Led Zeppelin at their peak. From left to right: John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, John Bonham and Jimmy Page.
Oh, pilot of the storm who leaves no trace
Like thoughts inside a dream
Who hid the path that led me to that place
Of yellow desert screen
My Shangri-La beneath the summer moon
I will return again
Sure as the dust that floats high in June
When movin' through Kashmir
—"Kashmir", 4:37 through 5:13
Thank you for making us the world's number one band.
—Melody Maker advertisement for the release of Led Zeppelin III
The one, the only, the hammer of the Gods.
Long story short: Led Zeppelin
formed in 1968 after The Yardbirds
disintegrated and Jimmy Page recruited three other lads to satisfy contractual obligations for The Yardbirds, naming themselves The New Yardbirds
. The band was originally to be a Supergroup
consisting of Page, Jeff Beck, Nicky Hopkins on piano, Keith Moon and John Entwistle
, and possibly with Donovan as lead vocalist. They actually recorded one song (but with John Paul Jones on bass instead, because Entwistle couldn't make the session) called "Beck's Bolero", which made its way onto Jeff Beck Group's Truth
. The group never amounted to more, as Entwistle and Moon allegedly said it would go over "like a lead balloon". After Chris Dreja threatened legal action, Page—remembering Moon and Entwistle's quote—changed the name from The New Yardbirds to Led Zeppelin. They went on to release many albums, tour heavily, become one of the most successful and famous bands in Rock & Roll
, help pioneer Heavy Metal
, and generally rock so hard as to blow people's minds and inspire them to form bands of their own. They broke up in 1980 after drummer John Bonham asphyxiated on vomit after a day of binge alcoholism. They were famously trashed at first by critics in The Seventies
but gained a huge fanbase, and those critics (particularly Rolling Stone
magazine) have since reversed themselves
and realized that, hey, Led Zeppelin are awesome after all.
The band have written their fair share of famous classic hard rock songs that sometimes get overplayed like hell on AOR/"classic rock" radio for new generations to get annoyed, such as: "Dazed And Confused" (totalcover!
), "Whole Lotta Love" (coveras well!
), "Heartbreaker"/"Living Loving Maid", "Immigrant Song", "Black Dog", "Rock And Roll", "Stairway To Heaven" (the intro belonged to an earlier song!
), "When the Levee Breaks" (cover too!
), "Kashmir" and "Trampled Under Foot". Don't peg them as simple noise-merchants, though, because their discography's really varied and sometimes experimental, ranging from Blues Rock
and acoustic Folk Rock
to Eastern-influenced material, Funk
, Progressive Rock
and weirder. They're widely respected for their superior musical abilities, eclectic tastes, and legendary concerts and well-known for their infamous exploits (such as the "shark episode
"), among others. Also, pretty much any rock and metal band formed since owes them at least a bit, whether they admit to it or not.
But, as with every mega-successful and influential band, there are downsides. Negative marks on their record include Page's habit of lifting lyrics from old blues songs without credit
(which led to the occasional lawsuits), his occasionally-embarrassing lyrics (they referenced Lord of the Rings
about thirty years before the movies
made it cool to do that
), the band inevitably allowing success to go to their heads and descending into overblown excess post-1975, and the infamous 1976 Rockumentary
film The Song Remains the Same
, commonly cited as one of the worst concert films ever
, thanks to the sub-par performances and self-indulgent fantasy sequences
. Also to be mentioned is their continued refusal to allow their songs into rhythm games such as Guitar Hero
and Rock Band
. Although, if you're going to risk severely cramping your hand attempting a Jimmy Page solo, you might as well play the real notes on an actual guitar.
Principal Members (Founding members in bold):
- John Baldwin (John Paul Jones) - bass, keyboard, mandolin, ukulele, guitars, sitar, cello, recorder, piano, organ, vocals (1968-1980, 1985, 1988, 1995, 2007)
- John Bonham - drums, percussion, vocals, timpani (1968-1980, died 1980)
- Jimmy Page - guitar, vocals, theremin (1968-1980, 1985, 1988, 1995, 2007)
- Robert Plant - lead vocals, harmonica (1968-1980, 1985, 1988, 1995, 2007)
- 1976 - The Song Remains the Same note
- 1990 - Profiled
- 1997 - BBC Sessions
- 2003 - How The West Was Won note
- 2012 - Celebration Day note
- 1970 - "Immigrant Song" note / "Hey, Hey, What Can I Do?"
