Jimmy Page is often named as one the best guitarists and Led Zeppelin often appears in the top of Best Bands lists. Led Zeppelin is without a doubt one of the best music groups ever to perform.
In 1966 a 22 year old Jimmy Page joined Jeff Beck’s group The Yardbirds. When Page first joined the group he replaced Paul Samwell-Smith as the bass player, but he soon changed to electric guitar, along with Beck, giving the band a dual guitar sound.
In July of 1968 members of The Yardbirds decided they no longer wanted to perform. Since they had agreed to do several more shows they gave Jimmy Page and Chris Deja, bassist for the Yardbirds, permission to perform under their name to complete the concerts. This is when Robert Plant, John Bonham and John-Paul Jones became part of the line-up. Deja left the band to become a photographer and we had the beginnings of Led Zeppelin who were known as The New Yardbirds at the time.
There are variations on the story of how the band came up with the name Led Zeppelin. According to the most commonly told story John Entwistle and Keith Moon had said that a group with such a line-up would go down like a lead zeppelin, meaning they would fail. The group decided to use the phrase as their name. Peter Grant, the band’s manager, suggested that they remove the “a” from Lead to prevent Americans from mispronouncing it.
In November of 1968 Grant signed the band to a deal with Atlantic Records for $200,000.00 which at that time was the biggest contract ever given to a new band.
Led Zeppelin was in the right place at the right time as Atlantic Records had been looking for a new British rock band to promote. Dusty Springfield recommended Led Zeppelin to Atlantic Records executives and they signed them without having seen or heard the band!
Led Zeppelin played their first live concert together at the University of Surrey in the UK on October 15, 1968 and then went on to tour in the United States. Their first concert in the U.S. was in Denver Colorado on December 26, 1968. What a great Christmas present that must have been and wouldn’t we all have loved to been there?
In January of 1969 Led Zeppelin recorded their first album, the self titled Led Zeppelin, while they were still amidst their first U.S. concert tour.
During their first year as a band Led Zeppelin toured the UK and the U.S. four times each and recorded two albums, Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II. Led Zeppelin II quickly went to the top of the charts in both countries.
During the first years of the 1970s the band’s style and showmanship evolved into what became know as the Biggest Rock Band in the World. Band members began to wear unusual, fancy, intricate and even feminine looking clothing and engage in theatrics. Soon band members from other groups followed ‘suit’ and attempted to be more flamboyant than the rest.
The band was also well known for it’s offstage craziness and excess. They traveled in their own private jet which they called Starship and often took up complete floors and sections of the best hotels for their parties. They gained a reputation for trashing expensive hotel suites and tossing things like televisions and chairs out the window. Naturally, the damages had to be paid for, but the band didn’t care -they were having fun.
When Led Zeppelin recorded their Led Zeppelin IV LP they wanted to come up with an original cover that would prove a point. Many writers in the media referred to Led Zeppelin as being over rated and even said that the public would buy their records regardless of the quality just because of their famous name. Each member came up with a symbol and the four symbols were printed on the cover. There was no mention of Led Zeppelin on the cover. They did this to prove to the world that their music alone could sell itself.
Led Zeppelin IV included the masterpiece Stairway to Heaven which is often cited as the most caller requested song on rock radio. Oddly enough Stairway to Heaven was never released as a single. Over 23 million copies of Led Zeppelin IV have been sold in the U.S. alone.
During the late 1970s the band experienced problems. In 1977 Plant’s son died. Eventually Page began to use heroin more heavily and disagreements about musical taste and direction arose among the members. In 1980 Bonham died and that was the final straw for Led Zeppelin.
Written by Connie Corder Copyright BestOfAllTopics 2010
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