Led Zeppelin (album)

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Led Zeppelin
Type Studio album
Artist Led Zeppelin
Release Date 12 January 1969 (US), 28 March 1969 (UK)
Recorded October 1968 at Olympic Studios, London.
Genre Hard rock, blues rock, folk rock
Language English
Length 44 minutes 50 seconds
Label Atlantic Records
Catalogue Atlantic SD 7208 (US), Swan Song SSK 59402 (UK)
Producer Jimmy Page
Engineer Glyn Johns

Led Zeppelin is the eponymous debut album of English rock band Led Zeppelin. It was recorded in October 1968 at Olympic Studios in London and released on Atlantic Records on 12 January 1969. The album featured integral contributions from each of the group's four musicians and established Led Zeppelin's fusion of blues and rock. Led Zeppelin also created a large and devoted following for the band, with their unique hard rock sound endearing them to a section of the counterculture on both sides of the Atlantic. Although the album initially received mixed reviews, it was commercially very successful and has now come to be regarded in a much more positive light by critics.


In August 1968, the English rock group the Yardbirds had disbanded. Guitarist Jimmy Page, the Yardbirds' sole remaining member, was left with rights to the group's name and contractual obligations for a series of concerts in Scandinavia. For his new band, Page recruited bassist John Paul Jones, vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham. During September 1968, the group toured Scandinavia as the New Yardbirds, performing some old Yardbirds material as well as new songs such as 'Communication Breakdown', 'I Can't Quit You Baby', 'You Shook Me', 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' and 'How Many More Times'.[1] The month after they returned to England, October 1968, Page changed the band's name to Led Zeppelin, and the group entered Olympic Studios in London to record their debut album. In late 1968, Peter Grant arranged a series of gigs at British clubs, where Zeppelin received a mixed audience reception.

Recording and production

Recording sessions

In a 1990 interview, Page said that the album took only about 36 hours of studio time (over a span of a few weeks) to create (including mixing), adding that he knows this because of the amount charged on the studio bill.[2][3] One of the primary reasons for the short recording time was that the material selected for the album had been well-rehearsed and pre-arranged by the band on Led Zeppelin's tour of Scandinavia in September 1968.[4] As Page explained, '[the band] had begun developing the arrangements on the Scandinavian tour and I knew what sound I was looking for. It just came together incredibly quickly.'[5]

In addition, since the band had not yet signed their deal with Atlantic Records, Page and Led Zeppelin's manager Peter Grant paid for the sessions entirely themselves, meaning there was no record company money to waste on excessive studio time.[6] In another interview, Page revealed that the self-funding was to ensure artistic freedom:

I wanted artistic control in a vice grip, because I knew exactly what I wanted to do with these fellows. In fact, I financed and completely recorded the first album before going to Atlantic. ... It wasn't your typical story where you get an advance to make an album — we arrived at Atlantic with tapes in hand ... Atlantic's reaction was very positive — I mean they signed us, didn't they?'[7]

The group recorded their songs reportedly for £1,782.[8] Grant then made a highly publicized recording contract with Atlantic Records, the same label that had turned Cream into a phenomenon. Atlantic was looking for the next 'supergroup', and Grant had convinced them that Led Zeppelin was It. Atlantic executive Ahmet Ertegun had not even heard the tapes from the first Led Zeppelin recording session when he brought out his chequebook and wrote Grant a US$200,000 advance. More significantly, Grant insisted that the band retain full control over their music. Atlantic's initial promotion of the band was as follows: 'Top English and American rock musicians who have heard the [first Zeppelin] tracks have compared the L.P. to the best of Cream and Jimi Hendrix, and have called Led Zeppelin the next group to reach the heights achieved by Cream and Hendrix.' Led Zeppelin's debut album went on to gross more than UK£3.5 million, just short of 20,000 times more than they invested.

