Posts Tagged ‘Robert Plant’

Led Zeppelin released their sixth album “Physical Graffiti” in the UK. Recording sessions had been disrupted when bassist and keyboard player John Paul Jones had proposed quitting the band, supposedly to become choirmaster at Winchester Cathedral, England, although in reality he just needed time to rest after Zeppelin’s demanding tour schedule. The group decided on a double album so they could feature songs left over from their previous albums “Led Zeppelin III”, Led Zeppelin IV” and “Houses Of The Holy”.

Released as a double album in 1975, Physical Graffiti was the band’s longest and most ambitious record to date. While double albums were already considered hit or miss by this point, fans were undoubtedly cautious about what this 83-minute collection had in store for them. Thankfully, they were not just surprised, but stunned at the glorious package of auditory goodness that was coming their way. The Physical Graffiti sleeve design features a photograph of a New York City tenement block, two five-story buildings located at 96 and 98 St. Mark’s Place in New York City. The images on the interchanging windows of the cover included a picture of drummer John Bonham wearing ladies tights (taken during a Roy Harper gig in London) and both Robert Plant and tour manager Richard Cole in drag – along with an array of legendary faces including: astronaut Neil Armstrong, The Virgin Mary, rock & roll singer Jerry Lee Lewis and German actress and singer Marlene Dietrich.

With songs that span between almost every genre, Physical Graffiti consisted of studio tracks and a handful of outtakes, resulting in a collection that serves almost like a retrospective of the group’s recorded output rather than a studio album. Featuring stunning highlights like ‘Trampled Under Foot’ and the exceptional ‘Kashmir’, there’s a reason that many people point towards this record as the moment at which Led Zeppelin’s career peaked.

Released on the 24th February 1975, Led Zeppelin released this their sixth album Physical Graffiti in the UK. Recording sessions had been disrupted when bassist and keyboard player John Paul Jones had proposed quitting the band, supposedly to become choirmaster at Winchester Cathedral, England, although in reality he just needed time to rest after Zeppelin’s demanding tour schedule. The group decided on a double album so they could feature songs left over from their previous albums Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV and Houses Of The Holy.

By the time Led Zeppelin released Physical Graffiti in 1975, they no longer needed to prove anything. “All of us knew that it was a monumental piece of work, just because of the various paths that we’d trodden along to get to this,” says the group’s guitarist and producer Jimmy Page, in one of the music rooms at London’s Olympic Studios where the double-LP was originally mixed. “It was like a voyage of discovery, a topographical adventure.”

After refining the band’s blend of heavy-hitting blues-rock and introspective English folk on their five previous records, Led Zeppelin made Physical Graffiti their victory lap. They were now successful enough to operate their own record label, Swan Song, and the album, their first offering on the imprint was their lengthy battle cry. Clocking in at a little over 80 minutes, Physical Graffiti contained some of their hardest-rocking tunes (“The Wanton Song,” “Custard Pie,” “Houses of the Holy”), trippiest epics (“Kashmir,” “In the Light,” “Ten Years Gone”) and sweetest rock & roll diversions (“Black Country Girl,” “Boogie With Stu”). The record showed Led Zeppelin at both their most excessive and most impressive.

Led Zeppelin

Page has given Physical Graffiti an overhaul remastering the original LP and compiling an album-length bonus disc of alternate mixes and early sketches of the songs on the record. Some are subtle, like the understated rough mix of “Houses of the Holy” and overdub-free version of “Trampled Under Foot” (titled “Brandy and Coke”), and others are drastic, such as “Everybody Makes It Through,” a psychedelic draft of what would become the LP’s portal to other worlds, “In the Light.”

When Page recalls the first rumblings of the album, he remembers the excitement he felt about returning to Headley Grange, the 18th century English estate where the group had recorded its landmark fourth LP. “I knew what we could do at Headley Grange after having had such a rewarding and productive experience there before,” he says. “I knew the secrets of what could be done there.”
I knew how we did the drums in the main hall for Led Zeppelin’s fourth album “When the Levee Breaks.” And some numbers would come out of thin air, like for example the way “Rock & Roll” did on the fourth album and then on Physical Graffiti, “Trampled Under Foot,” which came out of thin air like that, just starting out of a riff. I was basically musically salivating on the way there. I was just looking forward to the whole process of everybody being there and just having a whole run at basically working out whatever material I had had or anyone else might’ve had.

I had the ideas for the riff on “Kashmir” the cascading part, which is actually electric 12-string and it’s brass on the record, from something that I had been working on before we even went to Headley. It was another piece of music entirely, and right at the very end of it, while I was playing along, I played the acoustic guitar part in reverse, and there was a sort of fanfare, or the cascades, followed by the riff, and I thought, “Whoa.” It just occurs right at the end. I said, “Oh, boy, I can visualize this. It’s going to be built around the drum kit, and I’m going to get in there with John Bonham.” It’s the first thing that I ran through with him, because I just know that he is gonna love it, and he loves it, and we just play the riff over and over and over, because it’s like a child’s riff. Musically, it’s a round, like “Frère Jacques,” where you can lay things on top of it. That was the idea of having this riff that was gonna be really intense, and probably pretty majestic as well, but quite intriguing. But the fact was, it was going to be built around the sound of Headley, and the drums in the hall. That’s how I heard it, and that’s how I saw it, but I also heard it with orchestra in mind.

It was the first track where we actually heard the complement of a full orchestra on top of the brass, and the strings. We’d used strings on “Friends,” on the third album, just a small string session, but this was really something that was meant to be pretty epic and substantial.

Robert Plant attributed the lyrics to “Kashmir” to a trip you two took in Morocco. It had already been taking on a really magnificent and substantial shape, and Robert said, “You know, I’ve got some lyrics that I wrote when we were in Morocco I’d like to try on this,” and that’s what he did. But that was way after the event of actually having the whole of the structure of the song.

There were three tracks that were left off of the fourth album, and that was “Boogie With Stu,” “Night Flight” and “Down by the Seaside.” If you think about it, you couldn’t have substituted anything off the fourth album with any of those tracks, quite rightly so. Each of them had their own individual charm and character.

“Houses of the Holy” was a track that wasn’t included on the album Houses of the Holy, that was four things straight away [to include]. And, you know, given the chance of having a good run at this writing and recording process, I didn’t want it to be a double-album with any padding on it. It would be a double-album with all character pieces, the way that Led Zeppelin did their music with the sort of ethos of it, if you like, that everything sounded different to everything else. It was the first [Led Zeppelin] album that was going to be on the Swan Song record label that Peter Grant had helped put together for the band with Atlantic.

Having a record label was a really cool idea, because it gave us a chance to showcase people that we really liked and respected, so, as an example, Paul Rodgers’ band, Bad Company, which was one of the first releases and also, the Pretty Things, we all did highly of, and I thought what they did on Swan Song was good.

“Boogie With Stu”

Even perfect albums have their weak links, and “Boogie With Stu” — named after Rolling Stones sideman Ian Stewart, who sat in on this tune — is one of Physical Graffiti‘s. The song has its fans, those who champion its melange of ‘50s rock, clack-clack percussion and Stewart’s boogie-woogie piano, but everyone else can hear why the track sat in the vaults since 1971. Ian Stewart the Rolling Stones session pianist and road manager— revs up this low-key jam, a leftover from the IV” sessions. (He also played, more famously, on that album’s “Rock and Roll”) Given the hassle that ensued upon release of “Boogie With Stu,” not to mention the middling quality of the music, it probably should have remained a castaway. “Ian Stewart came by and we started to jam,” Page told Guitar World in 1993. “The jam turned into ‘Boogie With Stu,’ which was obviously a variation on ‘Ooh My Head’ by the late Ritchie Valens, which itself was actually a variation of Little Richard‘s “Ooh My Soul.” What we tried to do was give Ritchie’s mother credit because we heard she never received any royalties from any of her [late] son’s hits, and Robert did lean on that lyric a bit. So what happens? They tried to sue us for all of the song! We had to say bugger off. We could not believe it. So anyway, if there is any plagiarism, just blame Robert.” 

“Night Flight”

Another leftover from the fourth album’s sessions, “Night Flight” languished in the vaults for almost four years before being unearthed to pad Physical Graffiti’s double-album ambitions, but that doesn’t mean it’s without merit. Composed primarily by John Paul Jones, whose Hammond organ dominates the song, “Night Flight” boasts a memorable lyric by Robert Plant about a young man trying to avoid the Vietnam draft.  Over Page’s twangy, luminescent chords, Jones’ rippling Hammond organ and Bonham’s funky drum groove, Plant recounts the story of a draft dodger fleeing the prospect of war for a train ride into the unknown. The song’s nifty instrumental flourishes (see Jones’ rapid-fire bass notes around 2:39) offer some forward motion, but it’s easy to understand why they shelved it during the sessions for Led Zeppelin IV.The group never played “Night Flight” live, unless you count a sloppy July 1973 soundcheck during the Houses of the Holy tour. At least Jeff Buckley, a noted Zeppelin devotee, dusted it off two decades later for a solo guitar version found on the deluxe Live at Sin-é LP.

