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Strider

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LED ZEPPELIN I: Unleashed 45 Years Ago

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January 12, 1969. Like a depth charge going off underwater, Led Zeppelin unleashes their debut album, and the ripples from that musical explosion are still being felt to this day, 45 years later.

The last time I talked about Led Zeppelin's first album, my post ended up being Moby Dick length...the book or the song, take your pick. I'll be much briefer this time. But an album of this significance deserves a birthday wish. While there were certainly some signs in the last days of the Yardbirds that pointed to the direction and shape that Jimmy Page's new band would take, nothing on "Little Games" prepared one for the giant leap in sonic architecture and impact that Led Zeppelin delivered. It is easily one of the five best and important debut albums in the history of rock and roll.

So, happy birthday 'Led Zeppelin'! :birthday:

From the opening bang of "Good Times Bad Times", with its searing guitars and announcement of a new force and attitude in drumming...to the Joan Baez-by-way-of-Thor's-Thunder of "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You", alternating butterfly delicate acoustic filigrees with thunderous walls of sound...to the orgasmic blues stomp of "You Shook Me", crushing man and woman alike in its sex-groove and unleashing on unsuspecting ears and libidos the unalloyed and unprecedented power and approach of Robert Plant...to the hypnotic psychedelic demon blues of "Dazed and Confused", where Jimmy supplants the use of a vocal chorus with the idea of the riff as chorus hook instead, and the band summons its talents to create such a rampaging storm of sound and fury that a million air-guitarists and air-drummers are born...to the country church blues of "You're Time Is Gonna Come", with John Paul Jones opening the proceedings with a pastoral organ flourish, and an actual sing-along chorus just to show that they could...to the Welsh mountains by way of India (and Bert Jansch) acoustic reverie of "Black Mountain Side", offering a little mellow respite before the closing salvos...to the proto-punk-metal of "Communication Breakdown", sonic blueprint of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and Johnny Ramone's guitar attack, and early cause of headbanging at concerts everywhere...to the electric Chicago blues of "I Can't Quit You Babe" with the primal raw tone of Jimmy's Dragon Telecaster and John Bonham's rat-a-tat-tat drum beat playing Hot Potato with your ears...to finally the closing barrage of "We've come to conquer"-attitude and sonic maelstrom that is "How Many More Times", a psychedelic-jazz take on "How Many More Years" souped-up for the nuclear age, complete with scorched-earth guitar solo and scorched-brain bowed guitar spookiness...Led Zeppelin was the album that kick-started the Seventies and brought the sound of records into the modern era, in particular with respect to the use of drums and space...the 'sound' or ambience of a room.

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In addition, whereas so many guitar heroes hired a band to just stay in the background while they hogged up all the limelight and sonic space, Led Zeppelin immediately sounded like a unified band of equals, with everybody getting their due and room in the sonic palette to be heard. It wasn't Jimmy Page and a bunch of lackeys, which is how Jeff Beck's bands came off most of the time.

Led Zeppelin was an immediate force to be reckoned with. The Who and the Rolling Stones were served notice from this day forward, 45 years ago. Time for all the so-called 'heavy groups' to step up their game. If they couldn't, it was "Goodbye!"...I'm looking at you Iron Butterfly and Steppenwolf.

When Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, and Robert Plant first walked into Olympic Studios on that long ago day of September 20, 1968, I am sure not even they, in their wildest dreams, imagined the dramatic results and impact those first album sessions would deliver to an unsuspecting public. Only Jimmy Page could be considered a known entity at that time, while John Paul Jones may have been known to the more dedicated album credits reader, but certainly not known to the general layman. Bonzo and Percy, on the other hand, were complete wild cards. Young and from the relatively barbarian wilds of the Midlands, you could say they were the X-factor of Led Zeppelin. For drums and vocals were two of the elements that dramatically separated Led Zeppelin from the lumpen hordes of blues-rock bashers. They walked into Olympic Studios four guys from four different backgrounds with differing influences and differing levels of confidence. They emerged a few weeks later as a BAND ready to storm the world.

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They were mere kids when they commenced recording their first album. But the music they unleashed was no mere kid's play. It was the real deal.

