Posts Tagged ‘Led Zeppelin’

“Roger the Engineer” by the Yardbirds (1966)

Album-oriented rock still was a long way off when the Yardbirds’ career got into full swing in the mid-1960s.

The band issued a string of hit singles that consolidated their status in their native Britain and the United States, classics like “For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul,” “Evil Hearted You” and “Shapes of Things.” Much of that material was compiled for two U.S.-only LPs, “For Your Love” and “Having a Rave Up With the Yardbirds,” which further enhanced their American reputation, particularly among fledgling guitar players who taught themselves to the riffs of Jeff Beck and Eric “Slowhand” Clapton.

In the summer of 1966, the Yardbirds finally released their first U.K. studio album, simply titled “The Yardbirds” but popularly known as “Roger the Engineer” because of the caption on drummer Jim McCarty’s distinctive cover portrait. Also confusing the issue is the name the album was given outside Britain: “Over Under Sideways Down,” after an LP track that became a hit single.

“Roger” turned out to be the only Yardbirds U.K. studio album, at least until the 21st-century version of the band released a CD called “Birdland” in 2003. The LP “Little Games,” featuring Jimmy Page on lead guitar, was a U.S.-only release in 1967.

Meanwhile, the overall Yardbirds discography has grown exponentially over the decades, with much of the band’s early material seemingly out there in the public domain for anyone who wants to slap together a collection for marketing purposes.

And so for music enthusiasts looking to dig into Yardbirds material, “Roger the Engineer” is a logical place to start. Not only does it represent the band’s most consistent full-length release, but it’s a damned good representation of the transition from garage rock to psychedelia.

Yardbirds bassist Paul Samwell-Smith co-produced the album, foreshadowing his transition from playing music to studio work. His bass guitar is the dominant instrument for the opening track as he provides the octave-scale hook for “Lost Woman.” At least, that’s until Beck fires off a scorching lead in the middle section, setting a precedent for much of the rest of the album.

“Over Under Sideways Down” features a fuzzed-guitar motif – Beck was a pioneer in getting that type of sound out of this instrument as vocalist Keith Relf provides a narrative worth of the band’s home of Swinging London:

Cars and girls are easy come by in this day and age
Laughing, joking, drinking, smoking ’til I’ve spent my wage.
When I was young, people spoke of immorality
All the things they said were wrong are what I want to be

The song represents the last major singles triumph for the Yardbirds: No. 13 on the U.S. charts and No. 10 in the U.K.

Beck spells Relf on lead vocal for “The Nazz Are Blue,” and although Jeff doesn’t sound particularly comfortable in that role, he started his solo career as a singing guitarist with the British Hit “Hi Ho Silver Lining.” As for “The Nazz,” it’s in a fairly standard 12-bar blues format, with Beck providing his usual stellar guitar. The song served as the impetus for the names of at least two American bands: Todd Rundgren’s band out of Philadelphia, which recorded three albums as the Nazz, and another group from Phoenix, until the members started calling themselves Alice Cooper.

“I Can’t Make Your Way” is an upbeat ditty that extols the virtues of living beyond the pale, so to speak: “Taxman, rent man, they all chase me, I ain’t home when they come around/Got no money, live my life free, that’s the best way I have found.”

Another Beck showcase is “Rack My Mind,” another blues-based, woman-done-wrong song driven by a memorable bass line. His guitar really comes to the forefront during the slowed-tempo middle section.

The brief, sparsely accompanied “Farewell” has Relf musing about the ills of the world throughout the days of the week, concluding on Sunday with the ominous: “On Sunday back inside my room, I draw the blinds, ’tis afternoon/I let my mind find its own ways, farewell to future days.” Who said the ’60s were all about flowers and sunshine?

“Hot House of Omagarashid” has the Yardbirds veering off into experimental territory, with rhythm guitarist producing a rhythm by shaking something called a wobble board and the band plunging into another bass-driven tune, this one enhanced by various members chanting an infectious “Ya-ya-ya!” lyric. The mono mix of the song features one of Beck’s most searing guitar leads.

“Jeff’s Boogie” pretty much is what the title indicates: Beck providing a workout to an instrumental line that strongly resembles Chuck Berry’s “Guitar Boogie.” He also throws in a few quotes from “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” perhaps as a nod to Buddy Guy.

The Yardbirds show their heavier side on “He’s Always There,” a lament about trying to hit on a girl when her boyfriend won’t leave her side. Beck’s playing is somewhat reserved until the outro, during which he plays a blazing guitar as Relf and others sing the song title repeatedly.

“Turn into Earth” is a foray into Gregorian chant territory, along the lines of the highly successful “Still I’m Sad.” Relf returns to the lyrical doom and gloom of “Farewell”:

Distant dreams of things to be
Wandering thoughts that can’t be free
I feel my mind turning away
To the darkness of my day

“What Do You Want” is the Yardbirds in rave-up mode, jamming to a catchy tune as Relf puts forth another lament about a fickle woman. As with many of the “Roger the Engineer” songs, this one is available in some collections in its instrumental form, again showing why Beck was regarded as one of the top young guitarists of the era.

The album closes on a foreboding note with “Ever Since the World Began,” a minor-key dirge that abruptly shifts to a much livelier tempo. Lyrically, it’s yet more familiar territory a la “I Can’t Make Your Way”: Band members chant, “I don’t need money,” as Relf expounds in a root-of-all-evil theme.

Most reissues of “Roger the Engineer” have included two additional songs, the single “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” and its British B-side, “Psycho Daisies.” Both feature the short-lived lineup of Beck and Page sharing lead-guitar duties.

The A-side may mark the pinnacle of the Yardbirds’ creativity, but unfortunately it stiffed on the charts, peaking at No. 30 in the U.S. and No. 43 in the U.K. “Happenings” also represents an early collaboration between Page and John Paul Jones, who played bass.

In the United States, the B-side was “The Nazz Are Blue.” Rundgren must have bought the 45; not only did he name his band after one of the songs, but he covered the other on his “Faithful” album in 1976.

After “Roger the Engineer,” the Yardbirds’ commercial appeal declined significantly, and the band broke up in June 1968. Page put together another group to fulfill some contractual obligations, and so Led Zeppelin played its first several gigs billed as his previous band.

If he, Jones, Robert Plant and John Bonham played any “Roger the Engineer” material together, it has not been recorded in any Led Zeppelin histories.

“Led Zeppelin II” by Led Zeppelin (1969)

I. The Danish Connection

Gladsaxe Kommune is a small municipality on the island of Zealand, toward the easternmost part of Denmark. In 1955, it became home to a 206.5-meters-tall guyed television mast, the first TV transmission site in Denmark.

