Today in 1974 Led Zeppelin officially launched the UK branch of their Swan Song label, with a bizarre party at Chislehurst Caves in London. The Caves are a 22 mile-long series of tunnels in the southeastern suburbs of greater London. Though called caves, they are entirely man-made mines for chalk and flint. During the 1960s, the caves were used as a music venue. David Bowie, Status Quo, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd all performed there at some point in time.
Swan Song was formally started back in May of 1974 in New York, but this was the official launch for the UK branch, also celebrating the label’s first UK release by the Pretty Things (the first U.S. release for Swan Song was the debut album from Bad Company in June 1974). The decision to launch their own label came after Zeppelin’s five year contract with Atlantic Records expired at the end of 1973, but Atlantic Records ultimately distributed all Swan Song’s product. Swan Song ceased operations in October 1983 due to the break-up of Led Zeppelin and band manager Peter Grant’s ailing health.
The logo design was adopted from an 1896 work by American painter William Rimmer, entitled Evening or the Fall of Day. The original image was modified slightly by Jimmy Page, with both arms raised and some alteration to the wings, for the Swan Song logo.
The name Swan Song came from a long acoustic-guitar instrumental piece Page had been fooling around with during recording sessions. A semi-classical epic with added vocals, it had no name until somebody asked him what it was called. Page replied “Swan Song”. At one time it was going to be used as the title for the next album, but it ended up as the label name instead.