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Led Zeppelin BioWhen the Yardbirds broke up in 1968, guitarist Jimmy Page and bass player Chris Dreja were left with rights to the name and an obligation to fulfill commitments for an upcoming fall tour. Page approached vocalist Terry Reid as a possible replacement for Yardbirds frontman Keith Relf, but Reid was still with Procol Harum and not inclined to leave. He suggested Robert Plant, who was then singing with Hobbstweedle, as an alternative. Page was impressed by Plant's style and stage presence and asked him to join the Yardbirds. When Dreja left the group, Page replaced him with John Paul Jones who he had worked with previously. Page's quest for a drummer led him to John Bonham who, despite initial resistance, decided to come aboard. After playing the previously booked engagements as the "New Yardbirds" in September of 1968, Page decided it was time for a name change since this new band bore no resemblance to the Yardbirds. Led Zeppelin was born.
Feeling that Brits would still view them as "the old Yardbirds," Led Zeppelin brought their act to the US. In October, 1968, they signed with Atlantic Records. In early 1969 they started an American tour to set the stage for the release of their debut album, Led Zeppelin. One show at the Fillmore East, where they were the opening act for Iron Butterfly, so blew away the audience that Iron Butterfly refused to perform. Within two months of its release, Led Zeppelin had shot into the US top ten. The band toured relentlessly on both sides of the pond, yet still found time to record their second album, Led Zeppelin II. Released in October of 1969, it was an immediate hit and spent several weeks in the number one slot.
"I can remember Bonzo, Plant, Page and Jones out on the lawn listening to playbacks of "D'Yer Mak'er" and "Dancing Days" all walking like Groucho Marx in sync, with back steps and forward steps in time to the music like kids." ~ Recording Engineer Eddie Kramer
Every subsequent release attained Platinum status, and their tours were increasingly successful. In 1973 the group began to break box-office records most of which had been set by the Beatles. By 1975 Led Zeppelin was the most commercially successful rock band in the world.
Three tragedies would impact Led Zeppelin in the coming years. First, Robert Plant and his wife were in a serious auto accident in 1975 forcing the cancellation of an American tour. Plant required the rest of the year to recuperate. In 1977, another American tour was cancelled when Plant's six-year-old son died of a stomach infection. Understandably, Plant needed time to heal. Toward the end of summer 1978, the group began work on an album. Through the Out Door was eventually released in September of 1979.
In September of 1980, while the group was preparing for another American tour, John Bonham was found dead in bed following an all-day drinking binge. Soon after, feeling they could not continue without Bonham, Zeppelin announced their break up.
"Jimmy is the man who is the music. He goes away to his house and works on it a lot and then brings it to the band in its skeletal state. Slowly everybody brings their personality into it. This new flower sort of grows out of it. `Ten Years Gone' was painstakingly pieced together from sections he'd written. After the tremendous concentration on a song like that, we'll play anything to loosen up. Out of that came `Trampled Underfoot' and `Custard Pie'. Before you know it you've got something that moves." ~ Robert Plant on `Physical Graffiti', from the first boxed set's liner notes
The band did reunite briefly in 1985 to play Live Aid and again in 1988 to play at Atlantic's 25th Anniversary Concert but, despite a lot of speculation, they would never officially get together again.
In February of 2005, Led Zeppelin along with Jerry Lee Lewis and the late Janis Joplin were among those honored with Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Grammys at Los Angeles' Staples Center.
In other recent news, Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones appeared on the Foo Fighters fifth album, In Your Honor, released in June 2005.
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