A British rock band that critics loved to hate due to their ambiguity of genre, extensive song length, and dramatic talent so far ahead of their time, Led Zeppelin became the most popular band in the world during the early 70’s within a matter of years. Smash hits such as the soul-reaping screeches of “Immigrant Song,” poetic rock anthem “Stairway to Heaven,” as well as the raw, unadulterated riffs blaring from “Whole Lotta Love” had intentionally come through thousands of stereos and record players.
While the minds of listeners were still absorbing the shock administered by bands like The Doors, Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Beatles, Led Zeppelin’s powerful combination of sounds was nothing like anyone had heard before their debut.
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In this article, we’re going to list what we believe are the five best Led Zeppelin songs and albums.
5. Physical Graffiti (1975)
“Physical Graffiti” was a favorite to all Zeppelin fans in the world, as well as newbies who have yet to place Led Zeppelin I on their turntables. With a smashing eight-minute jam “Kashmir” that produced a phenomenal, unforgettable riff, as well as many others such as “The Rover,” “In The Light” “In My Time Dying,” “Houses of the Holy,” “Trampled Under Foot,” and “Bron-Y-Aur.” Shortly after it’s release, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Top 200 Albums ranked Physical Graffiti in place 93.
The cover of this album features a large apartment building at 96 & 98 St Mark’s Place in New York City, with cutouts on both sides of the vinyl cover where the windows should be to display photos. The vinyl record sleeves are double sided, having the building on each side as well. The windows display scenes of historical, patriarchal, and religious art, a cartoon man grabbing another man’s crotch, photos of the band in moments of ecstasy, a zeppelin, animals, children, royalty and so forth.
The album cover itself was extremely pleasing to the eye and caused that random old building to have fans nearby, daily.
An undeniable melody that became a classic was “Bron-Y-Aur,” based upon a small little cottage in Wales where Robert loved to go with his family as well. Reminiscent of Celtic music, as well as elegant bouncing to and fro between frets in similar frequency, Page played this beautifully while mastering the sound of both royalty, heart, enlightenment, and soul.
Mimicking the sound of one’s chest breathing in and out, this song flows in and out of ears like a river, ending with a final, tough strum, like a neat bow on top of a gorgeous package. Though it sounds flowery, this delightful trip down memory lane slathered in classical influence would become a sound that defined Led Zeppelin III as more folk than rock.
“In My Time Dying” is extraordinarily written, with a distinct southern drawl on the bass and guitar; a few simple chords parallel with Bonzo’s heavy drums. The table shakes with exaggerated vibration and rhythm, as the heavy drumsticks slam down with an explosive introduction to Plant’s singing a charming anecdote about the time of death coming closer. The tempo of every faction of the song builds faster and faster upon one another.
Pausing intermittently to allow Plant’s stream of pleading and restless to flow through the ears, melancholy wishes settle senses down, and the rambunctious highs and lows of the song cause each individual cell to be vulnerable to the ebb and flow of the song’s soul. Physical Graffiti was a fantastic variation of Zeppelin III, carrying major country and blues influence over, as well as qualities from the first few albums proving their ability to create immeasurably legendary riffs in a blink of an eye.
4. Led Zeppelin III (1970)
A colorful gem with psychedelic images suffocating this album’s cover, “Led Zeppelin III” lit up every community with its extreme versatility, serving those who worshipped their hard rock style, as well as introducing more of their folk-like music with a heavy blues emphasis. Rather than forgetting their rock sound all together while exposing other talents Page and Jones withheld, they chose to incorporate hard rock singles as well to further explicate their mastery over the sound of rock and roll.
Such hits on this album that were harder include “Immigrant Song,” “Out On The Tiles,” and “Celebration Day.” Other than that, a collection of fable-like folk songs doused in Delta blues came to rise, such as “Gallows Pole,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” “That’s The Way,” and “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp.”
A gorgeous song with not nearly enough recognition would be “Gallows Pole.” Phenomenal lyrics caressed by slow drumming and vocals with a quiet indie guitar, slowly getting faster as the song progresses into a beautiful indie rock harmony. This song is about a man who stands trial, awaiting a hanging at the Gallows Pole.
