Led Zeppelin III

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Led Zeppelin III
A collage of butterflies, teeth, zeppelins, and assorted imagery on a white background
Studio album by Led Zeppelin
Released 5 October 1970 (1970-10-05)
Recorded January–August 1970 at various locations
Genre Folk rock, blues rock, hard rock
Length 43:04
Label Atlantic
Producer Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin chronology
Led Zeppelin II
(1969)
Led Zeppelin III
(1970)
Led Zeppelin IV
(1971)
2014 reissue
Singles from Led Zeppelin III
  1. "Immigrant Song"/"Hey Hey What Can I Do"
    Released: 5 October 1970 (1970-10-05)
  2. "The Immigrant Song (alternative mix)"
    Released: 22 May 2014 (2014-05-22)

Led Zeppelin III is the third studio album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. It was recorded between January and August 1970 and released on 5 October by Atlantic Records. Composed largely at a remote cottage in Wales known as Bron-Yr-Aur, this work represented a maturing of the band's music towards a greater emphasis on folk and acoustic sounds. This surprised many fans and critics, and upon its release the album received rather indifferent reviews.

Although it is not one of the highest sellers in Zeppelin's catalogue, Led Zeppelin III is now generally praised, and acknowledged as representing an important milestone in their history. Although acoustic songs are featured on its predecessors, it is this album which is widely acknowledged for showing that Led Zeppelin were more than just a conventional rock band and that they could branch out into wider musical territory.

Recording sessions[edit]

Bron-Yr-Aur cottage

Many of the songs featured on the album were conceived in mid-1970 at Bron-Yr-Aur, an 18th-century cottage in Gwynedd, Wales, on a hilltop overlooking the Dyfi Valley, three miles north of the market town Machynlleth. There, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant spent some time after an exhausting concert tour of North America to play and compose new music. This remote setting had no running water or electric power, which encouraged a slight change of musical direction for the band towards an emphasis on acoustic arrangements.[1][2] As Page later explained:

After the intense touring that had been taking place through the first two albums, working almost 24 hours a day, basically, we managed to stop and have a proper break, a couple of months as opposed to a couple of weeks. We decided to go off and rent a cottage to provide a contrast to motel rooms. Obviously, it had quite an effect on the material that was written... It was the tranquility of the place that set the tone of the album. Obviously, we weren't crashing away at 100 watt Marshall stacks. Having played acoustic and being interested in classical guitar, anyway, being in a cottage without electricity, it was acoustic guitar time... After all the heavy, intense vibe of touring which is reflected in the raw energy of the second album, it was just a totally different feeling.[3]

Plant has expressed similar recollections:

[Bron-Yr-Aur] was a fantastic place in the middle of nowhere with no facilities at all-and it was a fantastic test of what we could do in that environment. Because by that time we'd become obsessed with change, and the great thing was that we were also able to create a pastoral side of Led Zep. Jimmy was listening to Davey Graham and Bert Jansch and was experimenting with different tunings, and I loved John Fahey. So it was a very natural place for us to go to.[4]

After preparing the material that would emerge on the album, Page and Plant were joined by John Bonham and John Paul Jones at Headley Grange, a run-down mansion in East Hampshire, to rehearse the songs. With its relaxed atmosphere and rural surroundings, Headley Grange appealed to the band as the favoured alternative to the discipline of a conventional studio.[1]

The album was then recorded in a series of sessions in May and June 1970 at both Headley Grange and at Olympic Studios, London. Some additional work was put in at Island Records' new Basing Street Studios in Notting Hill, London, in July, then mixed at Ardent Studios, Memphis in August 1970 during Led Zeppelin's sixth American concert tour.[1] The album was produced by Page and engineered by Andy Johns and Terry Manning.

