Biography of Led Zeppelin
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On their return from the Scandinavian Tour as ‘The New Yardbirds’, a new name was chosen – Led Zeppelin (some says, though, that they played a couple of gigs with the name Led Zeppelin already on the Scandinavian Tour). The idea about a band “going down like a lead Zeppelin” came from Keith Moon and John Entwistle, when they were planning a venture away from The Who. Their first official gig as Led Zeppelin was on October 25th 1968.
As Robert Plant rose to fame with Led Zeppelin, he also became the father of two children; a daughter, Carmen Jane, and a son named Karac. The mother was Maureen Wilson – girlfriend since two years back – who he married in November 1968. The family settled at Jennings Farm, a few miles from Kidderminster.
The first album was just called ‘Led Zeppelin’. It’s said that it took only 30 hours to record it.lt was a mixture of hard rock (Communication Breakdown, Good Times Bad Times) and soulful blues (including two songs by Willie Dixon). Another blues track, Dazed And Confused – basically an old Yardbirds song – became a standard tune of Led Zeppelin’s stage act. Jimmy Page produced, drawing on his long experience of working with producers such as Mickie Most. The album got a mixed reaction from the critics, but rock fans loved it.
The manager Peter Grant wanted to exploit the US market and did set up a lucrative recording contract with Atlantic, which gave full management control to him and full artistic control to the band, including production. The foreseeing Atlantic’s directors, Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler were pleased. Led Zeppelin started their first American tour at the end of December 1968, and this helped to boost sales of the album on its release in January/February 1969.
Led Zeppelins first American tour – An ad for Rickenbakker amplifiers
The band performed a number of gigs in the UK before and after the US tour, but nothing much happened at home commercially. Already in the summer of ’69 they did their second US tour and it was even more successful than the first.
In a break from the tour, they performed at the Albert Hall in London, at last making a major impact in their own country. They recorded the second album on the road at several different studios. And the band recorded for BBC radio and appeared on Danish TV in 1969.
Led Zeppelin II was released in October 1969. Another good all-round album. Plant was now the main lyric writer, with songs like the master piece Ramble On and Thank You. He said he was inspired with sources as diverse as traditional blues songs and the works of JRR Tolkien. The album became a huge hit, in part due to Whole Lotta Love, the first universally known Zeppelin anthem. It became the signature tune to the BBC’s Top Of The Pops chart show.
Page and Plant went to Plant’s cottage at Bron Yr Aur in Snowdonia to plan for the third album in early 1970. This album was more diverse than the two before. Many tracks were more melodic and acoustic, like Gallows Pole, and slower number like Tangerine and Since I’ve Been Loving You. But there were also ‘standard’ hard rock numbers like Immigrant Song.
Led Zeppelin now filled huge arenas in the US and elsewhere. In 1971, however, they went back to playing at smaller club venues at home and toured in Europe. In April they recorded another live concert session for the BBC.
The band’s next, and possibly their most famous release came in November 1971. The album had no title, nor did the name of the band appear, the only identification being four runic like symbols on the inside sleeve. The untitled album had a mystique built up around it, as well as building up huge sales.
The best known track of all was Stairway To Heaven. According to legend, Robert Plant made up a lyric on the spot the first time he heard the melody. The album, as usual now, includes both classical hard rock tunes like Black Dog, Rock And Roll and When The Levee Breaks and more soft songs like The Battle of Evermore and Going to California, that’s said to be one of Plant’s personal favourites.
Led Zeppelin made three tours in 1972. They traveled to Australia and New Zealand in February, then went to the US in the summer and to Japan in autumn. Two concerts in June 1972 in California were later released on CD called How The West Was Won. At the end of the year they went to Montreux and after that they toured the UK. The tour moved on to continental Europe in the spring of 1973.
Houses Of The Holy was the title of the next album. It was released in April/May of 1973. The album the wonderful songs No Quarter and The Rain Song.
When they went for another tour in the US they where like Kings. They toured in a hired Boeing airliner nicknamed the Starship. The finale, at Madison Square Garden in July, was filmed by Joe Massot and later edited into a feature film about the band. But despite the obvious success, 1973 was a hard year for Robert Plant, as he had great problems with his voice.
Many fans think that the next abum is Led Zeppelins greatest. Physical Graffiti is a studio double album and a double masterpiece. It feature two mighty rock anthems Trampled Under Foot and Kashmir (played as they received the Polar Music Price in Sweden). It also contains some other of Led Zeppelin’s best tunes ever. Sales raked through the roof. At one point all six of their albums were in the Billboard chart at the same time. This was truly the zenith of their career commercial wise. They, of course, made another big tour in the US. Back in the UK In May, Led Zeppelin played five sell-out concerts at Earl’s Court in London.
That same summer in August Robert Plant and his wife Maureen were in a serious car accident on the Greek island of Rhodes. Maureen was very badly injured and Robert Plant smashed both his ankles and his elbows, and was not fully fit for the best part of two years after that.
The next studio album was Presence, released in March 1976. Robert Plant recorded the vocals from a wheelchair. It had some powerful tracks like Achilles’ Last Stand, but some people begun to count Led Zeppelin out already.
At the end of 1976 a film about the band, The Song Remains The Same, was released and a double live album with the same title. Although the film was not so convincing, it did well enough at the box office, and is still a welcome visual record of the band.
Robert Plant’s wife and children are seen in the film. Tragically, his young son Karac died suddenly of a virus infection in July 1977, when the band were in the middle of their last American tour. Plant flew home from New Orleans. Although the band were invisible for much of 1978, they made a dramatic return in 1979. Robert and Maureen’s own loss was in part compensated by the birth of another son, Logan, in January 1979.
On two weekends in August 1979 Led Zeppelin played to huge audiences at the Knebworth Festival in England. They showed to the world that they could still pull in the crowds. At the same time they released their new album, recorded at Abba’s studio in Sweden. The title was ‘In Through The Out Door’ and it became the top selling album of both the US and UK charts. It showed signs that the band were mellowing, but it still contained some strong tracks like Fool In The Rain and Carouselambra.
In the summer of 1980 Zeppelin went for a long tour in Europe, and seemed back to their best form. It all ended in Berlin on July 7th. Another US tour was planned, but everything was over when John Bonham was found dead after a drinking binge at Jimmy Page’s house on September 25th. Plant, Page and Jones were totally devastated and Led Zeppelin was no more. They formally absolved in December 1980.
* If you want to read a biography of Robert Plant before Led Zeppelin – click HERE
* If you want to read a biography of Robert Plant after Led Zeppelin – click HERE
* If you want to go back to the main page of Robert Plant & Led Zeppelin -click HERE