- Led Zeppelin
Top: Jimmy Page, John Bonham
Bottom: John Paul Jones, Robert Plant
Background information Also known as The New Yardbirds, The Nobs Origin London, England Genres Hard rock, heavy metal, blues rock, folk rock Years active 1968–80
(reunions: 1985, 1988, 1995, 2007)
Labels Atlantic, Swan Song Associated acts Page and Plant, The Honeydrippers, The Yardbirds Website ledzeppelin.com Past members Jimmy Page
John Paul Jones
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band, active in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Formed in 1968, they consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. With their heavy, guitar-driven blues rock sound, Led Zeppelin are regularly cited as one of the progenitors of heavy metal and hard rock even though the band's individualistic style drew from many sources and transcends any single music genre. Led Zeppelin did not release songs from their albums as singles in the United Kingdom, as they preferred to establish the concept of album orientated rock.
Led Zeppelin disbanded following Bonham's death in 1980, but continue to be held in high regard for their artistic achievements, commercial success, and broad influence. The band are widely considered to be one of the most successful, innovative and influential bands in the history of music. According to some sources, Led Zeppelin have sold over 200 million albums worldwide. Other sources state sales of more than 300 million records, including 111.5 million certified units in the United States. This makes Led Zeppelin one of the world's best-selling music artists of all time, as well as the second-best-selling band of all time in the US. Each of their nine studio albums reached the top 10 of the Billboard album chart in the US, with six reaching the number one spot. Rolling Stone magazine described them as "the heaviest band of all time", "the biggest band of the '70s" and "unquestionably one of the most enduring bands in rock history". Similarly, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame stated that, in the 1970s the band were "as influential in that decade as The Beatles were in the prior one".
In 2007, some 27 years after the band disbanded, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited (along with John Bonham's son, Jason) for the Ahmet Ertegün Tribute Concert at The O2 Arena in London. The band were honoured with the "Best Live Act" prize for their one-off reunion at MOJO Awards 2008, where they were described as the "greatest rock and roll band of all time".
- 1 History
- 2 Musical style
- 3 Legacy
- 4 Awards and accolades
- 5 Discography
- 6 Concert tours
- 7 Footnotes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
In 1966, Jimmy Page joined the blues-influenced rock band, The Yardbirds, to replace bassist Paul Samwell-Smith. Page soon switched from bass to lead guitar, creating a dual lead-guitar line-up with Jeff Beck. Following the departure of Beck in October 1966, The Yardbirds — tired from constant touring and recording — began to wind down. Page wanted to form a supergroup with himself and Beck on guitars, and The Who's rhythm section—drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle. Vocalists Steve Winwood and Steve Marriott were also considered for the project. The group never formed, although Page, Beck and Moon did record a song together in 1966, "Beck's Bolero", in a session that also included bassist-keyboardist John Paul Jones. The track was released on Beck's 1968 album Truth.
The Yardbirds played their final gig in July 1968 at Luton College of Technology in Bedfordshire, England. They were still committed to performing several concerts in Scandinavia, so drummer Jim McCarty and vocalist Keith Relf authorised Page and bassist Chris Dreja to use "The Yardbirds" name to fulfil the band's obligations. Page and Dreja began putting a new line-up together. Page's first choice for the lead singer was Terry Reid, but Reid declined the offer and suggested Robert Plant, a Stourbridge singer for The Band of Joy and Hobbstweedle. Plant eventually accepted the position, recommending former Band of Joy drummer John Bonham. When Dreja dropped out of the project to become a photographer (he would later take the photograph that appeared on the back of Led Zeppelin's debut album), John Paul Jones, at the suggestion of his wife, contacted Page about the vacant position. Having known Jones from his session days, Page agreed to let him join as the final member.
The four played together for the first time in a room below a record store on Gerrard Street in London. Page suggested that they attempt "Train Kept A-Rollin'", originally a jump blues song popularised in a rockabilly version by Johnny Burnette, which had been covered by The Yardbirds. "As soon as I heard John Bonham play", recalled Jones, "I knew this was going to be great... We locked together as a team immediately". Before leaving for Scandinavia the group took part in a recording session for the P.J. Proby album, Three Week Hero. The album's track "Jim's Blues", with Plant on harmonica, was the first studio track to feature all four members of the future Led Zeppelin.
