Hayley Tuschhoff
Frawley
Illustrative Essay Rough Draft
May 15, 2009

Led Zeppelin

 

             Led Zeppelin’s enormous talent and imaginative musical innovation were the corner stones that built Led Zeppelin into the greatest band that ever dared to rock.

             Led Zeppelin originated in England in 1968 introducing such diverse sounds as rock-infused interpretations of blues and folk music, which also incorporated rockabilly, reggae, soul, funk, classical, Celtic, Indian, Arabic, pop, Latin and country. The actual band came together from a completely different band. Jimmy Page started out as a founding member of the short-lived band the Yardbirds in 1966. That project had various artists rotating in and out of it constantly for the next two years. Eventually John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, and John Bonham were brought in and played together as The New Yardbirds on a Scandinavian tour. John Entwistle of The Who, reportedly came up with the name Led Zeppelin while describing a super group including himself, Keith Moon, also of The Who, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck. He said their first gig would tank like a “lead zeppelin.” The band dropped the “a” in lead to prevent “thick Americans” from pronouncing it “leed,” and went on to become the biggest band in the history of Rock n’ Roll by incorporating so many different elements into their music that no other band could compare.

             Led Zeppelin’s talent set them apart from the other bands of the time. Their undeniably remarkable members broke the mold and defined their unique sound. Jimmy Page was the driving force behind their creativity. He came from being a studio session guitarist to being "unquestionably one of the all-time most influential, important, and versatile guitarists and songwriters in Rock History." He came from many influences which transpired into the music. Robert Plant’s vocals were an innovation in itself. His range, depth, energy, and power where limitless. Plant and Page connected immediately and Led Zeppelin began coming together. John Bonham was a drummer who was a force of nature.  He was renowned for his power, fast right foot, distinctive sound and "feel" for the groove in the song. Bonham’s effortless talent poured from him and gave the band a secret weapon that no one else at the time could have dreamed of. Even after his death, he was still a very influential figure in the drum world. John Paul Jones brought many unusual talents to the band. An accomplished musician already, he introduced the koto, lap steel guitars, autoharp, ukulele, sitar, cello, continuum, mandolin, and the recorder to the band throughout their career. He was known mostly for playing bass guitar and keyboards but did so much more. Each band member brought his own influences and experiences to their music which made them a force to be reckoned with.

             Having so many influences and talents put Led Zeppelin in a category all their own. Based in heavy rock, their sound moved in and out of extremely different genres such as rockabilly, soul, funk, and pop. Their American hits in lie the differences. “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” has an intricate pattern that shows the real talent and inspiration of Jimmy Page, while their song “Kashmir” was over produced with strings and background instruments that makes it seem like too much. “Stairway to Heaven” was the least Zeppelin of all the hits, bringing out a folky, renaissance era feel to it that seemed as if it didn’t belong to them. That became their biggest hit of all time. Choices about how to put out their albums also made them stand out. In the United Kingdom, they never released any singles for radio play because they wanted to be an “album-oriented” band. On their fourth album, they released it without their name on it or a title, only four strange Celtic symbols. The symbols are supposed to represent the four members of the band. They reportedly chose to do this to prove that their music was not just hyped and overrated. Fans could discover the album on their own and decide if they like the music based on just the music not the fact that it was a Led Zeppelin album. Since the album really had no specific name, it has been referred to as Four Symbols, Fourth Album, IV, Untitled, Ruins, Sticks, and Four, among others. Plant refers to it as “The Fourth Album.” It went on to be one of the best selling albums in history.

             The extreme success that the band experienced catapulted Led Zeppelin into mainstream Rock n’ Roll. After having number one hit after hit all over the world, their first six albums being monstrously popular, and tours breaking records in attendance, they were in high demand. Their mid-seventies success caused a complete upheaval in the band’s dynamic. They were raking in ungodly amounts of money and not caring about how it was spent. This factor attributed to the band becoming more elaborate. Along with wearing more exciting clothing and making their stage shows wilder, they began traveling in a private jet airliner, renting out entire sections of hotels, wrecking the rooms and property of the establishments, and causing all kinds of trouble. They were leaving the wreckage of a hurricane in their wake. They didn’t think on it for a second because they were the biggest band in the world at the time, riding a tsunami wave of success. After extensive touring, the band started to run into problems. They grew tired of being on the road, away from their family and friends, also of each other. It was harder for them to maintain the peace and continue to make music. Plant considered leaving the band several times but was persuaded to stay on and Bonham’s drinking was getting out of control. Keeping the band together seemed like it would take a miracle. Unfortunately, the end of Led Zeppelin resulted in tragedy. John Bonham died of asphyxiation from vomit after drinking heavily. After many people were rumored to be taking Bonham’s place, the band decided that they could not go on as the original Led Zeppelin. They did not reform.

             After almost 30 years since Led Zeppelin’s breakup, popularity has not wavered. If anything, they have only gained fans. Since their debut in 1968, they have sold more than 300 million albums worldwide. Although music has progressed in every aspect, they are still revered as the greatest rock band in the world. The history of music, let alone Rock n’ Roll, has never seen such a phenomenon. In 2008, rumors of a reunion tour spread like wildfire. The fans all over the world screamed out in amazement and begged for the rumors to be true. It has yet to be announced if Led Zeppelin will share their amazing talents with the world again.