Posts Tagged ‘Atlantic Records’

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Our hearts go out to the family of legendary songwriter John Prine, who passed away after being in a critical condition recently with coronovirus. The legendary singer-songwriter John Prine died Tuesday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. He was 73 years of age. Part of John Prine’s brilliance was how easy he made it all seem. With some songwriters, you can hear the effort and strain put into every line, and it can become wearisome. But Prine seemed to come about it so humbly and naturally that you could believe, since you had access to the same language and the same chords on an acoustic guitar, that you could be as wise, as funny, as heart-rending as he could.

His road to that point wasn’t the typical one for music stardom. He was a soldier and a mailman before he emerged from Chicago with his debut album in 1971. That self-titled release cemented him as a fully-formed song-writing powerhouse.

Following his service in the army, John Prine seemed to spring forth as a fully formed multi-dimensional singer songwriter at the age of 24. Steve Goodman and Prine were running buddies and staples of Chicago’s hardscrabble folk scene during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. It was Goodman who led Prine to Kris Kristofferson. An established star, Kristofferson brought the pair to New York, and on their first night in town, Prine sang three songs at The Bitter End in Greenwich Village. Legendary Atlantic Records producer and A&R executive Jerry Wexler was in the audience. Twenty-four hours later, he signed Prine to the famed label.

In 1971, Prine released one of the most impressive debut albums ever, proving himself capable of writing folk balladry, country, and rock songs laced with pathos, sensitivity, and sardonic humor that reflected on the human condition. A critical smash but a commercial disappointment, this remarkable album set the tone for the rest of his career. The next two albums, 1971’s Diamonds In The Rough and Sweet Revenge, released in 1973, proved that the first album was no fluke. His songs continued to have depth, compassion, and an understanding that belied his young age. The first three or four records, I would just write ‘em while walking down the street–just throw ‘em over my shoulder,” Prine says. “The best way to get away from the world was to go write a song.”

This solo acoustic performance, recorded at the Music Inn in Lenox during the summer of 1973, captures Prine performing the material from his first three albums stripped down to their bare essence. In almost every case, these songs are even more compelling with just the man’s voice and guitar. This audience, the vast majority of whom had come to see Bonnie Raitt, is immediately drawn in and responds with great enthusiasm, bringing out a most inspired choice of material from Prine. Taken as a whole, this remarkable set is overwhelming in its diversity and contains a wealth of Prine’s most memorable compositions.

Fans of Prine’s self-titled debut will be delighted to find that album extremely well represented. Early in the set, he delivers the counterculture songs “Spanish Pipe Dream” and “Illegal Smile,” setting an irreverent tone that resonates with the audience. These more humorous numbers are almost immediately balanced out by “Donald and Lydia” an achingly poignant song about a young couple separated by army life and “Sam Stone,” an anguished tale of a drug addicted Vietnam vet. With its disturbing and penetrating lyrics, including a chorus of “there’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes; Jesus Christ died for nothin’, I suppose,” There are few lyrics as sobering as this one from John Prine’s “Sam Stone” The track taken from his 1971 self-titled debut album, this acoustic song lays bare the horrors of war long after combat has ceased. The protagonist succumbs to a drug addiction after his severe wartime injuries, and his children’s innocent, simplistic view of their father’s darkest demon just hits you like a barreling train. Speaking of which, there’s another powerful, slightly more vivid allusion to locomotives when Prine describes the centre of his main character’s universe, the rush you get from taking heroin: “And the gold rolled through his veins / Like a thousand railroad trains.”

Prine’s insightful anti-war commentaries have a depth and substance that seemed to come from experience. As such, they have far more insight and resonance than most anti-war songs of the Vietnam era. That first album is also represented by the autobiographical “Paradise,” as well as the immeasurably sad songs, “Hello In There” and “Far From Me” Prine’s trademark wit and sense of humour also gets more time to shine on the rollicking anti-war song “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore” and “Pretty Good,” one of the most outrageously funny songs in Prine’s early cannon.

