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Geezer

Cultural impact

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I certainly don't discount their acclaim outside of the US, but doesn't the fact that they targeted US audiences speak for itself?

Peter Grant thought so.

My point exactly...I just don't get this notion of an underground, well-kept secret, because it just wasn't like that!

They were for a very short time.The local radio station WBCN (Boston) which had a back room in the Boston Tea Party venue was playing LZ1 long before it's release.

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the jocks liked The Who. Usual kids liked the stones, the wings, bowie, kansas, boston, elton john, etc. Zeppelin "FANS" were (almost) outcasts to a very slight extent. But, the band's music proved that the slightly outcasted kids eventually became the ones who liked Zep first. the kids who didn't care what others thought ended up being the cool Zep die-hards. Because eventually people realized they were the best, and stopped worrying about if they would be made fun of.

at least in the southeast.

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Mstork is right to note that "household name" is a subjective idea, but to get back to the original theme of the thread, my point was that one measure of Led Zeppelin's cultural impact is that they became very successful without having to court publicity the way a lot of other big-name acts did.

Yes, people knew LZ's music and LZ's musicians, but there were other artists of the time who were much more willing to appear on TV, release stand-alone singles (i.e. not album cuts), do interviews, open up their private lives, and so on. Peter Grant himself said that they made a conscious effort to avoid overexposure.

In earlier and later times such a strategy might not have worked, but in the Seventies - to repeat - the size of the market, the mechanics of the record and concert industries, and the audience's loyalty to their favorite bands meant that the Zeppelin approach became commercially feasible for numerous other performers.

Indeed, one of the definitions of "Classic Rock" would be any music that preceded the MTV era, where one video could make or break an act. Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and other artists of the period made their names more by word of mouth than big promotional splashes.

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you are right about one thing: even though Zep had a huge fan base and got lots of radio air time, they did not have the respect of most music critics. From what I've read, this was partly due to their fan base consisting mostly of teenagers.

I've always maintained most of the critics refused to respect them because most of those critics regarded the 60s as the halcyon era of rock. Most did not identify with let alone appreciate the direction Led Zeppelin was attempting to take rock music at the end of the 1960s. Led Zeppelin's refusal to cater to press/media gave the critics personal reasons to dislike them as well.

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My friend recently told me how she was at Disneyworld and the ride she was going on had to be evacuated so that the members of Led Zeppelin could ride on it by themselves...she saw them being escorted off the ride with lots of people ogling over them...that was in the 70's.

According to my notes, on June 3, 1977 Robert, Maureen and their children Carmen and Karac accompanied JPJ, Mo and their three daughters for a day out at Disney World prior to that night's show at Tampa Stadium. I know for certain Jason Bonham attended that night's rain-shortened Tampa Stadium show but I don't show he went to Disney World with the Plant & Jones families. I could be mistaken. In any event, I've not heard the anecdote you've shared about evacuating rides that day. I should think the Disney staff was merely attempting to accomodate a party of four adults with five small children as opposed to a big fuss being made over them.

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According to my notes, on June 3, 1977 Robert, Maureen and their children Carmen and Karac accompanied JPJ, Mo and their three daughters for a day out at Disney World prior to that night's show at Tampa Stadium. I know for certain Jason Bonham attended that night's rain-shortened Tampa Stadium show but I don't show he went to Disney World with the Plant & Jones families. I could be mistaken. In any event, I've not heard the anecdote you've shared about evacuating rides that day. I should think the Disney staff was merely attempting to accomodate a party of four adults with five small children as opposed to a big fuss being made over them.

I'll have her tell me the story again and take notes. But I'm pretty sure she said that the ride was held up and the line of people found out why after what she called "Led Zeppelin" got off the ride. At any rate it was enough of a big deal that when I expressed my adulation for the band, she relayed this story to me recently. And it goes to point out that at least in the states people were well aware of Led Zeppelin...whether the media was favorable or not.

Mstork is right to note that "household name" is a subjective idea, but to get back to the original theme of the thread, my point was that one measure of Led Zeppelin's cultural impact is that they became very successful without having to court publicity the way a lot of other big-name acts did.

Yes, people knew LZ's music and LZ's musicians, but there were other artists of the time who were much more willing to appear on TV, release stand-alone singles (i.e. not album cuts), do interviews, open up their private lives, and so on. Peter Grant himself said that they made a conscious effort to avoid overexposure.