That might have served as the sole claim to fame for Gladsaxe, which today is modestly inhabited at about 62,000 people.

In the summer of 1968, whoever booked the performers for the Teen-Clubs at Gladsaxe’s Egegård Skole (school) must have figured he scored some kind of coup by scheduling the Yardbirds. The British band had scored a string of hit singles, although the last one was way back in 1966.

A couple of dozen youngsters gathered to hear the Yardbirds, unaware that what they witnessed was essentially a different group. Guitarist Jimmy Page, who had replaced Jeff Beck – himself, a replacement for Eric “Slowhand” Clapton – was the only remaining member from the band that last played as the Yardbirds on July 5 in Los Angeles. With Page were bass player John Paul Jones, who was fairly well-established around London as a session arranger and musician, and singer Robert Plant and John Bonham, a couple of 20-year-old unknowns from Britain’s Black Country.

While the teens in attendance expected to hear a typical Yardbirds set, the band instead launched into a series of blues covers, all with a common denominator: “They were so loud it almost hurt,” wrote an anonymous reviewer of the show. That especially held true during “Dazed and Confused,” a psychedelic number Page already had made famous by his use of a violin bow to produce eerie, ear-splitting sounds as Plant tried his best to replicate them with his voice.

Fans who would have preferred to hear “Still I’m Sad” and “Mr., You’re a Better Man Than I” probably left the show disappointed, as well as temporarily deaf. But they later could claim to be among the few in attendance at the very first Led Zeppelin show.

Actually, the second Led Zeppelin show took place that same evening of Sept. 7. Having wrapped up proceedings at the Teens-Club, the band packed up its equipment and headed to a venue called the Brondy Pop-Club, in nearby Brondy. Another reviewer wrote this synopsis:

“Jimmy Page has put a new band together. The music is the same, only better than ever. … Robert Plant should face some small criticism and a lot of praise for an excellent performance. There is no doubt that he is a good singer, but he doesn’t have to twist his body like he’s having a ruptured appendix, does he? Musically, the band is super-great. Their hard disciplined beat is amazing. Of course, it was foremost Jimmy Page that was responsible for this but the drummer should also be mentioned; a drum solo so wild and good is hard to find. It was so good that one almost wished that John Bonham wouldn’t stop.”

And so began one of rock ‘n’ roll’s ultimate legends, a band with music that remains in high demand nearly four and a half decades after it formed and 32 years after it came to a tragic end.


II. Your Time Is Gonna Come

The story of Led Zeppelin in the 1960s isn’t often told amid the tales of excess and debauchery that arose during following decade. Whether those are true, exaggerated or merely apocryphal matters little; the upshoot is that the term “rock star” was given a new, larger-than-life definition.

The tendency is to view Led Zeppelin as an overnight sensation, which fits to some degree: Within a year of the Gladsaxe show, the band was among the most sought-after concert attractions in rock ‘n’ roll. But that’s because Page and Zeppelin’s no-holds-barred manager, Peter Grant, came up with a plan that defied the music industry’s conventions at the time. Following the plan was going to take a lot of effort, and there was absolutely no guarantee it would work.

“Page began to patch together a grouping of songs, many of them things he’d worked on live with the Yardbirds,” explained Charles R. Cross in “Led Zeppelin: Shadows Taller Than Our Souls.” “He wanted Led Zeppelin to quickly record an album and make their mark that way, rather than cut singles or work their way up through small clubs, as most British bands did in that era.”

The Scandinavian shows represented prior commitments for the Yardbirds, and as soon as those nine gigs were finished, Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones entered Olympic Studios in London. In the span of about 36 hours, according to the guitarist, they completed their first LP, mixing and all. Page paid for the studio time, meaning economy was necessary; as Jimmy recalled, that arrangement also assured another important aspect of the recording. He told Guitar World magazine in a 1993 interview:

I wanted artistic control in a vice grip, because I knew exactly what I wanted to do with these fellows. In fact, I financed and completely recorded the first album before going to Atlantic (Records). … It wasn’t your typical story where you get an advance to make an album. We arrived at Atlantic with tapes in hand. … Atlantic’s reaction was very positive, I mean, they signed us, didn’t they?

At any rate, the studio bill came to the equivalent of about $3,000, which represented a substantial sum for a 24-year-old musician. (It still does.) Fortunately, Grant and Page had been dealing with Atlantic president Ahmet Ertegun (1923-2006), who had the foresight to recognize the band’s commercial potential and provided Led Zeppelin a $200,000 advance.

Now, that was substantial, considering no other rock act had received anything approaching that before, and Page’s project was barely known outside of the fans who had started attending shows finally using the Led Zeppelin name. The press derided Ertegun’s leap of faith, starting a rocky relationship with Page that lasted for decades.

Meanwhile, Zeppelin was playing mainly university gigs around England, to mixed reaction, especially with regard to Plant’s vocal antics. On Dec. 10, the band performed at the Marquee, one of London’s major clubs, and a reviewer noted as T. Wilson expressed some common complaints:

They are now very much a heavy music group. … Amp troubles didn’t help them on this particular occasion but there seemed to be a tendency for too much volume which inevitably defeats musical definition. … Drummer Bonham is forceful, perhaps too much so, and generally there appears to be a need for Led Zeppelin to cut down on volume a bit.


III. Across the Ocean

With only about 20 shows performed to that point, Led Zeppelin embarked on its first American tour, starting the day after Christmas at the Auditorium Arena in Denver. The once-grand building opened in 1908 as the second-largest arena in the nation, after Madison Square Garden, and it hosted the Democratic National Convention that year. By 1968, the building served as the home of the Denver Rockets (later Nuggets) professional basketball team and as the city’s largest indoor concert venue.

The Dec. 26 concert featured Vanilla Fudge, which had scored a massive hit with a proto-metal cover of the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On” but was having trouble finding focus as 1968 drew to a close. The band had opened for the Jimi Hendrix Experience during part of its tour earlier in the year, and it has been conjectured that certain “businessmen” in the Fudge’s native New York put forth some kind of ultimatum to the Hendrix management to make the necessary arrangements.

Also on the Denver bill was Spirit, a highly innovative Los Angeles-based group with 17-year-old guitarist Randy California, a Hendrix bandmate before he hit it big. Among Spirit’s more popular numbers was a song called “Fresh Garbage,” the riff from which would end up as part of Led Zeppelin’s repertoire.

As for Zeppelin, Grant’s design was for the band to gain as much exposure as possible in the United States, which represented an exponentially larger commercial market than Britain. He also conjectured that American fans would be more receptive to highly amplified, blues-based music than their English equivalents.

