Jimmy Page initially rounded up Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham (Bonham off of Plant’s suggestion) in part to fulfill a contractual obligation to play The Yardbirds tour dates in Scandinavia. Page had also wanted to form a supergroup for years, and he got it with the band that would become Led Zeppelin. Their first album, Led Zeppelin, was released on January 12, 1969, and marked the beginning of the band that would come to dominate the 1970s. Combining precision riffage and drumming with whimsical, sexually-charged vocals and the occasional literary allusion earned Led Zeppelin many, many fans. Here are some facts about the band you’ll find interesting whether you give them a whole lotta love or not.
1. TERRY REID PASSED ON JOINING THE GROUP.
The then-19-year-old singer of Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers had just been signed by a producer who was looking to make Reid a solo artist. So he told Jimmy Page no, and suggested that he offer the gig to Robert Plant, who he said looked "like a Greek god."
2. THEY FIRST PERFORMED AS THE NEW YARDBIRDS.
Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham’s first show together took place after just 15 hours of practicing together at the Gladsaxe Teen Club in Gladsaxe, Denmark, at 5:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, September 7, 1968. The set list included “You Shook Me,” “Dazed and Confused,” and “Train Kept-A-Rollin.”
3. THEY GOT THE BAND'S NAME FROM THE WHO'S KEITH MOON AND JOHN ENTWISTLE. (MAYBE.)
Page, then fellow Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck, John Paul Jones, Entwistle and Moon joined forces in May of 1966 to record the instrumental tune “Beck’s Bolero” and enjoyed the results so much that there was chatter about forming a supergroup. Moon, allegedly, said the band would go over like a lead balloon. Entwistle followed, supposedly, with, “a lead zeppelin!”
4. FOR ONE NIGHT, THEY WERE KNOWN AS "THE NOBS."
Frau Eva von Zeppelin, a direct descendant of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, was upset over what she believed to be a dishonoring of the family name by the band. She demanded the group change their name, and got her wish on February 28, 1970, when the band performed as The Nobs in Copenhagen. Both popular and critical opinion favored the band's preferred name, and they were Led Zeppelin once more for their next show—and every show thereafter.
5. JOHN PAUL JONES’ REAL NAME IS JOHN BALDWIN.
Yes, another Baldwin. The Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham hired session musician Baldwin to work on a single by another group he was managing at the time. He liked Baldwin’s playing, btu wanted a more artistic surname. Not knowing what it was about, Oldham was intrigued by the name of a Robert Stack movie titled John Paul Jones (1959). Oldham called Baldwin and informed him of his new name.
6. JIMMY PAGE PAID FOR THE RECORDING OF THEIR FIRST ALBUM.
He wanted artistic control “in a vise grip.” Recording and mixing lasted 30 hours and cost Page £1782 (or about $4300). The debut album ended up making over £3.5 million. While it only took 30 hours the first time, Led Zeppelin II was recorded over eight months, thanks to a lot of touring.
7. THEY HAVE BEEN SUED FOR PLAGIARISM A COUPLE OF TIMES.
Folk singer Jake Holmes claimed he wrote “Dazed and Confused” in a 2010 lawsuit. Holmes opened for The Yardbirds in August 1967. The next day, Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty and bassist Chris Dreja both bought Holmes’ debut album with his song “Dazed and Confused” on it for the band—which included Page—to practice and play their own version of it. Page was credited as the sole writer of the song when Zeppelin recorded it for their first record.
“Whole Lotta Love” was accused of being based off of Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love” (performed by Muddy Waters) and the Small Faces’ “You Need Loving” only because, as Page once explained, Plant referenced the “You Need Love” lyrics in “Whole Lotta Love.” Dixon was given a co-songwriter credit after a 1985 lawsuit. Plant admitted in a 1990 interview that his lyrics weren’t original. “I just thought, 'Well, what am I going to sing?' That was it, a nick. Now happily paid for.”
The iconic “Stairway to Heaven” is also a part of an ongoing lawsuit. The band Spirit has claimed the arpeggio opening is too similar to their 1968 instrumental “Taurus.”
8. INNOVATIVE TACTICS WERE USED FOR "WHOLE LOTTA LOVE."
Plant’s ghostly vocals of "Way down inside… wo-man… you need… love” was a making lemonade out of lemons situation: Page and engineer Eddie Kramer heard Plant’s voice singing the lyric on one track before Plant did on the master vocal track. When Kramer tried to turn the volume all the way down on that track, Plant’s voice could still be heard bleeding through to the master. Realizing they couldn’t get rid of the non-master, Page and Kramer added a ton of reverb so that it sounded like it wasn’t an accident.
9. YOU CAN HEAR A PHONE RINGING DURING "THE OCEAN."
At 1:37-1:38 and again at 1:41. When asked if it was a real phone, Kramer pleaded ignorance, admitting it was possible because the song was recorded in a house, but that he did not hear it at the time of the recording.