The hangman requires a fee to let him free, and the man awaits the help of his friends and family. Friends trample down empty handed due to being poor, the brother brings silver, the sister has sex with the hangman. As the hangman walks out, returns the man’s sister with a grin as he expresses how great she was, he still pulls the rope laughing hard as the man swings every which way, dangling in front of the guilty man’s family and friends.
Explicit Depiction of Humanity
Pleasure in orchestrating undeniable misery so explicitly shakes listeners with a statement about humanity when confronted by the hangman’s persona. Inspiring a sense of wonder about a variety of personalities colliding in society without consideration or regard for the world outside of themselves, Page and Plant write symbolically about the extent of selfishness, and further, the extent of generosity.
Although evil seems to triumph over good in this story, it is hard to put together what the actual message might be as the man who is being hung was in fact, a guilty man. Were the friends who arrived to be in his company poor, or were they simply there out of fear that he may attack if they did not try? Was the sister willing to have sex although her brother offered her up with no real conversation beforehand?
Maybe the man being hung was a rapist, a murderer, or a man whose resources may be limited due to his seclusion from society. The vague representation of the story is also a part of its overall intent, which is to give an honest depiction of humanity within every aspect and give the public a chance to piece it together.
Led Zeppelin III was most reputable for its sense of imagery within folk-like poetry written especially for those who love a song with great emotional influence on the listener. Although this band was primarily popular for their ability to put on a fantastic show and shake the listener with thrilling guitar riffs and an unforgettable, mesmerizing scream, this song proved the band’s versatility within musical genres.
The song is performed with a banjo, acoustic and electric guitar, as well as a 12-string, all played with an articulate, steady rhythm like wind during the summer, along with a slow drumming, stomping like a shaman around a warm fire. This is a timeless piece, that does not have nearly enough recognition for its ability to prove this entire album to be a classic.
3. Houses of the Holy (1973)
A miraculous comeback after their last release two years prior, the band returns with “Houses of the Holy.” This is a ground-breaking album with signature Bonzo drums, incessant bass by Jones, and the phenomenal, crisp guitar solos by Page timed beautifully throughout each song, along with a variety of classical violins and piano.
The band later released a film acting out subconscious fantasies and dreams over their live performances, then named it after the first track on this album, “The Song Remains The Same.” Songs such as “The Rain Song,” “D’yer Maker,” and “Dancing Days” only further explicates the amount of talent this band has to offer, as the artists push their boundaries as artists by making an album incorporating a medieval-bluesy essence while maintaining their signature rock and roll style.
“The Rain Song” consists of a sort of medieval, Scottish-Spanish plucking of the acoustic guitar, soft, dramatic drums with the quiet strumming of a bass, replicating that nostalgic feeling of a quaint re-emergence of life through virtue of love and peace. Following this would be a calming, hard, folk-rock song called “Over the Hills and Far Away,” with a wavy bass line that echoes back and forth between speakers, as well as an angry electric guitar and consistent acoustic notes floating about with Bonzo’s rabbit foot kicking the bass drum.
“No Quarter” literally emerges the listener into a pool of warm water, washed over by the sound of drowning emulated by Jones’s muffled bass through the use of a synthesizer. Every instrument is cloaked in moisture and pure, transcendental rebirth. The quiet whisper of a synthesized Plant’s voice vibrating as he breathes into the quiet, repetitive bassline seems to cause one to sink in their seat, soaking in every sound (stoned, or not).
It’s fantastic how this band made music for every person with absolute pleasure and ultimate precision, tying songs up without a long, drawn-out musical break like many songs that came close to this harmony.
2. Untitled, a.k.a. Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
Quite literally a classic, this album track by track could quite possibly be a historical relic, “Untitled” was a novelty built within the bounds of four minds dancing around a fictitious medieval fortress. Considering this piece was written in Plant’s favorite cottage to go as a child, Headley Grange, the band had a chance to disconnect from all the static in the world and reconnect with one another, and most important, with the music.
