On this day 50 years ago, legendary rock pioneers, Led Zeppelin, released their third studio album. Find out how it was both a turning point for the band and one of their most controversial releases.
Today marks half a century since the release of Led Zeppelin’s iconic third album, Led Zeppelin III. Now considered to be a staple album by the Classic Rock pioneers, at the time, the release sent shockwaves across the music industry and changed the world’s perception of the band.
From their defiant attitudes towards fan expectations to their solemn approach to the tracks, find out how Led Zeppelin broke the mould with their third release and faced some of their most harsh reception to date.
Here are our top ten facts about the remarkable Led Zeppelin III!
1. The Album Shifted their Sound Away from their Heavy Rock Foundations
As 1969 drew to a close, Led Zeppelin had firmly left their mark in the music industry. Dominating the scene with their vigorous approach to music, the band helped pioneer the Classic Rock genre and were breaking records from the moment they emerged.
Yet, after extensive touring and making themselves known for their sexually-fuelled lyrical content, as 1970 approached, the band were looking for a change of pace with their third album.
Striving for a more nuanced, intricate sound than captured in their previous hits, Led Zeppelin III shifted the band from their Heavy Rock sound, to a fusion of Acoustic Folk and Psychedelic Rock- a vital milestone in their extensive career.
2. Robert Plant was Just 22 at the Time of Recording
Already turning heads by pioneering the Rock genre, it is easy to forget just how impressive the band truly were.
As the release of the third album was looming, legendary vocalist and frontman, Robert Plant, had already reached rockstar status and was widely celebrated for his powerful vocals.
However, few fans realise that during the release of Led Zeppelin III, the frontman was merely 22 years of age. Having already released two of the most successful albums of all time, reaching the number one spot in both the UK and the US and coming to be regarded as one of the greatest frontmen in music, when the third album debuted, Plant was merely in his early 20s.
The same can be said of the other members. During the time of its release, drummer, John Bonham, was also just 22, bassist, John Paul Jones, was 24 and guitarist, Jimmy Page was just 26.
3. It Became an Excuse to Get Away From their Hectic Lifestyles
After being catapulted into the limelight, conducting five tours of the US in just 12 months and coming to dominate the music industry, it comes as no surprise that the band were seeking solitude and tranquilly as they recorded their third album.
As previously mentioned, Led Zeppelin III marked a change in direction for the band, with them choosing to experiment with different genres. Yet, few realise that it was the desperate pursuit for time away from the spotlight that fuelled this shift.
Staying in a remote location in Snowdonia without any running water or electrictity, Page and Plant conducted most of the songwriting for the release. It was this dramatic contrast from the intense touring and rockstar lifestyles that was said to ensure the new musical direction of the band. With the location inspiring an overall dominance of acoustic, ambient sounds… the sound captured was a world apart from their previous releases.
4. The Change of Setting Inspired Them to Reinvent Their Image
Secluding themselves from the fast-paced, high-demand lifestyle thrust upon them, the time spent in Snowdonia served to do more than reinvent Led Zeppelin’s distinctive sound, it also revolutionised their image and the message they sought to convey.
No longer carrying out their iconic ’60’s ‘sex-god’ look that they became founded upon, the band’s connection with the natural world during the writing of Led Zeppelin III inspired a new, rugged look… more similar to that of the hippie era than of their Classic Rock roots.
Defying expectations of what was expected from them, the band’s less style-conscious appearance sent tidal waves across the industry for its deviation from fan expectations.
Now discussing issues of greater importance than in previous releases, the band’s new image served their sound more so than ever before; successfully detaching them from the restrictive expectations placed upon them.
5. Devastating Reviews Meant Page Refused Interviews for Over a Year
Prior to its release in late 1970, the anticipation for the album was rife across the globe, with the preordered copies drawing close to the one million mark. Yet, whilst a commercial success and a hit with devoted fans of the band, the critical reception of the release was a harsh blow in comparison to the usual praise that the band were showered with.
Despite immediately topping the UK and US charts upon its debut, the album failed to leave the same impression on critics around the world. Receiving an immediate hoard of mixed reviews, the album was misunderstood by those expecting the same sound as in previous releases.
Accused of losing their distinctive edge, producing ‘mindless noise’ and blatantly attempting to mimic folk musicians such as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the hoards of negative feedback for the album scarred the band deeply. As a result of the harsh criticism, Page refused press interviews for 18 months, claiming that it affected him heavily and was the reason why the following album contained no written information at all.
6. It Was Their First Album Not Predominantly Written by Jimmy Page
Credited as the predominant songwriter on the band’s first two albums, it is fair to assume that much of Led Zeppelin’s distinctive sound throughout the 1960s came from Page’s dominance.
Deviating away from the intense, guitar-driven rock sound throughout the first two releases, Led Zeppelin III instead took a more democratic approach to songwriting, with each member contributing a significant amount to the album.
Much of the thoughtful lyricism, centred around themes of history, conflict and personal struggles, came from Plant’s influence, whereas both Jones and Bonham inputted their own spin on numerous tracks for the first time in the band’s career.
This was seen as much of the virtuosic instrumentation and musical variety came from bassist, John Paul Jones’ impact and the track, ‘Out On The Tiles’ was written predominantly by John Bonham.
7. It Established John Paul Jones as an Extremely Talented Multi-Instrumentalist
One thing that set Led Zeppelin III apart from the rest of the band’s discography came from the members working simultaneously in the writing process. Now pursuing a more nuanced and experimental route, the band delved into trying out new instruments more so than ever before.
Although he is often considered the most overlooked member of the four, Led Zeppelin III allowed bassist, John Paul Jones, to showcase the full extent of his talents.
Alongside his usual role on the bass, Jones’ usual range of instruments was greatly enhanced. Recording on keyboards, various synthesisers, mandolin, double bass and the Hammond Organ, the album allowed the member to gather recognition as a talented multi-instrumentalist.
8. It was Produced Solely by Jimmy Page
Whilst famed for his distinctive, revolutionary guitar playing, few know that Jimmy Page also played a bigger role in driving the band’s success.
Alongside being the predominant songwriter and lead guitarist, Page was also the sole producer of the album. Not only a focal part of the writing and recording process, Page’s influence as producer of the album allowed Led Zeppelin’s unique vision to be accurately conveyed.
9. It Resurfaced Over Three Decades Later Because of School of Rock
Although selling incredibly well upon its debut, the album gradually lost momentum over time, simply becoming another release in the band’s discography. Yet, in 2003, over thirty years since its original release date, the album soared back into the limelight.
This came from its appearance in the Jack Black film, School Of Rock.
Rarely ever giving consent for their music to be used in media, Led Zeppelin ultimately gave the film permission for ‘Immigrant Song’ to be used in the film. This was after Jack Black constructed a video of fans asking the members to allow their iconic track to be featured.
Originally about the Viking Invasions of England, inspired by their tour of Iceland, the track surged up the charts again, three decades after its debut, to become of the most commercially successful songs of all time.
10. It Shaped the Future of the Music Scene
As previously mentioned, the sharp contrast of Led Zeppelin III in comparison to their other releases allowed the band to reinvent both their sound and their image.
But the album did something more than depict a new sound for the band… it completely revolutionised the direction of Rock music from then on. For one of the first times, Heavy Rock was allowed to coincide with traditional Folk to formulate a new genre.
The intricate melodies and virtuosic experimentation with instruments infiltrated the sex-orientated, guitar-driven tracks that the band had become founded on- changing the course of the band’s sound and allowing a new approach towards Rock music to be seen for generations to come.
What did you think of our top 10 facts?
Is there anything that we missed? If so, let us know via the comment section below!