"Gotta whole lotta tropes:"Music Tropes:Misc. Tropes:
- The Alcoholic: Bonzo could drink an absurd amount. On the night he died, he reportedly drank 30 screwdrivers (vodka and orange juice).
- All Drummers Are Animals: Keith Moon may be considered the quintessential example of this, but Keith just trashed hotel rooms. Bonzo trashed people.
- Appropriated Appellation: Led Zeppelin got their name when Keith Moon and John Entwistle suggested that a supergroup with them, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck, would "go down like a lead balloon".
- Artistic License – Geography: The scenery described in "Kashmir" has nothing to do with the region in India. According to Robert Plant, the lyrics were inspired by a drive through the deserts of Southern Morocco. Kashmir was merely an attractive far-off place he wanted to visit.
- Author Vocabulary Calendar: If you had a dollar for every single time Robert Plant says "baby", you would never have to work another day.
- Badass Beard: Their manager Peter Grant. Also Bonham.
- Batman Gambit: Jimmy Page had the length of "How Many More Times" erroneously listed as 3:23 on the back cover of their first album (it's actually 8:26) in order to trick radio stations into playing it.
- Control Freak: Almost everybody in or near the band, to various degrees...
- Jimmy, for being sole producer and even admitting he changed engineers for the first three albums just to make it clear he was the architect of the band's sound. A good example of this would be the recording of "You Shook Me" as described by Jimmy:
Later, when we recorded "You Shook Me", I told the engineer, Glyn Johns, that I wanted to use backwards echo on the end. He said, "Jimmy, it can't be done." I said, "Yes, it can. I've already done it." Then he began arguing, so I said, "Look, I'm the producer. I'm going to tell you what to do, and just do it." So he grudgingly did everything I told him to, and when we were finished he started refusing to push the fader up so I could hear the result. Finally, I had to scream, "Push the bloody fader up!" And lo and behold, the effect worked perfectly.
- Manager Peter Grant, the big intimidating former wrestler who traveled with the band at all times, remained in charge through the chaos of touring, negotiated their contract with Atlantic Records, had complete faith in them, and personally made sure that most of the profits from live performances went to the band—bootleggers and unauthorized photographers were lucky to get off with a stern talking-to. His most famous appearance was in the concert movie The Song Remains the Same, where he deployed a Cluster F-Bomb against a concert promoter who failed to stop illegal poster sales, and he was depicted in a fantasy sequence as a hitman alongside tour manager Richard Cole.
- The surviving band members were famous for rarely licensing their stuff for movies and TV shows (unless it involved Cameron Crowe, who was the only music journalist to ever give them positive reviews in Rolling Stone), and never for video games (Page at least in the latter case; Jones seems to be okay with it, as we know from the Them Crooked Vultures songs in Rock Band, and one of Plant's solo songs is in Grand Theft Auto V—which is not a rhythm game, but it's still a game for which a song by a Led member is licensed).
- Cool Old Guy: Robert, John, and Jimmy on Celebration Day. Two guys in their sixties and one nearly sixty and they proved they could still rock as hard as anybody out there today.
- Cosplay: John Bonham famously donned Alex DeLarge's gang attire during some shows of the band's 1975 North American tour.
- Dead Guy Junior: Jason Bonham took his father's place in the band for the few occasions they still play together.
- Follow the Leader: Try to name the number of rock bands (and noodling bedroom guitarists) this band hasn't inspired.
- Four-Temperament Ensemble: Plant is Choleric, Page is Melancholic, Bonham is Sanguine, and Jones is Phlegmatic.
- Funetik Aksent: On their manager Peter Grant's suggestion, they changed the spelling to "Led Zeppelin" to prevent "thick Americans" from pronouncing it "leed".
