Led Zeppelin is one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. Their sound has influenced many artists and was able to completely change modern music. Founded in 1968 in London, Led Zeppelin consists of guitarist Jimmy Page, lead singer Robert Plant, bassist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. The band was originally called The New Yardbirds after Jimmy Page’s former band The Yardbirds.
The band is one of the best-selling musical groups of all time. During their existence, Led Zeppelin set records for album sales and concert attendance. It is estimated that their albums have sold between 200 and 300 million copies worldwide.
After becoming the definitive band of the 1970s, Led Zeppelin was forced to disband in 1980 following the death of John Bonham. Bonham tragically died of accident alcohol asphyxia. The other members of the band have all embarked on their own musical projects and have even had a handful of reunion concerts over the years. In 1995, Led Zeppelin was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Ranking their albums is an extremely difficult undertaking. The band’s sounds was constantly changing and evolving during their short run. Each album is very distinct from the others and highlights the many different musical styles they were able to cover. Everybody has their favorite Zeppelin album. Some people prefer the early stuff and some people like the band’s later releases. Therefore, in order not to receive a tremendous amount of backlash, the albums are going to be ranked according to how many times they were certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Therefore, this article only takes into consideration Led Zeppelin’s sales in the United States. There are two reasons for this. First, Led Zeppelin was more popular in the US than any other nation in the world, and secondly, the United States certifies all the albums sold, making it the more accurate when tracking album sales than any other country. However, they were and still are immensely popular everywhere.
9. Coda: Over 1 Million Copies Sold
Coda was released in 1982; two years after the band had broken up. The album consists of unused recordings from Led Zeppelin’s entire twelve-year span. It peaked at number six on the Billboard 200 albums chart and is certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. The album starts with “We’re Gonna Groove,” which was a live fixture in the band’s early years. It also features “Bonzo’s Montreux,” which was a recording of a John Bonham drum solo to which Jimmy Page added different sound effects.
8. Presence: Over 3 Million Copies Sold
Led Zeppelin’s 1976 album, Presence, was the band’s lowest-selling album during their existence. Though it reached number one on the Billboard 200 album chart, it was only certified triple platinum. The recording process for Presence was interrupted by a major car accident that threatened Robert Plant’s life. It is shorter than most of the albums, but it still features some great work. The highlights of this album are the ten minute long “Achilles’ Last Stand” and the driving blues tune, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” These were the only two songs from Presence to remain in Led Zeppelin’s concert set lists until the band disbanded.
7. Led Zeppelin III: Over 6 Million Copies Sold
A true fan of the early days of Led Zeppelin might argue the band’s third album, released in 1970, was their best. Following two straight years of constant touring, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant returned home to write more folk-based songs. Led Zeppelin III starts off with the rock anthem “Immigrant Song” and then makes a quick turn to more acoustic based music. This album truly highlights the band’s wide range of musical styles and depth of Robert Plant’s lyrical content. The album was certified six times platinum and ranked number one on the Billboard 200 album chart, but is often overlooked by fans because of the two albums it falls between.
6. In Through The Out Door: Over 6 Million Copies Sold
Led Zeppelin’s 1979 release, In Through The Out Door, was the band’s final studio album released before the death of John Bonham in 1980. Unlike the albums prior, this one consists mostly of songs written y John Paul Jones. The album reached number one of the Billboard 200 and is certified six times platinum by the Record Industry Association of America. The highlights from this album are the psychedelic throwback “In The Evening” and “Fool In The Rain” which features some of Bonham’s finest percussion work from any of the band’s songs.
5. Led Zeppelin: Over 8 Million Copies Sold
Led Zeppelin’s self titled 1969 album is where it all started. It is one of the most influential pieces of rock music in history. Many would argue it is the band’s best album. It features many of the classic Led Zeppelin tunes including “Good Times Bad Times,” “Communication Breakdown,” “How Many More Times,” and “Dazed and Confused.” The guitar solo in “Dazed and Confused” is quite possibly Jimmy Page’s most ingenious moment. His use of a violin bow on his guitar strings mixed with excessive reverb effects creating a signature part of their concerts. Despite being one of the bands most important works, Led Zeppelin’s first album was unable to make it further than number ten on the Billboard 200. The album is certified eight times platinum.
4. Houses of the Holy: Over 12 Million Copies Sold
Led Zeppelin’s fifth album, Houses of the Holy, ushered in the band’s reign as the biggest band on the planet. The 1973 release was a huge success, reaching number one on the Billboard 200 and being certified 12 times platinum. Houses of the Holy features some of the happier sounding songs from Led Zeppelin’s catalog. These songs include “Dancing Days” and “The Song Remains The Same.” However, Houses of the Holy does not lack any of the heavy blues rock that the band became known for. The album ends with “No Quarter” and “The Ocean,” which includes one of Jimmy Page’s best known guitar riffs.
3. Led Zeppelin II: Over 12 Million Copies Sold
Like Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin II also made in to the top of the Billboard 200 and is certified 12 times platinum by the Record Industry Association of America. However, this album was much more critical to the long-term success of the band. The album was released in 1969 as a quick follow up to their first album’s success. It featured many of the band’s signature songs including “Whole Lotta Love,” “Heartbreaker,” and “Moby Dick.” All of these songs would be kept in their live concert catalog. In “Moby Dick,” John Bonham would often take ten to twenty minutes to complete his drum solo and “Whole Lotta Love” was often used as the closing song during Led Zeppelin’s concerts.
2. Physical Graffiti: Over 16 Million Copies Sold
Led Zeppelin released Physical Graffiti in 1975. It was a double album made up of many previously unreleased recordings. Physical Graffiti was a huge commercial success, making it to number one on the Billboard 200 and going 16 times platinum. The album features some of the band’s most famous songs including “Kashmir,” “In My Time Of Dying,” and “Trampled Under Foot.”
1. Led Zeppelin IV: Over 23 Million Copies Sold
Led Zeppelin’s 1971 album was released without a title. Therefore, it is often referred to as Led Zeppelin IV or Zoso, after the four symbols featured on the album’s sleeve. Not only is it Led Zeppelin’s best-selling album of their career, it is actually the ninth best-selling album of all time. Though it never made it to the top of the Billboard 200, Led Zeppelin IV was the best-selling album of all time up until Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon in 1973. Led Zeppelin IV is certified 23 times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and it is estimated it has sold over 37 million copies worldwide. The highlight of the album is the masterpiece “Stairway to Heaven,” which is widely considered one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded.
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