For a long time, many fans understandably pronounced it as phonetically as possible, so that it came out as “Dire Maker.” Unfortunately, that isn’t correct.
According to Robert Plant, the title is based on an old joke in which one man tells another that his wife is going on holiday in a rapid English accent. “D’yer make ‘er?” the second man replies — “Jamaica” but pronounced so quickly that it sounds like “Did you make her?”
“No, she’s going on her own accord,” the punch line goes.
How Reggae Influenced ‘Dyer Mak’er’
It’s also a nod to the song’s reggae tone, but the track — and the drum beat especially – drew from a variety of sources. “The song itself was a cross between reggae and a ’50s number, ‘Poor Little Fool,’ Ben E. King’s things, stuff like that,” Jimmy Page said in a 1977 interview.
Plant in particular had been heavily influenced by reggae music in his early years. “There were Jamaicans all over West Brum where we lived,” guitarist Kevyn Gammond said for Led Zeppelin: The Biography. Gammond played with Plant and drummer John Bonham in Band of Joy before they formed Led Zeppelin.
“Growing up, Rob and I used to listen to their music in coffee bars like the Casa and the Ivy Bush,” Gammond added. “We bought their records on West Indian labels like Trojan. We cut our teeth in their clubs in Huddersfield and Smethwick and played to Black Jamaican audiences at the Ridgeway Georgian. ‘D’yer Mak’er’ comes right out of those days.”
Listen to Led Zeppelin’s ‘D’yer Mak’er’
Only Half of Led Zeppelin Agreed on ‘D’yer Mak’er’
Not everyone was thrilled with the track: Bonham did not consider himself a reggae fan. “John was interested in everything except jazz and reggae,” bassist John Paul Jones said 2001’s John Bonham: A Thunder of Drums. “He didn’t hate jazz, but he hated playing reggae. He thought it was really boring.
“He wouldn’t play anything but the same shuffle beat all the way through it,” Jones said. “It would have been all right if he had worked at the part, [but] he wouldn’t, so it sounded dreadful.”
This led to what he thought to be a relatively uninspiring song. “The whole point of reggae,” Jones insisted, “is that the drums and bass really have to be very strict about what they play.”
Released on Sept. 17, 1973, “D’yer Mak’er” became a hit single, but the spelling and its unique punctuation left some scratching their heads. DJs regularly stumbled over the title.
“In America, they had no clue what it meant, and it was just boring to have to explain what it was,” Page told Classic Rock in 2016. “You’d think: Why didn’t we name it something else? At least the Brits got it, thank God.”
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