Composition[edit]

As noted above, Led Zeppelin III marked a change in focus for the band from late 1960s hard rock to a more folk rock or electric folk and acoustic inspired sound.[1] These styles had been present to a lesser degree in the band's first two releases, but here it was the main emphasis, and one that would remain prominent in some of the group's later albums. This development endeared the band to many progressive rock fans who would never have listened to Led Zeppelin's established blues and rock repertoire. With Led Zeppelin III the group's songwriting dynamic also changed, from Page's domination of the first two albums towards a more democratic affair in which all four group members contributed their own compositions and ideas—patterns that would continue in future sessions.[1]

The album contains two songs which became key components of the band's live concert performances for many years: "Immigrant Song" and "Since I've Been Loving You". The first of these, written by Page and Plant, is about the Viking invasions of England and was inspired by the band's recent live performance in Iceland. "Since I've Been Loving You" is a blues in the key of C minor featuring heartfelt interplay by all four group members. It would become a live performance staple for the band, replacing "I Can't Quit You Baby" from the first album as the band's slow blues showcase.

The album also featured the rock songs "Celebration Day" and "Out on the Tiles", the eastern-influenced "Friends" and the acoustic tracks "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp", "Tangerine" and "That's the Way", the last considered by Page to be a breakthrough for still-developing lyric writer Plant.[5] "Gallows Pole" is an updated arrangement of a traditional folk song called "The Maid Freed from the Gallows". The album concludes with "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper", a track dedicated to their influential contemporary and friend, Roy Harper, honouring his work and acknowledging the band's roots in acoustic music.

Release and critical reaction[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[6]
Robert Christgau A–[7]
Pitchfork Media 9.5/10[8]
Q 5/5 stars[9]
Rolling Stone Mixed[10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[11]

Led Zeppelin III was one of the most eagerly awaited albums of 1970, and advance orders in the US alone were close to the million mark.[1] Its release was trailered by a full page advertisement taken out in Melody Maker magazine at the end of September, which simply said "Thank you for making us the world's number one band."[1]

Although the band's expanding musical boundaries were greeted warmly by some, detractors attacked the heavier tracks as being mindless noise. In a representative review published in Rolling Stone, critic Lester Bangs praised "That's the Way" as "beautiful and genuinely moving", while characterising the band's heavier songs as crude and little differentiated from each other.[12] Others criticised the acoustic material for merely imitating the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.[13] Page suggested that this comparison was inaccurate, stating in an interview he gave to Cameron Crowe that:

When the third LP came out and got its reviews, Crosby, Stills and Nash had just formed. That LP had just come out and because acoustic guitars had come to the forefront all of a sudden: LED ZEPPELIN GO ACOUSTIC! I thought, Christ, where are their heads and ears? There were three acoustic songs on the first album and two on the second.[14]

Page has also said that the negative press given to the third album affected him so much that he did not give press interviews for 18 months after its release, and was also one of the reasons why the band's subsequent untitled album contained no written information on it at all.[3] However, in more recent years, he has commented on the negative press reaction in somewhat more diplomatic terms:

[W]ith hindsight, I can see how if somebody got Led Zeppelin III, which was so different from what we'd done before, and they only had a short time to review it on the record player in the office, then they missed the content. They were in a rush and they were looking for the new "Whole Lotta Love" and not actually listening to what was there. It was too fresh for them and they didn't get the plot. So, in retrospect, it doesn't surprise me that the diversity and breadth of what we were doing was overlooked or under-appreciated at the time.[15]

Led Zeppelin III was a trans-Atlantic #1 hit. It spent four weeks at the top of the Billboard chart, while it entered that British chart at #1 and remained there for three weeks (returning to the top for a further week on 12 December).[1] However, following the lukewarm, if not confused and sometimes dismissive reception from critics, sales lagged after this initial peak.[5] As Plant said:

Led Zeppelin III was not one of the best sellers in the catalogue because the audience turned round and said 'What are we supposed to do with this?'—'Where is our 'Whole Lotta Love Part 2'? They wanted something like Paranoid by Black Sabbath! But we wanted to go acoustic and a piece like "Gallows Pole" still had all the power of "Whole Lotta Love" because it allowed us to be dynamic.[2]

In spite of its initially indifferent reviews and lower sales than Led Zeppelin's other early albums, Led Zeppelin III's reputation has recovered considerably with the passage of time. The RIAA certified the album 2x platinum in 1990, and 6x platinum in 1999.[16] Despite the album going to number 1 in the UK charts, it is the only Led Zeppelin album not to have a certification in the UK. The 2014 reissue of the album helped itself get back into the Billboard Top 10 just barely when it got to #10.[17]