That seemed to be the case in Denver, as recalled by promoter Barry Fey in his 2011 autobiography, “Backstage Past”:

The night of the concert, I get on stage to make the announcement to open the show. “Ladies and gentleman, please welcome, direct from England for their North America debut, Led Zeppelin!”

There was a smattering of polite applause. Then, Robert Plant let it rip and everybody in the audience was stunned. Frankly, I don’t know how Spirit went on after that. You didn’t have to be a genius to know Zeppelin was going to be a smash. Oh, my God. People were going crazy!

The next morning, I get a call from Max Floyd, the program director at the Denver FM rock station, KLZ. “Who did you have on last night? Our phone lines are jammed!”

The band had given me a white copy of their album, one that hadn’t been released yet. I took the album to the radio station and they played it continuously, all day.

The tour package, still headlined by Vanilla Fudge, continued to the Northwest. For the Dec. 29 show in Portland, Ore., the billing was “Special Guests: Led Zeppilen, featuring Jimmy Page,” the first time the named of the band had been used, albeit misspelled, for promotional purposes.

At the start of 1969, the band headed down the coast for its first California shows, playing three nights at the Whisky a Go Go. The famed Sunset Strip club had served as a springboard for many of the era’s notable Los Angeles bands, including the Doors, Buffalo Springfield, Love and the Mothers of Invention.

Led Zeppelin’s first headlining performances were at the Whisky, with another band that would create its own legend in the ’70s, Alice Cooper, opening. Then it was back up the coast for three nights at an even more prestigious venue, Bill Graham’s Fillmore West in San Francisco.

Despite Page and possibly others suffering from the flu, the band made an impression on the Fillmore crowds during its four-night run, creating a buzz throughout a city that had a tremendous influence on music at the time. Zeppelin’s frenetic take on the blues provided quite a contrast in styles compared with the laid-back, country blues of opener Taj Mahal and the psychedelic jam sessions of headliner Country Joe & the Fish.

The day of the final Fillmore show, Atlantic released the LP “Led Zeppelin,” from the October Olympic sessions. “Good Times, Bad Times” was released as a single in the United States, back with “Communication Breakdown,” both original compositions. No singles were released in England, in 1969 or at any time throughout Led Zeppelin’s career.

Meanwhile, the band headed east, braving a snowstorm to play in America’s heartland, at the University of Iowa. William L. Seavey wrote this review:

Jimmy Page, a former member of the Yardbirds, is group leader, although the way he slinked around the stage hunched paralytically over his guitar he didn’t look the part. But leader or not, he is one incredible talent. He is to the electric guitar what Adres Segovia is to the classical guitar or Chet Atkins to the folk guitar. …

John Bonham, drums, is said to have created a sensation with his solos when he accompanied Tim Rose on and England tour last year. Wednesday night he turned the trick again as he captivated the audience with what must have been 15 minutes of percussional gymnastics.

Robert Plant is the Janis Joplin of the group, a blues belter par excellence who is in indefatigable despite a voice constantly strained to its limitations.

These three have the makings of idols, although perhaps not as the Zeppelin. They seem to lack identity as a group, although that is not to say they are uncompelling. But with time and material they could command quite as much attention as some of the established groups do.


IV. Destroyer

Amid such accolades, the band arrived in Detroit, which already had established a proto-metal identity with the likes of the MC5, the Amboy Dukes and the Stooges. The more seasoned members of the Motor City press weren’t as kind to Page and company, but they did admit the band had an abundance of potential.

Word hadn’t spread to the D.C. area, where a reported 55 audience members showed up for a concert at the Wheaton (Md.) Youth Center on the day Richard Nixon was inaugurated. Perhaps the more enlightened rock fans in the area were drowning their sorrows.

In Boston, Led Zeppelin received a tremendous response, with Jones later asserting that Grant felt the shows at the Boston Tea Party club convinced him the band truly was headed in the right direction.

The LP had reached the Top 20 – on the strength of FM Radio play, hearsay and certainly the stunning cover photo depicting the Hindenburg disaster – by the time the group reached New York for a run at Graham’s Fillmore East, opening for Iron Butterfly, whose “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” album would remain the top-selling album in Atlantic’s catalog until Zeppelin put an end to that. London’s New Musical Express reported: “As expected, Led Zeppelin destroyed the audience at the Fillmore East last weekend. Second show Friday night they remained onstage for 90 minutes of absolutely incredible musicianship up and down the entire blues scene.”

The tour continued in Toronto, then in Chicago, where Led Zeppelin debuted an extended version of Garnet Mimms’ “As Long As I Have You” with a section featuring Spirit’s “Fresh Garbage” riff. The tour’s final show was in Baltimore, and the band headed back to England having made quite the impression on its massive target audience.

Bonham, Jones, Plant and Page kept the momentum going after their return to Europe, playing some U.K. gigs and doing their first recording for the BBC on March 3. Incredibly, the band duplicated its Gladsaxe Teens-Club and Brondby Pop-Club doubleheader on March 15, with the Danes theoretically knowing the difference between the Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin this time around. Two days later, the band did a television appearance in Copenhagen, a performance that appears on the “Led Zeppelin” two-DVD set, released in 2003.

When the group returned to the United States the following month, it headed all the way to San Francisco for two shows each at the Fillmore West and Graham’s larger local venue, Winterland. The April 24 Fillmore show is the best-sounding audio recording to emerge from the ’69 tours, featuring the definitive “As Long As I Have You.”

On April 26, the band debuted a tune based on blues composer Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love,” with Plant wailing the line that would become the song’s title in the Led Zeppelin catalog.

“Whole Lotta Love” was part of a set of recordings on which the band had been working on since January, ducking into studios between gigs in the United States, Canada and England. With the heavy touring schedule Grant had arranged for them, Bonham, Jones, Page and Plant had no time for the type of hiatus usually associated with recording an album. But in the ’60s, artists were expected to deliver at least a couple of LPs per year, and with Led Zeppelin already a proven commodity, it made sense to keep the momentum going.

Fortunately, the band was displaying no shortage of creativity.

“Jimmy’s riffs were coming fast and furious,” Jones recalled in the liner notes for the “Led Zeppelin” CD boxed set, released in 1990. “A lot of them came from onstage, especially during the long improvised section of ‘Dazed and Confused.’ We’d remember the good stuff and dart into a studio along the way.”

Cross wrote:

This piecemeal approach necessitated that they carry the master tapes with them everywhere they traveled as an extra piece of carry-on luggage. When even a few hours in their schedule would free up, they would book a nearby studio, rush in for a quick session and then head off to their next concert commitment.

The commitments continued at a brisk pace, with Led Zeppelin playing a series of further concerts on the West Coast, including a whirlwind trip to Hawaii, before heading back to the Midwest and closing the second American tour with three return dates at the Boston Tea Party and two at the Fillmore East.

