Led Zeppelin were for the 70’s what Beatles were for the 60’s, a revolution of mind, soul, music and rock’n’roll. Their blend of rock leaves a unique taste on everyone’s ears, it is a unique blend that can’t be placed in one genre, but definitely they are well known as kings of hard rock. Led Zeppelin sold over 200 million records all over the world and over 111 million records in the US alone, which makes them one of the top selling bands of all time.
All of Led Zeppelin’s albums reached top 10 of the US Billboard album top list, and six of those albums were number one on the chart. VH1 marks Led Zeppelin as number one on their chart of 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. In everyone’s eyes they are one of the most influential bands of all time, hard rock legacy, legends.
Led Zeppelin started big; even before they made their first album they were offered $200,000 by the Atlantic Records. That was unheard of, Atlantic Records never heard nor saw Led Zeppelin and yet they gave them $200,000 to records their first album with plenty of rights and freedom, they recognized the band as something great right from the start, but we will get to that.
Led Zeppelin was formed in 1968, but none of that would happen if Jimmy Page didn’t replace the bassist Paul Samwell-Smith with the Yardbirds. Soon after Jimmy Page gave up bass and started playing the lead guitar along Jeff Beck. That’s where he got an idea of forming a superband with Beck and the drummer and bassist from The Who. That didn’t work out quite well, the Yardbirds fell apart but they still had performances lined up in Scandinavia, so Page took onto himself to respect the Yardbirds contract with other band members.
In his search of a singer Page first turned to Terry Reid, he declined Page’s offer but he did him the greatest favor in his life, he recommended Robert Plant. Robert Plant accepted the offer and brought with him a drummer, John Bonham. Now they were complete, but only for a short time, Dreja walked out on the band so they had to find a replacement. John Paul Jones heard of the opened spot and applied, Page gladly took him in, and that was the first time the future Led Zeppelin came together, although at that time they were still the Yardbirds.
The first time they played together in front of a live audience was on 7th September 1968 in Gladsaxe, Denmark, but they played as The New Yardbirds. Once they got back from that tour they decided to change the name. It is said that the name for the band came from Keith Moon and John Entwistle from The Who, when they were lined up for the band. They suggested that the name of the band should be Lead Zeppelin, but on the suggestion of their manager they dropped the “a” in Lead to prevent Americans from pronouncing it leed. And so Led Zeppelin was officially born.
After that in November 1968 their manager Grant secured those $200,000 from the Atlantic Records and Led Zeppelin started recording. Well not quite, they actually went on a tour, they first performed as Led Zeppelin on 4 October 1968 in Newcastle, after which they went on a North America tour, their first album was released on 12 January 1969. Even though they received $200,000 from Atlantic Records for their first album, Led Zeppelin spent total of 36 hours in studio recording it and they spent only 1,750 Pounds, by the end of 1975 that album made more than 7 million dollars.
After that they went on tours, 4 American tours and 4 UK tours and in the middle of that touring they have managed to record their second album titled Led Zeppelin II. After the release of their second album they mostly went on tours, some of their concert gigs lasted over four hours with extended solo’s and variations of their songs.
Their third album, Led Zeppelin III, was not received with much enthusiasm; most of it was because the album had a more acoustic sound. Page and Plant gathered in a cottage in Wales and recorded that album which was influenced by folk music. Nevertheless they were popular and people expected more of them, which they certainly did give. On a retrospective, their third album is one of the most complex ones, and people have a totally different opinion of it now than back then.
After their three albums everything began to change for them but for the better, they were now on top of the world, 1971 was their true beginning. They even had a private jet called “Starship”, they also used to rent a whole section of a hotel, they were living it high. They published their fourth album on 8 November 1971; it was an album with no name, the nameless one. Led Zeppelin did that because of the press exposure, they wanted to prove that their music will sell without their name being written on it, and they were right. The album is known for the symbols on the cover, it is also referred to as Led Zeppelin IV.
Their fourth album is one of the best selling albums in the world with over 23 million copies sold. For those who don’t know that is the album that featured Stairway to Heaven, one of the top 10 songs of all times according to the Rock Hall of Fame, Guitar World magazine conducted a poll which results showed that according to regular people Stairway to heaven has the best guitar solo of all times.
