Led Zeppelin were an English rock band formed in London in 1968. The group consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. The band's heavy, guitar-driven sound has led them to be cited as one of the progenitors of heavy metal. Their style drew from a wide variety of influences, including blues, psychedelia, and folk music. They were placed Number 14 on Rolling Stone's Top 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
In 1965, Jimmy Page joined a band called The Yardbirds, replacing Eric Clapton, who had quit. He had still been worried about is health under touring conditions and had initially suggested his friend, Jeff Beck. Together, the two of them, drummer Keith Moon, bass player John Paul Jones, and keyboardist Nicky Hopkins had recorded "Beck's Bolero." Page had thought about creating a supergroup with him, Beck, Moon and John Entwistle. Although the idea flunked, Moon had suggested a familiar name "Lead Zeppelin," with Entwistle adding that the proceedings would take to the air like a lead balloon.
Page went to a Yardbirds concernt in Oxford where he learned that Paul Samwell-Smith was leaving the band. He offered to replace the band mate and was accepted. He played electric bass before switching places to lead guitar when Chris Dreja moved to bass. After Beck left, the Yardbirds remained and recorded the album, Little Games, making number 80 on the Billboards chart. They peformed concerts where Page played an early version of "Dazed and Confused."
Page and Dreja were the only Yardbird left behind as the others slowly quit. Page decide that he was going to continue the band and quickly went out to recruit musicians. Terry Reid, a singer and composer, was offered the job as lead singer, but he had to turn down the offer. Instead, he suggest Robert Plant, an undiscovered singer with a strong and beautiful voice. Plant was currently in a band called The Hobbstweddle, performing at a show at a teach training college in Birmingham, when a cool guitar player in search of a lead singer for his new band showed up. Page quickly snatched up Plant, who suggest his friend John Bonham play on the drums.
When Page watched Bonham play for Rose at a club in Hampstead, London in July of 1968, he and manager Peter Grant knew Bonham was the perfect drummer for his band. Unfortunately, Bonham didn't accept Page's invitation. While playing with Rose, he was getting offers from other bands as well, and forty-eight telegrams from Plant and Grant. But finally, he accepted the offer. But then Dreja left to become a rock photographer.
So Page recruited Jones to play the bass and keyboards. Jones had met Page a few times during his time as a session player. He had even contributed to The Yardbird's Little Games album in 1967. That winter, Jones told Page about his desire to be apart of any project. So, later that year when The Yardbirds disbanded, Jones went back to Page, at the suggestion of his wife, who automatically invited him into the band.
The four musicians - Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham first played together at a record store on Gerrard Street in London. They played "Train Kept A-Rollin," suggested by Page, where Jones knew they were going to be a hit as soon as he heard Bonham play the drums. The first studio track Led Zeppelin did was "Jim's Blues," a Three Week Hero album for P.J. Proby.
The band had done a Scandinavian Tour in September of 1968. Page had used every penny he had to make the tour work, Plant had recalled, and they made no money at all. They continued on to make a first album, based upon their live set. Page covered the costs himself. After the album was complete, the band was forced to change their name due to a cease and desist letter via Chris Dreja. So the band changed their name from a previously suggest one - Led Zeppelin.
Gaining $200,000 from Atlantic Records that November, Led Zeppelin was now under a contract, having been signed without even auditioning for the record company. Their contract stated that the band would have to release albums, tour, and design the album and its contents. They would also have to promote each release and decide which tracks to release as singles. So Led Zeppelin formed their own company, Superhype, to handle all publishing rights. Jimmy Page decided to produce all of it.
Early years: 1968–1970
The band announced their new name on October 14, 1968 and played their first show at the University of Surrey in Guildford on October 25. They then played a short British tour. Afterwards, Richard Cole organized their first North American Tour from December to February. They first played in Denver on the 26th followed by East Coast dates before moving to California to play in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The band completed four US and four UK tours during their first year.
Led Zeppelin I, the band's eponymous debut album, was releases on January 12, 1969 during the US tour and on March 31, 1969 in the UK. Even thought Plant wrote the lyrics with Page, he didn't receive writing credits until later on. The album itself was number 10 on the Billboard chart and number 6 in the UK.
Led Zeppelin II, their second album, was released on October 22, 1969 to the US and UK. In both countries the album reached number 1. On November 15, the album received a 12x Platinum by the RIAA for selling over 12 million copies. Steve Waksman has said that Led Zeppelin II was "the musical starting point for heavy metal."
Led Zeppelin III was released on October 5, 1970. Page and Plant had originally gone to a cottage in Wales called Bron-Yr-Aur to write the songs on the album. The acoustic sound was due to the influenced folk and Celtic music. Critics and fans were surprised at the turn of electric arrangements from the first two albums to the now third album. "Immigrant Song" was released in November of 1970 against the band's wishes as a single, reaching the top twenty on the Billboard chart.
