BBC Sessions (Led Zeppelin album)

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BBC Sessions
Line drawings of Led Zeppelin
Live album by Led Zeppelin
Released 11 November 1997 (1997-11-11)
Recorded March and June 1969, 1 April 1971, London, England, United Kingdom
Genre Hard rock, heavy metal, blues rock, folk rock
Length 138:58
Label Atlantic
Producer Jimmy Page
Compiler Jimmy Page
Led Zeppelin chronology
The Complete Studio Recordings
BBC Sessions
The Best of Led Zeppelin
Singles from BBC Sessions
  1. "The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair"
    Released: 11 November 1997
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]
Blender 4/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau (neither)[3]
Pitchfork Media 8.9/10[4]

BBC Sessions is a compilation album featuring studio sessions and a live concert recorded by English rock group Led Zeppelin for the BBC. It was released on 11 November 1997, by Atlantic Records. This was the first release of new Led Zeppelin material in seven years. Disc one consists of material from four different 1969 BBC sessions. Disc two contains most of the 1 April 1971 concert from the Paris Theatre in London.[5] Disc three was only included in a limited run of album releases and features rare interviews from 1969, 1976/1977, and 1990.

Countless bootlegs of these recordings circulated for years before the official release. This release was widely welcomed by Led Zeppelin fans as it was the first live release since The Song Remains the Same in 1976. Others have criticized the decision to edit some of the songs and drop others that were recorded for the BBC. Most notable are one session from 1969 which included the unreleased song "Sunshine Woman", and about seven minutes of the "Whole Lotta Love" medley from 1971.[6] The album was re-released in 2016 with further BBC recordings, including the "Sunshine Woman" session.


Led Zeppelin and their manager Peter Grant decided early on that no singles be released by the band in Britain, thus ensuring little to no radio exposure for the band. As Mick Wall recounts in his book When Giants Walked the Earth: "Grant felt he had the solution to the lack of airplay when he arranged the first of four or five live sessions the band would record for the station that year, beginning with a behind-closed-doors performance at London's Playhouse Theatre."[7][full citation needed] Wall also notes that radio was also a medium Grant felt he had some measure of control over, especially at the BBC, where production chief Bernie Andrews was someone he'd known for years and felt he could trust.[8][full citation needed] In 1998, bassist John Paul Jones explained to Guitar World, "It was really the only way to be heard on British radio back then. Believe it or not, there were only four hours a day devoted to playing records on the BBC at that time - it was called 'needle time.' The emphasis was on live performance, mostly because the British Musicians Union was so strong."[citation needed]


Upon arrival, BBC Sessions featured two new songs for many Led Zeppelin fans: a cover of Eddie Cochrane's rockabilly tune "Something Else" and "The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair", which was composed by bluesman Sleepy John Estes. On the latter song, guitarist Jimmy Page utilizes a riff similar to the one found on drummer John Bonham's solo piece "Moby Dick." "Travelling Riverside Blues," a Robert Johnson blues pastiche, had also not appeared on any of Led Zeppelin's studio albums but had been released as part of the Led Zeppelin Boxed Set in 1990.

Most of the material on disc one is blues-based and features cuts from Led Zeppelin and Led Zeppelin II while disc two contains two tracks from the group's fourth album (including "Going to California" and "Stairway to Heaven"), which would be released seven months later. In a 1998 interview with Guitar World, Page stated that he included multiple versions of certain songs to demonstrate how fast the band was evolving at the time, taking pride in how radically different the songs sounded from their studio counterparts:

Led Zeppelin was a band that would change things around substantially each time it played. The two performances of "You Shook Me" are particularly good examples of what I'm talking about...I mean, compare our sessions to, say, the BBC recordings of the Beatles. I bet you a cent to a dollar, if they do two or three versions of "Love Me Do" or whatever, they'll all be identical. That's the difference between us and our contemporaries: Led Zeppelin were really moving the music all the time.[citation needed]

