On January 12, 1969, Led Zeppelin's debut album, one of the greatest and most influential albums in rock history, was released. This is the story of it's birth:
So our story begins on March 25, 1965, the day Eric Clapton decides to leave "The Yardbirds". The departure is attributed to the band's breakthrough hit "For Your Love" and the fact that Clapton, a bluesist at heart and soul, disliked the commercial line he claimed "The Yardbirds" had adopted. Clapton joined "John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers", not long before recommending a talented young studio player named Jimmy Page as his replacement. The young Page who feared to be in the middle of intrigue and politics that cause Clapton's departure, recommended Jeff Beck as a replacement and indeed Beck made his live debut with "The Yardbirds" just two days after Eric Clapton's departure. Although Jimmy Page politely declined to join the band, he maintained contact with Jeff Beck and the other members of the "Yardbirds".
In May 1966 Jeff Beck entered the studio and recorded the instrumental piece "Beck's Bolero", which would 10 months later become Beck's first "hit" as part of his solo career. Jimmy Page, Keith Moon and John Paul Jones were present in the studio during the recordings. This recording introduces Page to the idea of forming a supergroup that will include himself, Jeff Beck, Keith Moon, John Entwistle and Steve Winwood. When John Entwistle heard the idea he immediately said that this "supergroup" would fall just like a lead balloon and Keith Moon sharpened the sentence noting that they will fall like "Lead Zeppelin". Although all the musicians continued with their original bands, Keith Moon's words were burned in Jimmy Page's memory and they would pop up at the right time and in the right place, two years later.
About a month after the recording of "Beck's Bolero", "The Yardbirds' bassist Paul Samwell-Smith abandons the show, during a performance at "Queen's College" in Oxford, while intoxicated. Jimmy Page who happens to be in the audience stepped up to the stage and replaces him playing bass guitar. After the show everyone agrees that Page will continue to play bass for the band, until guitarist Chris Dreja learns the bass roles and moves on to playing the instrument. Jimmy Page later became the band's second guitarist alongside Jeff Beck, who officially left the band in November 1966, to continue his solo career.
The band continued as a quartet with Jimmy Page as the sole guitarist until July 1968, when the band made their final appearance. Drummer Jim McCarty and vocalist Keith Relf left the band due to musical disagreements, not before granting the band's name and all rights to Jimmy Page and bassist Chris Dreja. The two saw this as an opportunity to form a new and fresh lineup and they began looking for new band members. Jimmy Page first approached Terry Reid to fill the role of lead singer, but due to a recording contract he could not accept the role, but recommended a young and unknown singer at the time, named Robert Plant. Plant accepted the role and recommended his childhood friend drummer John Bonham. After Dreja left the band for a career in photography, Jimmy Page complied with John Paul Jones' request to accept him as the band's bass player. As you may recall, John Paul Jones has played with Jimmy Page in the past, including the same famous recording session "Beck's Bolero". Thus the new lineup was completed.
(Photo: Led Zeppelin Official Website)
On September 7, 1968, the band made their debut in Denmark under the name "The New Yardbirds" and continued their tour in Scandinavia and later in England. At the same time, the band entered the studio to record their first album, which is the subject of our review. During the tour, the band was notified of the legal breakup of "The Yardbirds". The announcement included a ban on using the band name. Having no choice, "The New Yardbirds" members had to think of an alternative name for the band. Page recalled the sarcastic remark of Keith Moon and John Entwistle and suggested the name "Lead Zeppelin". At the suggestion of the band's director Peter Grant, the word "Lead" was replaced with "Led", thus finally determining the band's name
Since the band did not have a recording contract at the time, this album was funded entirely out of Jimmy Page's pocket. For less than 36 hours of recording and at a cost of less than 2,000 pounds, the Fantastic Four, who were just beginning to crystallize musically, managed to create a masterpiece that includes a combination of original songs alongside arrangements of songs they "borrowed" from others. A fine mix of Rock, Folk and Blues that will ignite the fire of a new musical genre - "Hard Rock".
The album opens up in an explosion with "Good Times Bad Times". A double chord strum that later aligns perfectly with the high-hat cymbals and the cowbell of John Bonham. John Paul Jones is the one who wrote this immortal riff and Jimmy Page came with the chorus. This is our first acquaintance with the crazy and groundbreaking drumming style of John Bonham, the anchor of the rhythm division on which the band is founded on. John Bonham come up with an amazing drumming technic, playing on one bass drum, but actually it sounds like he plays on two. He does this in a technique that many drummers will try to emulate later - "Triplet". He was a fan of the "Vanilla Fudge" drummer Carmine Appice and tried to emulate him with one bass drum. But what Bonham did not know, was that Carmine was using double Bass drum to produce the sound. Jimmy Page guitar connected through Leslie Speaker, which has been used mostly by organists. This is what gave the guitar a special sound and effect. Jimmy Page's production sought to give the band a live sound, as if they are playing on stage. To achieve this result Page scattered microphones around the studio and recorded the resonant live sound from the studio walls.
