Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin was an English rock band, formed in 1968 and active till 1980. Guitarist Jimmy Page formed the band from the ashes of the Yardbirds. They emerged as standard bearers for a new generation of hard-rock performers, fronting a movement that soon included Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Nazareth, and Budgie. Across the span of eight studio albums, Zeppelin drew acoustic layers and symphonic strings into an electrified framework, influencing folk and progressive rock.

Zeppelin shot to fame on a transatlantic scale with their first two albums, Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II, both released in 1969. Evergreens from those and their 1970 release Led Zeppelin III  include “Communication Breakdown,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Whole Lotta Love,” and the “Immigrant Song.” Their popularity peaked between 1971 and 1975 with the albums Led Zeppelin IV [Zoso], Houses of the Holy, and Physical Graffiti: sources of the FM rock staples “Stairway to Heaven,” “Black Dog,” “Misty Mountain Hop,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Trampled Under Foot,” and “Kashmir.”

Beset with personal matters, Led Zeppelin’s output slowed during the late ’70s, but they rebounded with the 1979 release In Through the Out Door and the hits “Fool In the Rain,” “In the Evening,” and “All My Love.” They disbanded after the 1980 death of drummer John Bonham. Singer Robert Plant launched a successful solo career during the ’80s and later re-teamed with Page for new and revisited unplugged material.

Members: Jimmy Page (guitar, mandolin, pedal steel, theremin, backing vocals), Robert Plant (vocals, harmonica, tambourine), John Bonham (drums, percussion, backing vocals), John Paul Jones (bass, keyboards, Mellotron, mandolin, acoustic guitar, backing vocals)


Led Zeppelin sprung from a late-period lineup overhaul of the Yardbirds. The guitarist in that band, Jimmy Page, was in charge of finding new members when singer Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty left in mid-1968 to form Renaissance.

Page (b. 1944) had played in skiffle groups as a teen and became an active sessionist during the 1963–65 beat boom, playing on recordings by The Kinks, The Who, Petula Clark, Marianne Faithfull, and The Nashville Teens. In 1966, he replaced bassist Paul Samwell-Smith in the Yardbirds, where he briefly played that instrument before swapping roles with rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja. After the acrimonious departure of lead guitarist Jeff Beck, Page directed the band through their 1967 release Little Games and its accompanying singles.

As the band fell apart, Page phoned singer Terry Reid, who declined the offer due to a just-signed solo contract. Reid, in turn, recommended vocalist Robert Plant of Brummie blues-rockers Band of Joy.

Plant (b. 1948) first recorded with Listen, a Midlands mod-soul quartet that covered the 1966 Rascals belter “You Better Run” on CBS. For Page’s new band, Plant invited his Band of Joy collegue, drummer John Bonham (b. 1948). When Dreja dropped from the project, Page phoned session bassist John Paul Jones (aka John Baldwin, b. 1946). The two interacted previously in a jam session with Beck and Who drummer Keith Moon that yielded the 1966 instrumental “Beck’s Bolero.”

The new four-piece initially gigged as The New Yardbirds, in part to honor some pre-booked billings in Scandinavia. Knowing they needed a heavier, less beat-intoned nameplate, they chose Led Zeppelin, inspired by a remark Moon made about the band going down like a lead balloon. To avoid mispronunciation, “lead” was deliberately misspelled “led” at the insistence of manager Peter Grant, a burly ex-bouncer hired to oversee the Yarbirds in their final days. He secured Zeppelin a five-year, $143,000-advance contract with Atlantic Records.

Led Zeppelin did their first tour of the states between December 1968 and February 1969. On select dates, they opened for LA psych-rockers Spirit, whose song “Taurus” (written by guitarist Randy California) would inspire Zeppelin’s signature song “Stairway to Heaven.”

1969: Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II

Led Zeppelin released their self-titled debut album in March 1969 on Atlantic. It features two Page originals (“Dazed and Confused,” “Black Mountain Side”), a Page/Jones co-write (“Your Time Is Gonna Come”), and three Page/Jones/Bonham compositions (“Good Times Bad Times,” “Communication Breakdown,” “How Many More Times“). Each side contains a cover of bluesman Willie Dixon (“You Shook Me,” “I Can’t Quit You Baby”). The centerpiece of side one, “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” is a Page-arranged traditional.