The band completed the Scandinavian tour as The New Yardbirds, playing together for the first time in front of a live audience at Gladsaxe Teen Clubs in Gladsaxe, Denmark, on 7 September 1968. Later that month, the group began recording their first album, which was based upon their live set. The album was recorded and mixed in nine days, and Page himself covered the costs. After the album's completion, the band were forced to change their name after Chris Dreja issued a cease and desist letter, stating that Page was only allowed to use the New Yardbirds name for the Scandinavian dates. One account of how the new band's name was chosen held that Keith Moon and John Entwistle suggested that a supergroup containing themselves, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck would go down like a "lead balloon", a British idiom for disastrous results. The group dropped the 'a' in lead at the suggestion of their manager, Peter Grant, so that those unfamiliar with the phrase would not pronounce it "leed". The word "balloon" was transformed into "zeppelin", perhaps an exaggeration of the humour, and to Page the name conjured the perfect combination of heavy and light, combustibility and grace.
Grant secured for the new band an advance deal of $200,000 from Atlantic Records in November 1968, which was then one of biggest deals of its kind for a new band. Atlantic were a label with a catalogue of mainly blues, soul and jazz artists, but in the late 1960s it began to take an interest in progressive British rock acts. It signed Led Zeppelin without having ever seen them, largely on the recommendation of singer Dusty Springfield. Under the terms of their contract, the band had autonomy in deciding when they would release albums and tour and had final say over the contents and design of each album. They also would decide how to promote each release and which tracks to release as singles. They formed their own company, Superhype, to handle all publishing rights.
Early years (1968–70)
On 14 October 1968, the band announced the new name and played their first show at the University of Surrey in Guildford on 25 October; this was followed by a short British tour. Richard Cole organised their first North American tour at the end of the year, and would become a major figure in the touring life of the group. The first show was in Denver on 26 December 1968, followed by other East Coast dates before they moved to California to play Los Angeles and San Francisco. The eponymous debut, Led Zeppelin, was released in the US during the tour on 12 January 1969. The UK release date was 31 March 1969. According to Steve Erlewine, its memorable guitar riffs, lumbering rhythms, psychedelic blues, groovy, bluesy shuffles and hints of English folk, made it "a significant turning point in the evolution of hard rock and heavy metal". Plant received no credit for his songwriting contributions, said to be because of his being under contract to CBS Records. The album eventually peaked at number 10 on the Billboard chart and number 6 in the UK.
In their first year, Led Zeppelin completed four US and four UK concert tours, and also released their second album, entitled Led Zeppelin II. Recorded almost entirely on the road at various North American studios, it was an even greater commercial success than their first album and reached the number one chart position in the US and the UK. The album further developed ideas established on their debut album, creating a work with a direct sound that was "heavy and hard, brutal and direct" and which would be highly influential and frequently imitated. It has been suggested that Led Zeppelin II was "the musical starting point for heavy metal".
The band saw their albums as indivisible, whole listening experiences, and Grant maintained an aggressive pro-album stance. Without the band's consent or under their protest, however, some songs were released as singles, particularly in the US. In 1969 an edited version of "Whole Lotta Love" from their second album was released as a single in the US. It reached number four in the Billboard chart in January 1970, selling over one million copies and helping to cement the band's popularity. The group also increasingly shunned television appearances, enforcing their preference that their fans hear and see them in live concerts.
Following the second album's release, Led Zeppelin completed several more US tours. They played initially in clubs and ballrooms, then in larger auditoriums as their popularity grew. Some early Led Zeppelin concerts lasted more than four hours, with expanded and improvised live versions of their song repertoire. Many of these shows have been preserved as Led Zeppelin bootleg recordings. It was during this period of intensive concert touring that the band developed a reputation for off-stage excess. One alleged example of such extravagance was the shark episode, or red snapper incident, which is said to have taken place at the Edgewater Inn in Seattle, Washington, on 28 July 1969.