In earlier and later times such a strategy might not have worked, but in the Seventies - to repeat - the size of the market, the mechanics of the record and concert industries, and the audience's loyalty to their favorite bands meant that the Zeppelin approach became commercially feasible for numerous other performers.

Indeed, one of the definitions of "Classic Rock" would be any music that preceded the MTV era, where one video could make or break an act. Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and other artists of the period made their names more by word of mouth than big promotional splashes.

And again, I disagree with George's assertion that it was word of mouth that made their name...they were getting TONS of air play on FM radio, which is all teenagers listened to in those days...and they bought albums...Led Zeppelin sold tons of albums. Again this is in the states, which was their primary target market. And they packed arenas in major metropolitan areas...it wasn't just word of mouth that took over the Beatles record at Shea Stadium...word of mouth would not have accomplished that. Again, George is trying to maintain some notion of them being a "best kept secret" and an "underground" phenomenon which just wasn't and isn't the reality. BTW George, like I said, I read and really liked your book. I don't recall that being a tenant that you put forward in your book, maybe I didn't read carefully enough.

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The idea that Zep were an underground band is simply ridiculous because they had a Top 5 single less than a year after they released their first album, and it was certified Gold (1 million copies back then) in about six months. They even had two Top 20 hits before 1972, and their other songs were getting a shitload of radio airplay. This band was not even close to being an underground artist.

Edited by Geezer

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Mstork is right to note that "household name" is a subjective idea, but to get back to the original theme of the thread, my point was that one measure of Led Zeppelin's cultural impact is that they became very successful without having to court publicity the way a lot of other big-name acts did.

Yes, people knew LZ's music and LZ's musicians, but there were other artists of the time who were much more willing to appear on TV, release stand-alone singles (i.e. not album cuts), do interviews, open up their private lives, and so on. Peter Grant himself said that they made a conscious effort to avoid overexposure.

In earlier and later times such a strategy might not have worked, but in the Seventies - to repeat - the size of the market, the mechanics of the record and concert industries, and the audience's loyalty to their favorite bands meant that the Zeppelin approach became commercially feasible for numerous other performers.

Indeed, one of the definitions of "Classic Rock" would be any music that preceded the MTV era, where one video could make or break an act. Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and other artists of the period made their names more by word of mouth than big promotional splashes.

Also I disagree with your statement that there were artists who were willing to do this or that. Many of those artists HAD to do those things...they didn't have the managerial license or record contract fluidity that Led Zeppelin had! That's where I believe Led Zeppelin's true cultural impact lies...they rewrote many of the rules or defied the rules, however you want to look at it, that other artists had been tethered to AND they sold tons of records, sold out huge arenas and made tons of money doing it whereas in the past artists gave away much of their profits to concert promoters, managers and record companies. Sure those other artists were "willing" to do what they had to do to succeed and abide by their managers and record company's stipulations and it was in their best interests to do so. I just finished an excellent book about Bob Dylan that addresses just this exact point...it wasn't until he was released from his contract with his manager that he actually started making any money or having much say in his art. And it was Led Zeppelin and particularly Peter Grant in their behalf, that led the charge.

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That's true.

2. They changed how the music industry worked, whereby the bulk of the act's earnings actually went to the artists themselves rather than the managers, promoters, agents, etc. Madonna, Celine Dion, Metallica and U2 can thank Zeppelin and Peter Grant for their fortunes.

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The idea that Zep were an underground band is simply ridiculous because they had a Top 5 single less than a year after they released their first album, and it was certified Gold (1 million copies back then) in about six months. They even had two Top 20 hits before 1972, and their other songs were getting a shitload of radio airplay. This band was not even close to being an underground artist.

Thank you!

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Thank you for providing this valuable info, nat. I think what George was trying to say is that Zep didn't have that many hit singles (which they didn't) and therefore received less airplay than the Stones (which is true). In either case, Zep was a very popular band even before 1972-73.

Also, big thanks to George for providing his insight into the case.

Edited by Geezer

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Thank you for providing this valuable info, nat. I think what George was trying to say is that Zep didn't have that many hit singles (which they didn't) and therefore received less airplay than the Stones (which is true). In either case, Zep was a very popular band even before 1972-73.