With Led Zeppelin I, II & III causing mass amounts of popularity, as well as non-stop concert dates all over the U.S., it was about time the band settle back in the United Kingdom and begin writing some music that meant something more to them. Critics all over the world, in particular, Rolling Stone, stated that the band used weak lyrics, and the band was just a passing fad, nothing more. Signing the album with individualized signs based upon what was said to be various branches mythology, Led Zeppelin whispered the largest secret into the world’s ear in the form of a quiet revolutionary moment in rock music history.
A dramatic, yet subtle protest against critics
The album resulted in being an untitled work, covered in art and signed only by the band’s own individual symbols. The front of the album has a photograph of an old man carrying straw glued to withering paper; the inside holds an artist’s rendition of the town that Led Zeppelin sings of in their song, “Stairway to Heaven.”
Page’s symbol was the classically recognized “Zoso” type signature, Bonzo’s being the three circles in the form of a triangle, Jones’ having three petals enclosed in a circle, and Plant’s being a simple feather in the center of a ring. Carefully pulling the vinyl off the shelf, the only way to find out the album’s title was to simply pull the record out of the sleeve and examine the title on the disc. Plant, Page and Jones all wrote legendary songs for the band in this little cottage, such as “Black Dog,” “Stairway to Heaven,” “When the Levee Breaks,” and “Going to California.”
Balanced with both their classic bluesy rock sound, the band decided to create a variety of changes within their presence in the music scene with this album, making songs that belonged to no certain genre at all, as well as unique folk songs.
Over the entirety of Zeppelin’s career, critics found everything wrong with the band, other than the fact that they are highly sought after in every record store, simply labeling the band as hype afterward. Led Zeppelin wanted to prove with this album that they were there to make good music, not to sit around and listen to critics, trying to become popular.
“Untitled” received so much praise, that they were asked to trim some tracks so the public radio can have a taste. It was a bitter pill to swallow that the band protested against cutting any song short, regardless of reason. Jimmy Page refused to do any interviews until 18 weeks after the release of Untitled. Page did this simply to make sure that the public knew they were serious about wanting them to examine the music for what it was, not for who they were. It was a revolution against the major hype in media and selling 37 million copies, it was apparent that social suicide was nearly impossible for this band.
1. Led Zeppelin II (1969)
“Led Zeppelin II” was the groundbreaking album that put caused Led Zeppelin to make history as rock legends, using a violin wand, and heavy bass. As this record sold an exhilarating amount of copies being released only a handful of months after their first album, fans were impressed, and absolutely devoted to the hypnotizing rhythm only Bonham, Plant, Jones, and Page could create.
Within a six-month time frame, the band wrote this entire album on the road, during part of their European tour, as well as parts of the tour in North America. Sure, bands could try to replicate the sound, yet that would even take a few months for the greatest musician to get a grasp on the mindset behind one of the four geniuses when putting these pieces together, let alone emulating the sound altogether with brilliant lyrics within only six months.
Not only that, their first album consisted of many top hits, only being written within a solid three weeks. Led Zeppelin had mass momentum as they blew almost every British Rock band out of the water.
Even the devilish, dragging musical break on “Whole Lotta Love” ties into the song gorgeously as a ghoulish representation of Page’s ability to create satanic sounds with different methods of string manipulation. Ending this hazy trip to Hell, Page leads the listener out with a short, strong solo with an uplifting quality.
Bonzo bangs on the drum relentlessly, using each and every surface to tap a harmony alongside Jones’ daunting bass. In the 70s, this album shook the public and caused them to crave the nasty bass line and wild fingers, fast, articulate drums. Plant’s voice was irreplaceable and courageous; stabilized yet wild, this set of pipes dramatically shouts with orgasmic pleasure into the microphone, echoing throughout bedroom walls as the sound travels like ping-pong balls between both speakers.
This classic album stood the test of time with many other hits as well, like “ What Is And What Should Never Be,” “Heartbreaker,” “Ramble On,” and “Moby Dick,” leaving only a few tracks on the album behind when this album became the number one album sold, replacing Abbey Road and maintaining it’s place for seven weeks straight. In the autumn of 1969, the band took off to Europe for another tour, commencing a collection of performances from not only the first album but a few tracks like “Moby Dick” and “What Is And What Should Never Be” on stage.