Jones later concurred, stating, "We were very young and cocky at the time, very sure of ourselves. I don't think too many bands were doing the sort of improvising we were doing and the BBC, particularly the In Concert live recordings, allowed us the scope to do that on the radio."[7][full citation needed] In the liner notes to the album, Luis Rey singles out the 24 June 1969 rendition of "Whole Lotta Love" from John Peel's Top Gear program as "a radically different, perhaps even superior version compared to the second album release: Page gets straight into pure muscular riffing while the pristine voice of [vocalist Robert] Plant creeps over it, waiting for the rest of the group to set the stage on fire."[citation needed] A prototype version of "What Is and What Should Never Be", which would be recorded for Led Zeppelin II, was recorded during the group's Tasty Pop Sundae appearance on 16 June 1969 but it was not broadcast nor included on the 1997 retrospective, implying that the band was unhappy with the performance. In addition, the recording of "Travelling Riverside Blues" (which includes Robert Plant's legendary "Squeeze my lemon..." reference) would be incorporated into "The Lemon Song" on the group's sophomore LP.


Although billed as live performances, the tracks on disc one do contain overdubs. "I think the BBC just wanted the best show possible", Page explained to Guitar World in 1998. "They realized that bands were often trying to recreate something they had created on eight-track recording, so doing an overdub here or there was fair game. At least one overdub, anyway, which is all we ever did."[citation needed] In the same issue Jones stated, "The performances are surprisingly good, considering that we were playing in the BBC studios, a pretty sterile environment. There were only about 100 people watching us, so it was hard to generate the same kind of excitement you would have at a real gig."[citation needed] On the second version of "You Shook Me" recorded at the Playhouse Theater, the guitar comes in very loud and quickly drops out, likely the result of a startled engineer whipping down the fader in an attempt to create sonic balance. Page employed Pro Tools to edit many of the songs, including the 96 minute Paris Theater performance, which had to be truncated for the eighty minute compact disc format. Mindful of the fact that the sessions had been heavily bootlegged, Page remained facetious and philosophical about the criticism of his edits, explaining to Guitar World's Brad Tolinski:

Regarding the BBC sessions, it doesn't bother me if they've been bootlegged extensively because, whatever version people own, it won't be from the original source like our version. Secondly, not everybody out there buys bootlegs, and the sort of fans that buy bootlegs will want this one for the packaging - and to see how I've edited the performances. I can't really lose. There's no way I'll lose! [laughs][citation needed]

"Lost Session"[edit]

After their first BBC appearance in March 1969, producer Jeff Garin invited the band back for a performance at Maida Vale Studio 4 on Delaware Road on March 14, 1969. According to Simon Pallet's profile "Radio Daze" that appeared in the January 1998 edition of Guitar World, the second session was broadcast on Alexis Korner's BBC World Service show Rhythm and Blues on April 14. World Service programs were not targeted for a UK audience and were transmitted on frequencies which could not easily be received on most household radios. Consequently, this show, in stark contrast to the debut, was virtually unheard. According to Pallet:

This is the famous—at least to Zeppelin collectors—"Lost Session." Somewhere along the line, the BBC apparently lost or wiped the master tapes, leaving only one surviving track, "Sunshine Woman," which has survived in bootleg form...Official records show that "I Can't Quit You" and "You Shook Me" were also broadcast, but no tapes have surfaced.[citation needed]

Many have expressed amazement that any of the Zeppelin performances were salvaged, considering it was common practice for the BBC to wipe and reuse their tapes, with Pallet lamenting, "This wiping policy also applied to BBC Television, dooming Led Zeppelin's only live appearance on English TV, on March 21, 1969, to the BBC graveyard. Given all this, the miracle is that any Zeppelin survived."[citation needed]


BBC Sessions was a commercial success, reaching #12 in the U.S. and hitting the Top 10 in Japan. While pointing out the decision to feature some tracks multiple times as one "major flaw", Classic Rock Review calls the album "a must for everybody with even a passing interest in Led Zep."[citation needed] AllMusic states, "The 1969 sessions, recorded shortly after the release of the first album, are fiery and dynamic, outstripping the studio record for sheer power."[citation needed] Guitar World declared that BBC Sessions "captures one of rock's very best bands at a pivotal moment in their career."[citation needed] Neil Spencer of Uncut awards the album 4 out of 5 stars, observing, "The band's evolution over the two years is remarkable."[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