For the third album, Led Zeppelin III, Page and Plant retired to Bron-Yr-Aur, a remote cottage in Wales, in 1970. The result was a more acoustic sound that was strongly influenced by folk and Celtic music, and showcased the band's versatility. The album's rich acoustic sound initially received mixed reactions, with many critics and fans surprised at the turn from the primarily electric arrangements of the first two albums, fuelling further hostility to the musical press. It reached number one in the UK and US charts, but its stay would be the shortest of their first five albums. The album's opening track, "Immigrant Song", was released in November 1970 as a single against the band's wishes, reaching the top twenty on the Billboard chart.
"The Biggest Band in the World" (1971–75)
In the 1970s Led Zeppelin reached new heights of commercial and critical success that made them one of the most influential groups of the era, dwarfing their earlier achievements. The band's image also changed as members began to wear elaborate, flamboyant clothing. Led Zeppelin began travelling in a private jet airliner (nicknamed The Starship), rented out entire sections of hotels (including the Continental Hyatt House in Los Angeles, known colloquially as the "Riot House"), and became the subject of many of rock's most repeated stories of debauchery. One involved John Bonham riding a motorcycle through a rented floor of the Riot House, while another involved the destruction of a room in the Tokyo Hilton, leading to the band being banned from that establishment for life. Although Led Zeppelin developed a reputation for trashing their hotel suites and throwing television sets out of the windows, some suggest that these tales have been exaggerated. Music journalist Chris Welch argues that "[Led Zeppelin's] travels spawned many stories, but it was a myth that [they] were constantly engaged in acts of wanton destruction and lewd behaviour".
Led Zeppelin's fourth album was released on 8 November 1971. There was no title or conventional band name on the original cover, as the group wished to be anonymous and to avoid easy pigeonholing by the press. The album remained officially untitled and is most commonly referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, though it is variously referred to as Untitled, IV, or after the four symbols appearing on the record label, as Four Symbols, Zoso or Runes. Led Zeppelin IV is one of the best-selling albums in history and its massive popularity cemented Led Zeppelin's status as superstars in the 1970s. By 2006 it had sold 23 million copies in the United States alone. The track "Stairway to Heaven", although never released as a single, is sometimes quoted as being the most requested, and the most played album-oriented rock FM radio song.
Led Zeppelin's next album, Houses of the Holy, was released in 1973. It featured further experimentation, with expanded use of synthesizers and mellotron orchestration. The song "Houses of the Holy" does not appear on its namesake album, even though it was recorded at the same time; it was eventually released on the 1975 album Physical Graffiti. The predominately orange album cover of Houses of the Holy depicts images of nude children climbing the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Although the children are not shown from the front, the cover was controversial at the time of the album's release.
The album topped the charts, and Led Zeppelin's subsequent concert tour of North America in 1973 broke records for attendance, as they consistently filled large auditoriums and stadiums. At Tampa Stadium, Florida, they played to 56,800 fans (breaking the record set by The Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965), and grossed $309,000. Three sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in New York were filmed for a motion picture, but the theatrical release of this project (The Song Remains the Same) was delayed until 1976. Before the final night's performance, $180,000 of the band's money from gate receipts was stolen from a safe deposit box at the Drake Hotel.
In 1974, Led Zeppelin took a break from touring and launched their own record label, Swan Song, named after an unreleased song. The record label's logo, based on a drawing called Evening: Fall of Day (1869) by William Rimmer, features a picture of Apollo. The logo can be found on many Led Zeppelin memorabilia, especially t-shirts. In addition to using Swan Song as a vehicle to promote their own albums, the band expanded the label's roster, signing 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.
