Physical Graffiti

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Physical Graffiti
The front of a brownstone
Studio album by Led Zeppelin
Released 24 February 1975 (1975-02-24)
Recorded July and December 1970, January–March 1971, May 1972, January–February 1974 at multiple locations[1]
Genre Hard rock, heavy metal, blues rock
Length 1:22:15
Label Swan Song
Producer Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin chronology
Houses of the Holy
(1973)
Physical Graffiti
(1975)
Presence
(1976)
Singles from Physical Graffiti
  1. "Trampled Under Foot"/"Black Country Woman"
    Released: 2 April 1975 (1975-04-02)

Physical Graffiti is the sixth studio album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, released on 24 February 1975 as a double album two years after their previous studio album. The band wrote and recorded eight songs at Headley Grange which, when combined, stretched the album beyond the typical length of an LP. This prompted the band to make Physical Graffiti a double album by including unreleased tracks from earlier recording sessions: one outtake from Led Zeppelin III; three from Led Zeppelin IV; and three from Houses of the Holy including its unused title track.

Physical Graffiti was commercially and critically successful; the album went 16x platinum in the US in 2006, signifying shipments of eight million copies.[2]

Recording session[edit]

The first attempt to record songs for Physical Graffiti took place in November 1973 at Headley Grange in East Hampshire, England. The recording equipment consisted of Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio. However, these sessions came to a halt quickly and the studio time was turned over to the band Bad Company, who used it to record songs for their eponymous debut album.[3] In an interview he gave in 1975, guitarist and album producer Jimmy Page explained the reason for this abrupt cessation of recording:

"It took a long time for this album mainly because when we originally went in to record it, John Paul Jones wasn't well and we had to cancel the time... everything got messed up. It took three months to sort the situation out."[4]

However, according to Led Zeppelin archivist Dave Lewis:

"It later emerged that Jones had wanted to quit the band and take up a position as choirmaster at Winchester Cathedral. [Manager] Peter Grant urged caution, suggesting that Jones was overwrought from the incessant touring and should take a rest from Zeppelin for a few weeks. Jones changed his mind and sessions resumed at Headley Grange after the Christmas holidays."[3]

Once they had reconvened, the band recorded eight tracks at Headley Grange in January and February 1974, which were engineered by Ron Nevison. Lead singer Robert Plant later referred to these eight tracks as "the belters":

"We got eight tracks off... and a lot of them were really raunchy. We did some real belters with live vocals, off-the-wall stuff that turned out really nice."[3]

Similar to the sessions for the previous two albums, the decision to record at the informal surroundings of Headley Grange provided a welcome opportunity for the band to improvise and develop material along the way.[3] As Plant commented:

"Some of the tracks we assembled in our own fashioned way of running through a track and realising before we knew it that we had stumbled on something completely different."[3]

Because the eight tracks extended beyond the length of a conventional album, it was decided to include several unreleased songs which had been recorded during the sessions for previous Led Zeppelin albums.

"We had more material than the required 40-odd minutes for one album. We had enough material for one and a half LPs, so we figured let's put out a double and use some of the material we had done previously but never released. It seemed like a good time to do that sort of thing, release tracks like "Boogie With Stu" which we normally wouldn't be able to do... [T]his time we figured it was better to stretch out than to leave off."[5]

According to engineer Nevison, the decision to expand the album to include songs from previous sessions was not part of the original planning:

"I never knew that Physical Graffiti was going to be a double album. When we started out we were just cutting tracks for a new record. I left the project before they started pulling in songs from Houses of the Holy and getting them up to scratch. So I didn't know it was a double [album] until it came out."[6]

Additional overdubs were laid down and the final mixing of the album was performed in October 1974 by Keith Harwood at Olympic Studios, London. The title "Physical Graffiti" was coined by Page to illustrate the whole physical and written energy that had gone into producing the set.[3]

Music[edit]

In the opinion of Dave Lewis, Physical Graffiti:

"was a massive outpouring of [Led] Zeppelin music that proved to be the definitive summary of their studio work... Given the luxury of a double format, Physical Graffiti mirrors every facet of the Zeppelin repertoire. The end result is a finely balanced embarrassment of riches."[3]

Bron-Yr-Aur cottage served as the recording studio for "The Rover", "Bron-Yr-Aur", and "Down by the Seaside".