Disc one
No. Title Length
1. "You Shook Me" (Willie Dixon and J. B. Lenoir) 5:14
2. "I Can't Quit You Baby" (Dixon) 4:22
3. "Communication Breakdown" (John Bonham, John Paul Jones, and Jimmy Page) 3:12
4. "Dazed and Confused" (Page) 6:39
5. "The Girl I Love She Got Long Black Wavy Hair" (Bonham, Sleepy John Estes, Jones, Page, and Robert Plant) 3:00
6. "What Is and What Should Never Be" (Page and Plant) 4:20
7. "Communication Breakdown" (Bonham, Jones, and Page) 2:40
8. "Travelling Riverside Blues" (Robert Johnson, Page, and Plant) 5:12
9. "Whole Lotta Love" (Bonham, Dixon, Jones, Page, and Plant) 6:09
10. "Somethin' Else" (Bobby Cochran and Sharon Sheeley) 2:06
11. "Communication Breakdown" (Bonham, Jones, and Page) 3:05
12. "I Can't Quit You Baby" (Dixon) 6:21
13. "You Shook Me" (Dixon and Lenoir) 10:19
14. "How Many More Times" (Bonham, Jones, and Page) 11:51
Disc two
No. Title Length
1. "Immigrant Song" (Page and Plant) 3:20
2. "Heartbreaker" (Bonham, Jones, Page, and Plant) 5:16
3. "Since I've Been Loving You" (Jones, Page, and Plant) 6:56
4. "Black Dog" (Jones, Page, and Plant) 5:17
5. "Dazed and Confused" (Page) 18:36
6. "Stairway to Heaven" (Page and Plant) 8:49
7. "Going to California" (Page and Plant) 3:54
8. "That's the Way" (Page and Plant) 5:43
9. "Whole Lotta Love"/"Boogie Chillun'"/"Fixin' to Die"/"That's Alright Mama"/"A Mess of Blues" (Bonham, Jones, Page, and Plant/John Lee Hooker/Bukka White/Arthur Crudup/Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman) 13:45
10. "Thank You" (Page and Plant) 6:37
The Complete Sessions bonus disc

A 1969 session of "Dazed and Confused", "I Can't Quit You Baby", "You Shook Me" and "Sunshine Woman" along with two versions of both "Communication Breakdown" and "What Is and What Should Never Be" recorded two years apart.

Recording information[edit]

Session one
John Peel's Top Gear
  • Venue: Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue, London
  • Recording date: Monday 3 March 1969
  • Original broadcast: Sunday 23 March 1969 (in a show with sessions from Free, the Moody Blues and Deep Purple)
  • Tracks: Disc 1; 1, 2 and 4. Also included a version of "Communication Breakdown".
  • Producer: Bernie Andrews
  • Engineer: Pete Ritzema
  • Tape operator: Bob Conduct
Session two
Alexis Korner's Rhythm and Blues, (BBC World Service)
  • Venue: Maida Vale Studio 4, Delaware Road, London
  • Recording date: Wednesday 19 March 1969
  • Original broadcast: Monday 14 April 1969
  • Tracks: "I Can't Quit You Baby", "You Shook Me" and "Sunshine Woman". The session was wiped or lost by the BBC, although recordings survive on bootlegs. The show was re-run later in 1969, adding the recording of "What Is And What Should Never Be" from the June 16 session.
  • Producer: Jeff Griffin
Session three
Chris Grant's Tasty Pop Sundae (although originally commissioned for Dave Symond's Symonds On Sunday show)
  • Venue: Aeolian Hall studio 2, Bond Street, London
  • Recording Date: Monday 16 June 1969
  • Original Broadcast: Sunday 22 June 1969
  • Tracks: Disc 1; 3,5 and 10. The session also included a prototype version of "What Is and What Should Never Be".
  • Producer: Paul Williams
Session four
John Peel's Top Gear (Double recording session)
  • Venue: Maida Vale studio 4, Delaware Road, London
  • Recording date: Tuesday 24 June 1969
  • Original broadcast: Sunday 29 June 1969
  • Tracks: Disc 1; 6-9. (track 8; Travelling Riverside Blues, is the same version that appears on the reissued/remaster of Coda as a bonus track)
  • Producer: John Walters
  • Engineer: Tony Wilson
Session five
One Night Stand
  • Venue: Playhouse Theatre
  • Recording date: Friday 27 June 1969
  • Original broadcast: Sunday 10 August 1969
  • Tracks: Disc 1; 11-14. Also included a version of "Dazed and Confused", plus "White Summer"/"Black Mountain Side" (which was released on the 1990 Led Zeppelin boxed set.)
Session six
In Concert (Emcee John Peel)
  • Venue: Paris Theatre, Lower Regent Street, London
  • Recording date: Thursday 1 April 1971
  • Original broadcast: Sunday 4 April 1971
  • Tracks: Disc 2; all tracks. Also included a version of "Communication Breakdown" and "What Is and What Should Never Be". The "Whole Lotta Love" medley has had "For What It's Worth", "Trucking Little Mama" and "Honey Bee" edited out, shortening the medley by about 7 minutes.
  • Producer: Jeff Griffin
  • Engineer: Tony Wilson

