Posts Tagged ‘Swan Song Records’

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” 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.


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.

Led Zeppelin were enduring a period meant to be spent celebrating their mid-’70s successes that instead had turned into a maze of tax issues, injury and drug use.

The band pushed forward, writing and recording an emotion-packed seventh album that returned the group to its hard-blues roots. This focus on urgency ran counter to the sense of experimentalism that drove their more recent albums, but there didn’t seem to be any other way. In some ways, nothing was going right. They wrote in Malibu and recorded in Germany, since the group had become tax exiles from their native U.K. Robert Plant arrived for the sessions in a wheelchair, while still recovering from a scary automobile crash in Greece. When time grew short, Jimmy Page was forced into a marathon of dubbing and mixing.

“Nobody else really came up with song ideas,” the guitarist said in “Light & Shade: Conversations With Jimmy Page”. “It was really up to me to come up with all the riffs, which is probably why [the songs were] guitar-heavy. But I don’t blame anybody. We were all kind of down.”

“Presence” was the seventh studio album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin , released by Swan Song Records on 31st March 1976. The album was a commercial success, reaching the top of both the British and American album charts, and achieving a triple-platinum certification in the United States, despite receiving mixed reviews from critics and being the slowest-selling studio album by the band

“It was taken from the balls, you know,” Plant said of Presence. “It was a cry from the depths, the only thing that we could do.” It’s Led Zeppelin’s most tightly focused record: seven tracks, no acoustic songs, no keyboards, just jewel-hard power – from the frantically charging “Achilles Last Stand” to “Nobody’s Fault but Mine,” a variation on a Blind Willie Johnson song where the band turns its firepower on itself.

Presence was pure anxiety and emotion,” said Page in 2006. “We didn’t know if we’d ever be able to play in the same way again. It might have been a very dramatic change, if the worst had happened to Robert. Presence is our best in terms of uninterrupted emotion. Along the way, however, John Paul Jones receded into the musical background. He was moving toward a breakthrough on the Yamaha GX-1 synth, something that would define the next Zeppelin album, 1979’s In Through the Out Door. But in the meantime, his quieter demeanor served to hardened the album’s edges.

They had reason to be frustrated. After the August 1975 car accident that confined Plant to a wheelchair for months, Led Zeppelin had to cancel an American tour. Unable to return to England for tax reasons, they developed the core of the album “Presence” in rehearsals at Los Angeles’ SIR Studio in October, then headed to chilly Munich, Germany, to record in the hotel-basement studio Musicland. From the start, the group knew they wouldn’t have long (the Rolling Stones had already reserved Musicland to add overdubs to their forthcoming Black and Blue album in early December). So they blasted through the recording process in 18 days, with Plant often singing from his wheelchair.

Page asked the Stones if he could have a little more time to finish guitar overdubs; he reportedly stayed up around the clock for two days to get them done, with “Achilles Last Stand” occupying the first day and everything else the next. Though it didn’t come with any major hits, Page called it Zeppelin’s “most important album”: bleak, bruised and crackling with electric fury.

Like In Through The Out Door, Presence was recorded during a period of time when Robert Plant was recovering from a car accident, with the normally charismatic frontman recording his vocals from the confines of a wheelchair. Despite this, the record still sounds like classic Led Zeppelin, though its sales ended up being some of the worst the group had seen during their career.

Due to the strong presence of Jimmy Page throughout the recording of the record, the record sounds less like a group effort, and more of a bluesy solo record from the guitarist. With John Bonham throwing down some stunning rhythmic answers to Page’s blistering guitar-work on tracks like ‘Achilles’ Last Stand’ and ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’, Presence still shows Led Zeppelin as the dominant force they always were.

Here’s a deeper dive into those tracks, as well as the five additional songs that make up “Presence”.

“Achilles Last Stand”

Plant alluded to Zeppelin’s tax-exile status in the song’s opening line, the first hint at how autobiographical Presence would become: “It was an April morning when they told us we should go, and as I turned to you, you smiled at me, how could we say no.”