In 1975, Led Zeppelin's double album Physical Graffiti, was their first release on the Swan Song label. It consisted of fifteen songs, of which eight had been recorded at Headley Grange in 1974 and seven had been recorded earlier. A review in Rolling Stone magazine referred to Physical Graffiti as Led Zeppelin's "bid for artistic respectability", adding that the only bands Led Zeppelin had to compete with for the title "The World's Best Rock Band" were The Rolling Stones and The Who. The album was a massive fiscal and critical success. Shortly after the release of Physical Graffiti, all previous Led Zeppelin albums simultaneously re-entered the top-200 album chart, and the band embarked on another North American tour., now employing sophisticated sound and lighting systems. 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 (1975–77)
Following their triumphant Earls Court appearances, Led Zeppelin took a holiday and planned an autumn tour in America, scheduled to open with two outdoor dates in San Francisco. In August 1975, however, Robert Plant and his wife, Maureen, were involved in a serious car crash while on holiday in Rhodes, Greece. Plant suffered a broken ankle and Maureen was badly injured; a blood transfusion saved her life. Unable to tour, he headed to the Channel Island of Jersey to spend August and September recuperating, with Bonham and Page in tow. The band then reconvened in Malibu, California. During this forced hiatus much of the material for their next album, Presence, was written.
By this time, Led Zeppelin were the world's number one rock attraction, having outsold most bands of the time, including The Rolling Stones. Presence, released in March 1976, marked a change in the Led Zeppelin sound towards more straightforward, guitar-based jams, departing from the acoustic ballads and intricate arrangements featured on their previous albums. Though it was a platinum seller, reception of Presence was mixed among critics and fans, with some critics suggesting that the band's excesses may have caught up with them. Page had begun using heroin during the recording of Presence, which may have affected later live shows and studio recordings of the band, although this has been denied by Page.
Because of Plant's injuries Led Zeppelin did not tour in 1976. Instead, the band completed the concert film The Song Remains the Same, and the accompanying soundtrack album. The recording had taken place during three concert nights at Madison Square Garden in July 1973, during the band's concert tour of North America. The film premiered in New York 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 tax exile, Led Zeppelin faced an uphill battle to recapture the public's affection.
In 1977, Led Zeppelin embarked on another major concert tour of North America. The band set another attendance record, with an audience of 76,229 at their Pontiac Silverdome concert on 30 April. It was, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the largest attendance to date for a single act show. Although the tour was financially profitable it was beset by off-stage problems. On 19 April, over 70 people were arrested as about 1,000 fans tried to gatecrash Cincinnati Riverfront Coliseum for two sold-out concerts, while others tried to gain entry by throwing rocks and bottles through glass doors. On 3 June, a concert at Tampa Stadium was cut short because of a severe thunderstorm, despite tickets indicating "Rain or Shine". A riot broke out, resulting in arrests and injuries.
After the 23 July show at the Days on the Green festival at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California, John Bonham and members of the band's support staff were arrested after a member of promoter 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, as the band checked in at a French Quarter hotel for their 30 July performance at the Louisiana Superdome, Plant received news that his five-year-old son, Karac, had died from a stomach virus. The rest of the tour was immediately cancelled, prompting widespread speculation about the band's future.
Bonham's death and break-up (1978–80)
In November 1978 the group recorded at Polar Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. The resulting album, In Through the Out Door, exhibited sonic experimentation that again drew mixed reactions from critics. Nevertheless, the album easily reached number one in the UK and the US in just its second week on the Billboard album chart. With this album's release, Led Zeppelin's entire catalogue returned to the Billboard Top 200 in the weeks of 27 October and 3 November 1979.
In August 1979, after two warm-up shows in Copenhagen, Led Zeppelin headlined two concerts at the Knebworth Music Festival, playing to crowds of nearly 120,000. Plant was not eager to tour full-time again, and even considered leaving Led Zeppelin. Grant persuaded him to stay. A brief, low-key European tour was undertaken in June and July 1980, featuring a stripped-down set without the usual lengthy jams and solos. On 27 June, at a show in Nuremberg, Germany, the concert came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the third song when Bonham collapsed on stage and was rushed to hospital. Speculation in the press suggested that his collapse had been the result of excessive alcohol and drug use, but the band claimed that he had simply overeaten.