Spanning several years of recording, the album featured forays into a range of musical styles, including hard rock ("Custard Pie", "The Rover", "The Wanton Song", "Night Flight", "Sick Again", "Houses of the Holy"), eastern-influenced orchestral rock ("Kashmir"), progressive rock ("In the Light"), driving funk ("Trampled Under Foot"), acoustic rock and roll ("Boogie with Stu", "Black Country Woman"), love ballad ("Ten Years Gone"), blues rock ("In My Time of Dying"), soft rock ("Down by the Seaside"), and acoustic guitar instrumental ("Bron-Yr-Aur").[3][7][8] The wide range of Physical Graffiti is also underlined by the fact that it contains both the longest and shortest studio recordings by Led Zeppelin. "In My Time of Dying" clocks in at eleven minutes and five seconds, and "Bron-Yr-Aur" is two minutes and six seconds. With the exception of "The Battle of Evermore" on their fourth album, it is also the only Led Zeppelin album to feature John Paul Jones playing additional guitar on some tracks.

Several tracks off the album became live staples at Led Zeppelin concerts. In particular, "In My Time of Dying", "Trampled Under Foot", "Kashmir", "Ten Years Gone", "Black Country Woman", and "Sick Again" became regular components of the band's live concert set lists following the release of the album.[3]

According to Robert Plant, of all the albums Led Zeppelin released, Physical Graffiti represented the band at its most creative and most expressive.[9] He has commented that it is his favourite Led Zeppelin album. Similarly, guitarist Jimmy Page considers this album to be a "high watermark" for Led Zeppelin.[10]

“It’s always a case of getting together and feeling out the moods of each of us when we meet with instruments for the first time in six months. We began as always, playing around and fooling about for two days, playing anything we want, like standards, our own material or anything that comes to us, and slowly but surely we develop a feel that takes us on to the new material."[11]

Album sleeve design[edit]

The album's sleeve design features a photograph of a New York City tenement block, with interchanging window illustrations. The album designer, Peter Corriston, was looking for a building that was symmetrical with interesting details, that was not obstructed by other objects and would fit the square album cover. He said:

"We walked around the city for a few weeks looking for the right building. I had come up [with] a concept for the band based on the tenement, people living there and moving in and out. The original album featured the building with the windows cut out on the cover and various sleeves that could be placed under the cover, filling the windows with the album title, track information or liner notes."[12]

The two five-story buildings photographed for the album cover are located at 96 and 98 St. Mark's Place in New York City.[13][14] The original photograph underwent a number of tweaks to arrive at the final image. The fifth floor of the building had to be cropped out to fit the square album cover format.[12] The buildings to the left and right were also changed to match the style of the double front. Tiles were added on the roof section along with more faces. Part of the top right railing balcony was left out for a whole window frame to be visible. The front cover is a daytime shot, while the back cover (above) was taken at night.

Mike Doud is listed as the cover artist on the inner sleeve, and either the concept or design or both were his. He passed away in the early 1990s, and this album design was one of his crowning achievements in a lifetime of design. In 1976 the album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of best album package. (Doud would later win a Grammy for best album cover of the year in 1980, for Supertramp's Breakfast in America).

The buildings on the album cover were the same ones that Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were filmed in front of in The Rolling Stones music video "Waiting on a Friend".[15] There was a used clothing store in the basement of 96 St. Mark's Place called Physical Graffiti. There is currently a shop called Physical Graffitea. The building has been profiled on the television show, Rock Junket.[16]

The original album jacket for the LP album included four covers made up of two inners (for each disc), a middle insert cover and an outer cover. The inner covers depict various objects and people (including photos of Plant and Richard Cole in drag)[3] on each window. The middle insert cover is white and details all the album track listings and recording information. The outer cover has die-cut windows on the building, so when the middle cover is wrapped around the inner covers and slid into the outer cover, the title of the album is shown on the front cover, spelling out the name "Physical Graffiti".

