On this date in 1968, former Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, and session musicians John Paul Jones and John Bonham played together for the first time, rehearsing in a West End studio space in London, England. The first song they played together was a version of "Train Kept A-Rollin," a song written by bluesman Tiny Bradshaw that had been kicking around dance halls and rock shows since 1951.
Obviously, the band would go on to change the face of heavy rock for the rest of time as they moved on from that first rehearsal. They are constantly gaining new devotees even today, with kids whose grandparents were original fans, still discovering their albums and songs like "Stairway To Heaven" on classic-rock radio.
The makeup of the group, the mighty Bonham on sticks, Plant the banshee out front, the quiet mastermind in Jones, and the demonic guitars of Page, still manages to inform hevay metal and blues-rock. Look at bands like The Sword, Wolfmother and the collected works of Jack White. All touched by the hands of the band.
But there things you may not know about the band's career, which we have collected here. If you are a super-fan or an avid reader of the plethora of Zep books on the market, like Hammer of the Gods, you no doubt know all of this by heart like your email password and your mother's birth date.
Jimmy Page has said that the first self-titled Led Zeppelin album only took 35 hours to produce and mix, and cost £1,750 to produce, including the artwork. That's roughly $2,800 at today's exchange rate.
Jimmy Page is credited, or actually credits himself, with creating reverse echo as a studio device while recording a Yardbirds song in 1967. As Page says, "I said, "Look, turn the tape over and employ the echo for the brass on a spare track. Then turn it back over and we'll get the echo preceding the signal. The result was very interesting. It made the track sound like it was going backwards." You can hear this on "Whole Lotta Love" and "You Shook Me," and the most every rock album from there on out.
The band's 1976 album Presence was recorded in just three weeks in a Munich studio, with Robert Plant singing from a wheelchair. He had been injured in a car wreck and was convalescing in France and Malibu, Calif. If you read Zep road manager Richard Cole's book, Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored, he describes the great pain that Plant was in at the time, from the physical injuries and missing his young family in England.
Chris Dreja was the bassist in the Yardbirds, Page's first group, and he was to be the bassist of The New Yardbirds, but he declined Page's offer and instead went into a career in photography. John Paul Jones would take his place. He took the band photo of Zep on the back of their first album.
"Stairway To Heaven" is the only song to have its lyrics inside the sleeve of Led Zeppelin's fourth album, Led Zeppelin IV, or ZOSO, or "The Runes," or whatever the hell you feel like calling it.
At the beginning of "Immigrant Song," the weird series of clipped noises are the sounds of the count in and the tapes beginning to record the tracks for the song. We always thought it was a bad rip when we first heard it online when we were young. It also shows how crude, but beautiful, the band's recording techniques were.
On "The Rain Song," "Over The Hills and Far Away," "Ten Years Gone," "The Crunge," and "Dancing Days," you can hear drummer John Bonham's squeaky drum pedals on each cut. We checked each track, and yes, the people who spent time listening to Zep songs just for the squeaks really like drugs.
On "The Ocean" from Houses of the Holy, you can hear a phone audibly ringing about 1:38 into the song.
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When Physical Graffiti was released, all five of Zeppelin's previous albums reentered the record charts, making them the first band to have six albums chart at one time. In Rocks Off's humble opinion, Physical Graffiti is the hardest and funkiest Zep album ever, and the one we would take onto a desert island with Emma Stone and Christina Hendricks.
Bonham was Page's second choice for the band's drummer, as B.J. Wilson from Procol Harum was originally tapped as the skinsman. We shudder to think of how quiet and shitty the band would have been without Bonzo behind the kit. We more than likely wouldn't be writing this blog. Some of you wouldn't be alive, since we are sure at least a few of you were conceived with the help of a Zep album.