Led Zeppelin IV
|Studio album by Led Zeppelin|
|Released||8 November 1971|
|Recorded||December 1970 – March 1971 at various locations|
|Genre||Hard rock, heavy metal, folk rock|
|Led Zeppelin chronology|
|Singles from untitled|
The fourth album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin was released on 8 November 1971. No title is printed on the album, so it is usually referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, following the naming sequence used by the band's first three studio albums. The album has alternatively been referred to as , Four Symbols, The Fourth Album (those two titles each having been used in the Atlantic catalogue), Untitled, Runes, The Hermit, and ZoSo, the latter of which is derived from the symbol used by Jimmy Page for the album sleeve. Page often had the ZoSo symbol embroidered on his clothes.
Containing many of the band's most famous songs, including "Black Dog", "Rock and Roll", "Going to California" and the band's signature song, "Stairway to Heaven", Led Zeppelin IV was a commercial and critical success. The album is one of the best-selling albums worldwide at 32 million units. It is also certified 23-times platinum by the RIAA, making it the third-best-selling album ever in the US.
The album was initially recorded at Island Records' newly opened Basing Street Studios, London, at the same time as Jethro Tull's Aqualung in December 1970. Upon the suggestion of Fleetwood Mac, the band then moved to Headley Grange, a remote Victorian house in East Hampshire, England, to conduct additional recordings. Here they used the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. Jimmy Page later recalled: "We needed the sort of facilities where we could have a cup of tea and wander around the garden and go in and do what we had to do." This relaxed, atmospheric environment at Headley Grange also provided other advantages for the band. As is explained by Dave Lewis, "By moving into Headley Grange for the whole period of recording, many of the tracks [on the album] were made up on the spot and committed to tape almost there and then."
Once the basic tracks had been recorded, the band later added overdubs at Island Studios, then took the completed master tapes to Sunset Sound in Los Angeles for mixing. However, the mix ultimately proved to be less than satisfactory, creating an unwanted delay in the album's release. Further mixing had to be undertaken in London, pushing the final release date back by some months.
Three other songs from the sessions, "Down by the Seaside", "Night Flight" and "Boogie with Stu" (featuring Rolling Stones cofounder/collaborator Ian Stewart on piano), did not appear on the album, but were included four years later on the double album Physical Graffiti.
After the lukewarm, if not confused and sometimes dismissive, critical reaction Led Zeppelin III had received in late 1970, Page decided that the next Led Zeppelin album would not have a title, but would instead feature four hand-drawn symbols on the inner sleeve and record label, each one chosen by the band member it represents. "We decided that on the fourth album, we would deliberately play down the group name, and there wouldn't be any information whatsoever on the outer jacket", Page explained. "Names, titles and things like that do not mean a thing."
Page has also stated that the decision to release the album without any written information on the album sleeve was contrary to strong advice given to him by a press agent, who said that after a year's absence from both records and touring, the move would be akin to "professional suicide". In his words: "We just happened to have a lot of faith in what we were doing." In an interview he gave to The Times in 2010, he elaborated:
It wasn’t easy. The record company were sort of insisting that the name go on it. There were eyes looking towards heaven if you like. It was hinted it was professional suicide to go out with an album with no title. The reality of it was that we’d had so many dour reviews to our albums along the way. At the time each came out it was difficult sometimes for the reviewers to come to terms with what was on there, without an immediate point of reference to the previous album. But the ethic of the band was very much summing up where we were collectively at that point in time. An untitled album struck me as the best answer to all the critics — because we knew the way that the music was being received both by sales and attendance at concerts.
Owing to the lack of an official title, Atlantic initially distributed graphics of the symbols in many sizes to the press for inclusion in charts and articles. The album was one of the first to be produced without conventional identification, and this communicated an anti-commercial stance that was controversial at the time (especially among certain executives at Atlantic Records).
Releasing the album without an official title has made it difficult to consistently identify. While most commonly called Led Zeppelin IV, Atlantic Records catalogues have used the names Four Symbols and The Fourth Album. It has also been referred to as ZoSo (which Page's symbol appears to spell), Untitled and Runes. Page frequently refers to the album in interviews as "the fourth album" and "Led Zeppelin IV", and Plant thinks of it as "the fourth album, that's it". Not only does the album have no title, but there is no writing anywhere on the front or back cover, or even a catalogue number on the spine (at least on the original LP release).
