Black Mountain Side

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Black Mountain Side
Appears on Led Zeppelin
Published by Superhype Music
Registration ASCAP 320158432
Release date 12 January 1969
Recorded October 1968
Genre Folk rock
Language English
Length 2 minutes 6 seconds
Composer Jimmy Page
Label Atlantic Records
Producer Jimmy Page
Engineer Glyn Johns

'Black Mountain Side' is an instrumental song by English rock band Led Zeppelin, featured on their 1969 eponymous debut album Led Zeppelin. It was recorded at Olympic Studios, London during October 1968.


'Black Mountain Side' was inspired by a traditional Irish folk song called 'Down by Blackwaterside'. The most well known recording of 'Blackwaterside' being from a 1952 BBC Archive recording of an Irish traveller, Mary Doran.[1] This version was taught to singer Anne Briggs by A. L. Lloyd, and it became popularised on the British club folk circuit during the 1960s. Briggs later taught Bert Jansch the song, who then recorded his own arrangement.

Al Stewart, who had arrived in London in early 1965, followed the folk music scene closely and learnt what he thought was a version of 'Blackwaterside'. However, he mistakenly believed that the song was using DADGAD tuning whereas it was actually using a simpler 'drop D' tuning. At the time, Stewart was recording his own debut record and had engaged guitarist Jimmy Page as a session musician. Allegedly during a break during recordings both Page and Stewart exchanged notes which gave Page the idea to record his own version.


Page recorded 'Black Mountain Side' in DADGAD tuning (which Page called the 'CIA' tuning, an acronym for Celtic, Indian and Arabic),[2] Page later revisited the DADGAD tuning for the song 'Kashmir', which appeared on the band's sixth album Physical Graffiti. In the actual studio recording of 'Black Mountain Side', Page's guitar is tuned a half step down from DADGAD tuning, technically Db-Ab-Db-Gb-Ab-Db. Page also employs the use of a traditional Indian tabla into the recording, making the overall feel of the song as coming from the East.

The beginning of the song is arranged over the end of the previous track on Led Zeppelin, namely 'Your Time Is Gonna Come'. An overdubbed rapid guitar lick can be heard on the album version with the tempo then steadying to 114 beats per minute throughout the song. Page did this to simulate the sound of a sitar, for which the song's dropped-down DADGAD tuning leads into. Page played a borrowed Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar for this recording.[3] To enhance the Indian character of the song, drummer and sitarist Viram Jasani played tabla on the track.[4]

The overall Eastern-flavour of the structure was to lead writer William S. Burroughs into a suggestion to Jimmy Page about Led Zeppelin's music:

[I] did a joint interview with William Burroughs for Crawdaddy magazine in the early Seventies, and we had a lengthy discussion on the hypnotic power of rock and how it paralleled the music of Arabic cultures. This was an observation Burroughs had after hearing 'Black Mountain Side', from our first album. He then encouraged me to go to Morocco and investigate the music first hand, something Robert [Plant] and I eventually did.[5]

Live versions

When the song was played at Led Zeppelin concerts, it was usually featured as part of Jimmy Page's instrumental 'White Summer', with the combined arrangement 'White Summer'/'Black Mountain Side' typically running at eleven minutes. Page would sit on a stool for the duration of the two songs and usually played them on a 1959 Danelectro DC 'Double Cutaway' guitar, tuned differently than his favoured Gibson Les Paul. These songs were used by the band to showcase Page's skills as a guitarist, as he plays almost entirely by himself, with drummer John Bonham adding some fills later in the song. The 'White Summer'/'Black Mountain Side' combination was first performed as part of their first-ever concert at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, California, on 10 January 1969, and the Spokane show from 30 December 1968, features the arrangement without 'Black Mountain Side'.

This song was a component of Led Zeppelin's live set list until their fifth US Tour in 1970. Years later it was restored to their set for the 1977 US Tour, the 1979 concerts and 1980 European tour.[6] 'Black Mountain Side' was also used to lead into 'Kashmir' on this latter tour.

A live version of this song can be seen on the Led Zeppelin DVD, during Led Zeppelin's 1970 Royal Albert Hall appearance. A similar version can be heard, most likely from the Playhouse Theatre sessions from 27 June 1969, on the expanded version of Coda, an album of out-takes released in 1982. This arrangement has the 'White Summer' segment being played for around eight minutes, and 'Black Mountain Side' is heard somewhere in the middle. Page later played versions of this song when he was with the Firm, the group he founded with Paul Rodgers.


  • Musicians:
    • Jimmy Page – electric guitar, producer, remastering, digital remastering
    • Viram Jasani – tabla, percussion
  • Production:
    • Peter Grant – executive producer
    • Glyn Johns – engineer, mixing
    • Joe Sidore – original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
    • George Marino – remastered CD engineer (1990)


  1. Sleeve notes (by A. L. Lloyd) to Anne Briggs' 1971 album Ann Briggs.
  2. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream, 1st edn. London: Omnibus Press, 26. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  3. Case, George (2009). Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man - An Unauthorized Biography, Revised. Milwaukee: Backbeat Books, 69. ISBN 978-0-87930-947-3. 
  4. Fast, Susan (2001). In the Houses of the Holy: Led Zeppelin and the Power of Rock Music, 1st Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 75. ISBN 978-0-19-514723-0. 
  5. Tolinski, Brad; Greg DiBenedetto (May 1993). "Inside the studio with Jimmy Page". Guitar World 14 (5). ISSN 1063-4231.
  6. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream, 1st edn. London: Omnibus Press, 26. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1.