For the recordings, Page played a psychedelically painted Fender Telecaster, a gift from Jeff Beck.[9] This was a different guitar from those he favoured for later albums (most notably a Gibson Les Paul). Page played the Telecaster through a Supro amplifier.[10] He also used a Gibson J-200 for the album's acoustic tracks.[11]


Led Zeppelin was produced by Jimmy Page and engineered by Glyn Johns, who had previously worked with the Rolling Stones and Small Faces. The album was recorded on an analogue 4-track machine, which helped to give the record its warm sound. According to Page, 'The first album is a live album, it really is, and it's done intentionally in that way. It's got overdubs on it, but the original tracks are live.'[12]

Page reportedly used natural room ambience to enhance the reverb and recording texture on the record, demonstrating the innovations in sound recording he had learned during his session days. Up until the late 1960s, most music producers placed microphones directly in front of the amplifiers and drums. For Led Zeppelin Page developed the idea of placing an additional microphone some distance from the amplifier (as far as twenty feet) and then recording the balance between the two. By adopting this 'distance equals depth' technique, Page became one of the first producers to record a band's 'ambient sound' — the distance of a note's time - lag from one end of the room to the other.[13]

Another notable feature of the album was the 'leakage' on the recordings of Robert Plant's vocals. In a 1998 Guitar World interview, Page stated that 'Robert's voice was extremely powerful and, as a result, would get on some of the other tracks. But oddly, the leakage sounds intentional.'[14] On the track 'You Shook Me', Page used the 'backward echo' technique. It involves hearing the echo before the main sound (instead of after it), and is achieved by turning the tape over and employing the echo on a spare track, then turning the tape back over again to get the echo preceding the signal.[15]


Led Zeppelin's front cover, which was chosen by Page, features a black-and-white image of the burning Hindenburg airship. The image refers to the origin of the band's name itself when Page, Jeff Beck, Keith Moon and John Entwistle were discussing the idea of forming a group, Moon joked, 'It would probably go over like a lead balloon.'[16]

The album's back cover features a photograph of the band taken by former-Yardbird Chris Dreja.[17] The entire design of the album's sleeve was coordinated by George Hardie, with whom the band would continue to collaborate for future sleeves.[18]

Hardie recalled that he originally offered the band a design based on an old club sign in San Francisco — a multi-sequential image of a Zeppelin airship up in the clouds. Page declined but it was retained as the logo for the back cover of Led Zeppelin's first two albums and a number of early press advertisements.[19] During the first few weeks of release in the United Kingdom, the sleeve featured the band's name and the Atlantic logo in turquoise. When this was switched to the now - common orange print later in the year, the turquoise - printed sleeve became a collector's item.[20]

The album cover received widespread attention when, at a February 1970 gig in Copenhagen, the band were billed as 'The Nobs' as the result of a legal threat from aristocrat Eva von Zeppelin (a relative of the creator of the Zeppelin aircraft). Countess von Zeppelin, upon seeing the logo of the Hindenburg crashing in flames, threatened but failed to have the show pulled off the air.[21]


The conceptual originality of the album was displayed on tracks such as 'Good Times Bad Times' and 'Communication Breakdown', which had a unique and distinctively heavy sound new to the ears of young music-buyers in the late-1960s. 'Communication Breakdown' would become monumental in its influence. Led Zeppelin also featured delicate steel-string acoustic guitar by Page on 'Black Mountain Side', and a combination of acoustic and electric approaches on their adaptation of 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You'.

'Dazed and Confused' is arguably the album's centrepiece: a foreboding arrangement featuring a descending bass line from Jones, heavy drumming from Bonham and some powerful guitar riffs and soloing from Page. It also showcased Page playing guitar with a violin bow (an idea suggested by David McCallum Sr., whom Page had met while doing studio session work).[22] The bowed guitar in the middle section of the song brought psychedelic rock to experimental new heights, especially in extended stage versions, building on Page's earlier renderings of the song during the latter days of the Yardbirds. 'Dazed and Confused' would become Led Zeppelin's signature performance piece for years to come. The bowed guitar technique is also used on 'How Many More Times', a song which features a 'Bolero' riff and an improvised shift in cadence.[23]

Many of Led Zeppelin's earliest songs were based on blues standards, and the album also included two songs: 'You Shook Me' and 'I Can't Quit You Baby'[24] On 'You Shook Me', Plant vocally mimics Page's guitar effects - a metallicized version of the 'call and response' blues technique.