Work on the forthcoming album continued as the band scurried around England throughout June. At the start of July, it was back to the USA for the Atlanta Pop Festival, Newport Jazz Festival and Laurel (Md.) Pop Festival. Then came Pennsylvania’s Zeppelin debut, at the Summer Pop Festival in Philadelphia’s Spectrum, alongside the likes of Johnny Winter, Jethro Tull and Buddy Guy.

The latest U.S. continued throughout August, with Led Zeppelin playing numerous festivals – hey, this was 1969! – but not the one that took place Aug. 15-18 at Yasgur’s Farm in Sullivan County, N.Y. Grant had been offered a slot at Woodstock, but instead opted for a higher-paying gig at the Convention Hall in Asbury Park, N.J. Somehow, that night’s opening act, Joe Cocker, made it to New Jersey after his afternoon set that was captured for posterity in Michael Wadleigh’s “Woodstock” movie.

This being 1969, Led Zeppelin also experienced problems with sound systems that couldn’t quite keep up with the bombast, especially at some of the festivals. At the State Fair Coliseum in Dallas, Plant announced the band wouldn’t be playing at the forthcoming Texas International Pop Festival, then corrected himself. But problems prevented the audience, which had gotten into an uproar, from hearing the correction.

When the band did perform at the festival in oven-like conditions on the last day of August, Plant gave a brief apology about the misunderstanding, as heard in a high-quality audio recording of the event. Led Zeppelin played only five songs, but the set goes on for more than an hour, capturing the excitement the band was bringing to each performance as it made new fans by the tens of thousands.


V. “Led Zeppelin II”

Amid all the touring, the band finally wrapped up recording and producing the new album before heading back to England on Sept. 1. With the debut firmly ensconced in the charts, Atlantic had no trouble promoting the upcoming release of what eventually hit the shelves as “Led Zeppelin II.”

In fact, some 400,000 advance orders had come in by the time the album finally appeared, on Oct. 22. By that time, Led Zeppelin had embarked on yet another American tour, its fourth of the year. It started with this gig, as noted by reviewer J. Harris:

Led Zeppelin became the first hard rock act to play Carnegie Hall since the Rolling Stones tore the place up some five years ago. Even up against Donovan at Madison Square Garden (a complete sellout), both of Zepppelin’s shows went clean, with tickets being scalped as much as twice their original price!

Though the management was uptight at half the audience dancing on top of their seats, and tried desperately to control the encores, the group managed to pull off one of the most exciting performances ever. They featured a selection of material from their new album, in addition to Jimmy Page’s haunting “White Summer” solo and Bonzo’s 25-minute attack on the skins.

The album performed along the same lines as the concerts, knocking the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” out of the No. 1 spot on the American charts and going straight to the top in the U.K., Canada, Australia, Spain and Germany. (It peaked at No. 2 in Norway.) The single version of “Whole Lotta Love” reached No. 4 in the United States and became one of the top-selling 45s of 1970. Even its B-side, “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman),” went to No. 65.

Some critics, though, tore heavily into “Led Zeppelin II.” Rolling Stone’s John Mendelsohn, for example, wrote that “it seems as if it’s just one especially heavy song extended over the space of two whole sides” while derisively referring to Page “the absolute No. 1 heaviest white blues guitarist between 5’4″ and 5’8″ in the world.”

A major point of contention was Led Zeppelin’s authorship of the music. As mentioned, “Whole Lotta Love” sounds somewhat like “You Need Love,” as recorded by Muddy Waters and, with a slightly different title, England’s the Small Faces. “The Lemon Song” basically is a combination of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” and Robert Johnson’s “Travelling Riverside Blues,” and part of “Bring It On Home” is loosely based on a Sonny Boy Williamson II tune.

But a closer examination reveals a majority of the album’s songs as being cut from original cloth: “What Is and What Should Never Be,” “Thank You,” “Ramble On” and especially “Heartbreaker.”

And even the supposed pieces of plagiarism are far removed from the originals. No one had come up with a riff resembling “Whole Lotta Love” before, and it remains one of the best-known guitar figures in rock history. The song’s middle section certainly is unlike anything on any blues album, a free-form splurge combining Page’s pyrotechnics, Plant’s otherworldly vocals and a whole lotta special effects into a package that serves as the definitive bridge between psychedelia and hard rock.

Plant’s a cappella “Way down inside, woman, you need …,” echoing itself as it bleeds through the various recording tracks, also has endured as one of rock’s defining moments, leading back into the main theme and Plant’s couldn’t-quite-be-censored “Shake for me, girl, I wanna be your back-door man.” Yeah, those lyrics had been heard before, but never quite like this.

“What Is and What Should Never Be” starts as a ballad, one of the first sets of lyrics composed by Plant, about a romance with his wife’s younger sister. The song contains one of Page’s more lyrical solos, performed on his ’59 Gibson Les Paul, before shifting gears into a hard-rock outro, complete with Plant’s rapid-fire delivery of words, a sheer counterpoint to the earlier tone of the song.

“Thank You” is an even more gentle tune, one that Mendelsohn apparently missed when he was giving the album a listen for his Rolling Stone piece. Plant delivers a mature set of lyrics – a tribute to his wife, Maureen – supported by Jones on Hammond organ and Page on 12-string guitar. Jimmy also sings some backing vocals, a rarity among Zeppelin recordings.

The LP’s second side opens with “Heartbreaker,” the song that, in retrospect, establishes Led Zeppelin as a major contributor on the path toward heavy metal. Page’s monster riff combines with Plant’s energized vocals and Bonham’s frenetic drumming to establish a true template for the genre.

Then everyone drops out, and Page launches into an unaccompanied solo, one that he improvised on the spot, showing the range of his chops in a minute-and-a-half burst. Aspiring guitarists have been attempting to emulate him ever since.

Bonham and Jones return for a power-trio romp before Plant comes back in with the vocals. The track ends abruptly, with Plant’s vocal intro to “Living Loving Maid” popping up almost immediately.

“Ramble On” serves as an early display of the band’s interest in mysticism, as the lyrics invoke J.R.R. Tolkien:

Mine’s a tale that can’t be told,
My freedom I hold dear;
How years ago in days of old
When magic filled the air,
‘Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor
I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up
And slipped away with her

Instrumentally, the song is notable for Jones’ melodic bass playing intertwining with Bonham’s percussion, although there is some debate as to what exactly Bonzo was playing when the song was recorded; it may have been a small plastic wastebasket or the soles of his shoes.

There’s no doubt that he bashes his trusty drum kit on “Moby Dick,” his answer to Ginger Baker’s “Toad” with Cream. Bonham had been performing solos from the band’s early days as “Pat’s Delight,” named for his wife, before the catchy Page-Jones riff made it way into the proceedings.

