LED ZEPPELIN – ” Houses of the Holy ” 50th Anniversary

Posted: April 1, 2023 in MUSIC

After releasing their first four albums in less than three years, Led Zeppelin took what seemed like forever to release their fifth. In fact, it was less than 17 months. But after the regularity of their previous releases, the gap this time seemed eternal.

On March 28th, 2023, the 50th anniversary of “Houses of the Holy”, Jimmy Page shared some insight into the recording process. “My original idea for the opening tracks… was that a short overture would be a rousing instrumental introduction with layered electric guitars that would segue in to ’The Seasons,’ later to be re-titled ‘The Rain Song.’ Again there would be a contrasting acoustic guitar instrumental movement with melotron that could lead to the first vocal of the album and the first verse of the song.

Page continued. “The first set of recordings were done at Olympic Studios with George Chkiantz. We then came to record at Stargroves, Sir Mick Jagger’s country home, and like Headley Grange, with the Rolling Stones’ recording truck.

“I bought my home studio demo of a rough sketch of ‘The Rain Song’ on cassette to rehearsals to illustrate the sequence and textures of this piece to the band. During the routining of the overture now titled ‘The Plumpton and Worcester Races,’ the half time section was born and the overture shaped in to the song, ‘The Song Remains The Same.’ These rehearsals were done in Puddle Town on the River Piddle in Dorset, U.K.

“‘The Song Remains The Same’ was played on a Fender 12 string, the same one used on ‘Becks Bolero,’ with my trusty Les Paul Number One on overdubs in a standard turning. The ‘Rain Song’ was an unorthodox tuning on acoustic and electric guitars. On live shows, it became a work-out feature for the double neck.”

“I had a home demo of ‘The Rain Song’, but unfortunately the tapes have been lost. Which is a real bastard,” he said at the time. “I literally had the full piece from beginning to end. I had the Mellotron idea and everything on it.”

For the album’s cover art the band and their management turned to the accomplished English design studio, Hipgnosis, for inspiration. Co-founder Aubrey Powell, inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 science fiction novel, Childhood’s End, selected the remote area in Northern Ireland called Giant’s Causeway, a natural series of rock and columns which attracts over one million visitors each year, for the location of a photo shoot.

Siblings Stefan Gates—just five at the time—and his slightly older sister, Samantha, were selected for what proved to be a treacherous assignment. The children were pictured on the cover as they ascended the rocky terrain. Both are unclothed. There are laws in place that allow the use of photographs of underage, nude models in art, provided the images are not indecent, obscene or pornographic. (The Protection of Children Act is in place to ensure that children are not exploited.)

“Houses of the Holy” was released on March 28th, 1973. The album, featuring such Led Zeppelin favourites as “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Dy’er Maker” and “The Song Remains the Same”—but not, ironically, the song “Houses of the Holy”—was another enormous success, reaching #1 in both the U.K. and U.S.

On April 26th, 2019, Michelle W, the administrator of the popular Led Zeppelin–Ultimate Fan Page group on Facebook wrote: “So…apparently Facebook has decided to remove my previous post this morning that included a link to a petition that someone started regarding being blocked/banned for posting anything that included the “Houses of the Holy” album cover.

“Facebook told me that my post violated their Community Standards resulting in it being removed. I have requested a review. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they will allow any posting of that album. “It appears that those who control what goes on Facebook allow the hate crimes, demeaning posts to women and sexually explicit pages yet continue to block/ban an iconic album cover.”

Three days later, Michelle wrote: “Facebook continues to remove and ban posts related to “Houses of the Holy“. So just to test things, I reported Nirvana’s album cover. You would think a baby boy’s penis would go against their standards…but as you can see, it doesn’t. “I figured if they are going crazy removing all trace of the “Houses of the Holy” cover for nudity, why not Nirvana? It’s interesting how one cover that depicts nudity is not against the standards, but a 46-year-old classic album does.

“Who would have thought that in 2019, an album cover could cause so much trouble on a social media site that allows much worse.” It took a while, but Facebook’s “problem” with the album cover was finally resolved.

  1. This Led Zep album above all Led Zep albums is my Led Zep album. I know four symbols is the one but… This is mine.

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