Why Led Zeppelin only released 10 American singles

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Despite being one of the best-selling groups in history, Led Zeppelin released a shocking number of singles during its first broadcast.

The hard-rock quartet enjoyed an extremely prolific streak in the late 1960s and early 1970s, releasing five albums between 1969 and 1973. However, from 1969 to 1979, Led Zeppelin released only 10 official US singles. .

The group largely refrained from releasing singles for several reasons. Part of the credit goes to Zeppelin manager Peter Grant, who marketed them primarily as a live act early on and toured them relentlessly in the United States early in their careers. Grant also made a deal with Zeppelin’s label, Atlantic Records, which gave them the power to decide what was released (or not) under their name.

This veto power proved crucial for Zeppelin, who regularly wrote five- and six-minute songs and had no desire to reduce them to a length more suitable for radio. They held on as Atlantic urged them to play the radio game, with Grant even promising a “limited edition single” for Christmas 1969 that never came to fruition. “I think it was a cover-up,” he later admitted. “We never went there just to record a single. It was the golden rule: no singles.”

Radio politics aside, Led Zeppelin had a simpler, more fundamental reason for not releasing a lot of singles: They wanted their albums to speak for themselves. Unlike, say, the Rolling Stones, the members of Led Zeppelin didn’t see themselves as the kind of band to woo AM radio with a bunch of easy-to-digest pop hits. “I always thought of the Stones as a pop group that did singles,” singer Robert Plant said. noted in 2005. “The whole idea of ​​what we did competing with Bobby Goldsboro for the open air release wasn’t where we were at. What we said was that it didn’t no point in releasing a single when the album is the band’s statement. “

Technically, Led Zeppelin has released well over 10 singles. But several of them, such as “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” and “Stairway to Heaven”, have only been released as promotional singles. They’ve also released five singles since their demise in 1980, but they were linked to post-breakup compilations and box sets, so we’re not counting them here. With those criteria in mind, read on to find out more about the 10 American Led Zeppelin singles released in their lifetime.

“Good times bad times”

Led Zeppelin’s debut album opens with this thunderous rocker, carried by the arpeggiated riff of Jimmy Page and the stammering bass drum of John Bonham. Recorded while the group was still known as New Yardbirds, “Good Times Bad Times” marks a rare moment of semi-restraint for Led Zeppelin. Plant sings in a relatively quiet midrange and the song is only two minutes and 43 seconds long, which is ideal for an AM radio push. The song peaked at a modest No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100, simply hinting at Led Zeppelin’s impending global takeover.

Read more: N ° 47: “Good Times Bad Times” – Top 50 songs by Led Zeppelin

“Full of love”

The opening of fiery blues-rock hell Led Zeppelin II has become one of the band’s iconic songs. “Whole Lotta Love” was broadcast widely on FM radio, but AM stations were reluctant to broadcast the five-and-a-half-minute tune. Several DJs made their own edits, simply undoing the experimental interlude Page had worked so hard to create. With dollar signs in their eyes, Atlantic Records asked Led Zeppelin to release a single cut of “Whole Lotta Love”. The group eventually gave in and released a four-minute version in the US (still a minute longer than the preferred AM radio format), propelling the song to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it their biggest. success in the United States. However, Led Zeppelin refused to publish a radio montage of “Whole Lotta Love” in the UK.

Read more: N ° 2: “Whole Lotta Love” – ​​Top 50 songs by Led Zeppelin

“The song of immigrants”

Led Zeppelin III was unfairly maligned on its release for its diversions into acoustic and folk territory, but the album still has plenty of heavy and electric moments – the main one among them “Immigrant Song”. The opening track and single from the album are anchored by Page’s staccato guitar riff and Plant’s banshee cry, and its mythological Norse lyrics were inspired by the band’s 1970 tour of Iceland, in Bath and Germany. With its stratospheric hooks and duration of two and a half minutes, “Immigrant Song” was tailor-made for radio, and it became one of the group’s biggest hits, peaking at No. 16.

Read more: 50 years ago: Led Zeppelin mainly disconnects for “III”

“Black Dog”

Bassist John Paul Jones delivered the gnarly main riff of “Black Dog,” one of Zeppelin’s most explosive and technically demanding hard rock epics. “We struggled with the turnaround,” Jones explained, “until Bonham figured out you’re only doing four times like there’s no turnaround.” Page ran his guitar through a Leslie speaker to get his washed-out tone over the scorching solo. “Black Dog” reached # 15 on the Hot 100 charts and became one of Led Zeppelin’s most popular songs.