Release and critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[17]
BBC Favourable[18]
Billboard Favourable[19]
Robert Christgau B+[20]
Q 5/5 stars (Nov 2000)
Rolling Stone Very favourable[21]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[22]

The album was released on 24 February 1975, at a time when Led Zeppelin were undertaking their tenth concert tour of North America. Delays in the production of the album's sleeve design prevented its release prior to the commencement of the tour.[23]

Physical Graffiti was the band's first release on their own Swan Song Records label, which had been launched in May 1974. Until this point, all of Led Zeppelin's albums had been released on Atlantic Records. The album was a commercial and critical success, having built up a huge advance order, and when eventually released it reached No. 1 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart. It has since proven to be one of the most popular releases by the group, shipping 8 million copies in the United States alone (which has made it 16 times platinum as it is a double album).[2] Physical Graffiti was the first album to go platinum on advance orders alone.[24] Shortly after its release, all previous Led Zeppelin albums simultaneously re-entered the top-200 album chart.[25]

Billboard magazine's 5 star review of the album stated: "[Physical Graffiti] is a tour de force through a number of musical styles, from straight rock to blues to folky acoustic to orchestral sounds."[26] Similarly, Jim Miller stated in Rolling Stone that the double album was "the band's Tommy, Beggar's Banquet and Sgt. Pepper rolled into one: Physical Graffiti is Led Zeppelin's bid for artistic respectability."[21]

In 1998 Q readers voted Physical Graffiti the 28th-greatest album of all time; in 2000 Q placed it at number 32 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever; and in 2001 the same magazine named it as one of the 50 Heaviest Albums of All Time. In 2003, the TV network VH1 named it the 71st-greatest album ever. In 2003, the album was ranked number 70 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". The album is also listed in Robert Dimery and Stevie Chick's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2005).

Accolades[edit]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Grammy Award USA "Grammy Award for Best Recording Package"[27] 1976 Nominee
Rolling Stone USA "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time"[28] 2003 70
Pitchfork Media USA "Top 100 Albums of the 1970s"[29] 2004 95
AllMusic USA "Top Digital Albums"[30] 2012 20
AllMusic USA "Top Pop Catalog"[31] 2012 3
AllMusic USA "The Billboard 200"[32] 2012 43
Classic Rock UK "100 Greatest Rock Album Ever"[33] 2001 5
Mojo UK "The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made"[34] 1996 47
Q UK "100 Greatest Albums Ever"[35] 2003 41
Record Collector UK "Classic Albums from 21 Genres for the 21st century"[36] 2005 *
Robert Dimery USA 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[37] 2005 *
Q UK "100 Best Albums Ever"[38] 2006 57
Classic Rock UK "100 Greatest British Rock Album Ever"[39] 2006 7
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame USA "The Definitive 200: Top 200 Albums of All-Time"[40] 2007 93
Guitar World USA "Reader's Poll: 100 Greatest Guitar Albums"[41] 2006 9

(*) designates unordered lists.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, except where noted. 

