The Classic Album at Midnight – Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin II

The Classic Album at Midnight – Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin II


Tonight (December 23rd) on the world famous Classic Album at Midnight on Radio Nova we’re playing Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin II.

The album is presented in full with no commercials or interruptions.

Led Zeppelin was formed practically overnight when Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page needed to quickly put together a band for a final tour of Scandinavia under the name of The Yardbirds, who had just broken up. Answering Page’s call were vocalist Robert Plant, bassist-keyboardist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham.

After performing as the backing band on a track for American singer-songwriter PJ Proby, the band then known as The New Yardbirds began work on their debut album.

Following a contractual name change, the band’s first album, the self-titled Led Zeppelin, was released in January 1969 and proved an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

Upon the release of their debut, Led Zeppelin embarked on no less than four European and three North American tours, which kept them on the road until August. During this time they recorded their second album, Led Zeppelin II, at a variety of studios in the UK and North America in between concerts. This approach led to much improvisation due to the limited time the band had to put new material together. With limited time on their hands, most songs were recorded live in the studio.

Some of the material came out of rehearsing for the next tour and getting new material together,” said Jimmy Page, who produced the album.

The bluesy sound of Led Zeppelin’s debut album was largely replaced by a hard rock sound as the band unwittingly became pioneers of the new genre of Heavy Metal. Led Zeppelin II is arguably the group’s heaviest sounding album, though there are lighter acoustic moments. It also saw Page begin experimenting with the possibilities of the studio. Engineer Eddie Kramer described the distinctive sound of album opener Whole Lotta Love as being achieved by “Jimmy and myself just flying around on a small console twiddling every knob known to man.

In its original release, Led Zeppelin II features nine tracks. On Side A are Whole Lotta Love; What Is and What Should Never Be; The Lemon Song; and Thank You. On Side B are Heartbreaker; Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman); Ramble On; Moby Dick; and Bring It On Home.

Led Zeppelin II was released on October 22nd, 1969 with over 400,000 copies already purchased on pre-order. It knocked The Beatles’ Abbey Road off the number one spot in the US, staying atop the chart for seven weeks and selling three million copies. The following February it reached the top of the UK chart and would spend a total of 138 weeks in the chart.

Whole Lotta Love would become the band’s biggest selling single, peaking at number four in the US. An instrumental cover of the track by CCS would famously be adopted as the theme tune for the BBC’s Top of the Pops.

Led Zeppelin II received negative reviews on its release, with many critics failing to get on board with the band’s heavier sound. In the decades since it’s been reappraised and is now considered one of the greatest hard rock albums of all time. Whole Lotta Love regularly tops polls of the greatest ever guitar riff. Rolling Stone ranks the album at number 123 on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

You can hear Led Zeppelin lay down the foundations of Heavy Metal at midnight tonight on Radio Nova.