Led Zeppelin History – Nov 11

Today in 1997 the Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions 4-disc album box was released, featuring radio sessions recorded during March and June 1969, and April 1971. It went on to sell over 2 million copies in the U.S.




Led Zeppelin History – Nov 9

Today, the double album Yardbirds ’68 went on sale on Jimmy Page’s website.

Recorded in 1968 in New York City when the group was a quartet with guitarist Jimmy Page, the album includes live performances and demos. Jimmy Page produced the album. The tracks were recorded during the Yardbirds’ last American tour in 1968; the live recordings are from their performance at the Anderson Theater on March 30, and the studio recordings are demos from sessions at Columbia Recording Studio in April. Previously, the ten live tracks appeared on Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page. The unauthorized album was issued by Epic Records in 1971, but was quickly withdrawn after Page threatened to sue.

Led Zeppelin History – Nov 8

This is the big one, boys and girls. Today in 1971, Led Zeppelin’s fourth album was released. Although also known as Led Zeppelin IVRunes, Four Symbols and Zoso, this album is officially untitled, with the band using symbols on it to represent themselves. The album is an eclectic mix of their acoustic and electric talent, with quality electric rockers like “Black Dog” and “Rock And Roll”. “The Battle of Evermore” (in which Plant duets with Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention) and “Going to California” carried on the band’s acoustic tradition, as displayed on Led Zeppelin III. And the merging of these acoustic and electric styles ultimately resulted in “Stairway to Heaven”.

In the run-up to the album’s release a series of teaser ads depicting the four symbols was run in the media. It didn’t take fans long to associate these with Led Zeppelin, and the album was an instant massive seller. The album debuted on the charts in the UK at #1, and remained there for 62 weeks. In the U.S. it remained on the chart longer than any other Zeppelin album so far, although it failed to knock Carole King’s Tapestry off the top. Ultimately this album would prove to be the most durable seller in Zeppelin’s catalog and the most impressive critical and commercial success of their career.

Sleeve Notes:
Atlantic Records was stunned to hear the band’s plans for the album’s cover artwork. The band wanted no group name, title, track listing, group photo, catalogue number or label logo. Instead, the band decided to set a precedent by selecting symbols to represent themselves in lieu of a cover title. Atlantic was appalled by the idea, but Jimmy Page withheld the album’s master tapes until they relented. Page stated in 2001 that the cover wasn’t meant to antagonize the record label, but rather it was designed as a response to music critics who maintained that the success of their first three albums was driven by hype and not talent. So they stripped everything away and let the music do the talking. Many copies shipped with Atlantic-placed rectangular black track-listing stickers on them though…


Page commissioned each band member to choose his own symbol, which appears on the inner sleeve and on the label of the vinyl. The tan inner sleeve also contains the lyrics to “Stairway”. The sleeve design was wordless and the portrait on the cover was actually bought from a junk shop by Robert Plant. The Hermit character on the inside of the jacket is from the Tarot, and represents self-reliance and wisdom. It was drawn in pencil and gold paint by Barrington Colby and is titled, “View in Half or Varying Light”. Page’s self-designed symbol resembles the alchemical symbol for mercury, but nothing more is really known about it. There are also possibly references to symbols standing for some of Page’s astrological signs. Jones’ symbol (the circle with the trisecting ovals) came from a book of runes and is said to represent confidence and competence. Bonham’s (the three intersecting circles) came from the same book, and is said to represent the man-wife-child trilogy. Some have remarked that it also resembles the symbol for Ballantine Beer, supposedly a Bonham favorite. Plant also designed his own symbol; the feather in the circle is based on a sign of the ancient Mu civilization, and is said to represent courage and his lyrical and spiritual outlook. Due to the lack of an official title, Atlantic Records distributed graphics of the symbols in many sizes to the press for inclusion in charts and articles. The album was one of the first to be produced without conventional identification, communicating an anti-commercialism stance that was rather controversial at the time.


Album Notes:
At one time it was supposedly to be released as 4 EPs, but because of various mixing delays, a single album was eventually produced. Initial recording began at Basing Street Studios in London in December 1970. But upon the suggestion of Fleetwood Mac, the band then moved to Headley Grange, a remote historic Victorian poorhouse in East Hampshire, to conduct additional recordings. Here they used the Rolling Stones’ mobile studio. Page later recalled, “We needed the sort of facilities where we could have a cup of tea and wander around the garden and go in and do what we had to do.” This relaxed, atmospheric environment at Headley Grange also provided other advantages for the band; by moving there for the whole period of recording, many of the tracks could be created and committed to tape on the spot.

Once the basic tracks had been recorded, the band later added overdubs at Island Studios in London, and then took the completed master tapes to Sunset Sound in Los Angeles for mixing. However, the mix ultimately proved to be less than satisfactory, creating an unwanted delay in the album’s release. Further mixing had to be undertaken in London, pushing the eventual release date back by several months.

Black Dog
Rock and Roll
The Battle Of Evermore
Stairway to Heaven
Misty Mountain
Four Sticks
Going to California
When The Levee Breaks

Unreleased Material:
As with previous albums, these sessions produced a number of unused tracks. Three of these, “Boogie With Stu”, “Night Flight”, and “Down By the Seaside” would surface in 1975 on Physical Graffiti. They also worked on an early version of “No Quarter”, which would appear in 1973 on Houses of the Holy.

Certified Gold November 16, 1971
Certified Platinum (x23) January 30, 2006 (38 million copies worldwide)
Certified Diamond November 15, 1999

Led Zeppelin History – Nov 4

Today in 1969 Zeppelin played an uncharacteristically short set, at their Kitchener Memorial Auditorium concert in Ontario, Canada.

The show wasn’t all it could have been. The crowd was small, partly because of the Iron Butterfly concert at the University of Waterloo only last week and partly because of the stiff ticket prices ($4 and $5), and Led Zeppelin weren’t at their best.

“Tonight was a very short set,” Page said after the 45-minute show. “I didn’t do my set because of the amplifier blowing and the drummer didn’t do his set because he wasn’t feeling well.” Plant admitted that his voice was giving him problems too. Usually the group plays twice as long.

But the audience overlooked the show’s obvious faults and demanded more music when the group left the stage. They ran back, Plant tugging his t-shirt on again and gave one number, Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody.”
(J. Clemente / Kitchener Record / Nov. 5, 1969)

Good Times Bad Times (intro), Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You Baby, Heartbreaker, Dazed and Confused, What Is and What Should Never Be, How Many More Times, C’mon Everybody.

Led Zeppelin History – Nov 1

Today in 2010 Robert Plant revealed in a BBC interview that he came close to quitting Led Zeppelin in 1977. He said that after the death of his 5-year old son in July of that year, he was pretty much ready to leave the band and take up teaching. “I left Zeppelin completely. I left the mentality that you need to be a singer. My values changed then.”

But after a year spent quietly recovering from the tragedy, Plant eventually re-emerged to face the world. He sang with friends and local musicians and gradually gained the confidence to return to the public’s gaze.

Led Zeppelin History – Oct 29

Today in 1968, Chris Dreja photographed the members of Led Zeppelin for the back cover of their debut album. Back in August, Dreja, an original member of the Yardbirds, had decided not to carry on as bassist in Jimmy Page’s new band The New Yardbirds (later to become Led Zeppelin), opting instead to take up a career in photography. I’ll bet he seriously regrets that decision now…