You won’t find very many 25-year-old male musicians writing from the perspective of an older woman, but John Prine had a gift for storytelling that knew no bounds. Singing with beautifully grizzled vocals over rousing organs, Prine pleads with angels on “Angel From Montgomery” to be saved from a loveless marriage, lost dreams and a life devoid of purpose. Various covers of this song by John Denver, Bonnie Raitt and Tanya Tucker helped popularize the song, and Raitt’s version, in particular, is an absolute knockout

Several tracks from Prine’s second album, Diamonds In The Rough are also performed, including “Rocky Mountain Time,” the hilarious sing-along encore of “Everybody” and a powerfully moving “Clocks and Spoons” However, what is possibly most delightful here is the appearance of the new songs that would be included on Prine’s third album, Sweet Revenge, including his classic “Grandpa Was A Carpenter.” On this album, Prine ventured into increasingly cryptic lyrical terrain. “Please Don’t Bury Me” and “The Accident (Things Could Be Worse)” are both brilliantly written songs that remain open to interpretation, while the overtly comical “Dear Abby” and the doleful holiday carol, “Christmas In Prison,” display Prine’s sharp wit and wry sense of humor.

For anyone interested in contemporary folk music and its history, John Prine is a required course and his first album is absolutely essential listening. This recording is a perfect overview of Prine’s early career containing many of the highlights from those first three albums and most of the songs that cemented his reputation. Prine is hysterically funny here, but he is always just as thought provoking, able to strike a nerve way down deep, often in the same song. Common Sense (1975), Bruised Orange (1978), Pink Cadillac (1979) and Storm Windows (1980) followed, as did more classic songs–“Come Back to Us Barbara Lewis,” “Hare Krishna Beauregard,” “That’s the Way the World Goes ‘Round” and “Crooked Piece of Time” Eventually, Prine discovered that his escape from the world had become a world unto itself.

Maybe you’ve never heard a John Prine song in your life. But if someone spun his 1978 album Bruised Orange for you, unprimed and unprepared, my bet is you’d be smitten within the first few seconds of that record’s first song, the jaunty “Fish and Whistle.” To the tune of one especially chirpy flute, Prine sings, “We’ll forgive each other ‘til we both turn blue.” It doesn’t matter how much beautiful nonsense he crams into his folk songs, John Prine always leaves a nugget of wisdom. Isn’t that a beautiful idea, that we’ll all just keep forgiving each other as long as we live, because that’s part of being a human? End your feuds; do it for John.

He enjoyed the early 90’s comeback album that many of his era who had flailed a bit during the 80s did, thanks to the Heartbreaker-filled The Missing Years in 1991. And he proved one of the world’s most charming duet partners on 1999’s In Spite Of Ourselves, as he and Iris DeMent turned the title track into one of most romantic warts-and-all songs of all time. His live performances constantly reminded everyone both of his incredible songbook and of his boundless charisma; contemporary and younger artists revered him; and awards and honours came in with regularity.

Prine returned with his first original album in 13 years a few years ago. The Tree Of Forgiveness included guests like Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Dan Auerbach, and Brandi Carlisle, but Prine still stole the show. The heartbreak of “Summer’s End” and the feistiness of “When I Get To Heaven” proved that he hadn’t lost anything.

 

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Soon, Paramore leader Hayley Williams will let her first-ever solo album Petals For Armor. She has already shared a whopping five tracks from the LP. Today, she shares a sixth, and it’s easily the most anticipated song on the album.Baker, Bridgers, and Dacus all sing on “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris,” the new single that Williams has shared today. It’s the first time we’ve heard all three members of boygenius together since they finished touring behind their truly great 2018 EP. But this isn’t a boygenius song with Williams on it; it’s the opposite. “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” is a skittering, personal pop song, and it sounds a whole lot like the other solo songs that Williams has released. Like most of those songs, it’s really good, too. It carries serious 1996 modern-rock-radio vibes. And those harmonies really are something.

Williams co-wrote “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” with her Paramore bandmate Taylor York, who produced Petals For Armor, and with pop songwriter and producer Daniel James. It has some seriously busy strings, and the bridge goes hard.

Hayley Williams has shared a new solo single with boygenius, “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris,” taken from her forthcoming album Petals for Armor, out on May 8th via Atlantic Records. “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” is a floral-themed, sultry tune with background vocals from boygenius—the beloved indie supergroup of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker. The string arrangements and subtle guitar lines give it a distinctly yearning quality and an underlying sadness.

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It sometimes still amazes me the joyful noise that two individuals can make. Illiterate Light first grabbed my attention through pure energy then slowly and surely drew me in with a combination of influences that struck the exact right chords. “Sometimes Love Takes So Long,” but it’s usually worth it.

