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"Oh pilot of the storm who leaves no trace
—"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 Jimmy Page recruited three other lads for a new band to satisfy contractual obligations for The Yardbirds (which Page had joined in 1966 and almost immediately assumed control of after their guitarist Jeff Beck left in late '66). The band was originally to be a Supergroup consisting of Page, Jeff Beck, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and Keith Moon and John Entwistle of The Who and possibly with Donovan as lead vocalist. They actually recorded one song (but with John Paul Jones on bass instead) 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". Led Zeppelin, once formed, went on to release many albums, tour heavily, become one of the most successful and famous bands in Rock and 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 realised 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" (cover!), "Whole Lotta Love", "Heartbreaker"/"Living Loving Maid", "Immigrant Song", "Black Dog", "Rock and Roll", "Stairway to Heaven", "When the Levee Breaks" (cover too!), "Kashmir" and "Trampled Under Foot". Don't really 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 material. They're widely respected for their superior musical abilities, eclectic tastes, 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 Plant's habit of lifting lyrics from old blues songs without credit (which led to the occasional lawsuits), his occasionally embarassing 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.
- Jimmy Page - guitars, backing vocals, Record Producer
- Robert Plant - vocals, harmonica
- John Paul Jones (real name John Baldwin) - bass, keyboards, mandolin, ukulele, guitars, sitar, cello, recorder, backing vocals
- John Bonham - drums, percussion, backing vocals
- Jason Bonham (his son) played drums on the 2007 reunion
- January 1969 - Led Zeppelin
- October 1969 - Led Zeppelin II
- October 1970 - Led Zeppelin III
- November 1971 - Untitled (informally called Led Zeppelin IV, Four Symbols or ZoSo)
- March 1973 - Houses of the Holy
- February 1975 - Physical Graffiti
- March 1976 - Presence
- September 1976 - The Song Remains the Same (Live Album, recorded in 1973)
- August 1979 - In Through the Out Door
- 1982 - Coda
- 1997 - BBC Sessions (compilation of live radio performances, recorded 1969-1971)
- 2003 - How the West Was Won (live, recorded in 1973)
They provide examples of the following tropes:
- Black Sheep:
- While classic rock radio plays large chunks of I, II, IV and Houses of the Holy, for some strange reason, they don't play much from III, outside of "Immigrant Song" and the sadly excluded B-side "Hey Hey, What Can I Do?". Maybe "Gallows Pole", if you're lucky.
- Also, radio stations rarely ever play anything off of Presence.
- Black Sheep Hit: "Stairway to Heaven". Robert Plant once called it a "bloody wedding song".
- Careful with That Axe: Robert Plant, when he gets excited, tends to do this. One of the best recorded examples is his emotionally-charged scream near the end of "I'm Gonna Crawl".
- Chronological Album Title: Led Zeppelin II and III officially, and IV unofficially.
- Distinct Double Album: Physical Graffiti
- The Drifter: Song-wise, Plant has often mentioned that he has to leave his girlfriend or some town or whatever because he has to "ramble on" or something like that, for example: "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You", "Ramble On", "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp", "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Going to California".
- Echoing Acoustics: Led Zeppelin IV was famously recorded in an old mansion, and has a massive, echoing sound as a result. This is especially noticeable with the huge drum sound on "When the Levee Breaks", which had its drum part recorded at the bottom of a stairwell with microphones positioned on the third floor landing.
- Epic Rocking: They have three songs that go over the ten-minute mark, and dozens of others that are at least five. Also, on their live album, The Song Remains The Same, except for the first few, every song is at least ten minutes long, including a version of "Dazed And Confused" that clocks in at twenty-seven minutes. One recording of "Dazed and Confused" sits at forty-five minutes. "Moby Dick", Bonham's face-melting drum solo, appears as a twenty minute piece on How The West Was Won, though it was known to go on longer. "Whole Lotta Love" often extended well past the ten-minute mark in concert as well, often as a blues/rockabilly medley.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Thank You".
- Filk Song: "The Battle of Evermore" is perhaps their best known one here, but it's without doubt that the group were fans of J.R.R. Tolkien.
- Four More Measures: "Tangerine".
- Gag Penis: "Gonna give you every inch of my love."
