Led Zeppelin: From Concerts for Schools to Sold-Out World Tours

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August 12th 1968, in a small basement of Gerrard Street London, saw the formation of legendary rock band Led Zeppelin. The four-piece band, made up of vocalist and hippy king Robert Plant, whose primal animalistic shrieks and screams are still recognisable to this day, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham (1948-1980) proved that they were up and coming and something incredibly special. Ambition-driven 24-year-old Jimmy Page is the man responsible for the formation, after the demise of his first band The Yardbirds, which started not only Page’s career but also Eric Clapton (Cream, Derek and the Dominoes) and Jeff Beck (The Jeff Beck Group), Page was eager to make his way back into the music and thought Led Zeppelin was the way to do it.

Almost immediately it was made incredibly clear that Led Zeppelin, who performed under the name ‘The New Yardbirds’ up until late 1969, were destined for something greater than life itself. And with all of them being early mid-twenties at the time of their fame, they became the new big thing. The bands first gig as an official group was on 7th September in 1968 in a Danish school in suburban Copenhagen (random right?). This sky-rocketed their career and soon they were headlining festivals and becoming one of the most popular rock bands of the 70s, characterised with their album-oriented rock, one of the first bands to do so in the genre.

The 12th January 1969 saw the release of Led Zeppelin, a self-titled album, nothing offensive or outlandish for their debut, but a plain self-titled. But the contents of the album and the musical arrangement elevated it from a plain and simple self-titled album to something monumental. Tracks such as ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘Black Mountain Side’ has recently been labelled by NME as ’embodying rock culture in the best way’. The album topped at number 6 in the UK album charts, which is pretty impressive considering they were strictly no single releases at this time. Come Led Zeppelin II the hype was still maintained as the album went straight to number 1 in seven countries including the UK, Australia, USA, Canada and Germany. It sold a staggering half a million in the first month and in 1990 was titled as a 5 times platinum album, reflecting the 5 million sales, and now in 2020, the album has sold 22 million copies making it one of the greatest and influential albums of all time.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that Led Zeppelin started to really make some serious noise. From 1970-1975 they were the biggest band in the world. They acquired a huge amount of critical and commercial success and hit new heights that bands in the rock era had never reached before. The band’s image also began to change with Page taking the front on flamboyant clothing by using the moon and star symbol and glitzy disco balls. Of course, the rock element was still at the centre of the brand but Page urged the band to move with the times and demographics. By 1973 the band had sold over a million records worldwide and their 1973 concert tour of North America broke attendance records for a singular show, seeing a staggering 56,800 fans breaking the Beatles record set at Shea Stadium in 1965. The band also sold out four consecutive nights at Madison Square Garden and grossed a total of $4 million dollars. Throughout the early 70s, Led Zeppelin continued thriving and continued pushing boundaries and breaking records; in 1975 they played 5 nights all sold out at Earls Court Arena in London which was, at the time the largest arena in Europe.

Throughout their course of producing and writing music together, they produced eight studio albums, four live albums and sixteen singles (which took a lot of convincing Page to stray from the album-orientation) all of which are available on streaming platforms, CD, vinyl and if you looked hard enough, probably cassettes. Their music was and still is incredibly influential in every corner of the music industry. Modern rock n roll bands for the new generation such as Greta Van Fleet, Foo Fighters and Wolfmother heavily take inspiration from the works of the band. Greta Van Fleet tracks ‘Safari Song’ and ‘Flower Power’ bear a striking resemblance to ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Dyer Maker’ which suggests the almost immortal legacy of Led Zeppelin. They were so groundbreaking and so contemporary for their time that the impact they had was second to none, and something that not even The Beatles could ever accomplish. Sure, The Beatles were influential and groundbreaking themselves but none of them had something so individually distinctive about them in a way that Robert Plant and Jimmy Page had.

1980 saw it all come to a stop. The tragic death of John Bonham caused by asphyxiation touched the group at the centre. From then on the band went their separate ways and cancelled all upcoming tours and album releases. John Bonham’s remains were cremated on 12th October 1980 at Rushock Parish Church, Worcestershire, where he was born and raised. The last statement put out as a band informing fans of the death of Bonham, and the bands break up was signed simply ‘Led Zeppelin’.

The success and fame they found as a band in just over a decade touched the music scene and changed the way music is written and created forever. There’s no denying they were a legendary band, and their legacy is as one of the rock gods.

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classic culture editor 20/21. third year english student with unhealthy shakespeare, hannibal lecter, robert plant and 70s nostalgia obsession.

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