Skip to main content
  1. AXS Entertainment
  2. Arts & Entertainment
  3. Music

Info 101: Musicbits 68: The price of super-stardom for Zeppelin

See also

"LED ZEPPELIN III" (1970) on Atlantic Records. Deluxe Edition to be released on June 3, 2014.

It was 1970, two years along, and Led Zeppelin were now super-stars. Their concerts sold out as fast as money could be shoved under the ticket windows. Their first two albums had to be reprinted repeatedly to keep them in stock. Magazines featured photo spreads and articles much the same as had been done for the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But lost in all the upside were the many lawsuits being brought against them for copyright infringement by the people who claimed Zeppelin had stolen their songs without offering any money in exchange. Willie Dixon was one complainant and Randy California of Spirit was another. Many of the suits were paid off and swept away but California's still hasn't come to a head as of today, May 20, 2014.

Led Zeppelin opened for Spirit at four shows in 1968 and 1969, shows at which Spirit played a new track entitled "Taurus". The resemblance of the guitar line to that of "Stairway to Heaven" is not just uncanny--it's the same almost note for note. California, who died in 1997 trying to save his son, laid out the story in 1996, hoping for some sort of justice or reimbursement from Page and Zeppelin. It still hasn't happened and California's lawyer is trying to block the Deluxe Edition of "Led Zeppelin IV" which contains "Stairway", stating that California should at least be given a songwriting credit for the song. Page's response will have to be forthcoming shortly.

The band took a couple months off touring to record "III" in mid-1970 at Bron-Yr-Aur, an 18th Century cottage with no electricity in Wales. For that reason acoustic instruments were the only ones playable and it gave Page and Plant a chance to explore musical ideas that were polar opposite of the first two albums. It also gave Plant an extended opportunity to work on his lyrics and mold them to the music.

The reaction to "III" was, for the most part, stunned outrage or perplexed confusion. For this writer, it's always been a personal fave, one of the best albums in the collection. Most people, wanting "Whole Lotta Love Part 2", saw this album as something they couldn't accept at that time. It's safe to say that most first edition printings of this album stayed in good condition for many years since it was only played once.

Page was so outraged at the negative reaction that he refused to speak to any press for a year and a half. It's also the main reason that "IV" had no title or any written text on the package. He later relented, of course, and time upheld the quality of the music. Eventually, many people listened again and, twenty, thirty years down the line, came to accept and understand what Page and Plant had been trying to do. Plant made no secret that he loved country and folk music. This was a precursor of the highly successful venture he undertook with Alison Krauss a couple years back.

One shortcoming of the re-issue is the persistent absence of "Hey Hey What Can I Say", the B-side of "Immigrant Song". It wasn't on the original LP and it's not here either. If Page was so concerned about keeping the material time sensitive to the time of release, that song should have been contained on this album. Perhaps he forgot it--again--but. Oh, well, it's not here and life goes on. It's still a great album and the pre-order deals on amazon.com are incredible.

Track listings CD 1: "Immigrant Song", "Friends", "Celebration Day", "Since I've Been Loving You", "Out on the Tiles", "Gallows Pole", "Tangerine", "That's the Way", "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp", "Hats Off to Roy Harper".

CD 2: Studio outtakes of "Immigrant Song", "Friends", "Celebration Day", "Since I've Been Loving You", "Gallows Pole", "That's the Way". Previously unreleased tracks "Bathroom Sound"(instrumental version of 'Out on the Tiles'), "Jenning's Farm Blues" (Instrumental forerunner of 'Bron-Y-Aur Stomp'), "Keys to the Highway/Trouble in Mind".

Advertisement

Today's top buzz...

  • Jack White
    Reddit users have fun photoshopping an angry Jack White at a Cubs game
    Music Buzz
  • Kliff Kingsbury
    Kliff Kingsbury reads a series of flattering tweets praising his good looks
    Video
    Today's Buzz
  • Jamaal Charles
    Kansas City Chiefs make Jamaal Charles the second highest paid running back in NFL
    NFL Buzz
  • Slash
    Slash and The Conspirators crush it at Hard Rock, AP Awards
    Camera
    20 Photos
  • Monks of Mellonwah
    Exclusive interview: Monks of Mellonwah talk music, touring and more
    Camera
    9 Photos
  • Nikki Bella
    How will fans react if the WWE decides to turn Nikki Bella into a heel?
    Camera
    5 Photos