- I Am the Band: Subverted. Jimmy Page started the band, hired the other three members, wrote the bulk of the music, and produced all of the albums, so from an outside perspective it could have been seen as Jimmy starting a solo career after The Yardbirds. In truth, the four members were equals. When Bonham died they chose to disband rather than replace their fallen friend.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Aside from the title of "D'yer Mak'er", the cover of Led Zeppelin II manages to have an Incredibly Lame Visual Pun. The story goes like this: designer David Juniper, asked to just come up with something "interesting", took a photo of Manfred "The Red Baron" von Richthofen and his Flying Circus from the First World War, filtered it and airbrushed the band members' heads onto the bodies. All good. He then put in manager Peter Grant and tour manager Richard Cole's heads. So far so good. But then, you notice there's a woman on the cover too, namely actress Glynis Johns. You may ask what she has to do with Led Zeppelin. The answer is: bugger-all. She was just thrown on there because she has a similar name to Glyn Johns, who engineered the band's first album. One wonders why Juniper even bothered, since Glyn's brother Andy replaced him as engineer for II.
- Insult Backfire: Responding to a derisive remark that only potheads listened to Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page once famously said, "That's a relief, we were afraid the music would be too loud for stoned people."
- It Will Never Catch On: "This band will never work—it'll go over like a Lead Zeppelin!"
- Technically true, though: the Page-Beck-Hopkins-Entwistle-Moon lineup never did catch on.
- Long Runner Line Up: They never changed their lineup during their 12-year existence.
- Losing the Team Spirit: The band broke up after John Bonham's death.
- Mr. Fanservice: As seen in the above picture, Robert Plant typically performed wearing an open shirt and Painted-On Pants.
- Jimmy Page as well. In fact, both Plant and Page tend to be the two main subjects of epic squee-fests in general.
- Myspeld Rökband: They most likely popularized it. Word of God was that they wanted to make sure Americans would pronounce "Lead" like the heavy metal and not like the Zeppelin that is in the front.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Dorian Red Gloria, the fabulously gay art thief from From Eroica with Love, was physically modeled after Robert Plant. (Three of his subordinates in the Eroica gang are modeled after the other Zeppelin band members.)
- Noodle Incident: The mudshark incident. Depending on who you ask, during the band's stay at Seattle's Edgewater Hotel in 1969, one or more members of the band and/or crew sodomized one or more groupies with one or more fish and/or mudsharks, living or dead, which the band had just caught while fishing off their balcony. It became infamous enough to be spoofed by Frank Zappa on his Live Album Fillmore East, June 1971.
- Painted-On Pants: Plant's trademark attire. Little wonder that his "girly whine" is his other trademark...
- Pop-Cultural Osmosis
- Punny Name
- Rich Bitch: "Stairway to Heaven" is about one. Probably.
- Self Plagiarism: Jimmy Page took many late Yardbirds songs and reworked them. "Tangerine", for example, is an almost note-by-note copy of "Knowing That I'm Losing You", an unreleased Yardbirds track from just before they broke up.
- Serious Business: Allegations of plagiarism plus the occasional Fan Dumb equals not very fun indeed.
- Spinning Paper: In the band's movie The Song Remains the Same; "Led Zeppelin Robbed of $203k".
- Spiritual Successor: To The Yardbirds.
- Stage Name: The real name of John Paul Jones is John Baldwin.
- Two-Faced Aside: Led Zeppelin's early albums featured quite a few songs where they basically copied lyrics and/or riffs from older blues songs. Then Jimmy Page sued rapper Schoolly D for doing the same thing with "Kashmir". Then Page and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello recorded the same riffs for Puff Daddy's Godzilla (1998) single "Come With Me".
- Undignified Death: John Bonham died by choking on his own vomit.
- Villain Song: "Immigrant Song" is sung from the perspective of Viking invaders doing what they do best. Featuring the famous "battle cry" intro.
So now you'd better stop, and rebuild all your ruins,
For peace and trust can win the day despite of all your losing.
- The Walrus Was Paul: When Page and Plant were in concert one night, after Zeppelin broke up, someone in the audience shouted, "What does your symbol mean, Jimmy?" To which Plant replied, "Frying tonight!"
...and she's buying the stairway...to heaven...