“When I was a kid, we weren't really supposed to listen to secular music. But one day, I found a 'Led Zeppelin IV' cassette tape in the garage, and it was just amazing-sounding music, not like anything I'd heard before. I remember thinking: 'Well, if God created music, why is his music in church not as good as this?'”—Nathaniel Rateliffe
There are a few things that link all of the great bands of the 20th century. Led Zeppelin is one of those bands that is instantly recognizable thanks to their insane riffs, stomping beats, and howling blues-tinged vocals. When a song like “Whole Lotta Love” or “Kashmir” comes on the radio, it’s basically human instinct to turn the volume up as high as humanly possible. For the past 50 years, fans have been soaking up Led Zeppelin’s hard-rocking tunes, and the band has cemented its legacy as one of the most influential bands of all time, having inspired countless hard rock and heavy metal bands. Here are 42 guitar-shredding facts about Led Zeppelin.
Perhaps curiously, considering their blues roots, Led Zeppelin is cited as one of the key stylistic influences on modern metal, along with bands like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. Their first and second albums, Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II feature the type of heavy guitar riffs that would later characterize heavy metal.
2. Down South
According to guitarist Jimmy Page—and just about anyone with a pair of ears—Zeppelin’s roots are in blues music. Blues was a significant part of their stylistic toolkit for their first album in particular and the band has actually faced lawsuits for copying a bit too much from blues artists. One notable example was co-writer Willie Dixon suing Led Zeppelin for using lyrics from his and Muddy Waters’ song “You Need Love.” As you can guess, Dixon and Waters’ lyrics were adapted for Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” resulting in a lawsuit that was settled out of court, with Dixon being listed as a co-writer on the Zeppelin track.
3. Go Big or Go Home
We consider a trip a pretty good one if we’ve got a semi-decent hotel room to go back to. Led Zeppelin upped the ante by renting six floors of the Continental Hyatt House in LA, now known as the Andaz. If that wasn’t enough, drummer John Bonham and tour manager Richard Cole would drive a motorcycle down the hallways. There is a reason the hotel was known as the “Riot House” during the 1970s.
4. Band to Band
Another extremely influential British band, The Who, is actually responsible for Led Zeppelin’s name. Drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle recorded the instrumental “Beck’s Bolero” with future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist John Paul Jones. Once the project was completed, the group talked about forming a new band. Moon allegedly cracked a joke the band would be received like a lead balloon (hence zeppelin, which is a rigid, although balloon-like, airship). Entwistle insists that he made the joke but either way, a Who member led to Led Zeppelin’s name. The “a” in lead was removed since the band worried Americans would mispronounce it.
5. Age is Nothing but a Number?
Guitarist Jimmy Page, 28 years old at the time, once dated a 14-year-old groupie named Lori Maddox. The two dated for years before Page ended the relationship. The relationship was still illegal at the time but Page never faced legal repercussions for it. Before she dated Page, she was linked to David Bowie.
6. #1 Spot
“Whole Lotta Love” was Led Zeppelin’s biggest hit on the Billboard, peaking at #4. It is followed by “Black Dog” peaking at #15 and “Immigrant Song” at #16.
Led Zeppelin’s fourth most popular song on the Billboard charts was “D’yer Mak’er.” The song’s title is actually supposed to be pronounced “Jamaica.” Guitarist Jimmy Page confirmed the title comes from a cockney joke:
“My wife is going on vacation.”
“D’yer Mak’er” (Jamaica with a cockney accent)
“No, she’s going on her own accord.”
Led Zeppelin recorded 1979’s In Through the Out Door at Polar Studios, a studio shared by Abba. Aside from simply sharing a studio, it is rumored that Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus took Robert Plant to a nearby strip joint afterwards. First impressions are everything.
Zeppelin faced problems in court more recently when they got sued over one of their most popular songs, “Stairway to Heaven.” Spirit argued that the song copied a riff from their single “Taurus.” Led Zeppelin won the original case in 2016 and a subsequent appeal for Spirit was issued in 2017 that appears to be ongoing.
Zeppelin earned a reputation for long live shows, featuring sets that could go on for four hours or more. The band liked to improvise with their songs when playing live, altering the sounds or tempo for their audience. Live versions of tracks like “Dazed and Confused” were reported to last over half an hour, compared to less than seven minutes in the studio—presumably leaving fans both dazed and confused.