10. THE FOURTH ALBUM IS TECHNICALLY UNTITLED.
Tired of negative reviews on their music, Page convinced the band to try to make the album cover of their fourth record as anonymous looking as possible. They agreed just on four symbols, one representing each band member. Fans believed Page’s spelled out “Zoso,” which is what some fans call the album. Page has insisted the symbols aren’t letters. Jones’ symbol of a circle with three interlocking ovals was found in a book of runes and is supposed to represent a confident and competent person. Bonham’s symbol of three interlocking circles was also from that book of runes, which later, the band claims, they realized resembled the Ballantine beer logo. Plant’s symbol of a circle around a feather includes the feather of Ma’at, the Egyptian goddess of truth and justice. The origin or meaning of Page’s symbol remains unknown.
11. PAGE LIVED IN ALEISTER CROWLEY’S FORMER HOME.
In 1971, Page bought the former Loch Ness, Scotland home of the British philosopher and occultist Crowley. Page claimed it was haunted, not necessarily because of Crowley, but because of its previous owners. "t was also a church that was burned to the ground with the congregation in it,” Page told Rolling Stone in 1975. “Strange things have happened in that house that had nothing to do with Crowley. The bad vibes were already there. A man was beheaded there, and sometimes you can hear his head rolling down." The guitarist was a fan of Crowley’s, having Crowley’s “Do what thou wilt” inscribed in the run-off groove of the original Led Zeppelin III vinyl records. Page was believed by some to worship Satan because of these connections; Page never confirmed.
12. THEIR MANAGER WAS AGAINST RELEASING SINGLES.
In the case of “Whole Lotta Love,” the original 5:33 running time was cut to a 3:12 single for radio play by Atlantic Records. Page listened to the single version once and hated it so much that he never listened to that version again. In the United Kingdom, where the band and their manager Peter Grant had the most authority over their releases, their first single was in fact “Whole Lotta Love.” In 1997. The run time on the 1997 UK single was 4:50.
13. THEY WERE J.R.R. TOLKIEN FANS.
“Ramble On” paraphrased a Tolkien poem in its opening lines, and of course referenced Mordor and Gollum in its second verse. “Misty Mountain Hop” was named after a place in The Hobbit, and most fans agree that “The Battle of Evermore” is filled with references to The Lord of the Rings and The Return of the King.
14. PLANT WROTE "GOING TO CALIFORNIA" ABOUT JONI MITCHELL.
Plant was “in love” with the Canadian songwriter. He also wrote of his worry about working in the state that goes through earthquakes. There was a minor earthquake while mixing the untitled fourth Zeppelin album, which featured the song in question.
15. THEY HAD THEIR OWN AIRPLANE.
The band purchased “The Starship” for $30,000 for a portion of their 1973 U.S. Tour. It was the first Boeing 720-022 ever built. It included a main cabin with seats and tables, revolving arm chairs, a 30-foot long couch, a bar with an electronic organ built into it, a TV set, a video cassette player, a den with a low couch and floor pillows, and a bedroom with a white fur bedspread and a shower room. The band also used “The Starship” for their entire 1975 tour across America, which cost them $2500 per hour, or $5 per mile. Bonham once flew the plane from New York to Los Angeles, according to Peter Grant. Bonham did not have a license to do such a thing.
16. PAGE HAD TROUBLE NAILING THE "STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN" GUITAR SOLO.
Just like every aspiring guitarist when they first learn the song, Page had some trouble. John Paul Jones tried to help Page when he noticed that his bandmate began to look concerned when he kept not getting it right at the studio by telling him, “You’re making me paranoid!” “You’re making *me* paranoid!,” Page retorted. The two then laughed, and the solo was nailed a few takes later.
The song became legendary, and Plant wasn’t comfortable with that. In 1988 the singer said, “I'd break out in hives if I had to sing that song in every show. I wrote those lyrics and found that song to be of some importance and consequence in 1971, but 17 years later, I don't know. It's just not for me.”
17. PLANT RECORDED AN ALBUM IN A WHEELCHAIR.
Presence was recorded in 18 days in Munich, Germany. Plant had been in a car crash in Greece previously. Page explained to The Guardian, “Robert was really keen to do the recording, and we all were, because there wasn’t anything else that we could do.” Plant recalled a failed attempt to move on crutches at the studio where he took a fall. Page ran from the control room to pick him up. “He was like an Olympic athlete!,” Plant exclaimed. “ I’d never seen him move so fast in my life!”
18. JOHN BONHAM DIED AFTER DRINKING THE EQUIVALENT OF 40 VODKA SHOTS.
On September 24, 1980, the band rehearsed for their upcoming tour. Bonham drank there before drinking double vodkas at Page’s house (not Crowley’s former home) then passing out. He was placed in a spare bedroom. The next afternoon, Jones and Robert Plant’s assistant Benji LeFevre found Bonham dead. The coroner's report stated that he had the equivalent of 40 shots of vodka in his system.