Side one
No. Title Date recorded Length
1. "Custard Pie"   January–February 1974 4:13
2. "The Rover"   May 1972 5:37
3. "In My Time of Dying" (John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Page, and Plant) January–February 1974 11:04
Side two
No. Title Date recorded Length
4. "Houses of the Holy"   May 1972 4:02
5. "Trampled Under Foot" (Jones, Page, and Plant) January–February 1974 5:37
6. "Kashmir" (Bonham, Page, and Plant) January–February 1974 8:32
Side three
No. Title Date recorded Length
7. "In the Light" (Jones, Page, and Plant) January–February 1974 8:46
8. "Bron-Yr-Aur" (Page) July 1970 2:06
9. "Down by the Seaside"   February 1971 5:13
10. "Ten Years Gone"   January–February 1974 6:32
Side four
No. Title Date recorded Length
11. "Night Flight" (Jones, Page, and Plant) December 1970 – January 1971 3:36
12. "The Wanton Song"   January–February 1974 4:10
13. "Boogie with Stu" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant, Ian Stewart) December 1970 – January 1971 3:53
14. "Black Country Woman"   May 1972 4:24
15. "Sick Again"   January–February 1974 4:42
  • Some cassette and 8-track versions of the album place "Bron-Yr-Aur" immediately after "Kashmir"
  • The running times listed for "Kashmir" and "Ten Years Gone" on original LP pressings, (and some compact disc versions), of the album were significantly in error; "Kashmir" was listed at 9:41, "Ten Years Gone" at 6:55.
  • "Boogie with Stu" is credited to "Mrs. Valens, mother of Ritchie Valens". The credit came about after the band had heard Valens' mother never received any royalties from any of her son's hits.[42]

Sales chart performance[edit]

Chart (1975) Peak Position
Japanese Albums Chart[43] 13
UK Albums Chart[44] 1
US Billboard The 200 Albums Chart[45] 1
US Cash Box Top 100 Albums Chart[46] 1
Canadian RPM Albums Chart[47] 1
Norwegian Albums Chart[48] 4
Austrian Albums Chart[49] 2
Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart 2
New Zealand Top 50 Albums Chart[50] 3
Spanish Albums Chart[51] 2
French Albums Chart[52] 2
Italian Albums Chart[53] 17
Reader's Top 20[54] 3
Singles
Year Single Chart Position
1975 "Trampled Under Foot" Billboard Pop Singles (Billboard Hot 100) 38[citation needed]

Sales certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Argentina (CAPIF)[55] Gold 30,000x
France (SNEP)[56] Gold 100,000*
Germany (BVMI)[57] Gold 250,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[58] 2× Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[2] 16× Platinum 8,000,000^

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

Personnel[edit]