- Greatest Hits Album: They avoided releasing one for many years, finally breaking down in 1990 with the self-titled, Page-sequenced 4-CD box set. The ensuing two decades have seen several other compilation discs and sets.
- Grief Song: "All My Love" -- which was written on the death of Robert Plant's son, Karac.
- Heavy Meta: "Rock and Roll".
- Heavy Mithril: The Trope Maker.
- The Immodest Orgasm: Robert Plant has one during "Whole Lotta Love".
- Intercourse with You: A large portion of their songs are this.
- In the Style Of: "Trampled Underfoot" is a Led Zeppelin song in the style of Stevie Wonder (specifically, "Superstition"). "D'yer Maker" is a reggae song, and "The Crunge" is a funk song in the style of James Brown.
- Its Pronounced Tropay: There are apostrophes in "D'yer Mak'er" for a reason - it's not "Dire maker", it's "Jamaica". Jimmy says the title comes from a bad joke:
Guy: My wife's going on holiday in the Caribbean.
- The Jimmy Hart Version: Page was infamous for reworking old songs (mostly blues ones) and not crediting the original artist.
- Last-Note Nightmare: the abbreviated, crashing guitar squall of "When the Levee Breaks", the freakout section in the middle of "Whole Lotta Love".
- Lucky Charms Title: Technically, the name of Led Zeppelin IV is the symbols on the spine. It's just easier to say Untitled.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Hey Hey What Can I Do".
- Metal Scream: 'Immigrant Song' has an early one.
- Mind Screw: Many of Zeppelin's songs are strange. "Stairway To Heaven" is their most famous example. "Dancing Days", a song about taking a girl on a date, contains the line, I saw a lion/He was standing along/With a tadpole in a jar.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: All in all, Led Zeppelin's catalogue span the gamut from 1 to 7 - showing how versatile they were.
- 1 - Most of Led Zeppelin III
- 2 - In Through the Out Door, "Going to California"
- 3 - "Stairway to Heaven"
- 4 - Songs that contrast light and heavy, such as "What Is and What Should Never Be" and "Over the Hills and Far Away", as well as "Kashmir"
- 5 - Most of Led Zeppelin IV, "Out on the Tiles", "Immigrant Song"
- 6 - Most of Presence could go this high
- 7 - "Wearing and Tearing" from Coda
- New Sound Album: Basically, each album had a slightly different style from the previous -- but probably the most note-worthy is with Led Zeppelin III, where the band has actually experienced critical backlash for deviating from their blues-rock sound. Also, Houses of the Holy has a less raw sound from their previous albums. Then you have Presence and In Through The Out Door, which generally receive lower reviews than the rest of their catalogue.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Immigrant Song", "Out on the Tiles", "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp", "Hats Off To (Roy) Harper", "Black Dog", "The Battle of Evermore", "Four Sticks" "Over the Hills and Far Away", "The Crunge", "D'yer Mak'er", "The Rover", "Trampled Under Foot", "Boogie With Stu", "Black Country Woman", "Sick Again", "Candy Store Rock", "Hots on for Nowhere", "Tea for One", "Fool in the Rain," "Carouselambra", "Ozone Baby" and "Wearing and Tearing".
- One-Scene Wonder: Folk singer Sandy Denny duetting with Robert Plant on "The Battle of Evermore."
- For all their instrumental skills, Led Zeppelin plagiarized other songs on occasion without bothering to credit the original songwriters, which later resulted in either lawsuits ("Whole Lotta Love", "Bring It On Home", "Boogie With Stu" had their song credits altered as a result of them) or corrections ("Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" was mistakenly assumed by Page to be a traditional song but was contacted by its writer Anne Bredon, leading him to change the credits).
- "Bring It On Home", due to the intro and outro being an homage to Sonny Boy Williamson's song while the middle was actually an original Page/Plant composition, had to be split in two for How the West Was Won, with the middle part separated into its own song and renamed "Bring It On Back".
- Arguably the most notable bit of plagiarism was "Lemon Song", a song ripped off note for note from Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor". What makes this one particularly jarring is that, by the time it was recorded for Led Zeppelin II, the song was already a hit amongst the rock community, with it being covered by other famous acts of the period like Albert King, Electric Flag and Jimi Hendrix, with the latter using it to open his famous set at the Monterey International Pop Festival. It didn't help that the band even referred to the song by its original title at various points before recording it.
