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10 Led Zeppelin Facts You Need To Know
List & Guides

10 Led Zeppelin Facts You Need To Know

Think you know everything there is to know about this behemoth of a band? These Led Zeppelin facts may surprise you.

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Over the years, Led Zeppelin’s singular career has been pored over in any number of publications. Yet while you might think the story of this formidable British quartet has already been done to death, you may get a few surprises when you check out these Led Zeppelin facts you need to know…

Listen to the best of Led Zeppelin here, and check out our ten surprising led zeppelin facts, below.

1: Led Zeppelin were billed as “The New Yardbirds” when they first played live

Prior to forming Led Zeppelin, guitarist Jimmy Page spent two years performing and recording with The Yardbirds. But when that much-acclaimed group’s other three members – Keith Relf, Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja – quit during the summer of 1968, they left Page and manager Peter Grant the rights to the name and a series of scheduled gigs to honour in Scandinavia.

Accordingly, after Page recruited singer Robert Plant, bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham for what would soon morph into Led Zeppelin. One of the more confusing Led Zeppelin facts, the group were billed as The New Yardbirds when they played their debut gig, at the Teen Club, in Gladsaxe, Denmark, on 7 September 1968, and were only first officially advertised as Led Zeppelin when they performed at the University Of Surrey’s Great Hall, in London, on 25 October 1968, though flyers for their next few shows in the capital (including the Marquee Club, on 10 December) advertise them as “Led Zeppelin (nee The Yardbirds)”.

2: The Who helped inspire Led Zeppelin’s band name

One of The Yardbirds’ earlier members, legendary guitarist Jeff Beck completed his first solo recording, the widely acclaimed instrumental Beck’s Bolero, in May 1966, with help from an all-star studio ensemble including Jimmy Page; The Who’s rhythm section, Keith Moon and John Entwistle; and in-demand keyboard ace Nicky Hopkins.

The track was later issued as the B-side to Beck’s first solo single, Hi-Ho Silver Lining, and the session went so well that the musicians reputedly considered forming a supergroup of sorts. It’s since become gospel among Led Zeppelin facts that Keith Moon dryly suggested the group would go down like a “lead balloon”, a phrase Page recalled and later tweaked a little to give Led Zeppelin their name, though John Entwistle later claimed he had made the comment. Accounts have differed ever since, but it’s safe to say one or the other inspired the name Led Zeppelin.

3: Robert Plant wasn’t Jimmy Page’s first choice to front Led Zeppelin

With hindsight, it seems unthinkable that Led Zeppelin could have been fronted by anyone other than Robert Plant, yet the legendary golden god wasn’t Jimmy Page’s first choice when putting the band together during the summer of 1968. Initially, Page had his eye on Peter Jay And The Jaywalkers’ lead singer, Terry “Superlungs” Reid, while he also wanted Procol Harum’s sticksman, BJ Wilson, behind the drum kit.

However, neither musician was able to join the group, and Reid suggested that Page contact Robert Plant, who was then singing with a blues-rock outfit called Obs-Tweedle. After hearing Plant perform, an impressed Page quickly recruited him for Led Zeppelin. Plant then suggested John Bonham, formerly his bandmate in Band Of Joy (later resurrected for one of the best Robert Plant solo albums), for the new group’s drum stool, but Bonham needed some persuasion to make the move, as he was also being courted by other artists who had offered him considerably more money.

4: John Paul Jones has scored string arrangements for The Rolling Stones and R.E.M.

It does John Paul Jones a grave disservice to be referred to as merely “Led Zeppelin’s bassist”, as this virtuosic yet unassuming figure has a remarkable CV outside of his legendary day job. Something of a child prodigy, Jones was 14 when he became choirmaster and organist at his local church, and from 1964 up to the point where he joined Led Zeppelin, he was constantly in demand as a session musician for Decca Records.

During this period, Jones – sometimes working alongside Page – participated in thousands of recording sessions, working with acts including Herman’s Hermits, Tom Jones, Donovan and Cat Stevens. Also a highly capable arranger, Jones scored the glorious strings for The Rolling Stones’ 1967 psych-pop classic She’s A Rainbow, while still aged only 21. His post-Led Zeppelin credits are equally diverse, too. He’s collaborated with artists as disparate as The Mission and Butthole Surfers, in addition to the sublime string arrangements he contributed to classic R.E.M. songs such as Drive, Everybody Hurts and Nightswimming, from the Athens, Georgia, alt-rock icons’ multi-platinum masterpiece, Automatic For The People.

5: The “turquoise version” of Led Zeppelin’s debut album is extremely rare

Like all legendary rock acts, Led Zeppelin’s catalogue is rich in sought-after rarities. A first pressing of 1975’s Physical Graffiti, featuring red title text on the sleeve’s spine, can command over £1,000 in the second-hand marketplace, while first pressings of 1969’s Led Zeppelin II are also highly collectible.

