The History of Led Zeppelin

Formed in 1968, Led Zeppelin was a rock band comprised of vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham. Their heavy metal sound and legendary live shows, combined with their infamous off-stage antics, have made them one of the biggest and most influential bands in history. With hits like, "Stairway to Heaven" and "Whole Lotta Love", they've made a lasting impression on popular music. In this video, WatchMojo.com takes a look at the history of Led Zeppelin.
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Debut


Formed in London, England in 1968, Led Zeppelin was a rock band comprised of vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham. The band’s self-titled debut album came in 1969 during their first North American tour. With a unique brand of heavy metal fused with blues, rock and folk, that record’s commercial success quickly led to more touring.

Second Album


Later that year, their sophomore effort, Led Zeppelin II, was released to much critical and commercial acclaim. Often considered one of the original albums of heavy metal, it contained notable tracks such as “Heartbreaker” and “Whole Lotta Love”.

Album Number Three


Their third album, Led Zeppelin III, was a bit of a departure, with its more acoustic and mature sound. Though less commercially successful, the 1970 record spawned two Led Zeppelin concert staples, “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “Immigrant Song.” Going against Led Zeppelin’s philosophy that their albums are listened to as a whole, Atlantic Records released “Immigrant Song” as a single without the group’s consent.

Live Shows


When not busy recording, Led Zeppelin was usually on the road. Their live shows were the stuff of legend, due to their length and the level of experimentation the band put into their performances. Their off-stage behavior became legendary as well, with rumors spreading of such stories as the “shark episode,” which allegedly involved sexual acts with a fish. The group also began dressing in flamboyant clothing, travelling in a private jet, and supposedly trashing many hotel rooms while on tour. In short, they were now a bona fide rock band.

"Stairway to Heaven"


Led Zeppelin’s early successes were nothing compared to what the 1970s had in store. Though officially untitled, their fourth album is usually referred to as Led Zeppelin IV. This 1971 record became one of the best-selling albums in history, and its most famous track, “Stairway to Heaven,” became – and remains – extremely popular on rock radio.

"Houses of the Holy"


1973 saw the release of Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin’s first record of purely original material. Remarkable for its layering and production techniques, the chart-topping album also led to record-breaking attendance for the following North American tour.

"Physical Graffiti" and Touring


The band then started their own label, Swan Song, and released their first record on that label in 1975. The hugely successful double album, Physical Graffiti, led to an equally successful North American tour, including five sold-out dates at London’s Earls Court Arena.

Plant's Car Accident


The 1976 album Presence was released just months after the band was forced to cancel a world tour, due to a serious car accident involving Robert Plant. The tracks on that album were guitar-driven, and although Led Zeppelin was at the height of their popularity at this time, the record did not sell as well as their previous efforts.

More Touring


That same year, Led Zeppelin released the concert movie, “The Song Remains the Same,” with footage captured from their 1973 Madison Square Garden shows. In 1977, the band toured North America once more and set another attendance record with their April show at Michigan’s Pontiac Silverdome. Their July 1977 Oakland show would be Led Zeppelin’s last U.S. appearance, as the rest of the tour was cancelled due to the death of Plant’s son.

Break Up


Though critical reaction for 1979’s In Through the Out Door was mixed, the record hit number one. The album would also be Led Zeppelin’s last before the accidental death of drummer John Bonham in September 1980. The band officially broke up in December of that year, after
confirming they would not continue as Led Zeppelin without Bonham.

Solo Projects and Attempted Reunions


After the breakup, Led Zeppelin’s surviving members continued their musical careers, at times coming back together to perform. Reunion reports surfaced on and off for years, culminating in a media frenzy when Page, Plant and Jones performed with Bonham’s son, Jason at a 2007 tribute concert for the late founder and president of Atlantic Records. However, the trio never managed to find any subsequent projects that they felt did Led Zeppelin justice.

Compilations


The band’s fans were offered several compilation albums between 1982 and 2007. These included 1982’s outtake collection, Coda; 1997’s Led Zeppelin BBC Sessions; 2003’s triple live album, How the West Was Won; and 2007’s greatest hits package, Mothership.

Impact and Influence


Time and time again, Led Zeppelin has been named one of the music’s most influential bands for their innovative sound and unmatched style. With over 200 million albums sold and multiple accolades, their musical legacy is one that’s bound to last.
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