Led Zeppelin Climbs Before Its First LP

Led Zeppelin Climbs Before Its First LP

January 11, 1969, Globe and Mail

Much to their surprise—and delight—record companies have discovered that they can sell stacks of albums without getting once-vital radio exposure. They have even found that they can sell a groups LP even if it has never made a record.

The truth of this unlikely situation is borne out by the orders for the first album by Led Zeppelin, a new English group headed by guitarist Jimmy Page.

Although the LP is still more than four weeks away from its release date in the United States, it reportedly is much in demand in California, with orders for more than 50,000 copies.

How can a group command this kind of attention when most people have not even heard of the album? The answer seems to lie with the popularity of individual musicians.

In the case of the Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page is the attraction. The 23-year-old former art student is known for his stints as bass guitarist with the Yardbirds, and later as the groups lead guitarist.

Although the Yardbirds have split up, their influence continues. Between the Yardbirds’ breakup and the formation of Led Zeppelin in October, Page worked as a recording session musician. One of his more memorable efforts was the guitar gymnastics on Joe Cocker’s single “With A Little Help From My Friends”

“I only did a few session, because I didn’t want to fall into the trap of playing on every disc coming out in England,” Page said from Los Angeles, where the group has started a North American tour.

“Since I split from the Yardies, I’ve been searching around for some guys for a new group, the right group.” The standing ovations received by Led Zeppelin at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles indicate that Page’s search may be over.

Led Zeppelin’s other members are: John Paul Jones, 23, on bass, organ, and piano; drummer John Bonham, 20, who played with Tim Rose; singer, Robert Plant, 21, a former member of the Band of Joy.

The name, Led Zeppelin?

“Keith Moon, of the Who, thought it up,” said Page. “You know the expression about a bad joke going over like a lead balloon. It’s a variation on that; and there is a little of the Iron Butterfly light-and-heavy music connotations.”

Led Zeppelin landed in Denver two weeks ago, starting a two-month tour that brings them to Toronto’s Rock Pile on Feb. 12.

“The reaction has been unbelievable so far,” said Page, who is recovering from a bout of Hong Kong flu. “It’s even better than what we got with the Yardbirds. It’s really exciting to be back on the concert trail.

“My original concept was to put together a group in which every one was proficient enough to be able to take a solo at any time, and it’s worked.

“We cut the album at Olympic Studios in London early in November. It’s all original material, except two numbers: ‘You Shook Me,’ a traditional blues, and ‘I Can’t Quit You, Baby,’ the old Otis Rush thing.”

The album, simply titled Led Zeppelin, will be released later this month. I obtained a copy from New York this week. The LP seems to live up to claims that Led Zeppelin will be the next super ground in the United States. 

It’s a mixture of heavy, earthy blues (“I learned a lot from B. B. King, Otis Rush, and Buddy Guy: I used to listen to their records over and over, and then try to play exactly like that”) and wailing psychedelia.

It’s not quite as free-flowing as Cream, but in the process of adding more instrumentation and vocal harmonies, Led Zeppelin has emerged with a positive, driving, distinctive sound.

Pages guitarwork skims across the melody with a simple joy. Jones’s organ rhythms are forceful and invigorating. The whole is a rare pop experience. Unlike many groups, Led Zeppelin has managed to maintain simplicity while striving for depth.

I find this the best debut album by a group since the 1967 release of Are You Experienced? by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

“I’m really happy to be back into it,” said Page. “There’s room for everything on the scene; you don’t have to follow any bandwagons. You just get out there and do your own thing.

“It’s a good period for guitarists. I think every good guitarist has something unique to say musically. My only ambition now is to keep a consistent record product coming out.

“Too many groups sit back after the first album, and the second one is a down trip. I want every new album to reach out farther. That’s what I’m doing here.”