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Discrepency over Black Mountain Side / Blackwaterside claims


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I came up with some interesting research on this matter. It is claimed by some critics that Page learnt the arrangement of "Black Mountain Side" off Bert Jansch's record Jack Orion, which has "Blackwaterside". However if you believe Al Stewart's claim that Page learnt the chords while doing session work with him - that claim on Jack Orion can not hold up. Here's why: When Page did session work with Al Stewart for Decca Records and producer Mike Leander, it was in early to mid 1966. The single from those sessions - "The Elf" backed with "Turn Into Earth" was released in August 1966. Jansch's album Jack Orion was not released until September 1966. How could Stewart and Page have learnt the arrangement off Jack Orion, if Page worked with Stewart before that album by Jansch was ever released? It's not possible. Stewart and Page are psychic? I doubt it.

There are two possibilities here: 1) Al Stewart is not telling the truth or is mistaken or 2) Stewart and Page had possibly heard Jansch and Anne Briggs perform in a London club where they played "Blackwaterside", not from any recording, and certainly not from Jack Orion.

If 2 is correct, Wikipedia and a number of critics are wrong. It wasn't based on the Jack Orion arrangement.

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Al Stewart had seen both Jansch and Anne Briggs perform "Blackwaterside" at the coffee bars in early 1966, before either one of them had recorded the song. Then in June 1966 Stewart did a session with Page and taught the song to Page (according to Stewart).

By the way, Jansch claims that he got the song from Briggs, who claims that she got the song from a traveling Irish folk singer named Mary Doran. However, this is almost definitely wrong. Jansch's version is actually a note-for-note copy of a 1962 version by Isla Cameron.

I always thought it was ironic that the Bert Jansch fans have criticized Page for copying Jansch, yet no one ever criticizes Jansch for copying Isla Cameron.

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Al Stewart had seen both Jansch and Anne Briggs perform "Blackwaterside" at the coffee bars in early 1966, before either one of them had recorded the song. Then in June 1966 Stewart did a session with Page and taught the song to Page (according to Stewart).

By the way, Jansch claims that he got the song from Briggs, who claims that she got the song from a traveling Irish folk singer named Mary Doran. However, this is almost definitely wrong. Jansch's version is actually a note-for-note copy of a 1962 version by Isla Cameron.

I always thought it was ironic that the Bert Jansch fans have criticized Page for copying Jansch, yet no one ever criticizes Jansch for copying Isla Cameron.

Yes, not only saw but I'm led to believe Stewart also performed with them in Soho, when he moved to London in 1965.

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Yes, not only saw but I'm led to believe Stewart also performed with them in Soho, when he moved to London in 1965.

after reading these comments an another on same topic here Blackwaterside It's clear the floating lyrics was in fact common accepted practice , that's until LZ then apprently it's theft

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To be fair, Jansch's "Blackwaterside" is the earliest recorded version to contain those guitar parts. (The Isla Cameron and Mary Doran versions did not have guitar parts, and Anne Briggs did not release her version until 1971.)

However, it's pointless to criticize Jimmy for "stealing" Jansch's material, when Jansch listed it as Traditional in the first place. If Jansch thought that his guitar part was worthy of its own writing credits, then he should have copyrighted it in 1966. He didn't. And the reason why Jansch didn't copyright his guitar parts is because he knew deep down that he stole the melody from Isla Cameron. Sure, he may have added a few unique parts here and there, but it wasn't enough to deserve its own writing credit.

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However, it's pointless to criticize Jimmy for "stealing" Jansch's material, when Jansch listed it as Traditional in the first place. If Jansch thought that his guitar part was worthy of its own writing credits, then he should have copyrighted it in 1966. He didn't. And the reason why Jansch didn't copyright his guitar parts is because he knew deep down that he stole the melody from Isla Cameron. Sure, he may have added a few unique parts here and there, but it wasn't enough to deserve its own writing credit.

A bit like like D&C eh?

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A bit like like D&C eh?

The difference is that Jake Holmes registered a copyright for his version of D&C in 1967, and there's no evidence of any earlier songs that could have influenced Holmes.

