In the "how old do I feel now" department for this week, fifty years ago today, Led Zeppelin released their fourth album:
Led Zeppelin‘s fourth album is variously known as Led Zeppelin IV, Untitled, Four Symbols and Zoso, but its true title is formed by the four unpronounceable symbols chosen by each band member. Page did that to retaliate against writers, including several in Rolling Stone, who’d snubbed the band’s music: “After all we had accomplished, the press was still calling us a hype. So that is why the fourth album was untitled.” He also refused to give any interviews for a period of 18 months.
Thus, one of the best-selling rock albums of all time (23 million copies in the U.S., at last count) was fueled by the bandmates’ resentment; they were victors who felt like underdogs. The gatefold album design had no photos or band information, which was “professional suicide,” one industry expert warned Page, but it only added to the album’s – and group’s – still-enduring air of high-school-hallway mystery.
At first, the essence of Led Zeppelin seemed to be brutality. It was a “very animal thing, a hellishly powerful thing,” in Plant’s words. Then fortuitously, in the next decade, each band member developed his own unique power. Plant added questing lyrics to his high, keening wails of abandon. Page emerged as one of rock’s most adventurous and imaginative producers, and turned out epic guitar riffs like he was an assembly line. Jones played every instrument short of the kazoo, fortifying and expanding the band’s weaponry and arrangements.
Fifty years later, the album still rocks. It's on my playlist for today, right after my 2pm meeting.