Jimmy Page joined ‘Yardbirds’ in 1966 as a hired gun replacing Paul Samwell-Smith. He and Jeff Beck would both be lead guitarists till Beck’s departure later that year. By 1968, ‘Yardbirds’ would disolve as the members had grew tired of touring. Jim McCarty and Keith Relf would sign over rights to Page and Chris Dreja to continue on under a new name ‘New Yardbirds’ and finish out their contract obligations.
Terry Reid would decline Jimmy Page’s invitation as lead singer, and Robert Plant, would take the job instead on Reid’s recommendation. With Plant came John Bonham on the skins John Paul Jones as bassist. With the final member in place, they played at a record store in London and thus, the future Led Zeplin was built.
Finishing out ‘New Yardbirds’ obligations, the group continued to tour, recoreed their first album with Page being the financial footing. Soon, former member of ‘Yardbirds’, Chris Dreja, forced the group to drop the name, claiming it was breech of contract, and the start of finding a new name began. It was suggested by some that this new group would sink like a “lead balloon”, hinting at only results of disaster to come.
With that, Peter Grant, the group’s manager, would turn things around with mis-speaking of the the words and swapping “balloon” for “zeppelin”, the new name ‘Led Zepplin’ came to be. With Grant in charge of the group’s futuere, Atlantic Records gave them a $200,000 advance on a contract and the new band was on their way. British rock was new for this label, and they took the word of Dusty Springfield that this group would make something of themselves and the label.
Still booking gigs under ‘New Yardbirds”, this newly named group, Led Zeppelin would being touring in Battersea and soon would head to the U.S. by the end of 1968 for their first American tour. Starting in Denver, up the West coast to Los Angeles and San Francisco. The U.S. Would see the group’s debut album released before the rest of the world. The album titled ‘Led Zeppelin’ would hit number 10 on Billboard before being released in the U.K., where it would hit number 6 quickly. The sounds of this album were the turning point not only for the group, but for the world of rock as well, for this album became the starting point for hard rock and heavy metal beginnings.
Jimmy Page’s power on the axe, Robert Plant’s keen vocals, John Paul Jones’ bass and keyboard work combined with the John Bonham’s awesome talent of thunderous talent on the skins, combined, created a band who will forever be synomous with rock. Led Zepplin took the music of the 70s and redefined it much more than any of the member could have imagined in the beginings. When Page was quoted saying “ever onward’ in 1977, there was no idea how the forward outward thinking of then would be such a cornerstone of today’s rock.
As their first album was released, Page’s description of the group is quoted as saying “I can’t put a tag to our music. Every one of us has been influenced by the blues, but it’s one’s interpretation of it and how you utilize it. I wish someone would invent an expression, but the closest I can get is contemporary blues.” Many would say Led Zeppelin was a musical sponge, each member of the band absorbing something different and then greatness would be constructed from it all. As Page would describe, every member of the band had their own ideas and the band as whole had no limits.
Led Zeppelin’s music integrated Delta Blues with folk influence from the UK that created the modern rock they become known for and exploded into the 70s with what would quickly become a classic, “Whole Lotta Love”. Jimmy Page’s heavyweight guitar riffs with the raw screams of Plant were new approaches in rock music that became a hallmark. A combination of delicacy and heaviness that hasn’t been matched still.
Using flavored and spiced sounds of many, whether their influence was Arabic, Blues, Country, Folk or Indian. The group focused on albums as they marched into the 70s with their rock audience and a self-titled album would emerge ‘Led Zeppelin” with sounds of blues and extended solos and psychedelic effects. On “Led Zeppelin II”, their approach to blues-rock tightened up with modern sounds that gave us “Whole Lotta Love” and “Heartbreaker”. A more acousitc sound came out on ‘Led Zeppelin III” with more of a folk sound of “Tangerine” and rocking it out on “Immigrant Song” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You.”
Their next album would define the group’s work like no other, an untitled album that became known as ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ and was a combination of both folk and hard-rock directions that roared in “Black Dog”, “When the Levee Breaks” and “The Battle of Evermore.” While songs like “Black Dog” and “Whole Lotta Love” became hard-rock number cuts, the most significant track of all, hands down, not only then but still today was “Stairway to Heaven,” an eight-minute epic, fable-like song that was never released as a single.
The groups 5th album Houses of the Holy, remains larger-than-life even today with artwork that is startling and gives way to musci that was then and is today, adventuresome. Sold out concerts were a ritual for Led Zeppelin, full of high-energy. The documentary, “The Song Remains the Same”, certifies the group had a powerful, saturnalian appeal with their popularity. Earning a reputation being indulgent, the group’s darker side would be an undeniable feature of the band’s history.
As Led Zeppelin would reach the top of their mountain in the mid-to-late 70s, they would experience tragedies that would become the demise of this group. Starting with Robert Plant almost losing a leg in a car crash in 1975 on a Greek island that sidelined him and the band, for two years. Soon after, in 1977, Karac, Plant’s 6 year old son would died of a viral infection. These tragedies would knock the momentum of the group and three years would pass between the 1976 release of “Presence” and “In Through the Out Door” which would be the group’s final studio album in 1979.
Then, what would be the ending blow of this awesome group, September 25, 1980, as they were in rehearsals for an American tour, John Bonham, the drummer, was found dead. The cause was stated to be asphyxiation following excessive alcohol consumption. The remaining band members felt that Bohnam could never be replacead and the group disbanded.
The surviving members of Led Zeppelin would find careers of their own separately, with Page forming ‘The Firm” together with John Paul Jones and Paul Rodgers and Jimmy Page going solo. It would be 1994 and 1995 that Page and Plant would come together again and record ‘No Quarter’ a rekindling of the group’s old powers that would take them touring for a short bit.
In 2007, the former members of Led Zeppelin would come together to pay tribute for Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records. Taking his father’s place, John Bonham took charge of the skins, being every bit as talented as his father John Bonham, and at O2 Areana in London, the group performed 16 songs. “Good Times, Bad Times” was the opening sond and “Kashmir” closed the set with the concert being filmed. October 2012 would see the release of that filming with a CD and DVD released the following month. This was the band’s final appearance.
Just as The Beatles, The Doors and Elivis Presley, this group continues to grow in popularity still. As Mr. Page would once be quoted in describing the band, “Passion is the word….It was a very passionate band, and that’s really what comes through.” Second in record sales to the Beatles, with 84 million units being sold and “Led Zeppelin IV” holds a place in history as being the fourth best-selling album with over 22 million copies sold.
For a group that was known as the biggest band in history from 1971 – 1975, they are the owners of four albums that were on the best seller list ‘Physical Graffiti’, ‘Led Zeppelin II’,’Houses of the Holy’ and ‘Led Zeppelin’. .Tied with the Beatles for most albums is just another affirmation that Led Zeppelin had an impact on the world of rock music by carving their own place in rock history. In 1995, Joe Perry and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith would induct Led Zeppelin into the United States Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.