Page produced Led Zeppelin with engineer Glyn Johns, who also worked on 1968/69 albums by Family (Family Entertainment) and the Steve Miller Band (Children of the Future). Sessions took place at Olympic Studios, London, during September and October 1968. “Black Mountain Slide” features tabla by Viram Jasani, later of the raga-folk act Cosmic Eye.

The cover of Led Zeppelin sports a xeroxed photo-negative of the 1937 Hindenburg disaster, rendered by graphic artist George Hardie, who later worked on album covers for Pink Floyd (Wish You Were Here), Be-Bop Deluxe (Futurama), Al Stewart (Past, Present and Future, Year of the Cat), 10cc (Sheet Music, Bloody Tourists), Golden Earring (To the Hilt), Genesis (The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway), Brand X (Moroccan Roll), and Fischer-Z (Word Salad). The back cover features a sepia-tinged group shot taken by Page’s ex-bandmate, Chris Dreja.

Atlantic issued “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (b/w “Dazed & Confused”) as the band’s first single. Both songs, plus “Communication Breakdown,” became FM rock evergreens. “Good Times Bad Times” appears on the 1969 label comp Atlantic Super Groups with cuts by Vanilla Fudge, Iron Butterfly, and the New York Rock Ensemble. As a testament to Zeppelin’s R&B bonafides, Atlantic included their cover of “You Shook Me” on Flying High, a compilation of the label’s leading soul acts, including Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Clarence Carter, Wilson Pickett, and Sam & Dave.

Led Zeppelin commenced sessions for a followup in April 1969 at Olympic and Morgan Studios in London. However, they broke for a US tour during July and August. They played at nine different festival events that summer, including the Atlanta International Pop Festival (July 5) with Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, the Staple Singers, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago Transit Authority, and Ten Wheel Drive. Later that month, Zeppelin played the Midwest Rock Festival along with Blind Faith, Taste, SRC, and Zephyr. Their final date was the second night (Aug. 31) of the Texas International Pop Festival, which also featured performances by Santana, the Incredible String Band, Ten Years After, Nazz, Herbie Mann, Rotary Connection, and Sly and the Family Stone.

Amid these live appearances, Led Zeppelin held further sessions for their second album at studios in Memphis (Ardent), Vancouver (R&D), Los Angeles (A&M, Quantum, Sunset, Mirror Sound, Mystic Studios), and New York (A&R, Juggy Sound, Groove, Mayfair Studios).

Led Zeppelin II hit shelves in late October 1969 on Atlantic. It marks the start of the Page/Plant songwriting partnership with five co-writes: “What Is and What Should Never Be,” “Thank You,” “Livin’ Lovin’ Maid (She’s Just a Woman),” “Ramble On,” and “Bring It on Home.” Also included are three group-written numbers (“Whole Lotta Love,” “The Lemon Song,” “Heartbreaker”) and the Bonham-dominated instrumental “Moby Dick.”

“The Lemon Song” evolved from their cover of “Killing Floor,” a 1964 song by Chicago bluesman Howlin’ Wolf that also inspired the band Killing Floor. “Whole Lotta Love” derives from the Willie Dixon number “You Need Love” and “Bring It on Home” borrows from his song of the same name. Later lawsuits forced Zeppelin to attributed co-writing credits to each party on the respective numbers.

Page and Grant co-produced Led Zeppelin II with engineer Eddie Kramer (Jimi Hendrix, Traffic, Eire Apparent, The Nice) and additional engineering by George Chkiantz (High Tide, Hawkwind), Chris Huston (WAR, Birtha), and newcomer Andy Johns (Free, Humble Pie).

Led Zeppelin II is housed in a gatefold sleeve designed by David Juniper, who subsequently did album art for Rupert Hine and Grant’s other main client, Scottish soul-rockers Stone the Crows. It shows the band (and French actress Delphine Seyrig) doctored into a photo of a WWI-era German aviation unit. A silhouette of the crashing Zeppelin blimp consumes the backdrop. The inner-spread shows a spotlighted golden Zeppelin hovered above a Roman temple.

Led Zeppelin marked the album’s release with a concert at London’s Lyceum Ballroom supported by the band Audience. “Whole Lotta Love” became their highest charting single in several territories (Aus. #1, US Billboard #4).

