LED ZEPPELIN released their debut album Led Zeppelin I. It was recorded in October 1968 at Olympic Studios, London and issued by Atlantic Records on 12 January 1969. The album was accompanied by concerted contributions from each of the Led Zeppelin members and laid the foundation for Led Zeppelin’s signature blues and rock fusion. Led Zeppelin also created a large group of fans, with a unique heavy metal concept, which helped create a counter-cultural movement on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
In August 1968, The Yardbirds had officially broken up. Jimmy Page, the only remaining member of The Yardbirds, was left with rights to the band’s name and contractual obligations to undertake a series of concert tours in Scandinavia. For his new band, Page recruited John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and John Bonham.
During September 1968, Led Zeppelin toured as The New Yardbirds, playing a string of old The Yardbirds songs along with new songs such as “Communication Breakdown”, “I Can’t Quit You Baby”, “You Shook Me”, ” Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “How Many More Times”. A month after their return to London, in October 1968, Page changed the name The New Yardbirds, to Led Zeppelin, and Led Zeppelin entered London’s Olympic Studios to record their debut album.
In a 1990 interview, Page stated that the album only took about 36 hours (spread over several weeks) to make (as well as the mixing process). Page added further, that he knew this based on the amount of their studio usage bill.
One of the main reasons for the relatively short recording time was that the material for the album had often been rehearsed from scratch and had been planned since the tour of Scandinavia in September 1968. As Page explained, “[The band] had already begun to develop new arrangements. -arrangements while on tour in Scandinavia, and I knew exactly what sound I was looking for. It all came together really quickly.”
In addition, since the band had not signed any deal with Atlantic Records, Page and Led Zeppelin’s manager Peter Grant paid for all of the recording sessions themselves, which meant that no record company money went into paying for excess recording hours. In another interview session, Page admitted that this self-funding was to ensure their artistic freedom, “I wanted a different level of artistic control, because I knew exactly what I wanted to do with these friends of mine.
In fact. I funded and fully recorded this first album before I got too Atlantic (the record company). … It’s not the usual story when you go one step ahead in the process of making an album-we arrived in Atlantic with records in hand… Atlantic’s reaction was very positive-I mean, they signed us, right?”
The cost calculated when Led Zeppelin recorded this album is £1,782. Led Zeppelin expert Dave Lewis notes that “with the exception of the 12 hours the Beatles took to record their first album Abbey Road, seldom has studio usage been so economical. Led Zeppelin’s first album sold over £3.5 million, alone. slightly less than 2,000 times more than they invested!”
For this recording, Page used a psychedelic painted Fender Telecaster, a gift from Jeff Beck after Page recommended a childhood friend to the Yardbirds in 1965 as a potential replacement for Eric Clapton on lead guitar. This differed from the guitar which was used more heavily on subsequent albums (most notably, the Gibson Les Paul). Page played this Telecaster using a Supro amplifier. He also used a Gibson J-200, which he borrowed from Big Jim Sullivan, to record acoustic songs on this album. For the song “Your Time Is Gonna Come” he used a 10-string Fender steel guitar.
Led Zeppelin was produced by Jimmy Page and technically handled by Glyn Johns, who had previously worked with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who. Said Page, “The first album was a live album, really live, and it was done on purpose. There were a lot of overdubs here and there, but the real stuff was live.”
Page reportedly used room natural tones to enhance the reverb and texture of the recording when shooting, highlighting innovations in recording that he had learned about during the early days of his career. Until the late 1960s, the majority of music producers placed their microphones directly in front of the amplifiers and drums.
For Led Zeppelin Page developed the idea of placing additional microphones positioned some distance from the amp (some as far as nearly 20 feet) and then recording evenly between the two. Applying this “distance equals depth” technique, Page became the first producer to record the “sound-tone”—the distance of each time-lagged note from one end of the room to the other.
Another notable feature of the album is the “leaks” on Robert Plant’s vocal recordings. In an interview conducted by Guitar World in 1998, Page stated that “Robert’s voice is very strong and, as a result, will leak onto other songs. Oddly enough, however, this leak appears to be intentional.” On the song “You Shook Me”, Page uses the “backward echo” technique.
This album was one of the first albums to be sold to market only in stereo format; at that time, producers usually released to the market both mono and stereo versions.
The front cover of Led Zeppelin, which was chosen by Page, features a monochromatic image of the burning airship Hindenburg. This image refers to the origin of the band’s name itself: when Page, Jeff Beck and The Who members Keith Moon and John Entwistle were discussing the idea of forming a band, Moon joked, “That band would probably go down like a blimp”, and Entwistle added, “…a Zeppelin balloon!”
The back cover of Led Zeppelin is complemented by a photo of the Led Zeppelin members taken by former Yardbird member Chris Dreja. The album cover design was completely coordinated by George Hardie, the designer Led Zeppelin would continue to use for future covers.
Hardie recalls that he originally offered Led Zeppelin a design based on an old club emblem in San Francisco—a multi-sequence image of a Zeppelin airship hovering in the air. Page refused, but it was accepted as the logo for the back cover of the first two albums as well as some of the early press advertisements. For the first few weeks of the album’s UK release, the album sleeve was featured with the band’s name and the turquoise Atlantic logo. When this cover was changed to the orange color that is commonly used today, albums covered in turquoise became a rare collector’s item.