Small-town organic farmers turned major label rock stars, Illiterate Light revel in stretching boundaries and upending expectations on their self-titled Atlantic Records debut, mixing soaring indie rock, swirling psychedelia, and atmospheric folk into a captivating blend that at once calls to mind everything from Neil Young and My Morning Jacket to Fleet Foxes and Band of Horses.

Recorded with producers Adrian Olsen (Foxygen, Natalie Prass) and Vance Powell (Jack White, Kings Of Leon, Chris Stapleton), the record is blissful and ecstatic, with raw electric guitars, propulsive drums, and shimmering harmonies capturing the power of the band’s remarkable live shows, which find Jeff Gorman simultaneously playing guitar with his hands and synth bass with his feet while his musical partner, Jake Cochran, plays a standup drum kit.

Hailed as “a perfect addition to your summertime playlist” by NPR, the band honed in on their distinctive sound and identity over years of relentless touring, earning dates along the way with the likes of Shakey Graves, Rayland Baxter, Mt. Joy, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, and The Head and The Heart in addition to high-profile festival slots 
Band Members
Jeff Gorman – Guitar, Vocals, Bass
Jake Cochran – Drum, Vocals

By the time they had released “Spend The Night”, the members of The Donnas had been playing together since their days at Palo Alto High School, which may explain why the 2002 collection sounds so tight. The quartet’s fifth studio album (and first for a major label, Atlantic Records) delivers the punchy Ramones-meets-Runaways attack of previous releases while adding sharper production and more accomplished performances.

Party anthems and tales of teen romance and rivalry abound on these 13 originals, which include “Take Me to the Backseat,” “Who Invited You” and “Take It Off,” a single whose success helped put the album on the Billboard chart – a first for the group. Hard rock fans looking for a good time should Spend The Night with The Donnas.

Guitar: Allison Robertson Bass Guitar: Maya Ford, Drums, Percussion: Torry Castellano

Provided to YouTube by Atlantic Records

Houdini

The Melvins had been playing for years before the word “grunge” came into fashion to describe the intense, sludgy alternative rock they helped pioneer, so it’s only fair that when Nirvana hit, the band got offered a major label deal. Released 25 years ago today, HOUDINI, the first Melvins album for Atlantic and their fifth overall, was partially produced by longtime fan Kurt Cobain, who also contributes a bit of guitar to “Sky Pup.” These dozen originals (plus a version of Kiss’ “Going Blind”) are loud, heavy and lumbering, and the massive riffs and weird twists of “Honey Bucket,” “Lizzy” and “Hooch” are still overpowering. Featuring iconic Frank Kozik cover art, HOUDINI is the Melvins‘ most successful album to date, and an ideal introduction to the work of King Buzzo and company.

“Houdini2  is the fifth album by Melvins, which was released in 1993 through Atlantic Records.

Track List : 01 Hooch – 0:00 02 Night Goat – 2:50 03 Lizzy – 7:31 04 Going Blind – 12:15 05 Honey Bucket – 16:48 06 Hag Me – 19:48 07 Set Me Straight – 26:56 08 Sky Pup – 29:22 09 Joan of Arc – 33:12 10 Teet – 36:49 11 Copache – 39:41 12 Pearl Bomb – 41:48 13 Spread Eagle Beagle – 44:34 All rights reserved to The Melvins and Atlantic Records.

Third Eye

With a love of trash culture and a sound that encompasses hair metal, glam and power-pop, Redd Kross are among L.A. rock’s greatest unsung heroes. “Third Eye” was the band’s third album of original material and their first for a major label (Atlantic Records), and the 1990 collection captures the group near its peak.

Brothers Jeff and Steve McDonald and guitarist Robert Hecker serve up a wide variety of styles here, and though there’s a sense of humor at work on the soundtrack cuts (“1976”), J-pop tributes (“Shonen Knife”), sugary songs (“Bubblegum Factory”) and Alternative charters (“Annie’s Gone”) heard here, the trio backs it up with serious musical chops.

Packed with hooks and memorable melodies played with joyful abandon, Third Eye never blinks. The naked masked woman on the cover of the album is Sofia Coppola.