1970: Led Zeppelin III

During February and March 1970, Led Zeppelin toured the continent. They courted controversy in Copenhagen with Frau Eva von Zeppelin, descendant of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, creator of the Zeppelin aircraft. She objected to the band’s use of her family’s name and the appropriation of Hindenburg imagery on their album covers. As a comprise, they billed their Danish dates as The Nobs (a play on European promoter Claude Nobs).

Two North American tours followed in the spring and late summer, at which point Zeppelin ousted the Rolling Stones and the recently-disbanded Beatles as the highest grossing rock act. On a two-night stint at New York’s Madison Square Garden, the band grossed $100k, thanks in part to Grant’s shrewd management. Amid these activities, Zeppelin recorded their third album, mostly at the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio and Headley Grange (a country house in Hampshire) with additional work at Island and Olympic studios.

Led Zeppelin III appeared in October 1970 on Atlantic in all territories. Page and Plant partnered on the opening two numbers, “Immigrant Song” and “Friends,” while Jones joined the pair on the following “Celebration Day” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” The side wraps with “Out On the Tiles,” co-composed by the three instrumentalists.

Side two begins with “Gallow’s Pole,” a traditional arranged by Page and Plant, who also co-wrote the centerpiece “That’s the Way.” The album wraps with another adaptation, “Hats Off to (Roy) Harper,” based on the 1937 blues song “Shake ‘Em On Down” by Bukka White and done as a tribute to contemporary folkster Roy Harper.

Jones pitched in on “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp,” about the 18th century Welsh cottage where they wrote and rehearsed several songs for the album. The ambience at Bron set the folksier tone of Led Zeppelin III, as exemplified in Page’s acoustic arrangement of “Tangerine,” originally written in 1968 while still a Yardbird.

Sessions for Led Zeppelin III began in November 1969, one month after II‘s release, and continued through the following August. They completed sixteen songs in all, including “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do,” issued as the b-side of “Immigrant Song.” Other leftover tracks later appeared on Coda (“Poor Tom”) and deluxe editions of III (“Jennings Farm Blues,” “Key to the Highway/Trouble in Mind”). Another song about the cottage, simply titled “Bron-Yr-Aur,” would appear on their 1975 double album Physical Graffiti.

Page and Grant produced Led Zeppelin III in collaboration with Andrew Johns and Memphis-based engineer Terry Manning (Isaac Hayes, William Bell, Bar-Kays, Johnny Jenkins). Johns’ role on III coincided with his work on 1970 classics by Free (Highway) and Traffic (John Barleycorn Must Die).

Original (and most subsequent) vinyl pressings of Led Zeppelin III are housed in a gatefold with a working-wheel front sleeve, designed by multi-media artist Zacron. The outer-spread shows flying objects and balloon letters over a white background. Across the front, die cut holes reveal the loaded collage on the spinning wheel. The inner-spread shows further objects (trinkets, Zeppelin-shaped corns, vintage triplanes) floating through spherical shapes.

“Immigrant Song” went Top 10 in multiple markets (US Cashbox #8). The b-side, “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do,” also became a US FM staple and their most recognized non-album song.

1971: Led Zeppelin IV

Led Zeppelin commenced sessions for their fourth album in December 1970 at the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio with Johns and Stones touring keyboardist Ian Stewart. Though slated for an April 1971 release, Page remixed the tracks that summer between touring commitments. To avoid comparisons with prior works, they made the album title-less. The album, informally known as Led Zeppelin IV, appeared in November 1971.

Side one starts with two group-writes between Page, Plant, and Paul Jones: the jerky stop-start blues-rocker “Black Dog” and the uptempo neo-fifties number “Rock and Roll,” marked by its diving repetition of the word “lonely” on the refrain. Paul Jones also co-wrote “Misty Mountain Hop,” a buoyant rocker with a circular, ascending riff that opens side two. The following track, “Four Sticks,” pits tribal drumming to an ascending riff in 5/4.

The penultimate tracks on each side are folk numbers. On “The Battle of Evermore,” Plant duets with vocalist Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention, Fotheringay) on lyrics inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. Plant plays mandolin on that track and “Going to California,” a song inspired by Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell and her experiences as a transplant to Laura Canyon, as related in her song “California” on her 1971 album Blue.

