Top 10... - July 31, 2015

10 Things You Didn't Know About... Led Zeppelin
by James
James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

10 Things You Didn't Know About... Led Zeppelin

As any avid Led Zeppelin fan will no doubt already be aware, the last few months have seen all nine of the legendary four-piece's classic albums reissued, each with a companion disc of bonus material including previously unreleased tracks and alternative versions of some of their best-known tracks.

June 2014 saw the re-releases of Led Zeppelin I, II and III, with Led Zeppelin IV and Houses of the Holy coming later in October and a re-issue of Physical Graffiti arriving in February this year. This Friday (July 31st) the final wave of reissues - including Presence, In Through the Out Door and Coda – arrives in stores and, as with the earlier reissues, each comes in a variety of formats. These range from single CD / vinyl editions featuring remastered versions of the albums to  'super deluxe' box sets which include the albums and bonus material on all formats, as well as extra goodies like hardback books, sleeve inserts and alternate 'negative' versions of the albums' cover artwork.

As with the earlier reissues, the final three albums and their bonus material have been curated by the band's guitarist Jimmy Page and while the 'super deluxe' editions are likely to appeal to the most hardcore fans, the companion discs issued with each release do contain some previously unheard gems. The best of these include a previously unreleased track recorded in 1968 during the sessions for Led Zeppelin I entitled 'Sugar Mama' and a faster version of what would become 'When The Levee Breaks' under the working title of 'If It Keeps On Raining', both of which appear on the companion disc for Coda.

Even now, more than 30 years after the group disbanded, the myths and stories surrounding Led Zeppelin prevail and as one of the most written about bands in history, it can be difficult to separate facts from fiction, but we went digging around and unearthed ten of the lesser known facts about one of the world's most famous rock bands...

 

Robert Plant recorded most of Presence while in a wheelchair...

Just before the recording of their seventh album, Plant was involved in a pretty serious car accident while holidaying the Greek island of Rhodes. After the accident caused the band to cancel their planned world tour, Jimmy Page decided they should take the opportunity to record their next album. The sessions were a fairly miserable experience for the singer, who was also struggling with homesickness as well as his injuries, and as he later explained to biography author Chris Welch: “I was furious with Page and Peter Grant.”

 

Jimmy Page played guitar on The Who's 'I Can't Explain' and The Kinks' 'You Really Got Me'...

It's a well-known fact that Led Zeppelin's guitarist had spent years working as a session musician and for years rumours have persisted that it was Page, not Kinks guitarist Dave Davies, that played the guitar solo on their breakthrough single. However, producer Shel Talmy, who recorded the track, says people have it the wrong way around: “Jimmy Page did not play the solo on ‘You Really Got Me,’ which I’ve said about 5,000 times to people who insist that he did. The reason I used Jimmy on the Kinks stuff is because Ray didn’t really want to play guitar and sing at the same time. In fact, Jimmy was playing rhythm guitar.”

Conversely, Page does play lead on The Who's 'I Can't Explain', as confirmed by Roger Daltrey in a 2013 interview with Howard Stern: “He played lead guitar; he played the solo, I think because it was done live, basically, and to do the chops and the solo at the same time — something has to drop out. It just kept the continuity of it going.”

 

Led Zeppelin I isn't the first album to feature all four members playing together...

That honour in fact belongs PJ Proby's 1969 album Three Week Hero, which featured Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones performing as the band's rhythm section, with Robert Plant playing harmonica.  The album wasn't a commercial success but, incidentally, did include two tracks that were co-written by Albert Hammond, father of The Strokes' guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.

 

Jimmy Page wanted Small Faces singer Steve Marriott to be Led Zeppelin's lead vocalist...

Not only was Robert Plant not Jimmy Page's first choice when recruiting the band's vocalist, he wasn't second choice either. Page initially wanted to recruit Small Faces singer Steve Marriott, but this didn't go down too well with their manager, Don Arden – father to Sharon Osbourne and a notoriously ruthless  impresario with links to the Mafia dubbed 'the Al Capone of the music industry'. Arden penned a letter in response suggesting that Page wouldn't be able to play his guitar so well with broken fingers...

