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28 March 2013 7,558 views 10 Comments

Houses at 40

Led Zeppelin Houses Of The Holy  TBL 40th Anniverary Special:

40 years ago today Led Zeppelin released their long awaited fifth album, Houses Of The Holy.

We have been counting down to this milestone anniversary and the TBL website and Facebook page will be celebrating the album’s release over the next few days.

I myself have been getting intensely re acquainted with the Houses Of The Holy album since January, as over the past three months I’ve been collating a major feature  for the new issue of Record Collector – that issue is now on sale

It includes the full story of the making of the album, an extensive worldwide album and singles discography compiled by Nick Anderson and we also answer the question whatever happened to Rosie and The Originals as well as spotlighting a rare cover version of D’yer Ma’ker and discussing that elaborate sleeve design and more.

This issue of Record Collector is the perfect guide to have next to you as you re discover the album…seek it out today!

rec col houses

Here’s the ordering info link:


rc coll houses

 Talking of the sleeve…

Yesterday in London I  conducted an exclusive interview for TBL with one of the designers of the Houses Of The Holy sleeve.

Aubrey Powell aka Po, co-founded the album cover design company Hipgnosis with Storm Thorgerson in 1967. Hipgnosis created some of the most innovative and surreal record cover art of the 1960s, 70s and 80s for many of the big name rock bands of the era including Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Paul McCartney, Yes, Genesis, 10cc, Peter Gabriel, Bad Company, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Scorpions, Styx, Syd Barrett and Black Sabbath.

Hipgnosis were responsible for the Houses, Presence, The Song Remains The Same, In Through The Out Door and Coda sleeves. Po later moved into films and directed various Robert Plant and Firm videos –he also directed the No Quarter Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded film. He is currently working on a book of photographic portraits.

I met with him yesterday nigh on 40 years to the day of the releases of what he considers one of very best designs they created. This exclusive interview with Aubrey Powell, in which he discusses his working association with Led Zeppelin over the years will be one of the highlights of the next TBL magazine.

On this 40th anniversary I asked Po to summarise what the Houses Of The Holy sleeve means to him…

aubrey powell

Above -Aubrey Powell London – March 27th 2013.

”40 years on from completing this album cover, I’m still very proud of it. It’s one of the best works that Hipgnosis ever produced and it’s stood the test of time. Everybody still talks about it. You see in those polls of top ten album cover of all time , where Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon is always jockeying for a top three position with Houses Of The Holy.

 I think the reason why it’s stood the test of time is that not only are Led Zeppelin the greatest rock band in the world but because the image is stirring.

People look at it and really wonder what it’s about. There’s a narrative in there …what are these children doing? Where are they going? What’s caused this? What’s this huge glow on the horizon? What’s the story with this? Then the inner cover the image of the guy holding the girl above his head – that also has that sort of fairy tale quality about it. It just grabs people’s imagination and it’s very unusual for an album cover. It’s very different and people seem to admire that image.

At Hipgnosis, we never felt that the work we did would go beyond the year that we did it, possibly because we were always so busy – we were probably doing three album covers a week for various different bands for 15 years. During the time I didn’t really have an opportunity to say ‘oh isn’t that great, you know in 40 years time people will look it and say gosh that was an extraordinary piece of work.’ All I know is that I just worked very hard and loved what I was doing and I enjoyed the people I worked for.  I thank Led Zeppelin for giving us the opportunity to do these designs, because without them we would not have been able to so.

In my heart of heart of hearts, it very much represents that vinyl period of time – those 15 years of top quality vinyl graphics that we produced.

So yes…Houses Of The Holy all these years on, is a piece I’m particularly proud of’”

Aubrey Powell – March 27th 2013.

The full interview will be featured in TBL 35 -don’t miss it -subscribe now.


Back to the story….

Like countless fans across the globe on that spring Wednesday back in March 1973 ,as a 17 year old Zep obsessive I eagerly snapped up the album . I had been touring the record shops of Bedford daily for the arrival of this opus. This was in the years before I began working in a record shop myself.