Each side ends with a seven-minute epic. “Stairway to Heaven” starts with tender, contemplative vocals over a classical guitar motif in A minor with descending root notes (lifted from “Taurus,” a 1968 track by West Coast rockers Spirit). The song gradually builds in volume and intensity till it reaches a breaking point of rising thirds in D. In the climactic section, Page plays bends and scales over a three-chord ascent (Am-G-F) as Plant howls about “a lady we all know.” The final moments reinstate the intro.

“When the Levee Breaks” is a group-arranged blues-rock jam with sludgy precision and wailing harmonica. It’s based on a 1929 country-blues song by Delta performers Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie with lyrics based on the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.

Atlantic issued the album as an untitled release in the UK, Europe, North America, Japan, the Middle East, and South Africa. In South America, Oceania, and Southeast Asia, the album was issued as Led Zeppelin IV or simply Led Zeppelin.

In territories where the album is untitled, the cover is wordless and the LP labels list no band name. Instead, each member has a personal emblem: Plant (circled feather), Paul Jones (circle with three interlocking ellipses), Bonham (three interlocking rings). Page designed his own symbol: a mystery design alternately interpreted as a Saturn symbol, a funny face doodle, and the letters Z o S o. As such, the album is colloquially knows as Zoso.

The gatefold shows a 19th-century rustic oil painting on a crumbled wall (front) that cuts to a view of the Ladywood district of Birmingham (back). The inner-gate features The Hermit (aka View in Half or Varying Light), a b&w illustration by painter Barrington Coleby. Credit for the visual conception is attributed to the UK design firm Graphreaks, also credited with visuals on 1970/71 albums by Gordon Haskell (It Is and It Isn’t), Luv Machine, Third World War, and Yes (Time and a Word).

Page and Grant produced the album with engineering by Chkiantz and Andy Johns, who also worked on 1971 albums by Gary Wright, Mott the Hoople, Paladin, Renaissance (Illusion), and the Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers). Ian Stewart plays boogie piano on “Rock and Roll.”

1973: Houses of the Holy

In April 1972, Led Zeppelin toured Australia and commenced work on their fifth album at the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, now located at Mick Jagger’s Hampshire manor house, Stargroves. Jones also set up a home studio, where he rearranged “No Quarter,” an outtake from the prior album. Likewise, Page finalized arrangements at his home studio for two numbers: “The Rain Song” and “Over the Hills and Far Away,” a two-part song that starts as a folksy ballad with finger-picking acoustic guitar, then breaks into a rockier section with high-pitched vocals.

Sessions carried on through August 1972, split between the Mobile and Olympic and Island Studios. They completed 12 songs, pared down to a tracklist of eight for the tentative album, slated for a January 1973 release but delayed two months due to packaging issues.

Led Zeppelin’s fifth album, Houses of the Holy, appeared in March 1973 on Atlantic. An eclectic mix, the album explores symphonic rock (“The Rain Song”), funk (“The Crunge,” “The Ocean”), reggae (“D’yer Mak’er”), uptempo hard rock (“The Song Remains the Same”), and lucid post-psych (“No Quarter”). The funk and reggae songs are group-compositions. Jones contributed to “No Quarter” while Page and Plant co-wrote the remaining four numbers, including “Dancing Days,” a jolly retro-rocker with a jerky stop/start intro.

Page produced Houses of the Holy, which was engineered by Chkiantz, Kramer, and Olympic staffer Keith Harwood, a technical hand on 1970–73 albums by Family, Fuzzy Duck, Glencoe, Gravy Train, Juicy Lucy, Leo Sayer, Stories, Tranquility, and Wishbone Ash. Jones’ keyboard arsenal consists of piano, electric piano, Mellotron, organ, synthesizer, and synthesized bass.

Hipgnosis designed the gatefold to Houses of the Holy, which shows naked children climbing the steps of Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland, under an orange sky. The inner-gates show a photo of nearby Dunluce Castle under deep blue sky. Aubrey Powell took the cover photos after another Hipgnosis staffer, Storm Thorgerson, proposed a different (rejected) visual: an electric green tennis court overlaid with a racket net.