“Bron-Yr-Aur”

“Bron-Yr-Aur” returned listeners to the remote cottage nestled deep in the Welsh countryside where Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (whose parents owned it) composed the bulk of 1970’sLed Zeppelin III”. And just as that landmark album provided a welcome creative departure in the group’s career, this spartan but strikingly beautiful acoustic performance by Page does for the predominantly electrified proceedings on Physical Graffiti. This acoustic guitar instrumental, a moment of calm within the free-for-all of Physical Graffiti, reflects Page’s fascination with the British folk revival. And if it sounds a bit out of step with the rest of album, there’s a reason — the track dates date to the Led Zeppelin III sessions, and it’s named after the Welsh cottage where they wrote much of that record. Page plays an open C-style guitar tuning, his dreamy fingerpicking accentuated with huge dollops of reverb. “It’s a C[-type] tuning but not a C tuning,” he noted in 2010’s Led Zeppelin – III Platinum Album Edition: Piano/Vocal/Chords. “I made it up.”“Bron-Yr-Aur” their shortest-ever song at a little more than two minutes — never became a live staple, though Led Zeppelin played it for a brief period during the acoustic set on their sixth American tour in summer 1970. More famously, it appeared on the soundtrack to their experimental 1976 concert film, The Song Remains the Same”.

“Sick Again”

Tucked way at the very end of Physical Graffiti, “Sick Again” is nevertheless a corker of a band performance, pushed into overdrive by Jimmy Page’s slippery guitar and John Bonham’s merciless drum assault. Like its lyrics, in which Robert Plant takes pity (well, not that much pity) on the hordes of groupies that would nightly sacrifice themselves to their rock gods, the music leaves listeners clamouring for more. Outside of the shifting time signature and Bonham’s cymbal-heavy drumming, “Sick Again” is one of the most straightforward rockers from this period of Zeppelin history. Somehow Plant’s vocal still gets buried in the mix, masking a lyric inspired by encountering very young groupies on tour.”It’s a shame, really — if you listen to ‘Sick Again,’ the words show I feel a bit sorry for them,” Plant said in 1975. “‘Clutching pages from your teenage dream in the lobby of the Hotel Paradise/Through the circus of the L.A. queen, how fast you learn the downhill slide.’ One minute she’s 12 and the next minute she’s 13 and over the top. Such a shame. They haven’t got the style that they had in the old days … way back in ’68.”

“Black Country Woman”

“Black Country Woman”s backstory is arguably more intriguing than the song itself, which was recorded in Mick Jagger’s backyard during the “Houses of the Holy” sessions, where it captured the sound of an airplane overhead, giving new meaning to the concept of field recordings. Lyrically, the song simply transplants a classic cheating-woman blues motif to Plant and Bonham’s origins in England’s “Black Country.” This acoustic lark, originally titled “Never Ending Doubting Woman Blues,” opens with production chatter, an airplane passing overhead and Plant requesting that they leave in the noise. No moment better encapsulates Physical Graffiti’s “let’s get weird” aesthetic than that random intro: Led Zeppelin, aiming to experiment, recorded the song during the Houses of the Holy sessions, hauling their gear into the garden of Mick Jagger‘s country home, Stargroves. “Black Country Woman” is a bottom-tier Zeppelin cut with a generic blues riff, but Bonham’s massive drumming salvages the recording.

“The Wanton Song”

It may not be the brightest light on Physical Graffiti, but with its overdriven guitars and relentless riff, “The Wanton Song” showcases Led Zeppelin working in their fundamental, frill-free heavy rock element. With Jimmy Page as its driving force, the song’s forceful musical bed (including a mildly dissonant counterpoint riff midway through) is perfectly suited to the lusty and uncensored sexual conquest of its lyrics. Before the band began its Headley Grange sessions, Page had already worked out the foundations of several tracks at his home multi-track studio: “Ten Years Gone,” “Sick Again,” the bulk of “Kashmir” and this funky cut. “The Wanton Song” was one of the first riffs they fleshed out as a band, and Bonham’s crunching kick-drum accents elevated the groove to near-classic status.

Looking back decades later, Plant wasn’t satisfied with his vocals on the studio version, calling them “almost unfinished” in Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin. Perhaps that’s why the singer revived the song numerous times over the years, both with Page and as a solo artist. (He even used it to open his set at Bonnaroo 2015.)

“Down by the Seaside”

‘Down By The Seaside’ was heavily influenced by Neil Young’s ‘Down By The River’. It was recorded in 1971 and was intended for release on ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ but was held for ‘Physical Graffiti’. At the absolute opposite end of the sonic spectrum from “The Wanton Song” (and thus representative of the turn-on-a-dime song writing fearlessness that made Zeppelin so lovable), “Down by the Seaside” is a wistful fantasy awash in trembling guitars and bluesy electric piano breakdowns. And that’s before it briefly transforms into a completely different tune halfway through; like an instance of song writing Jeckyll and Hyde, the likes of which kept Led Zeppelin fans ever on their toes. Few Led Zeppelin songs qualify as “breezy,” but here’s an exception. Page and Plant first wrote the laid-back “Down By the Seaside” as an acoustic number in 1970, later reworking it as an expanded electric cut during sessions for their fourth LP. It’s obvious why they left it on the cutting-room floor for five years what song could this have possibly knocked off IIIIV or Houses of the Holy? But it makes sense within the eclectic stew of Physical Graffiti. Zeppelin never played it live, but Plant did cover “Seaside” with Tori Amos for the 1994 tribute LP, “Encomium”.

“Houses of the Holy”

Another session holdover, this time from the 1973 album that bears this name, “House of the Holy” is a timeless Led Zeppelin number that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on any of their LPs. But we’ll gladly celebrate its inclusion on Physical Graffiti, where it provides a grounding presence to the oft-experimental surroundings with the help of John Bonham’s squeaky drum pedal so perfect the band didn’t even feel the need to “fix” it in the final mix.

Not even Bonham’s annoyingly squeaky kick drum pedal can derail this lightning bolt of a song, a leftover from their previous album of the same name. What an embarrassment of riches only a band at a peak this lofty could shelve one of the catchiest songs in its entire catalogue .Once you dig in Page’s stammering funk riffs and Bonham’s cowbell-heavy groove, you’ll notice the weirdness of Plant’s lyrics — a hybrid of his most juvenile sex metaphors and nerdiest fantasy imagery (“There’s an angel on my shoulder/In my hand a sword of gold/Let me wander in your garden/And the seeds of love I’ll sow“).(Though Bonham’s “Squeak King” pedal, a nickname for his Ludwig SpeedKing, is famously audible throughout, it’s even more noticeable on other songs, including “The Ocean” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You.”

“Custard Pie”

Leave it to Led Zeppelin to kick off the album many consider their magnum opus with a simple recipe for one of their favourite desserts. Wait, what? Yes, the song is actually about sex (as usual), despite it collecting a clever pastiche of vintage blues lyrics (from Robert Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, etc.) over John Bonham’s rock-solid foundation and Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones’ dueling guitar and Clavinet riffs. And did we mention the absolutely massive, continent-sized groove?.

“Custard Pie” Robert Plant cranks up the sexual bravado and bluesy swagger to the max on Physical Graffiti‘s opener, barking out cheap innuendo over Page’s tightly coiled riff, John Bonham’s booming drums and John Paul Jones’ funky Clavinet-and-bass combo. The singer even throws in a harmonica solo, rounding off a classic full-band showcase. But looking back, Plant was never fully satisfied with the track.”

On ‘Wanton Song’ and ‘Custard Pie,’ there are things that I can hear that are almost unfinished,” he admitted in the 2018 book Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin. “Hindsight is a cussed bedfellow, but it’s great to fly in the face of it all and meld something tangible, a kind of union between the intent of the much and some sort of vocal release. … Some songs are finished, some songs aren’t.

Even now. Led Zeppelin never played this one live, unless you count the informal, partial reunion — staged one decade after Bonham’s death at the 1990 wedding of the late drummer’s son Jason.

“Trampled Under Foot”

This may prove to be a rather contentious choice this low in the rankings of Physical Graffiti songs, but “Trampled Under Foot” is a singular cut in Zeppelin’s canon, since John Paul Jones’ hypnotic funk-inspired Clavinet riff, rather than Jimmy Page’s guitar, drives it. Nevertheless, the tune has snagged more radio airplay than almost any other Physical Graffiti song, and is apparently one of Robert Plant’s favourites, to boot. Easily the funkiest Led Zeppelin song, “Trampled Under Foot” finds Plant tapping into the same car-metaphor model that Robert Johnson flaunted on 1936’s “Terraplane Blues.” But the groove is king: The song which Plant, Page and Jones developed under the working title “Brandy and Coke” could easily exist as an instrumental, highlighted by the interplay between Bonham’s primal thud, Page’s stabbing licks and Jones’ greasy Clavinet. The track, which developed from a spontaneous jam, is a perfect showcase for Jones’ underrated keyboard work. Many critics have compared it to Stevie Wonder‘s equally infectious pattern on “Superstition.” I suppose you could — I wouldn’t say that it was a sort of Stevie Wonder-like thing, but other people could,” Page has said . “Actually, the more I think about it, I see why other people do say that.”

