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Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti

On February 24, 1975, "Led Zeppelin" released her double album "Physical Graffiti".


If you'll ask Dave Grohl, this is Led Zeppelin's album that he would recommend you to start with, getting to know the band's repertoire. He also noted that this album served as a role model when he recorded the 2005 album "In Your Honor", with the "Foo Fighters".


If you'll ask Bruce Dickinson, he will tell you that at the time of writing the material for "Iron "Maiden's" "Somewhere in Time" album, he thought the band needed to evolve like Zeppelin did with "Physical Graffiti".


If you'll ask us, they are both right and actually say the same thing. This is "Led Zeppelin's" "demonstration" album. It showcases its diverse capabilities in the best way. It has such a wide dynamic and it illustrates the range of styles that this band dominates, Hard Rock, Blues, Progressive, Psychedelia, Folk, Rock 'n' Roll, Punk, Boogie and more.



"Physical Graffiti" is the band's sixth album and the first to be released on its private label - "Swan Song Records".


The recordings began in November 1973 at the same location where the album "Led Zeppelin IV" was recorded - the "Headley Grange" mansion - the Victorian-era building in Hampshire. During that session Jimmy Page and John Bonham worked on an instrumental piece that would later become the masterpiece "Kashmir".


However, this session was cut short after bassist John Paul Jones fell ill, apparently from the heavy stress he was under. Jones informed his bandmates that he was tired of the grueling shows and road trips and that he was interested in retiring from the band. Band manager Peter Grant asked Jones to reconsider the matter and suggested he take a break to spend some time with his family. Meanwhile, "Zeppelin" has handed over the estate to the loyal hands of the emerging "Bad Company" supergroup, which has just signed to "Led Zeppelin's" new label and used the break taken by "Led Zeppelin" to record their debut album, which was released in June 1974.


The free time with the family did Jones good and after a few months he returned to the band with renewed strength and with a lot of energy to continue the recordings, that were renewed in January 1974. Within a short time the band managed to write and record eight songs that filled three sides of a vinyl album. This led the band to consider a double album, instead of choosing which tracks to cut off in order to fit an album. And so it was, the band completed another side of vinyl with Outtakes - old songs that did not fit into the band's previous albums, which were taken from the sessions for the albums "Led Zeppelin III", "Led Zeppelin IV" and "Houses of the Holy". This delayed the release date of the album as mixes and reprocessing of the old songs were needed, so that they would match the sound and vibe of the new songs.


The name of the album was chosen by Jimmy Page and it was meant to describe the recording process as Page saw it. He wanted to illustrate the whole physical and written energy during the creation process.


As we already mentioned in the opening, this album features a wide variety of musical styles, which somehow manage to blend into one uniform and wonderful piece.


The album opens with the Bluesy Hard Rock of "Custard Pie" - a song whose lyrics are based on blues classics such as: "Drop Down Mama" by Sleepy John Estes, "Shake 'Em On Down" by Bukka White and "I Want Some Of Your Pie "By Blind Boy Fuller. What a beauty of a riff and what a groovy sound produced by the electric keyboards of John Paul Jones, in addition to bass guitar. Plant and Page exchange a harmonica and guitar solos that Page transmits via ARP synthesizer, in order to get the unique sound that is heard in the song. It is interesting that such a sweeping and bouncy song was never performed in its entirety during the band's performances.


"The Rover" which means "wanderer" in English slang, continues with the Blues-Hard Rock line. Page and Plant began writing this song as early as 1970 in the "Bron-yr-Aur" cottage in Wales, while writing the material for the "Led Zeppelin III".


The song was originally written as an acoustic song and was recorded during the sessions for the album "Houses of the Holy", but did not fit in. This song wasn't played by the band live, except for the opening riff that connected to the song "Sick Again". Interestingly, the opening and part of the melody in this song is reminiscent of the song "Wicked Annabella" by "the Kinks", and again it is another "loan" by "Zeppelin".


With "In My Time of Dying", "Zeppelin" delves into the Blues. This song was recorded live and Page later added the amazing slide guitar that accompanies the song in the little guitar sentences and solos. Here, too, Zeppelin made "loan" from an old blues song performed by Blind Willie Johnson back in the 1920s called "Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed". Singer and songwriter Bob Dylan gave the song his own interpretation on his debut album from 1962 and so did American singer John Sebastian on the song "Well, Well, Well", which he recorded in 1971. The ending of the song was not written beforehand, it was a jam session, which ended it where Bonham can be heard saying, "That's gotta be the one". With a timing of 11:06 minutes, this is Zeppelin's longest song.


It is interesting to note that the last song played by Chris Cornell at his last performance held on May 17, 2017 in Detroit, just before he took his life, was "Slaves And Bulldozers" and it included excerpts from the song "In My Time of Dying", and especially the lyrics: "In my time of dying, ain't gonna cry, ain't gonna mourn .. ", just creepy!


The other side of the vinyl opens with the song "Houses of the Holy" which takes us back to Hard Rock. The song was recorded during the sessions for the album of the same name released in 1972. This song was supposed to be the theme song for the album, but it was left out due to its resemblance to the song "Dancing Days" from that album. This song did not require mixes or additions and it entered the album "As Is". This song was also never performed in Zeppelin's performances. It's name was influenced by the nickname given by the fans to the halls and venues in which "Led Zeppelin" performed in.


The song "Trampled Under Foot" takes us to the grooves of Funk. The track evolved from John Paul Jones' jam session on the electric keyboard, in 1972. It's actually reminds us of the sound of Stevie Wonder from the early 1970s albums. And again this time - the "loan". Robert Plant based the lyrics on Robert Johnson's 1936 song "Terraplane Blues". Jimmy Page's unique guitar sound in this song was achieved by the "wah-wah" effect combined with the "Backwards Echo" effect.


