Artist: Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band originally formed in 1968 by guitarist Jimmy Page under the name "The New Yardbirds", based on Page's previous band, The Yardbirds. The band formed when Jimmy Page (guitar) recruited Robert Plant (vocals, harmonica), John Paul Jones (bass guitar, keyboards, mandolin), and John Bonham (drums). With their heavy, guitar-driven blues-rock sound, Led Zeppelin are regularly cited as one of the progenitors of heavy metal and hard rock music. However, the band's individualistic style drew from many sources and transcends any one genre. Led Zeppelin did not release songs from their albums as singles in the UK, as they preferred to develop the concept of "album-oriented rock".
Thirty years after disbanding following Bonham's death in 1980, the band continues to be held in high regard for their artistic achievements, commercial success, and broad influence. The band have sold over 200 million albums worldwide, including 111.5 million certified units in the United States, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time. They have had all of their original studio albums reach the top ten of the Billboard album chart in the US, with six reaching the number one spot.
Shortly after their first tour, the group's eponymous first album was released on 12th January 1969. Its blend of blues and rock influences with distorted amplification made it one of the pivotal records in the evolution of heavy metal music. Although several of Led Zeppelin's earliest songs were based on or were cover versions of blues standards, others such as "Communication Breakdown" had a unique and distinctively heavy sound. Led Zeppelin also featured delicate acoustic guitar on "Black Mountain Side" in which the influence of Davy Graham can be heard, and a combination of acoustic and electric approaches on the reworked folk song "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You". The immediate success of the first album kick-started the band's career, especially in the United States, where they would frequently tour.
The second record, simply titled Led Zeppelin II, followed in similar style later that year, and was an even greater success for the group, reaching the number-one chart position in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were blues fanatics; the
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Celebration Day: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin - St. Louis Riverfront Times (Event)
Led Zeppelin: Coda NME, Dec 1982
THAT THERE is no appreciable difference between 'We're Gonna Groove' from 1969 and 'Wearing And Tearing' from 1978 the opening and closing tracks in this sackcloth and compilation of unissued Led Zeppelin material isn't merely the evidence of their utter failure to rise above a style of automatic redundancy. It is, coupled with their success and influence, the stuff of tragedy.
The most disgraceful thing about Zeppelin was their absolute lack of intelligence. Never mind their boorish excess, their ox-like insensitivity and their thuggish absence of grace it was their ignorance that was so appalling.
The gargoyle offspring of heavy metal they suckled were fed on a celebration of the moronic. They weren't stupid stupid HM could at least have a certain humour about it, although the myth of 'glorious vacuity' is a dangerous one they were less than that. They made unfounded arrogance an end in itself.
Zeppelin were largely responsible for the terrible state of American rock. Although they were popular enough over here they influenced American directions with dictatorial absoluteness. Only now, with fourth or fifth generation strains like the beaming young jackals of Loverboy, is the mutant beginning to take on a different shape; but even today (witness Robert Plant's enormous solo success) America harbours a primordial lust for the gargantuan dribble of Zeppelin music.
Coda will do well enough over there, although even admirers might feel a little short-changed. The one relief of the record is its brevity, eight tracks totalling a little over 30 minutes. They comprise various warm-ups and out-takes all quite without consequence idiot blues, folk ('Poor Tom', an acoustic track which has most appeal because of its comparative restraint) and the sweating labours of a rock music taken by an agonising bowel disorder.
Because Jimmy Page hadn't an iota of a pop consciousness, Zeppelin never stood a chance of the chart legitimacy of Status Quo, their smarter cousins. They never made a single not because they were above all that but because they never knew how to.
Such a failing leaves them stranded in these enlightened times: Zeppelin made an unpleasant virtue out of stamping oafishly on trends, and now their blinkered sights have turned ruthlessly on them. History cannot remember Led Zeppelin kindly: it will hold them culpable, ludicrous, addled lords of misrule.
Their graveyard status seems assured when you hear this record and realise that there is nothing you want to recall. In a sound in which John Bonham's bass drum is the predominant factor (Bonham's vegetable technique is presented in the completely unlistenable 'Bonzo's Montreux') its colourless fury is the make-up of exhaustion.
But perhaps the greatest tragedy is the way they insist the legacy will live on. If Jimmy Page genuinely expects to make millions from what will be a Led Zeppelin 2 in all but name then the grand illusion is unshakable and it's frightening to think he may succeed.
