The Emotional Message Of Led Zeppelin’s Tangerine, Here’s How Robert Plant Explained It
Extremely popular back in the 1970s, Led Zeppelin is a legendary rock band that still has a wide audience today. Originally named the New Yardbirds, the band was formed in 1978 by Jimmy Page who is widely considered as one of the greatest guitarists of all time with his international success.
Led Zeppelin has been mostly known for breaking the records for their tours with their hundreds of sold-out concerts and their legendary songs such as ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ ‘Black Dog,’ ‘Whole Lotta Love,’ and ‘Dazed and Confused’. Apart from these popular tracks, ‘Tangerine’ also attracts the audience by its emotional depth with its concentration on lost love and strumming acoustic guitar tones.
The song was recorded in 1970, and appeared in the album ‘Led Zeppelin III’. It was included in the second side of the record which was more acoustic and folk-oriented and quickly topped the album charts in those days. While there is some disagreement on whether Jimmy Page was responsible for the lyrics before Led Zeppelin, the song touches the feelings of the listeners and carries a deeply emotional message.
Did Jimmy Page Write ‘Tangerine’ Before Led Zeppelin?
The song ‘Tangerine’ dates back to the days when Page was the guitarist of the New Yardbirds. In 1968, the band recorded the song as an early version, with the name ‘Knowing That I’m Losing You’. Following that, after being recorded in 1970, ‘Tangerine’ appeared on Led Zeppelin’s several concerts and has been covered by various musicians. The song is known to be the last song written by Page without lyrics by Robert Plant and the only Jimmy Page song which Robert Plant does not receive the credit of songwriting in the album Led Zeppelin III.
The song has been known by the controversy about who wrote the lyrics. In an interview made by Rolling Stone, Jimmy Page, who is responsible as the lyricist on all other Led Zeppelin releases, claims that he wrote the lyrics for ‘Tangerine,’ but did not put it out until the third Led Zeppelin album.
In Led Zeppelin: The Definitive Biography by Ritchie Yorkie, he also claims that he wrote the lyrics, adding that he wrote it after an old emotional upheaval and just changed some parts of the lyrics for the new version. In another interview with Total Guitar, Page still claims he wrote the song back in the Yardbirds and waited for a time until he thought it is fit in the right texture as in the third album.
However, in several sources, Case, Shadwick, and Williamson who are the biographers of Led Zeppelin claim that the song is the joint effort of Jimmy Page and Yardbird’s singer and songwriter Keith Relf. Moreover, Jim McCarty and Christ Dreja from Yardbirds assert that Relf wrote for ‘Knowing That I’m Losing You,’ and his lines ended up also being in ‘Tangerine’.
What Is The Emotional Message Behind ‘Tangerine’?
Along with the fact that the album Led Zeppelin III which ‘Tangerine’ was in was considered as one of the most anticipated albums of 1970, the song ‘Tangerine’ was and is a song which is greatly appreciated by the fans. The song is about the heartbreak and regret caused by a lost relationship, telling the story of a man who is longing for his long-lost former romance. Some sources and fans claim that the song is about Jackie De Shannon who had a relationship with Page and inspired by their break-up.
In a recording from the concert performed on May 24, 1975, by Led Zeppelin in Earls Court Arena, London, Robert Plant is also seen talking about ‘Tangerine’. Plant says in the video that the song is for our families, friends, and people who have been close to us while we are going through a lot. He then adds that the song reflects love in its early, most innocent stages.
In the video, Robert Plant said that:
“Last time we played in Cardiff at the Locarno, the equipment was set up and they wouldn’t let us through the doors, because we didn’t have a tie on. It was really, those were the days, and has it changed that much? Has Cardiff changed that much? But things do change and, and through the changes, we meet a lot of friends.
Some of them fall on their faces, and some of them are around to give us some strength when we’re a little bit down. This song is really for our families, and friends, and the people who have been close to us through the lot. It’s a song of love in its most, in its most innocent stages. It’s called Tangerine.”
You can check out his speech and the song in the video below.