A North American tour, the band's first since 1977, was scheduled to commence on 17 October. On 24 September 1980, Bonham was picked up by Led Zeppelin assistant Rex King to attend rehearsals at Bray Studios. During the journey Bonham asked to stop for breakfast, where he downed four quadruple vodkas (450 ml/15 oz.), with a ham roll. After taking a bite of the ham roll he said to his assistant, "breakfast". He continued to drink heavily when he arrived at the studio. The rehearsals were halted late that evening and the band retired to Page's house—The Old Mill House in Clewer, Windsor. After midnight, Bonham, who had fallen asleep, was taken to bed and placed on his side. At 1:45 pm the next day Benji LeFevre (Led Zeppelin's new tour manager) and John Paul Jones found Bonham dead. The cause of death was asphyxiation from vomit, and a verdict of accidental death was returned at an inquest held on 27 October. An autopsy found no other drugs in Bonham's body. Bonham was cremated on 10 October 1980, and his ashes buried at Rushock parish church in Droitwich, Worcestershire.
The planned North American tour was cancelled, and despite rumours that Cozy Powell, Carmine Appice, Barriemore Barlow, Simon Kirke or Bev Bevan would join the group as his replacement, the remaining members decided to disband. A 4 December 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 simply signed "Led Zeppelin".
The first significant post-Led Zeppelin project was The Honeydrippers, a band formed in 1981 by Robert Plant and featuring Jimmy Page on lead guitar, along with an array of studio musicians and friends of Plant and Page, including Jeff Beck, Paul Shaffer, and Nile Rodgers. Plant intentionally chose to focus the band in a very different direction from Led Zeppelin, playing standards and in a more R&B style, highlighted by their cover of "Sea of Love", which peaked at number three on the Billboard charts in early 1985.
In 1982, the surviving members of the group released a collection of out-takes from various sessions during Led Zeppelin's career, entitled Coda. It included two tracks taken from the band's performance at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970, one each from the Led Zeppelin III and Houses of the Holy sessions, and three from the In Through the Out Door sessions. It also featured a 1976 John Bonham drum instrumental with electronic effects added by Jimmy Page, called "Bonzo's Montreux".
On 13 July 1985, Page, Plant and Jones reunited for the Live Aid concert at JFK Stadium, Philadelphia, playing a short set featuring drummers Tony Thompson and Phil Collins and bassist Paul Martinez. Collins had contributed to Plant's first two solo albums while Martinez was a member of Plant's group Band of Joy. The performance was marred by the lack of rehearsal with the two drummers, Page's struggles with an out-of-tune guitar, poorly functioning monitors, and by Plant's hoarse voice. Page himself has described the performance as "pretty shambolic", while Plant was even harsher, characterising it as an "atrocity".
The three members reunited again on 14 May 1988, for the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary concert, with Bonham's son, Jason Bonham, on drums. The reunion was again compromised by a disjointed performance, particularly by Plant and Page (the two having argued immediately prior to coming on stage about whether to play "Stairway to Heaven"), and by the complete loss of Jones' keyboards on the live television feed. Page later described the performance as "one big disappointment", and Plant said unambiguously that "the gig was foul".
The first Led Zeppelin box set, featuring tracks remastered under Page's supervision, was released in 1990 and bolstered the band's reputation, leading to abortive discussions among members about a reunion. This set included four previously unreleased tracks, including a version of Robert Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues". The song peaked at number seven on the Billboard Album Rock Tracks chart. 1992 saw the release of the "Immigrant Song"/"Hey Hey What Can I Do" (the original B-side) as a CD single in the US. Led Zeppelin Boxed Set 2 was released in 1993; the two box sets together containing all known studio recordings, as well as some rare live tracks.
In 1994, Page and Plant reunited for a 90 minute "UnLedded" MTV project. They later released an album called No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded, which featured some reworked Led Zeppelin songs, and embarked on a world tour the following year. This is said to be the beginning of the inner rift between the band members, as Jones was not even told of the reunion. When asked where Jones was, Plant had replied that he was out "parking the car".