He and Page had traveled to Morocco in the summer of 1975, drinking in exotic local settings and music that inspired the guitar parts – and some of Plant’s more esoteric musings on this track. But Plant’s working name for it (“The Wheelchair Song”) served as a sad admission. He also ultimately chose a title that winked at his car accident, which severely injured his ankle: Achilles, a hero of the Trojan War, was brought down by an arrow to the heel.

A one-of-a-kind Led Zeppelin studio project was underway. “There won’t be another album like it, put it like that,” Plant told Circus magazine at the time. “It was a cry from the depths, the only thing that we could do.”

Part of Page’s brisk post-production work included piling up no less than six guitars on “Achilles Last Stand.” “It was so focused,” Page said of the sessions in a 2015 talk with the Toronto Sun. “And it was defiant, if you like, to the set of circumstances.”

Jones, in a rare spotlight moment, added a distinctive alembic eight-string bass line. But they were no match for John Bonham, whose eruptive drum work serves as the lead instrument for roughly the first half of “Achilles Last Stand.” It’s a crowning musical achievement that opened the door for the kind of shifting time signatures that would dominate the next wave of British heavy metal.

“For Your Life”

Bonham was still front and center, unleashing monstrous but surprisingly limber polyrhythms on this heavy studio improv. With little unused material in hand, the narrative also dealt in the here and now. In fact, “For Your Life” was mostly arranged at Musicland, though it remained a furious attack on the now-empty excesses of the Los Angeles-era setting where Plant and Page composed the bulk of Presence. Plant darkly references plasticine relationships and rampant drug use that were so widespread in the “city of the damned.” He later described “For Your Life” as “a bitter treaty with rock ‘n’ roll.” Page matches Plant’s venomous attitude strum for angry strum.

“Royal Orleans”

Six of the seven songs on Presence were composed by Plant and Page, while the rumbling stop-start “Royal Orleans” is credited to all four members. In Led Zeppelin: The ‘Tight but Loose’ Files, Page said moments like this “proved to us once and for all that there was no reason for us to split up. I can’t think of many groups who have been going as long as we have, [and] who still have that spontaneity about them.”

Lyrically, Plant returns to raucous times out on the concert trail, with a title that references a signature French Quarter inn and a narrative that recounts a particularly salacious road story. “We rolled a joint or two, and I fell asleep and set fire to the hotel room, as you do,” Jones told Mojo in 2007, with a laugh. “And when I woke up, it was full of firemen!” Still, there’s something almost wistful in the retelling by a hobbled and homebound Plant.

“Nobody’s Fault but Mine”

In the 1928 original, Blind Willie Johnson worried that his sightlessness would draw the wrath of God, since he’d been rendered unable to read the Bible. Plant and Page transformed “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” into the stammering retelling of their own fall from grace.

If all of this sounds rather nostalgic, too, there’s no indication in the music: Plant’s positively vitriolic harmonica solo is anything but introspective. “‘Nobody’s Fault but Mine,'” he admitted in Jon Bream’s Whole Lotta Led Zeppelin, “was very spiky – a lot of clinched teeth.”

Meanwhile, Page seemed to have based this new arrangement on an acoustic version released in the late-’60s by the late John Renbourn. But he took things up a notch – actually several notches – by triple-tracking the intro, using a phaser while playing one guitar an octave higher. A song that can came off at times like a loose jam was actually a carefully constructed bit of choreography.

“Candy Store Rock”

Led Zeppelin had been carrying around the seeds of this song since their Houses of the Holy dates. Back then, they’d dabble in an improvisation during “Over the Hills and Far Away” that now found a home as the middle section of the ’50s-influenced “Candy Store Rock.”

Plant’s echo-heavy rockabilly approach is in tribute to Ral Donner, an unabashed Elvis Presley clone, and a needed moment of levity on such a serrated, brutally honest album. For Plant, it represented another kind of push back against the fates.

“Against the odds, sitting in a fucking chair, pushed everywhere for months and months, we were still able to look the devil in the eye and say: ‘We’re as strong as you and stronger, and we should not only write, we should record,'” Plant told Creem at the time. “I took a very good, close scrutiny of myself and transcended the death vibe – and now I’m here again.”

