Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Wednesday, 12 September 2007 15:24 UK

The legend of Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin
The band had huge success - but refused to release singles in the UK
Led Zeppelin, who reformed for a one-off concert at London's O2 arena, were one of the most influential bands of the 20th Century.

Many say Led Zeppelin invented heavy metal, and their sound wafted out of thousands of guitar shops worldwide during the 1970s.

Budding guitarists world try out their skills on Stairway to Heaven - but that is only the tip of the Led Zeppelin story.

Many critics loathed them, but for a generation of fans, their complex sounds and love of mythology gave them an aura which remains undimmed today.

Led Zeppelin split in 1980 and reunions have been rare. But the huge scramble for tickets for their London gig shows they still have a large fanbase. Just what lies behind the Led Zeppelin legend?

IN THE BEGINNING...

Led Zeppelin
The band's debut album received stinging reviews

• Led Zeppelin formed from the ashes of 1960s band The Yardbirds, the one-time home of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. Guitarist Jimmy Page joined the group for their final album and stayed with the band as it disintegrated in 1968.

• Singer Robert Plant was recruited from a band called Hobbstweedle, and Plant put Page in touch with an old friend, drummer John Bonham. With bassist John Paul Jones, the band formed as The New Yardbirds, fulfilling the old group's commitments.

• The New Yardbirds became Led Zeppelin in October 1968. The name was reportedly inspired by The Who's drummer Keith Moon, who said the band would "go down like a lead Zeppelin".

PRODIGIOUS OUTPUT

• Debut album Led Zeppelin I was recorded in 30 hours - and released in January 1969.

• It received stinging reviews, with Rolling Stone saying the band offered "little that its twin, the Jeff Beck Group, didn't say as well or better three months ago". It called Plant "as foppish as Rod Stewart, but nowhere near so exciting".

• It contained the track Dazed and Confused, which became the centrepiece of their live shows, when it could go on for as long as 45 minutes.

• The album was an immediate hit with fans, and the band toured the UK and US - finding the time to record and release a follow-up, Led Zeppelin II, nine months later.

• Folk influences began to surface on Led Zeppelin III, released in 1970, while 1971's Led Zeppelin IV sealed the band's reputation.

• They were voted number three in the best new group category in the 1970 NME readers' poll, behind Jethro Tull and Blue Mink.

• Tales of excess and debauchery on tour were common. Riding motorbikes through hotel hallways and throwing sofas and TV sets out of windows - along with the obligatory orgies and binges - ensured they entered rock 'n' roll legend.

THE FOUR SYMBOLS

• Released in late 1971, Led Zeppelin IV did not carry that title on the cover - it was known by four symbols, said to represent Page, Jones, Bonham and Plant.

Left to right - John Paul Jones, John Bonham (1948 - 1980), Jimmy Page and Robert Plant
Led Zeppelin disbanded in 1980 after Bonham's (second left) death

• It found room for hard rock track Black Dog as well as the folk sounds of the Battle of Evermore.

• Stairway to Heaven, which straddled the two spheres, was an enormous success. It was played by radio DJs around the world, but was not released as a single.

• In 1982, California Assemblyman Phil Wyman claimed Stairway to Heaven contained nine messages that could be heard if the song was played backwards. They included "Here's to my sweet Satan" and "I sing because I live with Satan".

• Jimmy Page was famously fascinated by the occult. He owned the occult bookshop The Equinox in London in the 1970s and is said to be a collector of the works of self-styled magician Aleister Crowley, who called himself the Great Beast 666.

BREAKING RECORDS

• A fifth album, Houses of the Holy, added funk and reggae influences to the band's sound. Its cover featured images of nude children climbing the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.

• Their tour following its release broke box-office records. They played to 57,000 fans at Tampa Stadium, Florida, in 1973 - beating a record set by The Beatles at Shea Stadium, New York.

• A 1975 double album, Physical Graffiti, saw the band launch their own Swan Song label. But a tour to support it was halted when Robert Plant and his wife Maureen were injured in a car crash in Greece. He moved to Jersey to recuperate.

TRAGEDY AND THE END

• Their 1976 album Presence was followed by concert film The Song Remains the Same. But changing tastes and the emerging punk scene meant it was not a success. "Zeppelin is not a nostalgia band," Page insisted at the start of 1977.

• Tragedy was to strike again in July 1977, when a US tour was abandoned after Plant's son Karac died of a stomach virus aged six.

• Their seventh album In Through the Out Door was recorded at Abba's Polar Studios in Stockholm.

• In 1979, crowds of up to 120,000 saw the band play at the Knebworth music festival in Hertfordshire.

• John Bonham collapsed on stage and was rushed to hospital during a concert in Nuremberg, Germany, in June 1980.

• Three months later, Bonham died after vomiting in his sleep following a drinking binge. He was 32.

• The band broke up after Bonham's death. "It was impossible to continue," Page said later.

AFTER THE SPLIT

Robert Plant
The surviving band members have continued with solo careers

• Led Zeppelin remain one of only four acts to have sold more than 100 million albums in the US - the others being The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Garth Brooks.

• Page, Plant and Jones reunited for Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985 - with Phil Collins and Tony Thompson playing drums. But the band refused to let the performance be included on the Live Aid DVD because the recording was "sub-standard".

• In 1994, Page and Plant reunited for an MTV Unplugged performance, which led to a world tour and a live album, No Quarter. But Jones was not invited.

• The following year, Led Zeppelin were inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jones highlighted the rift by joking: "Thank you, my friends, for finally remembering my phone number."

• In 1997, a single edit of Whole Lotta Love was released in the UK - their first and only entry into the top 40, reaching number 21.

• in April 2007, US theme park Hard Rock Park announced plans to open a looping rollercoaster called Led Zeppelin - The Ride. It will feature an audio system that soars to the sound of Whole Lotta Love.

video and audio news
Singer Robert Plant on plans for the concert



SEE ALSO
Led Zeppelin to confirm reunion
12 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
Zeppelin fans warned off 'touts'
03 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
Zeppelin star tops festival bill
19 Aug 07 |  Mid Wales
Led Zeppelin make UK Hall of Fame
12 Sep 06 |  Entertainment
Award for 'pioneers' Led Zeppelin
23 May 06 |  Entertainment

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