In an interview he gave in 1975, Page offered his own perspective on the album's music:

For material, we obviously went right down to our blues roots. I still had plenty of Yardbirds riffs left over. By the time Jeff [Beck] did go, it was up to me to come up with a lot of new stuff. It was this thing where [Eric] Clapton set a heavy precedent in the Yardbirds which Beck had to follow and then it was even harder for me, in a way, because the second lead guitarist had suddenly become the first. And I was under pressure to come up with my own riffs. On the first LP I was still heavily influenced by the earlier days. I think it tells a bit, too... It was obvious that somebody had to take the lead, otherwise we'd have all sat around jamming for six months. But after that, on the second LP, you can really hear the group identity coming together.[25]


The album was advertised in selected music papers under the slogan 'Led Zeppelin - the only way to fly'.[26] It initially received mixed reviews. As was noted by rock journalist Cameron Crowe years later: 'It was a time of 'super-groups,' of furiously hyped bands who could barely cut it, and Led Zeppelin initially found themselves fighting upstream to prove their authenticity.'[27] Conversely, in Britain the album received a glowing review in the Melody Maker. Chris Welch wrote, in a review titled 'Jimmy Page triumphs - Led Zeppelin is a gas!': 'their material does not rely on obvious blues riffs, although when they do play them, they avoid the emaciated feebleness of most so-called British blues bands'.[28]

The album was very commercially successful. It was initially released in America on 17 January 1969 to capitalise on the band's first U.S. concert tour, and 28 March 1969, in the United Kingdom. Before that, Atlantic Records had distributed a few hundred advance white label copies to key radio stations and reviewers. A positive reaction to its contents, coupled with a good reaction to the band's opening concerts, resulted in the album generating 50,000 advance orders.[29] It stayed on the Billboard chart for 73 weeks and held a 79-week run on the British charts. By 1975 it had grossed $7,000,000.[30]


The success and influence of the album is today widely acknowledged, even amongst those critics who were initially sceptical.

According to Lewis:

Time has done nothing to diminish the quality of one of the finest debut albums ever recorded. There's an urgency and enthusiasm about their performance that retains timeless charm. The nine cuts offer a tour de force of powerful yet often subtle dynamics ... And let's not forget the fact that with this album, Page virtually invents the guitar riff as a key songwriting component.[31]

In 2003, VH1 named Led Zeppelin the 44th greatest album of all time, while Rolling Stone ranked it 29th on the magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It is widely regarded as marking a significant turning point in the evolution of hard rock and early heavy metal.[32]


Reviewer Country Review Year Score
Scott Floman (Goldmine) United States Rock and Soul Album Reviews 2002 A+


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
The Times United Kingdom The 100 Best Albums of All Time[33] 1993 41
Rolling Stone United States The Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time[34] 2003 29
Grammy Awards United States Grammy Hall of Fame Award[35] 2004 *
Q United Kingdom The Music That Changed the World[36] 2004 7
Robert Dimery United States 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[37] 2006 *
Classic Rock United Kingdom 100 Greatest British Rock Album Ever[38] 2006 81
Uncut United Kingdom 100 Greatest Debut Albums[39] 2006 7
DigitalDreamDoor United States The 100 Greatest Rock Debut Albums[40] 2006 2
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame United States The Definitive 200[41] 2007 165
Q United Kingdom 21 Albums That Changed Music[42] 2007 6

* denotes an unordered list

Track list

Album information

Track listing:

  • Side 1:
  1. 'Good Times Bad Times' (Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham) – 2:47
  2. 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Anne Bredon) – 6:41
  3. 'You Shook Me' (Willie Dixon, J. B. Lenoir) – 6:30
  4. 'Dazed and Confused' (Jimmy Page) – 6:27
  • Side 2:
  1. 'Your Time Is Gonna Come' (Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones) – 4:41
  2. 'Black Mountain Side' (Jimmy Page) – 2:13
  3. 'Communication Breakdown' (Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham) – 2:30
  4. 'I Can't Quit You Baby' (Willie Dixon) – 4:43
  5. 'How Many More Times' (Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham) - 8:28
  • 'How Many More Times' was listed as 3:30 on the record sleeve deliberately by Jimmy Page in order to trick radio stations into playing the song.
  • Robert Plant participated in songwriting, but wasn't given credit due to unexpired contractual obligations resulting from his association with CBS Records.[43]
  • Some cassette versions of the album reversed the order of the sides. For these versions, side one began with 'Your Time Is Gonna Come' and ended with 'How Many More Times', while side two began with 'Good Times Bad Times' and ended with 'Dazed and Confused'.

