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

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

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Tonight (October 6th) on the world famous Classic Album at Midnight on Radio Nova we’re playing Led Zeppelin’s Led Zeppelin III.

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. A second album, Led Zeppelin II, quickly followed the same year, becoming a number one hit in both the UK and US.

After touring heavily throughout 1969, the band retired to a remote cottage in Wales to write material for their third album. With no electricity at the cottage, the album would become more acoustic based than their previous two best-sellers.

Using The Rolling Stones’ mobile studio, Led Zeppelin recorded their third album in the late spring and summer of 1970. While their first two albums were largely of the hard rock variety, they had featured dabblings in blues and folk. For Led Zeppelin III, the band leaned more heavily in the direction of blues and acoustic folk, with even a country influence slipping in. This expansion into new musical territory saw Jones play a variety of instruments on the record, including bass, mandolin, double bass, Hammond organ and Moog synthesizer.

With the exception of Tangerine, a track Page had written during his Yardbirds’ tenure, the lyrics for all of Led Zeppelin III’s songs were written by Plant. While the first two albums saw Page take the lead, Led Zeppelin III saw the band all contribute to the songwriting process, contributing individual compositions and ideas.

In its original release, Led Zeppelin III features 10 tracks. On Side A are The Immigrant Song; Friends; Celebration Day; Since I’ve Been Loving You; and Out on the Tiles. Side B consists of Gallows Pole; Tangerine; That’s the Way; Bron-Y-Aur Stomp; and Hats Off to (Roy) Harper.

Led Zeppelin III was released on October 5th 1970 in the US with a UK release following on October 23rd. Fans were so hyped that close to a million copies of the album had been pre-ordered in the US. As with their previous album, Led Zeppelin III topped both the UK and US album charts.

Many critics were unreceptive of the band’s change of direction. So hurt by the reviews was Page that he refused to give press interviews for 18 months after the album’s release. One champion of the album was The Village Voice’s Robert Christgau, who praised the album’s acoustic tracks and welcomed the absence of drum solos.

Despite its poor reception on release, Led Zeppelin III has been reassessed in the years since and is now considered a classic. That’s why we’ve picked it for an airing tonight at midnight on Radio Nova.