Monday, January 5, 2015

Led Zeppelin, The #4 Artist of the Seventies*

This legendary group formed in London in 1968, essentially out of the Yardbirds (in fact, they actually began as the New Yardbirds.)  Guitarist Jimmy Page had joined the Yardbirds in 1966, giving the group an amazing guitar duo of Page and Jeff Beck.  But Beck left later in the year to form his own group, and the group began to split up.  The Yardbirds played their final show in July of 1968.  Since the group was committed to several concerts in Scandinavia, vocalist Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty gave permission for Page and bassist Chris Dreja to use the New Yardbirds name until they had fulfilled the group's obligations.

Lead singer Robert Plant came aboard, and he in turn recommended drummer John Bonham.  John Paul Jones (bass and keyboards) inquired about the group after Dreja left, and the quartet was set.  They made a living on their unique blend of hard rock and blues and mysterious, almost magical lyrics. 

The group began practicing in London, and immediately, they knew they had something special together.  They completed the Scandinavian tour as the New Yardbirds, and signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records.  They were given almost complete artistic freedom, thanks to the skillful negotiating of their manager, Peter Grant.

The other members of the Yardbirds, however, forced the band to change their name, saying that Page was only allowed to use the New Yardbirds name for the tour.  The group came up with the name Led Zeppelin--one account has it that Keith Moon and John Entwistle of the Who told Page that his group would go down like a "lead balloon".  Grant suggested the band drop the "a" in lead, so that those unfamiliar with the term would not pronounce it "leed".  The word "zeppelin" was substituted for "balloon", which brought the perfect combination of heavy and light for Page. 

Led Zeppelin formed their own company, Superhype, to handle all the publishing rights.  The band released two albums that were initially dismissed by the critics, but thanks to later releases, have now sold in the millions.  They scored the only Top 10 hit of their career with "Whole Lotta' Love" (#4) in 1969.  

After several tours, Page and Plant went to Bron-Yr-Aur, a remote cottage in Wales, to hole up and work on the band's third album.  Led Zeppelin III was a unique album rich in acoustic sounds influenced by folk and Celtic music, which began to show the world the incredible versatility of this band.  The single "Immigrant Song" went to #4 in Canada and Switzerland, #6 in Germany, #9 in the Netherlands, and an underrated #16 in the United States.

The album has now sold over six million copies in the U.S. alone.  The track "Gallows Pole" received quite a bit of airplay on album-oriented rock (AOR) stations.

On "That's The Way", Led Zeppelin sounds as gentle and mellow as they ever did.

"Since I've Been Loving You" is a fan favorite from the album.
The band was becoming a major force in the music business, and the four members began to wear elaborate, flamboyant clothing and began travelling in a private jet airliner and renting out entire sections of hotels.

In 1971, Led Zeppelin released their fourth album with no title, and it since is called either Led Zeppelin IV or Four Symbols, referring to the four symbols representing each of the members on the cover of the album.  


The single "Black Dog" peaked at #6 in Switzerland, #9 in Australia, #11 in Canada, and #15 in the U.S.   

Led Zeppelin IV has now sold 23 million copies in the United States and over 37 million worldwide.  

The next single, "Rock And Roll", stalled at #47 in the United States.  It is among the crème de la crème of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.  It should not only have made the Top 10--it should have been #1.

Of course, the album contains another unreleased song that is even better--"Stairway To Heaven".

This classic album also features the amazing "Going To California".

Plant's vocals shine on "When The Levee Breaks".

"Misty Mountain Hop" is also a solid track.


Zeppelin toured the U.K., Australia, and North America from 1971 through 1973.  They then released the album Houses of the Holy, which topped album charts across the globe.  The first single, "Over The Hills And Far Away", however, stalled at #51.  

Led Zeppelin's tour of North America broke attendance records.  At Tampa Stadium in Florida, the band played before 56,800 fans.  Three sold-out performances at Madison Square Garden in New York City were filmed, but the theatrical release was delayed until 1976.  "D'yer Mak'er" was a bit underrated at #20.

Houses of the Holy has now sold over 11 million albums in the United States alone.  The album also includes the lush and elaborate "The Rain Song".



Another outstanding track  is "No Quarter".

Led Zep fans also like "The Ocean".

In 1974, the group launched their own record label, Swan Song, with the group Bad Company being among the artists they signed.  The following year, Led Zeppelin released the double album Physical Graffiti.  The group released a rare single, "Trampled Under Foot", another underrated song at #38. 