“The Rover”

A quintessential Led Zeppelin hard rocker, “The Rover” matches a menacing Jimmy Page lick with John Bonham’s reliable pounding and John Paul Jones’ busy bass work, while Robert Plant muses about life on the road with one of the world’s most powerful touring machines. Seems simple, right? Well, it is, but only the greatest talents can turn simplicity into amazement, and that about sums up the enduring wonder that is Led Zeppelin.

“The Rover” is a fitting title for this bruising blues-rocker, which took time rounding into shape. Page and Plant recorded a hilariously sloppy acoustic demo at Headley Grange in 1973, but they reconstructed the tune into its greasy electric arrangement during the Houses of the Holy sessions (alongside “Black Country Woman” and “D’yer Maker”). After it didn’t make the final cut of that LP, Led Zeppelin revived “The Rover” for Graffiti with some remixing and fresh overdubs. (The sleeve credit “Guitar lost courtesy Nevison. Salvaged by the grace of Harwood” is likely a reference to mixing difficulties, using the last names of engineers Ron Nevison and Keith Harwood.) Despite the rough gestation and its absence, in full form, from a live set list

“The Rover” became a favourite for both Page and Plant. Songs like ‘The Rover,’ for example, everything worked,” Plant said. “The marriage between my lyrical intention, the way I sang it and the way those guys played, there were many times like that. I thought it all worked, there couldn’t have been any more that I could have added, or more that I could have taken away to make it work as a consummate finished article.

In 2015, Page praised the song’s defining “whole guitar attitude swagger.” “I’m afraid I’ve got to say it, but it’s the sort of thing that is so apparent when you hear ‘Rumble’ by Link Wray — it’s just total attitude, isn’t it?” . That sort of thing … is sort of probably in my DNA to be honest with you.”

“In the Light”

One of Physical Graffiti’s best-loved epics, “In the Light” features the sort of song writing innovation and clever instrumental gimmicks that set Led Zeppelin apart from every other heavy rock band of the ‘70s and beyond. John Paul Jones’ synthesizer intro is backed by Jimmy Page sliding a violin bow across his guitar to create a droning effect. The ensuing sequence of counterpoint melodies and riffs strung out over John Bonham’s deliberate beats and underneath Robert Plant’s soaring wails comprise a kaleidoscope of sound with few parallels in the classic-rock world.

One of Led Zeppelin’s most prog-leaning tracks, “In the Light” developed from a similar rehearsal piece called “In the Morning” (available in bootleg form) and another, more polished take later issued as “Everybody Makes It Through” on Physical Graffiti‘s deluxe reissue. Jones, Page and Plant all contributed to the writing, and it’s a true full-band effort just take the droning intro: a mingling of Page’s bowed acoustic guitar, Jones’ colourful synthesizer solo and Plant’s stacked vocals, which Page told Rolling Stone remind him of “some choral music that I had heard from the Music of Bulgaria.” But there’s a surprise around every other corner, as a series of winding riffs navigate darkness into light.

In the liner notes for the band’s 1993 box set, The Complete Studio Recordings, Plant ranked the song among the band’s “finest moments,” along with “All My Love” and “Kashmir.” Despite their satisfaction, they never played “In the Light” live.

“In My Time of Dying”

Zeppelin’s greatest epic, all 11 minutes of it, brings the first side of Physical Graffiti to an awe-inspiring blues workout, almost as if the band was daring fans to flip the record over and see what wonders lay beyond. Let’s celebrate Jimmy Page’s extensive slide guitar vamps across “In My Time of Dying” along with John Bonham’s intentionally reverb-drenched drum sound, based on the same effect used on the fourth album’s “When the Levee Breaks.” ‘In My Time of Dying’ is a reworking of Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Jesus, Make Up My Dying Bed’ from 1927. Another variation of the song was recorded by Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan covered this spooky gospel spiritual on his 1962 debut, moaning about death and ascension over a creaky acoustic guitar pluck. But Led Zeppelin transformed the traditional piece into an epic on par with “Stairway to Heaven” stacking riff upon riff into a staggering monolith. Page took great pride in the song’s vast dynamic range the development from crawling slide-guitar licks to explosive, metallic grooves. Fittingly, it’s one only two tracks on the album (along with the laid-back blues of “Boogie With Stu”) credited to the full quartet. “There were no edits or drop-ins or overdubs to the version you hear,” the guitarist said. “This is Led Zeppelin just going for it for an 11-minute song with all the changes in it and everything and the musical map that you have to remember when it goes 1-2-3-4, tapes rolling.”

There was a hell of a lot to sort of remember along the way, but we were up for all of this,” he told In the Studio With Redbeard, noting how he deliberately avoided listening to much popular music to preserve his sense of curiosity. This song, “so radical relative to any sort of blues that anyone else had done,” defines that originality.

“Ten Years Gone”

With all due respect to “Stairway to Heaven,” Led Zeppelin never crafted a more musically and emotionally satisfying power ballad than “Ten Years Gone”. With its brilliantly arranged contrasts of heavy and light, aching vocal performance by Robert Plant and panoramic sweep leading up to its final crescendo, this is a veritable song writing clinic by the masters of the craft. Everything that should have been put in was, and everything that should have been left out was too. The end result is absolute perfection.

“Ten Years Gone” is a true balance of Page and Plant, weaving the guitarist’s cinematic riffs with the singer’s introspective lyrics. “There’s a number of sections on ‘Ten Years Gone’ and movements, and I’d already sort of constructed all of this before going in,” Page said of the song’s layered arrangement.

Plant tapped into the track’s core wistfulness by drawing on a personal tale of doomed love. “I was working my ass off before joining Zeppelin,” he said “A lady I really dearly loved said, ‘Right. It’s me or your fans.’ Not that I had fans, but I said, ‘I can’t stop, I’ve got to keep going.’ She’s quite content these days, I imagine. She’s got a washing machine that works by itself and a little sports car. We wouldn’t have anything to say anymore. I could probably relate to her, but she couldn’t relate to me. I’d be smiling too much. Ten years gone, I’m afraid.” “Ten Years Gone” become a live favourite, but, like many of Zeppelin’s more elaborate pieces, it proved difficult to replicate. In an effort to flesh out the tune, Jones played a triple-neck instrument with a six-string guitar, 12-string guitar and mandolin, all while playing bass pedals with his feet.

“Kashmir”

When you think of Physical Graffiti, “Kashmir” tends to be the first and last song that comes to mind. As colossal as the Zeppelin legacy itself, “Kashmir” captures all four band members at the peak of their talents: You have Jimmy Page’s unconventional DADGAD tuning inspired by similar modal Arabian ones; Robert Plant’s vivid impressions of his travels across Northern Africa; John Bonham’s thunderous but meticulously planned percussion; and John Paul Jones’ orchestral arrangement, both for real strings and his Mellotron. The final achievement is mesmerizing, majestic, mind-blowing. “Kashmir” remains an indestructible cornerstone of classic rock.

It’s the most majestic Led Zeppelin song not named “Stairway to Heaven” and its roots are suitably elaborate. Page developed the track’s symphonic arrangement from the seed of a previous piece dating back before the Graffiti sessions, using the cascading guitar fanfare to develop a brand new epic.

“I had a particular idea for a mantric riff with cascading overdubs,” the guitarist recounted in Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin. “I started playing the riff with John Bonham and we just locked in played it nonstop. It was so infectious, such a delight and just so us. I overdubbed the electric 12-string to what was later the brass parts; I had visualized this piece as being mighty, orchestral, even threatening. When I heard the playback of myself and drums, I knew this was truly innovative. This is the birth of ‘Kashmir” Page and Bonham built off the vast reverberations of the drum sound captured in the Headley Grange hallway — the drummer’s contribution was so crucial, he wound up with a co-writing credit. Page expanded the stark riffs with brass and strings; Jones added an eerie mellotron; and Page crafted a vivid lyric inspired by a recent drive through south Morocco — not, as the title might imply, the Indian region of Kashmir.

“It’s one of my favourites,” the singer wrote in the liner notes for 1993’s The Complete Studio Recordings box set. “That, ‘All My Love’ and ‘In the Light’ and two or three others really were the finest moments. But ‘Kashmir’ in particular. It was so positive, lyrically.” Page concurred: “There have been several milestones along the way,” he said in 1977. “That’s definitely one of them. 

“Physical Graffiti” received glowing reviews, Rolling Stone said the double album was “the band’s Tommy, Beggar’s Banquet and Sgt. Pepper rolled into one: Physical Graffiti is Led Zeppelin’s bid for artistic respectability.” Billboard magazine’s 5-star review stated: “(Physical Graffiti) is a tour de force through a number of musical styles, from straight rock to blues to folky acoustic to orchestral sounds.” In 1998 Q readers voted “Physical Graffiti” the 28th-greatest album of all time.

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In 2007, legendary Zeppelin frontman and all round rock superstar Robert Plant and award-winning bluegrass musician/songwriter Alison Krauss collaborated on the celebrated album “Raising Sand” a soulful yet restrained record that earned the duo many accolades, including the Grammy for album of the year. Now 14 years later, they’ve announced “Raise the Roof“, a new album of covers from some of their influences, including Merle Haggard and The Everly Brothers, with some new originals, as well.

