The fourth album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin was released on the 8th of November 1971 and you can listen to it from midnight tonight on Nova!
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. In 2003, the album was ranked 69th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.
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 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.
The four symbols
The four symbols representing (from left to right);
at the top; Page, Jones
at the bottom; Bonham and Plant
The idea for each member of the band to choose a personal emblem for the cover was Page’s. 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 also happens—inverted—to be the logo for Ballantine beer.
Singer Robert Plant’s symbol of a feather within a circle was his own design, being based on the sign of the supposed Mu civilisation.
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”.Music critic Robert Christgau has dubbed it “a genre masterpiece”.
|1.||“Black Dog”||John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant||4:54|
|2.||“Rock and Roll”||John Bonham, Jones, Page, and Plant||3:40|
|3.||“The Battle of Evermore”||Page and Plant||5:51|
|4.||“Stairway to Heaven”||Page and Plant||8:02|
|5.||“Misty Mountain Hop”||Jones, Page, and Plant||4:38|
|6.||“Four Sticks”||Page and Plant||4:44|
|7.||“Going to California”||Page and Plant||3:31|
|8.||“When the Levee Breaks”||Bonham, Jones, Memphis Minnie, Page, and Plant||7:07|