Accolades[edit]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
The Book of Rock Lists United States "The Top 40 Albums (1970)"[18] 1981 39
Mojo United Kingdom "The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made"[19] 1996 99
Colin Larkin United Kingdom All Time Top 1000 Albums[20] 1998 361
Q United Kingdom "50 Best British Albums Ever"[21] 2004 9
Robert Dimery United States 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[22] 2005 *
Classic Rock United Kingdom "100 Greatest British Rock Album Ever"[23] 2006 31

(*) designates unordered lists.

Album sleeve design[edit]

Led Zeppelin III's original vinyl edition was packaged in a gatefold sleeve with an innovative cover, designed by Zacron, a multi-media artist whom Page had met in 1963 whilst Zacron was a student at Kingston College of Art.[24] He had recently resigned a lectureship at Leeds Polytechnic to found Zacron Studios, and in 1970 Page contacted him and asked him to design the third album's cover.

The cover and interior gatefold art consisted of a surreal collection of seemingly random images on a white background, many of them connected thematically with flight or aviation (as in "Zeppelin"). Behind the front cover was a rotatable laminated card disc, or volvelle, covered with more images, including photos of the band members, which showed through holes in the cover. Moving an image into place behind one hole would usually bring one or two others into place behind other holes. This could not be replicated on a conventional cassette or CD cover, but there have been Japanese and British CDs packaged in miniature versions of the original sleeve. In France, this album was released with a different album cover, simply showing a photo of the four band members.

The volvelle used on the front cover

The idea of including a volvelle, based on crop rotation charts, was initially Page's concept.[1] However, the result was a meeting of minds as Zacron had been working on rotating graphics from 1965. Zacron felt that by not including text on the front of the cover, the art would endure.[25]

In an article featured in the December 2007 issue of Classic Rock magazine, Zacron claimed that upon his completion of the artwork, Page telephoned him while he was in New York to express his satisfaction with the results, saying "I think it is fantastic".[26] However, in a 1998 interview Page himself gave to Guitar World magazine, he described the results as a disappointment:

I thought it looked very teeny-bopperish. But we were on top of a deadline, so of course there was no way to make any radical changes to it. There were some silly bits—little chunks of corn and nonsense like that.[27]

The album cover featured on the front page of The Daily Mail's Live Magazine in December 2007, which hailed Led Zeppelin III as "the greatest rock album of all time".[25]

The first pressings of the album included the phrases "So mote be it" (not to be confused with "So mote it be".), then later on included the phrase "Do what thou wilt", inscribed on the lacquer itself by engineer Terry Manning during the final mastering process.[28] This phrase is identical to one in the core tenet of Aleister Crowley's philosophy of Thelema: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will. There is no law beyond do what thou wilt." But it is also the same as a portion of a variant of the Wiccan Rede. Page was a scholar of Crowley's work, once owning a private collection of Crowley manuscripts, artwork and other ephemera, and in the 1970s even bought one of his residences, Boleskine House on the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland.[citation needed]

2014 reissue[edit]

Along with the group's self-titled debut album and their second album, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III was remastered and reissued in June 2014. The reissue comes in 6 formats: a standard CD edition, a deluxe 2 CD edition, a standard LP version, a deluxe 2 LP version, a super deluxe 2 CD + 2 LP version with a hardback book, and as high resolution 96k/24-bit digital downloads. The deluxe and super deluxe editions feature bonus material containing alternative takes, backing tracks and previously unreleased songs, "Bathroom Sound", "Jennings Farm Blues", "Key to the Highway/Trouble in Mind" The LP versions replicate the original Vovelle sleeve design.