The four symbols
The idea for each member of the band to choose a personal emblem for the cover was Page's. In an interview he gave in 1977, he recalled:
"After all this crap that we'd had with the critics, I put it to everybody else that it'd be a good idea to put out something totally anonymous. At first I wanted just one symbol on it, but then it was decided that since it was our fourth album and there were four of us, we could each choose our own symbol. I designed mine and everyone else had their own reasons for using the symbols that they used."
Page stated that he designed his own symbol and has never publicly disclosed any reasoning behind it. However, it has been argued that his symbol appeared as early as 1557 to represent Saturn. The symbol is sometimes referred to as "ZoSo", though Page has explained that it was not in fact intended to be a word at all.
Bassist John Paul Jones' symbol, which he chose from Rudolf Koch's Book of Signs, is a single circle intersecting three vesica pisces (a triquetra). It is intended to symbolise a person who possesses both confidence and competence.
Drummer John Bonham's symbol, the three interlocking (Borromean) rings, was picked by the drummer from the same book. It represents the triad of mother, father and child, but, inverted, it also happens to be the logo for Ballantine beer.
There is also a fifth, smaller symbol chosen by guest vocalist Sandy Denny representing her contribution to the track "The Battle of Evermore"; it appears in the credits list on the inner sleeve of the LP, serving as an asterisk and is shaped like three triangles touching at their points.
During Led Zeppelin's tour of the United Kingdom in winter 1971, which took place shortly following the release of the album, the band visually projected the four symbols on their stage equipment. Page's symbol was put onto one of his Marshall amplifiers, Bonham's three interlinked circles adorned the outer face of his bass drum, Jones had his symbol stencilled onto material which was draped across his Fender Rhodes keyboard, and Plant's feather symbol was painted onto a side speaker PA cabinet. Only Page's and Bonham's symbols were retained for subsequent Led Zeppelin concert tours.
Album cover and inside sleeve
The 19th-century rustic oil painting on the front of the album was purchased from an antique shop in Reading, Berkshire by Plant. The painting was then juxtaposed and affixed to the internal, papered wall of the partly demolished suburban house for the photograph to be taken.
Page has explained that the cover of the fourth album was intended to bring out a city/country dichotomy that had initially surfaced on Led Zeppelin III:
It represented the change in the balance which was going on. There was the old countryman and the blocks of flats being knocked down. It was just a way of saying that we should look after the earth, not rape and pillage it.
However, regarding the meaning of the album cover, he has also stated:
The cover was supposed to be something that was for other people to savour rather than for me to actually spell everything out, which would make the whole thing rather disappointing on that level of your own personal adventure into the music.
The inside illustration, entitled "The Hermit" and credited to Barrington Colby MOM, was influenced by the design of the card of the same name in the Rider-Waite tarot deck. This character was later portrayed by Page himself in Led Zeppelin's concert film, The Song Remains the Same (1976). The inner painting is also referred to as View in Half or Varying Light and was sold at auction under that name in 1981.
Varied versions of the artwork within the album exist. Some versions depict a longhaired and bearded supplicant climbing at the base of the mountain, while some others do not show the six pointed star within the hermit's lantern. If the inside cover of the album is held vertically against a mirror, a man's face can be seen hidden in the rocks below the hermit. Speculation exists that the face is actually that of a black dog.
The typeface for the lyrics to "Stairway to Heaven", printed on the inside sleeve of the album, was Page's contribution. He found it in an old arts and crafts magazine called The Studio which dated from the late 19th century. He thought the lettering was interesting and arranged for someone to work up a whole alphabet.
Release and reception
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
In the lead-up to the album's release, a series of teaser advertisements depicting each symbol was placed in the music press. The album was a massive instant seller. It entered the UK chart at No. 1 and stayed on the chart for 62 weeks. In the US it stayed on the charts longer than any other Led Zeppelin album and became the biggest selling album in the US not to top the charts (peaking at #2). "Ultimately," writes Lewis, "the fourth Zeppelin album would be the most durable seller in their catalogue and the most impressive critical and commercial success of their career". In his 1971 review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau gave the album a "B" and said that "vocally, the music is reminiscent of Grand Funk, but the rhythms are sprung and the dynamics are subtle."