The album cover gained mass attention when, at a February 1970 session in Copenhagen, Led Zeppelin was invited as “The Nobs” as a result of legal threats against Eva von Zeppelin (brother of the Zeppelin airplane builder). von Zeppelin, when he saw the Hindenburg logo burning, threatened to cut the show off the radio channel. In 2001, Greg Kot wrote in Rolling Stone magazine that “The cover of the Led Zeppelin album . . . shows the airship ‘Hindenburg’ in its majestic fall, burning. The image is successful enough to encapsulate what the album is all about: sex, disaster, and stuff.” -things burnt.”
The original concept of the album was demonstrated in songs such as “Good Times Bad Times”, “Dazed and Confused” and “Communication Breakdown”, which had the heavy sound characteristic of young rock fans of the late 1960s era. Led Zeppelin also features Page’s mellow acoustic guitar sound on “Black Mountain Side”, and a combination of acoustic and electric approaches on their version of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”.
“Dazed and Confused” has often been said to be the heart of the album itself: a foreboding arrangement complemented by dropping bass notes from Jones, heavy drum beats from Bonham, and some punchy riffs and solos from Jimmy Page. The song also features Page playing his guitar with a violin bow (an idea suggested by David McCallum Sr., whom Page met while recording in the studio).
The stringed guitar playing in the middle of the song took psychedelic rock to new heights of experimentation, particularly on the extended stage version, creating an early form of Page music that had been performed during the late The Yardbirds era. “Dazed and Confused” would become the key song to every Led Zeppelin concert for years to come. The string guitar technique is also used on “How Many More Times”, a song featuring a patterned “bolero” riff and well-improvised cadence turns.
Many of Led Zeppelin’s early songs were based on blues standards, and the album also features three songs composed by other artists: “You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby”, both by blues artists, Willie Dixon; and “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”. As for this last song, at the time Jimmy Page thought he was doing an adaptation of a traditional folk song he had heard on one of Joan Baez’s recordings, but this was corrected upon release, after it was discovered that it had been composed by Anne Bredon in mid-1950s.
Dixon, on the other hand, received the credit he deserved as the composer of both of his songs on this album (although “You Shook Me” would later be given additional credit to J. B. Lenoir) but would take Led Zeppelin to court over the use of parts of his lyrics adapted by Robert Plant in the song “Whole Lotta Love”. On the song “You Shook Me”, Plant vocally imitated Page’s guitar effect – a technique later called “call and response”.
Jeff Beck had previously recorded “You Shook Me” for his solo album, Truth, and accused Page of stealing his idea. With John Paul Jones and drummer Keith Moon of The Who, Page had played (and also arranged, he said) “Beck’s Bolero”, an instrumental on Truth which would later be grooved slightly when mixed with Led Zeppelin’s playing on “How Many”. More Times”. This cross pollination led to conflict between Beck and Page who had played together in The Yardbirds and had been friends since their childhood. In fact, Page was the one who suggested Beck join The Yardbirds when he was contacted after Eric Clapton’s departure.
The album was promoted in several music magazines under the slogan “Led Zeppelin — the only way to fly”. Initially, this album received a lot of bad criticism. To a harsh criticism, Rolling Stone magazine stated that Led Zeppelin offers “not much resemblance to, the Jeff Beck Group, who were as bad or as good three months ago… This album appears to be their attempt to fill the gap left by the breakup of Cream, they need to find a producer, editor, and some material worthy of their talent.” They also called Plant “as flamboyant as Rod Stewart, but far from exciting”.
As rock journalist Cameron Crowe noted years later: “It was a time when super-groups, or exuberant bands were about to break off, and Led Zeppelin had bucked the trend from the start to prove their authenticity.”
However, the press reaction to this album was not entirely negative. In the UK, the album received positive reviews in Melody Maker magazine. Chris Welch wrote, in a review titled “Jimmy Page Triumph — Led Zeppelin is dope!”: “their songs don’t rely on obvious blues riffs, though when they do play them they avoid the drawbacks of most of the so-called blues bands.” English”.
This album is very successful in the market. Originally released in the United States on January 12, 1969 to fund their first United States concert tour. Previously, Atlantic Records had distributed several hundred copies of the album to mainstream radio and music watchers. The positive reaction to the album’s contents, coupled with the positive reaction to Led Zeppelin’s opening concert, resulted in the album quickly receiving orders for 50,000 copies ahead of its official release. Within two months of release, the album reached the Billboard Top 10. The album remained on the Billboard rankings chart for 73 weeks and remained on the UK charts for 79 weeks. By 1975, the album had grossed US$7,000,000.
The success and impact of the album is now widely recognized, even among critics who were initially skeptical. In 2003, VH1 named Led Zeppelin the 44th best album of all time, while Rolling Stone ranked Led Zeppelin at number 29 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The album is widely considered to be a significant milestone in the evolution of hard rock and heavy metal music.
Tracklist: 1. Good Times Bad Times, 2. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, 3. You Shook Me, 4. Dazed and Confused, 5. Your Time Is Gonna Come, 6. Black Mountain Side (instrumental), 7. Communication Breakdown, 8. I Can’t Quiet You Baby, 9. How Many More Times
Led Zeppelin personnel: • John Bonham – drums, timpani, backing vocals, • Robert Plant – lead vocals, harmonica, • Jimmy Page – electric, acoustic and pedal steel guitars, backing vocals, • John Paul Jones – bass, organ, backing vocals. Other musicians: • Viram Jasani – tabla on “Black Mountain Side”. [sources/photo special]