Zeppelin 1: The First Album Is Really Roaring!

Forty five years after the release of Led Zeppelin I, some elements still stand out. There’s a sense of urgency and danger bouncing off a compelling mix of disciplined experience and nervous sloppiness. “The first album is really roaring, the four members came together and created this fifth monster!” Jimmy Page told Uncut magazine in May 2005. Page always had a strong vision for Led Zeppelin – the music, the approach, even marketing ideas like no official singles. Years of doing sessions had taught him the right and wrong ways of making great music. It was to be a heavy blues trio, with a powerful drummer and a singer who used his voice as another instrument. But what made Zeppelin I compelling was that the lineup that made it was a far cry from the experienced players that Page initially considered. Page had considered singers as Steve Winwood and Steve Marriott (the Small Faces’ manager Don Arden reportedly sent a message back asking how Page would feel about playing guitar with some of his fingers broken), drummers like Keith Moon and Aynsley Dubar, and bassists as The Who’s John Entwistle and Chris Dreja of The Yardbirds. Page was enchanted with Terry Reid’s voice on his River album. But he turned down the offer and suggested an unknown teenager Robert Plant from Birmingham. Page, Dreja and manager Peter Grant journeyed up to see him with his band Hobstweedle. They knocked on the backstage door. A big made teenager in a University of Toronto sweatshirt let them in. Page whispered to his manager, “Crikey, they got a big roadie!” It turned... read more

Hi Res

It’s 40 years since the release of Houses of the Holy – wow! Where did that time go? There was a period spanning less than two decades that spawned some remarkable bands and a treasure trove of talent, music and memories. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Supertramp, Yes, Genesis, ELO, Emerson Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Traffic – the list goes on. Not surprisingly this period was also the golden years of Hi-Fi. A Hi-Fi system was a status symbol – the bigger the better. We keenly anticipated the latest release from our favourite bands, and we shared and talked music. The last couple of decades have not been kind to the ‘audiophile’ industry. This is partly due to our attention being diverted by other interests such as computer games and video, and by a gradual erosion of quality due to the release of poorer performance playback formats. While it is still a controversial subject most people (including myself) still hold that the release of the CD was a backward step in terms of sound quality. There is no argument that MP3 was a giant step backwards. If we continue to release formats that no longer reproduce the emotion and the excitement in music it is only natural that people lose interest and look elsewhere for their entertainment. I believe that this is all about to change. We are entering the age of streaming, and of High Resolution download. The last couple of years have seen remarkable advances in this technology. Today it is common for people to store their music on a hard... read more

A Whole Lotta Love

Australia’s own Whole Lotta Love Led Zeppelin celebration will hit their tenth anniversary this year. Helmed by proven and highly capable director Joseph Calderazzo, Australian Guitar’s Paul Southwell managed to chat to the busy man about all things Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin has such a vast back catalogue. How do you pick and choose songs? That is really hard and to get that right I think we’d need to do three nights. It is only a two and a half hour show. We’d probably get about 19 songs in as some are quite long. It comes down to picking the song that is most representative of particular styles like folk with “The Battle Of Evermore” to being kind of pressured into doing “Stairway To Heaven”. We have to do “Kashmir” and then “The Rain Song”. We use strings in the last half and that takes it to a different level within the journey. It is only three strings but it is just enough. There is a lot of great string stuff with Zeppelin such as “Four Sticks” and of course “The Rain Song”. We try to cover all of the elements that made Zeppelin what they were. Have there been any copyright issues with Zep’s management? No, it is just a cover band so there have been no issues. At a theatre level we have to pay APRA, we have to list the songs we are doing, they take a percentage of the box office and that goes back to the writers. If you are playing it in a pub, you don’t have to worry about that because there is... read more