“Over the Hills and Far Away” became an evergreen of classic rock FM radio in the US, where “Dancing Days,” and “D’yer Mak’er” also got ample airtime. “D’yer Mak’er” means Jamaica, a reference to the song’s reggae style. The spelling is a phonetic approximation of the way native Jamaicans pronounce their country’s name. In North America, fans typically mispronounce the title as “Dire Maker.”

Plant later sampled the jerky opening riff of “The Ocean” in his high-tech 1988 solo hit “Tall Cool One.”

The album’s intended title track, “Houses of the Holy,” was completed at Olympic in May 1972 but withheld from the album due to time constraints. That and two additional outtakes, “The Rover” and “Black Country Woman,” appear on Zeppelin’s subsequent album Physical Graffiti. A fourth outtake from the Holy sessions, “Walter’s Walk,” appears on the band’s posthumous leftovers comp Coda.

Swan Song

In mid-1974, when Led Zeppelin’s five-year contract with Atlantic expired, Grant established Swan Song, an independent record label for Zeppelin’s own releases and those of like-minded artists. Its first two releases were the debut by Bad Company and the seventh album by The Pretty Things (Silk Torpedo).

Swan Song also signed Scottish singer Maggie Bell, a longtime client of Grant’s from the ill-fated Stone the Crows, which disbanded after the on-stage 1972 electrocution of their guitarist, Leslie Harvey (brother of Alex Harvey). Page produced her second album, Suicide Sal, which dropped in March 1975.

Grant and Page also courted Detective, a transatlantic supergroup fronted by singer Michael Des Barres (Silverhead) with guitarist Michael Monarch (Steppenwolf) and keyboardist Tony Kaye (Yes, Badger). After mauling over options and twice recording their debut album, Detective issued back-to-back albums in 1977.

Swan Song releases were distributed by Atlantic.

1975: Physical Graffiti

Led Zeppelin returned to Headley Grange in January 1974 for two months of sessions with engineer Ron Nevison. They produced eight new originals, including the lengthy numbers “Kashmir” (8:37), “In the Light” (8:44), and “In My Time of Dying” (11:04). Since the sum of their new material exceeded 52 minutes, they decided to make a double album comprised of the Nevison recordings and seven outtakes from earlier sessions. Though slated for the 1974 holiday season, packaging issues pushed the release date back several months.

The resulting product, Physical Graffiti, appeared as an 83-minute double album in February 1975 on Swan Song. Each side contains two tracks from the 1974 Headley sessions, including the aforementioned epics plus “Custard Pie,” “Ten Years Gone,” “The Wanton Song,” “Sick Again,” and the funk-rocker “Trampled Under Foot.”

The first record contains three songs per side, including the Holy outtakes “The Rover” and “Houses of the Holy.” Side three contains four cuts, including outtakes from III (“Bron-Yr-Aur”) and IV (“Down by the Seaside”). Five songs comprise side four, including two further IV outtakes (“Night Flight,” “Boogie with Stu”) and the Holy extra “Black Country Woman.”

Page and Plant co-wrote eight songs with input from Jones on an additional three (“Trampled,” “In the Light,” “Night Flight”). Bonham aided the pair on “Kashmir,” which combines triple and quadruple meters with Eastern-tinged orchestration. “In My Time of Dying” and “Boogie with Stu,” are group-written numbers, the latter with additional credit to Ian Stewart (the namesake who guests on the track) and Ritchie Valens (who inspired the tune). “Bron-Yr-Aur” was Page’s second namesake song about the Welsh cottage where he and Plant retreated before the making of III (see above).

Physical Graffiti is housed in a die-cut sleeve designed by Peter Corriston. It shows the facade of a tenement at 96 and 98 St. Mark’s Place in New York’s East Village. The cuts reveal assorted characters inside the windows. Corriston also did visuals on albums by Uriah Heep (Sweet Freedom), Focus (Live at the Rainbow), and the Average White Band (Soul Searching).

Nevison, a tech hand on Quadrophenia, also worked on 1974/75 albums by Faces, Thin Lizzy, David Werner, and Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers.

Led Zeppelin supported Physical Graffiti with a North American tour during the first quarter of 1975, followed by a five-night stand in May at London’s Earl’s Court. A second US leg was scheduled for August, including a date at Oakland Colosseum with support by the Pretty Things and Joe Walsh. Just prior to the kick-off date, Plant sustained injuries in a roadside accident on the Greek Isle of Rhodes. With the tour cancelled, Page immediately began work on another album.