Recorded by Raising Sand producer T. Bone Burnett, the new album features an array of collaborators on drums, bass and pedal steel guitar, fleshing out the folk and roots influences the duo strive for. “We wanted it to move,” says Krauss. “We brought other people in, other personalities within the band, and coming back together again in the studio brought a new intimacy to the harmonies.”

The announcement arrives with new single “Can’t Let Go,” a cover of the Randy Weeks classic famously performed by Lucinda Williams. out November 19th on Rounder Records.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ “Can’t Let Go” from their forthcoming release, ‘Raise The Roof’, out November 19th.

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As Live albums go Forget “The Song Remains The Same” the 1970 bootleg “Live On Blueberry Hill” captures Zeppelin at the peak of their powers better than anything else, Sure, Led Zeppelin IV and Physical Grafitti are generally accepted as Led Zeppelin’s twin peaks, though you could find someone to make a case for each of their albums (even In Through The Out Door). But it’s the 1970 bootleg Led Zeppelin Live On Blueberry Hill that is the true connoisseur’s choice when it comes to Zeppelin albums.

Bootlegs and Zeppelin have been synonymous for over decades. Despite manager Peter Grant’s heavy-handedness when dealing with anyone he caught taping their shows, Zep became the most bootlegged act of all time.

The band’s impact on their initial American tours made them a prime target for the then emerging bootleg recording business. From their inception, it was more than evident that Zeppelin’s studio output was just the starting point. On stage was where the real action occurred, as they constantly improvised and expanded their material. Peter Grant summed it up when he stated: “Led Zeppelin was primarily an in-person band… that’s what it was really about.”

On the night of September 4th, 1970, during their sixth American tour, two separate teams of fans were intent on taping the Led Zeppelin gig at the Inglewood Forum in Los Angeles. Both parties came away with lengthy representations of the band’s then current state of play, recorded on reel-to-reel machines close to the stage.

Regardless of which version you hear, the sheer authenticity of the performance shines through. The dynamic thrust of Bonham’s drums, the sinewy grind of Page’s guitar, Jonesy’s resonant bass lines and melodic keyboards, plus the outstanding clarity of Plant’s vocal shrieks (enhanced by the echo unit used at the time), all merge into a ferocious mix that magically recreates the electricity of the occasion.  The sleeve notes describe it as “One hundred and six minutes and fifty three seconds of pure alive rock.

The recording that would become known as the album Led Zeppelin Live On Blueberry Hill was captured by a pair of West Coast bootleggers whose previous credits included Dylan’s Great White Wonder set and the Stones’ Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be. Another bootlegger known as Rubber Dubber also recorded the show and quickly issued it as a double album stamped Led Zeppelin Live Los Angeles Forum 9-4-70. The more commonLive On Blueberry Hill on the Blimp label version with a distinctive surreal cover insert, also came out within weeks of the show.

Moments to relish include the unpredictable Communication Breakdown medley that included Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth and The Beatles’ I Saw Her Standing There, plus the Zep I opener Good Times Bad Times. Not forgetting freshly minted nuggets from the soon to be released Zep III album such as Since I’ve Been Loving You and the rarely played live Out On The Tiles. A lengthy Whole Lotta Love turned into a rock’n’roll juke box as they randomly threw in covers of Buddy Holly’s Think It Over and Leiber, Stoller & Barrett’s Some Other Guy – a formula they repeated with a breathless encore rendition of Fats Domino’s Blueberry Hill.

Back in their heyday, bootleg recordings of Led Zeppelin offered a whole new perspective on the band. This remains as essential a part of their discography as any of their official albums. To paraphrase the great Fats himself, Led Zeppelin Live On Blueberry Hill is still an absolute thrill. From the 1980s the bootleg became available on CD as a 2-disc set, often under the titles Blueberry Hill and The Final Statements. An historic show immortalized on the first-ever LP bootleg, Blueberry Hill. After the concert, JP, RP and JB jam at the Troubadour with Fairport Convention. “It was mainly Plant and Page who got up onstage and joined Fairport. They did things like “Hey Joe,” “That’s Alright Mama,” “Mystery Train,” and other stuff. This was after Sandy Denny had left Fairport, so it was the all-male Fairport lineup. Joe Boyd

Setlist: 

Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Dazed and Confused, Bring It On Home, That’s Way, Bron-Yr-Aur, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Organ solo / Thank You, What Is and What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love (medley incl.: Let That Boy Boogie, Who’s Loving You Tonight?, I’m Movin’ On, Red House, Some Other Guy, Think it Over), Communication Breakdown (medley: incl. Good Times Bad Times, For What It’s Worth, I Saw Her Standing There), Out On The Tiles, Blueberry Hill.

 

lz3

When Led Zeppelin III was released 50 years ago, it seemed destined to disappoint both the fans who wanted “Whole Lotta More Love” and the critics who weren’t all that keen on the band to begin with. Oh, sure, “Immigrant Song” was an instant hard-rock classic, and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” was blues as slow and heavy as you could hope for, but this album’s heart and soul lay with its acoustic numbers on what was then called Side Two. This wouldn’t do – hadn’t these guys already set up camp in the heavy metal slums? How dare they pretend to be other than what they were?

Of course, time has proven Zeppelin the wiser. III proved them capable of expanding their palette, showing more sides and more shades than the wannabes who were only capable of following one set of Zep’s footprints. The critics have come around, taking note of the bucolic dimension Jimmy Page and Robert Plant brought to their song-writing after a recharging stay in a quiet cottage in Wales named Bron-Yr-Aur. And the fans? Well, Led Zeppelin was never going to lose their fans.

Nineteen sixty-nine was one helluva year for Led Zeppelin. In the short span of 12 months they played close to 150 shows, recorded two best-selling albums, toured the US five times, and established themselves as one rock’s top box-office draws. In the harsh winter of ’68 they had been lucky to get $1,500 (around £883) for a club gig, but by the time 1970 rolled around, they were demanding as much as six figures a show.

The band’s meteoric rise had been breathless. While the music press weren’t particularly kind to them, their dramatic, sexually explicit hard rock was almost irresistible to a new generation of kids searching for something new and exciting that wasn’t “the same old Beatles and Stones”. But after a year of non-stop touring, recording and shagging, the band were ready to take a break.

It was singer Robert Plant’s idea to head for the hills – the Cambrian Mountains in Wales, to be exact. The 22-year-old remembered an 18th-century cottage called Bron-Yr-Aur he had visited in his youth, and felt it would be great place to temporarily escape life in the fast lane and commune with nature. Plant extended an invitation to his co-writer, guitarist and producer Jimmy Page, and in the spring, the two men took their women, instruments and supplies to the bucolic retreat to recharge their batteries and “get back to the garden”.

“It was time to take stock, and not get lost in it all,” Plant said later. And what better way to keep it real than at a place with no electricity, candles for light, water from a stream and an outside toilet?

The story of Plant and Page’s regenerative trek to Wales looms large in Zeppelin folklore, with many assuming that most of the acoustic-based songs that eventually appeared on Led Zeppelin III were written there. Page disputes that notion, but doesn’t dismiss the significance of the journey.

“When Robert and I went to Bron-Yr-Aur we weren’t thinking: ‘Let’s go to Wales and write,’” says Page. “The original plan was to just go there, hang out and appreciate the countryside. The only song we really finished while we were there was That’s The Way, but being in the country established a standard of travelling for inspiration and set a tone for Led Zeppelin III.”

While it might not have been conceived as a writing trip, the singer and guitarist’s stay in the Welsh mountains was deemed important and influential enough to be acknowledged on the album’s sleeve, stating: ‘Credit must be given to Bron Y Aur a small derelict cottage in South Snowdonia for painting a somewhat forgotten picture of true completeness which acted as an incentive to some of these music statements.’

Little did the band know that this ‘incentive’ and subsequent ‘tone’ would end up sending massive shockwaves throughout the rock world. Led Zeppelin’s pastoral third album was recorded at Olympic Studios in London and released in October 1970. It seemed almost self-destructively perverse – a 360-degree retreat from the testosterone-infused hard rock that had made them international superstars.

John Bonham teased the press about the band’s intended direction when Zeppelin regrouped for the first studio sessions of III in late May. ‘’We’ll be recording for the next two weeks and we are doing a lot of acoustic stuff as well as the heavier side,” he told the Melody Maker. “There will be better quality songs than on the first two albums.’’

The drummer wasn’t wrong. Six of the 10 tracks on the third album were built around the sweet ’n’ bitter strains of Page’s acoustic Harmony guitar as the band touched on everything from traditional “Gallows Pole” to country blues “Hats Off To (Roy) Harper”, to a folk song so upbeat you could square-dance to it “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”. To emphasise the rustic nature of the album, Zeppelin even changed their appearance, growing facial hair to Hobbit-like proportions and wearing clothes that made them look more like hippie farmers than sex gods. Fans and critics were dazed and confused, but the band stood their ground.