Read more: How John Paul Jones Started Led Zeppelin’s “Tricky” “Black Dog”

“Rock and roll”

The members of Led Zeppelin returned to their early rock ‘n’ roll roots, especially Little Richard and Chuck Berry, for the aptly titled “Rock and Roll”. The song evolved from an impromptu jam session as the band let off steam trying to record the much harder “Four Sticks”. Bonham burst into the iconic introductory drum fill, and Page quickly locked into the groove with a vintage-sounding guitar riff. “Rock and Roll” peaked at No. 47 on the Hot 100, but won the honor of opening the Led Zeppelin show from 1972 to 1975.

Read more: How Little Richard’s Songs Inspired Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”

“Above the hills and far away”

Houses of the Holy marked Led Zeppelin’s most musically diverse LP to date, and his debut single, “Over the Hills and Far Away”, reflects this adventure. The song opens with a tender and deceptively complex acoustic riff before transforming into a full-blast hard rock game full of funky drum and bass grooves and the heart-wrenching screams of Plant. The song peaked at No.51 on the Hot 100, barely a smash hit, but it remains a staple of classic rock radio and a staple in the repertoire of bedroom guitarists around the world.

Read more: N ° 14: “Over the Hills and Far Away” – Top 50 songs from Led Zeppelin

“Dry cleaner”

It’s no secret that Led Zeppelin has generously borrowed from lesser-known blues artists, updating and transforming their songs with their dramatic hard-rock flair. They took the same approach on “D’yer Mak’er,” a light reggae and dub tribute whose title is a play on the word “Jamaica” when pronounced with an English accent. Critics widely criticized the song as a lazy, whitewashed genre exercise; Page countered that they didn’t appreciate the humor of the song or its title. “I didn’t expect people to not understand,” said guitarist Trouser press in 1977. “I thought it was pretty obvious. The song itself was a cross between reggae and a ’50s number’ Poor Little Fool ‘, Ben E. King stuff, stuff like that. Despite criticism, “D’yer Mak’er” was a success, peaking at No. 20 on the Hot 100.

Read more: The story of Led Zeppelin’s most diverse LP, “Houses of the Holy”

“Trampled underfoot”

Led Zeppelin had a more omnivorous musical diet than most of his peers, resulting in glorious and mind-blowing rave-ups such as “Trampled Under Foot”. John Paul Jones took inspiration from Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” for the song’s funky clavinet riff, bolstered by Bonham’s gigantic grooves and Page’s wah-drenched guitar riffs. “Trampled Under Foot” reached No. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a staple in the band’s concerts from 1975 to 1980.

Read more: N ° 16: ‘Trampled Under Foot’ – Top 50 songs by Led Zeppelin

“Candy store rock”

The only single from Led Zeppelin’s penultimate studio album, Presence, “Candy Story Rock” remains a curiosity in the group’s catalog for several reasons. This is a quick, hip-pivoting, retro-rock return to an album full of progressive blues epics and one of 17 album tracks the band have never performed live. It’s also the only single released during Zeppelin’s initial release that failed to make it to the US, reflecting Presencethe commercial and critical underperformance of, and alluding to the in-band turmoil threatening to tear them apart.

Read more: 45 years ago: Led Zeppelin goes rockabilly with “Candy Store Rock”

“The madman in the rain”

Even when they swapped the guitar for the piano and went in a more pop direction, Led Zeppelin was still a musical tour de force. “Fool in the Rain”, the last single released in the band’s first edition, is no exception. It’s a light but muscular tune about a man waiting in the (wrong) corner during a storm for his date, propelled by Bonham’s dizzying shuffle and Jones’s catchy piano melody. The song without a chorus is punctuated by a Latin break, Plant triggering some of his fiercest screams. “Fool in the Rain” peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, proving that Zep still had plenty of fuel in the tank before their untimely demise due to Bonham’s death.

Read more: N ° 30: “Fool in the Rain” – Top 50 songs by Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin albums ranked

Countdown of every canonical Led Zeppelin album, from worst (relatively speaking, of course) to best.


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