There are bands that helped shape what we view today to be rock music. There are icons and legends of the industry. Then, there is Led Zeppelin, a band that is in its own tier and its own class because of the legacy that it has left for those who followed the band during its run on top and also for fans who were never fortunate enough to see the original band live and in-person. Songs such as “Stairway to Heaven” will, of course, live on for generations long after all of the members of Zeppelin have left us. Perhaps even more important than the songs that Zeppelin left us was how innovative and influential the band was during its time together. So many popular artists and bands would have remained relative unknowns had they never been able to discover Zeppelin.
Diehard Zeppelin fans who have spent years learning all there is to learn about the band may not be all too surprised to read the majority of the facts that are mentioned in this piece. Those of you who have either recently been introduced to this portion of rock royalty or who are diving back into the Zeppelin catalog may have either never known or forgotten some of the following pieces of information. Everything has a beginning, and the beginning for Zeppelin could be how the name of the band was chosen. It is funny, looking back, that the name came from a prediction about Zeppelin being a flop.
15. Origin of the Name
Before what would become Led Zeppelin was even a thought in anybody’s mind, guitarist Jimmy Page birthed the group known as the New Yardbirds. That name stemmed from Page’s previous band. Legal issues prevented the group from using that name on a long-term basis, and so the New Yardbirds needed something different. Legend has it that Keith Moon was responsible for coming up with Led Zeppelin, as explained in an Ultimate-Guitar post, because he thought the band would go down similar to a “lead zeppelin.” Lead was ultimately changed to Led so fans would not be confused about the pronunciation. “Leed Zeppelin” admittedly does not sound as good.
14. Jimmy Page Had Other Plans
It sometimes seems as if those who become rock deities were always destined for greatness. That was not the case as it pertains to Jimmy Page. While Page was talented enough of a musician to appear on the BBC program All Your Own in 1957, he did not, as a teenager, envision himself as a future music star. Page instead explained that he wanted to work in biological research en route to possibly finding a cure for cancer. We cannot, of course, know if Page would have accomplished that goal had he taken a different journey. We must instead be grateful for the gifts that he and Led Zeppelin left us.
13. Their Debut Album
It can take weeks and often even months for a band to record and then finalize an album. Led Zeppelin were, of course, not just your ordinary band, and so it is understandable that such concerns would not have troubled them when recording their first album. According to Billboard and also other websites/sources, Led Zeppelin completed their debut album in under 30 hours. The album, which had a cover that featured the Hindenburg in flames, began with “Good Times Bad Times.” That’s a pretty solid introduction to the world for any entity.
12. They Made History Early
One does not need to be an expert on music to know that Led Zeppelin made history in multiple ways throughout the decades. It turns out that trend began before most of the world had ever heard their iconic sound. Zeppelin received an advance of $143,000 upon signing with Atlantic Records, which was the largest deal of its kind for an unsigned artist/band at the time. That contract also included options, meaning that the entire agreement was worth $220,000. That’s good money if you can get it, especially if you have not yet proven to be worth it. We are confident in saying that Zeppelin earned their pay.
11. No Singles
“Albums are the true statement of a group’s work. You have time in an album to show or to indicate exactly what you’ve been up to over a period of time creativity.” That quote was offered by Robert Plant back in 1975, and it may explain a certain fact about how Led Zeppelin handled singles. Zero singles were released in the UK until “Whole Lotta Love” hit the shelves in 1997. This did not, of course, keep radio stations from locating and playing their favorite Zeppelin songs. You should, however, feel fortunate if you own an original Zeppelin single that was released in the United States back in the day.
10. The Nobs
Here is a humorous one. Countess Frau Eva von Zeppelin, the granddaughter of the founder of the Zeppelin Airship company, believed that the band was disrespecting her family’s history by using the Zeppelin name. She reportedly even referred to the group as “shrieking monkeys.” Things got so tense, in fact, that the band changed its name during a tour of Copenhagen in 1970 to avoid legal problems. After some back-and-forth regarding multiple ideas, the name “The Nobs” was agreed upon. It is probably safe to assume that no band that ever uses that name will be better.
9. Robert Plant Had a Rough Audition
When the New Yardbirds were no longer a thing, Jimmy Page began making the transition to what would become Led Zeppelin. As has been the case for countless bands, Page held auditions for different roles in the group. Chris Dreja, who had played rhythm guitar and also bass guitar for the New Yardbirds, once discussed the auditioning process. According to Dreja, John Bonham was an “absolute must-have.” Robert Plant, however, was “iffy” after his audition. Plant, as you know, ended up winning the gig. Things worked out rather well for Plant and for Zeppelin.