Their fifth album was the first to have an actual name, besides Led Zeppelin. The album titled Houses of the Holy was released in 1973. The album had more experiments than any other before it or after it; long tracks with long guitar solos are what made this album great. The most amazing thing is that the song by which the album was named is not featured on this album; it was released on their sixth album. After this album they broke the record of Beatles with concert attendance, their concert was visited by 56,800 Led Zeppelin fans.
After their last tour Led Zeppelin took a break in 1974 and started their own record label called Swan Song. While the band was active, while it existed, the record label was successful, but after Led Zeppelin fell apart it took less than 3 years for Swan Song records to break down.
Their sixth album titled Physical Graffiti was the first release of their under Swan Song records, it was released on 24 February 1975. This album was so appealing and successful that all of their previous albums immediately re-entered top 200 Billboard list. After a series of successful concerts Led Zeppelin decided to take a little break. The band planned a series of concerts in America, but that all fell apart when Robert Plant and his wife Maureen had a serious car accident in August 1975.
The entire band took that time to reflect and they made a new album that was released in March 1976 titled Presence. A clear change in the sound could be heard, they were aiming for a more straightforward guitar sound. The album was platinum, but nevertheless it was received with plenty of critics, but Plant said that the sound captivated on this album was the most original sound of Led Zeppelin, this was who they were.
Next year Led Zeppelin started a new tour in America, after Plant recovered from the accident, they again broke the record for attendance with 76,229 fans at their Pontiac Silverdome concert. The tour was suddenly canceled in July when Plant’s five year old son died of a stomach virus.
1978 was the year when things started going the wrong way for the band. The band released their new album in November 1978 titled In Through the Out Door. The album also received mixed critics but nevertheless it placed number one on the US and UK music charts.
The band toured a bit in 1979, they didn’t take a full time tour because Plant was not ready to start touring full time again. He even considered quitting the band, but was convinced otherwise by Peter Grant. On 27th June on their concert in Germany John Bonham collapsed after the third song, mostly because of the drug and alcohol abuse.
On 24th September Bonham and Rex King headed to meet the band for practice for their North America tour scheduled for 17th October. On the way there they stopped for breakfast where Bonham started drinking heavily. He continued to drink when he arrived at the studio, the band practiced until late at night, after which they headed to Page’s house in Windsor. Bonham fell asleep after midnight and was taken into his room and placed on the side. At 1:45 pm the next day Benji LeFevre and John Paul Jones found him dead. Bonham died of asphyxiation from vomit.
There were plenty of speculations of who will replace Bonham, but on the press conference held on 4th December 1980 the band stated that they will disband, they simply cannot go on without their dear friend.
The band released another album, which was a summary of all their previous work titled Coda. The album was released in 1982. The band reunited on several occasions, first time in 1985 for the Live Aid concert at JFK Stadium. Led Zeppelin reunited again in May 1988, for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert, with Bonham’s son, Jason Bonham, on drums.
In 1994 Plant and Page made a 90 minute long UnLedded MTV project, which was followed by an album titled No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded. This is where things among former friends and band members started to turn south; it was because Jones was not informed of this reunion. Page and Plant released another album called Walking into Clarksdale in 1998, featuring all new material. In the time from 1985 to 2007 there were plenty of live DVD’s and BOX sets released which kept Led Zeppelin’s fame always at the top.
The band reunited again to play a charity concert on 10th December 2007, all of the band members played with Bonham’s son, that gig was considered as a work of art by itself and praised as Led Zeppelin’s finest performance. The newspapers all over the world featured titles like “They still got it”. After that the talks of reunion lasted until last year when Plant clearly said that he is afraid of disappointment, they were young when they made Led Zeppelin great and he thinks that he cannot match that. Other band members tried to find a replacement singer but they couldn’t find anyone that fits in and that was it.
Led Zeppelin no longer exists as a band, but their music is live now more than ever, their music will live for generations to come and their songs and music will be remembered for a long, long time.