Led Zeppelin
Additional personnel

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Physical Graffiti album information at led-zeppelin.org [dead link]". Retrieved 25 October 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c "American album certifications – Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dave Lewis (1994), The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9
  4. ^ Crowe, Cameron. "The Durable Led Zeppelin" Rolling Stone 13 March 1975
  5. ^ Dave Schulps, Interview with Jimmy Page, Trouser Press, October 1977.
  6. ^ "Their Time is Gonna Come", Classic Rock Magazine, December 2007
  7. ^ Review at Allmusic
  8. ^ Rolling Stone Review, Mar, 27 1975[dead link]
  9. ^ Allan Jones, "Robert Plant: ‘We did what we set out to do...’", Uncut Magazine, May 2008, pp. 38–43.
  10. ^ Nigel Williamson, "Forget the Myths", Uncut, May 2005, p. 72.
  11. ^ "Tome on the Range". 1 November 2013. Retrieved 5 Oct 2013. 
  12. ^ a b BOLAND Jr, ED (8 September 2002). "F.Y.I.". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 March 2008. 
  13. ^ "NYC Album Art: Physical Graffiti". gothamist.com. Retrieved 15 March 2008. 
  14. ^ "Google Maps: From LudLow St. New York NY to Rivington St". Google. Retrieved 15 March 2008. 
  15. ^ "Rolling Stones: Waiting On A Friend (Video 1981)". aquariumdrunkard.com. Retrieved 15 March 2008. 
  16. ^ "See The Physical Graffiti Building". Youtube. 1 May 2004. Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  17. ^ Allmusic Review
  18. ^ Chris, Jones, [1], Led Zeppelin Physical Graffiti Review, 2007
  19. ^ "Billboard Review". Superseventies.com. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  20. ^ "Robert Christgau Review". Robertchristgau.com. 15 June 1972. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  21. ^ a b By Jim Miller (27 March 1975). "Rolling Stone Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 1 January 2012. 
  22. ^ "Led Zeppelin: Album Guide | Rolling Stone Music". Rollingstone.com. 2007-12-10. Retrieved 2012-03-05. 
  23. ^ Chris Welch (1994) Led Zeppelin, London: Orion Books. ISBN 1-85797-930-3, p. 73.
  24. ^ "Record Collector: Physical Graffiti – an album under review". Record Collector. Retrieved 12 February 2009. 
  25. ^ Ruhlmann, William (2004). Breaking Records: 100 Years of Hits (1st ed.). London: Routledge Falmer. p. 165. ISBN 0-415-94305-1. 
  26. ^ Fishel, Jim (March 1975). "Review: Physical Graffiti". Billboard 29: 89. 
  27. ^ "Grammy Award for Best Album Package (AGI) – 28 February 1976". Grammy. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  28. ^ "The Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". 
  29. ^ "Top 100 Albums of the 1970s". 
  30. ^ "Top Digital Albums". 
  31. ^ "Top Pop Catalog". 
  32. ^ "The Billboard 200". 
  33. ^ "Classic Rock – 100 Greatest Rock Album Ever – December 2001". Classic Rock. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  34. ^ "The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made – January 1996". Mojo. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  35. ^ 2003 "100 Greatest Albums Ever – January 2003". Q. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  36. ^ "Classic Albums from 21 Genres for the 21st century: Seventies: From Singer-Songwriter Angst to Glam and the Disco Age – January 2005". Record Collector. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  37. ^ Dimery, Robert – 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die; page 856
  38. ^ "Best Albums Ever – February 2006". Q. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  39. ^ "Classic Rock – 100 Greatest British Rock Album Ever – April 2006". Classic Rock. Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  40. ^ "The Definitive 200: Top 200 Albums of All-Time". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA). Retrieved 10 February 2009. 
  41. ^ "100 Greatest Guitar Albums". Guitar World. October 2006.  A copy can be found at "Guitar World's 100 Greatest Guitar Albums Of All Time – Rate Your Music". rateyourmusic.com. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  42. ^ Lewis, Dave (2003). Led Zeppelin: The 'Tight but Loose' Files: Celebration II (1st ed.). London: Omnibus Press. p. 21. ISBN 1-84449-056-4. 
  43. ^ "Top 100 Albums – 20 February 1975". Oricon. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  44. ^ "Top 100 Albums – 15 March 1975". chartstats.com. Archived from the original on 8 December 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  45. ^ "The Billboard 200 – 22 March 1975". Billboard. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  46. ^ "Cash Box". Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  47. ^ "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 23, No. 7, April 12, 1975". RPM. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  48. ^ "Top 20 Albums – 13 April 1975". norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  49. ^ "Top 75 Albums – 15 April 1975". austriancharts.at. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  50. ^ Scapolo, Dean (2007). "Top 50 Albums – April 1975". The Complete New Zealand Music Charts (1st ed.). Wellington: Transpress. ISBN 978-1-877443-00-8. 
  51. ^ "Top 100 Albums – 9 August 1975". PROMUSICAE. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  52. ^ "Top 100 Albums – 1975". infodisc.fr. Retrieved 19 January 2009. 
  53. ^ "Top 100 Albums – 1975". Hit Parade Italia. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  54. ^ "Reader's Top 20". Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  55. ^ "Argentinian album certifications – Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti". Argentine Chamber of Phonograms and Videograms Producers. 
  56. ^ "French album certifications – LedZeppelin – Physical Graffiti" (in French). InfoDisc.  Select LEDZEPPELIN and click OK
  57. ^ "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Led Zeppelin; 'Physical Graffiti')" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. 
  58. ^ "British album certifications – Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter Physical Graffiti in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go
Preceded by
On the Level by Status Quo
UK Albums Chart number-one album
15–22 March 1975
Succeeded by
20 Greatest Hits by Tom Jones
Preceded by
Have You Never Been Mellow by Olivia Newton-John
Billboard 200 number-one album
22 March – 2 May 1975
Succeeded by
Chicago VIII by Chicago