05 Jun Why Led Zeppelin have Been Victimized by the World!
America’s many pushers of softer rock music are currently proclaiming the end of Led Zeppelin, and other dynamite-powered sock-rock acts such as Grand Funk Railroad, Bloodrock and Gypsy.
These anti-hard rock critics are pointing to the success of James Taylor (with a lone single and album Elton John, Cat Stevens and others, as evidence that gutsy rock is about to sink.
It s true that U.S. top 40 stations have recently begun to sound like middle-of-the- road (or adult) stations, but this is really no indication that hard rock is on the wane. Singles account for a mere 10% of the U.S. total sales on records, and the fact that top 40 stations are not too keen to program tough sounds like Led Zeppelin is really no indication of anything, other than the widening credibility gap between the top 40 programmer and his youth audience.
Ever since Led Zeppelin first blasted their way into North American music in early 1969, the critics have done their best to damn the English foursome. Their records are seldom reviewed by the prominent rock papers, and when they are reviewed, it is with caustic and demeaning phraseology. Despite sales in excess of 2-million copies on each of their three albums which is a record in itself — no group other than the Beatles has been able to stack up such huge sales figures in the U.S. — despite half-a-dozen SRO, attendance breaking tours, and despite what is undoubtedly the finest stage show in contemporary rock, the American media has done all it can to ignore Led Zeppelin.
This is especially true of the revered news magazines such as Time and Newsweek – whose atrocious coverage of the rock scene raises some serious doubts about the rest of their reporting on hard news. Time recently accorded James Taylor (or) more significantly the Taylor family) a front cover story.
Two years ago, the Band were given similar treatment. Yet neither (nor both combined) act has ever come close to approximating the tremendous success of Led Zeppelin.
The trouble with Led Zeppelin — at least as far as the media is concerned — is that the group plays very loud music with all the emphasis the Band so clearly lacked. There never was a louder, harder, or tougher group than Led Zeppelin, and to the grey-haired ears of the news magazine’s music critics, it was like water running off a duck’s back.
Nevertheless, Led Zeppelin has worn its popularity well. Guitarist Jimmy Page, bass player John Paul Jones, drummer “Bonzo” Bonham and singer Robert Plant are four of the straightest and nicest guys in rock. There are no pretensions, no hype, no special show for the group’s few media friends.
Being with Led Zeppelin is like being with four of your friends. You just talk about whatever comes naturally.
Led Zeppelin were the forerunners of the word-of-mouth rock promotion route. The group’s first album. Led Zeppelin, sold its two million plus with no hit single and very little airplay. The reason for this was that the kids knew about Led Zeppelin without reading the rock journals or listening to the radio.
On the first U.S. tour (in February-March 1969) Led Zeppelin played every place that would have them – sometimes for as little as $750 a night. That is miniscule compared with the group’s current asking price of around $50,000 per performance.
Jimmy Page once told me that the purpose of Led Zeppelin was to simply play some good music and do a couple of American tours for expenses and a few hundred dollars bonus. There were never any grand plans of conquering the world, at least in the eyes of the band members.
The manager Peter Grant there was a different purpose. A giant of a man physically (he weighs around 300 pounds), Grant is no mental midget. Grant looked at the then current rock scene, noted that Cream was curdling and Jimi Hendrix was more hung up than a hammock, and saw that there were no real exponents of hard rock on the horizon.
Grant knew as well as anyone that the hard core rock audience is not interested in folk-oriented artists or C and W singers — what it wants is high energy rock. Led Zeppelin simply, and possible accidentally, slipped into the vacuum left by the departure of Cream and Hendrix.
The second tour cemented Led Zeppelin’s small but ardent following, and the second album brought about top 40 airplay on the group. A single from the album, Led Zeppelin II, sold a million copies. It was, of course, “Whole Lotta Love.”
By the time, “Whole Lotta Love” had reached its peak, Led Zeppelin were as well established in North America as motherhood or apple pie. And their fame had spread internationally — they quickly became the top groups in such places as Japan, Australia and Sweden. Gold records flowed in from all over the world.
The publishing royalties alone were worth millions. Manager Peter Grant once told me that Led Zeppelin’s major source of revenue was publishing. “There are no expenses,” he explained, “you just have a girl in an office to answer the phone and the money rolls in.”
This really means something when you consider that Led Zeppelin has received more than a million dollars from the Atlantic label on record royalties alone.
Such huge sums often bring complacency to rock stars. But not Led Zeppelin.
In its third album, the group attempted to change its image a shade. The hard rock numbers still went down, but there were also a couple of softer tracks — as if to show the critics that Led Zeppelin wasn’t all Marshall amplifiers and air splitting energy.
Led Zeppelin III also produced another million-selling hit single, “The Immigrant Song.”
Led Zeppelin — without Time or Newsweek or even Rolling Stone — have left a tidewater mark on the world of rock which no future tidal wave can ever wash away. They have demonstrated that the media is rapidly losing touch with what turns on the kids, and they have shown that hard rock will always have a place in the core of contemporary music.
The group is currently working on its fourth album for summer release, and getting ready for yet another U.S. tour. There are also plans for a world tour, which would take in Europe, Japan and Australia.
The people who have long hoped that Led Zeppelin would just die or fade away have a lot more waiting to do. Far from being burst, the Led Zeppelin bubble may be only just beginning, at least on the global scene. And that, according to Marshall McLuhan, is where it really matters.