In 1995, Led Zeppelin were inducted into the United States Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Aerosmith's vocalist, Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry. Jason and Zoe Bonham also attended, representing their late father. At the induction ceremony, the band's inner rift became apparent when Jones joked upon accepting his award, "Thank you, my friends, for finally remembering my phone number", causing consternation and awkward looks from Page and Plant. Afterwards, they played one brief set with Tyler and Perry, with Jason Bonham on drums, and then a second with Neil Young with Michael Lee on drums.
In 1997, Atlantic released a single edit of "Whole Lotta Love" in the US and the UK, making it the only Led Zeppelin UK CD single. Additional tracks on this CD-single included "Baby Come On Home" and "Travelling Riverside Blues". It peaked at number 21. November 1997 saw the release of Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions. The two-disc set largely consisted of sessions from 1969 and 1971 for the BBC. Page and Plant released another album called Walking into Clarksdale in 1998, featuring all new material, but it was not as successful as No Quarter and the band dissolved before a planned Australian tour.
2003 saw the release of the double live album How the West Was Won, and Led Zeppelin DVD, a six-hour chronological set of live footage that became the best-selling music DVD in history. That same year the band received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. In November 2005 it was announced that Led Zeppelin, and Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, were the winners of the 2006 Polar Music Prize. The King of Sweden presented the prize to Plant, Page, and Jones, along with John Bonham's daughter, in Stockholm in May 2006. In November 2006 Led Zeppelin were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame.
On 27 July 2007 Atlantic/Rhino and Warner Home Video announced three new Led Zeppelin titles to be released in November 2007. First was Mothership, a 24-track best-of spanning the band's career, followed by a reissue of the soundtrack to The Song Remains the Same, which included previously unreleased material, and a new DVD. In November 2007 Led Zeppelin made the band's songs available as legal digital downloads, one of the last major rock bands to do so.
On 10 December 2007 Led Zeppelin reunited for the one-off Ahmet Ertegün Tribute Concert at The O2 Arena in London, with Jason Bonham taking his late father's place on drums. According to Guinness World Records 2009, Led Zeppelin hold the world record for the "Highest Demand for Tickets for One Music Concert" as 20 million requests for the reunion show were rendered online. The concert was to help raise money for the Ahmet Ertegün Education Fund, which pays for university scholarships in the UK, US and Turkey. Music critics praised the band's performance. Hamish MacBain of NME proclaimed, "What they have done here tonight is proof they can still perform to the level that originally earned them their legendary reputation... We can only hope this isn't the last we see of them".
In the aftermath of the 2007 performance there was widespread speculation about a Led Zeppelin reunion. In early 2008 Jimmy Page stated that he was prepared to embark upon a world tour with Led Zeppelin but, due to Robert Plant's tour commitments with Alison Krauss, plans would not be announced until at least September. The BBC reported in late August that Page, Jones and Bonham were recording material which could become a new Led Zeppelin project. On 29 September Plant released a statement in which he called reports of a Led Zeppelin reunion "frustrating and ridiculous". He said he would not be recording or touring with the band, before adding, "I wish Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham nothing but success with any future projects". In late October Jones confirmed that he, Page, and Bonham were seeking a replacement for Plant. A spokesman for Page later told Rolling Stone that the name Led Zeppelin would not be used due to the absence of Plant. Singers who auditioned for the project included Steven Tyler and Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge. In January 2009 Page's manager Robert Mensch stated that the band had "tried out a few singers, but no one worked out, that was it. The whole thing is completely over now. There are absolutely no plans for them to continue".
The band's music was rooted in the blues. The influence of abrupt, non-fluid American blues of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Skip James was particularly apparent, especially on Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II. Tracks were structured around the twelve-bar blues on every studio album except one, and the blues directly and indirectly influenced many other songs both musically and lyrically. The band were also strongly influenced by the music of the British, Celtic and American folk revivals. English folk guitarist Bert Jansch helped inspire Jimmy Page, and from him he adapted open tunings and aggressive strokes into his playing. The band also drew on a wide variety of genres, including world music, and elements of early rock 'n' roll, jazz, country, funk, soul and reggae, particularly on Houses of the Holy and the albums that followed.