11. Middle Earth
Some people might not think of ultra-cool rock gods like the members of Led Zeppelin as being huge Tolkien fans, but they would be wrong. The song “Ramble On” features references to Mordor and Gollum, while the title of “Misty Mountain Hop” references a setting from The Hobbit and “The Battle of Evermore” references the ring wraiths: “The ring wraiths ride in black/Ride on!” And if you are interested in more music with extremely Tolkien references, may we introduce you to a little Canadian band named Rush.
Prior to joining Led Zeppelin, guitarist Jimmy Page served as a guitarist for blues-rock band The Yardbirds. The Yardbirds originally featured Eric Clapton, who would go on to join Cream. Clapton quit in 1965, and Page then recommended that the group add Jeff Beck. After Beck quit in 1966, Page became the sole guitarist for the group until he left for Led Zeppelin.
13. Guitars Don’t’ Lie
Led Zeppelin’s music has been cited as an influence on other rock bands, but their influence also spreads to pop music. Shakira’s “Why Wait” is inspired by Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” Shakira worked with Egyptian composer Hossam Ramzy, who also helped with the composition of “Kashmir.”
Led Zeppelin’s self-titled first album was paid for completely by Jimmy Page. The decision didn’t come about due to the financial difficulty of paying for a studio, it came about because Page wanted creative control. The studio time cost Page about $4,300. The fact that Page was paying for the time might explain why the first album was cranked out in 30 hours.
15. Like Father, Like Son
Jason Bonham, son of late Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, filled in for his dad for some of Zeppelin’s later appearances. These appearances were reunion concerts that included a tribute concert in London in 2007, which was their last live appearance. Since 2010, Jason has toured with a Led Zeppelin tribute band named the Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, but Jason was forced to change the name to Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening, since the band wanted to use “experience” for a 50th anniversary marketing push.
16. Happy 50th Birthday
To mark their 50th anniversary, Led Zeppelin will be releasing an official illustrated book in October entitled…Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin. Okay, not a dazzling title but pretty cool for fans nonetheless. Jimmy Page also said the group will release a remastered live album of How the West Was Won later in 2018. The original live album is from the band’s 1972 US tour. Details of any new live events have yet to be announced.
17. Sorry Folks
A reunion presents a lot of opportunities for promoters, labels, and fans. Yet the band members are the ones who need to be really committed. Jimmy Page has remained adamant that a reunion is not in his future, professing a desire to focus on his solo career. Page also believes that the long gap between albums will make it hard to re-embrace the musical style of Led Zeppelin.
18. Time Capsule
If you’ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street, you have some second-hand experience with Quaaludes, the favorite sedative/hypnotic medication of ‘70s and ‘80s partiers. The drug is actually no longer produced. Frontman Robert Plant recently revealed that he still has three pills from the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, which he got from an LA pharmacy back when they were still made. But as Plant says, “they are poison!” Makes you wonder why he kept them.
It’s May 14, 1988. It’s been eight years since John Bonham died, but Led Zeppelin reunites to perform as the final act for Atlantic Records’ 40th anniversary show. Jason Bonham is taking his dad’s place and is probably excited, since it was his first big show with the band. Turns out that it was not meant to be. Although “Stairway to Heaven” was suggested for the five-song act, Plant initially refused to play it since he felt like the song cemented him in the past. Once the set began, a poor sound setup resulted in a barely audible keyboard and a shrill guitar. Page later referred to the show as “one big disappointment” and Plant simply called it “foul.”
20. Mix It Up
If you Google Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, you might get results that refer to it as Led Zeppelin IV, but the album is actually untitled. Their previous self-titled albums were named Led Zeppelin I, Led Zeppelin II, and Led Zeppelin III. Jimmy Page stated that the press still viewed their band’s success as a result of hype, as opposed to talent, so the band decided to leave the album untitled. Instead, Zeppelin only included four runic characters on the cover, one to represent each band member. Some online results may refer to the album as Zoso, since this is roughly what the symbols look like. However, Page says the symbols are not letters.