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Best known as front man and lead singer for Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, following the band’s late-1960s collapse, Domingo “Sam” Samudio signed a solo deal with Atlantic Records. Released in 1971, in case you couldn’t figure it out from the cover photo with a somewhat ragged Samudio striking a standard born-to-be-wild poise on a nice lookin’ chopper, “Sam Hard and Heavy” was a clear attempt to update and modernize his sound and image. Teamed with famed producers Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd, the set was quite different from his Sam the Sham garage moves. Fairly diverse listen, the ten track album offered up a mixture of Samudio originals and interesting covers. Musically the LP bounced all over the spectrum. ‘Lonely Avenue’ opting for a conventional hard rock sound, while the Tex-Mex ‘Don’t Put Me On’ and bluesy ‘Key To The Highway’ harkened back to his frat boy roots. Elsewhere the collection featured support from guitarist Duane Allman (‘Going Upstairs‘ and ‘Relativity’), Also featured The Dixie Flyers and The Memphis Horns.

Covering John Lee Hooker’s ‘Going’ Upstairs’ as an acoustic blues number wasn’t the most original decision, but having Duane Allman provide Dobro was a great choice. The result was to turn what would have been a mundane cover into a snarling, threatening slice of the blues.

This was recorded during the Layla sessions at Criteria Studios in Miami~Sam was recording in Studio B~We were recording in Studio A~ Duane Allman is backing Sam Samudio…you know Sam the Sham and “Woolly Boolly?” This is actually real nice. Sam should have continued doing this type of material with other greats like Duane. The voice is excellent. released on his album Sam Hard and Heavy in 1971

The Dixie Flyers consisting of: Jim Dickinson, Mike Utley, Charlie Freeman, Tommy McClure & Sammy Creason
The Memphis Horns consisting of: Wayne Jackson, Andrew Love, Ed Logan, James Mitchell, Roger Hopps & Jack Hale. 

By the early-1980s Samudio was completely out of the business, working in the Gulf of Mexico as a deck hand on boats running supplies to drilling rigs. He didn’t reappear until 1982 when Ry Cooder sought him out as a collaborator on the soundtrack to the film “The Border”. Samudio reluctantly agreed to participate, playing organ and contributing a pair of songs to the package (‘No Quiero’ and ‘Palomita’).

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British but born to Canadian parents, and a focal point of the vibrant South London scene which includes Shame, HMLTD and Goat Girl to name but a few, Matt’s acerbic, witty songwriting brought attention from The FADER, The Guardian, Interview Magazine, NME, DIY, The Line Of Best Fit, and a score of other titles both online and in print throughout 2017.

The Berkshire don helped to create a genre this year: schmaltzcore, caramel-smooth jazz-pop whose purveyors include Tom Misch and Rex Orange County. Sounds like Jamie Cullum, but cool, you know? On his damn fine debut album, Maltese has crafted near-perfect piano pop with whip-smart lyrics (“Some people think the Earth is flat / But if it were / How come I don’t see you anywhere?”) and the occasional boogie-woogie flourish (we heard Jools Holland smashed up his Steinway in a jealous rage when he heard the funky final 30 seconds of ‘Guilty’). ‘Bad Contestant’ is smooth as silk wrapped around a razorblade.

21 year-old South London artist Matt Maltese brings his debut album Bad Contestant – set for release on 1st June via Atlantic Records.

The record, a culmination of 12 days spent in Foxygen instigator Jonathan Rado’s Los Angeles studio and many hours of sessions with Londoner Alex Burey, displays a no-less-than stunning leap forward in songwriting confidence from the already critically acclaimed young musician.

Credited with steering the lush sounding debut albums from Whitney and the Lemon Twigs, as well as Father John Misty’s forthcoming material, Jonathan Rado has helped drench the record with Californian atmospherics, drawing out Matt’s sweetly drifting vocals over a swell of jubilant guitars, brass and drums. Featuring reworked versions of fan favourites and previous singles ‘Strange Time’ and ‘As The World Caves In’ amongst nine beautiful new tracks, Bad Contestant is a grand coming-of-age album packed with Matt’s typically complex, witty melancholy and uplifting melodies.

