40 Years of Led Zeppelin IV

George Case
Guest Blogger: George Case, author of Led Zeppelin FAQ, Jimmy Page, and Out of Our Heads.
Forty years ago today, Led Zeppelin released their landmark fourth album – commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV, it’s the one that contains some of the band’s best-known songs, including “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll,” “Going to California,” “When the Levee Breaks,” and, of course, “Stairway to Heaven.”
Led Zeppelin IV was Led Zeppelin’s masterpiece, and the culmination of their first breakneck three years of almost non-stop travel, performing, and recording.  By many estimates, the quartet was never as inspired or as cohesive afterward.  Although later albums such as Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti, and Presence were all strong additions to their catalog, IV was a peak of commercial and critical success they could not quite surpass.  “Stairway to Heaven” became their anthem, and “Rock and Roll” their volcanic show opener or mandatory encore.
What makes the album so special?  The material, certainly – ranging from heavy electric blues to lilting folk, from the dense rhythm of “Four Sticks” to the exuberant drive of “Misty Mountain Hop,” and from the ethereal mandolins on “The Battle of Evermore” to Jimmy Page’s soaring guitar solo on “Stairway.”  The production – producer Page’s careful, crystalline use of his “light and shade” effects to highlight every instrument and vocal line.  The album cover itself – a wordless sleeve that offered listeners only cryptic imagery and a puzzling set of sigils that stood in for the band members’ names.  It all adds up to a near-perfect package of songs that cohere into a single, irreducible work as few rock albums ever do.
Four decades later, Led Zeppelin IV has sold some 40 million copies around the world, regularly makes reviewers’ All-Time Best Album lists, and “Stairway to Heaven” is a Classic Rock staple that is as familiar to average fans as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.”  However many times you may have heard them already, today’s a good day to fire up your turntable, CD player, or iPod, and crank up this collection of eight brilliant pieces of popular music that have together stood the test of time, and which will still be with us until the Levee Breaks.
Led Zeppelin FAQ by George Case (Backbeat Books)
In this exhaustive and insightful reference text, rock writer and cultural critic George Case details the key names, dates, figures, and features of one of the biggest and most mythologized rock-and-roll groups of all time: Led Zeppelin. Here, finally, are the answers to the puzzles that have haunted fans for over four decades – puzzles such as the meaning of Led Zep’s enigmatic album covers; the truth about leader Jimmy Page’s involvement with the occult; a breakdown of the sometimes murky roots of their greatest songs; firm data on their musical instruments, live performances, and studio productions; and sordid specifics of the band’s infamously debauched private lives. Available here.
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Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Posted on November 8, 2011, in Music Fans and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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