- Premature Encapsulation: Houses of the Holy, whose title track had to be held until their next release, Physical Graffiti.
- Protest Song: "When the Levee Breaks".
- Rearrange the Song: Turning old blues songs into massive rock-outs.
- Refrain From Assuming: "Rock and Roll" has the eponymous phrase in the verses, but the chorus is completely different.
- Repurposed Pop Song: "Rock and Roll".
- Sampling: Lots of people love the drum beat of "When the Levee Breaks".
- Scatting: "D'yer Mak'er" and "The Ocean".
- Self-Titled Album: Three of them.
- Most famously, the Lord of the Rings references in "Ramble On" and "The Battle of Evermore".
- The cover of Houses of the Holy is a depiction of the end of Arthur C. Clarke's Childhoods End.
- The Presence object, according to the band members, was an artistic depiction of the 2001 monoliths.
- In an example of a literal Shout-Out, Plant can be heard saying "Joni!" (Mitchell) on the live version of "Going to California" from How the West was Won. Fitting, considering the song was basically about how the band were big fans of Joni Mitchell.
- Also, the Pan imagery from Stairway to Heaven appears to be inspired by The Wind in the Willows.
- Siamese Twin Songs: "Heartbreaker" and "Living, Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)".
- Something Blues: "Travelling Riverside Blues".
- Song Style Shift: "Over the Hills and Far Away" starts out as an acoustic guitar folk ballad, and then it abruptly transitions into a faced-paced hard rock tune (with the acoustic guitar providing the rhythm), and then slows down into an echo-y finish.
- Spell My Name with an "S": They have two songs named after the Bron-Yr-Aur cottage where they recorded. One of them gets it right ("Bron-Yr-Aur"), but the other spells it wrong ("Bron-Y-Aur Stomp").
- Stairway to Heaven: Trope Namer, but subverted, as she's buying the stairway to heaven and does not Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence.
- The Something Song: "The Lemon Song", "Immigrant Song", "The Rain Song", and "The Wanton Song"
- Throw It In: There's many instances throughout their catalogue, to the point that you could say most of it is just the band jamming. Examples are on that page.
- Title-Only Chorus
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: "Heartbreaker". Also at the end of "All My Love"
- Unusual Euphemism: "Trampled Underfoot" is ostensibly about a car. Try to figure out what it's actually about.
- What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Pretty much the entirety of Zeppelin IV.
- Word Salad Lyrics
- 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".
- 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.
- Manager Peter Grant, the big intimidating former wrestler who travelled 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 unauthorised 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, TV shows and Videogames.
- Cosplay: John Bonham famously donned Alex DeLarge's gang attire during some shows of the band's 1975 North American tour.
- Creator Breakdown: Between Robert Plant's grief over losing his son and Jimmy Page's increasing addiction to heroin, In Through the Out Door is commonly regarded as Led Zeppelin's worst album.
- Dead Guy, Junior: Jason Bonham took his father's place in the band for the few occasions they still play together.
- Four Man Band:
- 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".
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- Long Runner Lineup: 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.
- Myspeld Rokband: 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 also modeled after 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 or mudsharks, living or dead, which the band had just caught while fishing off their balcony.
- Painted-On Pants: Plant's trademark usual attire. Little wonder that his 'girly whine' is his other trademark...
- Popcultural Osmosis
- Pretty Boy: Robert Plant. Jimmy Page also qualifies.
- Punny Name
- The Quiet One: John Paul Jones.
- Self-Plagiarism: Jimmy Page took many late Yardbirds songs and reworked them. "Tangerine" 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.
- Short Lived Big Impact: Led Zeppelin had a career that spanned little more than a decade, cut short by drummer John Bonham's death. Their impact on the rock genre is undeniable, and their sound was one of the precursors to Heavy Metal.
- Spinning Paper: In the band's movie The Song Remains the Same; "Led Zeppelin Robbed of $203k".
- Spiritual Successor: The Black Crowes, arguably.
- 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 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 single "Come With Me".
- 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!"