Founded by ex-Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page (1944-) from Middlesex in 1968, Led Zeppelin became the epitome of heavy metal rock bands. Page was joined by singer Robert Plant (1948-) from Staffordshire, Kent-born bass guitarist John Paul Jones (1946-, né John Richard Baldwin) and drummer John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham (1948-80) from Worcestershire. It was Bonham’s rock-style death in an alcohol-fuelled medical trauma that ended the group’s phenomenal career in 1980. The remaining members subsequently pursued solo projects.
The band’s name is a play on the simile ‘to go down like a lead balloon’ and it apparently enraged the aristocratic Zeppelin family. Undaunted, their aim was to fuse blues, rock and folk-rock in a blaze of noise and to focus on LPs rather than commercial singles. Nevertheless a few did surface, including ‘Whole Lotta Love’ (1969) whose cover version by C.C.S. ironically became the theme tune of TV’s long-running ‘Top of the Pops’.
Meanwhile, Zep were thrashing out their hard rock in record-breaking world tours and living ‘on the edge’. With their long-haired, bare-chested image they impacted the rock scene enormously with classics such as ‘Ramble On’ (1969), ‘Heartbreaker’ (1969), ‘Immigrant Song’ (1970), ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (1971) and ‘Kashmir’ (1975). They have sales of 200-300 million records worldwide.
(Top image: Heinrich Klaffs at Flickr.com / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)