1971 Led Zeppelin – Immigrant Song
From 1963 to 1968, Keith Relf sang vocals and played harmonica in the Yardbirds. The group also had three notable guitarists at one time or another: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. The group also included Paul Samwell-Smith on bass for the first three years, Chris Dreja on guitar (and later bass), and Jim McCarty on drums.
The group disintegrated in 1968, leaving Chris and Jimmy to salvage something from the ashes. They added Robert Plant on vocals and he brought along drummer John Bonham. Chris decided to leave and pursue a career as a photographer, and John Paul Jones joined the group. They put on a tour of Scandinavia in 1968, appearing sometimes as The New Yardbirds. Chris owned the rights to the name “The Yardbirds,” so a new name became necessary.
In an earlier discussion of forming a supergroup, Keith Moon had suggested that the idea would go over like a lead balloon, to which John Entwistle offered the correction, “More like a lead zeppelin.” Jimmy remembered that musing and changed the proffered name slightly to Led Zeppelin, and that became the group’s new name.
The group’s first album included a two-sided single that only reached #80 on the Hot 100 (Good Times Bad Times and Communication Breakdown). The group’s second album had a top five hit, Whole Lotta Love.
Their third album release in late 1970 was a critical disappointment, perhaps because of the focus on folk-influenced acoustic music. The only single from the album was Immigrant Song, which peaked at #16 on the Hot 100 in 1971.
The record is one of the few top forty singles* from the sixties and seventies that does not include the title of the song in the lyrics. Airplay for the song has all but disappeared from the airwaves on oldies stations, perhaps because it is simply too much heavy metal for older listeners.
The group finally became superstars as a result of their fourth album. The album did not have a name, but the group insisted they issue the album with four symbols on the cover (one for each of the members of the group). The album is usually referred to as Led Zeppelin IV.
The first single from the album, Black Dog, only reached #15 on the chart in 1971. The second single did even more poorly; Rock and Roll stalled at #47 in 1972. Even then, metal was a hard sell to top forty radio stations.
The group’s genuine breakthrough came from another song on the album, a song that the group steadfastly refused to release as a single: Stairway To Heaven. It was arguably one of the most important recordings in the rock era, and the album still dominates airplay on Classic Rock stations.
* Other songs with that distinction include Weekend In New England, Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35, A Summer Song, and Strawberry Letter 23. Feel free to mention any others you can think of, but please limit yourself to songs that reached the top forty!
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