On 12, January 1969, a relatively unknown band - risen from the ashes of The Yardbirds - made their first step into becoming the pioneers of modern rock as we know it with the release of their eponymous debut album, 'Led Zeppelin', or Led Zeppelin I as it would come to be known.
Spearheaded by Jimmy Page, a young foursome of immense talent put out their pilot production-made within 36 hours - that proved to be ahead of its time. From the powerful opening chords of ‘Good Times Bad Times’ to the final notes of 'How Many More Times', to the slow-build bassline of ‘Dazed and Confused’ there was no dull moment in the whole album.
And 50 years on from its release, the creation is revered - becoming what every hopeful rock lover aspires to produce.
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Yet harkening back to the 1960s where the band began their ascent, the reviews for their debut album were indifferent at best and scathing at worst. At a time when reviews meant reputation, Rolling Stone magazine - which was seen as the world’s most influential product of rock journalism - seemed to hate Led Zeppelin and their music; critiqued for producing an album with “weak and unimaginative songs”.
And despite enjoying massive financial success with their album which peaked at number 10 on the Billboard chart, the band was labelled a hype. While tracks like ‘Dazed And Confused’ and ‘Good Times Bad Times’ are thought of as classics today, they were seen as an indication of everything wrong with Led Zeppelin by detractors of the band – loud, screeching and oversexualised.
The band seemed universally disliked by the influential establishment of critics, and Keith Moon’s prediction for the band “to go down like a lead zeppelin” appeared a very probable fate for the quartet.
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Led Zeppelin was at the root of it an opportunity for four young men in love with music to do what they love, yet when their ideas came to fruition in the form of 'Led Zeppelin I', it became something that people loved to hate - because to people it cynically represented everything wrong with the times.
Rock ‘n’ roll was an artform and Led Zeppelin’s financial success with their debut would mean that art became a means just for monetary gain. Fortunately, for fans and aspiring musicians of the rock genre, despite all that seemed wrong with it at the time, the band’s talent and 'Led Zeppelin I' stood the test of time.
With its crisp blues-rock soundscape, the album bounces effortlessly from hard rock to deep blues to a folksy sound, all of which the band – and every artist that followed them - would go on to embrace in their career.
It is therefore no surprise that half a century later, Led Zeppelin’s first album is considered to have changed the path of hard-rock music forever. The criticism gave way to adulation of these rock deities and their thundering talent, and many hopefuls began applying elements of Led Zep to their music, aspiring to become the “next Led Zeppelin”.
Comparisons and the search for the next Led Zeppelin began right after the band broke up in 1981 with Massachusetts-born songwriter Billy Squier who broke through with sophomore album ‘Don’t Say No’, invoking the label of a ‘one-man Led Zep’, similarly Kingdom Come’s heavily Zeppelin-influenced single ‘Get It On’ in 1988, and most recently retro hard-rock band Greta Van Fleet with their debut album ‘Anthem Of The Peaceful Army’, have all earned and readily welcomed the parallels drawn with the band that was considered the future of rock ’n’ roll in the whirlwind twelve years they remained active.
Modern rock began with Zeppelin, and with 'Led Zeppelin I' came the dawn of a new beginning for the world of rock. With every aspiring musician that rejoices at being able to nail the drum intro to ‘Good Times Bad Times’, there exists more proof that the four young men that wanted to make music together in the 1970s epitomize the last 50 years of rock music in a way nothing else ever has.
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Words: Malvika Padin
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