“Bring It On Home” starts as a mellow, harmonica-based blues, as Plant does his best Williamson impression. In a dramatic sweep, Page comes in with yet another epic guitar riff, transforming the song into a metallic rampage before it wraps up by easing into Plant’s harp-blowing once more.

Much of “Led Zeppelin II” has become so familiar over the decades that it’s difficult to appreciate the album’s various innovations, its advanced-for-the-time production techniques, the subtly of its instrumental dynamics and the influence it had on popular music of the ’70s.

“Spirit” by Spirit (1968)

In the summer of 1966, Randy Craig Wolfe was a 15-year-old kid with a strong interest in music and a family to match: His uncle Ed Pearl ran the Ash Grove club in his native Los Angeles, and Ed Cassidy, the man who’d recently married Randy’s mother, had been a professional drummer since the ’30s.

Ed, then 42, had taken his new family to New York City so that he could find more work, and Randy, an aspiring guitarist, started hanging out at the legendary Manny’s Music on West 48th Street. Perhaps he was hoping to see someone famous; according to a New York Times article published when Manny’s closed in 2009, “The store hit its heyday in the 1960s, when British Invasion bands like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Who made Manny’s a must-stop destination upon landing in America. ”

Instead, he met another young, out-of-state guitarist, a black guy from Seattle. As Randy recalled:

He was in the back of the store playing a Strat. Our eyes caught each other, and I asked him if I could show him some things I learned on the guitar. He then gave me the Strat and I played slide guitar. He really liked it and invited me down that night, which I believe was his first night of this gig at the Cafe Wha?

The band, billed as Jimmy James & the Blue Flames, had a bass player who also was named Randy. So the guitarist started referring to them by their home states, Randy Texas (Palmer) and Randy California (Wolfe).

Jimmy James, of course, turned out to be James Marshall Hendrix, and he started teaching Wolfe some of his own favorite chops.

“I know he showed me the chords to ‘Hey Joe,’ because I had never heard that before,” Wolfe reminisced, as quoted in Johnny Black’s “Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Experience.”

Cafe Wha? is where Hendrix met Keith Richards’ girlfriend Linda Keith, who in turn introduced Jimi to Animals bass player Chas Chandler, who in turn was looking to get into the management side. The rest is history, as Hendrix went with Chandler to his native U.K. and to superstardom … without Wolfe. As Chandler told Black:

Jimi genuinely wanted to bring Randy to England, but I was adamant that he made space between them. I said, “How the fuck am I going to get a visa for a 15-year-old, anyway? Do you understand what implications there are with something like that? You just don’t do it.

And so Randy was left with this observation:

One day I arrived to find that Jimi’d split for England. That was the end of it.

But Hendrix’s desertion didn’t deter Wolfe from his pursuit of music. After his family moved back to Los Angeles, he met up with some musicians he’d played with as the Red Roosters prior to the extended New York stay. They got back together, this time with Ed as the drummer, and with a new name: Spirits Rebellious, from a Khalil Gibran book. Plus Randy kept the name Jimi had given him, now professionally known as Randy California.

The five-piece band – also including vocalist Jay Ferguson, bass player Mark Andes and keyboard player John Locke – eventually shortened its name to Spirit and started drawing a decent following around the L.A. clubs. In an era of increased musical experimentation, Spirit drew from a variety of influences for a cross between acoustic folk, early jazz-rock fusion, hard blues-based rock, wowing audiences with its ability to mix tight song structures with long, technically advanced improvisation.

One such vehicle for improvisation was a song Locke composed called “Elijah.” Spirit recorded an 11-minute version as part of its demo tape, made available some 25 years later on an anthology called “Chronicle” by an obscure Canadian label. The songs on the tape, although poorly recorded, helped the band draw interest from record companies.

One of those was Ode Records, a fledgling label formed by music entrepreneur Lou Adler after he sold his Dunhill label to ABC. Although he later signed Carole King as a solo artist – she recorded the landmark, top-selling “Tapestry” for Ode – and launched the record- and movie-making career of Cheech & Chong, Adler’s first release for his new venture was Spirit’s debut album.

The album came out in January 1968 amid a wildly eclectic musical landscape, one that had broadened during the decade to embrace all kinds of styles. As such, “Spirit” seemed to have something for everyone, what with its musicians’ variety of influences and, perhaps directly related, the age range of its members (Ed was 44, Randy 16).

Perhaps there was too much diversity within the grooves. The LP did peak at No. 31, but at a time when singles dominated the market, Spirit’s initial offering, an odd dirge called “Mechanical World,” went nowhere.

Among albums released in 1968, though, “Spirit” has aged extremely well, as many of its compositions sound not the least bit dated nearly 45 years later.

The message put forth in the album opener, “Fresh Garbage,” certainly still rings true. The lyrics are short and to the point: “Look beneath your lid this morning/See those things you didn’t quite consume/The world’s a can for your fresh garbage.” Ferguson was inspired by a trash collectors’ strike to write the song, but its environmental implications proved to be ahead of the curve.

Musically, the song features a memorable riff, one that might sound familiar to heavy-duty Led Zeppelin fans: It was used by that band during performances of Garnet Mimms’ “As Long As I Have You” during early Zeppelin concerts, some of which as the opening act for Spirit.

The bridge of “Fresh Garbage” demonstrates that Spirit is no ordinary band. The song abruptly breaks into a peppy, piano-driven section that reaches a multi-instrumental crescendo before returning to the main theme, over which Ferguson repeats the lyrics.

By contrast, Ferguson’s “Uncle Jack” is a relatively straightforward rocker, although what he sings is somewhat enigmatic: “‘So many lives to live,’ I heard him say/’But some people live to give themselves away, to find peace of mind, waiting where they can’t get it'” The song is the only one from Spirit’s August 1967 sessions to make it to the LP; the remainder was recorded between Nov. 9 and 17.

From left: Ed Cassidy (b. 1923), Randy California (1951-97), John Locke (1943-2006)

About “Mechanical World,” California later wrote:

Mark was very ill with the flu and was confined to his room for weeks, making him feel very depressed and mechanical. Towards the end of his sickness, Jay could be seen sneaking in and out of Mark’s room with guitar in hand. When Mark finally came out, there was a brand new song. The group really collaborated on this track, and everyone was happy to see Mark smiling and healthy again.

As for the song, it lurches along spouting lyrics that reflect a sick person’s outlook: “Death falls so heavy on my soul/Death falls so heavy, makes me moan/Somebody tell my father that I died/Somebody tell my mother that I cried.” Even with that baggage and its clocking in at more than 5 minutes, it became the single, perhaps because of the money spent by Adler on its orchestral arrangement.