Taking the hint, Page approached Terry Reid instead, but having just committed to touring with Cream as their opening act, Reid suggested Page try out his friend and fellow Birmingham resident Plant after being impressed by one of his recent performances.

 

Some of their merchandise is worth more than their records...

If you happen to own one of the T-shirts from Led Zeppelin's 1979 Knebworth shows, whatever you do, don't throw it out or take it down to the charity shop... at least not unless you're feeling really, really generous. The garment in question, which also doubled as a backstage pass for the gigs, is extremely rare and in 2011 one sold on eBay for an eye-watering $10,000.

 

The symbols featured on Led Zeppelin IV have nothing to do with Satan...

Led Zeppelin's links to the occult are well documented and Jimmy Page is known to have been fascinated with the work of Aleister Crowley, even purchasing his former home, Boleskine, on the shores of Loch Ness. However, the decision to use four symbols to represent each member of the band instead of photographs or text was a reaction to the music press continually labelling the band as 'over-hyped', the idea being that the music would then speak for itself.

However, as a result of the band's reputation, rumours circulated that the symbols were related to devil worship, when in reality the truth is far less sinister. Plant's symbol (the circled feather) is a reference to Ma'at, the ancient Egyptian goddess of truth, while Jones' symbol was chosen at random from Rudolph Koch's Book of Signs and Bonham's three interlocking circles were rumoured to represent the union of man, woman and child (although Plant once commented that it was just an upside down version of the Bannatyne Beer logo). Both Plant and Jones claim that Page once explained to them the meaning of his 'Zoso' symbol, but Plant says he was so intoxicated he couldn't remember the conversation and Jones only had the vague recollection that it had “something to do with Saturday”. It was however known to be used in the 16th Century to represent the planet Saturn, which makes sense given Jones' account.

 

They were the first band to have six albums in the charts at the same time...

When Led Zeppelin released their sixth album Physical Graffiti in 1975, all five of their previous albums shot back into the charts, making them the first band in history to have their entire back catalogue in the charts at any one time.

 

John Paul Jones almost quit the band to become a choirmaster...

Despite the above feat, Physical Graffiti almost didn't happen, at least not with the full line-up. Fatigued from incessant touring, bassist Jones was on the verge of quitting the band and taking up a position at Winchester Cathedral as a choirmaster.

 

Eva von Zeppelin threatened to sue them...

One person who definitely wasn't a fan of the band's music was Countess Eva von Zeppelin, a descendent of Ferdinand von Zeppelin, inventor of the famous airships that bore their family name. The Countess once described the band as “shrieking monkeys” after a 1969 concert in Copenhagen and even threatened to sue them over the use of her family name, as well as trying to block an appearance by the band on Danish television.

In an attempt to smooth things over, von Zeppelin was invited to meet the band at the TV studio, but this made things worse when she saw the cover of their first album featuring the burning Hindenburg airship. An enraged Countess subsequently tried to stop them from returning to Denmark the following year and, in a rare concession by manager Peter Grant, the band agreed to temporarily change their name, performing the Denmark shows under the name 'The Nobs'.

 

Robert Plant credits Wolverhampton Wanderers with keeping his ego from getting out of control...

Given that he was the frontman for the biggest band in the world for most of the 1970s, Robert Plant could perhaps be forgiven for buying into his own hype, but unlike many rock stars of his era Plant has always remained relatively level-headed about his fame, something he puts down to being to being football fan. As he told the Birmingham Post in 1998: “It was only when you came off tour that you found yourself thinking, 'I'm not sure if I like the size of all this, it's crazy, I'll get away from it all and go to the match.' That was my panacea, standing in the South Bank at Molineux with my meat pie and mug of Bovril. That was my way of unwinding. One day I'd be standing on a hotel balcony in Spain raising my fists to heaven and declaring thatI was a golden god. The next, I'd be standing on the terraces in the rain watching Wolves get hammered. That sort of thing helps give you a sense of perspective.”

 

Led Zeppelin's albums Coda, Presence and In Through The Out Door are reissued today. Click here to find more details in our online store. 

Coda
Coda Led Zeppelin

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