Dock of The Bay Sessions
Otis Redding was born in Macon, Georgia, on September 9, 1941. Macon is located near the center of Georgia, and today has a population of around 150,000 people. Despite being unremarkable, it was somehow the birthplace for three pillars of soul and rock ‘n’ roll—Little Richard, Otis Redding, and James Brown— and the Allman Brothers of the Allman Brothers Band.
Redding’s career started early. As a 19-year-old, he joined guitarist Johnny Jenkins’ band the Pinetoppers as a singer. The band toured the Chitlin Circuit, and Jenkins had a small, but devoted audience. In 1962, Redding drove Jenkins to Memphis, where the older singer had scored a recording date at Stax Studios, a nascent label taking on a variety of soul and R&B clients across the south in an effort to throw a bunch of singles and singers at the wall and see what stuck. Jenkins spent the better part of a day trying to record a couple songs, and didn’t do so well in that endeavor—most of the Stax house band (including Booker T. and the M.G.’s, and the Memphis Horns) begged off for the day by the time he finished, knowing there wasn’t a hit present. When there was time left on the session, someone and reports vary on this, though apparently Redding may have asked for himself suggested letting Jenkins’ driver cut a record. After failing as bad as Jenkins while trying to record a cover the band members that stayed remember being furious enough to want to leave themselves  Otis Redding sang his “These Arms of Mine,” and the rest was history. The band and label boss Jim Stewart heard and loved the song, released the single, and off Redding went.

The poster for Otis' missed show in Madison. It sells for hundreds of dollars.

His recording career only lasted 62 months, from October 1962 when he recorded “These Arms of Mine,” to December 1967. Here’s the math: Redding released five solo albums, one duets album, one live album, and 79 songs before his plane went down in Lake Monona. Four posthumous albums with 46 more songs followed over the next 31 months. Various compilations, live albums, rarities, and alternate takes have been unearthed since, but for all intents and purposes, that’s Otis Redding’s body of work. 11 albums, 125 songs in 62 months. The most famous of those songs is by far-and-away “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay,” a song recorded in the studio three days before Redding died. It’s almost too on the nose, a too perfect swan song; a singer writes his career defining single, his own “A Change Is Gonna Come” or “Blowin’ In The Wind,” about worrying that the social change the ‘60s was seemingly bringing wouldn’t go far enough and help everyone, only to die in a plane crash before it was released. But that isn’t the whole story: Redding never considered the song “done;” he was worried it was too poppy, was considering adding the Staples Singers as backing vocalists, and hadn’t even properly recorded the now famous outro (the whistling you hear is Sam “Bluzman” Taylor), which might have just been a placeholder until Redding could add another verse.

In the summer of 1967, promoter Lou Adler and Mamas and the Papas member John Phillips had the radical idea to stage a concert at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California. This was before Woodstock, and before bands like Led Zeppelin were touring hockey arenas; the gigantic American festival infrastructure was more or less invented in order to pull off Monterey Pop Festival. Tickets ranged from $3 to $6.50, somewhere between 25,000 and 90,000 people came each day, and the lineup was meant to reflect a who’s who of young-people popular music: the Who—making their most major U.S. performance to date Jefferson Airplane (technically “the draw” of the fest), the Grateful Dead, and the Mamas and the Papas. But three artists more or less made their careers at Monterey Pop: Jimi Hendrix who memorably lit his guitar on fire and publicly executed every hotshot guitarist on earth Janis Joplin, and Otis Redding who closed out the fest’s second night, reportedly because some of the Airplane had seen him and didn’t want to try to follow him. And what’s more, Redding didn’t even want to perform at Monterey Pop. In 1967, Redding was making bank touring America, and had even started nurturing young artists on his own label. He successfully helped launch Arthur Conley, and was rumored to be a target for Atlantic Records, who would seek to to buy him out of his Stax contract and make him a mega star with their major dollars behind him. So, when his manager came to tell him he wanted him to play a pop festival with a bunch of white rock bands, and, furthermore, expected Redding to do it for free—like the other bands on the bill—he was reluctant. But the opportunity to perform to a crowd that was different than the typical one packing out his club dates was too good an opportunity to pass up.  Watching video of the performance released as part of Criterion Collection’s release of the documentary on Monterey Pop is like watching video of Picasso painting,  It’s his live masterpiece. He comes out and says “This is the love crowd, right?” and then goes into a straight take of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” before stopping and starting it in the middle; he has them eating out of his hand. He then did a soulful take of “Satisfaction.” You can’t watch the sweat fly off of Redding during this performance and not want to own every album and single, and not want to follow him into war.

It was a cold and foggy day in Cleveland, on December 10th, 1967. Redding and his band had played some shows at a club called Leo’s Casino the night before, and despite freezing rain across the Midwest, they never missed shows, so Redding and his band piled into the plane and headed to Madison, where they were due that night. Two of the band members always rode commercial since Redding’s plane only sat eight. They would find out about the crash at the Cleveland airport.