“We were so far ahead that it was difficult for people to know what the hell we were doing,” Page told journalist Brad Tolinski in the 2012 book Light & Shade: Conversations With Jimmy Page. “Critics especially couldn’t relate to it. Led Zeppelin was growing. Where many of our contemporaries were narrowing their perspective, we were really being expansive. I was maturing as a composer and player, and there were many kinds of music that I found stimulating, and with this wonderful group I had the chance to be really adventurous.”

Soon after the album’s release, Page was keen to emphasise Zeppelin’s evolution. “There is another side to us’’ he said. “Everyone in the band is going through changes. There are changes in the playing and the lyrics. Robert is really getting involved in his lyric writing. This album was to get across more versatility and use combinations of instruments. I haven’t read any reviews yet, but people have got to give the LP a reasonable hearing.’’

Page would go on to read the reviews. Some writers went so far as to accuse the band of jumping on the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young acoustic-rock bandwagon, which Page called “pathetic”, noting that acoustic guitars were all over the first two albums and arguing that they were at the core of everything the band did. The reviews so incensed the guitarist that he refused to grant any press interviews for the next 18 months after the album’s release.

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Plant, at the time Led Zeppelin III came out, was more direct: “You can just see the headlines, can’t you? ‘Led Zeppelin go soft on their fans’ or some crap like that. But now that we’ve done [this album] the sky’s the limit. It shows we can change. It means there are endless possibilities for us to go in. We won’t go stale, and this proves it.”

The truth is, the third album should have come as no surprise to anyone paying full attention to the band. The radical seeds that sprouted on III had been planted years earlier. Throughout the 60s, as Page toiled as London’s top session guitarist, very little escaped his attention. Like a musical sponge, he absorbed every lick the Chicago blues boom had to offer, took copious notes on contemporary folk-guitar virtuosos like John Fahey and Bert Jansch, and even purchased a sitar years before world music caught the attention of Beatle George Harrison.

He had already started applying those exotic flavours to rock’n’roll during his brief stint with The Yardbirds, and developed those ideas further on such early Zeppelin tracks as Black Mountain Side, which featured an Indian tabla musician, and Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You, which improbably married a Joan Baez song to heavy metal power chords and a flamenco guitar solo. The acoustic songs, Page opined, were designed to create dynamics both on the albums and in live performances, and that the harder songs “wouldn’t have as much impact without the softer ones”.

Yes, some thought Led Zeppelin III was commercial suicide, but in retrospect it was a brilliant gambit. Not only did the album prevent the quartet from becoming hard-rock caricatures like, say, Deep Purple or Ten Years After, but it also gave them an opportunity to take an important evolutionary leap forward. Often marginalised as ‘the acoustic album’, III was much more than that: it represented a truly daring leap in synthesising the folk, rock and world music elements found on the band’s first two albums into what one thinks of as ‘the Led Zeppelin style’.

The tense and mysterious Friends, for example, was the result of an experimental tuning Page designed specifically to capture the droning vibe heard in North African music. With its Eastern tonalities and ominous string arrangement reminiscent of English composer Gustav Holst’s Mars, Friends was undeniably a gateway to future masterworks like Kashmir and Four Sticks. And it makes you wonder if Stairway To Heaven or Over The Hills And Far Away would have existed without stylistic forerunners like That’s The Way or Gallows Pole.

Page was spreading his wings, and the Zeppelin III sessions also gave Robert Plant the opportunity to grow as a songwriter. No longer forced to simply beat his chest and crow about the size of his knob, he wrote his first truly great lyric, for That’s The Way. Amid Page’s cascading acoustic guitars, dulcimer and weeping pedal steel, Plant weaves a mournful southern Gothic tale on a par with Bobbie Gentry’s 1967 hit Ode To Billie Joe. With its haunting ambiguity, the song could be about class, racism, homosexuality or even ecological disaster. It’s sophisticated, secretive and flat-out beautiful. And, Lord knows, it’s a far cry from ‘I’m gonna give you every inch of my love’.

Plant has said the third album was “incredibly important for my dignity”. Perhaps the same could be said for the entire band.

Led Zeppelin were daring, but not crazy enough to completely abandon hard rock. While the album has its share of quiet moments, it also has plenty of loud ones – peculiar as they may be.

Immigrant Song is one of the heaviest and most exciting tracks in the band’s entire catalogue. On the surface it seems pretty straightforward, until you realise it’s a song about Vikings, the main vocal riff sounds like Bali Ha’i from the Broadway musical South Pacific, and that the rhythm guitar borrows from Link Wray’s rockabilly classic Rumble.

Its lyrical inspiration came when Zeppelin took some time out from the studio and ventured to Iceland to play a show in on June 22nd as part of a cultural exchange arranged by the British Government. Their first gig in the best part of three months, it took place at Reykjavik’s Laugardalsholl Sports. More importantly, just as the Welsh mountains had proved inspiring earlier in the year, Plant let his imagination run riot as he contemplated Iceland’s endless day.

“It was one of those times when you go to bed at night but you don’t sleep because the daylight’s still there – a 24-hour day,” the singer said. “There was just an amazing hue in the sky, and it was one of those things that made you think of Vikings and big ships – and John Bonham’s stomach.”

Less than a week later the band returned to the UK to headline the Bath Festival Of Blues & Progressive Music. The new song had already made such an impact on Zeppelin that they chose to open the show with it, and the British public heard Immigrant Song for the first time.

Led Zeppelin

Unsurprisingly, their Bath show was a sensation, prompting Melody Maker to enthuse: ‘Led Zeppelin stormed to huge success at the Bath Festival. About 150,000 fans rose to give them an ovation. They played for over three hours – blues, rock’n’roll and pure Zeppelin. Jimmy Page, in a yokel hat to suit the Somerset scene, screamed into attack on guitar, John Paul Jones came into his own on organ as well as bass, and John Bonham exploded his drums in a sensational solo. And the crowd went wild demanding encore after encore… a total of five!’

Bath was a turning point in recognition for us,” Page said. “There have been one or two magical gigs and Bath was one of them.”

Bath was great,” remembered manager Peter Grant later. “I went down to the site unbeknown to [promoter] Freddie Bannister, and I found out from the Met Office what time the sun was setting, and it was right behind the stage. And by going on at eight in the evening I was able to bring the lights up a bit at a time. And it was vital we went on to match that.”

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Even more crucially than any show-stopping sunset appearance, the Bath gig would herald a new era in Zeppelin’s evolution. Midway through their set, Jimmy Page swapped his Gibson Les Paul for a Martin acoustic guitar, and John Paul Jones picked up a mandolin. As Page played a few opening chords, Plant stepped to the mic. “This is called The Boy Next Door, for want of a better title [a better title would emerge – “That’s The Way”, when it finally appeared on Led Zeppelin III]” he said. It was the first time Led Zeppelin played acoustically in the UK.

It isn’t all folky acoustic bluster on Led Zeppelin III; there’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, a standard three-chord, 12-bar minor blues that actually has way more than three chords and who knows how many bars, because the damn thing never seems to repeat. Or what about Celebration Day, a song that sounds like a berserk Slinky due to the fact that John Paul Jones is playing his bass with a guitar slide?.

Then, of course, there was the matter of the Aleister Crowley quote etched into the run-off groove of early pressings of the album. Yes, the Beatles had put his image among many others on the cover of 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, but this seemed a little more covert; a little more dangerous, adding another disturbing layer to the already dark mythology of Led Zeppelin.

The phrase ‘Do what thou wilt’ and ‘So mote it be’ were inscribed on the vinyl by recording engineer Terry Manning during the final mastering process: ‘Do what thou wilt’ on side one, and ‘So mote it be’ on side two. The phrases were homage to Crowley, a practitioner of black magic who was once called “the most evil man in England”, and whom Page was quite enamoured with.

This phrase is from one of the fundamental principles of Aleister Crowley’s philosophy of Thelema: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will. There is no law beyond do what thou wilt.”

By the time of the release of the album, it was still rather an open secret that Page was interested in the dark arts, and the inscriptions on the album were one of the first public signifiers. It wouldn’t be until the next year that the guitarist would buy Crowley’s Loch Ness estate Boleskine House. This was something Page would downplay later, explaining to Rolling Stone in 1976: “I do not worship the devil. But magic does intrigue me. Magic of all kinds. I bought Crowley’s house to go up and write in. The thing is, I just never get up that way. Friends live there now.”

Whenever he’s queried today, Page silences any conversation on the subject by advising the hapless interrogator: “Forget the myths. Because it was really all about the music.”

Which mostly it was, and moving forward into the future. This was a band who were staunchly opposed to repeating what they’d done before. “There was no way the third album was going to be like the first. If there was a Zeppelin philosophy, it was always: ‘Ever onwards. Let’s see what we can do next,’” Page said in 2005.

“With Since I’ve Been Loving You”, we were setting the scene of something that was yet to come,” says Page. “It was meant to push the envelope. We were playing in the spirit of the blues, but trying to take it into new dimensions dictated by the mass consciousness of the four players involved.