Also, big thanks to George for providing his insight into the case.

Yes, maybe he is referring to Top 40 radio...played on AM stations, as I recall. But that wasn't where it was at in the 70's or at least not where I came from. Most people were buying albums and listening to album oriented radio which was FM. Led Zeppelin, or at least Peter Grant, knew this, capitalized on it and ran to the bank with it. They didn't need the critics to like them or understand what they were all about and they knew it. Personally, they esp. Page didn't like it, but it didn't hurt them or their standing in record sales or radio air time. In fact, you could barely turn on the radio at any time of day without hearing STH...I hated that song back then it was so over played. So was Trampled Underfoot as I recall. I didn't really care for Led Zeppelin in those times because of that. I wasn't until recently, with some years of breathing space that I came back to them with the luxury of not having to rely on the radio for my listening habits. But when I was a teenager you couldn't avoid Led Zeppelin on the radio and it was a little sickening. They did a lot of request radio in the evenings and at night and I can attest to STH being the most requested song in FM history.

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Maybe I shouldn't have described Zep as "underground" in the sense of "obscure" - what I meant was "not widely known to outsiders."

I'll put it this way: in the 1970s, even if you didn't follow boxing, you'd still probably heard of Muhammad Ali; if you didn't follow motorcycles you'd still probably heard of Evel Knievel; if you didn't follow rock music you'd still probably heard of Mick Jagger or Elton John; but I don't think Zeppelin had reached that kind of status.

Admittedly, I was too young to get into the band during their lifetime (I was born in 1967), so I'm going on evidence from the contemporary mainstream media of that time. I'm willing to stand corrected on this, but I think it's safe to say that LZ weren't a group that everyone's parents, bosses, teachers, and kid siblings would have been familiar with in 1975, in the US and let alone Britain.

Thanks for a civilized discussion.

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I'll have her tell me the story again and take notes. But I'm pretty sure she said that the ride was held up and the line of people found out why after what she called "Led Zeppelin" got off the ride. At any rate it was enough of a big deal that when I expressed my adulation for the band, she relayed this story to me recently. And it goes to point out that at least in the states people were well aware of Led Zeppelin...whether the media was favorable or not.

I'd be interested to hear her version of the story. Even as late as 1977 JPJ could usually travel freely in public without being recognized but Robert could not possibly have done so while at Disney World.

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The idea that Zep were an underground band is simply ridiculous because they had a Top 5 single less than a year after they released their first album, and it was certified Gold (1 million copies back then) in about six months. They even had two Top 20 hits before 1972, and their other songs were getting a shitload of radio airplay. This band was not even close to being an underground artist.

Again - this was in America.

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Maybe I shouldn't have described Zep as "underground" in the sense of "obscure" - what I meant was "not widely known to outsiders."

I'll put it this way: in the 1970s, even if you didn't follow boxing, you'd still probably heard of Muhammad Ali; if you didn't follow motorcycles you'd still probably heard of Evel Knievel; if you didn't follow rock music you'd still probably heard of Mick Jagger or Elton John; but I don't think Zeppelin had reached that kind of status.

Admittedly, I was too young to get into the band during their lifetime (I was born in 1967), so I'm going on evidence from the contemporary mainstream media of that time. I'm willing to stand corrected on this, but I think it's safe to say that LZ weren't a group that everyone's parents, bosses, teachers, and kid siblings would have been familiar with in 1975, in the US and let alone Britain.

Thanks for a civilized discussion.

I highly disagree. You could say they weren't a household name by 1970 or 1971 or even 1972, but everything changed after their 1973 US tour. Edited by Geezer

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Good question in that, there may well be as many answers as people who answer. Defining cultural impact itself is difficult, but for me, Led Zeppelin came to be the definition of what rock music was and is. Even more so they becam the definition of what a rock BAND could be. It may be an exaggeration, but if any rock band after Led Zeppelin had a goal, it was to be the next Led Zeppelin. What greater impact could a band have?

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Hmm. I don't think female listeners enjoy the music for the "swaggering masculinity." We enjoy the music because it's actually beautiful. In fact despite the swaggering nature of some of the lyrics, Jimmy Page's stage persona has been slightly androgynous and it's interesting that male fans often don't notice this. By the way, the message of "Immigrant Song" is not "pacifist." It describes a Viking invasion, the defeat of the conquered people and their necessity of making peace on the victor's terms. Sadly this has been a frequent occurrence in history and perhaps Plant had been reading history when he wrote the lyrics. I find the lyrics to be descriptive rather than prescriptive, but can hardly be read as promoting pacifism, more as an account of what those times were probably like.