The orchestra returns for “Taurus,” an instrumental that serves as California’s first solo composition. Since 1971, conjecture has been rampant that Led Zeppelin copped part of the melody for none other than “Stairway to Heaven”; the listener is the ultimate judge. California simply had this to say:

Written for my first love, Robin. She was a Taurus. But I must also mention the perfect astrological balance of the band with two Tauri (Cass and Jay), two Pisces (Randy and Mark) and one Libra (John).

Now, that sounds like 1968!

Ferguson’s “Girl in Your Eye” perhaps is the most 1968-sounding track on the album, with its incorporation of the sitar and orchestral sweeps. California’s pioneering use of feedback sustain, however, is used to great effect to counteract some of the period elements.

“Straight Arrow” is a fun piece that Ferguson wrote about Keith Andes, Mark’s father, an actor who inspired the composition with his performance as Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha.” Again, the song takes a jazzy sidetrack in the middle before returning to its main theme.

The lyrics for the most part evoke a Western-type hero, with one line standing out: “Watch what you do because Straight Arrow watches you.” Spirit would revisit that line of thinking on California’s seemingly paranoiac “1984,” a song that climbed up the charts in early 1970 before radio play ceased for no apparent reason. So, who was being paranoid? …

The “Spirit” album continues with the ultra-heady “Topanga Windows,” which features some of Ferguson’s most catchy wordplay: “People searching for a better season, trying to catch their moment on the run/Always asking wanting what’s the reason, what do you want when you just want to have some fun?” The song’s languid, dreamlike pace picks up substantially in the middle, bolstered by California’s double-tracked guitar, again putting the teenager’s tremendous talent on full display.

“Gramophone Man,” the album’s sole group composition, chronicles a common plight among musicians: meeting with record-company executives who care only about sales, not who might be doing the performing. The message is conveyed in a sly manner: “And watch the time, the world is waiting, give a tune for Mr. Gramophone Man/Jack and Jill falling down off their hill, singing songs for Mr. Gramophone Man.”

Ferguson contributes two brief compositions, “Water Woman” and “The Great Grand Canyon Fire in General,” that lead up to the album’s conclusion. The latter is interesting for its allusions to an actual Los Angeles event, “a big summer fire that burned about half of Topanga Canyon,” California wrote. “Our yellow house was saved, but everyone had to evacuate and spend a week camping at the beach.”

Poor guys.

“Elijah” clocks in at nearly 11 minutes on the LP version, allowing the various members to show their chops. California wrote about its serving as a concert extravaganza:

Some of the more memorable solos I recall were Jay and Mark pulling out two chairs center stage and facing each other doing the “hambone,” a two-man, hand-slappin’, thigh-hittin’ rhythmic affair. On John’s solo, he often would use a hand-held, breath-controlled keyboard that sounded like a sax. …

Sometimes I would do my guitar solo by turning my amp off and playing acoustically right on the microphone. Our audiences were great – you could hear a pin drop.

“Elijah” probably worked better as performance art than as an album track, but it does present a clear picture of each of the musicians’ capabilities. California’s section is a bit disappointing considering his groundbreaking work on most of the rest of “Spirit,” but he certainly acquits himself well, particularly considering his age at the time.

For fans of rock’s psychedelic era, “Spirit” is a real treat in that it doesn’t have to go to great lengths to offer a cerebral listening experience. Even the orchestration, something Spirit never again integrated, is subtle enough to serve pretty much as an auxiliary instrument, rather than tending to drown out the proceedings.

Perhaps it didn’t resonate with the record-buying public, or for posterity, as did the albums recorded around the same time by California’s former bandmate.

But Hendrix continued to hold Spirit in high regard until the end of his life, always acknowledging the role that young Randy Wolfe played in Jimi’s salad days.

“Rubber Soul” by the Beatles (1965)

A good argument can be made that every Beatles album, at least the ones over which they had creative control, should be on any list of the all-time greats. My erstwhile colleague Brad Hundt, a talented entertainment writer and lifelong Beatlemaniac, no doubt would do so on his list.

But as a reminder, Harry’s Hundred combines my respect for an album’s merits, my familiarity with its contents and how much I enjoy listening to it. So it’s not exactly a “greatest” list; if so, stuff like “Golden Earring Live” would be nowhere near it. But that ain’t a bad album, and I still like it a whole lot 35 years after its release.

So I’ve narrowed down my Beatles selections, and here’s where we start, at the juncture when the Beatles evolved from pop to art, when they demonstrated once and for all that they weren’t just some British guys with long hair and Edwardian suits making a bunch of noise.

What’s remarkable about “Rubber Soul” is that the Beatles and George Martin recorded it on deadline, trying to rush-release it before the holiday shopping season. The band had just returned to England from another North American tour full of fans screaming so loud that the musicians couldn’t hear themselves. Rather than take time off, as they’d do following their final tour the following year, they plunged headlong into writing new songs.

What emerged was a departure from most of the love-song music they’d made to that point. Sure, boy-girl relationships continued to be a prominent theme, but in a much more creative manner.

The opener, “Drive My Car,” is indicative of the new direction: John Lennon draws from the Robert Johnson “Terraplane Blues” songbook – Robert Plant later would use it to optimal effect on Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Under Foot” – to equate sex with operating a vehicle, and this time it’s the woman who’s enticing the man.

Lennon explores the male-female dynamic with sophistication previously unknown in the Beatles canon on “Norwegian Wood,” which turned about to be the veiled story of his affair with a journalist. Musically, the song also marks a major step forward, as George Harrison plays the sitar for the first time in rock music history. (Outtakes, such as the one released on “Anthology 2,” show the instrument to be much more prominent in the mix than on the official version.)

Paul McCartney joins the fray with “You Won’t See Me,” a commentary on his relationship with Jane Asher, one that would end a couple of years later when she caught him red-handed with an American woman named Francine Schwartz. As for the song, it displays a certain amount of petulance not found in previous McCartney compositions: “When I call you up, your line’s engaged/I have had enough, so act your age.”

“Nowhere Man” joins previous classics “I’m a Loser” and “Help!” as explorations of Lennon’s self-doubt, a condition that would manifest itself considerably in the coming years. The opening a cappella recitation of the lyrics stands as one of the most striking examples of the Beatles’ vocal abilities, and the song remains one of the most revered in the band’s catalog.

“Think for Yourself” demonstrates why George Harrison felt slighted when it came to the paucity of his compositions on Beatles albums. By any measure, it’s an exceptionally advanced composition for 1965: The lyrics resonate fully almost half a century later, what with the utter vapidness into which popular culture has evolved, and the frightening implications that has for the future of the world. Instrumentally, McCartney’s fuzz-toned bass guitar is at once innovative and another step toward what would become hard rock.