Around 3:25 p.m., four miles out from the Madison airport at Truax Field, the pilot radioed in to ask for permission to land. Sometime after that call, the plane came out of the clouds, and crashed into Lake Monona. Some residents living around the lake later claimed to have seen or heard the plane come in close to the ground. Police made it out to the wreckage relatively quickly; they were able to find trumpeter Ben Cauley who couldn’t swim shivering and holding onto a seat cushion. Police couldn’t search much that first day, because the water was so cold. They resumed their search after the sun came up on the 11th. They found the other seven passengers during that morning.

Otis Redding was officially pronounced dead on December 11th, 1967. His funeral was a week later, in Macon. Jerry Wexler, the Atlantic Records executive who was grooming Otis to become Atlantic’s next big star, gave the eulogy.

“Otis Redding was a natural prince,” Wexler said, according to Gould’s book. “When you were with him, he communicated love and a tremendous faith in human possibility, a promise that great and happy events were coming.”

“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” would be released as a single less than a month later. It was Redding’s only number one hit.

Led Zeppelin 1

Whether you mark the genesis as the death of  The Yardbirds, the Scandinavian tour by The New Yardbirds or the band’s first show under the new name, Led Zeppelin’s birth, however gradual, takes place in 1968, on way to its crowning moment, the release of the band’s self-titled debut not two weeks into the new year, January 12th of 1969.

The story arguably begins back in 1966, when Jimmy Page joined The Yardbirds, first on bass as replacement for Paul Samwell-Smith, but then switching to guitar, where he shares those duties with Jeff BeckBeck was soon to depart, in October that year, Jimmy’s thoughts wandered off to bigger things, a supergroup of sorts, while he bides his time for nearly two more years with an act proving to be somewhat directionless. The Yardbirds would play their final show, a Bedfordshire gig, in July of 1968. At this point Jimmy is already in possession of most of the riffs and song ideas he would need in his next incarnation.

“We were a vehicle for what Jimmy wanted to do when he came in,” explains Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty. “He had a pretty free rein, as all the guitar players did and he pushed The Yardbirds sound into more of a heavy metal context. He really was the master of the riff.”

Everyone was paying attention to the band’s star axeman. Recalls Steve Lyman, of legendary Michigan rockers SRC, who caught the band just before their demise, “The first British group that I actually saw perform live was The Yardbirds, at a small club in Ann Arbor, Michigan called The Fifth Dimension. I already had two albums by The Yardbirds at that time, so it was a real thrill for me to see this British group performing live. Jimmy Page was the guitar player at the time, because The Yardbirds went through various incarnations. Eric Clapton was their first guitar player, Jeff Beck and then Jimmy Page. I was mesmerized by that Yardbirds show. I was the lead guitar player in a band The Fugitives, which became the SRC, so seeing Jimmy Page play became a real thrill for me because I had been listening to these Yardbirds records on my record player and trying to figure out what they were playing.”

But in the summer of ’68, The Yardbirds, now splitting up, but nonetheless still committed to a Scandinavian tour. A new lineup to fulfill these dates was called for. After Chris Dreja bows out to begin a career as a photographer, session stalwart John Paul Jones is recruited. In the all important vocal slot, Jimmy had wanted on the team Terry Reid, but Reid demurs, suggesting a young Birmingham singer named Robert Plant. Robert is the one who brings along local drummer and hard-hitter John Bonham. Before the new foursome would hit the road, they perform a session for the P.J. Proby album Three Week Hero. A track there called “Jim’s Blues” would live on as the band’s first session together, on the technicality that Robert is present blowing some harmonica.

Original Judas Priest vocalist Al Atkins happened to be there to watch the formation of what would be called The New Yardbirds, the makeshift name the band used to fulfil those Scandinavian dates.

“I used to know Robert,” says Atkins. “We used to go for a beer together, and sometimes he’d borrow my microphone because he couldn’t afford one, if I wasn’t playing. We had one mic between the two of us. I had the best one. And a buddy of mine, ‘Are you playing tonight?’ ‘No, oh go on.’ It was great times. Robert’s roots have always been blues. He’s a very intelligent guy when you’re talking to him about the blues stuff. He knows everything about that. You can’t argue with him about anything on that subject. But I saw him before Zeppelin, when he was playing at Henry’s Blues House and Alexis Korner was playing on his own, a solo gig he got there, like a one-man band thing or something, and Robert got up and played harmonica and sang along with him.