The U.K. was going mad, as the British media silenced much of Led Zeppelin’s hype for quite some time, and they were just now giving rise to them as their actual band name, rather than “The New Yardbirds.”
The album cover was the icing on the cake – a visual representation of German soldiers crowded together for a photo while Bonzo, Plant, Jones, and Page are disguised as their colleagues. Aesthetically charming yet painfully nostalgic, as Vietnam collected gentleman of age all around the United States with a few more years to come.
This was caused a huge civil conflict within the United States, and this cover symbolically states that it may be time for the world to simply come together, even if it may be masked by a simple facade of basic understanding. The fact Zeppelin is clothed in military attire symbolizes the gesture of making peace, asking the public gently to consider burying the hatchet with the devastating relationship between Germany with a brief recollection of their innate human composition.
Top 5 Songs by Led Zeppelin
- 5. When the Levee Breaks (Untitled, a.k.a. Led Zeppelin IV)
This song is extraordinarily powerful – Plant’s ability to quick skit through his lines as the song increases in emotional distress, dizzy woe falling like rain as he screams with utter, genuine, extraordinary heartbreak.
The band tapped into a bluesy-jazz mindset with a haunting riff played by Page reverberating throughout the entire piece with a whipping to and fro keys, creating a wavy fret transition. This song, amongst others on the album, was an extraordinary hit that pronounced Led Zeppelin IV an absolute necessity in every country around the globe.
“When the Levee Breaks,” originally was a blues song written in the 1920’s by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, was all about the normality of these levees in each neighborhood having the potential to fall apart, causing the mountain-loving man to leave for another town. Bluesy harmonica echoing in the wind of Page’s industrial guitar accentuates.
Bonzo’s dramatic, steady drumming. This haunting melody first holds consistency, but then goes out of control, like a train sliding off its tracks down a steep hill. Page and Plant’s reinterpretation of the piece includes the synthesizing of Plant’s voice as the ghoulish whistle of the harmonica creeps in through the left speaker, overlaying Bonzo’s beating at the drums, all of which beautifully compliments Jimmy Page’s phenomenal wavy guitar. Not only is this a great cover, but a unique, powerful recreation of the original blues-rock sound, sending daunting chills down each vertebrae.
- 4. All My Love (In Through the Out Door)
“In Through the Out Door” was an extraordinary hit due to this song, as well as “Fool in the Rain” and “Hot Dog.” However, “All My Love” encompassed the classic sound of Led Zeppelin, while replicating sweet beach-like guitar riffs Page rocked in “Houses of the Holy,” barking with intermittent gorgeous melodies to fill in the gap between the sweet sounding keyboard, and a steady, beachy rhythm to the drums until the first major musical break between lyrics at two minutes in.
An explosion of Spanish guitar fused with classic Hendrix-McCoy guitar style, Page and Jones caused a frenzy when the vinyl focuses on his notes, as well as the symphonic, swiveling synthesizer noise bouncing back and forth between speakers.
A bittersweet, abrupt ending
A single feather playfully flying in the sky symbolizes the death and transcendence of his son, Karac, who passed in 1977 due to a stomach infection. Known to every band member, as well as blatantly obvious with his rendition of his life and family during the film, “The Song Remains The Same,” Plant’s heart was devastated.
The pain in his voice is vibrantly told through the shaky, stark, compassionate belting of the chorus, practically begging to send all of his love to his son. The sweet, positive nature of the song’s musical portion serves to expose mixed feelings of relief, acceptance, and grief.
Cloaking lyrics inspired by Penelope’s Lament (found in Book XIX of Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’), this heartbreaking, poetic composition climbed the charts. This, in turn, had caused the band to receive the utmost praise before the passing of their very own Bonzo, less than a year later due to excessive drinking.
Though Bonzo was visibly depressed, weaving in and out of conversations in his right mind, or as the drunkard who took his place when Bonzo’s heart was still at home with his wife and kids.
“In Through the Out Door” was a fantastic album, though this song is the most memorable track that the entire band left off on. In other words, it was one of the hardest ways to say goodbye to the old rock band with so much potential being ripped from our society, both in the form of Bonzo and Karac.
