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Led Zeppelin IV (ZOSO)

All studio and live performances from Led Zeppelin IV. 

Led Zeppelin IV was again produced by guitarist Jimmy Page and recorded between December 1970 and March 1971 at several locations, most prominently the Victorian house Headley Grange.  It was was released on 8 November 1971 on Atlantic Records.

After the group's 1970 album Led Zeppelin III received lukewarm reviews from critics, Page decided their fourth album would officially be untitled. This, along with the inner sleeve's design featuring four symbols that represented each band member, led to the album being referred to variously as , Four Symbols, The Fourth Album, Untitled, Runes, The Hermit, and ZoSo (which was derived from Page's symbol). In addition to lacking a title, the original cover featured no band name, as the group wished to be anonymous and to avoid easy pigeonholing by the press.


Led Zeppelin IV was a commercial and critical success, producing many of the band's most well-known songs, including "Black Dog", "Rock and Roll", "Going to California", and the band's signature song, "Stairway to Heaven". The album is one of the best-selling albums worldwide at 37 million units, and with a 23-times platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America, it is the third-best-selling album in the United States. Writers and critics have regularly cited it on lists of rock's greatest albums.


Info taken or paraphrased from Wikipedia: (

Black Dog

Overview: Black Dog was released as a single in the US and in Australia with "Misty Mountain Hop" as the B-side, reaching number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 10 in Australia. John Paul Jones, who is credited with writing the main riff, wanted to write a song with a winding riff and complex rhythm changes that people could not "groove" or dance to. Although it has an apparently simple drum pattern, the song's complex, shifting time signature was intended to thwart cover bands from playing the song. Jones originally wanted the song recorded in 6/8 time but realised it was too complex to reproduce live. In live performances, John Bonham eliminated the 5/4 variation so that Plant could perform his a cappella vocal interludes and then have the instruments return together synchronised. If the volume is turned up loud enough, Bonham can be heard tapping his sticks together before each riff.



Versions Worth Checking Out: Studio - for Plant's vocal performance, and because most live performances were relatively the same. However, the triplets that Bonham pulls off in the solo section from The Song Remains The Same film are stunning, so I love that performance, too.

Rock and Roll

Overview: Befitting its title, the song is based on one of the most popular structures in rock and roll, the twelve-bar blues progression (in A). "Rock and Roll" stands as one of the best-known songs in the band's catalogue. Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page has said that this song came to be written as a spontaneous jam session, whilst the band were trying (and failing) to finish the track "Four Sticks". Drummer John Bonham played the introduction to Little Richard's "Keep a Knockin'" and Page added a guitar riff. The tapes were rolling and fifteen minutes later the basis of the song was down. "Rock and Roll" is one of the few Led Zeppelin songs where all four members share the composer credit. There is also a guest appearance by The Rolling Stones pianist Ian Stewart.


The lyrics by singer Robert Plant reference a number of 1950s and 1960s early rock hits, including "The Stroll," "The Book of Love," and "Walking In the Moonlight." To achieve the distinctive guitar sound on the track, Page plugged his guitar directly into the mixing console, bypassing the traditional amplifier and microphone setup.



Versions Worth Checking Out:  Sydney, AUS 2/27/1972 - The footage of this performance makes me so sad that there's not more documented from this period in the band's career. Everyone is kicking on full throttle, and even with the less than perfect audio quality, you can still hear a band that's hungry to conquer the world. However, for the best drum solo at the end (in my opinion), Rock and Roll from The Song Remains The Same film (NY 1973) takes the cake. Precision and brutality have never mixed together so well as they do in that drum solo.

Stairway To Heaven

Overview: The recording of "Stairway to Heaven" commenced in December 1970 at Island Records' new Basing Street Studios in London. The song was completed by the addition of lyrics by Plant during the sessions for Led Zeppelin IV at Headley Grange, Hampshire, in 1971. Page then returned to Island Studios to record his guitar solo. It was the most requested song on FM radio stations in the United States in the 1970s, despite never having been officially released as a single there.



Versions Worth Checking Out: Studio - While there are a lot of really great live performances of this song, none of them come together perfectly the way the studio track does (in my opinion). Honorable mention goes to the 9-14-71 performance in Berkeley, CA.

Misty Mountain Hop

Overview: It was recorded at Headley Grange in the same vein as 'When The Levee Breaks,' with the drums being tracked in the stairwell with a minimal mic setup.  At 2:11, in the second half of the second verse, the band members briefly fall out of sync with one another. However, the band felt that the rest of the take was too good to discard the recording. In the United States and Australia it was the B-side of the "Black Dog" single, but still received considerable FM radio airplay.



Versions Worth Checking Out:  Studio - Nothing beats that stairwell recording sound for me...

Four Sticks

Overview: Bonham's decision to play the song with four sticks was probably a result of him being very frustrated with not being able to get the track down right during recording sessions at Island Studios. This song was particularly difficult to record, and required more takes than usual. After he grabbed the second pair of sticks and beat the drums as hard as he could, he recorded the perfect take and that was the one they kept. The band is only known to have played this song live once, at Copenhagen on their 1971 European tour, as has been preserved on some bootleg recordings.



Versions Worth Checking Out: Copenhagen 1971 - There's an energy that this song had that night that the studio recording, while still enjoyable, sorely lacks...

When The Levee Breaks

Some of the greatest sounding drums of all time...


Led Zeppelin recorded the song in December 1970 at Headley Grange, where the band used the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. The song had earlier been tried unsuccessfully by the band at Island Studios at the beginning of the recording sessions for their fourth album. The famous drum performance was recorded by engineer Andy Johns by placing Bonham and a new Ludwig drumkit at the bottom of a stairwell at Headley Grange, and recording it using two Beyerdynamic M160 microphones at the top, giving the distinctive resonant but slightly muffled sound. Back in the Rolling Stones' mobile studio, Johns compressed the drum sound through two channels and added echo through guitarist Page's Binson echo unit.  When the Levee Breaks was recorded at a different tempo, then slowed down, explaining the "sludgy" sound, particularly on the harmonica and guitar solos. Because this song was heavily produced in the studio, it was difficult to recreate live; the band only played it a few times in the early stages of their 1975 U.S. Tour, before dropping it for good.


Favorite Version: Studio - Honorable Mention: Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience did/does a tremendous job of performing this song.