Something of a holy grail for serious collectors, though, is the initial pressing of Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut album. While still boasting one of the best Led Zeppelin album covers of all – Hipgnosis designer George Hardie’s famous artwork depicting the 1937 Hindenberg airship disaster – the original pressing features the album title and Atlantic Records’ logo in turquoise. Just weeks later, the colours were switched to the now-familiar orange version, with fewer than 2,000 copies of the first pressing believed to have made it into the racks. Now highly prized by collectors, an original “turquoise version” of Led Zeppelin has been known to fetch between £2,000 and £3,000.

6: John Bonham never took formal drumming lessons

Few rock drummers are more legendary, thunderous or downright singular than John Bonham – yet his inherent power and skill was all the more remarkable because, though he ranks among the best drummers in history, he never took any formal drumming lessons in his life. Though Bonham was keen to play drums from the age of five, he initially worked out the rudiments using household objects including a bath-salt container with wires on the bottom and a round coffee tin with a loose wire fixed to it, to give a snare-drum effect.

Bonham also developed much of his legacy-defining style using only the snare drum his mother gifted him when he was ten. But while he greatly admired jazz drummers such as Art Blakey and Buddy Rich, Bonham didn’t actually own a full drum kit until he was 15. By that time, he was about to leave school, and while he briefly worked as a builder with his father, he knew drumming would be his future.

“I’ve always been obsessed with drums. They fascinate me. Any other instrument – nothing,” Bonham once said, before revealing how he felt about formal training: “I think that feeling is a lot more important than technique. If you play technically, you sound like everybody else. It’s being original that counts.”

7: Jimmy Page once owned Aleister Crowley’s former Scottish home

Jimmy Page made no secret of his fascination with the infamous Aleister Crowley (sometimes referred to as “The Wickedest Man In The World”), and he added to his collection of memorabilia once owned by the late British occultist by acquiring one of Crowley’s former residences, Boleskine House, on the south-east side of Loch Ness, in the Scottish Highlands, in 1970.

By the time the Led Zeppelin guitarist bought the property, ahead of recording one of the best Led Zeppelin albums of all time, the untitled record commonly known as “Led Zeppelin IV”, it had a notorious reputation – and not all of it was attributable to Crowley. “There were two or three other owners before Crowley moved into it,” Page told Rolling Stone in 1975. “It was also a church that was burned to the ground with the congregation in it… The bad vibes were already there. A man was beheaded there, and sometimes you can hear his head rolling down.” Page sold Boleskine House in 1992.

8: Led Zeppelin broke The Beatles’ long-held attendance record for a US stadium show

For eight years, The Beatles’ legendary gig at New York City’s Shea Stadium, on 15 August 1965, held the record for attendance at a North American stadium rock-show, with the Fab Four attracting 55,000 fans to their landmark concert.

That record stood unchallenged until Led Zeppelin performed to 56,800 fans at Tampa Stadium, in Tampa, Florida, on 5 May 1973, in support of their Houses Of The Holy album, attracting more paying fans than had ever attended a show by a single act in the US. In ticket receipts alone, the concert reputedly grossed over $300,000.

Reflecting on this remarkable period in Led Zeppelin’s history, in a 2010 interview with The Times, Robert Plant said, “We arrived in America and we did 53,000 at Atlanta and then 55,000 at the following concert in Tampa, Florida – it was quite clear that if people were going to come along to see us in those kind of numbers we weren’t going to have problems doing concerts that would fulfil the demand. It was phenomenal though – the audience reaction was just so with us, y’know.” The group would close the tour with three nights at Madison Square Garden, footage from which was later used in the concert film The Song Remains The Same.

9: For one night only, they were billed to perform as “The Nobs”

Most fans would probably agree that Led Zeppelin is a pretty cool name for a rock band, but Countess Eva Von Zeppelin, the great-granddaughter of Count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin, the German inventor who had invented the zeppelin airship that lent Led Zeppelin their name, most definitely wasn’t a fan. According to contemporaneous reports in the New Musical Express, she had even claimed that “a group of shrieking monkeys is not going to use a privileged family name without permission”.

To avoid bringing the Countess’ wrath down on their heads, Zeppelin agreed to perform their show at Copenhagen’s KB Hallen on 28 February 1970 under the name The Nobs. However, while this alias (possibly chosen in mild retaliation) might sound a tad risqué, it was actually chosen in tribute to the band’s close friend and European concert promoter Claude Nobs, who founded the world-renowned Montreux Jazz Festival in 1967.

10: Led Zeppelin weren’t the first act to write and record a song called Stairway To Heaven

Easily ranking among the best Led Zeppelin songs, Stairway To Heaven has long taken been hailed as one of the greatest songs of the 70s. But Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham weren’t the first group of musicians to write and record a song of that name. In fact, they were beaten to the punch by versatile US singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka, who, with co-writer Howard Greenfield, penned his own Stairway To Heaven in 1960 – a good 11 years before Led Zeppelin’s song was first released. Sedaka’s song appeared on his album Neil Sedaka Sings Little Devil And His Other Hits, issued on the RCA Victor imprint, but it also did brisk business as a standalone single, peaking at No.9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and at No.8 in the UK.

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