Led Zeppelin IV was a commercial and critical success, producing many of the band’s most well-known songs. The album is one of the bestselling albums worldwide at 37 million units and at 23 times platinum, it is the 3rd bestselling album in the US. Writers, critics and music lovers have regularly cited it as one rock’s greatest albums.
This list is not to take away from the greatness of the album but to debunk some of the legends that have surrounded it and the band through the years.
A hell of a lot of time has been spent by people looking too far into the music and the album cover. But when you go back to interviews, the band themselves pretty much explain otherwise. The first four albums were made in less than two years; working at that pace, I doubt they had that much time to think about every single thing they were doing and try to come up with reasoning behind it all.
1. There’s a good reason the band didn’t include their names or faces on the cover.
“The cover wasn’t meant to antagonize the record company,” Jimmy Page said in 2001 interview. ‘It was designed as our response to the music critics who maintained that the success of our first three albums was driven by hype and not talent… So we stripped everything away, and let the music do the talking.”
2. The opening of ‘Black Dog’ is all studio technology.
The intro of Black Dog is three separate tracks of synced tape rolling. Page could have cut it out but explained he thought it sounded like “the massing of the guitar armies.”
3. Robert Plant’s voice is the only sound moving at normal speed on ‘When the Levee Breaks.’
Oh how we love the Headley Grange stairwell that helped capture that enormous ‘Levee’ drum sound. There was a natural, booming echo provided in the stairwell. When mixing, it was learned that by adding more echo and slowing the track speed down, the boom and reverb intensified. Robert plant’s voice is the only sound recorded in natural time on When The Levee Breaks, everything else is slowed down a bit to create that heavy, booming feel.
4. The least essential song would probably be ‘Four Sticks.’
It’s rhythmically tricky and possibly the least listenable. Perhaps the band agrees as seven of the eight songs on IV made the band’s 1990 box set. ‘Four Sticks’ was the only one that didn’t make the cut.
5. The album was recorded in several locations.
When we talk about the recording of ‘IV,’ we think Headley Grange. However, big parts of the album were recorded at Island Studios and Sunset Studios. But nobody cares to talk about that… it’s boring! Headley Grange is the spooky house with the echoey stairwell! That’s cool!
6. The band started crediting their lyrical inspirations.
Zep has got a lot of grief from Blues fans for relying on their influence’s work. They realized that their borrowing had to be cited. Example, the lyrics of ‘When the Levee Breaks’ come from Memphis Minnie’s song of the same title.
7. Sorry, there are no backwards messages on ‘Stairway to Heaven.’
A legend to tell young musicians… cool idea, but sorry, this story came all from religious backlash at the time. Yes the band did like to use backwards sounds, but for aural effect… not for hidden messages.
8. Zeppelin built the 2nd ‘Stairway to Heaven.’
Pop crooner Neil Sedaka had titled a song Stairway to Heaven first. It appeared on his 1960 album ‘Neil Sedaka Sings Little Devil and His Other Hits,’ taking it to No. 9 on the charts.
9. We could have had more tunes to groove to than eight on ‘IV.’
Many songs on 1975’s ‘Physical Graffiti’ were actually recorded during sessions for IV. ‘Boogie with Stu’ from ‘Graffiti’ and ‘Black Country Woman could have made ‘IV’ a 10 track album.
10. The album cover symbols don’t mean as much as you might think.
For something the band put together hastily, people have taken a lot of time reading into them. When you break it down, it seems like JPJ and Bonham weren’t really interested. In a nut shell, it’s like they went… “Yea, sure… we’ll go with that, cool!” Plant’s feather in the circle comes from some mystical account of a lost civilization that probably never existed. You know, one of those hippie things back then that they thought was actually real. Page’s “Zoso,” goes back to the renaissance. It basically represents Capricorn from a document dating back to the 1500s. Astrological symbols were a lot more elaborate back then compared to the ones of today. Sorry, it’s nothing satanic
Written by Chris Bundas