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Led Zeppelin: The Making Of Their Legendary Third Album

Record Collector Christmas 2010

The Christmas 2010 Issue of Record Collector has an excellent article on Led Zeppelin and the making of their legendary third album. Although Led Zeppelin III was released on October 5, 1970 in the US and had certified Gold status three days later, the seeds for this memorable album were planted more than a year earlier.

Led Zeppelin was released at the beginning of 1969 and Led Zeppelin II was released a mere ten months later on the coattails of the success of the first album. There was a definite Led Zeppelin mania going on in the United States. Led Zeppelin had virtually been on the road non-stop for the last year, with five tours in America and six in Europe and England. The last date of the tour in the US on April 19, 1970 in Las Vegas, Nevada had to be cancelled because Robert Plant had collapsed at the previous night’s performance, due to exhaustion. The band needed a break.

Robert Plant had suggested a place to retreat to - South Snowdonia. His family had taken holiday in nearby Llynfant Valley in the 1950s and he was very enchanted by the remoteness of the area and the stories of English folk lore that were told. Robert, Jimmy, Robert’s with Maureen and daughter Carmen, Charlotte Martin, Jimmy’s girlfriend, along with roadies Clive Coulson and Sandy MacGregor travelled up to Bron-Yr-Aur, a small derelict cottage, atop a small hill, two miles from Machynlleth, Powys, Wales, in May 1970. There was no running water, no electricity, no phones, just the perfect place to bring a couple of acoustic guitars and a tape recorder and record some new music.

Although the actual recording for Led Zeppelin III was done a month later at Headley Grange, East Hampshire, England, the beginnings of many of Led Zeppelin’s songs had their beginnings at Bron-Yr-Aur, including Friends, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, That’s The Way, Over The Hills And Far Away, The Crunge, The Rover, Bron-Yr-Aur, Down By The Seaside and Poor Tom. Additional recording was done in Olympic Studios and Island Studios, back in London, England in June and July 1970.

At the end of June 1970, they had a one-off performance in Reykjavik, Iceland, as part of a culural exchange visit organized by the British Government. The following weekend, Led Zeppelin headlined the Bath Festival of Blues & Progressive Music. They took the stage at sunset, upon Peter Grant’s insistence, which was at approximately 8:30PM. This performance was unarguably one of their most important of their career to date. It both opened the eyes to the British fans and those who had initially snubbed them in the past 18 months, as well as premiering their acoustic dynamic.

The Boy Next Door (a.k.a. That’s The Way) was given quick and polite applause. This was most certainly a shock to the audience who was expecting another Whole Lotta Love or How Many More Times. The only new material the public had heard what eventually would make it on Led Zeppelin III was Since I’ve Been Loving You, but the lyrics has changed, so anything was new to them.

Likewise, the press was shocked. They said things like “LED ZEPPELIN GO ACOUSTIC”, “THIS ISN’T LED ZEPPELIN II” and “THIS CHANGE IS THE END OF LED ZEPPELIN”. All of this is laughable since three songs on the first album were acoustic, as well as portions of two songs on the second album. All that this was cement the fact that Led Zeppelin was so much more than just an electric and distorted band and it would go on to be a part of Robert Plant’s solo career, even up to the present date.

Led Zeppelin: The Making of their Legendary Third Album does a superb job of chronicling this time period from October 1969 through December 1970, exploring every facet of Led Zeppelin, from the live experience to the period of recording to the critics’ and fans’ reactions and everything in-between.

Also including in this issue of Record Collector is a small article on the cover design of Led Zeppelin III by artist Zacron, a look into the influences of Led Zeppelin that led to their acoustic interests, an article on bootleg recordings of this time period, a track-by-track listing of the songs that made it onto Led Zeppelin III and those that did not as well as a Rare Pressings Guide to the LPs of Led Zeppelin III that were released throughout the world.

As an added bonus, if you skim toward the end of the magazine, in the Digging For Gold section, you will find an article on an alternate pressing of Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin’s sixth studio album, that was discovered in the possession of legendary collection Ken Barnes. It contained several different images in the die-cut windows of the album cover. This article tells the story of that experience.

Record Collector Issue #383 Christmas 2010 is currently on newsstands and available for purchase on their website.

Jeff Strawman
December 7, 2010

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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

March 17, 1969 - A four-song performance is filmed for TV Byen in Denmark (aired on May 19, 1969)
March 21, 1969 - Zeppelin’s debut TV appearance on "How It Is"
March 25, 1969 - Filming session for the Supershow
March xx, 1970 - The band turns down many TV offers worth large sums
March 05, 1971 - Led Zeppelin started a 12-date "Thank You" tour for British fans, appearing at the clubs from their early days and charging the same admission prices as in 1968. The first show was at Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland where they played songs from their upcoming fourth album, including the first public performances of Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California and Rock And Roll.
March 12, 1972 - Page and Plant rehearse some songs with the Bombay Orchestra
March 25, 1973 - Led Zeppelin finally release Houses of the Holy after production issues with the album cover
March 28, 1973 - Led Zeppelin released Houses Of The Holy in the UK. The album title was a dedication by the band to their fans who appeared at venues they dubbed "houses of the holy". Houses Of The Holy has now been certified 11 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 11 million copies.
March xx, 1974 - The band decide to release a double album due to the amount of left over studio material
March 29, 1975 - Led Zeppelin saw all six of their albums in the US Top 100 chart in the same week, alongside their latest album Physical Graffiti at No.1. Physical Graffiti has now been certified 16 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 16 million copies.
March 15, 1975 - Tickets for the Earls Court shows sellout within four hours
March xx, 1976 - Jimmy speaks with reporters mentioning the new album due out called Presence
March 31, 1976 - Presence is released
March 28, 1977 - Zeppelin arrive in Dallas, Texas to rehearse before opening the eleventh tour of the US
March xx, 1978 - Robert and John spend some time hanging around the Midlands
March 26, 1979 - Robert takes lead vocal at a Bad Company gig in Birmingham
March 04, 1980 - John Bonham makes a TV appearance on "Alright Now" with Bill Connolly
March 26, 2006 - Readers of Total Guitar magazine voted the guitar solo by Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven as the greatest guitar solo of all time. The 1971 track was voted ahead of tracks by Van Halen, Queen, Jimi Hendrix and The Eagles. On the 20th anniversary of the original release of the song, it was announced via US radio sources that the song had logged up an estimated 2,874,000 radio plays - back to back, that would run for 44 years solid.
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