Sales chart performance[edit]

Year Chart Peak position
1997 Japanese Albums Chart[9] 10
1997 French Albums Chart[10] 38
1997 New Zealand RIANZ Top 50 Albums Chart[11] 26
1997 Finnish Albums Chart[12] 28
1997 Swedish Albums Chart[13] 50
1997 UK Albums Chart[14] 23
1997 Norwegian Albums Chart[15] 36
1997 US Billboard The 200 Albums Chart[16] 12
1997 Canadian RPM Top 100 Chart[17] 30


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[18] Silver 60,000^
United States (RIAA)[19] 2× Platinum 2,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog #
United States 11 November 1997 Atlantic Records 4 LP 83061-1
2 Compact Disc 83061-2
2 Cassette 83061-4
3 Compact Disc 83074-2
United Kingdom 2 Compact disc 7567-83061-2
Japan WEA Japan 2 Compact disc 11756-7


Led Zeppelin
Additional personnel


  1. ^ BBC Sessions at AllMusic
  2. ^ [1] Archived November 22, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christgau: CG: led zeppelin". Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  4. ^ [2] Archived February 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Lewis, Dave (2003). "Led Zeppelin at the BBC". Led Zeppelin: The 'Tight but Loose' Files': Celebration II (1st ed.). London: Omnibus Press. p. 8. ISBN 1-84449-056-4. 
  6. ^ Lewis, Dave (2004). "BBC Sessions". Led Zeppelin: The Complete Guide to Their Music (1st ed.). London: Omnibus Press. p. 76. ISBN 1-84449-141-2. 
  7. ^ a b Wall 2008, p. 128.
  8. ^ Wall 2008, p. 126.
  9. ^ "Top 100 Albums - 15 November 1998". Oricon. Archived from the original on 18 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  10. ^ "Top 200 Albums - 22 November 1997". Archived from the original on 11 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  11. ^ "Top 50 Albums - 23 November 1997". RIANZ. Archived from the original on 12 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  12. ^ "Top 40 Albums - 23 November 1997". Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  13. ^ "Top 100 Albums - 28 November 1997". Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  14. ^ Warwick, Neil (2004). "Led Zeppelin - 29 November 1997". The Complete Book of the British Charts (3rd ed.). London: Omnibus Press. p. 627. ISBN 1-84449-058-0. 
  15. ^ "Top 40 Albums - 30 November 1997". Archived from the original on 6 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  16. ^ "The 200 Chart - 6 December 1997". Billboard. Archived from the original on 3 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-17. [dead link]
  17. ^ "RPM Albums Chart - 1 December 1997". RPM. Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-17. 
  18. ^ "British album certifications – Led Zeppelin – BBC Sessions". British Phonographic Industry.  Enter BBC Sessions in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Silver in the field By Award. Click Search
  19. ^ "American album certifications – Led Zeppelin – BBC Sessions". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]