“Since I’ve Been Loving You” follows in the footsteps of the blues songs that lit up the first two Zep albums. This is deep-down, honestly delivered blues, Jones on organ and bass pedals coloring the track as Page pulls out all the stops. This song quickly became a concert staple. For an all-out aural assault, dig Page’s use of violin bow on guitar on “Out On the Tiles,” matching up with the bass. Bonham’s drums roll around inside your headphones. Plant and Page are also credited, but this is Bonham’s baby.

“The same thing goes for the folk stuff as well. It’s sort of, ‘Well, this is how it was done in the past, but it now has to move.’ There was no point in looking back. We were just inspired with this energy that we had collectively.”

“On Hats Off To (Roy) Harper, Robert and I were just singing and playing in the tradition of Sonny Terry And Brownie McGhee. Then we put the vocal and harmonica through an amp and turned on the tremolo, and suddenly it sounded edgy and surreal. It was a perfect way to end the album. We were tipping our hat to the country blues, but presented it in a way that no one else had done.”. “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper” is a tribute to their friend, folk singer Roy Harper. It is built on Bukka White’s “Shake ’Em On Down.” Plant’s voice was altered by means of a vibrato amplifier to magical effect. Page’s acoustic slide guitar matches it perfectly.

Perhaps the most surreal thing about Led Zeppelin III is that, after all these years, its time may have finally come. While it will never be their biggest album, it might be their most contemporary. Think about it: ‘dudes with beards, wearing expensive thrift-shop clothing, playing edgy folk music that borrows liberally from world music and heavy metal’ sounds very modern indie rock to these ears. It’s no wonder that the album has sold three times as many copies in the last two decades as it did in the first twenty years since its existence.

Perhaps this is what Page – ever the mystic – was talking about when he said: “We knew what we were doing was right and that it was actually breaking new ground. We were cutting with a machete knife through the jungle, and discovered a temple of the ages.”

Trailblazing can be tough business, but very satisfying when smart people follow your footsteps. Four decades later, it seems that the temple Led Zeppelin III built has become a very busy place indeed. Artists such as Laura Marling, Fleet Foxes, Devendra Banhart and even Mumford & Sons, whose thumping beats have at least one muddy boot in Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, have been known to drop in for a visit.
If one was really going to quibble with the concept of Led Zeppelin III, it might be with the notion that the band were doing anything particularly shocking or original. While it’s agreed that comparing them to Crosby, Stills & Nash was patently absurd, bands like Fairport Convention and The Byrds were all attempting to modernise folk music to some degree in the 60s and 70s. In a 2010 interview, Page flicked away that idea, but made a valid point, saying that while he admired those bands and what they were doing, he didn’t think anyone would ever confuse Led Zeppelin with Fairport or the Incredible String Band.

“They were coming from a much more traditional place, and I was coming from so many different areas. But maybe,” he adds with a laugh, “I was just coming from a rock’n’roll head. Something like Friends really isn’t – it isn’t traditional music, but I liked that we could go in that direction and put our own spin on it. At the same time, I don’t ever think we lost sight of the fact that we were a rock band.”

More unusual sounds and background conversation introduce “Friends.” Page’s acoustic guitar is superb, the bass droning, and Plant wailing. Jones did the string arrangements here. Plant’s chameleon-like voice is magic as he sings this great chorus:

Mmm, I’m telling you now
The greatest thing you ever can do now
Is trade a smile with someone who’s blue now
It’s very easy, just-

  As the song winds down, the strings, bass drone, guitar, and vocals all build to a crescendo before yielding to the mesmerizing Moog synthesizer drone that gets deeper and slower and then suddenly explodes into…

“Celebration Day,” Page’s guitar and Jones’ wicked bass grabbing you before Bonham kicks the song into overdrive, twisting the beat around. Page’s double-tracked guitars are so good here, especially the James Brown-style rhythm.

As for the bad reviews, Page has softened over the years, saying that in hindsight he could see how III was misunderstood. “Journalists were in a rush and they were looking for the new Whole Lotta Love and not actually listening to what was there,” he told writer Nigel Williamson. “It was too fresh for them and they didn’t get the plot. It doesn’t surprise me that the diversity and breadth of what we were doing was overlooked or under-appreciated at the time.”

In the final analysis, after the album was released in October and the dust settled, Led Zeppelin simply went on their way as they always had, and immediately began writing and working on what would eventually become their biggest album ever: Led Zeppelin IV. With the same acoustic guitar that he used on the maligned III, Page composed some of the band’s most beloved anthems, including Stairway To Heaven, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California and Four Sticks. Critics – and everyone else – be damned.

“Albumwise, it usually takes a year for people to catch up with what we’re doing,” Jimmy Page told Rolling Stone in 1975. But listeners needed at least a decade to fully absorb the stylistic change-ups on Led Zeppelin III. But listeners needed at least a decade to fully absorb the stylistic change-ups on Led Zeppelin III. The elephant-balled blues rock that had defined Zeppelin’s sound was now tempered down, replaced by a heady strain of wispy, mystic folk rock. Even the album cover was more laid-back, with the band’s trademark down-in-flames Hindenburg imagery replaced by a trippy collage of butterflies and smiling teeth.

“They just couldn’t understand it,” Page vented. “All of a sudden, [the headlines were], ‘Led Zeppelin Go Acoustic!’ I thought, ‘Christ, where are their heads and ears? There were three acoustic songs on the first album, and two on the second.'”

He’s right. But while the mellower tunes from Zeppelin’s early catalogue (“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” “Ramble On”) had hints of menace, Led Zeppelin III found Page and Robert Plant fully embracing their softer side – not a surprising move, given the album’s relaxed genesis. By early 1970, the group members had been on the road almost nonstop, and after years of groupie-gobbling decadence, everyone needed a break.

“It was time to step back, take stock and not get lost in it all,” Plant later recalled. “Zeppelin was starting to get very big, and we wanted the rest of our journey to take a pretty level course.”

Page had become enamored with California’s growing singer-songwriter movement – particularly Joni Mitchell – and initially, he and Plant considered holing up in Marin County to be close to the scene. But Plant recalled a childhood trip to a cozy Welsh cottage called Bron-Yr-Aur, so in early 1970, the two men headed to the country, loved ones in tow. The va- cation was originally intended to clear their heads, but Page and Plant spent hours taking long walks and sitting by the night fire, and eventually began churning out the songs that would dominate III.

All those hours of rustic seclusion in the primordial countryside must’ve flipped a switch in them; III isn’t just their most California-folk-influenced album, it’s also their most English – steeped in traditional folk music and ancient history, from the mournful days-gone-by balladry of “That’s the Way” or the folk-tilt boogie of “Gallows Pole,” a centuries-old ballad rebooted by Page and Plant.

“Gallows Pole” is a traditional song arranged by Page and Plant. Side two is a light year away from side one, making this such a great departure from their previous work. The beautiful acoustic guitar, echoes, is joined by Plant telling the story of a man hoping to cheat the hangman. Jones enters next on mandolin and then overdubbed on bass. Then it’s time for Page on banjo and Bonham on kit to heat it way up. That’s Page on electric guitar, too.

“Tangerine” is the only song on the album that is Page’s alone. He and Plant wrote all the others (except for “Hat Off to (Roy) Harper”), three with Jones, one with Bonham. Acoustic guitar and Plant’s vocals are heard before Jones, Bonham, and Page on pedal steel guitar jump in. Page also takes an electric guitar solo. They have successful entered the realm of folk and country folk music, paving the way for songs on Led Zeppelin IV.

Plant’s voice sounds so tender on songs such as “That’s the Way” and the others on this side on the vinyl record. More pedal steel here as well. Page offers backing vocals. Page’s deft touch with the acoustic guitar again stands out.

By the time they’d returned to England and set up camp at Headley Grange – the remote country house where they’d later work on Led Zeppelin IV – they had an album’s worth of material, some of which predated their Bron-Yr-Aur outing. One such number was “Immigrant Song,” a relentless chug-a-lug of wailing vocals and volcanic viking drama that would kick off not only the album but many of the band’s live shows. “Immigrant” was just one of the album’s memorable electric moments, which also included the brooding slow-blues jam “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” the steady-metal throttler “Out on the Tiles” and the splatter-guitar frenzy of “Celebration Day.”

But it’s the all-acoustic second side that initially tripped up Zeppelin fans. The daydream shimmer of “Tangerine” – which would later be memorably employed in Cameron Crowe’s rock saga Almost Famous – demonstrated just how closely Page and Plant had been watching the Laurel Canyon scene, while the inexplicably misspelled “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” sounded like a furious hoedown. The album ended with “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper,” in which the titular folk singer is celebrated with a clamour of spooky slide guitars. For the kids expecting “A Whole Lotta More Love,” listening to Led Zeppelin III must have been a jarring experience – the hard-rock inverse to what Dylan fans felt when he first started plugging in.

Oh, for the glorious days of vinyl records with their magnificent covers! Atlantic SD 7201 boasted a gatefold cover, and the front part contained a volvelle: a wheel inside the double-fold with a collage of images that could be turned at the album opening; portions of the images were visible through eleven circle cutouts on the front. Zacron was the artist who designed it. The complexities of the cover caused a two-month delay in the album’s release. [It was worth it!]