Lennon’s “All You Need Is Love” became one of his best-known anthems. But he explored basically the same theme two years earlier with “The Word,” which also shows the Beatles’ overall sound becoming harder-edged as the ’60s progressed.

OK, so why do I rank “Rubber Soul” at a spot where 36 albums are ahead of it? Sorry, I’ve tried to warm up to “Michelle” for decades, but it’s one of the few Beatles songs that leaves me cold. Sure, it explores traditional French themes as opposed to the standard pop/rock of the time, which is interesting from a musical standpoint but hardly endears it to listeners who are prefer something a bit heavier.

Ringo Starr’s first Beatles co-composing credit appears on “What Goes On,” a relatively nondescript country-flavored tune that has its charms but isn’t quite the remedy for getting back on track after “Michelle.” Neither is “Girl,” though you have to like the “tit-tit-tit” backing vocals that escaped the censors.

McCartney redeems himself considerably with “I’m Looking Through You,” another jab at Jane through a relatively complex set of lyrics. Two distinct versions exist of the song, with the one that first was recorded serving as a sought-after collector’s item for decades, until “Anthology 2” made that moot.

Lennon’s much-heralded “In My Life” is one of the first of his many trips down memory lane, a bit more upbeat than, say, “Mother,” but still containing a fair amount of poignancy. “Some are dead and some are living,” for example, refers to Stuart Sutcliffe; it’s been conjectured that John always shouldered some of the blame for Stu’s early death.

When the Beatles were writing and recording what became “Rubber Soul,” they managed to come up with 13 new songs. The 14th, “Wait,” was an outtake from the “Help!” album, but the track tends to mesh seamlessly with most of the newer material.

Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone,” while not quite reaching the heights of “Think for Yourself,” still shows that he would have been the chief songwriter in just about any other rock band of the era.

The album closes with the tongue-in-cheek “Run for Your Life,” which is about as far removed thematically as you can get from tunes like “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Lennon, who admitted nicking the opening line from Arthur Gunter’s “Baby, Let’s Play House” (as sung by Elvis Presley), ended up despising “Run for Your Life.” We’ll blame that development, like many others, on Yoko’s influence …

For the record (pun intended), the American “Rubber Soul” LP is a substantially different album from its British counterpart, containing two songs from the U.K. version of “Help!” – “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s Only Love” – while jettisoning “Drive My Car,” “Nowhere Man,” “What Goes On,” and “If I Needed Someone.”

By opening the album with “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” which sounds somewhat like Paul Simon compositions of the period (or vice versa), Capitol Records made the U.S. “Rubber Soul” appear to be more of a folk-rock album, to compete commercially with the likes of Bob Dylan and the Byrds on Columbia. Like the Beatles needed help with sales!

Seriously, whatever the version, “Rubber Soul” went to the top of the charts around the world, proving the Beatles could appeal to a more serious, mature audience than the screaming teeny-boppers who packed their concerts. In turn, that made the band members realize they probably didn’t need to be trying to perform in front of screaming teeny-boppers.

But that’s another story.

“Truth” by Jeff Beck (1968)

For anyone who gets nauseous at the thought of leisure-suited lunkheads lurching around under a disco ball to the strains of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?: Rod Stewart once knew how to sing rock ‘n’ roll with the best of ’em.

He’d kicked around in the early ’60s, literally: His ambition was to become a professional soccer player. When that didn’t quite work out, he worked as a gravedigger and at a funeral parlor. Deciding that wasn’t his lot in life, either, he started singing and playing harmonica, joining a band called the Ray Davies quartet. (Yes, that Ray Davies.) He later performed with group called Steampacket and Shotgun Express, and as a solo artist, during which time he gained the nickname “Rod the Mod.” But none of those efforts caught on commercially.

Meanwhile, guitarist Jeff Beck was tearing it up as Eric Clapton’s replacement in the Yardbirds, blazing new trails in the sounds he was getting from his Gibson Les Paul. That already-successful band seemed to be headed for new heights when another esteemed guitarist, Jimmy Page came aboard. But Beck abruptly quit and started his own solo career, scoring a hit U.K. single with a song called “Hi-Ho Silver Lining.”

Beck sang that tune, but he was more comfortable sticking with the guitar. So he hired Stewart as vocalist and, for good measure, a youngster from a London band called the Birds named Ron Wood. (Yes, that Ron Wood.) Together with drummer Mickey Waller, they formed the first Jeff Beck Group.

When it came time to record an album, the band drew heavily from Beck’s blues-infused background, with his guitar-playing skills featured prominently throughout. But “Truth” turned out to be a launching pad for Stewart’s phenomenal success, whatever you might think of his discography as a whole.

Recorded in four days’ worth of sessions in May 1968, “Truth” serves a blueprint for hard-rock albums to follow; not more than one critic has noticed its resemblance to the debut album by Page’s post-Yardbirds band, known to the world as Led Zeppelin.

“Truth” leads off with a sledgehammer reworking of the Yardbirds’ hit “Shapes of Things,” with a slowed-down tempo and Stewart’s scratchy voice supplanting the more dulcet tones of the other band’s singer, the late Keith Relf. Beck somehow manages to make his middle-eight guitar solo as memorable as his triple-tracked fretwork in the original.

“Let Me Love You” is credited, more or less, to Beck and Stewart but bears more than a slight resemblance to a Buddy Guy song. At any rate, it represents blues played in a much heavier manner than had been heard previously, with producer Mickey Most turning up the volume on every available instrument.

The mournful sound of bagpipes opens “Morning Dew,” perhaps a suggestion from Stewart with memories of his grave-digging days. Bonnie Dobson’s folk song about nuclear annihilation is given appropriate treatment by Beck, whose stinging guitar evokes the sounds of shots being fired.

Willie Dixon’s “You Shook Me” follows, with Beck dueling it out with late pianist Nicky Hopkins and an organ player. You’re probably familiar with the same song on “Led Zeppelin,” and the two versions sound fairly similar, perhaps because the organist on “Truth” happens to be John Paul Jones.

Stewart’s empathetic voice is the highlight of the Broadway standard “Ol’ Man River,” from “Show Boat.” Notable is the beat of the timpani played by a musician credited as “You Know Who”; the late Keith Moon couldn’t be listed for contractual reasons.

Beck shows off his acoustic prowess with a sterling rendition of “Greensleeves.” According to Jeff in the liner notes: “Played on Mickey Most’s guitar which by the way is the same as Elvis’.”

“Rock My Plimsoul,” another composition attributed to Beck and Stewart, is a close match to the blues chestnut “Rock Me, Baby.” Again, the vocalist and guitarist combine for a memorable performance.