The whole androgeny thing was not an issue at the time at all it seems to me. I grew up in the 70's in a very rough small town and even though many performers at the time gave off an air of androgeny almost none were disliked for it even by the very rough and tumble sort that I grew up with. It's not that we didn't notice, it's that we didn't care.

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A few points.

I never said LZ weren't hugely successful between 1968 and 1980 - they were. However, after "Whole Lotta Love" they never had an inescapable hit single. Yes, "Stairway" and other tracks were very popular on FM radio, but the average commuter or housewife wan't tuning in.

Second, most critics of the era (Lester Bangs, for example) lumped Zeppelin into the Heavy Metal category. Maybe they were thought of as the best Heavy Metal act, but they were still distinguished from the accepted rock mainstream. I can also quote Jim Miller's positive review of Physical Graffiti in Rolling Stone: "From Hamburg to Hong Kong, Led Zeppelin attract sellout crowds...But they have never made an impact beyond the relatively narrow confines of rock" (or words to that effect).

While Zeppelin was touring and making their timeless records, numerous other acts (who turned out to be less popular in the long run) were getting more press coverage. In the early 1970s there were singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Carole King; there was also the sensational shock rock of good ol' Alice Cooper. The Rolling Stones' 1972 North American tour overshadowed Zeppelin's in the media, which is why the band hired Danny Goldberg to do publicity for the following year's campaign. Then came the glam wave of Bowie, T-Rex, Sweet, Slade, et al. 1975 was the year of Springsteen's Born to Run, at least in the US, although by then Kiss was starting to get a lot of notice - that band was a four-man publicity stunt (I like Kiss, by the way). Punk and disco made headlines in '76, '77, and '78. And don't forget some of the other big sensations of the era which competed with Zeppelin albums and tickets for entertainment dollars: The Exorcist was a blockbuster in 1974, ditto Jaws in 1975, and during Zeppelin's final US tour people were lining up to see a new science-fiction fantasy movie featuring a couple of cute robots.

When Zeppelin disbanded in 1980 their best records and shows were well behind them. It was only during the next decade that their status became assured: their music continued to be deified on FM radio; they were an obvious influence on many current acts (e.g. Def Leppard); they were tarred with the "Satanic panic" allegations of backward masking and Devil-worship; the rise of the Compact Disc allowed listeners to really appreciate Page's production skills (especially when the remastered four-disc Box Set of 1990 came out); even the publication of Hammer of the Gods cemented the band's legend as the ultimate rock warriors. As much as anything, the rank of Led Zeppelin and other artists of their era rose just by comparison to the synthesized video crap that came out in the next few years. If you were having A Flock of Seagulls and Sigue Sigue Sputnik forced down your throat, you'd want to check out Led Zeppelin III.

So: sure, Zeppelin were a rich and famous rock group in the 1970s, no question. But in those days, stardom was not the same as saturation, and that counts as a cultural influence. And yeah, I think I know what I'm talking about.

Very thoughtful and I'd say accurate assessment. The fact the LZ became so successful with almost no singles (even SWH was not intended as a single I don't believe) is a credit to the overall quality of their music.

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I'd be interested to hear her version of the story. Even as late as 1977 JPJ could usually travel freely in public without being recognized but Robert could not possibly have done so while at Disney World.

Right-o again SteveAJones! And I can use my error to here to make the point again to George. I took a story and extrapolated from it that which I wanted to use to make a point...but it wasn't factually correct to the actual event. Yes, there were Led Zeppelin people there, they did go on the ride, there were people aware of who they were who talked among themselves, albeit, not the actual band, and the people there at the time made note of their notoriety, but they didn't stop the ride or make any exclusions for them. That's the great thing about this forum...there is always someone out there who knows a little bit (or a lot, in Steve's case) more than someone else, or has a better feel for the times, etc, and we can keep ourselves from rewriting history to fit our own views. Or we can have our own views and ignore the points someone else is making to try to shed a little more light on their views. In my case, no doubt, my slant on the truth was in error. Thanks Steve!