"The Biggest Band in the World": 1971–1975
By now Led Zeppelin had reached to the top and were critically a success. The band members began to change up their image to more flamboyant clothing. They began to travel in a private jet called The Starship. They would rent out entire sections of hotels. They became the subject of repeated stories of debauchery. Bonham even rode a motorcycle through a rented floor of the Riot House, or the Continental Hyatt House. They were even banned from the Tokyo Hilton for trashing a room they were staying in.
Led Zeppelin IV was released on November 8, 1971. It was a blank album cover as the band wished to be anonymous. It was called Untitled, IV, and Led Zeppelin IV to fans because of the Four Symbols on the sides. Led Zeppelin IV is one of the best-selling albums in history, selling over 37 million copies world wide. The album features Stairway to Heaven, which is said to be Led Zeppelin's signature song.
Houses of the Holy was released on March 28, 1973. It used more experimented sounds, such as the mellotron orchestration and synthesizers. The song "Houses of the Holy" did not appear on the album, but on Physical Graffiti, as it had been being recorded at the same time. The cover of the album was very controversial as it had nude children climbing the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. It was even banned in some parts of the world, like the Bible Belt. The album, though, topped the charts.
At Tampa Stadium, Florida, they played to 56,800 fans, grossing $309,000. The film The Song Remains the Same was filmed at Madison Square Garden where they performed three sold out shows. The movie was delayed until 1976 though. $180,000 of the band's money was stolen from a safe deposit box at the Drake Hotel, causing a huge problem for the band, and striking tons of news.
In 1974, Led Zeppelin took a small break and formed their own record label, Swan Song. named after their unreleased song. Their logo was based off of a drawing called Evening: Fall of Day by William Rimmer. The drawing can be found on Led Zeppelin memorabilia, especially tee shirts. Besides using Swan Song to promote their own albums, they promoted other artists such as Bad Company, The Pretty Things, and Maggie Bell. The label was successful while Led Zeppelin existed, but folded less than three years after they disbanded.
Physical Graffiti was released on February 24, 1975, as the band's sixth studio and double album. Recording the songs were put on hold as Jones debated whether or not to leave the band. But they eventually reunited at Headley Grange to finish recording. Rolling Stone magazine referred to the album as Led Zeppelin's "bid for artistic respectability". Not to mentioned they had to compete with The Rolling Stones and The Who for "The World's Best Rock Band". In May 1975, Led Zeppelin played five sold-out nights at the Earls Court Arena in London, at the time the largest arena in Britain.
Hiatus from touring and return: 1975–1977
Afterwards, they took off and planned a fall tour in America. Unfortunately that August, Plant and his wife, Maureen, were involved in a car crash whole on holiday in Rhodes, Greece. Plant suffered a broken ankle. Maureen was badly injury. A blood transfusion saved her life. Plant stayed in the Channel Island of Jersey that fall to recuperate. The band later reconvened in Malibu, California, where they began to write their next album.
Presence was released on March 31, 1976. Many ideas for the album came from the hiatus concerning the cancelled album due to Plant's car accident. During the recording of the album, Page had begun to use heroin, which may have affected their live shows and studio recordings, although Page denies this. The album, however, was a platinum record, but critics suggested that the band's excesses may have caught up with them.
The band did not tour because of Plant's injuries, but instead, they completed the concert film, The Song Remains the Same, and the soundtrack album. The film premiered in New York City on 20 October 1976, but was given a lukewarm reception by critics and fans. The film was particularly unsuccessful in the UK, where, unwilling to tour since 1975 because of their tax exile status, Led Zeppelin was forced to face an uphill battle to recapture the public's affection.
In 1977, Led Zeppelin toured North America. They set another attendance record of an audience of 76,229 at Pontiac Silverdome on April 30. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it was the largest attendance to date for a single act show. On April 19, over 70 people were arrested as about 1,000 fans tried to gatecrash the Cincinnati Riverfront Coliseum for two sold out concerts. Others tried to enter by throwing rocks and bottles through glass doors. On June 3, a riot broke out at the Tampa Stadium because of a severe thunderstorm causing the concert to be cut short. Arrests were made and people were seriously injured.
On July 23, Led Zeppelin held a show at the Days on the Green festival at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. Unfortunately, Bonham and members of the band's support staff were arrested after a promoter from Bill Graham's staff had been badly beaten during the band's performance. The following day's second Oakland concert was the band's final live appearance in the United States. Two days later, on July 26, as the band checked into a French Quarter hotel, Plant received news that his five year old son, Karac Pendragon, had died from a stomach virus. The rest of the tour was immediately cancelled. Plant retreated to his home in the Midlands, reflecting on his future, mourning the death of his son.