The second piece "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" is actually the one that created the initial connection between Page and Plant. This connection was created around Joan Baez's version of this song, from 1962. Although the song was written by folk singer Anne Bredon in the 1950s, Baez's version was the focus of the first meeting between Plant and Page in July 1968 - both were Joan Baez's fans. When Jimmy Page heard Baez's interpretation of the song, he immediately fell in love with it and began to develop his version, long before "Led Zeppelin" was formed, back in the days when he was a young session player. Page played the song for Plant on their very first meeting. The two put the Hard Rock part between the verses and this what gave the song the right twist and the special addition. It should be noted that the first editions of the album did not give any credit to Ann Brandon. The credits mentioned that it was a folk melody with an arrangement by Page. However, after Anne Brandon found out, this was corrected in the later releases of the album.
The third song "You Shook Me" is a blues song recorded by Willie Dixon and J.B. Lenoir and performed by Muddy Waters, that Dixon was his bass player. The song was included on Jeff Beck's 1964 "Truth" album and Beck noted hid dissatisfaction of with the fact that the Zeppelin had copied his adaptations. This song uses the "backwards echo" effect, when the echo is heard first and then the note being played. This effect was achieved in a special and innovative recording technique, in which the echo of the guitar was played backwards and then the sound of the guitar note. The song features Hammond organ solos and an electric piano, both played by John Paul Jones, a harmonica played by Robert Plant.
The track that seals the first side of the vinyl, "Dazed and Confused," is a song by Jake Holmes - an American folk singer who Page heard perform the song in an acoustic version on a live show at the Village Theater in New York, while Page performed there with "The Yardbirds". "The Yardbirds" yhemsleves used to perform the song in their live shows, but they never recorded it. Holmes did not get credit for Zeppelin's adaptation because Page thought his version was significantly different from the original. Holmes sued Page and Zeppelin only in 2010 and in a compromise reached on January 17, 2012, Holmes received credit when his name was mentioned on the album as follows: Jimmy Page, Inspired By Jake Holmes. Page's solo in this song is taken from Page's solo with "The Yardbirds" in the song "Think About It". Page makes his first use of a violin bow here. A technique that he will later use in other songs by the band, like: "In The Light" and "How Many More Times".
The other side of the album opens up with "Your Time Is Gonna Come", written by Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones about a wayward girl who will pay for her betrayals. Page plays steel guitar here. He noted that this was his first time and that in his opinion the instrument was not tuned. Jones plays on an organ that sometimes sound like a church organ. He also uses a pedal to produce the bass sounds. All four members sing during the chorus.
The instrumental track "Black Mountain Side" is based on the folk "Blackwater Side" by Anne Briggsm, which was performed by the British folk singer Bert Jansch. This track is sometimes combined with "White Summer", as a quiet transition section in Zeppelin's live shows. Page also used to perform the piece in live with his band "The Firm". This is the only song on the album featuring an outside player - Viram Jasani who plays in the tabla.
The third track on the other side "Communication Breakdown" is a one written by all four members, but due to the fact that Robert Plant was on a contract with another record company at the time, he could not get credit for his contribution on the album cover. The riff of the song was influenced by the song "Nervous Breakdown" by Eddie Cochran. Page used an effect he called "guitar in a shoebox". A small microphone through which the sound of Page's guitar was transmitted while playing in small cubicle. It's also one of the only songs in which Page sings background vocals.
"I Can't Quit You Baby" is another Dixon song written for Otis Rush in 1956. A version of this song will also appear on the compilation album "Coda". This is a version of a live show, recorded on January 9, 1970 at the Royal Albert Hall. Some of the guitar parts here sound like the band's song "Heartbreaker". Page admitted that the recording captured some mistakes he made while playing, but he decided to leave them e and not correct them.
The album is sealed with "How Many More Times". Supposedly an original song, however the lyrics were influenced by Albert King's song "The Hunter" and the music is influenced by Howlin' Wolf's song "How Many More Years". Also in this case Robert Plant did not get credit for his contribution, because of the previous recording contract he was signed on. The song appears on the album as a 3:30 minute long, but in practice it lasts 8:28 minutes. It was a marketing ploy by Page, designed to promote the song's so it can be played on the radio. The words "I got another child on the way, that makes eleven" by Robert Plant, refer to his daughter Carmen Jane Plant, who will be born only two months later.