21. All or Nothing
Zeppelin’s sales are estimated at 300 million units, making them one of the best-selling acts of all time. Zeppelin also refused to sell singles, meaning they only sold full albums, which makes their sales total even more impressive.
22. Last Name
Led Zeppelin originally called themselves the New Yardbirds. They used this name as they toured across Scandinavia, marking the first tour with the group’s four members. Upon returning from tour, the band then took 30 hours to create Led Zeppelin’s first album.
23. Jones and Stones
Bassist John Paul Jones served as a session musician with The Rolling Stones, among other acts, before joining Led Zeppelin. He worked with guitarist Jimmy Page as session players on Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man LP. This experience led to Page’s interest in forming a band. Page’s first choice for a singer, Terry Reid, was unavailable, but recommended Plant. Plant then recommended John Bonham, since he and Bonham had previously worked together with Band of Joy. And voila, Led Zeppelin was born.
24. Ice, Ice, Fudge
On their first tour as Led Zeppelin, the band served as the opener for Vanilla Fudge on their US tour. Nowadays, Led Zeppelin is more popular than the band they got their start with.
Touring requires a lot of traveling, and what better way to do it than in your own starship? Led Zeppelin bought the first Boeing 720-022 ever built for $30,000, to help make traveling more comfortable for their 1973 tour. The “Starship” also supported them through their 1975 tour, which cost about $2,500 per hour. It had a den, a 30-foot long couch, a shower room and an electric organ, because why not. The Rolling Stones and Deep Purple would also take a ride on the Starship at one point.
26. Kings of the World
Prior to Led Zeppelin’s 1973 US tour, the Beatles held most of the records for tour sales. Zeppelin’s success at the time made them the most popular rock n’ roll group in the world. Take that, Paul McCartney.
27. Achilles Last Stand
Touring can be an exhausting experience for bands. While Zeppelin toured every year in their beginner years, they began to tour only in alternate years from 1971 onward. Tour schedules can get more complicated when a member is injured. While vacationing in Rhodes, Greece, in August 1975, frontman Robert Plant and his family were injured when their car spun off the road and crashed. Plant’s children only suffered from cuts and bruises, but Plant broke an ankle and elbow. During recovery, Plant would need a wheelchair at times, which obviously made it harder for him to rock out. The rest of the tour was canceled and Plant’s injury also stalled work on the following album, 1976’s Presence. However, Plant persevered and recorded part of the album from his wheelchair.
28. Cut the Cord
Plant faced further misfortune two years later when his son Karac succumbed to a stomach infection. Plant originally got the news of the stomach infection while checking into a hotel in New Orleans. He then received news of the death two hours later. The news came in the middle of a US tour, which was canceled as Plant took time to mourn. While in mourning, Plant admitted that he considered disbanding Led Zeppelin.
29. Why Should I Hire You?
Rock bands and coke seem to go together like milk and cereal. So maybe it’s no surprise that Plant actually hired a “coke lady” during the band’s 1973 tour. Yes, he hired someone whose sole purpose was to provide the bandmates with a pick-me-up and a sip of Dom Perignon champagne when required. I wonder what the job interview was like.
30. Fourth Time’s the Charm
Some bands wither away after the first album but Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is actually their biggest seller to date, with over 22 million copies sold in the US alone.
31. Not OK
Zeppelin performed their last US show (pre-breakup) at the Oakland Coliseum. While the night should be remembered for this momentous occasion, this last concert is sometimes overshadowed by the actions of band manager Peter Grant and sidekick John Bindon. The two assaulted a security guard and later claimed that the security guard slapped Grant’s 11-year-old son. Seems like the jury didn’t buy the story, since Grat and Bindon were charged with assault and served suspended jail sentences.
32. Slow and Steady
“In My Time of Dying” was Led Zeppelin’s longest recorded song—minus the lengthened versions they played live—clocking in at 11:05. You have to wonder how much rehearsal it took to nail it.
33. It’s a Prank Bro
Step aside Ashton Kutcher—Led Zeppelin were pranking celebrities before it was cool.
Led Zeppelin had a lot of women’s clothing lying around on account of their groupies, and decided to put it to use for a 1974 dinner with George Harrison and Stevie Wonder. Stevie Wonder worried the group chose their attire to mock his blindness, but that wasn’t the case. The inner sleeve of Physical Graffiti actually features a picture from the dinner.