Bonham's death and break-up: 1978–1980
In November 1978, the group recorded at Polar Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. The resulting album, In Through the Out Door was released August 15, 1979, and would their last album before the death of Bonham. The album reached number 1 on both US and UK sales charts. The song "All My Love" was written by Plant, inspired by the death of Karac.
On October 17, 1980, the band was scheduled for a North American Tour. On September 24, Bonham was picked up by Led Zeppelin assistant Rex King to attend rehearsals at Bray Studio. They stopped for breakfast where Bonham drank four vodkas (450ml/15 oz) with a ham roll, which he simply said to King, "Breakfast." He drank heavily at the studio and was later taken to Page's house - The Old Mill House in Clewer, Windsor. Bonham had fallen asleep after midnight and was taken to his bed, being placed on his side.
At 1:45 P.M. the next day, Led Zeppelin's new tour manager Benji LeFevre and Jones found Bonham dead. The cause of death was asphyxiation from vomit, accidental death. The verdict was found on October 27. An autopsy found no drugs in his system. Bonham was cremated on October 10, 1980, and his ashes were buried at Rishock parish church in Droitwich, Worcestershire.
His headstone reads: "CHERISHED MEMORIES OF A LOVING HUSBAND AND FATHER JOHN HENRY BONHAM WHO DIED SEPT. 25TH AGED 32 YEARS He will always be Remembered in our hearts. Goodnight my Love, God Bless.
The tour was cancelled and despite rumors that others would join the group to replace him, the remaining members - Plant, Page, and Jones - decided to disband. A December 5, 1980 press statement stated that, "We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were," and was signed, "Led Zeppelin."
Top 40 Greatest Songs
This is Rolling Stone's Top 40 Greatest Led Zeppelin Songs of All Time
40. In the Evening
39. All My Love
38. Travelling Riverside Blues
37. Four Sticks
36. Since I've Been Loving You
34. The Rain Song
33. Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)
32. The Wanton Song
31. Moby Dick
30. In My Time of Dying
29. Thank You
28. No Quarter
27. Houses of the Holy
26. Trampled Under Foot
25. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You
24. Fool in the Rain
23. Nobody's Fault but Mine
21. Dancing Days
20. D'yer Mak'er
19. Gallows Pole
18. The Song Remains the Same
17. The Battle of Evermore
16. Over the Hills and Far Away
15. What Is and What Should Never Be
14. The Ocean
13. Dazed and Confused
12. Communication Breakdown
11. Going to California
10. Misty Mountain Hop
9. Rock and Roll
8. When the Levee Breaks
7. Immigrant Song
6. Good Times Bad Times
5. Ramble On
3. Black Dog
2. Stairway to Heaven
1. Whole Lotta Love
- Led Zeppelin I
- Led Zeppelin II
- Led Zeppelin III
- Led Zeppelin IV
- Houses of the Holy
- Physical Graffiti
- In Through The Out Door
- Robert Plant – lead vocals, harmonica
- Jimmy Page – guitar, backing vocals
- John Paul Jones – bass, keyboards, mandolin, backing vocals
- John Bonham – drums, percussion, backing vocals
- September 1968 - Scandinavian Tour 1968
- October - December 1968 - UK Tour 1968
- December 1986 - February 1969 - North American Tour 1968/1969
- March - April 1969 - UK and Scandinavian Tour 1969
- April - May 1969 - North America Tour Spring 1969
- June 1969 - UK Tour Summer 1969
- July - August 1969 - North American Tour Sumer 1969
- October 1969 - European Tour Autumn 1969
- January 1970 - UK Tour 1970
- February - March 1970 - European Tour 1970
- March - April 1970 - North American Tour Spring 1970
- June - July 1970 - Tour of Iceland, Bath, & Germany 1970
- August - September 1970 - North American Tour Summer 1970
- March - April 1971 - United Kingdom Tour Spring 1971
- May - August 1971 - European Tour 1971
- August - September 1971 - North American Tour 1971
- September 1971 - Japanese Tour 1971
- November - December 1971 - United Kingdom Tour Winter 1971
- February 1972 - Australasian Tour 1972
- May - June 1972 - North American Tour 1972
- October 1972 - January 1973 - UK Tour 1972/1973
- March - April 1973 - European Tour 1973
- May - July 1973 - North American Tour 1973
- January - March 1975 - North American Tour 1975
- May 1975 - Earls Court 1975
- April - July 1977 - North American Tour 1977
- August 1979 - Two warm-up concerts in Denmark and Knebworth Festival 1979
- June - July 1980 - Tour Over Europe 1980
- July 13, 1985 - Live Aid '85 (rehearsal)
- May 14, 1988 - Atlantic 40th Anniversary (rehearsal)