Edited by Strider

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Well said Strider. The post Little Games material, such as Think About It, and I'm Confused clearly hinted as to where Jimmy was headed, and even Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Sailor gave us glimpses of what lay in store as Jimmy introduced the world to his first violin bow solo on an album, but Led Zeppelin took things to the next level. It is clear that Page was the architect of that first album, and refined the material that he was working out in the final Yardbirds days. Such an incredible album, that entirely changed the game and contributed to the creation of a new genre known as Heavy Metal. Although Led Zeppelin would not allow themselves to be pigeon holed into that category, they inspired such bands as Black Sabbath, who credit the first two Led Zeppelin albums for partly shaping their sound and direction. Led Zeppelin, the album, has never grown old for me, and it is the perfect balance of many genres, including jazz, blues, rock, heavy rock, heavy metal, and folk. 45 years later, this record still touches people around the world, and it will get a ceremonial playing on my turntable tonight after work, over a glass of wine of course. Cheers.

Edited by The Dark Lord

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Quality post as always Strider. I will echo The Dark Lord and give it a blast from Vinyl over a glass of red and some of my finest Kush from last years grow. It was the first album I ever bought.

I was a 13 year old spotty long hair (1974) who was brought up on my sisters singles of Frees All right Now, Deep Purples Black Knight/Speed King double A side and her On The Level album by Quo. I had heard of Zeppelin and I went to a local record shop which had listening booths. I asked for an album and the guy said you might as well start at the beginning. Wow I could not believe what I was hearing. My love affair with the band started and I still have that very same album today.

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^^^

Thanks. Just noticed some typos and the ending was clipped off when I posted it...hazards of writing after a long day, I guess. In addition to fixing my post, I decided to add a little visual appeal with some photos.

Of course, January 12 was the release date for those of us in the U.S. (and Canada, I presume?). It would not be released in the U.K. until March 31, 1969. Having just rampaged through most of the Western United States by the time of Led Zeppelin being released in the U.S., I am sure most of those first week sales were in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver. As the tour progressed through the country, airplay and sales built and built momentum until the album peaked at #10 the week of May 17, 1969, during Led Zeppelin's second North American Tour.

By then, anticipation was running high for the second album...and the rest is history.

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Great post! Hard to believe it was so long ago...and so long before my time!

My memory is a little fuzzy (young as I am) but I'm quite sure that Led Zeppelin, the eponymous debut, was my first real experience with the group -- I'd definitely listened to their songs before, but the first time I studied Led Zeppelin (so-to-speak) was when I decided to sit down and listen to the first album all the way through. I remember being heavily into the Stones at the time...I was blown away, and have never looked back.

Led Zeppelin is, without a doubt, one of the best albums I've ever listened to -- from beginning to end, I'm consistently entertained and intrigued by the musical and production decisions that went into it's creation...while later albums (the fourth in particular) might be lauded as "better," we should never forget how it all began...the bombastic hard rock, the dirty blues, the psychedelia...there's a reason the cover image of the Hindenburg was chosen -- aside from the connection to the name, it implies a message, an impact, a force to be reckoned with, all of which Led Zeppelin would encompass, at least for me.

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Very well said Strider! Redbeard's In The Studio is currently streaming 45 Past One, if you have heard 25 Past One or any of the others, it's the same apart from Redbeard updating it at the end talking about the Kennedy Center Honors and the upcoming Led Zeppelin box sets this year, but if you haven't heard it yet, here's the link enjoy: http://www.inthestudio.net/redbeards-blog/led-zeppelin-1-45th-anniversary-jimmy-page-robert-plant/

Edited by luvlz2

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Great post strider! The synopsis of the songs was a fun and energizing read.

Back in the 80s, I had the whole catalogue on vinyl, except for the first album and presence, on cassette. Then bought everything on cd over the years. From cassette to the first issued cds, this album always had a great studio sound. Later I bought the bootleg, olympic gold, with the interesting outtakes on there. I don't know if they are rolling out all three records together, or just led zeppelin, first...but looking forward to hearing it. Looking back to the 80s and buying those first compact discs, my expectations of the sound, was kind of like how compact discs sound today. So I'm expecting them to sound really good. I did buy three of the beatles re releases, in 09 and thought they sounded excellent.

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In regards to the x factor mentioned in thread, bonham and plant. Does anyone think it would have been easier or more difficult, for jimmy page to form led zeppelin today, with all the state of modern communication these days and the state of music today? Or was it most likely for jimmy to put zep together in the 60s? All these years later, its still amazing that jimmy page found both robert plant AND john bonham...kind of mindblowing.

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Nice job Strider, and you weren't even close to Moby Dick in verbosity! But so much COULD be said about LZI that it wouldn't be hard to write a novel.

When a 45 year old album sounds like most of it could have been done yesterday, you know you have a classic on your hands.

The 45 year thing is scary though...time moves along way too quickly!

Edited by in_the_evening

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