The band’s stage manager, Richard Grant, was a 350-pound man who wrestled in his youth. He apparently put his size to good use when he wasn’t assaulting security guards. Grant insisted that Led Zeppelin get 90% of their concert receipts, instead of the industry standard of 60%. This move led to Led Zeppelin having the highest royalty rate—beating The Beatles by more than five times.
Led Zeppelin were initially signed to Atlantic Records in 1968 for 100,000 British pounds. The legendary founder of Atlantic, Ahmet Ertegun, signed them personally and has been rewarded with hundreds of millions of dollars for his decision.
36. Knight of the Sound Stage
Robert Plant received an OBE (Order of the British of Empire) in 2005 for his charity work, and a member of the British Parliament is also campaigning for him to receive a knighthood. With a knighthood, Plant would join musicians such as Sir John Elton and Sir Paul McCartney and become Sir Robert Plant. The Member of Parliament, Louise Mensch, is actually married to Page’s former manager. She says her connection to Plant has nothing to do with her campaign, so we’ll just have to take her word for it.
37. Sorry Your Highness
Once Led Zeppelin began performing as Led Zeppelin, instead of as the New Yardbirds, some people still took offence to the name. Frau Eva von Zeppelin viewed the band’s name as an insult to her family, and the band were forced to change it for a single show in Copenhagen. The backup name? The Nobs. Maybe a few more minutes of brainstorming could have led to something better.
38. Didn’t You Get the Memo?
As could be expected, Led Zeppelin were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. What makes the story special is that the reunion between the surviving members also led to an eye-opening experience for bassist John Paul Jones. Frontman Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page had already announced a reunion tour, but Jones was out of the loop. He found out shortly before the event when he saw an ad on TV. At the induction ceremony, Jones gave a quick acceptance speech, blasting Page and Plant by saying "Thank you, my friends, for finally remembering my phone number."
39. Praise the Lord
Page gained some publicity for his admiration of occultist Aleister Crowley. Page’s interest in Crowley led him to buy one of Crowley’s former homes, the Boleskin House. Page would later claim the house was haunted by a decapitated head. Page also inscribed Crowley’s mantra, “Do what thou wilt” on the original vinyl of Led Zeppelin III. It’s rumored that Page is a Satanist but there is no real proof of this claim. The guitarist never spoke about the views too publicly, saying he wasn’t interesting in converting anyone.
Rock stars as a whole are known for offstage excess, and it is perhaps this stereotype that led to one of the most popular Led Zeppelin stories. This particular story originates in the biography, Hammer of the Gods. The book describes a scene that took place when the band was in Seattle for 1969’s Pop Festival. According to the legend, a groupie was tied to a bed and defiled with pieces of a mud shark. Where did the shark come from? The Edgewater Inn hotel sits right on top of Puget Sound, so guests could allegedly fish from their windows. A lot of the info in the biography came from Zeppelin’s road manager, Richard Cole, who probably saw value in generating more publicity. Some versions of this story said Cole himself defiled the groupie with pieces of the shark. The band Vanilla Fudge also takes credit for this act—any publicity is good publicity, I guess?
41. The Day the Music Died
“I believe in God, man. I’ve seen him. I’ve felt his power. He plays drums for Led Zeppelin and his name is John Bonham, baby!”—Nick Andopolis in the first scene of Freaks and Geeks.
John Bonham was Led Zeppelin’s drummer, and he was beloved by fans and esteemed by musicians in general for his undeniable talent. Zeppelin was supposed to tour in the fall of 1980 but their plans changed after Bonham was found dead in his apartment in October. Bonham perished with the equivalent of 40 shots of booze in his system, according to the coroner’s report, and asphyxiated from choking on his vomit. The news broke fan’s hearts, and Zeppelin disbanded two months later.
42. The Watchtower
Jimi Hendrix was well aware of Led Zeppelin’s reputation for stealing riffs and lyrics without giving due credit. He stated that he didn’t like the band, but he was a fan of the John Bonham’s percussion skills and allegedly tried to get Bonham to work for him on multiple occasions. Bonham remained loyal though, so RIP to the man who once rode a motorcycle down a hotel corridor.