"White Summer" is a guitar instrumental by English rock guitarist Jimmy Page, which incorporates Indian and Arabic musical influences. It was initially recorded and performed with the Yardbirds and later included in many Led Zeppelin concerts. It is based on an old Irish folk song, "specifically derived from 'She Moved Through the Fair' in the 1963 version by Davy Graham, which he in turn credited to Padraic Colum". The later Led Zeppelin song "Over the Hills and Far Away" was "spun off" from "White Summer" as well as an unreleased 20-minute instrumental recorded in early 1974 at Headley Grange.
The Yardbirds version:
"White Summer" was recorded 28-29 April 1967 at De Lane Lea Studios in London. Jimmy Page was the only band member to perform on the recording and was accompanied by Chris Karan on tabla and an unidentified wind instrumentalist doubling the melody line. It shows "the confluence of traditional Eastern and Western music in its instrumental techniques, musical theory and style". In an interview Page gave in 1977, he commented:
I used a special tuning for the song; the low string down to D, then A, D, G, A and D. It's like a modal tuning, a sitar tuning, in fact.
Page also commented that he called this tuning his "'C.I.A.' tuning -- Celtic-Indian-Arabic -- because that's what it was ... DADGAD was something going around the folk scene during the 1960s" and was used by Davy Graham for his "She Moved Through the Fair".
"White Summer" was released on the Yardbirds' last album, Little Games. An alternate take/mix without the accompaniment was included on the 1992 Yardbirds compilation Cumular Limit. It was a staple of live Yardbird performances with Jim McCarty usually providing a drum part and appears on the albums Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page and Glimpses 1963-1968. When playing the song live with the Yardbirds, Page used a 1961 Danelectro 3021 guitar.
Led Zeppelin version:
Led Zeppelin frequently performed "White Summer" as part of a medley with "Black Mountain Side" during their 1968-70 tours and again on the 1977 US, 1979 and 1980 Europe tours. A live performance during the band's U.K. Tour of Summer 1969was recorded by the BBC at the Playhouse Theatre in London on 27 June 1969 for the pilot of Radio One's In Concert series. This recording was released in 1990 on the Led Zeppelin Boxed Set with the combined title "White Summer/Black Mountain Side". The piece was later included as a bonus track on the 1993 boxed set The Complete Studio Recordings.
Page used his Danelectro to play the medley, as shown on 2003's Led Zeppelin DVD, which was filmed at the Royal Albert Hall on 9 January 1970. On 23 April 1970, Page performed the piece on the Julie Felix Show. Page also played it when he was with The Firm and again during his Outrider tour, seguing into "White Summer/Black Mountain Side" as part of the solo section of "Midnight Moonlight".