Saturday, April 29, 2023

Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy turns 50

Issue 312 of Classic Rock Magazine digs deep on the metal god’s fifth album, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and was the result of what singer Robert Plant called the band’s “buccaneer musician” spirit, “ready to try anything.”

While IV and II are typically cheered as Zop’s best, I consistently come back to Houses and Physical Graffiti as absolute perfection in rock ‘n roll. Of course, most critics at the time judged the band by how heavy it was and that this was a relatively lightweight affair. I’d say they were right about that last point, but they were wrong in claiming that because it was lighter, it was of little importance.

Here are some things about that time in 1973 you may not know:

Plant was 23 and in full golden-god mode. It probably goes without saying that he was “dripping in pussy.”

Drummer John Bonham was also 23, in full beast mode, and was said to be a family man off the road. “But Zeppelin were never off the road.”

Several of the songs recorded for Holy ended up on Physical Graffiti, and they had a brighter quality to them than their previous music - good reasons the two albums have a similar feel lodged in the middle of their catalog. Many of the songs were recorded at The Rolling Stones mobile studio in the English countryside.

The album was delayed from 1972 partly over the artwork. The naked children climbing a cratered hillside and a child sacrifice on the inside replaced the original art, which had been an electric green tennis court with a tennis racquet. Page hated that the art insinuated that the band’s music was some kind of racket, in business terms.

Over the Hills and Far Away and D’yer Maker (top 20) were released as singles in the U.S. and there were no singles released in the UK. But their chart popularity was clearly never the point, as Zep were breaking The Beatles’ records left and right for attendance at their shows across the U.S. 

A strong argument can be made nowadays that Led Zeppelin were the rock ‘n roll Beatles of the ‘70s. The band’s music is timeless and, like that of The Beatles, there are almost never times when I don’t want to hear it.

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