Track listing[edit]

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Immigrant Song"   Jimmy Page, Robert Plant 2:26
2. "Friends"   Page, Plant 3:55
3. "Celebration Day"   John Paul Jones, Page, Plant 3:29
4. "Since I've Been Loving You"   Jones, Page, Plant 7:25
5. "Out on the Tiles"   John Bonham, Page, Plant 4:04
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
6. "Gallows Pole"   Traditional, arr. Page, Plant 4:58
7. "Tangerine"   Page 3:12
8. "That's the Way"   Page, Plant 5:38
9. "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp"   Jones, Page, Plant 4:20
10. "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper"   Traditional, arr. Charles Obscure 3:41

Deluxe edition bonus disc[edit]

Reissued setlist
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "The Immigrant Song" (Alternate Mix) Page, Plant 2:25
2. "Friends" (Track, No Vocal) Page, Plant 3:43
3. "Celebration Day" (Alternate Mix) Jones, Page, Plant 3:18
4. "Since I've Been Loving You" (Rough Mix of First Recording) Jones, Page, Plant 7:16
5. "Bathroom Sound" (Track, No Vocal) Bonham, Page, Plant 4:00
6. "Gallows Pole" (Rough Mix) Traditional, arr. Page, Plant 5:17
7. "That's the Way" (Rough Mix with Dulcimer & Backwards Echo) Page, Plant 5:22
8. "Jennings Farm Blues" (Rough Mix of All Guitar Overdubs That Day) Jones, Page, Plant 5:54
9. "Key to the Highway/Trouble in Mind" (Rough Mix) Big Bill Broonzy, Charlie Segar, Richard M. Jones 4:05

Sales chart positions[edit]

Album[edit]

Original release
Chart (1970) Peak
position
Australian Go-Set Top 20 Albums Chart[29] 1
Canadian RPM Top 100 Albums Chart[30] 1
French Albums Chart[31] 4
German Albums Chart[32] 3
Italian Albums Chart[33] 1
Japanese Albums Chart[34] 5
Norwegian Albums Chart[35] 3
Spanish Albums Chart[36] 6
UK Albums (OCC)[37] 1
US Billboard 200[38] 1
US Billboard Soul LP's[39] 30
US Record World Top Pop Albums[citation needed] 1
US Cash Box Top 100 Albums[40] 1
2014 reissue
Chart (2014) Peak
position
Polish Albums (ZPAV)[41] 11

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Peak position
1970 (Release)
1971 (Peak position)
"Immigrant Song"/
"Hey Hey What Can I Do"
Billboard Hot 100 Singles 16[42]

Sales certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Argentina (CAPIF)[43] Platinum 40,000x
Australia (ARIA)[44] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[45] 3× Platinum 300,000^
France (SNEP)[46] Platinum 300,000*
Germany (BVMI)[47] Gold 250,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[48]
Remastered edition
Gold 50,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[49] Gold 50,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[50] Gold 25,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[51] Platinum 300,000^
United States (RIAA)[52] 6× Platinum 6,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Personnel[edit]