At lunchtime I walked the short distance from British Home Stores where I worked to Carlows one of the seven record outlets in the town and laid down my £2.65 (it was an expensive album in the Atlantic del luxe price rang) took it out of the bag and simply gawped in teenage wonderment at the oh so remarkable sleeve.

What was all that about…?!

For me the sleeve suns up the pure mystery and evocative atmosphere of No Quarter.

My diary reveals that once home that night, I gave the album an initial blast before venturing out to play football in the local park (the clocks had just gone forward that week so it was now getting light at night). I was back in my Zep bedroom den straight after to get lost on their world in the album with the catalogue number (which I’d already memorised) K50014.

Now that is an important point –to get lost in their world…. because that is exactly what it was like as Brad Tolinski astutely noted in Guitar World

‘’Led Zeppelin were the best because they were the most exotic and imaginative of rock bands. And the fascination with the group continues because their music still sounds strange, wild and totally alien today as it did three  decades ago. Led Zeppelin music was designed to stimulate the imagination, to encourage kids to dream ,to see an open space beyond the grind of daily existence’’

That is exactly how I felt that March evening of 40 years ago. Given that my daily existence was spent in the stockroom of the aforementioned BHS and that the UK at the time was a somewhat drab place to be with industrial unrest, the threat of IRA bombing,  to be transported to California sunshine and sweet Calcutta rain, as Robert Plant sang on the still riveting opening track The Song Remains The Same…well that was some ride for this particular 17 year old.

It’s incredible to think back at how important music was then in the pre download instantly accessible world.

There was no itunes platform to preview the album, oh no – the only previews afforded was the screening of a very weird film to match No Quarter on the Old Grey Whistle Test the previous Tuesday and an airing of Dancing Days on Emperor Rosko’s Saturday morning radio show.

You coveted every word, you gazed at the sleeve, you memorised the lyrics (and for this album  every song lyric was printed on the inner sleeve). You lived these songs –they became part of your daily life, enhancing your mood, the soundtrack of falling in love and out…you lived and breathed them.

Like every other Led Zeppelin album, Houses Of The Holy more than fulfilled that premise in the coming months and years…

There were however some issues. By and large the press hated it – how shocked was I to read the Melody Maker review the next day that proclaimed ‘’Zep lose their way’’ accompanied by a very indifferent review by the usually supportive Chris Welch.

The problems? –well we all know that well enough:

The Crunge and D’yer Mak’er…two less than serious stabs at enjoying themselves at the expense of critics and perhaps fans alike- particularly the ones groomed on the hard rock of Zep 1 and II.

My learned friend Kevin Hewick in a summary of the album he has written for the next TBL magazine, notes as a 15 year old Zep fan back then being well confused.

‘’Then came ‘The Crunge’ !?!?! Were they joking? Well yes they were but this seemed like a somewhat lame joke.

 Over on Side 2 ‘Dancing Days’ seemed a piece of poppy fluff and ‘D’Yer Maker’ was a ‘crunge too far’ for me, a somewhat limp novelty mickey-take of the Caribbean sound that was actually turning into a major force with The Wailers ‘Catch A Fire’ soon to reach our British ears.

 This rather lightweight three track sequence did them a lot of damage in my eyes. They seemed to be merely mucking about, a cardinal sin in my pretentious chin stroking world of prog meaningfulness, yet it was also lacking the thrill of Bowie’s pop art glam razzamatazz.’’

Kevin does now have a high regard for the album noting that

‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ is everything you need to know about Led Zeppelin in one song, folk and rock rather than folk rock, their diverse strands united in the same song – more of his perceptive musings in TBL 35.

So Led Zep 11 it certainly wasn’t …

As for me… well need you ask – I loved it all!

But I have to say back in 1973 I was going through an intense period of musical discovery and not long after its release, my attention to Houses was somewhat diverted by other musical goings on…

The aforementioned David Bowie whose magnetic presence you could just not ignore that year…in April The Beatles double album retro sets 1962 -1966 and 1967 -1970 captivated me –as I’d just missed their golden period being too young. Other albums such as The Faces Oh La La, Paul McCartney’s & Wings Red Rose Speedway, Alice Cooper Billion Dollar Babies ,The Rolling Stones Goats Head Soup (I saw the latter at Wembley Empire Pool in the September) and in the autumn The Who’s Quadrophenia and Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves demanded my attention. I was at an age of discovering so much music…it was hard to fit it all in.