The album is among the all-time best for the group and for the Rock Era, selling over 16 million copies in the U.S. alone.  "Kashmir" is another of the great unreleased songs of the Rock Era.

Led Zep featured changing tempos and shifting moods in their songs, such as the fine track "Ten Years Gone".

Physical Graffiti was so successful that it spurred the reemergence of all previous Led Zeppelin albums in the Top 200

Zeppelin again played a highly successful tour of North America, and performed for five sold-out concerts at Earls Court in London, at the time the largest arena in Great Britain.

A fall tour of North America was planned, but Plant suffered injuries in a serious car crash while on vacation in Greece.  Unable to tour, Page, Plant and Bonham wrote most of the material for the next album.  The band returned to more guitar-based rock, setting aside the ballads and arrangements featured on previous albums.  Presence in 1976 received a mixed reaction from fans and critics, although it did eventually go Platinum.

Led Zeppelin completed work on the concert film The Song Remains the Same and the soundtrack album.  The following year, the band enjoyed another sensational tour of North America, setting a record of 76,229 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan, which the Guinness Book of Records said was the largest attendance to that date for a single show.

But the shows experienced a myriad of problems of unruly fans, riots, damage to facilities, and fights.  Then Plant got word that his five-year-old son Karac had died from a stomach virus.  The rest of the tour was canceled.

In 1978, Zeppelin began recording a new album in Stockholm, Sweden.  The following year, the group released their classic album In Through the Out Door.  Upon release, the album not only went to #1, it brought with it the entire back catalog back into the Top 200* on the Album chart once again.  "Fool In The Rain" became one of the group's biggest hits at #21.

"All My Love", however, received more airplay and should have been released as well.

In Through the Out Door represents some of the group's best work.  We close out our tribute to Led Zeppelin with some amazing tracks from the album.  This is "I'm Gonna' Crawl". 

Another outstanding track is "Southbound Saurez".

Zeppelin had ventured into country music before, but "Hot Dog" represents their best work in the genre.

One of their all-time best is "In The Evening".

Led Zeppelin headlined two concerts at the Knebworth Music Festival, playing before about 104,000 fans on opening night.  They then began a short European tour.  On June 27 while performing in Nuremberg, Germany, Bonham suddenly collapsed onstage and was rushed to the hospital.  The band claimed that Bonham had "overeaten".  

Led Zeppelin rehearsed to get ready for a planned North American tour.  Bonham was picked up by Led Zeppelin assistant Rex King.  Prior to arriving at the studio, Bonham downed four quadruple vodkas.  He continued to drink heavily during rehearsal.  After practicing, the band retired to Page's house in Clewer, Windsor, England.  After midnight, Bonham, who had fallen asleep, was taken to bed and placed on his side.  At 1:45 p.m. the next day, new tour manager Benji LeFevre and John Paul Jones found Bonham dead (cause of death:  asphyxiation from vomit). 

The tour was canceled, and the surviving members huddled to decide what to do in the wake of their drummer's death.  On December 4, 1980, the group held a press conference to announce that they were disbanding.

Page and Plant went on to found the Honeydrippers, who recorded for a brief time.  The three surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited for the Live Aid concert at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with drummers Tony Thompson and Phil Collins.  They then reunited again on May 14, 1988 for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert with Bonham's son, Jason, on drums. 

Page and Plant toured together in the 90's, and in 1995, Led Zeppelin were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  At the ceremony, the three members of the group once again played with Jason Bonham on drums.  Page and Plant released another album in 1998, but because of slow sales, canceled a planned tour of Australia.

In 2007, Led Zeppelin reunited for a third time at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert in London.  Ertegun was the owner of Atlantic Records, and once again, Jason took his late father's place on drums.  Twenty million requests for tickets to the show were rendered online.

Led Zeppelin's presence during their active time and influence on thousands of bands since that time have secured their legacy as one of the top acts in music history.  They are one of just three artists to earn four or more Diamond albums (10 million in sales) in their career.  The albums Led Zeppelin IV and Led Zeppelin were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and 2004, respectively, and the songs "Stairway To Heaven" and "Whole Lotta' Love" were inducted in 2003 and 2007, respectively.  The band received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys in 2005 and won the Polar Music Prize in 2006.  In 2012, Page, Plant and Jones were named recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors.      

Led Zeppelin had eight hits in the Seventies, with one Top 10 song.  They sold at least 65 million albums in the U.S. alone, with a good portion of those sales coming after the decade was over, as new fans discovered and bought their music.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.