Jimmy Page Signature Les Paul Guitars

Most guitar collectors, or guitar lovers, will be familiar with the ones that Jimmy Page is famous for playing throughout his illustrious career, especially in his Led Zeppelin days: One being his Gibson SG Double Neck, as used on “Stairway to Heaven”, and another being his Fender Telecaster with Fender Showman amp used on the first Led Zeppelin Album. But over time Jimmy’s own favourite guitar became his 1959 sunburst Gibson Les Paul Standard that he bought from Joe Walsh of The Eagles in 1969. The first series of Jimmy Page Limited Edition Signature guitars was produced by Gibson USA from 1995 to 1998 as a replica of his favourite instrument. The project began with Gibson’s luthiers measuring and analysing every aspect of Jimmy’s 1959 Les Paul. They discovered heavy customising and unique characteristics including an unusual hand carved neck profile, that is thinner at the 7th fret than the first whilst becoming fatter at the 12th fret again, and modified electronics allowing each of the four control knobs, two volume and two tone, to be pulled out or pushed in – putting the pickups in and out of phase, series or parallel them and make the humbuckers single coil as well – which enabled some extraordinary tone options. Various combinations create some of Jimmy’s unique sounds. To replicate the physical characteristics of Jimmy’s guitar Gibson’s luthiers, skilled from an age gone by, carved the neck and body profile to be exactly the same. Each guitar was hand painted individually with a true dark red that perfectly matches Jimmy’s and the authentic flame finish was kept subtle and elegant,... read more

Houses Of The Holy Turns 40

The commercial and critical success of Led Zeppelin IV changed Led Zeppelin’s fortunes forever. In the early ‘70s, they – and only they – stood alongside The Rolling Stones as the greatest rock and roll band in the world. IV went on to sell 32 million copies worldwide. It sold 23 million in the United States alone, making it the third biggest seller of all time there. Stairway To Heaven, despite never being released as a single in the U.S. (unlike in Australia) was the most played track on FM radio during that decade. To say that the pressure was on for Led Zeppelin, when they first gathered to start recording the follow up in early 1972, would be a total understatement. “But we did not let it get in the way,” Jimmy Page recalled. “My main goal was to just keep rolling. It is very dangerous to try and duplicate yourself. I will not name any names, but I am sure you have heard bands that endlessly repeat themselves. After four or five albums they just burn up. With us, you never knew what was coming.” That explains the abandon and excitement on Houses Of The Holy. They had never made a record like that before. Led Zeppelin’s life was on the road. So it was inevitable that they would sing about the spiritual nature of their shows in ‘houses of the holy’ to their ‘ocean’ of fans. In The Ocean, the three year old girl who won Robert Plant’s heart was his daughter Carmen. Through the years, he would change the lyric onstage to reflect Carmen’s age.... read more

Led Zeppelin IV: Runes On The Board

By Christine Eliezer The session for what became “Four Sticks” were hard going. Led Zeppelin, now selling out concerts around the world, wanted to stretch themselves on their fourth record. Frustrated, John Bomham grabbed a second pair of sticks and hit his kit with all four sticks to get the hard sound he wanted. The session ground to a halt. To loosen the tension, Bomham mischievously kicked into the intro of Little Richard’s “Good Golly Miss Molly.” Jimmy Page started to play the riff and Robert Plant improvised the words. It was the “spontaneous combustion” (described Page) that marked Led Zeppelin IV. That jam fell in a heap after 12 bars. But the tape was running, and when Page went back to work on it realized there was something special. It became the album’s opener “Rock And Roll”. They brought in Rolling Stones collaborator Ian Stewart to play piano (uncredited). Another track cut around then with Stewart, “Boogie With Stu”, later saw light on Physical Graffiti. Led Zeppelin IV turned Zeppelin from premier rock band to household names. It was a happy medium between the hard rock of the first two albums and the British folk that dominated Led Zeppelin III and led to scathing criticisms. Page agreed, “We were really playing properly as a group. I must say that when you had four musicians that were really without doubt at the top of their game there and they played really superbly as a band and that whole aspect took on a fifth element — this alchemy of it that was really ripe for creation.” IV was recorded in... read more

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