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An Introduction to Led Zeppelin

created by [Dark Side of the Moon]
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Go ahead, put one in your house.


In 1968 a little known band calling themselves Led Zeppelin made their debut into the rock and roll world. Known at first as The New Yardbirds, their name changed when Keith Moon of The Who quipped that the band would "go over like lead balloon". Little did they (or Keith Moon, for that matter) know that they would leave an indelible impression in the newly created realm of hard rock and heavy metal, such an impression that it crossed generations of listeners, drawing fans and followers from all age groups. Their timeless styles transcend even the new music of today. Indeed, many of today's artists will list Led Zeppelin as one of their influences. From the gentle The Rain Song to the thundering Immigrant Song to the power-blues driven Nobody's Fault But Mine, Led Zeppelin's music has stood the test of time. They are just as popular today as they were thirty years ago. I believe that this is due in part to the fact that at the time of Led Zeppelin's inception into the music world, musical styles were wide and varied. Unlike today's talents, the music industry did not put constraints upon a band to stay with a particular style or sound because of the market demand. If you listen to today's music, Nickelback for example, you find one song remarkably similar to another. This is because of the music industry telling the listener what is popular and should be listened to. Tom Petty wrote a scathing album about this entitled The Last DJ. The lyrics can be seen at http://www.tompetty.com/ (look under "The Vault"). Musical constraints were not the case in the 1960's and 1970's. Rather bands were allowed the freedom to explore all of their talent, and no matter the outcome of the finished piece (the length, the wide variety of instruments used for one song, the numerous key and pitch changes, the subject matter) if they were happy with it, it was often published. Led Zeppelin is no exception. Their styles ran the gamut from delicate love-songs and ballads to hard-hitting heavy metal. The subject of the songs was no less varied. There were songs of battles and wanderings, songs of down-and-out times and sexual lust. It is no wonder Led Zeppelin's influence and popularity is still strong today.

Their first album, simply titled Led Zeppelin was a blues based compilation that deviated from that genre only a few times with the delicate Black Mountain Side, the in-your-face riffs of Communication Breakdown and the groove rhythms of How Many More Times. (Side note: To say that Led Zeppelin thieved lyrics from the black blues artists and remade their songs is errant. It was very common practice for many years for blues artists to borrow lyrics from one another and to remake another artist's song. The so called "white" version of blues was an offspring of "black" blues and there are many similarities in sound. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page studied black blues for many years and both loved and respected the style. It was only fitting that they would want to emulate what they loved. If one were to accuse Led Zeppelin of stealing then one must also accuse another great rock band named Cream because of their black blues inspired music. Indeed, the whole rock scene of England was enamoured with black blues. So put this debate to rest.)

Their second album, again self titled Led Zeppelin II, moved away from the blues sound to hard rock. The first song Whole Lotta Love showed-off Robert Plant's talent for orgasmic screaming and let the listener know that this record was more sexually driven than their first. It becomes apparent in The Lemon Song with the lyrics "squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg, squeeze it so hard I fall right out of bed". But once again, they display their talent for writing on a range of subjects with the beautiful lovesong Thank You and the moving Ramble On with its J.R.R. Tolkien influence (For more on this, go to The Tolkien Connection). John Bonham's drumming perfection can be heard in Moby Dick and the album ends with a remake of black blues artist Willie Dixon's Bring It On Home.

Led Zeppelin III was a radical change in Led Zeppelin's musical approach. The first song burst open with a galloping, adrenaline pumping beat, followed by Robert Plant's incomparable voice releasing Celtic cries. The Immigrant Song was a piece of writing that was typical of Led Zeppelin's unique style, but at the same time made the listener stop in awe. But the rest of the album overall was to be a disappointment in general to LZ's fans. The psychadelic and a-typical music was something that Led Zeppelin had not yet done. However, in my own opinion, it simply let the world know that their creativity was boundless. They still held to their blues-based ties with Since I've Been Loving You and Hats Off To (Roy) Harper, but they were somehow not quite the same. Hats Off To (Roy) Harper, an ode of sorts to fellow blues musician Roy Harper (http://www.royharper.co.uk/shop/display_page.php?page=biog), was filled with distortion and vocal renderings that were not typical of Led Zeppelin's established style, but still remained faithful to the black blues style with its guitar string twanging and scraping.

The men redeemed themselves with their next album. The work was untitled and somewhat mysterious upon first glance, for the cover featured no words or letters to indicate the artist and title. Instead, four symbols, representing each band member, graced the cover along with an aged photo of an old man bearing a large fagot of sticks. These symbols would become synonymous with the name Led Zeppelin. The title of the album became disputable. Since the album technically bore no name, what were the fans to call it? Unsure, some simply called it Led Zeppelin IV, following suit with the first three albums that were given a number. Others would call it Runes because of the symbols on the cover. Another name was given, Zoso, taken from one of the symbols that represented Robert Plant. But, quite simply, the album is Untitled. This magnificent compilation of music is now considered perhaps their finest feat. It opens with a lusty song entitled Black Dog. It incorporates, somewhat, the British and Irish legend of the spectral, roving "black dog", a dog that is "darker than the night sky" with eyes "glowing red as burning coals". This dog is reputed to be a harbinger of impending death and keeps watch over the dead and dying. The lyrics in the song make mention of this beast:

"I gotta roll, can't stand still, got a flame in my heart, can't get my fill.
Eyes that shine burning red, dreams of you all through my head."