The last track on the second side of the vinyl is probably the greatest on the album and one of the masterpieces of the band in general - "Kashmir". As mentioned, this is the first piece that John Bonham and Jimmy Page worked on for the album, back in 1973 and was originally called "Driving To Kashmir". Robert Plant wrote the lyrics to the song, during a ride in the Sahara Desert from Agadir to Sidi Ifni, on his way to a folklore festival in Morocco, where he traveled with Jimmy Page in 1973. John Paul Jones plays the mellotron wonderfully and perfectly and he was the one who made the strings and brass instruments arrangements. This is one of the only tracks of "Zeppelin" that features additional musicians. What a heavy and bombastic sound Bonham's drums have, what a rhythm and such a crazy chord progression by Jimmy Page with the unconventional guitar tuning. Just explain to us how this song manage to stun and shock despite the monotonous playing and even without one tiny solo? Song A-L-M-W-T-Y! This song was sampled in the song "Come With Me" by Puff Daddy and Jimmy Page taken from the soundtrack of the movie Godzilla from 1998.


The third side of the vinyl opens up with "In the Light", which was originally called "In the Morning" and later got the name "Take Me Home". The band is nearing Progress Rock here. The song composed by John Paul Jones on synthesizer. This song is also never played in the band's performances although Jimmy Page noted that this is his favorite song from the album and for him it is the sequel to "Stairway To Heaven". At the beginning of the song Page plays on the guitar with a violin bow, something he has not done since the songs "Dazed And Confused" and "How Many More Times", somewhere on the debut album "Led Zeppelin".


The second track on the third side is the acoustic-instrumental "Bron-Yr-Aur", which was composed and recorded in 1970, during the sessions for the album "Led Zeppelin III". The name of the piece is influenced from the name of the building where the band members recorded the album and it really reminds of the atmosphere of that album, which is partly acoustic.


The Soft Rock song "Down by the Seaside" was also written as an acoustic song on the same estate "Bron-Yr-Aur" in 1970. It was influenced by Neil Young and the title of his song "Down By The River". The song got its electric vibe while recording of "Led Zeppelin IV", but remained out. John Paul Jones hated the song but Robert Plant loved it, so it found it's way in the album. This song, too, has never been played in "Led Zeppelin" shows.


The song that seals the third side of the album is the ballad "Ten Years Gone", which was composed in part by Robert Plant. He wrote the words about an old love which "ten years ago" was a part of his life. Robert Plant's written part was combined with Paige's instrumental section with overdubs of acoustic and electric guitars. In order to master the abundance of guitar layers in the recording, John Paul Jones had to use three-necked guitar during the live performance of the song. It included a mandolin, a 6-string guitar and a 12-string guitar.


The opening track of the fourth and final side of the album "Night Flight", was recorded in 1971 during the sessions for the band's "Led Zeppelin IV" album. John Paul Jones wrote most of the song and plays here on the Hammond organ, while Jimmy Page guitar is played through Leslie speaker. The lyrics were written by Robert Plant after he read a newspaper headline about a guy trying to escape the draft. Like "Kashmir", it's one of the band's only songs without a guitar solo.


"The Wanton Song" was written at the band's "the song remains the same" tour in the US, during recordings of the album. The word "wanton" is not mentioned in the song. In the solo, Jimmy again uses the "backward echo" effect, in which you hear the echo first and then the guitar note. Page was asked in an interview how come the greatest band songs has no chorus, like "Cashmere", "Stairway to Heaven", "Over the Hills" and more. Page's answer was that the riff in "Wanton Song" is better than any chorus and that he can listen to it over and over again, Without getting bored, absolutely right!


"Boogie with Stu" begins with a jam session featuring the "Rolling Stones" organist and tour manager Ian Stewart - with Stu representing Ian Stewart. The song is based on Ritchie Valens' song "Ooh My Head". It was recorded in 1971 in the same sessions that resulted the song "Rock and Roll" for the fourth album (where Stewart also played the piano). In this song Robert Plant plays guitar and Jimmy Page on mandolin. This song served as the basis for a lawsuit. In the end Valens' mother received half of the royalties and also credit for the song along with the four band members and Stewart.


The acoustic piece "Black Country Woman" was recorded in the garden of Mick Jagger's house in 1972, during the sessions for the album "Houses of the Holy". The band just had an idea that they should occasionally record outside the studio. The song was originally called "Never Ending Doubting Woman Blues" as the lyrics Plant is singing at the end of the track. At the beginning of the recording you can hear the voice of the recording technician Eddie Kramer saying: "Do not want to get this airplane on" while referring to the plane that just passed over the Jagger's hous. Plant replies: "Nah, leave it, yeah."


This masterful album ends with "Sick Again" written by Page and Plant about the 1973 tour and the encounters with the band groupies. The song is driven by Bonham's perfect drumming and Page's guitar riff. It's the closest "Zeppelin" came to Glam Rock, with a sound a bit reminiscent of "T-Rex" and David Bowie.


The album was supposed to be released in late 1974, but the unique album cover delayed its release, as it took time for designer Peter Corriston to finish it. The cover included a photo of a pair of buildings at 96-98 St. Mark's Place, in New York City, with the building's windows cut and beneath them rotating images are revealed. Among the characters that can be seen on the cover (beyond the band members themselves), are W.C. Fields, Buzz Aldrin, Lee Harvey Oswald, painter Marcel Duchamp and more.


This album jumped straight to number one on the UK and US sales charts. It received rave reviews and broke a record sales of one million copies in the US on the first day of release. As of today, this album has sold over 8 million copies in the US alone (equivalent to 16 million albums).


For Listening: Spotify, Apple Music.


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