1976: Presence

Sessions for Led Zeppelin’s seventh studio album commenced on November 9, 1975, at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany. They finished the recording and mixing in 18 days, which saw Page working upwards of 20 hours daily with Harwood. Plant, still recuperating, sang his parts from a wheelchair.

The quick turnaround time was due to the tight schedule at Musicland, which the Rolling Stones booked for their next album (Black and Blue), starting in late November.

The album, Presence, appeared in March 1976 on Swan Song. The opening number, “Achilles Last Stand,” is a ten-minute epic with ascending windmill power-chords and multi-track lead over brisk, churning drum rolls. Plant’s flamboyantly delivered lines encode the band’s state of affairs (touring, living as tax exiles, Plant’s injury) in Greek metaphors. Jones plays an Alembic 8 string bass on the track.

Presence is the only Led Zeppelin album with no keyboards. The lean arrangements lend a rootsy vibe to “For Your Life,” a jerky mid-tempo boogie in G minor. “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” starts with blurry, shearing guitar sustain and wordless open vowels, followed by tight, funky verses and a harmonica-wailing mid-section.

“Candy Store Rock” — the only track with acoustic guitar (subtly present in the rhythm track) — is an uptempo shuffle with taut vocals that show Plant’s respect for fifties rock singers. Another funk-rocker, “Hots On for Nowhere,” deals with his recovery time in Malibu. “Tea for One” is a slow, nine-minute blues in C minor with simmering tones akin to Robin Trower‘s work from the period.

Page and Plant are co-credited with everything on Presence apart from “Royal Orleans,” an uptempo boogie with lyrical references to a New Orleans hotel and singer Barry White. “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is based on the 1928 blues song “It’s Nobody’s Fault but Mine” by Blind Willie Johnson.

Zeppelin titled the album Presence because of an ineffable ‘presence’ that surrounded the band. (Initially, Planted wanted to title the album Thanksgiving because sessions wrapped just prior to the American holiday.) Hipgnosis designed the gatefold cover, a collection of 10 fifties-era stock photos, each doctored with the ‘presence’ of a mysterious black object.

The Song Remains the Same

In September 1976, Led Zeppelin released The Song Remains the Same, a live double-album culled from three nights of performances at Madison Square Garden on July 27–29, 1973, during their tour behind Houses of the Holy. Side one contains the title-sake song from that album, plus “The Rain Song” and the earlier numbers “Rock and Roll” and “Celebration Day.”

The remaining three sides contain elongated versions of live favorites, mostly from the 1969 era. Side two consists of a 27-minute version of “Dazed and Confused.” Side three features extended workouts of “No Quarter” (12:30) and “Stairway to Heaven” (10:58). The fourth side presents similar arrangements of “Moby Dick” (12:47) and “Whole Lotta Love” (14:24).

The Song Remains the Same appeared with an accompanying namesake concert film that features several songs not included on the album: “Black Dog,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” “Bron-Yr-Aur,” and “Autumn Lake,” a hurdy-gurdy piece exclusive to the film, which lacks footage of “Celebration Day.” The film features concert performances interspersed with fantasy sequences where Page portrays the Hermit pictured on the inner-gate of IV.

1977 Tour

On April 1, 1977, Led Zeppelin kicked off their first stateside tour in two years at the Memorial Auditorium in Dallas. On the 30th, they set a live attendance record with 76,229 fans at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, beating the prior record set by The Who with their 75,962 draw in December 1975.

On this tour, Jones premiered his acoustic triple-neck, which combines a six- and a 12-string acoustic guitar and a mandolin. He used it on “Ten Years Gone,” performed during each night’s acoustic segment.

The setlist drew heavily from I, II, and IV, but only featured two songs from their most recent studio album Present: “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and “Achilles Last Stand.” However, they interpolated the solo from “Tea for One” in the middle of “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” Who drummer Keith Moon sat in with Zeppelin on their June 23 show at the Los Angeles Forum.

The tour was plagued by illness, unruly crowds, backstage violence, and devastating news. Page, drained by heroin-induced weight loss, nearly collapsed during their April 9 performance at Chicago Stadium. The show was cut after 65 minutes, though they promised to return later in the tour for a make-up performance.