The instrumental “Beck’s Bolero,” based loosely on Ravel’s classical composition, actually dates back to Beck’s Yardbirds days. He recorded it with Page, who is credited as composer, along with Jones, Hopkins and Moon in what might have been the all-time dream band had those five stayed together for more than a one-shot deal! Listen closely for Moon emoting just before the bridge in one of rock’s all-time-great screams.

“Blues De Luxe,” the final Beck-Stewart song on the album – this one sounds a heck of a lot like B.B. King’s “Gambler’s Blues” – suffers slightly from the pretentiousness of overdubbed audience noise. But Stewart, Hopkins and especially Beck redeem themselves with another solid workout.

“Truth” closes with another Dixon song, most closely identified with Howlin’ Wolf: “I Ain’t Superstitious.” Probably the album’s most familiar song, it prompted Beck to admit in the liner notes: “This number is more or less an excuse for being flash on guitar.”

“Truth,” indeed.

“Physical Graffiti” by Led Zeppelin (1975)

The playlist of a Pittsburgh radio station served as the impetus for a game.

“Try this,” I told my son. “Guess how many songs until Led Zeppelin comes on again. I’ll say three.”

He said four. Two songs later, “The Immigrant Song” came blasting out of the speakers. So I guess I won.

Later, he told me he and his friends had gotten into the habit of playing the Led Zeppelin game. The winning number never was very high.

The radio station’s persistence helped skew my view of Led Zeppelin. Drummer John Bonham drank himself to death three weeks into my freshman year of college, and my roommate, Mike, and I decorated our dorm-room door to pay homage to the fallen Bonzo.

Eventually, though, I heard Zeppelin so often that I started to avoid it. Over the next few decades, I took the attitude that I’d pretty much heard all I needed from Bonham, Jones, Page and Plant.

Then came the release of archival material, “The BBC Sessions” and particularly “How the West Was Won.” Listening to the band beyond the context of its original discography reinvigorated my enthusiasm.

My favorite album from Led Zeppelin’s days as an active band is “Physical Graffiti,” and not just because it’s a two-LP set. The album is suitably eclectic: epics, toss-offs and solid pieces of songwriting demonstrate Zeppelin’s breadth as a recording unit.

Among the epics, the most enduring is “Kashmir” (which happens to be one of the songs I got tired of hearing on the radio). The Middle Eastern themes complex time signatures and effective use of varied instrumentation all serve to create what just might be Jimmy Page’s best all-around work, or at least his most original.

“In My Time of Dying” is an old blues song that came by way of Blind Willie Johnson and Bob Dylan, but their versions sound nothing like the 11-plus minutes that Led Zeppelin poured into its interpretation. Page’s slide guitar and Robert Plant’s howling vocal lead the way into a heavy, largely improvisational jam that concludes with a fit of coughing and some studio banter.

Another lengthy tune, “In the Light,” opens the third side of the LP (or second CD) with John Paul Jones’ ethereal synthesizer strains, eventually punctuated by Plant’s double-tracked voice: “And if you feel, that you can’t go on …” The sense of foreboding eventually eases with a major-key bridge with a relatively cheery, wordless Plant singalong, until the main theme returns.

Following “In the Light” is a brief acoustic guitar number that turns out to be one of the highlights of “Physical Graffiti.” Page recorded “Bron-Yr-Aur” way back in the summer of 1970, during the sessions for what became “Led Zeppelin III,” and the piece takes its name from the cottage in which the band was staying during those recordings.

Next is “Down By the Seaside,” another acoustically oriented songs, the origins of which date to the sessions for “Led Zeppelin IV.” Two other songs that eventually ended up on “Physical Graffiti” – “Night Flight” and “Boogie With Stu,” featuring the late Rolling Stones pianist Ian Stewart – also were recording during preparation for the fourth album.

The single taken from the album for the American market – the band never released a 45 in its native Britain – was “Trampled Under Foot,” an upbeat song highlighted by Jones’ Hohner Clavinet D6. The B-side, “Black Country Woman,” was recorded in a garden at Mick Jagger’s house!

One more song of particular note is “The Rover,” which stands as one of Plant’s periodic explorations of his ’60s roots and the ideals therein, as he implores: “If we could just join hands.”

Several months after the release of “Physical Graffiti,” Plant nearly was killed in a car crash in Greece. Two years after that, his son, Karac Pendragon Plant, died of a virus while the band was on its final American tour. A year later, Sandy Denny, the former Fairport Convention vocalist who’d sang harmony on “The Battle of Evermore” on Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, died after falling down a flight of stairs.

Then came Bonham’s demise.

So “Physical Graffiti” in many ways stands as the high point of Zeppelin’s career, as an artistic achievement and before tragedy tore away at the band and eventually broke it.

Thirty-two years later, you still hear Led Zeppelin on the radio quite a bit. And contrary to what I might have thought at one point, that’s not a bad thing!

“Blues Helping” by Love Sculpture (1968)

The British blues boom probably reached its apex in 1968, with stellar offerings such as Jeff Beck’s “Truth,” Free’s “Tons of Sobs,” the Groundhogs’ “Scratching the Surface,” John Mayall’s “Bare Wires” and “Blues from Laurel Canyon,” Ten Years After’s “Undead” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Fleetwood Mac” and “Mr. Wonderful.”

Even John Lennon got in on the act, with the Beatles’ “Yer Blues.” And John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant recorded the tracks for their debut album in October, even though “Led Zeppelin” wasn’t released until 1969.

Amid the spate of blues-rock recordings was “Blues Helping,” the debut by a Welsh trio called Love Sculpture. The band scored a U.k. hit that same year with a rock version of Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance,” which brought the guitar work of Dave Edmunds into the national spotlight.

“Blues Helping” is exactly what the title implies, starting with a scorching version of “The Stumble,” during which Edmunds keeps up note-for-note with the song’s composer, the legendary Freddie King (as referenced in Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band.”)

Edumnds, bass player John Williams and drummer Bob “Congo” Jones rip through a set of familiar blues and R&B numbers by the likes of Ray Charles, B.B. King, Willie Dixon and Slim Harpo.

Also included is a reading of the oft-covered “Summertime” from “Porgy and Bess,” featuring Edmunds playing a particularly stinging bridge. And in the elongated “Don’t Answer the Door,” Edmunds channels the macho attitude of a true bluesman, commanding his woman to keep her mother, sister and doctor away from the house “when I’m not at home.”

The album closes with the title track, a basic blues improvisation that wraps up proceedings on a genre-suitable note.

Edmunds went on to solo success and at one point teamed with former Brinsley Schwarz bass player for a supergroup of sorts, Rockpile. He’s played some tremendous guitar, but never quite in the same vein as on “Blues Helping.”