Reviewers pounced on the record’s perceived mushiness (it probably didn’t help that “Stomp” was written about Plant’s dog), and sales quickly tapered off. For years, III was considered if not the weakest entry in the group’s catalogue, then at least the most disorienting – banshee shrieks one minute, hushed campfire paeans the next. What fans and critics missed, though, was that the album’s heart-on-sleeve, dick-in-pants sincerity wasn’t some cynical bid for credibility, but a necessary survival measure.

“The key to Zeppelin’s longevity,” Page told Rolling Stone, “has been change.” Songs like “Tangerine” and “That’s the Way” were the first that proved Zeppelin capable of that change, and that they weren’t just a group of comically alpha-male riff monsters.

It’d be a stretch to think of III as Zeppelin’s “mature” album – this is, after all, a record that opens with a first-person tale of Nordic conquest – but, at the very least, it proved they could write songs that match the depth and emotional power of the blues and folk they loved and borrowed from. “The third album was the album of albums,” Plant would later say. “If anybody had us labelled as a heavy-metal group, that destroyed them.”

The Knebworth Festival 1979 consisted of two concerts performed by the rock band Led Zeppelin and other artists at Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, England, in August 1979.

Led Zeppelin had not performed live for two years, since the death of Robert Plant’s son during the band’s 1977 North American tour, and they had not performed in the United Kingdom for four years. Their manager Peter Grant decided that the band should perform at Knebworth instead of embarking on a lengthy tour.

The whole [Led Zeppelin touring] operation had become too big. Page’s experience from the 1971 club tour ruled out any small dates. They had played the biggest indoor arena in the UK (Earls Court 1975) four years earlier. As Peter Grant saw it, they had to come back in the grandest style possible. Knebworth was the answer and after negotiations with promoter Freddie Bannister the 4th August date was scheduled with a second date on hold. The demand for tickets for the first date was enormous, leading to the second date being added.

The band’s fee for performing was reportedly the largest ever paid to one single act at that time. In the lead-up to the concerts Led Zeppelin undertook extensive rehearsals at Bray Film studios near London, and attended the venue at Knebworth in order to inspect the site, complete a publicity photograph shoot and perform a soundcheck.  In addition, they performed two low-key warm-up shows in late July at the Falkoner Theatre, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Also performing at the Knebworth concerts in 1979 were The New Barbarians, featuring Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards (The New Barbarians played only at the second concert on August 11); Todd Rundgren and Utopia; Southside Johnny; Marshall Tucker; Commander Cody; Chas & Dave; and Fairport Convention. According to the official website of Knebworth House, the 1979 Knebworth Festival involved: the largest stage ever constructed, 570 loo seats, 750 feet of urinals and the biggest rock band in the world. Led Zeppelin played their last ever concerts (in the UK) at Knebworth, and it was the end of an era for the Knebworth shows. Both concerts overran, noise complaints were received from 7 miles away. The rubbish team struggled to cope with clearing the arena between the shows. The police believed that 200,000 people had turned up each night, Sainsburys lost 150 trolleys and Tesco 75% of their stock, and Lord Cobbold [owner of Knebworth House] ended up in Court. For many in attendance it was their first ever concert experience. For many it would be the only time that they would get to see Zeppelin perform live. For that reason alone it holds a special affection in their live history. The first show in particular, with so much riding on it, was perhaps the most important they ever played.[

In an interview he gave in 2005, Plant elaborated on the difficult issues:

I was racked with nerves. It was our first British gig in four years and we could have gone back to the Queen’s Head pub. We talked about doing something like that. But instead we went back in such a flurry and a fluster to 210,000 people in a field and 180,000 more the next day surrounded by Keith and Ronnie and Todd Rundgren. Nobody’s big enough to meet those expectations. But because there was some chemical charge in the air, it worked. It didn’t work for us. We played too fast and we played too slow and it was like trying to land a plane with one engine. But it was fantastic for those who were there.

Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant stated after the event that Led Zeppelin’s performance at Knebworth was “a bit rusty”. In the opinion of many the gigs were a “nervous, rather tentative attempt [by Led Zeppelin] to step back into the limelight … Some of it was breathtaking, some musically woefully inept and sometimes it wavered between the two in the space of a few minutes.” music writer Chris Welch, who also attended the concerts, similarly suggests that:

The two concerts were professionally recorded on the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio (engineered by George Chkiantz) and also filmed, with live images beamed directly onto a giant screen behind the stage. The filming was done by the TV International Company under the direction of Chris Bodger.There was a plan for the footage to be used on a television special (this is one of the reasons the band members wore the same clothes on both nights) but this idea was never realised. Only short clips of some of the songs were used by Atlantic Records for promotional purposes.

For many years, bootleg copies of this audio and video material circulated amongst fans. The first audience-recorded bootlegs became available in early 1980, However, aside from the promotional snippets, Led Zeppelin never officially released any of the recordings until 2003, when parts of the footage were digitally remastered and included on the Led Zeppelin DVD.

Led Zeppelin at the Knebworth Festival, on August 11th, 1979.
It was felt it was necessary to include the date in the title because this is the Knebworth concert that wasn’t remastered on the Led Zeppelin DVD.
The video footage is from the Return of the Dinosaurs bootleg. The only available (and therefore best) complete footage of the concert.

Setlist:

1:00 The Song Remains the Same*
6:11 Celebration Day**
9:46 Black Dog
15:22 Nobody’s Fault But Mine
21:25 Over the Hills and Far Away**
27:35 Misty Mountain Hop*
32:53 Since I’ve Been Loving You
41:42 No Quarter [medley]*
56:45 Hot Dog
1:00:45 The Rain Song
1:08:30 White Summer/Black Mountain Side
1:14:20 Kashmir
1:23:44 Trampled Underfoot
1:30:25 Sick Again**
1:35:37 Achilles Last Stand
1:45:25 Guitar Solo
1:51:30 In the Evening
1:59:08 Stairway to Heaven
2:13:59 Rock and Roll
2:23:56 Whole Lotta Love [medley]
2:34:29 Communication Breakdown

The Story: This was pieced together from two different bootlegs, one that sounds flat but perfectly matches the video, and one that sounds The space in-between songs is made up of the former of those two, because the latter basically omits everything that isn’t a song. It took forever to match the good-sounding soundboard to the bad-sounding one (the speeds were slightly off for every song), then match all the audio to the video. It became somewhat trial and error, especially with Kashmir. The good-sounding bootleg had the Kashmir recording at varying speeds, meaning it would match up to the video at one point, then it would gradually get further and further ahead of the video, while accelerating in its increase in speed (if that makes sense). It became way too extravagant to even attempt to match it up, The version of Kashmir that is used is from the flat-sounding bootleg, although it’s honestly acceptable in quality.
You may notice that the overall sound quality of the concert dips after The Rain Song. That’s because of the bootleg, I don’t know why it does that. There’s not much I can do to make the end of the concert sound as lovely as the beginning, without having access to the original soundboard tapes. Regardless, it’s all the best sounding stuff for this concert.

Robert Plant Digging Deep Subterranea

Robert Plant begins the third season of his podcast Digging Deep with Robert Plant on which he reflects on his storied career and shares the stories behind the music.  To coincide with the season premiere, Plant has announced a new career-spanning 2-CD set.  Due on October 2nd from his own Es Paranza label, Digging Deep: Subterranea compiles 30 tracks on two CDs (or streaming/digital) from his solo body of work.

Digging Deep: Subterranea will be the first 2-CD collection of the Led Zeppelin frontman’s solo works since 2003’s Sixty Six to Timbuktu and the first overall anthology since 2006’s 9-CD/1-DVD box set Nine Lives which featured expanded editions of all of his albums (also available separately) and a bonus DVD.  The new anthology takes Plant’s story further, featuring highlights from every one of his solo albums between 1982’s Pictures at Eleven and 2017’s Carry Fire with the exception of 1985’s Shaken ‘n Stirred.  None of his collaborative albums with Jimmy Page, Allison Krauss, or The Honeydrippers are represented.

In addition to highlights from those acclaimed albums – including the chart-topping Rock hit “Hurting Kind,” Grammy-nominated “Shine It All Around,” and acoustic version of “Great Spirit” (previously available only as a bonus track on Fate of Nations) – Digging Deep premieres three previously unreleased selections.  The Toussaint McCall-penned “Nothing Takes the Place of You” was recorded for the 2013 film Winter in the Blood.  “Charlie Patton Highway (Turn It Up – Part I)” previews Plant’s next studio album, a follow-up to 2010’s Band of Joy.  The third and final “new” track is a duet of Charley Feathers’ “Too Much Alike” with Patty Griffin.  She’s just one of the talents featured on the collection, along with Jimmy Page, Phil Collins, Richard Thompson, Buddy Miller, and many others who have lent a hand to Plant over the years.

While waiting for Digging Deep: Subterranea to arrive on CD, fans can enjoy the podcast for which five new episodes will premiere every two weeks.  All of the episodes were recorded earlier in the year at London’s Rough Trade East in front of a live audience; they can be heard on services including Apple Music, Spotify, and YouTube.

The upcoming anthology reflects Plant’s own brand of “world music,” taking in folk, blues, and rock-and-roll influences from around the world and filtering them through his own sensibility.  Look for it on October 2nd from Es Paranza.

