The Foxx Nation has spoken. Congratulations to Led Zeppelin, our inaugural inductee into the Foxx Of
Each year the Foxx Nation will honor one Foxx-A-Fide band or rocker that's made a lifetime contribution
to the Best Music Ever Made! Led Zeppelin certainly fit that bill. They've influenced us, changed our lives and etched lifelong
memories that will forever make us shout "HELL YEAH!
Led Zeppelin began when guitarist Jimmy Page decided to start his own band following a two-year
stint in the Yardbirds. Page had established himself as England's ace session guitarist (he worked with the Who,
Donovan, and the Kinks, to name but a few) and his stature was approaching that of his lead-guitarist predecessors in the
Yardbirds, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. Page met bassist John Paul Jones while the two worked on Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man"
in April of 1968, and the two discussed the potential of joining forces. That summer, Page traveled to Birmingham to see and
potentially recruit a young singer named Robert Plant, who was fronting his own group, Band of Joy. The trio was now lacking
only a drummer, and Plant recommended his Band of Joy bandmate John Bonham. In September of 1968, the four played their first
rehearsals in London, and, billed as the New Yardbirds (to honor a pre-existing contract), embarked on a short tour of Scandinavia.
They took the name Led Zeppelin at the behest of the Who's John Entwistle (though the legend is also credited to Keith Moon),
who joked that Page's new project "would go down like a lead balloon."
The band signed to Atlantic Records for an unusually large advance of $200,000, and released its self-titled first album in
January of 1969. Recorded in just thirty hours, Led Zeppelin featured a heavy blend of folk, blues, and rock. It
yielded no chart success as far as singles, but the record spawned several songs that went on to become Zeppelin signature
pieces: "Good Times, Bad Times" and "Communication Breakdown" are rock-radio staples to this day, and "Dazed and Confused"
became one of the band's most expansive live numbers.
Led Zeppelin toured extensively in support of the album, and with Page's reputation preceding them, had fans turning
out right from the start. Led Zeppelin II was recorded while the band was on the road--an undertaking that Page later called
"ridiculous"--but the payoff was immense: "Whole Lotta Love" rose to No. 4 on the Billboard chart, the highest position ever
for a Zeppelin single. In October, the band embarked on their fourth tour of America in less than a year, sharing bills with
the James Gang, Santana, and Isaac Hayes.
Led Zeppelin III emerged in October of 1970. Alternately raucous and subdued, the album saw the band departing from
its blues roots and into new musical structures. "Immigrant Song" was a hard-rocking pile driver fired on all four cylinders:
Plant wailing, bassist Jones rumbling, Page alternating between lead and rhythm guitar, and Bonham keeping steady time with
a powerful staccato beat. Conversely, the gentle "Tangerine" featured mandolin and pedal-steel guitar, and showed the quiet
beauty that Led Zeppelin was also capable of. More touring ensued, and the band was easily selling out 15,000- to 20,000-seat
sports arenas in America.
While the next album didn't mark a major sonic departure, it catapulted Led Zeppelin into rock history. The officially
untitled fourth album (usually referred to for simplicity's sake as Led Zeppelin IV) contained "Stairway to Heaven," which
would go on to become one of the most famous rock songs of all time. But the album was loaded with highlights: the Bonham-driven
"Rock and Roll," "The Battle of Evermore," which featured Fairport Convention's Sandy Denny on a soaring guest vocal, and
the complex "When the Levee Breaks." Led Zeppelin IV, released in November of 1971, not only lacked a printed title, it didn't
even include the band's name on the cover. Rather, mysterious symbols for each member were printed on the inner sleeve. Again,
more touring ensued, including the band's first-ever trip to Japan, where they went out of their way to play a benefit concert
in Hiroshima, the site of the first atomic bomb blast in 1945.
Led Zeppelin's next studio album, Houses of the Holy (1973), ranks as one of its best and most adventurous records.
"The Crunge" revisited the blues while toying with dance and soul, and "D'yer Mak'er" marked an earnest step into reggae.
The album went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart, and the band's 1973 U.S. tour opened with two stadium shows in Tampa and Atlanta, each attended by over 50,000 people. The latter gig actually broke the attendance record
set by the Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965 for the largest paying audience to see a single band. Further shows that year at
Madison Square Garden in New York were used in a somewhat spotty concert film and live album, The Song Remains the Same, both
released three years later.