On April 19, Zeppelin’s show at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Coliseum was gatecrashed by 1,000 fans; police made 70 arrests. (On December 3, 1979, the same venue was the site of a Who concert where 11 fans were killed in a stampede caused by an entrance rush due to festival seating.) On June 3, a riot ensued when torrential weather put an early stop to their show at Tampa Stadium.

On July 23, during Zeppelin’s performance at Oakland Stadium as part of the Mid-Summer Music Festival, Grant and two accomplices savagely beat a member of promoter Billy Graham’s staff who allegedly scolded Grant’s 11-year-old son. Graham hit the offending parties with a $2 million lawsuit.

After their second Oakland show the following day, Plant received news that his six-year-old son Karac had died of a stomach virus. The remaining tour was cancelled, including the Chicago make-up show. The July 24 Oakland show unexpectedly went down as their final live appearance in the US.

Due to their status as tax exiles, Zeppelin’s profile dwindled in the UK, where they’d been unable to perform. As music trends shifted in their homeland, newer bands like Lone Star and Mr. Big bore Zeppelin hallmarks.

1979: In Through the Out Door

Led Zeppelin reconvened in September 1978 to commence work on their eighth studio album. Unlike prior albums, where Page served as musical director, the guitarist was largely waylaid with heroin addiction. Likewise, Bonham was indisposed by alcoholism. This forced the sober Jones and the grieving yet determined Plant to pick up the slack. As rehearsals advanced, a newfound camaraderie developed between the two.

Sessions took place during November and December at Polar Studios in Stockholm. The resulting In Through the Out Door appeared in August 1979 on Swan Song.

Side one contains two FM evergreens: the driving rocker “In the Evening” and the jubilant “Fool in the Rain,” a hopping mid-tempo number with jovial vocals over a staccato, angular riff that gives way to a calypso midsection, replete with barroom piano runs, decorative drum fills, and channeled guitar soloing.

Both songs are Jones–Page–Plant credited, as are the loungey “I’m Gonna Crawl” and the 10-minute “Carouselambra,” which veers between discoish, synth-bubbling passages and slower moments marked by clean, chorused guitar. Jones’ new Yamaha GX-1 synthesizer dominates that song and the following “All of My Love,” built on a slow, heavy synth riff with lyrics inspired by Karac. Plant and Jones co-wrote that number and “South Bound Saurez,” the only two songs in Zeppelin’s catalog with no writing involvement from Page. The neo-fifties boogie “Hot Dog” is the only Page/Plant track.

Despite Jones’ dominant role in the music-making, In Through the Out Door is a Page–Grant production. The album was engineered by Leif Mases (Janne Schaffer, Kaipa, Neon Rose, Wasa Express) with assistance by Lennart Östlund. On “In the Evening,” Page plays the Gizmotron, a string-vibrating attachment for guitar and bass, invented by Godley and Creme.

Original copies of In Through the Out Door are housed in a single sleeve with six variations of a sepia-tinged image: a hatted drunkard on a bar stool, photographed from six different angles through a wiped, foggy window. The cover was wrapped in a brown grocery paper sleeve stamped with the title.

In Through the Out Door reached No. 1 in the US, UK, Canada, and New Zealand. Ironically, the title was picked as a tongue-in-cheek jab at their self-perceived obsolescence in the UK market.


Despite sales of In Through the Out Door, Led Zeppelin were still road-reluctant from all that went down on the 1977 tour. They made one performance during 1979 at the Knebworth Festival, where they stepped in for Electric Light Orchestra. The August event also featured performances by Fairport Convention, the Marshall Tucker Band, and Todd Rundgren & Utopia. Knebworth marked Zeppelin’s return to the British stage after a four-year absence. It would be the last performance of their proper lifespan.

Plant appeared at Concert for Kampuchea, a charitable event arranged by Paul McCartney for the war-torn nation. The December 1979 event featured performances by Wings, Queen, The Who, The Pretenders, The Clash, The Specials, Ian Dury & The Blockheads, Elvis Costello & The Attractions, and Rockestra, an impromptu all-star big band led by McCartney. Plant guest-appeared with Rockpile on a cover of “Little Sister” by Elvis Presley.