8. Chris Dreja Declined His Offer
Led Zeppelin could have had a different lineup had one person decided to accept an offer. The previously mentioned Chris Dreja had a history with Jimmy Page, and thus it was only logical that Page would offer the talented Dreja an opportunity to join what would become Led Zeppelin. Dreja declined that opportunity, however, as he instead wanted to focus on photography. There were no hard feelings between the two. Dreja was responsible for taking the photograph that landed on the back of Zeppelin’s debut album. Dreja did continue playing music, however, and he was part of the reboot of the Yardbirds.
7. Declined Offer II
As was mentioned earlier in this piece, Jimmy Page was not initially sold on Robert Plant joining Led Zeppelin. One reason for that may have been that Page possibly had somebody else in mind. As was explained in a piece published on the Wax Poetics website, Terry Reid and not Plant was first presented with an opportunity to link up with Led Zeppelin. Reid not only declined, he was responsible for recommending Plant to Page. Reid’s career never reached the heights reached by Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones, two bands he had relationships with over the years. He nevertheless has lived a fascinating existence.
6. The Wheelchair Recording
The famous saying in the entertainment industry tells us that “the show must go on.” That was the case for Led Zeppelin as the band was preparing to record the album Presence. Robert Plant had been involved in a serious car accident the year before the band was in the studio, and thus he was relegated to a wheelchair or crutches as the band produced the album. Things did not go perfectly for the front man, as Plant did take a hard spill during one recording session. Plant fortunately did not suffer a serious injury on that day, and he and the band were able to continue recording that tremendous piece of work.
5. The Ocean Phone
It is a piece of rock trivia that goes right along those stories of what is heard when you play an old Beatles record backwards. During the Led Zeppelin song “The Ocean,” you can hear what sounds like a ringing telephone in the background – particularly at about the 1:37-1:38 mark. Eddie Kramer, who was present during the recording process, implied during an interview that the sound being part of the song was purely accidental and that he did not recall a phone ringing. It is believed that Zeppelin used such great technology that it even picked up the phone in the background, and that the sound was either missed or ignored before the album was finalized.
4. B.J. Wilson Over John Bonham
John Bonham was widely admired as one of the best drummers in the business during his life, and Bonham remains respected among musicians to this day. Bonham also happened to be another member of Led Zeppelin who was not a first choice to join the group. B.J. Wilson, mostly known for his time spent drumming for Procol Harum and for AC/DC for a time, was first eyed by Jimmy Page, but Wilson declined that offer to remain with Procol Harum. Wilson remained involved in music until he suffered from a drug overdose in 1987. He passed away three years later.
3. They Refused “Top of the Pops”
Led Zeppelin had a history of not performing live or recorded for television programs. This included “Top of the Pops.” Zeppelin had chances to perform on that show, and yet they declined each time. A reason that some fans mis-remember this is because a version of “Whole Lotta Love,” which has become one of the major hits associated with Zeppelin, was used as the theme song for “Top of the Pops” for years. That obviously is not nearly as good as having the real thing there for the world to see. We suppose, however, that having the theme was better than no Zeppelin at all.
2. Fear of Flying
One thing sometimes pointed out in pieces about Led Zeppelin trivia is that John Bonham had a fear of flying, one that was so serious that Bonham would drink enough alcohol to pass out before a flight would take off. Bonham was not alone, however, as Jimmy Page shared that fear. Page, during one interview, once explained that he was suffering from “psychosomatic symptoms – vertigo and claustrophobia” that stemmed from his fear of flying. Zeppelin had their own customized private plane during the 1970s, probably to help members of the band deal with their troubles.
1. Riot House
Led Zeppelin played hard on the stage, and they played just as hard off of it. Zeppelin rented out multiple floors of the Continental Hyatt House hotel located in Los Angeles so that they and their entourage could do just about whatever they pleased. Their portion of the hotel was known as the “Riot House” because of certain activities that went on there. Perhaps the best story of all involves John Bonham allegedly driving a motorcycle that he had received as a birthday present through the halls of the hotel. Did it really happen? We sure hope so, because it just adds to the awesome legacy of one of the greatest bands of all time.