Led Zeppelin

  • English hard rock band formed in 1968 from London England. Members of the band were Robert Plant (vocals, harmonica), Jimmy Page (guitars), John Paul Jones (bass guitar, keyboards) and John Bonham (drums). All members contributed to songwriting, though Page and Plant were the primary writers.
  • In 1966, Page joined the rock group The Yardbirds as a bass player, but soon switched to guitar, along with Jeff Beck. Beck left the band later that year, and Page started to think about forming his own band. By the summer of 1968, The Yardbirds played their final gig. They still had some commitments to perform in Scandinavia, so the departing members of the band allowed Page and bassist Chris Dreja to recruit new members. Page’s first choice for vocalist was Terry Reid – Reid declined, and recommended Plant, who had previously performed with a band named Band of Joy. Plant accepted, and recommended former Band of Joy drummer Bonham. Before the band was completed, Dreja dropped out to become the photographer for the group. Page knew Jones from some previous session work together, and the foursome was complete. They completed the Scandinavian tour as The New Yardbirds in September 1968.
  • They began to record their first album later that year. Dreja issued a “cease and desist” letter for the use of the New Yardbirds name, forcing them to change the name of the group. Legend has it that Led Zeppelin came from comments from Keith Moon and John Entwistle from The Who – Page originally wanted to form a supergroup with Moon, Entwistle and Beck, but Moon and Entwistle said that it would go down like a lead balloon. Lead was changed to Led (to prevent people from pronouncing it like “leed,”) and balloon was replaced with Zeppelin – and the rest is history.
  • Their debut album was released in January 1969, titled Led Zeppelin. It peaked at #10 on the album chart in the U.S., and the single Good Times Bad Times reached #80 on the Hot 100 chart. Their breakthrough came with their next album, also released in 1969 – Led Zeppelin II was certified 12x platinum, topping the album chart in 8 countries, including the U.S. and UK. The opening track on the album, Whole Lotta Love, is a perfect example of Led Zeppelin’s legacy – amazing guitars, amazing vocals, amazing energy. It is #75 on Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Songs of All Time. It reached #4 on the Hot 100 chart.
  • The 4 studio albums released from 1970 to 1975 are all masterpieces in Rock & Roll history. 1970’s Led Zeppelin III was certified 6x platinum, and it contains my favorite Zep song, Immigrant Song. 1971’s album officially was untitled, but it is referred to as Led Zeppelin IV – it is the fourth biggest selling album of all time in the U.S., certified 23x platinum. The singles from the album were Black Dog and Rock and Roll – notably, Stairway To Heaven, considered by many to be the greatest rock song in history (though not by me, for sure), was not released as a single since it was over 8 minutes long and the band would not permit a radio edit. 1973’s Houses of the Holy was certified 11x platinum, and 1975’s Physical Graffiti, a double album, was certified 16x platinum – it contains another of my favorites, Kashmir. 
  • In August 1975, Led Zeppelin was considered the number one rock band in the world. That year, Plant was seriously injured in a car accident. They were unable to tour until 1977. While on hiatus from touring, they recorded their seventh studio album, Presence. Released in 1976, it sold well, but it showed signs of a band on decline. That year, they released a live soundtrack album, The Song Remains the Same. A concert film with the same name was released that year, documenting 3 performances by the group at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1973.
  • A final studio album, In Through the Out Door, was released in 1979. As usual, it topped the album charts in the U.S. and UK, but the energy of their earlier work was not there. As the band prepared for a North American tour in the fall of 1980, Bonham died after a day of heavy drinking – the cause of his death was asphyxiation from vomit. With Bonham’s death, the group disbanded.
  • The surviving members have reunited for a few one-off performances, and discussions to reform and record occurred but never materialized.
  • Led Zeppelin has won many hundreds of awards. Four of their efforts are enshrined in the Grammy Hall of Fame – the albums Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin IV, and the songs Whole Lotta Love and Stairway To Heaven. Additionally, they won their only Grammy Award in 2014 for the soundtrack to the concert film Celebration Day. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and in 2012, they were awarded the Kennedy Center Honors award. Rolling Stone lists them at #14 on their Greatest Artists of All Time List. Five albums are on Rolling Stone’s GOAT album list, with their first album ranked highest, at #29, and 4 of them in the top 80. As for songs, Rolling Stone’s GOAT list includes 6 songs, led by Stairway To Heaven at #31.
  • What can I say? Clearly, Led Zeppelin deserves to be in the GOAT discussion. Here’s my favorite, Immigrant Song. Wow – does this song rock – masters of guitar and rock vocals!

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