In subsequent articles, Christgau called it a "genre masterpiece" that he "damned with faint praise" when it was first released, and said that the album "represented a songmaking peak, before the band began to outgrow itself". He gave it an "A" in a 1981 review and said that, although "the band's medievalisms" typically "have their limits ... this is the definitive Led Zeppelin and hence heavy metal album." Christgau cited "When the Levee Breaks" as the album's "triumph" and felt that the song transcends "the quasi-parodic overstatement and oddly cerebral mood of Led Zep's blues recastings". Q gave the album five stars in a retrospective review and wrote that its "big room ambience [is] still best described by 'When The Levee Breaks'". In his five-star review for Allmusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine praised its "grand sense of drama" and called the album "a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of '70s hard rock."
In 1998, Q magazine readers voted Led Zeppelin IV the 26th greatest album of all time; in 2000 Q placed it at No. 26 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2003, the album was ranked number 66 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It is ranked at No. 7 on Pitchfork Media's Top 100 Albums of the 1970s.
In 2006, the album was rated No. 1 on Classic Rock magazine's 100 Greatest British Albums poll; that same year it was voted No. 1 in Guitar World 100 Greatest Albums readers' poll and was ranked No. 7 in ABC media's top ten albums.
|Mojo||United Kingdom||"The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made"||1996||24|
|Grammy Awards||United States||Grammy Hall of Fame Award||1999||*|
|The Guitar||United States||"Album of the Millennium"||1999||2|
|Classic Rock||United Kingdom||"100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever"||2001||1|
|Rolling Stone||United States||"500 Greatest Albums Ever"||2003||66|
|Pitchfork Media||United States||"Top 100 Albums of the 1970s"||2004||7|
|Q||United Kingdom||"The Greatest Classic Rock Albums Ever"||2004||*|
|Robert Dimery||United States||1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die||2005||*|
|Q||United Kingdom||"100 Best Albums Ever"||2006||21|
|Classic Rock||United Kingdom||"100 Greatest British Rock Albums Ever"||2006||1|
|Rock and Roll Hall of Fame||United States||"The Definitive 200: Top 200 Albums of All-Time"||2007||4|
(*) designates unordered lists.
|1.||"Black Dog"||John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant||4:54|
|2.||"Rock and Roll"||John Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant||3:40|
|3.||"The Battle of Evermore"||Page, Plant||5:51|
|4.||"Stairway to Heaven"||Page, Plant||8:02|
|5.||"Misty Mountain Hop"||Jones, Page, Plant||4:38|
|6.||"Four Sticks"||Page, Plant||4:44|
|7.||"Going to California"||Page, Plant||3:31|
|8.||"When the Levee Breaks"||Bonham, Jones, Memphis Minnie, Page, Plant||7:07|
|Chart (1971–1972)||Peak Position|
|Japanese Albums Chart||2|
|Norwegian Albums Chart||3|
|UK Albums Chart||1|
|US Billboard 200||2|
|German Albums Chart||9|
|French Albums Chart||2|
|US Cash Box Top 100 Albums Chart||1|
|US Record World Top Pop Albums Chart||1|
|Canadian RPM 100 Albums||1|
|Spanish Albums Chart||8|
|Australian Go-Set Top 20 Albums Chart||2|
|Australia (ARIA)||8× Platinum||560,000^|
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Diamond||2,000,000^|
|France (SNEP)||2× Platinum||970,866|
|Germany (BVMI)||3× Gold||750,000^|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||Platinum||50,000x|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||6× Platinum||1,800,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||23× Platinum||23,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone
- Led Zeppelin
- John Bonham – drums
- John Paul Jones – bass guitar, electric piano, mandolin, recorders, EMS VCS 3, acoustic guitar on "The Battle of Evermore"
- Jimmy Page – acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, production, mastering, digital remastering
- Robert Plant – lead vocals, harmonica, tambourine
- Additional musicians
- Barrington Colby MOM – The Hermit illustration
- George Chkiantz – mixing
- Peter Grant – executive producer
- Graphreaks – design coordination
- Andy Johns – engineering, mixing
- George Marino – remastering (1990 Compact Disc re-release)
- Joe Sidore – mastering (original Compact Disc release)
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Top of the Pops, Volume 20 by Various artists
|UK Albums Chart number-one album
4–18 December 1971
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