9 Songs, 44 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

What started as an attempted reboot of groovy British Invasion rockers The Yardbirds ended as the stomping, yowling debut that changed rock history—a defining document of heavy metal’s first 24 months. Pyrotechnic Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page and three then-nobodies—teenage vocalist Robert Plant; explosive touring drummer for singer-songwriter Tim Rose, John Bonham; and fleet-fingered session bassist John Paul Jones—joined forces in a London basement in the summer of 1968. Their combustible, virtuosic energy was on tape within weeks thanks to a self-funded, nine-day session. Atlantic Records eventually offered to release the finished album, giving the band the largest advance ever paid to a new rock group to that point.

Much of that album, 1969’s Led Zeppelin, features the leanest iteration of what became the band’s formula: American blues and British folk played with dizzying guitar solos and cyclones of drum chaos. “Good Times Bad Times” is propelled by Bonham’s rubbery right foot, and the down-stroked railroad chug of “Communication Breakdown” was powerful enough to influence Johnny Ramone. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” takes a disconsolate folk song made popular by Joan Baez and explodes it into a flamenco-flecked bawler that practically invented the power ballad. Two pieces of vintage Chicago blues—“You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby”—lurch with slow-churning strutting, sex, and solos. There are even some early tastes of their more experimental inclinations—like the avant-garde bowed-guitar bad trip of “Dazed and Confused” and the pastoral British-folk-meets-Indian-tabla of “Black Mountain Side.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

What started as an attempted reboot of groovy British Invasion rockers The Yardbirds ended as the stomping, yowling debut that changed rock history—a defining document of heavy metal’s first 24 months. Pyrotechnic Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page and three then-nobodies—teenage vocalist Robert Plant; explosive touring drummer for singer-songwriter Tim Rose, John Bonham; and fleet-fingered session bassist John Paul Jones—joined forces in a London basement in the summer of 1968. Their combustible, virtuosic energy was on tape within weeks thanks to a self-funded, nine-day session. Atlantic Records eventually offered to release the finished album, giving the band the largest advance ever paid to a new rock group to that point.

Much of that album, 1969’s Led Zeppelin, features the leanest iteration of what became the band’s formula: American blues and British folk played with dizzying guitar solos and cyclones of drum chaos. “Good Times Bad Times” is propelled by Bonham’s rubbery right foot, and the down-stroked railroad chug of “Communication Breakdown” was powerful enough to influence Johnny Ramone. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” takes a disconsolate folk song made popular by Joan Baez and explodes it into a flamenco-flecked bawler that practically invented the power ballad. Two pieces of vintage Chicago blues—“You Shook Me” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby”—lurch with slow-churning strutting, sex, and solos. There are even some early tastes of their more experimental inclinations—like the avant-garde bowed-guitar bad trip of “Dazed and Confused” and the pastoral British-folk-meets-Indian-tabla of “Black Mountain Side.”

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