Friday, December 08, 2006

History of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal: Led Zeppelin

Of all the hard rock/heavy metal bands that have come down the pike, none were bigger and had a more lasting impact than Led Zeppelin.

Led Zeppelin was the definitive heavy rock band. It wasn't just their crushingly loud interpretation of the blues — it was how they incorporated mythology, mysticism, and a variety of other genres — into their sound.

Led Zep formed out of the ashes of the Yardbirds, a band that once featured Jimmy Page. After recording one album with the group, Page met bassist John Paul Jones in the studio during session work and decided to record together.

The guitarist went to work finding a singer and it wasn't long before he did. Singer and friend Terry Reid suggested Robert Plant, who was singing with a band called Hobbstweedle.

After hearing him sing, Page asked Plant to join the band in August of 1968, the same month Chris Dreja dropped out of the new project. Following Dreja's departure, John Paul Jones joined the group as its bassist. Plant recommended that Page hire John Bonham, the drummer for Plant's old band, the Band of Joy.

Bonham had to be persuaded to join the group, as he was being courted by other artists who offered the drummer considerably more money. By September, Bonham agreed to join the band. Performing under the name the New Yardbirds, the band fulfilled the Yardbirds' previously booked engagements in late September 1968.

The following month, they recorded their debut album in just under 30 hours. Also in October, the group switched its name to Led Zeppelin. The band secured a contract with Atlantic Records in the United States before the end of the year.

And the rest is history.

The band released a string of multi-platinum albums throughout the late 60s and into the seventies. Classic albums like Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin IV, Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti.

The band was such a phenomenon that Led Zeppelin IV has now sold over 20 million copies just in the United States.

Everything came to a crashing end when on September 25, 1980, John Bonham was found dead in his bed — following an all-day drinking binge, he had passed out and choked on his own vomit. In December of 1980, Led Zeppelin announced they were disbanding, since they could not continue without Bonham.

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have worked together off and on since and Plant has had a successful solo career. John Paul Jones is a producer who has worked with many major artists. But what they'll be remembered for will be the incredible music they made together as Led Zeppelin - the first hard rock superstars.

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