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“And then with Jimmy Page, they joined The Yardbirds, went over to Europe, came back, and next thing they were called Led Zeppelin. I went to see them play at Mother’s in Erdington. They were supporting Blodwyn Pig, and I think they got 75 quid or something. But when I saw him with Jimmy onstage that night I was totally blown away. And Bonham was absolutely out of his head. He was drunk, I think. And they did a set, and it was very mixed, including a lot of stuff that was going to be coming on the new album. They were loud, but they were brilliant. Robert’s voice had just changed overnight. I couldn’t believe the difference in his voice. Fantastic vocalist. And yeah, John Bonham, he couldn’t come back onstage. They did the encore and the drummer from Blodwyn Pig came on and played this blues thing with them and they just jammed the encore. The good ol’ days.”

Jimmy had made his mind up that they were going to blow everyone off the stage,” adds (now deceased) engineer Andy Johns, soon to be working closely with the band. “That’s what my brother told me. This is when Jimmy still had The Yardbirds thing going. Glyn said, ‘I was with Jimmy the other day, and Jimmy said, I’ve got this new lineup now, and we’re going to blow everyone offstage.’ So that was an intentional thing, to be as dramatic and as riff-conscious as possible. And Jimmy was a fabulous writer, and had a lot of great ideas in the studio, and was just wonderful to work with.”

But in August of 1968, even before the band’s dates in Scandinavia, Jimmy’s Yardbirds mate Jeff Beck would release his album Truth, which many a rock historian debate as the blueprint for what Led Zeppelin would become.

“Well, it was right around the same time,” explains Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones. “I was on that Jeff Beck album and Jimmy was with The Yardbirds at the time, so my influence on the Jeff Beck album would probably be similar to my influence on the Led Zeppelin album, just like Jimmy. I don’t know, I suppose. You can come to the same conclusion with any number of blues-based rock bands. But it soon took off from there. Most of the songs we had done on the first album had been done by Jimmy and The Yardbirds as well. It was only things like “Good Times Bad Times,” which was a riff I brought in, that I wrote in the studio. That’s got John’s famous drum part, of course. John never used double bass. He did in fact bring in a double bass drum for rehearsal, and we played a couple of songs with it, but then we hid it when he went for lunch. When he came back it was gone.”

“We loved Zeppelin,” says Nazareth guitarist Manny Charlton, also there to watch the band being born. “They were just an extension to what was going on with the guitar bands like The Who, on from The Beatles. It went from The Beatles to The Who and then into that blues boom thing, with the Jeff Beck Group. The Yardbirds and Cream, really, initially, we were doing the electric blues thing. The Yardbirds moved from that blues thing to another area, where they kept the same sound but they started writing what you would call riffs, and in some cases, like pop songs. A pop song but played with that power-trio lineup. Because initially when Cream started, they were doing ‘I Feel Free’ and stuff like that, basically writing pop songs to get away from the blues, to get away from ‘You Shook Me.’ But the Jeff Beck Group took it to another level, and then Led Zeppelin obviously did as well. But their first album was basically electric blues songs.”

Into the fall, The New Yardbirds would play their first date, September 7th, 1968, at the Gladsaxe Teen Club in Gladsaxe, Denmark, following up with another 10 days around Scandinavia. Significantly, the band have in their set  “Communication Breakdown,” which is recorded as soon as the band get back, in October of that year. It’s a small thing, but one might also call the recording of this bedrock Zeppelin track as the birth of the band. Indeed the song is a step up in intensity, away from other songs in the set at this time such as “Hush,” “The Hunter,” “Somethin’ Else” and “Train Kept A-Rollin’.”

In any event, 1968, as it pertains to the birth of the band, is next marked by the first show on British soil, October 4th at the Mayfair Ballroom, Newcastle upon Tyne. Conducting a brief British tour, the next benchmark is the band’s first show under the new name — Chris Dreja had issued a cease and desist order on the use of The Yardbirds moniker — on October 25th, at the University of Surrey in Battersea. And for the record, as the story goes, the band chose for its new title Led Zeppelin, because John Entwistle had suggested to Jimmy that his new “supergroup” would go down like a lead balloon. Into November, rough and tough manager of the band Peter Grant negotiates a $143,000 advance for his boys from Atlantic Records and the hype machine lurches into operation, never to wane across a full decade of dominance.

