and Peter Grant stepped in, allowing Page to regroup and form Led Zeppelin.
However, before that final nail in the coffin, The Yardbirds did record live numbers and some demo tracks during one last American tour. And on the release Yardbirds ’68 (2017) Zeppelin fans can’t ignore the track “Knowing That I’m Losing You.”
From Page’s gorgeous 12-string intro to the various sections of the song, it’s a clear first run at “Tangerine” from III. But the song appears on Yardbirds ’68 as an instrumental. According to some of Page’s old bandmates, singer Keith Relf had written lyrics for the track.
No vocal appears on the Yardbirds release, so we can’t say how close the two versions are. Either way, we know how the song ended up on Zep’s third album with Page as the sole songwriter.
Page reworked the song as ‘Tangerine’ for ‘Led Zeppelin III’
While taking a break in remote Bron-Yr-Aur (Wales), Page and Robert Plant wrote a few songs on acoustic guitars that made their way onto the band’s third album. And the memorable “That’s the Way” was one of them.
When putting the album together, Page clearly wanted to revise his late draft that was “Knowing That I’m Losing You” for the new record. And it became “Tangerine” after Page thought of some new lyrics. The song fit in perfectly on side 2 of Led Zeppelin III.
The story didn’t exactly end there. At some point, Relf’s sister claimed that her brother deserved some type of credit for his work on the first version of “Tangerine.” And the Yardbirds ’68 release presumably settled the matter.
Musically speaking, there was never any question about the songwriter. In the end, “Tangerine” went down as a rare Led Zeppelin track credited only to Page. After writing lyrics (in addition to producing, arranging, playing guitar, etc.) in the early years, Page handed off that job to Plant for good.
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