The material on the first two albums was largely constructed out of extended jams of blues standards and folk songs. This method led to the mixing of musical and lyrical elements of different songs and versions, as well as improvised passages, to create new material. Usually the music was developed first, sometimes with improvised lyrics which might then be rewritten for the final version of the song. From the visit to Bron-Yur-Aur in 1970, the song-writing partnership between Page and Plant became predominant; with Page supplying the music, largely via his acoustic guitar, and Plant emerging as the band's chief lyricist. Jones and Bonham then added to the material, in rehearsal or in the studio, as a song was developed. In the later stages of the band's career, Page took something of a back seat in composition and Jones became increasingly important in producing music, often composed on the keyboard. Plant would then add lyrics before Page and Bonham developed their parts.
Early lyrics drew on the band's blues and folk roots, often mixing lyrical fragments from different songs. Many of the band's songs dealt with themes of romance, unrequited love and sexual conquest, which were common in rock, pop and blues music. Some of their lyrics, especially those derived from the blues, have been interpreted as misogynistic. Particularly from Led Zeppelin III, they incorporated elements of mythology and mysticism into their music, which largely grew out of Plant's interest in legends and history. Although these elements were often taken to reflect Page's interest in the occult, Susan Fast argues that as Plant emerged as the band's main lyricist, the songs more obviously reflected his alignment with the West Coast counterculture of the 1960s. In the later part of the band's career Plant's lyrics became more autobiographical, and less optimistic, drawing on his own experiences and circumstances.
According to Robert Walser, "Led Zeppelin's sound was marked by speed and power, unusual rhythmic patterns, contrasting terraced dynamics, singer Robert Plant's wailing vocals, and guitarist Jimmy Page's heavily distorted crunch". These elements mean that they are often cited as one of the progenitors of hard rock and heavy metal and they have been described as the "definitive heavy metal band", although they have often eschewed the label. Part of this reputation depends on the bands use of distorted guitar riffs on songs like "Whole Lotta Love" and "The Wanton Song". Often riffs were not doubled by guitar, bass and drums exactly, but instead there were often melodic or rhythmic variations; as in "Black Dog", where three different time signatures are used. Page's guitar playing incorporated elements of the blues scale with those of eastern music. Plant's use of high-pitched shrieks has been compared to Janis Joplin's vocal technique. Bonham's drumming was noted for its power, his rapid rolls and his fast beats on a single bass drum. Jones' basslines have been described as melodic and his keyboard playing added a classical touch.
Page stated that he wanted Led Zeppelin to produce music that had "light and shade". This began to be more clearly realised from Led Zeppelin III, which made greater use of acoustic instruments. This approach has been seen as exemplified in the fourth album, particularly on "Stairway to Heaven", which begins with acoustic guitar and recorder and ends with drums and heavy electric sounds. Towards the end of their recording career they moved to a more mellow and progressive sound, dominated by Jones' keyboard motifs. They also increasingly made use of various layering and production techniques, including wide usage of multi-tracking and overdubbed guitar parts. Their emphasis on the sense of dynamics and ensemble arrangement has been seen as producing an individualistic style that transcends any one music genre. Ian Peddie argues that they were "... loud, powerful and often heavy, but their music was also humorous, self-reflective and extremely subtle".
Led Zeppelin are widely considered to be one of the most successful, innovative and influential bands in the history of music. Rock critic Mikal Gilmore said, "Led Zeppelin—talented, complex, grasping, beautiful and dangerous—made one of the most enduring bodies of composition and performance in twentieth-century music, despite everything they had to overpower, including themselves".
Led Zeppelin have influenced hard rock and heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Rush, Queen, Megadeth, Velvet Revolver, Tool and Dream Theater. They also influenced some early punk and post-punk bands, among them the Ramones and The Cult. They were also an important influence on the development of alternative rock, as bands adapted elements from the "Zeppelin sound" of the mid-1970s, including The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Bands and artists from diverse genres have also acknowledged the influence of Led Zeppelin, such as Madonna, Shakira, Lady Gaga, and Katie Melua.
