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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

July xx, 1969 - The band play many festivals now on their third American tour
July xx, 1970 - Additional recording for Led Zeppelin III at London’s Island Studios
July 16, 1970 - Photographer Chris Welch films Led Zeppelin on his 8mm camera, some clips later used in the Whole Lotta Love promo video
July xx, 1971 - Untitled gets re-mixed in London
July 05, 1971 - A riot erupts mid-concert, forcing Led Zeppelin to stop after about 40 minutes
July xx, 1972 - After repeated bad press, Led Zeppelin hire their first publicity firm
July 20, 1973 - A last minute decision is made to film the remaining part of the tour
July xx, 1973 - Led Zeppelin is filmed over the three nights for their film that will emerge as The Song Remains The Same
July xx, 1974 - After viewing their 1973 filmed performance, it is apparent critical errors were made
July xx, 1974 - Mixing for Physical Graffiti at Olympic Studios
July 05, 1975 - The band meet in Montreux to discuss adding South America and Japan to the end of their North American tour
July xx, 1976 - Bonham and Page fly to Montreux, Switzerland to check out some new sound and drum effects
July 17, 1977 - The last ever performance of Moby Dick played at the Seattle Kingdome
July 24, 1977 - The band plays its last US date at the Oakland Coliseum
July xx, 1978 - Led Zeppelin are invited to perform at Maggie Bell’s Festival Hall show
July xx, 1979 - Led Zeppelin film their rehearsal at Bray Studios
July 04, 1979 - Led Zeppelin confirm a second date at Knebworth in August 1979
July 05, 1980 - Simon Kirke joins in on drums for an encore in Munich
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