Why Led Zeppelin Didn't Include 'Down by the Seaside' on 'IV'

Fifty years after its release, the untitled fourth Led Zeppelin album (1971) still stands as one of the high points in rock history. The LP earned that reputation with a tracklist that included “Stairway to Heaven,” “When the Levee Breaks,” and “Black Dog.”

You could argue what the Zep didn’t include mattered just as much. During the early ’71 sessions for Led Zeppelin IV, the group recorded “Down by the Seaside” in addition to “Boogie with Stu” and “Night Flight. But those tracks didn’t turn up on a Zep album until Physical Graffiti (1975).

These days, it’s hard to imagine IV (aka “Runes” and “Four Symbols”) featuring “Down by the Seaside” on either side of the band’s ’71 masterpiece. Looking back, Jimmy Page said it was never really an option to include the track on that record.

‘Down by the Seaside’ was never a big contender for ‘Led Zeppelin IV’

By the time of sessions for its fourth album, there was no such thing as “typical Led Zeppelin.” Tracks such as “What Is and What Should Never Be” and “Friends” proved the band would continue experimenting — and refuse to simply crank out blues-rock thumpers.

“Down by the Seaside,” which began as an acoustic number during the Led Zeppelin III sessions, ended up as another against-type track. The band did turn up the intensity in the rocking middle section, but the song’s overall vision and feel certainly didn’t fit the fourth album.

Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2015, Page spoke of the IV tracklist as something he wouldn’t have tampered with. “If you think about it, you couldn’t have substituted anything off the fourth album with any of those [leftover] tracks, quite rightly so,” Page told the magazine.

Still, Page did think enough of “Down by the Seaside” to bring it back into the mix for Physical Graffiti. But even then it didn’t seem like a contender, given Page’s bandmates’ reaction to the track he’d written with Robert Plant.

Members of Zep reportedly laughed about ‘Down by the Seaside’ going on ‘Physical Graffiti’

Years after the recording of “Down by the Seaside,” the track might have seemed destined for the vaults. According to several sources, Plant faced pushback from his bandmates when the singer suggested including the song on Physical Graffiti.

In fact, in Led Zeppelin All the Songs (2018), the authors relay the anecdote that has members of Zep laughing about Plant’s idea to revive “Down by the Seaside” for the double album. (John Paul Jones reportedly liked the track the least.) Granted, the album did start off on a very tough note — with “Custard Pie,” “The Rover,” and “In My Time of Dying” leading the way.

But once the Zep made room for “Boogie with Stu” and “Night Flight” (both highly unique tracks), “Down by the Seaside” didn’t seem so out of character. Apparently, Jones’ reservations about “Down by the Seaside” didn’t prove to be a death knell.

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