I can still remember the day, more or less the time and definitely the place where I purchased my first ever album. It was a cold and frosty morning and I can see vividly see me, aged 12½ armed with the £3.75 from my money box, walking down Park Lane, crossing the green to the Square and up to doors of Woolworths not long after opening. It was Saturday 11 December 1971 and I was here to purchase my own copy of the album I’d seen Mark Austin carry around at school. I still hadn’t heard a single track, had no idea what the band sounded like or even whether I’d like the music; I just knew that I had to have that album. And with the hindsight I now have 48 years later, it was a wise choice!
From my first glimpse of the inside illustration of Barrington Coleby’s “The Hermit” covering the entire inner gatefold, the mystery of the four symbols in place of an album title, the whimsey of the peeling wallpaper image on the front and rear cover of a broken wall with Birmingham’s Salisbury Tower from the Ladywood district in the background and, to the fore, the 19th century rustic oil painting purchased by Robert Plant in a Reading antiques shop, coupled with the power of that lyric from the opening track on side 1, I was hooked (hook, line and sinker). And I still am!
So, here and over the next seven Jemtunes postings, is a track-by-track expose of this wonderful album. From its first playing on my Dad’s Garrard SP25 stereogram through to now via my recent Apple Music subcription, I’ve never one tired of any track. Each has a special place. And from now through to 17 January, I’ll share a little of that with you.
Track one, side one is Black Dog – named after a dog that hung around Headley Grange during recording. The riff was written by Page and Jones, while the a cappella section was influenced by Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”. Robert Plant wrote the lyrics, and later sang portions of the song during solo concerts. The guitar solos on the outro were recorded directly into the desk, without using an amplifier.
I never did get to see the band back in the day. My one regret. Lapped up everything they ever did until John Bonham’s passing in 1980 and soaked up all they’d done before I discovered them in 1971. But I never saw them live.
Having said that, I have seen the one tribute band which both Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have endorsed and supported since their formation in 1996 – Whole Lotta Led. Several times. Most recent was a couple of summers back when they performed the whole of Led Zeppelin IV at Brighton’s Concorde II. And the image I have in my mind’s eye of my daughter Grace and I screaming out the opening lines to ‘Black Dog’ as vocalist Lee Pryor opened the gig sums it all up – “Hey hey mama, said the way you move. Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove”.