This line is tied in with the sexuality of the rest of the song, comparing the singer's lust for woman with that of the black dog's lust for souls. In other cultures these dogs are believed to eat corpses and guard the pathways to hell. Once again, Black Dog makes the proverbial woman in the song an object of the singer's lusty wrath. The album moves on to the fast-paced Rock and Roll (which has become the theme song for the Cadillac commercials in the United States). The beat is slower and brooding with Celtic sounds in The Battle of Evermore, a song filled with Tolkien imagery (see The Tolkien Connection). Then comes the ultimate in Led Zeppelin's writings: Stairway to Heaven. Touted as the greatest rock song ever written, it is also features Tolkien inspired lyrics ("There's a feeling I get when I look to the west, And my spirit is crying for leaving."). True to Led Zeppelin's form, the album contains a hard hitting blues song, When the Levee Breaks. In 1993, the Midwestern United States (where I live) was ravaged by horrible flooding, numerous levee breaks, and thousands of homes were destroyed or washed away. When the Levee Breaks became a kind of sick theme song for many in this area, but it also bound the victims together to be brave and continue standing. Such is the way of music. It speaks to the heart and holds you up when you cannot stand.

Houses of the Holy arrived two years later. It is my understanding that this album also did not feature any words on the cover, but instead portrayed children climbing upon rocks toward some target that no one could see. This portrait intrigued many. What did they see? What were they climbing toward? Who knows? But the enigmatic cover drew potential buyers, probably for the most part because it was Led Zeppelin and fans just had to have it. By now, LZ was firmly established in the rock and roll world. They continued to prove their musical aptitude and flexibilty with the lovely The Rain Song, the grooves of The Crunge, and the Norse-mythology based No Quarter. The song D'yer Mak'er, light-hearted yet pleading with covetousness, was named after an English expression. Often mispronounced as "dyer maker", the name of the song is actually a question. The dialect is rendered into "did you make her?" or "do you make her?", a British male's favoured expression for asking if his mate got some off of a woman. It is probably accomanied with a gentle elbow to the ribs and a smirking countenance.

Their next musical feat took the form of Physical Graffiti and, at least in my opinion, was the greatest of all the albums that Led Zeppelin have ever released. It was sold as a two record set. This time the band's name appeared on the cover. The first record began with a bawdy, sensual number titled Custard Pie followed by The Rover, a song that's excellent for midnight cruising (or playing "Mario Kart"!). Jimmy Page showed off his guitar playing on Bron-Yr-Aur, an instrumental tribute to a cottage retreat in South Snowdonia, Wales where Led Zeppelin created some of their greatest works. But there was one song that fans would never forget, one whose slow-galloping, Middle Eastern violin rhythms would burn itself into the minds of its listeners, one that is still as wildly popular today as it was thirty-one years ago when it was first heard: Kashmir. Second only to Stairway To Heaven in its accomplishment, Kashmir is still one of the most beloved songs among Led Zeppelin's fans. Indeed, Physical Grafitti continues to be one of LZ's top-sellers. The two record set also contained the enduring sounds of Houses of the Holy, Trampled Under Foot, and The Wanton Song. The title for this one is also often mispronounced as wontonWanton (pronounced want'-on) is to be playfully mean or cruel, often implying sexually but playfully mean or cruel. Wonton is a Chinese noodle with pork wrapped inside. If you read the lyrics, you'll know they're not talking about food. 

Silent woman in the night, you came, took my seed from my shaking frame.
Same old fire, another flame,
and the wheel rolls on.

Silent woman through the flames, you come, from the deep behind the sun
Seems my nightmares, have just begun
Left me barely holding on.


That should prove that.

I'm almost embarrassed to say this, but I'm not too familiar with Presence. I've heard all of the songs at least one time, but the only two that I am very familiar with are Achilles Last Stand and Nobody's Fault But Mine. I can say that these songs are two of my personal favourites in LZ's arsenal. More will be written here when I find and buy a copy.

Unbeknownst to the four, In Through The Out Door would be their last release. The sound was still in keeping with LZ's unique musical style and would not disappoint the listener. There was a bit of an update in the overall depth of sound with the advances in synthesizer technology. They were apparent in the strange Carouselambra and the moving All Of My Love, Robert Plant's heart-felt love song to his deceased son. They experimented with the more American rock-a-billy style in Hotdog

In 1980, not long after the release of In Through The Out Door, John Bonham died in his sleep after a night of heavy drinking. The remaining members agreed that Led Zeppelin would not be the same without Bonham, and so decided to disband. Each of the members went on to other careers. Coda, a posthumous album, was released in 1982 and was only popular with Led Zeppelin's more hardcore fans. Coda was comprised of songs written and recorded by Led Zeppelin, but were never put onto any of their previous albums. It continues to be something of a rarity in music stores and can be difficult to find.

Led Zeppelin was not to be beaten though. They were, and continue to be, one of the most influential rock bands that ever existed. Because of their impact on the musical world, the are considered avant garde, one that is in the forefront and leads. They were pioneers of todays modern forms of music. Even twenty-seven years after their final album, Led Zeppelin still influences many artists. What they have done in creating rock and roll history will never be matched again.



Show your support for this wiki! Go to We're Gonna Groove and sign your name!

Also be sure to visit my other LZ devotees wikis:

Bron-Yr-Aur - Led Zeppelin discography
The Tolkien Connection - Tolkien's influence on Led Zeppelin's music
Four Sticks - biographies of Led Zeppelin's band members
Carouselambra - Zeppelin inspired art

Be sure to visit the other great Led Zeppelin wiki Led Zeppelin fans which is run by [Wallstring]!


For song chords and tablature, visit Led Zeppelin : the wiki!




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