Poor Tom

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Poor Tom
Appears on Coda
Published by Flames of Albion Music
Registration ASCAP 460214008
Release date 19 November 1982
Recorded 6 May 1970 at
Olympic Studios, London.
Mixed at the Sol Studio, Cookham, Berkshire.
Genre Blues rock
Language English
Length 3 minutes 3 seconds
Composer Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Label Swan Song Records
Producer Jimmy Page
Engineer Andy Johns

'Poor Tom' is a song by English rock group Led Zeppelin.

Overview

It was composed in 1970 by vocalist Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page when they were staying at Bron-Yr-Aur, a small cottage in Wales,[1][2] and was recorded at Olympic Studios on 6 May 1970. The song was left off the album Led Zeppelin III but was eventually included on the band's album Coda, released in 1982 two years after the death of drummer John Bonham, having been produced by Page at his newly-acquired Sol Studios.[3]

Although the lyrics can be difficult to decipher, the song appears to be about a hard working labourer on the Mississippi River named Tom who does away with his unfaithful wife Ellie May. Tom may also be psychic, as the lines 'Poor Tom, seventh son/Always knew what was goin' on' can be interpreted as a reference to the folk belief that seventh sons of seventh sons were clairvoyant. The title may have come from Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies. In the story, a poor chimneysweep called Tom falls into a bedroom owned by Miss Ellie, who is dying. Tom is accused of being a thief and subsequently drowns in a river after being pursued.

'Poor Tom' is viewed by fans as another one of Led Zeppelin's blues-influenced songs and contains a jug-band workout, as well as a semi-acoustic guitar part performed by Page. A harmonica, played by Plant, and a drum track are also featured on the arrangement. The guitar tuning for the song is an open-C6 chord (C-A-C-G-C-E). The same tuning was also used by Page on the tracks 'Bron-Yr-Aur' and 'Friends'.[4]

The song was never performed live at Led Zeppelin concerts.[5]

Chart positions

Song (Airplay)

Chart (1982) Peak position
US Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart[6] 18

Credits

Personnel
  • Musicians:
    • Jimmy Page – acoustic guitar, producer, remastering, digital remastering
    • Robert Plant – vocals, harmonica
    • John Paul Jones – acoustic bass
    • John Bonham - drums, percussion
  • Production:
    • Peter Grant – executive producer
    • Andy Johns - engineer
    • Stuart Epps - engineer, mixing
    • Joe Sidore - original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
    • George Marino - remastered CD engineer (1990)

References

  1. Sutcliffe, Phil (2003). "Led Zeppelin: Back to Nature". Q: 34. ISSN 0955-4955.
  2. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 97. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  3. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 97. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  4. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 97. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  5. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 97. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  6. Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart - 1982. Billboard. Retrieved on 2009-01-17.