The song has been incorrectly mislabeled as a tale about a bad acid trip. Holmes himself has confirmed that this is not the case. In 2001 he gave an interview to Shindig! magazine and said this about "Dazed and Confused":
I never took acid. I smoked grass and tripped on it, but I never took acid. I was afraid to take it. The song's about a girl who hasn't decided whether she wants to stay with me or not. It's pretty much one of those love songs.
It was never officially recorded by the band, although an unauthorized live version was included on the semi-legitimate Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page album under the alternate title "I'm Confused". Another live recording from french TV series "Bouton Rouge" (recorded on 9 March 1968) was released on Cumular Limit in 2000, credited as "Dazed and Confused" by Jake Holmes arr. Yardbirds.
When the Yardbirds disbanded in 1968, the song "Dazed and Confused" was re-worked by Page yet again, this time as a member of Led Zeppelin. They recorded their version in October 1968 at Olympic Studios, London, and the song was included on their 1969 debut album Led Zeppelin. It begins with a slow-tempo bluesy rhythm, propelled by John Paul Jones' descending bass line. It then changes to a faster tempo during the darkest part of the song, again featuring bowed guitar by Page, followed by a furious guitar solo (similar to Page's solo from the Yardbirds' "Think About It"), before finally returning to the initial rhythm. John Bonham's sporadic, explosive drumming throughout helped define the song's power and intensity.
This was one of three Led Zeppelin songs on which Page used bowed guitar, the other being "How Many More Times", and "In the Light". The song "In the Evening" utilized several tremolo bar drops to mimic the bow sound.
ASCAP , which assigns serial codes on the basis of published songs, did not give the same ASCAP code to both versions of "Dazed and Confused"; normally, cover versions are assigned the same number. ASCAP assigns a new number if, in its opinion, the song structure differs markedly to warrant a separate entry. Jake Holmes' "Dazed and Confused" was given the code 340119544, while Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused" was given the code 340128276.
Over time, the improvisational suite incorporated more and more material. In 1972, including on the live How the West Was Won, the song incorporated riffs from the Led Zeppelin songs "The Crunge", and "Walter's Walk". By 1973, the song featured an extended transition before the cello bow solo, which incorporated a melody that would later be used in 1976's "Achilles Last Stand". Plant sang lyrics from either Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco" or Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock" during this transition. Also during this time, the violin solo would incorporate "Mars" from Gustav Holst's suite The Planets, accompanied by Plant's vocalizations.
A live version of "Dazed and Confused" was featured on Led Zeppelin's 1973 concert film, The Song Remains the Same (and accompanying soundtrack), as part of Page's fantasy sequence. Other live recordings are also found on the official releases Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions (featuring two different versions), How the West Was Won, and the Led Zeppelin DVD.
"Dazed and Confused" was performed on every Led Zeppelin concert tour up to and including their 1975 shows at Earls Court. It was then removed from their live set, although Page continued to perform parts of the bowed guitar segment during solo spots in 1977 and 1979 (as preludes to "Achilles Last Stand" and "In the Evening", respectively. It was performed once again at Led Zeppelin's reunion show at the O2 Arena, London on December 10, 2007.
English rock band Electrasy included a cover of the song on their 2000 album In Here We Fall.
The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.