Robert Plant, Digging Deep: Subterranea

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Buy Online Led Zeppelin - Live Scandinavia ‘69 White

From jamming in a basement in a London record store to bagging the biggest recording deal in the history of popular music, Led Zeppelin’s rise to super-stardom took only a few short months. The band that would come to redefine hard rock music and influence generations of future rockers is here captured in all its thundering sonic glory as it embarked on a tour of Scandinavia in the spring of 1969. Led Zeppelin perform ‘How Many More Times’ on Danish TV channel Danmarks Radio on March 17th, 1969.

The 1969 tour of the United Kingdom and Scandinavia was a concert tour of the United Kingdom and Scandinavia by the English rock band. The tour commenced on 1st March and concluded on 17th April 1969. During this tour, Led Zeppelin made a number of live television appearances, including one date in Denmark on 17th March, and a session at BBC TV studios on March 21st and a session at Staines on March 25th, the last for the filming of the Supershow. Some of these early filmed sessions were later released on the Led Zeppelin DVD (2003). They were part of manager Peter Grant’s early strategy to build public awareness of the group. However, his dissatisfaction with the medium (particularly its inferior audio quality), would soon lead him to make the band unavailable for television again

 

Performed live at Stockholm’s Konserthuset on 14th March, broadcast by Sveriges Radio and Copenhagen’s Gladaxe on 17th March, broadcast by TV-BYEN, these gigs are an early taste of the virtuoso rock performances that would break stadium attendance records across the globe and change the genre forever.

  • Two incredible performances, live from Stockholm and Copenhagen, 1969
  • Includes the entire Sveriges radio and TV-BYEN broadcasts
  • Digitally remastered for greatly enhanced sound quality
  • Background liners and rare images
  • First time on vinyl
  • Hand numbered editions

Led Zeppelin performing

We’re taking a look back at one of the greatest acts in rock history, as we travel back to 1968 to listen to Led Zeppelin’s first-ever recorded performance. Hilariously billed as ‘Len Zefflin’ the band comprised of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones were recorded on stage for the first time—it would be an unforgettable concert.

Only the fifth stop on the band’s first US tour, the gig in question would take place in the innocuous town of Spokane, Washington with Zeppelin supporting Vanilla Fudge, or as they were billed by the promoter “The Vanilla Fudge”. The naming mistakes didn’t stop there, as one of the most iconic names in rock, was billed as “Len Zefflin”.

It’s easy to forget, especially with a name as ubiquitous with the upper echelons of rock history as Led Zeppelin, that all rock Gods have to start as mere mortals. It shows how small an entity the band were in the States. While Jimmy Page had made his name in The Yardbirds a few years before and had caught some of the spotlight for his guitar work, he was still a relative unknown and his new band with Plant, Bonham, and Jones was even more of an untold entity.

The performance in Spokane would’ve almost certainly been the first time any of the audience would have seen Led Zeppelin and the band would not disappoint. They would completely show up the headline act, Vanilla Fudge, with their fusion of blues and the heaviest elements of rock, creating the foundations of a whole new genre with every new performance.

Thanks to a bootlegging student we can listen to the moment in musical history as Led Zeppelin takes to the stage to change the lives of all who witnessed it. John Paul Jones believes the audience was so happy to see the group because “we would just go on and go ‘bang bang bang’ with three driven songs with solos” a comparative abuse in regards to other noodling guitar acts. They would scythe through the fog and deliver a powerful performance capable of cracking ribs and chipping teeth. It can all be hear din the tape below.

It’s a raw two-track tape that manages to capture the pulsating energy of the evening. For die hard fans of Zep, the bootleg will be no new news, but we hope they would agree, it’s still as impressive and imposing as the first listen.

See the source image

The first show of the band’s four night stand at Chicago Stadium begins with a series of loud firecracker blasts as the band takes the stage. Robert Plant is quick to respond, saying “listen, before we start, can I ask you one thing?… can you stop throwin’ those firecrackers, cause we wanna give you a lotta music and we’re not gonna fight with firecrackers, okay? “The Song Remains the Same” is a relentless sonic assault. Plant again asks the crowd to cool it following “Sick Again”.But I’d bet the 20,000 or so people who turned up at the Chicago Stadium Wednesday night for the first of four shows the band is doing there would find their popularity as credible as the group is incredible in its steamroller approach to rock and blues. Purchasing tickets for the shows was a story in itself. It was the 1970’s. When the tickets went on sale, it became a literal war! Broken doors, shattered glass, fighting and fainting girls! Raised seats just above the main floor. This is a band, for instance, that plays for three hours straight, with few dull moments once it gets rolling. Wednesday, it took a couple of songs; the band tends to build to a cumulative effect rather than launching all of its firepower at once. There was Jimmy’s speaker cabinet with the ZoSo symbol! Bonham had a new and beautiful gold metallic kit, waiting in ready, high atop his riser. The stage appeared sharp and clean with banks of lights and the P.A. hung aerially.

Part way into the show lead singer Robert Plant, ace guitarist Jimmy Page appears, turned toward Bonham . He’s in white satin with a dragon design on his shirt’s back. No design on his satin pants. keyboard and bass player John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham sat in a peaceful row across the front of the stage, doing a segment of quieter ballads in a folky, medieval mood. It was a striking change of pace from what had gone before and would come after, which was the sort of power-rock, extremely loud with a blues base, that Zeppelin handles so well.  Jimmy Page tears through a blistering guitar solo during “Nobody’s Fault But Mine. In My Time of Dying” is plagued by tape issues. After some scary firecracker blasts and shouts of protest from Robert, the show begins. It is quite good. Jimmy’s solo in is excellent in “Since I’ve Been Loving You” is an intense emotional journey. Page shreds wildly through the guitar solo, emphasizing each note as if it were his last. An outstanding performance.

 

John Paul Jones is introduced as “the most debonair member of the band” before “No Quarter”. He and drummer Bonzo further develop the honky tonk interlude during the piano solo.

Page delivers an excellent guitar solo. Unfortunately, a cut in the tape near the end leaves us at the return to the main theme. There is another cut during the final verse. Plant announces “at the front of the stage for the first time,Robert introduces Jonesy as ” The most debonair member of the band. He can speak two languages. John Bonham… looking very suave in a two-piece tuxedo” before Jimmy actually speaks during the acoustic section (“Better to live one day as a king, than a thousand years as a peasant.”), “The Battle of Evermore. Going to California” is introduced as “a tribute to a lady who sings and drives a Mercedes and gets uptight.” Unfortunately, the song is plagued by more tape issues. After singing a bit of Surrender as Page retunes before “Black Country Woman”, Plant jokingly refers to the Black Country as “the land where men are men and sheep are nervous,” to which Page responds “better to live one day as a king than a thousand days as a peasant.”

Page’s guitar is painfully out of tune during White Summer/Black Mountain Side. He spends most of the song trying to compensate for the problem, but to no avail. Plant delivers a powerful performance during Kashmir. His banshee howls threaten to destroy the taper’s equipment. Bonzo is introduced as “our diplomat for peace and good relations” before Over the Top. Unfortunately, the tape suffers from constant volume fluctuations throughout the drum solo. Page has trouble keeping up during Achilles Last Stand. The first few notes of Stairway to Heaven are met with a loud cheer from the crowd. Page’s fingers become entangled in the strings during the guitar solo. The band closes the show with Trampled Underfoot, with Page shredding through an aggressive guitar solo.

Setlist: The Song Remains The Same, (The Rover intro) Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, Ten Years Gone, Battle of Evermore, Going to California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer ~ Black Mountainside, Kashmir, (Out On the Tiles intro) Moby Dick, Jimmy Page solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway to Heaven, Rock and Roll, Trampled Underfoot.

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Saving Grace, is the latest musical project from former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant who has announced a run of North American tour dates scheduled for the spring. The band features singer Suzi DianOli Jefferson (percussion), Tony Kelsey (mandolin, baritone, acoustic guitar), and Matt Worley (banjo, acoustic/baritone guitars).

The famous rock singer took to his social media outlets on Tuesday morning to announce the upcoming run of shows that begins on May 12th . The brief run continues over six more shows in select U.S. cities, including Chicago, IL (5/15); Port Chester, NY (5/20); and New York City (5/20) before wrapping in Washington, D.C. on May 25th. The tour will also feature Catfish Keith on the billing at every performance except the Chicago date.

Saving Grace gave their first performances in the U.K. and Ireland in 2020. The band will also play five shows in the U.K. ahead of the North American run beginning on March 15th, which includes an appearance at Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

The relatively new band explores a “Repertoire of ‘music inspired by the dreamscape of the Welsh Marches,’ [and] songs that span Plant’s diverse tastes and influences, notably his lifelong passion for British and American folk, spirituals, and traditional blues, including a number of beloved standards and longtime favorites,” according to a press statement . Plant closed last year touring throughout the fall with his other band, The Sensational Space Shifters, while also releasing reissued singles from his solo catalog with the “Digging Deep” Box Set that arrived in February.

Performed by Saving Grace. Originally written and recorded by Low.