ALSO: Check out Mike Farley's Led Zeppelin Deep Cuts playlist! Led Zeppelin Deep Cuts.
Though they were recognized as the pioneers of heavy metal, it’s kind of unfair to pigeonhole Led Zeppelin into a genre that more accurately should house bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Poison. Instead, Led Zeppelin should be recognized as one of the pioneers of rock music, period. Not only did they combine elements of blues, folk and testosterone-laden riffs into their own brand of what became known as “arena rock,” but they did everything with flair and showmanship that today’s bands can only dream about.
Beginning in the late ‘60s when guitarist Jimmy Page left the Yardbirds and eventually enlisted friends from other bands – vocalist Robert Plant, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham – Led Zeppelin went on to release eight studio albums during a career that spanned 12 years.
Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II were proof that a band can rock AND take chances at the same time. Those Atlantic Records releases also succeeded because the band consisted of world-class musicians and songwriters. Zeppelin spawned “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Dazed and Confused,” which still enjoy airplay on classic rock radio to this day. Led Zeppelin II was even more turbo-charged, with tracks like “Heartbreaker” and “Whole Lotta Love,” and also took more chances with the more introspective “Thank You” and the instrumental wank-fest, “Moby Dick.” While the debut album peaked at #10 on the Billboard album chart, Led Zeppelin II was the band’s first album to reach #1.
Led Zeppelin III took even more chances, and it became clearer with each passing album that this band was more about the concept of an album than they were about churning out hit songs. Though Led Zeppelin III contained “The Immigrant Song,” most of it was fairly unknown and unheralded. But all of that changed with the release of Led Zeppelin IV (also called Zoso) in 1972, which contained classic hits such as “Stairway to Heaven” (regarded by many to be the greatest rock song of all time), “Black Dog,” “Rock & Roll,” and “Misty Mountain Hop.” This album went on to sell over 16 million units.
By the time the band released Houses of the Holy, which had the single and recurring classic rock smash “D’yer Mak’er,” they had become one of the top touring bands ever. And with the kind of success they had generated to this point, Led Zeppelin had released its last album on Atlantic Records and formed its own label, Swan Song. The first album on the band’s label was the double set, Physical Graffiti, in 1976, which instantly went to number one in both England and the U.S. Physical Graffiti followed the band’s formula of “album” rock but did contain the Top 40 single, “Trampled Underfoot.”
Led Zep’s next studio release, Presence, came out to very little fanfare and never really got off the ground. The same held true for the live album and movie that came out that same year, The Song Remains the Same.
After a few years of lying low, Led Zeppelin released its eighth and final studio album, In Through the Out Door, in 1979. A subsequent European tour in the spring of 1980 was the band’s final tour, as drummer John Bonham was found dead from choking on his own vomit after a drinking binge in September of 1980. A planned U.S. tour never materialized, and while there were a few reincarnations and spin-offs of Led Zeppelin after that (most memorably their performance at Live Aid, with Phil Collins and Tony Thompson on drums), nothing ever came close to a full-blown reunion tour. Regardless, Led Zeppelin remains one of the greatest rock bands to ever live, and along with all the documented success, they also went on to influence countless bands and musicians along the way.
Led Zeppelin on the Web
The band's official site.
Another official site created in conjunction with the band’s 2003 DVD release, with bio, pics, and live tracks.
This fan site features the latest news on Led Zep releases and archives of interviews, lyrics and guitar tabs.
VH1’s Zeppelin page features videos, interviews, ringtones and a Led Zep trivia quiz.
Rolling Stone magazine’s Led Zeppelin page features an archive of the magazine’s Led Zeppelin coverage, going back as far as Cameron Crowe’s 1975 interview with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The band’s official inductee page at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame site features a bio, inductee timeline, list of “essential” songs and recommended reading list.
“The largest and oldest Led Zeppelin fan club” features news, contests and an extensive fan forum/message board.
Robert Plant Homepage
Robert Plant’s official site features news on his latest creative endeavors.
Jimmy Page Online
Fan site devoted to guitarist Jimmy Page.
John Paul Jones.com
Official site of bassist John Paul Jones.
The Led Zeppelin and JRR Tolkien Relations Page
Details the influence of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga upon Robert Plant’s lyrics.
The archive of legendary concert promoter Bill Graham has two Zeppelin performances from the Fillmore West in 1969 that can be streamed for free:
TIght But Loose
Site of a Led Zeppelin magazine based in the United Kingdom.
From the Mouth of Led Zeppelin
Jimmy Page on “Stairway to Heaven” in 1975:
To me, I thought "Stairway" crystallized the essence of the band. It had everything there and showed the band at its best. It had everything there. We were careful never to release it as a single. It was a milestone for us.
Jimmy Page on his craft:
My vocation is more in composition really than anything else - building up harmonies using the guitar, orchestrating the guitar like an army, a guitar army.
Jimmy Page on his influences:
“I was seduced by rock & roll as a teenager and that's what made me want to play. From then I discovered the blues and country blues, folk musicians, then folk with Arabic and on and on. I was gobbling it all up, then it just came up as the music that you heard.”
Robert Plant on the band’s first American gig:
It was right in the heart of Denver, on the 26th of December, 1968. I remember pulling up to a theater and the marquee said, Vanilla Fudge, Taj Mahal and Support. I thought, "Wow, here we are: Support!" [Laughs] That's a great name for a band, too -- especially if you're getting older.
Robert Plant on his lyrics:
How can you consider flower power outdated? The essence of my lyrics is the desire for peace and harmony. That's all anyone has ever wanted. How could it become outdated?