Led Zeppelin have been credited with a major impact on the nature of the music business, particularly in the development of album-oriented rock (AOR) and stadium rock. In 1988 John Kalodner, then-A&R executive of Geffen Records, remarked that "In my opinion, next to the Beatles they're the most influential band in history. They influence the way music is on records, AOR radio, concerts. They set the standards for the AOR-radio format with 'Stairway to Heaven,' having AOR hits without necessarily having Top 40 hits. They're the ones who did the first real big arena concert shows, consistently selling out and playing stadiums without support. People can do as well as them, but nobody surpasses them". Andrew Loog Oldham, the former producer and manager of The Rolling Stones, commented on how Led Zeppelin had a major influence on the record business, and the way rock concerts were managed and presented to huge audiences. The band have sold over 200 million albums worldwide according to some sources, while other sources state that they have sold in excess of 300 million records, including 111.5 million certified units in the United States. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Led Zeppelin are the fourth highest selling music act in the US and one of only three acts to earn four or more Diamond albums. Led Zeppelin remain one of the most bootlegged artists in the history of rock music.
Led Zeppelin also had a significant cultural impact. Jim Miller, editor of Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, argues that "On one level, Led Zeppelin represents the final flowering of the sixties' psychedelic ethic, which casts rock as passive sensory involvement". Led Zeppelin have also been described as "the quintessential purveyors" of masculine and aggressive "cock rock", although this assertion has been challenged. The band's fashion-sense has also been seminal; Simeon Lipman, head of pop culture at Christie's auction house, has commented that "Led Zeppelin have had a big influence on fashion because the whole aura surrounding them is so cool, and people want a piece of that". Led Zeppelin laid the foundation for the big hair of 1980s glam metal bands such as Mötley Crüe and Skid Row. Other musicians have also adapted elements from Led Zeppelin's attitude to apparel, jewellery and hair, such as the hipster flares and tight band t-shirts of Kings of Leon, shaggy hair, clingy t-shirts and bluesman hair of Jack White of The White Stripes, and Kasabian guitarist Sergio Pizzorno's silk scarves, trilbies and side-laced tight jeans.
Awards and accolades
Led Zeppelin were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. Among the band 's many awards are a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and the Polar Music Prize in 2006. The band are ranked number one on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock and Classic Rock's "50 Best Live Acts of All Time". The band were honoured with the "Best Live Act" prize for their one-off reunion at MOJO Awards 2008, where they were described as the "greatest rock and roll band of all time".
- Studio albums
- Led Zeppelin (1969)
- Led Zeppelin II (1969)
- Led Zeppelin III (1970)
- Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
- Houses of the Holy (1973)
- Physical Graffiti (1975)
- Presence (1976)
- In Through the Out Door (1979)
- Coda (1982)
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Laureates of the Polar Music Prize 1992–1999Paul McCartney / the Baltic states (1992) · Dizzy Gillespie / Witold Lutosławski (1993) · Quincy Jones / Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1994) · Elton John / Mstislav Rostropovich (1995) · Joni Mitchell / Pierre Boulez (1996) · Bruce Springsteen / Eric Ericson (1997) · Ray Charles / Ravi Shankar (1998) · Stevie Wonder / Iannis Xenakis (1999) 2000–2009Bob Dylan / Isaac Stern (2000) · Burt Bacharach / Robert Moog / Karlheinz Stockhausen (2001) · Miriam Makeba / Sofia Gubaidulina (2002) · Keith Jarrett (2003) · B.B. King / György Ligeti (2004) · Gilberto Gil / Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (2005) · Led Zeppelin / Valery Gergiev (2006) · Sonny Rollins / Steve Reich (2007) · Pink Floyd / Renée Fleming (2008) · Peter Gabriel / José Antonio Abreu / El Sistema (2009) 2010–present
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