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Maybe I shouldn't have described Zep as "underground" in the sense of "obscure" - what I meant was "not widely known to outsiders."

I'll put it this way: in the 1970s, even if you didn't follow boxing, you'd still probably heard of Muhammad Ali; if you didn't follow motorcycles you'd still probably heard of Evel Knievel; if you didn't follow rock music you'd still probably heard of Mick Jagger or Elton John; but I don't think Zeppelin had reached that kind of status.

Admittedly, I was too young to get into the band during their lifetime (I was born in 1967), so I'm going on evidence from the contemporary mainstream media of that time. I'm willing to stand corrected on this, but I think it's safe to say that LZ weren't a group that everyone's parents, bosses, teachers, and kid siblings would have been familiar with in 1975, in the US and let alone Britain.

Thanks for a civilized discussion.

Again how do you define "outsiders" and "mainstream media". No, Led Zeppelin was never on the Johnny Carson show, but I do believe there was a feature report on them on (fact check me someone)...the CBS Evening News showing them and their entourage. And again, it depends on the ages of bosses, parents, teachers, etc. Lots of people were listening to FM radio...we had FM radio in all of our cars when I was growing up for example. My brother was a parent in the 70's...he had done 2 tours of Vietnam by then, he knew about Led Zeppelin. My oldest sister, maybe not so much...she tended to listen to AM Top 40 radio. I think maybe what you are missing in your analysis is that there were a whole bunch of things going on in the 70's...musically and culturally there was a "swelling" or "expanding" of things in the arts and music. It wasn't a linear-type of progression where one thing led to another. As I said earlier, my family was pretty typical of the times...my parents were post WWII and had 6 kids between 1946-1960, very middle class. So when you say "outsiders"...please be more specific. I think the split you might be looking for was between post WWII and post Beatles...but when you use these sweeping general terms and don't define them, it's really hard to know what you are talking about. Led Zeppelin was pretty mainstream by mid 70;'s...not by my parents, mind you. They wouldn't have known the Rolling Stones either for that matter, unless one of us was told to turn down our music...which I was told a lot! I think you are going to have to site some statistics before those of us who grew up in that time are going to agree with your analysis.

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Led Zeppelin is the culture. The universe is always expanding, and Led Zeppelin was always reaching out to the next goalpost. Music needs Zeppelin like people need oxygen.

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the jocks liked The Who. Usual kids liked the stones, the wings, bowie, kansas, boston, elton john, etc. Zeppelin "FANS" were (almost) outcasts to a very slight extent. But, the band's music proved that the slightly outcasted kids eventually became the ones who liked Zep first. the kids who didn't care what others thought ended up being the cool Zep die-hards. Because eventually people realized they were the best, and stopped worrying about if they would be made fun of.

at least in the southeast.

What an odd place you must have lived in hah. Zeppelin was THE top band when I was a teen (I graduated high school in '75, the same year I saw them in Vancouver, Canada during the Physical Graffiti tour). There were more Zeppelin fans than any other band easily in the day. In fact is was so common to like Zeppelin that I found myself drawn to other bands simply by way of perhaps trying to be different. Also, Boston and Kansas and Wings were significantly after Zeppelin's heydey and had far far fewer fans.

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Maybe I shouldn't have described Zep as "underground" in the sense of "obscure" - what I meant was "not widely known to outsiders."

I'll put it this way: in the 1970s, even if you didn't follow boxing, you'd still probably heard of Muhammad Ali; if you didn't follow motorcycles you'd still probably heard of Evel Knievel; if you didn't follow rock music you'd still probably heard of Mick Jagger or Elton John; but I don't think Zeppelin had reached that kind of status.

Admittedly, I was too young to get into the band during their lifetime (I was born in 1967), so I'm going on evidence from the contemporary mainstream media of that time. I'm willing to stand corrected on this, but I think it's safe to say that LZ weren't a group that everyone's parents, bosses, teachers, and kid siblings would have been familiar with in 1975, in the US and let alone Britain.

Thanks for a civilized discussion.

Believe me, Zeppelin was huge in their day. They were the acknowledged kings of Rock in their heyday for sure, regardless of how they went about it.

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Yerboguy, your comments are much appreciated. How did Zep's fanbase compare to the Stones'?

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