Today in 1982 Led Zeppelin’s last studio album, Coda, was released. The album basically consists of unreleased leftovers and was issued to fulfill contract obligations after the band’s 1980 breakup (following the death of drummer John Bonham). The band’s original Swan Song contract, signed in 1974, called for five albums, so they had to deliver this last one even though they were no longer together. With no intention of keeping the group together in any form, Jimmy Page started collecting leftover tracks in the summer of 1981, with the idea of creating an album that profiled their 12-year career. He brought in Robert Plant and John Paul Jones for some overdubs and put a collection of tracks together. Once completed, he delayed the album’s release for a while until Plant’s debut solo album, Pictures at Eleven, was safely in the record stores.
The jacket was a simple affair in gray with green text (the text is embossed on the original issue). The gatefold cover opened to reveal a selection of band photos from 1969 to 1979, including color shots from the Bath Festival (1970) and Knebworth (1979). There were no symbols, no hidden messages and no bizarre designs, apart from a photo on the back cover of ten flying discs or crop circles (perhaps representing the ten Led Zeppelin albums).
The album initially had a working title of Early Days and Latter Days, which many Zep fans will recognize instead as the title of the two-volume “best of” set released in 2002. The eventual title chosen, Coda, is defined musically as “an independent passage introduced after the main part of a movement”. Rather appropriate. It was a dignified exit, but very low-key. There was hardly any advertising or promotion – fans were lucky if they spotted posters on the street announcing the album’s arrival. Even so, despite the antipathy towards the band from a music press now preoccupied with the new music acts of the 1980s, the new album got to #6 on the Billboard chart. However, it was a sign of the changing times that fans soon found copies of Coda on sale in the record store cut-out bargain bins; many still-sealed copies from this era are still readily available today.
We’re Gonna Groove – Credited to Ben E. King, this is an outtake from Led Zeppelin II. This was treated to some guitar effect overdubs by Page in 1982 before it was added to the album.
Poor Tom – An outtake from Led Zeppelin III, this one has a heavy New Orleans-style rhythm, propelled along by an inventive Bonham shuffle.
I Can’t Quit You Baby is a live sound check version (from the Royal Albert Hall in 1970) of the same track from the first album. But this is a stronger version than on the first album; Page’s solo is cleaner and he drops the volume down before being rudely interrupted by Bonham crashing in.
Walter’s Walk – An outtake from 1973’s Houses of the Holy. A strangely muddy sound pervades this piece, which lacks a strong melody. Some experts have suggested that this was only ever a backing track, updated later for inclusion on Coda.
Ozone Baby – This structured pop song is an outtake from 1979’s In Through the Out Door. Not very impressive.
Darlene – Another outtake from In Through the Out Door, this driving rock-n-roll jam with tinkling piano and offbeat drumming eventually develops into a long, rousing Jimmy Page fade out.
Bonzo’s Montreaux – Jimmy Page produced this all-percussive track for Bonham at Mountain Studios in Montreaux, Switzerland in Sept 1976. It’s credited to “The John Bonham Drum Orchestra”. With Page’s added electronic treatments, including the use of a Harmonizer, this is Bonzo in a thoughtful, constructive mode, far removed from the tear-away stuff of “Moby Dick”. Divided into sections, the piece rumbles along, sounding like a steel band about to trip and fall.
Wearing and Tearing – Yet another outtake from In Through the Out Door, this is a real head-banger and a reminder that Zep were a band still capable of rocking out. Plant and Page had said this was the song that would knock the newly-emerging London punk bands off their high horses, and it was planned to be released as a single in time for their 1979 Knebworth shows. But it missed the deadline because of problems with the pressing, and never happened at all. Plant later said they had planned to release it on a different label under a fake band name, to compete with The Damned and the Sex Pistols, but this never happened either.
Certified Gold February 7, 1983
Certified Platinum February 7, 1983