Though clearly an odd man out, “Candy Store Rock” ultimately points to the throwback sensibility that powered succeeding post-Zeppelin projects like 1984’s The Honeydrippers: Volume One and 2002’s Dreamland.

“Hots On for Nowhere”

One of the most hooky Led Zeppelin moments ever, “Hots On for Nowhere” also developed from an earlier scrap of an idea. Page’s riff appeared on the then-unreleased “Walter’s Walk,” but otherwise the track was the product – both literally and figuratively – of time spent in Malibu.

Plant clearly felt abandoned during his time of convalescence, mentioning friends who “give me their shoulder” or (worse) “who will give me fuck all.” No surprise that he’d subsequently describe Presence as “really like a cry of survival.”

Page then quickly crafted a tough, if customary, solo – that is, until he unleashed an eye-popping twang in the middle, courtesy of the tremolo arm on a Lake Placid Stratocaster that was reportedly borrowed from Gene Parsons of the Byrds. The song’s odd time signature was later refashioned for “Pride and Joy,” from 1993’s Coverdale/Page collaboration. Page also returned to “Hots On for Nowhere” during U.S. tour dates with the Black Crowes in 2000.

“Tea for One”

Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut found Page in firm control, as the band rekindled the purpose and fire of blues without resorting to the genre’s basic structures. Same here, as Led Zeppelin end a hard-charging album in the only way they could: with a harrowing exploration into the depths of alienation while separated from family.

“I was just sitting in that wheelchair and getting morose,” Plant later admitted. “‘Tea for One’ was very personal. I couldn’t get back to the woman and children I loved. It was like, Is this rock ’n’ roll thing really anything at all?”

Loose early tries found Plant quoting Willie Dixon and Cab Calloway, before the band leveled it up into a menacing blues. That meant a return to brutally honest autobiographical themes, while a double-tracked Page amplified every anguished cry.

“All our pent-up energy and passion went into making it,” Page said of Presence in Led Zeppelin: The ‘Tight but Loose’ Files. “That’s why there was no acoustic material there. The mechanism was perfectly oiled. We started screaming in rehearsals and never stopped.”
The Band: 

Deluxe 2CD editions of ‘Bad Company’ and ‘Straight Shooter’ are available from Monday 6th April.

Both albums have been re-mastered form original tapes each set features bonus disc of rare and unreleased recordings. Formed in 1973, the British hard rock outfit Bad Company was a supergroup comprised of ex-King Crimson bassist Boz Burrell, former Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs, and singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke, both previous members of Free. Powered by Rodgers’ muscular vocals and Ralphs’ blues-based guitar work, Bad Company was the first group signed to Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song vanity label.

Bad Company’s eponymous 1974 debut was an international hit, topping the U.S. album charts and scoring with the number one single “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love.” The second disc of the Deluxe Edition features 12 tracks, including eight previously unreleased recordings such as the demo for the ballad “The Way I Choose,” a take of “Bad Company” recorded right before the album version, and an unedited version of “Superstar Woman,” a song that Rodgers later recorded in 1983 for his solo album Cut Loose. Also featured is the single edit of “Can’t Get Enough,” and the B-sides “Little Miss Fortune” and “Easy On My Soul.”

Bad Company has helped shaped the sound of an entire rock era with iconic powerhouse rock anthems and popular ballads. Having unearthed the original multi-track tapes and discovered previously unreleased tracks, takes, and mixes the band has remastered their first two albums to create new Deluxe Editions.

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rodgers, along with guitarist/songwriter Mick Ralphs, bassist Boz Burrell, and drummer Simon Kirke released the band’s second album Straight Shooter in April 1975, 40 years to the month of the new deluxe edition. The album features the hit singles “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” as well as the rock radio staple “Shooting Star.”

Of the 14 bonus tracks, all are previously unreleased except the B-side “Whiskey Bottle.” Among the standouts is a stripped-down version of “Shooting Star,” a remix of “Good Lovin’ Gone Bad” with alternative guitar and vocals tracks, as well as two lost gems, never released before: “See The Sunlight” and “All Night Long.”

NEWS: On tomorrow’s Classic Rock Magazine show, Nicky Horne speaks to Bad Company‘s Mick Ralphs about the band’s history. Find out more here: