Led Zeppelin celebrates 45th anniversary
“It was twenty years ago today . . .” No, again, that was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was 45 years ago today, however, that another major Brit band brought us another excellent offering. Specifically, it was the day that Led Zeppelin’s eponymous prototypical premiere platter hit the record racks. But lest you live under a rock rather than listen to it, perhaps a brief introduction is in order.
Led Zeppelin was formed in 1968. The line-up included: Jimmy Page (guitar), Robert Plant (vocals and harmonica), John Paul Jones (bass guitar, keyboards, recorder and mandolin), and John Bonham (drums/percussion). Together they forged a unique, guitar-based, blues-rock sound which would go on to make them one of the progenitors of the hard rock and heavy metal genres. In late November of that year, they would sign an unprecedented contract with Atlantic Records.
Thanks to their aggressive manager, Peter Grant, the band was guaranteed an unheard of amount of creative control as they headed into the studio. They recorded 9 tracks for what would become perhaps the first true hard rock album ever. While it mightn’t hold as historic a place as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, it is considered by many critics to be one of the first truly significant albums released afterwards.
The album opens on the thundering “Good Times, Bad Times” and is quickly followed by the more sensitive, folk-rock tinged track “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”, the lusty Delta blues bit “You Shook Me” and the more famous art rock audio “Dazed and Confused”.
The flip side starts off with the contrasting “Your Time is Gonna Come”. Also included are Page’s percussive Irish instrumental “Black Mountain Side”, the heavy, post-garage, guitar in a box cut “Communication Breakdown” a symmetrical, clever cover of Willie Dixon’s blues standard “I Can’t Quit You Baby” and the album’s end-note to a more modern musical paradigm titled “How Many More Times”.
On January 12, 1969 Led Zeppelin’s 9-track Led Zeppelin was released throughout Europe. It would reach America two months later officially heralding the beginning of the hard rock era. It was a commercial success reaching number 6 in the UK and number 10 in the US.
It stifled the new band’s early critics, proved to the suits that there was a market for hard rock and heavy metal and opened the doors for those who would follow. Finally, it taught ex-Yardbirds guitarist Page two important lessons: the sixties were over and spaced-out heavy rock could drive barely pubescent kids crazy. The music industry would never be the same.
(Images courtesy of Wikipedia and MassLive)