But it will be up to a judge to determine if Holmes' copyright was violated by Led Zeppelin.

As for Jansch, he has no copyright and no chance in court. Even if managed to win a lawsuit against Jimmy, he would probably just get sued by 4-5 other people who recorded versions of "Blackwaterside" before Jansch did.

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The difference is that Jake Holmes registered a copyright for his version of D&C in 1967, and there's no evidence of any earlier songs that could have influenced Holmes.

But it will be up to a judge to determine if Holmes' copyright was violated by Led Zeppelin.

As for Jansch, he has no copyright and no chance in court. Even if managed to win a lawsuit against Jimmy, he would probably just get sued by 4-5 other people who recorded versions of "Blackwaterside" before Jansch did.

I was meaning that in the case of Jansch he credited as a traditional as he knew he had 'borrowed' the basic structure of the song. The exact same thing that Jimmy did with D&C. But I'm going off topic, lets not turn this into another D&C.

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... there's no evidence of any earlier songs that could have influenced Holmes.

Not so sure. That whole "woman is evil, woman has done me wrong" motif is fairly common in blues music. Also that descending bassline played on an acoustic guitar has been used in folk music before too.

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Jimmy Page did not learn the song from the album, that's correct. He was familiar with the song since some time back, as he has said that he first heard it as performed by Anne Briggs in a folk club, and probably he later heard Jansch perform his own accompaniment to the song, before meeting Al Stewart who had actually worked out the riff, but using DADGAD tuning, which he taught to Jimmy. So Jimmy had been playing around with a short instrumental version of that before Jack Orion was released, and he certainly used that tuning a few months later for White Summer, which was included on the Yardbirds' Little Games, released early in the year 1967.

Anne Briggs does not claim she learned the song from Mary Doran. She got it from Bert Lloyd, who, as she says, pieced it together from traditional sources. This was right at the start of Anne's career, in 1962, and she used to perform the song a capella at first. Later her friend Johnny Moynihan wrote an accompaniment on guitar, before Bert Jansch then came up with his own. I haven't heard Isla Cameron doing that song. Now, Bert Lloyd wrote the sleeve notes for Cameron's first record in 1958, so they knew each other obviously, and if she played that song in 1962 I would assume she got it from him, like Anne Briggs.

Edited by Otto Masson
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By the way, Jansch claims that he got the song from Briggs, who claims that she got the song from a traveling Irish folk singer named Mary Doran. However, this is almost definitely wrong. Jansch's version is actually a note-for-note copy of a 1962 version by Isla Cameron.

I always thought it was ironic that the Bert Jansch fans have criticized Page for copying Jansch, yet no one ever criticizes Jansch for copying Isla Cameron.

Searching this in the library.. There is at least sheet music of an Isla Cameron version from 1960 listed in an English folk music journal from that year. It states it is a sixteenth-century ballad.

My understanding was that Cameron learnt the song from Anne Briggs. Is she did, Brigg's must have learnt it herself sometime soon after those BBC recordings in the early 1950s.

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The Anne Briggs-Mary Doran connection comes from Bert Lloyd, who said "Anne's version is the one popularised from a BBC Archive recording of an Irish traveller, Mary Doran."

Obviously, Bert is mistaken because Mary Doran's version has a different lyrics and a totally different melody. Perhaps Bert taught the song to Anne Briggs and mistakenly told her that he got it from Mary Doran?

TeaBob -- can you verify that Isla Cameron's version is dated 1960? What book is it mentioned in? If that's the case, then it's virtually impossible that she could have learned the song from Briggs (since Briggs was 15 years old at the time, and she did not come onto the folk scene until 1962).

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Anne Briggs does not claim she learned the song from Mary Doran. She got it from Bert Lloyd, who, as she says, pieced it together from traditional sources. This was right at the start of Anne's career, in 1962, and she used to perform the song a capella at first. Later her friend Johnny Moynihan wrote an accompaniment on guitar, before Bert Jansch then came up with his own.

This is also a contradictory claim from Briggs. In some interviews, she claims that she was NOT playing the "Bert Jansch guitar parts" in 1966. But in other interviews she implies that Page (and Jansch) owes royalties to her guitarist for creating those parts.