- 3. Stairway to Heaven (Untitled, a.k.a. Led Zeppelin IV)
A song so popular Wayne’s World felt it necessary to hang a sign against playing the legendary riffs, “Stairway to Heaven” is one of the most iconic songs Page ever wrote. A song crafted with the slow plucking of a guitar and mellotron flutes, accompanied by Plant’s low voice singing gracefully the story of a woman whose essence of greed and entitlement is confused for that of righteousness.
As the song progresses, other instruments such as the classic, strong drumming of Bonham, an electric piano, bass, 12-string electric and slide guitars.
Outside of the powerful message, the lyrics are delivered with ferocity and fearlessness. ‘Stairway to Heaven’ became Led Zeppelin’s anthem for many reasons, but for one in particular: it encompassed absolutely every single talent the band had to offer in just over seven minutes. The song begins soft, with the fingers of a delicate harp player dance along the fretboard of Page’s guitar, as Jones follows immediately with a continuous, ominous hum below the graceful ballad of riffs.
Gently, the flute chimes in after the bass introduction, singling the same melody as Page. As if crafted with ink and a feather, the lyrics are spoken with grace and eloquence while the flutes echo like the empty courtyard of the lonely jester. Completing the song’s quiet melody, the piano and drums play controlled, folky notes.
Quite frankly, “Stairway to Heaven” is a folk song up until the final couple minutes, where page erupts into a frenzy of hard riffs, and Robert screams with pain at the deliberate ignorance within modern society that begs to be accepted, rather than be good natured.
A story reminding the public of the fact that one cannot simply buy their way into Heaven; a peaceful reminder delivered through rigorous strength in the loudest shriek Plant could manage. Bonham wails on the drums on this track, blowing critics out of their seats as they present this classic with a humble attitude.
- 2. Dazed and Confused (Led Zeppelin)
Although the song was stolen by Page when he familiarized himself with The Yardbird’s version from the album “Little Games,” Plant’s vocals and Page wailing in the guitar like nothing happened had created mass success for the band’s first album.
This song was articulated with layers of literary devices such as classic English literature from the 1800s, comparing the relationship between man and woman throughout the bible’s progression with the relationship of a man and lustrous woman. This woman is a symbolic figure, the soul who leaves men confused with unexplained motives, intentional neglect, without any intention to leave until they’ve gone mad.
Holmes goes on to say that feminine soul is created below, which is quite obviously stating that it can be downright evil, possessive, sumptuous yet thrilling. Accompanied by Page’s heavy, ominous riffs with machine-like intensity, screeching like electric thunder, sending a rush of adrenaline drenched with utter frustration – alert, building up to a powerful solo, the band and its audience are hypnotized by the malicious soul of Eve, confused by the vicious ways of a modern Jezebel.
A bittersweet ending, begging a woman to stop confusing him, Plant pleads that she is completely responsible for everlasting life being ripped from Earth as she bitterly pays the bill in place of both her and Adam.
This song is explicit, cohesive, controversial, dramatic, and in all the right senses – daring. Without the courage to literally steal the song from some man and claim it to be their own, Led Zeppelin went on to tell one of the most colorful poems of their time. If it weren’t for the fact that this song was ripped off Holmes, it would definitely be in first place.
- 1. Kashmir (Physical Graffiti)
Dramatic and profound, this booming anthem is ultimately everything Led Zeppelin has to offer. With over eight minutes and no negotiation to shorten the song for radio time, every copy of Physical Graffiti was brushed off the shelf to bang their heads harder than ever. Bonzo goes harder on the drums than any song to this point, as this was the first time he used electronic drum synthesizers.
Written like long road sliced between the Sahara, the song replicates the simple adventure of a long, tumultuous ride. Ending abruptly while violence breaks out around one’s neck, head pressed to the window with both sunlight and space radiating across naked skin, Led Zeppelin vividly describes the actual condition of life in this sector of Africa called “Kashmir.” The band presents the title Kashmir as it is a huge wasteland in South Africa doused in poverty, hunger, and fear. Though this song is a phenomenal depiction of life there, the lyrics are also an allegorical tale of life’s adventure attitude towards going places unknown.