Led Zeppelin
Production

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dave Lewis (1994), The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9
  2. ^ a b Chris Welch (1994) Led Zeppelin, London: Orion Books. ISBN 1-85797-930-3, pp. 52, 55.
  3. ^ a b Dave Schulps, Interview with Jimmy Page, Trouser Press, October 1977.
  4. ^ Nigel Williamson, "Good Times...Bad Times", Uncut, May 2005, p. 56.
  5. ^ a b Gilmore, Mikal (10 August 2006). "The Long Shadow of Led Zeppelin". Rolling Stone (1006). Retrieved 9 December 2007. 
  6. ^ Allmusic Review
  7. ^ Christgau, Robert (7 January 1971). "Consumer Guide (15)". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved 6 February 2014. 
  8. ^ "Pitchfork Review". Pitchfork.com. 12 June 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  9. ^ "Q Review". Cduniverse.com. 16 August 1994. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  10. ^ By Lester Bangs (26 November 1970). "Rolling Stone Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  11. ^ "Led Zeppelin: Album Guide | Rolling Stone Music". Rollingstone.com. 2007-12-10. Retrieved 2012-09-19. 
  12. ^ Bangs, Lester (26 November 1970). "Records: Led Zeppelin III". Rolling Stone (Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc.) (71): 34. 
  13. ^ Davis, Stephen (4 July 1985). "Power, Mystery And The Hammer Of The Gods: The Rise and Fall of Led Zeppelin". Rolling Stone (451). Retrieved 15 January 2008. 
  14. ^ "Cameron Crowe interview Led Zeppelin". 18 March 1975. Retrieved 7 November 2007. 
  15. ^ Nigel Williamson, "Forget the Myths", Uncut, May 2005, p. 70.
  16. ^ LED ZEPPELIN III search results, RIAA official website.
  17. ^ "Billboard 200: Page 1". Billboard. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  18. ^ "The Top 40 Albums 1970". rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 10 February 2009. [dead link]
  19. ^ "The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made – January 1996". Mojo. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  20. ^ "Virgin All-Time Album Top 1000 List – 1998". Virgin. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  21. ^ "50 Best British Albums Ever – July 2004". Q. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  22. ^ Dimery, Robert – 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die; page 156
  23. ^ "Classic Rock – 100 Greatest British Rock Album Ever – April 2006". Classic Rock. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  24. ^ Zacron – Led Zeppelin III Rock album cover Gallery
  25. ^ a b Daily Mail 'Live' Magazine, 2 December 2007, interview with Zacron
  26. ^ "Hats Off to Zacron", Classic Rock Magazine, December 2007
  27. ^ Brad Tolinski and Greg Di Bendetto, "Light and Shade", Guitar World, January 1998.
  28. ^ Mick Wall (2008), When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography Of Led Zeppelin, London: Orion, pp. 197-198.
  29. ^ "Top 20 Albums – 23 January 1971". Go Set. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  30. ^ "RPM Albums Chart – 7 November 1970". RPM. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  31. ^ "Top 100 Albums – 1970". infodisc.fr. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  32. ^ "Top 100 Albums – November 1970". charts-surfer.de. Retrieved 19 January 2009. [dead link]
  33. ^ "Top 100 Albums – 1970". Hit Parade Italia. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  34. ^ "Top 100 Albums – 11 November 1970". Oricon. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  35. ^ "Top 20 Singles – 25 October 1970". norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  36. ^ "Top 100 Albums – 12 December 1970". PROMUSICAE. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  37. ^ "1970-11-07 Top 40 Official UK Albums Archive | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. The Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  38. ^ "The Billboard 200 – 31 October 1970". Billboard. Retrieved 19 January 2009. [dead link]
  39. ^ "allmusic (((Led Zeppelin III > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums)))". Retrieved 26 May 2008. 
  40. ^ "Top 100 Albums – 21 November 1970". Cash Box. Retrieved 19 January 2009. [dead link]
  41. ^ "Oficjalna lista sprzedaży :: OLIS - Official Retail Sales Chart". OLiS. Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
  42. ^ "Hot 100 Singles – 30 January 1971". Billboard. Retrieved 19 January 2009. [dead link]
  43. ^ "Argentinian album certifications – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III". Argentine Chamber of Phonograms and Videograms Producers. 
  44. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2006 Albums". Australian Recording Industry Association. 
  45. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III". Music Canada. 
  46. ^ "French album certifications – Led Zeppelin – Volume 3" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. 
  47. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Led Zeppelin; 'III')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. 
  48. ^ "Dutch album certifications – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. 
  49. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año : 1959-2002 (in Spanish). Iberautor Promociones Culturales. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  50. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Led Zeppelin; '3')". Hung Medien. 
  51. ^ "British album certifications – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Led Zeppelin III in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go
  52. ^ "American album certifications – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin III". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  53. ^ a b c "Led Zeppelin III mastering engineers". Retrieved 27 May 2008. 
  54. ^ "allmusic (((Led Zeppelin III > Credits)))". Retrieved 27 May 2008. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Abraxas by Santana
Billboard 200 number-one album
31 October - 27 November 1970
Succeeded by
Abraxas by Santana
Preceded by
Motown Chartbusters Volume 4
by Various artists
Andy Williams' Greatest Hits by Andy Williams
UK Albums Chart number-one album
7–28 November 1970
12–19 December 1970
Succeeded by
New Morning by Bob Dylan
Andy Williams' Greatest Hits
by Andy Williams