Chart positions


Chart (1969) Peak Position
Canadian RPM Top 100 Chart[44] 11
UK Albums Chart[45] 6
US Billboard The 200 Albums Chart[46] 10
French Albums Chart[47] 115
Japanese Albums Chart[48] 36
Chart (1970) Peak Position
Norwegian Albums Chart[49] 16
Spanish Albums Chart[50] 1
German Albums Chart[51] 32
Australian Go-Set Top 20 Albums Chart[52] 9
Chart (2014) Peak Position
UK Albums Chart[53] 4
US Billboard The 200 Albums Chart 7


Year Single Chart Position
1969 'Good Times Bad Times' US Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart (Pop Singles)[54] 80

Sales certifications

Country Sales Certification
Canada (CRIA) 1,000,000+ Diamond[55]
France (SNEP) 100,000+ Gold[56]
Switzerland (IFPI) 25,000+ Gold[57]
Germany (IFPI) 100,000+ Gold[58]
Argentina (CAPIF) 30,000+ Gold[59]
Australia (ARIA) 140,000+ 2× Platinum[60]
United States (RIAA) 10,000,000+ 8× Multi-Platinum[61]
Spain (PROMUSICAE) 80,000+ Platinum[62]
United Kingdom (BPI) 600,000+ 2× Platinum[63]*
Netherlands (NVPI) 30,000+ Gold[64]*

Note: (*) Remastered sales only

Certification history

Organization Level Date
RIAA – USA Gold 22 July 1969
RIAA – USA Platinum 11 December 1990
RIAA – USA 4× Platinum 11 December 1990
RIAA – USA 6× Platinum 25 November 1997
RIAA – USA 8× Platinum 3 May 1999


  • Musicians:
    • Jimmy Page – acoustic, electric, and pedal steel guitar, backing vocals, producer, remastering, digital remastering
    • Robert Plant – vocals, harmonica
    • John Paul Jones – bass guitar, organ, keyboards, backing vocals
    • John Bonham - drums, percussion, timpani, backing vocals
  • Additional musicians:
  • Production:
    • Peter Grant – executive producer
    • Glyn Johns - engineer, mixing
    • Chris Dreja – back liner photo
    • George Hardie - sleeve design
    • Barry Diament - original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
    • George Marino - remastered CD engineer (1990)


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  2. Led Zeppelin Profiled radio promo CD, 1990
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  4. Schulps, Dave (October 1977). "Jimmy Page: The Trouser Press Interview". Trouser Press 4 (22). ISSN 0164-1883.
  5. Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, Revised. London: Omnibus Press, 23. ISBN 978-1-84449-659-4. 
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  11. Rosen, Steven 1977 Jimmy Page Interview, Modern Guitars, 25 May 2007 (originally published in the July 1977, issue of Guitar Player magazine).
  12. 'I first met Jimmy on Tolworth Broadway, holding a bag of exotic fish...', Uncut, January 2009, p. 42.
  13. Tolinski, Brad; Di Bendetto, Greg (January 1998). 'Light and Shade'. Guitar World.
  14. Tolinski, Brad; Di Bendetto, Greg (January 1998). 'Light and Shade'. Guitar World.
  15. Tolinski, Brad; Di Bendetto, Greg (January 1998). 'Light and Shade'. Guitar World.
  16. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 21. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  17. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 21. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  18. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 21. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  19. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 21. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  20. Lewis, Dave (2012). Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream. London: Omnibus Press, 22. ISBN 978-1-78038-547-1. 
  21. Shadwick, Keith Led Zeppelin 1968-1980: The Story of a Band and Their Music (excerpt posted on Billboard)
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  27. Liner notes by Cameron Crowe for The Complete Studio Recordings
  28. Welch, Chris (1996). “Conquest of America”, Led Zeppelin. London: Carlton Books, 37. ISBN 978-1-85868-271-6. 
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  30. Billboard discography
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