Arguably, it was on the 1973 tour that Led Zeppelin sealed their reputation as
live performers. Loud and bombastic, they brought a raw and dangerous energy to the stage in what were usually three-hour
performances. They could change direction easily, stretching "Dazed and Confused" into a sprawling forty-five minutes, or
play quiet numbers like "The Rain Song" with astonishing grace. Unlike the Who or the Rolling Stones, there was a mystique
about Led Zeppelin that added to its appeal. The band's album covers seemed to be loaded with imagery and hidden meaning;
they gave relatively few interviews; and they never performed on television, which meant the only way to actually see Led
Zeppelin was in concert.
In 1974, the band formed its own record label, Swan Song, which was to be distributed by Atlantic. Led Zeppelin's
first album for its new imprint was Physical Graffiti (1975), a somewhat uneven double album made up of new recordings and
leftover outtakes from prior records. Still, it contained one outright classic in "Kashmir," perhaps the most exotic song
in the Zeppelin catalog. While the band has been dogged over the years by some legitimate claims that Page lifted blues riffs
from other artists for his own compositions, "Kashmir" was an utterly compelling original. The 1975 tour in support of Physical
Graffiti was another huge success, culminating in five triumphant nights at the cavernous Earl's Court in London, the only
indoor venue in England which was the size of a U.S. arena. This allowed Zeppelin to bring its full stage, lighting, and sound
system to the U.K. for the first time. The Earl's Court stage also featured a giant video screen projecting live images of
the band as they played, the first such use by any artist.
Led Zeppelin had planned to return to U.S. stadiums in the late summer of 1975, but dates were canceled when Robert Plant
suffered serious injuries in a car accident. The event put the quartet in turmoil, and their next album, Presence,
reflects that. It was recorded in an eighteen-day marathon session in Munich with Plant still unable to walk unaided, and
released in March of 1976. While Presence promptly went to No. 1, rumors swirled that the band might not ever tour again,
and album sales suffered. Happily, Plant did heal, and while his bout with tonsillitis forced the postponement of the start
of the tour, the band finally hit the road April 1, 1977, in Dallas for what would be its final U.S. trek. While phenomenally
successful, the tour ended abruptly when Plant's son Karac became fatally ill. The remaining dates were canceled, and Led
Zeppelin began a long hiatus which many took as a sign they were breaking up.
Three years passed between Presence and Zeppelin's next record, and in that time, punk rock broke in England. But
Led Zeppelin stuck to their creative guns. In Through the Out Door (1979), recorded at ABBA's Polar Studios in Stockholm,
was a sweeping album that featured the band's most extensive use of keyboards. John Bonham rose to the occasion and kept the
band tight during this experimental stage, while Jones' keyboards and synthesized strings broadened the group's sound considerably.
"In the Evening" was a classic, latter-day Zeppelin mini-epic, "All My Love" was a moving tribute to Plant's late son, Karac,
and the honky-tonk stomper "Hot Dog" proved that the quartet hadn't lost its sense of humor. In August of 1979, Led Zeppelin
completed their return to action by topping the bill at the huge Knebworth Festival in England, playing two shows to more
than 100,000 people.
In June of 1980, as preparation for their first U.S. shows in three years, Led
Zeppelin mounted a fourteen-stop European warm-up tour dubbed "Led Zeppelin Over Europe '80," playing small venues--by choice--for the first time in a decade. The 1980 shows were streamlined--gone were the extended drum- and guitar-solo showcases--but the new-found efficiency still
proved powerful. Led Zeppelin was primed to fly into the new decade, but on September 25, 1980, Led Zeppelin crashed. Drummer
John Bonham died of asphyxiation after a day of heavy drinking. He was thirty-two. Swan Song issued a statement in December
that confirmed the band's end. Coda, a compilation of previously unreleased material, was released in 1982.
have been a handful of Led Zeppelin reunions--a dreadful set at the 1985 Live Aid concert, and three performances
with John Bonham's son Jason on drums for various special events, including the band's 1995 induction into the Rock &
Roll Hall of Fame--but a full-fledged Zeppelin reunion tour has yet to happen, despite multi-million-dollar offers. There
were rumors of a one-off performance in the summer of 1997 in honor of the death of the band's longtime manager, Peter Grant,
but so far, nothing's official. Robert Plant is scheduled to be the Keynote Speaker at the 2005 South By Southwest Conference
in Austin in March.