Led Zeppelin did not set out to be a singles band. The legendary hard rock band never had a single released in their own UK for the bulk of their existence. Since their American audiences were exponentially larger, singles were necessary evils, but Led Zeppelin considered themselves an album-focused group throughout their career. There was never a time when you couldn’t find a song featured on a single that wasn’t already on a studio album.
That is, with one noteworthy exception. Zeppelin only only had one single in their whole career that included a B-side that was never included on a studio album. The group issued “Immigrant Song” as a single back then, in 1970. The song ended up being the first track on Led Zeppelin III, and its B-side served as an example of the more acoustic approach that Zeppelin would use throughout the remainder of the album. The music itself wouldn’t be included, which is strange.
Led Zeppelin’s performance on “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” is nearly entirely electric-free. Jimny Page plays acoustic guitars, John Paul Jones plays mandolin, and Jones’ bass guitar is the sole plugged-in instrument in the song. Robert Plant cheerfully sings his blues-inspired lyrics about his companion who remains intoxicated all the time and can’t stay faithful while John Bonham bangs out his distinctive rhythms.
‘Hey, Hey, What Can I Do’ would have been the ideal addition to Led Zeppelin III since it blends the traditional come-ons of Zeppelin’s past with their folkier orientation of the future. However, for whatever reason, the song was dropped from the finished release, making Zeppelin’s only recording of it on the “Immigrant Song” single for a number of years. There is a good probability that you were unaware that “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” existed if you lived in the UK and were unable to obtain an import copy.
Hey, Hey, What Can I Do was included on the 1982 compilation album Coda despite Zeppelin never playing the song live during their current career. This was due to the song’s reputation as a deep cut. Before it was included on a full-length album for the first time, the song had been around for more than ten years by that point. The song’s presence on later box sets and compilations increased its popularity among Zeppelin fans, but for a while, knowing the folky strums of “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” put you on the top echelon of fandom.