Personalities | Led Zeppelin | Seventies | Rock
The biggest heavy metal band of the 1970s, Led Zeppelin left an indelible mark that is still felt a quarter of a century later. The band was put together in London in 1968 by guitarist Jimmy Page (born James Patrick Page, 9 January 1944), singer Robert Plant (born 20 August 1948), bassist John Paul Jones (born John Baldwin, 3 January 1946) and drummer John Bonham (born John Henry Bonham, 31 May 1948).
Beginning Of A Legend
A versatile guitarist, Page was an in-demand session player in the mid-1960s and appeared on countless records and hits. In 1966 he joined The Yardbirds, playing alongside Jeff Beck and taking over when he left in 1967. By early 1968 the band was in decline and Page began planning a new group helped by Yardbirds’ road manager Peter Grant. Page’s aim was to build on the success that Cream had achieved with their heavy blues rock. When The Yardbirds broke up in the summer of 1968 he recruited Jones, another prominent session musician. They contacted singer Terry Reid who was unavailable but recommended Plant who was in the Midlands group Band Of Joy. He in turn recommended drummer Bonham and Led Zeppelin were born with Grant as their manager.
Their name was donated by The Who’s Keith Moon but their first gigs were as The New Yardbirds, fulfilling previously arranged dates in Scandinavia and the UK. They recorded their debut album at London’s Olympic Studios in 30 hours for less than £2,000 and Grant took the tapes to America where he negotiated a contract with Atlantic Records that gave the band a £200,000 advance and complete artistic control, unprecedented for an unknown group.
Led Zeppelin (1969) contained heavy, stylized versions of Willie Dixon’s ‘You Shook Me’ and ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ and self-written tracks like the frenetic ‘Communication Breakdown’ and the slow-building, explosive ‘Dazed And Confused’ that featured Page playing guitar with a violin bow. The song remained a cornerstone of their set for much of their career, expanded up to 25 minutes.
Set For Success
On the back of relentless touring, which included several major American festivals, Led Zeppelin gradually climbed the US and UK album charts, eventually reaching the Top 10 without help from singles or TV appearances (the band deliberately shunned both). As a result, the group remained ‘exclusive’ to the burgeoning rock audience. When Led Zeppelin II was released in November 1969 it quickly rose to No. 1 in the US and UK. Led Zeppelin II was recorded at various studios in breaks between tours but was mixed in a single weekend. The opening ‘Whole Lotta Love’ was Led Zeppelin’s manifesto condensed into five and a half minutes – a dynamic riff, vocal preening and a pared-down chorus with guitar echo effects, followed by a crazed middle section. An edited version was put out as a single in America to gain airplay and reached No. 6, but the group refused to...
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