“We didn’t move into a style; I think we kind of created it,” muses John Paul Jones, on what the band brought into being over the nine-day burst of creativity in late 1968 that would result in the band’s debut album. “And if you would have asked me in 1969, as people did, what sort of band I was in, I would have said a progressive rock band. But then that became to mean something else. There you go banging up against categories again. That came to mean something else entirely. And then it was just sort of like blues rock, because the band was quite blues-orientated. And it was just the style, the way the members of the band played together. But in terms of actual riffs, well, anything with notes, lots of notes, like ‘Black Dog,’ ‘Good Times Bad Times’… those were my riffs. And anything that was kind of lurchy and chordy were Page’s riffs. That’s how you tell them apart.”

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The impact of the band’s first album would be felt far and wide. “Led Zeppelin had just come out,” remembers Blue Cheer’s Randy Holden. “They were doing something entirely different. I went to see them at their gig at the Whisky, which was their first gig in California as far as I know. I liked their album; I thought they got a really heavy sound on the album, but then live they used these Rickenbackers and they’re the most god-awful sounding amps I ever heard, which really surprised me. But the record really came off great.”

Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover, “Led Zeppelin influenced me a lot because I was in a pop group called Episode Six and we were trying to get heavier and weren’t making it because we were just playing the same music but louder. When the album first came out, you could tell it wasn’t the loudness so much as a feeling, what you felt about the music rather than how they played it. Episode Six, as we were, weren’t the right combination of people to be heavy, and I gradually gained the impression that heavy music wasn’t for me because I didn’t like what we were playing — loud pop music. And I decided for a time to go into folk music. I’ve never been so struck by an album as I was by Led Zeppelin. It really left me open-mouthed. What they were playing was very simple stuff, loud and exciting, and it moved me. I suddenly wanted to be in a club playing that music — loud, straightforward, with simple guts. And by pure coincidence, just about that time I was offered a job with Deep Purple! But for Zeppelin, I might never have been in Deep Purple.

“I remember Jimmy played me the first Led Zeppelin album,” chuckles Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty. “There was ‘Dazed and Confused’ and there was a Howlin’ Wolf-type thing, ‘How Many More Times” which is very similar to the stuff we’d been playing; it was similar to ‘Smokestack Lightnin’,’ I thought. And then there was another one which was similar. It was very well done, the first Zeppelin album; I thought it was very good. You can see the links, how easy it was to go from us to them.”

And like so many others that were there to bear witness to the birth of this great band, Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones had also found himself impressed with what Jimmy had put together. “At the time, I was cutting my teeth in France,” explains Jones. “Don’t ask me how, but I’d become sort of the musical director and producer of Johnny Hallyday, who you’ve probably heard of. He was sort of the French Elvis, as it were. And so we would go over to England to record, and we ended up with an engineer named Glyn Johns, who at that time, he worked with Steve Miller Band and later the Eagles. I think he had been working with the Eagles even before their record came out. But he had worked a lot with John Paul and Jimmy when they were session musicians.”

“And they happened to be session musicians on the stuff that I was doing for Johnny Hallyday. And so I was fully aware of who they were. And every time I was playing with Jimmy Page, he blew me away every time we went into the studio. I had so much respect for him as a guitar player. So that’s where our friendship developed. He would even come over to Paris with Glyn Johns and cut tracks over there. In fact, some of the music that we were doing with Johnny Hallyday provided the opportunity for Jimmy to work closely with Glyn Johns in preparing the first Zeppelin album. And I remember the day that Glyn took me into the studio, the back of Olympic Studios in London, and he said, ‘I’m going to play you a couple things on Jimmy’s project.’ And he sat down and played me ‘Communication Breakdown’ and it just blew me away. Just blew my mind. I couldn’t believe it. I had never heard anything as mean and powerful in my life. It just left me staggered.”

Millions across the planet were soon to feel equally staggered, but again, the groundwork and indeed so much more, was set in 1968, and really, much of it packed into the back half of the year. The breakdown in communication that caused the demise of The Yardbirds to the recording of “Communication Breakdown” takes no more than an astonishing four months, and by the end of the year, is a record that will forever change rock ‘n’ roll. Fully 50 years later, the impact of Led Zeppelin is still reverberating.

Words By Martin Popoff

Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin - 1st [B] - Uncorrected - G vinyl LP album (LP record) UK ZEPLPLE672541