The version she recorded in 1971 (

) definitely has a different guitar part.
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This is also a contradictory claim from Briggs. In some interviews, she claims that she was NOT playing the "Bert Jansch guitar parts" in 1966. But in other interviews she implies that Page (and Jansch) owes royalties to her guitarist for creating those parts.

The version she recorded in 1971 (

) definitely has a different guitar part.

It's a shame Isla Cameron died in 1980. It would have been good to hear her side of the Blackwaterside story. The whole issue since has been, pardon the pun, murkied by musicians egos.

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This whole thread seems to be going back and forth and whether there is certainly about the whole thing is another thing. Now regarding this, could we say..."What came first the chicken or the egg?". :unsure: But then again, is this really worth spending this much time upon? :wall:

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This whole thread seems to be going back and forth and whether there is certainly about the whole thing is another thing. Now regarding this, could we say..."What came first the chicken or the egg?". :unsure: But then again, is this really worth spending this much time upon? :wall:

Disagree. This thread has been worth it. Scott has certainly opened up some new info leads. No-one is being forced to read this thread. :hidinginwall:

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Led Zeppelin has had a history of giving themselves song writing credit for old songs that they did not write. I'd like to hear the unspeculated version from each member of the band. If we could put them each in a separate room with no advance warning of what it's about and then ask them and compare answers.

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This whole thread seems to be going back and forth and whether there is certainly about the whole thing is another thing. Now regarding this, could we say..."What came first the chicken or the egg?". :unsure: But then again, is this really worth spending this much time upon? :wall:

Well Dave, Black Mountain Side is based on a traditional song, and Jimmy didn't acknowledge tradition. That's really why people keep bringing it up. And of course that's also why Bert Jansch couldn't and wouldn't ever claim writing credit for the song, because all he did at the time was to create a new guitar accompaniment for it. However, he has stated in no uncertain terms that he feels BMS is very derivative of his guitar arrangement, which is hardly disputable really, although the actual story behind BMS is a bit more complicated than he seems to have imagined.

No new information has surfaced here at all, however, and I don't feel inclined to pursue this discussion any further.

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Disagree. This thread has been worth it. Scott has certainly opened up some new info leads. No-one is being forced to read this thread. :hidinginwall:

I'm not being real serious on this. As far as facts on this, it depends who you ask as you'll get a different interpretation of what happened. But I suppose it really doesn't matter. That's why I'm saying to not spend too much time on it.

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No new information has surfaced here at all, however

Maybe, but not all of it is common knowledge. :)

Some of this information could go a long way towards repairing Jimmy Page's image if it was in wider circulation.

I'd still like to verify the release date for Isla Cameron's version of "Blackwaterside". This site says 1959, but this site says 1962. I wonder if one is the UK release date and the other is the US date?

I would also like to know if there were any other recorded versions of the song prior to 1966. I've found 6 so far (Mary Doran, Paddy Doran, Winnie Ryan, Isla Cameron, Liam Clancy, Paddy Tunney) but I've heard rumors of others (Margaret Barry, Michael Cronin?).

And is there any evidence that the song existed prior to 1952? I haven't seen anything.

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Maybe, but not all of it is common knowledge. :)

Some of this information could go a long way towards repairing Jimmy Page's image if it was in wider circulation.

I'd still like to verify the release date for Isla Cameron's version of "Blackwaterside". This site says 1959, but this site says 1962. I wonder if one is the UK release date and the other is the US date?

I would also like to know if there were any other recorded versions of the song prior to 1966. I've found 6 so far (Mary Doran, Paddy Doran, Winnie Ryan, Isla Cameron, Liam Clancy, Paddy Tunney) but I've heard rumors of others (Margaret Barry, Michael Cronin?).

And is there any evidence that the song existed prior to 1952? I haven't seen anything.

Jimmy has a good image, but there have been a few things such as this, which have tarnished it a bit. With some in the media exaggerating to an extent, such as Howard Stern. Funny thing is that, Stern is a big Zeppelin fan. Just for his ratings, I'm sure.

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