It isn't Abba who are the most pernicious influence to have blighted popular music it may still, alas, be this terrible group.
Led Zeppelin Are Not Prefabricated Top Pops, Sep 1969
WHEN is a hit single unnecessary? Apparently when it is a group like Led Zeppelin who have never released a single but have reached super group proportions in America when they packed the 10,000 capacity Pavilion in New York and the Royal Albert Hall in London.
Largely responsible for the creation of this musical monster has been ex-session guitarist, ex-Yardbird Jimmy Page who last Thursday was back in London from America with the news that Jim Morrison now looks like the chief Rabbi of Brixton and Elvis Presley still looks like Elvis Presley.
"Things have happened so quickly it is unbelievable," said Jimmy. "Our group will only have been formed a year this October and already some critics are giving us rave reports over Blind Faith. Mind you the only reason for that is that they had one or two bad gigs and everything has gone right for us.
"It impossible to convey just how big Zeppelin are now in the States but if I tell you that our album sold 20,000 copies in three days last week and is still pounding along it might give you some idea. You can turn on the radio and hear a Zeppelin track played three or four times a day."
One of the criticisms levelled against the Zeppelin has been that they were a prefabricated group formed by four highly competent musicians to cash in on the American progressive pop scene.
"No one can tell just how a group like ours would be received," said Jimmy. "No one really expected for it to reach the proportions that it has.
"We were only prefabricated in as much as we deliberately set out to form a group. What happened after that was up to the public and you cannot foist something on the Americans now because you happen to be English. The last thing to happen in America which was English was Joe Cocker and that was last July.
"In many ways we took more risks than groups like Blind Faith and Humble Pie who carefully prepared their music before making public appearances. Our album was cut within three weeks of the groups formation and we began work almost at once so it could hardly be accused of being contrived or pre-packed in that sense.
"We've not managed to establish ourselves so heavily in Britain simply because most of our energies have been directed towards America. The mass media in this country is still not reflective of what the majority of young people want to listen to but in the States it is.
"Audiences in Britain are more discerning than America almost hyper-critical because they get so many good groups, but we have been able to hold our own on the major concerts that we have played here. Contrary to popular opinion it is not the money that is so important to big groups in America it is the venues and the number of people you can communicate to which is so pleasing. There are very few halls in England which can accommodate more than a few thousand people. This means it is only worthwhile playing the major cities say once every six months at those places."
In spite of the fact that Jimmy feels an English group is no longer instantly acceptable in view of their nationality, there is obviously a very strong bias towards our groups in the album and heavy pop department, in America. Are English groups musically superior to their American counterparts?
"I think it is more a case of differing trends," said Jimmy, "although we do have an incredible number of very talented musicians. In America now, they are veering towards a softer country and western approach, so any English group that steams in with heavy, earthy sounds are almost overwhelming to the audiences.
"There is a tendency to return to some of the early rock and roll songs now almost as a reaction against the heavy, intellectual and analytical forms it has been taking. It's very understandable to me we play it when the mood takes us. It's the perfect balance so simple. You can't read anything but what there is into songs like 'I've Gotta Woman'. Some music has just got a little too complicated for the public."
The guitar is still, of course, the dominating instrument on the popular music scene and as one of the more talented exponents of that instrument, I asked Jimmy if he could see the day when another instrument might take its place, and whether he felt as guitarists become more adept, it would find its own limitation.
"No to both questions," said Jimmy. "Firstly the guitar is the logical replacement for the piano which everyone had in their home during the Victorian era. It has become more refined and is of course, easier to carry about. Where you once saw a piano standing in the corner of a room, now you find a guitar.
"The only limitations you can put on the guitar are those you impose yourself. If you set out to be a blues guitarist, then probably the best you can get is BB King but most guitarists now are fusing all the influences of classical, jazz and blues into one style which is limitless.
"Even the unknown group guitarist round the corner has an original phrase or something which he could show to impress Hendrix."
Strangely enough although the Zeppelin have never released a single they are now considering one and Jimmy revealed they will go into the studio after a months holiday to do just that. Will it be a deliberate effort to make a hit single?
"Everyone says that they will not do that, but I suppose that is what we will be doing, but I don't see that we have to compromise our own standards. Jethro Tull managed to make a good quality single!"
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