In June–July 1980, Led Zeppelin did a European tour with 10 shows in West Germany and one date each in Brussels, Rotterdam, Vienna, Zürich, and West Berlin. They agreed to a stateside tour in October, despite Bonham’s fatigue and worsening physical condition.

On September 24, after the first day of rehearsals for the planned US tour, John Bonham died of asphyxiation after downing four quadruple vodkas. He was 32 years old.

Several veteran rock drummers were named as possible replacements, including Cozy Powell (Jeff Beck Group), Carmine Appice (Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, Beck Bogert Appice), Barriemore Barlow (Jethro Tull), Simon Kirke (Free, Bad Company), Ric Lee (Ten Years After), and Bev Bevan (The Move, ELO). Instead, Led Zeppelin cancelled the tour and officially disbanded.

Later Activity

Most of Led Zeppelin’s vaulted songs appear on the 1982 Swan Song release Coda. It features outtakes from the sessions for III (“Poor Tom”) and Houses of the Holy (“Walter’s Walk”), plus the three recent leftovers from In Through the Out Door: “Ozone Baby,” “Darlene,” and “Wearing and Tearing.” One track, “Bonzo’s Montreux,” is an effects-laden drum solo recorded in Switzerland in late 1976. Coda also features 1970 live recordings of “I Can’t Quit You Baby” and the Ben E. King cover “We’re Gonna Groove.”

In 1990, the Led Zeppelin Box Set unearthed two cuts from a June 1969 BBC broadcast: “White Summer” — a late-period Yardbirds instrumental inherited by Zeppelin (segued with “Black Mountain Side”) — and the Robert Johnson cover “Travelling Riverside Blues.”

Robert Plant went solo with the 1982 Swan Song release Pictures at Eleven. After the label folded, he reverted to Atlantic for the 1983–85 albums The Principle of Moments and Shaken ‘n’ Stirred, which spawned the hits “Big Log,” “In the Mood,” and “Little by Little.” His songwriting partner during this period was guitarist Robbie Blunt (Bronco, Silverhead, Broken Glass, Chicken Shack).

On the side, Plant fronted The Honeydrippers, a fifties covers band with a fluid lineup that included Page, Jeff Beck, Nile Rodgers (Chic), and bandleader Paul Shaffer (Late Night with David Letterman). In 1984, they cut the EP The Honeydrippers: Volume One, which includes hit covers of Phil Phillips (“Sea of Love”) and Roy Brown (“Rockin’ at Midnight”).

Jimmy Page briefly teamed with bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White of Yes, which also disbanded in 1980. They demoed material as XYZ (exYes and Led Zeppelin), including a piece that later became “Mind Drive,” an epic unearthed for the 1997 Yes release Keys to Ascension 2. XYZ also included keyboardist Dave Lawson (Web, Samurai, Greenslade).

In 1982, Page recorded the soundtrack to Death Wish II, the second in the vigilante action franchise starring Charles Bronson. Select tracks feature veteran singer Chris Farlowe (Colosseum, Atomic Rooster).

In 1985, Page teamed with Roy Harper on the Beggars Banquet release Whatever Happened to Jugula? Later that year, he surfaced in The Firm, a rock supergroup with singer Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company) and drummer Chris Slade (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Terra Nova). They scored a hit with “Radioactive” and issued back-to-back albums on Atlantic.

In 1988, Page debuted as a solo artist with the Geffen Records release Outrider, recorded with Farlowe and singer John Miles. He later teamed with singer David Coverdale (Deep Purple, Whitesnake), a move derided by Plant.

John Paul Jones wrote and performed the soundtrack to the 1984 psychological thriller Scream for Help, released in 1985 on Atlantic. It features Jon Anderson on two tracks. As a producer, he worked with goth rockers The Mission on their 1988 second album Children. In 1994, he teamed with avant-garde vocalist Diamanda Galás on the Mute Records release This Sporting Life.


Plant, Page, and Jones first reunited (with Phil Collins on drums) in July 1985 for the Live Aid event at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia.

In 1994, Page and Plant reunited for a showcase on MTV Unplugged. This spawned the 80-minute live release No Quarter, a mix of Zeppelin material and new originals arranged with Eastern orchestration. In 1998, they released Walking into Clarksdale, comprised of new studio originals.



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