Today in 1969 Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut album was released in the UK. Because Zeppelin had signed with the US label Atlantic Records, their album had already been released in the states back on January 12 of that year. But many people think that the UK release was the first issue, most likely because Led Zeppelin was a British band. Indeed, near-mint UK pressings of their first album commonly fetch over $1,000 at auction these days. But this is due mainly to the fact that the sound quality on the UK pressings is superior (to hear audiophiles tell it, anyway) to that of the US pressings; UK vinyl was heavier and of better quality, and it generally produced a better sound.
For those of you who are vinyl collectors, here’s what to look for:
The first US pressing (Jan 1969) has a pink and tan label, as opposed to the green and red label that was ultimately used on all remaining first and re-issues. This pink/tan Atco-style label was a mistake by Atlantic Records and it was soon withdrawn, as the plan was to put Zeppelin on their primary Atlantic label. These pink/tan label pressings commonly fetch at least a few hundred dollars in near-mint condition. The catalog number for both of these pressings is SD-8216.
The first UK pressing (March 1969) has a red and purple label and states “Under licence from Atlantic Recording Corps, U.S.A.” on it. In addition, the first UK pressing can also be identified by the turquoise lettering on the jacket. These jackets were available for only the first few weeks after release (the lettering was later changed to red) and are highly sought-after collectibles today. The catalog number for this pressing is 588171. Later the UK label colors were changed to green and red, just like the US pressings.