Led Zeppelin IV – [Record 1]
This was the first record i ever bought. Not that long ago, November 2013. I bought this because it’s the record with Stairway to Heaven. And Stairway to Heaven was the song that finally made me want to buy Vinyl. This is though, a Spanish import i think.
The fourth: album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin was released on 8 November 1971. 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 the Four Symbols logo, 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 and is tied for the third-best-selling album ever in the US.
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 [on the album] 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.
1, Black Dog.
2, Rock and Roll.
3, The Battle of Evermore.
4, Stairway to Heaven.
5, Misty Mountain Hop.
6, Four Sticks.
7, Going to California.
8, When the Levee Breaks.
The Title: After the lukewarm, if not confused and sometimes dismissive, critical reaction Led Zeppelin III had received in late 1970, Page decided that the next Led Zeppelin album would not have a title, but would instead feature four hand-drawn symbols on the inner sleeve and record label, each one chosen by the band member it represents. “We decided that on the fourth album, we would deliberately play down the group name, and there wouldn’t be any information whatsoever on the outer jacket”, Page explained. “Names, titles and things like that do not mean a thing.”
Page has also stated that the decision to release the album without any written information on the album sleeve was contrary to strong advice given to him by a press agent, who said that after a year’s absence from both records and touring, the move would be akin to “professional suicide”. In his words: “We just happened to have a lot of faith in what we were doing.” In an interview he gave to The Times in 2010, he elaborated:
It wasn’t easy. The record company were sort of insisting that the name go on it. There were eyes looking towards heaven if you like. It was hinted it was professional suicide to go out with an album with no title. The reality of it was that we’d had so many dour reviews to our albums along the way. At the time each came out it was difficult sometimes for the reviewers to come to terms with what was on there, without an immediate point of reference to the previous album. But the ethic of the band was very much summing up where we were collectively at that point in time. An untitled album struck me as the best answer to all the critics — because we knew the way that the music was being received both by sales and attendance at concerts.
Owing to the lack of an official title, Atlantic initially distributed graphics of the symbols in many sizes to the press for inclusion in charts and articles. The album was one of the first to be produced without conventional identification, and this communicated an anti-commercial stance that was controversial at the time (especially among certain executives at Atlantic Records).
Releasing the album without an official title has made it difficult to consistently identify. While most commonly called Led Zeppelin IV, Atlantic Records catalogues have used the names Four Symbols and The Fourth Album. It has also been referred to as ZoSo (which Page’s symbol appears to spell), Untitled and Runes. Page frequently refers to the album in interviews as “the fourth album” and “Led Zeppelin IV”, and Plant thinks of it as “the fourth album, that’s it”. Not only does the album have no title, but there is no printing anywhere on the front or back cover, or even a catalogue number on the spine (at least on the original LP release).
The Four Symbols: The idea for each member of the band to choose a personal emblem for the cover was Page’s. In an interview he gave in 1977, he recalled:
“After all this crap that we’d had with the critics, I put it to everybody else that it’d be a good idea to put out something totally anonymous. At first I wanted just one symbol on it, but then it was decided that since it was our fourth album and there were four of us, we could each choose our own symbol. I designed mine and everyone else had their own reasons for using the symbols that they used.”
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, inverted, it also happens 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.
Sandy Denny’s symbol, which in Christianity is an old symbol for the Godhead “beyond that nothing is known about it”.
There is also a fifth, smaller symbol chosen by guest vocalist Sandy Denny representing her contribution to the track “The Battle of Evermore”; it appears in the credits list on the inner sleeve of the LP, serving as an asterisk and is shaped like three triangles touching at their points.
During Led Zeppelin’s tour of the United Kingdom in winter 1971, which took place shortly following the release of the album, the band visually projected the four symbols on their stage equipment. Page’s symbol was put onto one of his Marshall amplifiers, Bonham’s three interlinked circles adorned the outer skin of his bass drum, Jones had his symbol stencilled onto material which was draped across his Fender Rhodes keyboard, and Plant’s feather symbol was painted onto a side speaker PA cabinet. Only Page’s and Bonham’s symbols were retained for subsequent Led Zeppelin concert tours.