The musical breaks from Plant’s singing where the keyboard chimes in with extraterrestrial presence, sounding like a high pitch synthesizer waving back and forth between speakers, causes one to be tranquilized by a sound so triumphant, loud and definitive.
Page plays unforgettable hard riffs that bounce from a deep strumming up and down the fretboard, before finalizing the composition with the same resonance it began with. During the final three verses of the song, the band is in an absolute frenzy, practically shaking the ground with the satanic growling of the thunderous repetition of the keyboard haunting one’s ears as symbols and drums strike like a thousand bolts of lightning.
Plant is screaming, aching to get a message across about the subtle nudge to grab life by the neck and keep going, though it is a long road.
To this day, Robert Plant still plays on tour with his group, The Sensational Space Shifters. In fact, they have an international tour going on this year, in 2018. Jimmy and John Paul don’t play live anymore, rather they have fallen off the radar after their performance at London’s O2 Arena in 2007, honoring the founder of Atlantic Records (their first label), Ahmet Ertegun.
It’s truly phenomenal to see the band pick up the pieces of the scattered project they left off on in 1980. Though Led Zeppelin’s performances are completely out of the question, the music will undoubtedly live on for decades to come. With great ferocity and passion that seems to be unmatched by a majority of the musical industry, it’s no wonder that Led Zeppelin’s courageous, concise, one-of-a-kind masterpiece vinyl sessions remain to be the most sought out records in history.
Led Zeppelin on Vinyl
Though we are extremely familiar with the band, veterans and vinyl junkies obsess over the organic sounds of the studio and old Hedley Grange rather than the audio transmitted over a compact disc or an iPhone. Led Zeppelin’s rawest content form lies on vinyl, which, in turn, accentuates the notes of each key in a natural, rustic manner. Every album by Led Zeppelin ever released are constantly being sought out.
Now with the internet, people can get deals internationally, though rare vinyl records by Led Zeppelin preserved from their original release date takes some searching, and always costs somewhere between $100-$200. Brand new remastered vinyl has been pressed for the public for the last ten years or so, creating a crisp, clean studio version, for as low as $30 if one should order vinyl records online through sources like Amazon, eBay, and Barnes and Noble.
One thing to always take into consideration as well as the value of digging through crates and finding a used version of the vinyl – saving time, money, and holding a tangible, nostalgic treasure for the rest of time.
Blues, rock, and a little folk
Jimmy Page arguably became one of the world’s most recognizable guitarists, mimicking some of his influences since he was 15 known as Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Elvis, and major blues artists like Kansas Joe McCoy. Most famously recognized from his position in The Yardbirds as a lead guitarist at the end of the band’s career, Jimmy held onto his success once the band broke up by instantly publicizing his efforts to create a filthy new band.
Through the effort of trying to hire a vocalist, Page was referred to the band “Hobbstweedle” to listen to a man named Robert Plant sing. Plant was overjoyed at the amazing similarity in both sound and taste in music that Page adored. Jones being an aficionado in both bass and keyboard ultimately brought a sense of warmth and personal dedication is one of Page’s best friends.
As for John “Bonzo” Bonham, he is now the most influential drummer in the world, inspiring thousands to push their drumming abilities to the next level by using each and every instrument the drum set could hold in almost every performance.
He used tons of instruments for all their albums, such as symbols and drums, a gong, congas, and a heavy bass kicking throughout electronic drum synthesizers. Bonzo was apprehensive about joining, then finally agreed after some time and practice with the rest of the soon-to-be band – playing music that would be questioned by critics, but loved by fans.
A Band of Thieves, or Geniuses?
Considering how the band began their career under The New Yardbirds, Jimmy did take a considerable amount away from the previous band in the form of a fantastic cover that received no credit until years later. “Dazed and Confused” ultimately belonged to Jake Holmes, but received mass amounts of popularity for the band.
Not only that, but the band had also (arguably) borrowed a riff from Spirit for their smash hit “Stairway to Heaven,” resulting in a major lawsuit in 2016. Nonetheless, the execution of said plagiarism was identifiably different from anything Spirit or The Yardbirds had produced years before. Even though the replication was out of error, the execution of such articles of music is substantially legendary, creating a collection of songs and albums that are still spun on turntables to this day.
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