Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 231
Mon. Oct. 07, 2013
“That’s The Way”
Led Zeppelin & Jimmy Page and Robert Plant
1970, 1971, 1972; 1994
I was driving in Los Angeles, with the windows rolled down, sun shining over my shades and this lovely Led Zeppelin song came to mind. I love the fall, it doesn’t matter where you live, because the cool breezing, sun filled weather always reflects the beauty in this 1970 acoustic classic from Led Zeppelin’s third LP. “That’s The Way” was immortalized on film, cinephiles and fans of Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous will remember the original album version from 1970’s Led Zeppelin III:
Songs like “That’s The Way” reflected a creatively rhythmic versatility that most critics of the band just couldn’t understand as Jimmy Page explained in a 1975 interview with Steve Pinder, when Zeppelin’s guitarist said, “The key to Zeppelin’s longevity has been change. We put out our first LP; then a second one that was nothing like the first, then a third LP totally different from them, and on it went. I know why we got a lot of bad press on our albums. People couldn’t understand, a lot of reviewers couldn’t understand why we put out an LP like Zeppelin II, then followed it up with III with “That’s the Way” and acoustic numbers like that on it. They just couldn’t understand it. The fact was that Robert and I had gone away-to Bron-Y-Aur cottage in Wales and started writing songs. Christ. that was the material we had. so we used it. It was nothing like, “We got to do some heavy rock &roll because that’s what our image demands…” Album-wise, it usually takes a year for people to catch up with what we’re doing.”
As Page mentioned in his interview with Pinder, the creation of “That’s The Way” was truly inspired by the setting at Bron-Y-Aur, as he reminisced with Barney Hoskyns in his book Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band, when he said, “It was one of those days after a long walk, and we were setting back to the cottage. We had a guitar with us. It was a tiring walk coming down a ravine, and we stopped and sat down. I played the tune [of “That’s The Way”], and Robert sang a verse straight off. [Luckily] we had a tape recorder with us.” Plant remembered that time being just as magical as Jimmy’s telling Hoskyns, “My heart was so light and happy. It was the beginning of a new era altogether. At that time and age, 1970 was the biggest blue sky I ever saw.” Speaking of the biggest blue skies, you can imagine the picturesque beauty as Led Zeppelin bring this acoustic gem to life in this live 1971 version from The BBC Sessions:
In Hoskyns’ Led Zeppelin: The Oral History, Roy Harper remembers fondly his memories of hearing this acoustic gem on the band’s historic third LP as he was quoted in Hoskyns’ book, when he said, ““That’s The Way” was probably Robert finding himself, right at the beginning of his own real writing. If you stand back and look at that album, it really is like their first record.” Plant agreed telling Hoskyns, “There was quite a lot of moving around, and it was interesting, really. The places the Fairport’s and the String Band were coming from were places we loved very much. The Zeppelin was moving into that area in its own way. It was part bluff and part absolute ecstasy—going from “You Shook Me” to “That’s The Way.” I actually relaxed enough to start weaving a melody that was acceptable without it having to have that blues-based thing going on.” Just like Page mentioned, “That’s The Way” showed critics and fans alike that Zeppelin wasn’t just a cock rock, blues based metal band. This acoustic masterpiece showed that Page, Plant, Bonham and Paul Jones could craft the most radiantly memorable acoustic flavored songs.
“That’s The Way” was such a touching vintage acoustic number that it even impressed Rolling Stone reviewer Lester Bangs so much he wrote this, “ [“That’s The Way” was] the first song they’ve done that truly moved me. Son of a Gun, it’s beautiful.” And I believe there’s none more beautiful a version as the one Jimmy Page and Robert Plant captured live on 1994’s Unledded LP. Listen to the addition of the banjo, which is my least favorite instrument ever, but adds so much color to this already dream like Led Zeppelin original. My favorite of all renditions had to be this one that Page & Plant reinterpreted in this live version from 1994’s Unledded:
Jimmy Page recalls the moment “That’s The Way” came into existence as he shared in an interview with Mojo Magazine in 2010, “I can still remember exactly where we were when we wrote That’s the Way. Robert was seriously affected by the situation and being able to write it down and make a statement was great. That wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been there.” If you were at the L.A. Forum on June 25th, 1972, you would have been there to have seen Led Zeppelin perform this amazing rendition released on 2003 How The West Was Won CD:
In an interview with Steve Stav, writer/director Cameron Crowe talked about how important it was to get Led Zeppelin’s music in his very personal 2000 film Almost Famous when the former scribe of Rolling Stone said, “Without Zeppelin, it wouldn’t be real. I never knew what kind of mood they would be in. In fact, we’d heard they had loved Trainspotting, that they wished there was a movie like Trainspotting that was musical and visual to lend their songs to. We’d also heard that they didn’t want to be associated with the 70s. When we flew to England to show it to them, we didn’t know what sort of attitude was there waiting for us. What was waiting for us were very open minds…. I think (Page and Plant) appreciated the sincerity of the movie, and they asked for more of their music to be included — which we were only too happy to accommodate.” Page agreed telling Stav, that of all Zeppelin’s songs Crowe used in Almost Famous, “That’s The Way” is the one that was used best.”
Which ever version of “That’s The Way” you prefer, the 1970 original, the 1971 live rendition released on BBC Sessions, 1972’s live version from How The West Was Won or Page & Plant’s 1994 Unledded reinterpretation, we can agree that this Led Zeppelin song is cinematic by nature. In any setting, “That’s The Way” will remain the ideal soundtrack that will turn any hazy afternoon into the biggest, most lyrically inspired blue sky ever seen. All you have to do is put on your headphones, close your eyes and let Page, Plant, Bonham and Paul Jones bring your daydreams to light.