There was also an album called The Dark Side of The Moon released a week before Houses that would also make a bit of an impression on the record buying public.

Houses Of The Holy did not stay on the UK chart for more than a couple of months and was somewhat eclipsed (no pun intended!) at home by the abundance of fresh and vital music that year….

America as we know, had no such issues…

Overall though, Houses Of The Holy went on to become something of an underrated part of the Zep cannon.In hindsight, this was clearly a band that was pleasing themselves and their fans at the expense of what the critics expected.

The eclectic feel good content meandered from familiar hard rock through acoustic and orchestral arrangements, to brooding synth affairs and ’50s doo-wop/mock reggae  and funk pastiches.  It was all performed with a joyous abundance that mirrored the positivity that surrounded them at that stage of their career.

Back in Europe during the early spring on yet another tour, Robert Plant was quick to defend the album. In an interview at the George V hotel during their two-show residence in Paris in April 1973, he said “So there are some buggers who don’t like the album. Good luck to ’em. I like it and a few thousand other buggers too.  There’s only one way to function and that’s on stage. We’ve reached a high and we ain’t going to lose it. And no bad album review is going to change that.”

As it turned out, Led Zeppelin had the last laugh.

Following their UK and European dates that year, they embarked on  a two-legged assault on America for which No Quarter was a further Houses addition to their live set.

Zeppelin opened their US tour by playing two mammoth dates. In Atlanta they drew 49,000 on 4 May  while the next day a staggering 56,800 packed into the Tampa Stadium in Florida. This gave them the distinction of attracting the largest audience ever for a single act performance, beating the previous record held by The Beatles for their 1965 Shea Stadium show.

At the same time, the album ascended to the top of the Billboard US chart for a two week reign sandwiched between Elvis’s Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite and The Beatles 1967-1970 compilation. The US tour was an enormous success and by taking on PR Danny Goldberg this time around, they made sure the world knew about it.

By pleasing themselves, Led Zeppelin may not have pleased the critics, but they certainly pleased their ever faithful following.

After the release of Houses Of The Holy more fans than any other act in the world wanted to see Led Zeppelin play live.  It was the moment they stopped being a mere rock band and turned into a global phenomenon.

The  album that cemented that success is still held in high regard by the ex band members and fans alike. “There was a lot of imagination on that record.  I prefer it to the fourth album,’’ Plant remarked a few years back while Jimmy Page reflects “You can hear the fun we were having on and you can also hear the dedication and commitment.’’

Whilst their fourth album had been all about economy with everything in the correct place, Led Zeppelin’s fifth album was less about being perfect and more about letting loose and having fun.

Houses Of The Holy retains that pure feel good factor and 40 years on, stands as a pivotal album in the development of Led Zeppelin’s artistic growth.


I will certainly feel good when I spin this album today, just as I felt good back in my Zep bedroom den 40 years ago.

And I’m sure  you will feel good too….in fact let us know how you feel about this album 40 years on.

Houses Of The Holy –  Happy 40th Anniversary…

Dave Lewis

March 28th 2013.

The you tube clip below is a fascinating tale of one of the two children photographed for the sleeve.

Stefan Gates, of BBC2’s Cooking In The Danger Zone, was just five when he and sister Sam were innocently snapped for the shoot on the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Stefan Gates recently recorded a BBC Radio 4 programme where he discussed his and his sisters role in the creation of the album sleeve . Questions were put to his mother regarding her reasons for allowing himself and his sister to be photographed naked as children for the album. He also meets Aubrey Powell, the photographer, from the famous graphic design team Hipgnosis. Finally, he makes an emotional journey back to the Giants Causeway to listen to the album for the first time.


DL Diary Update:

Many thanks again for all your kind comments regarding Janet’s mum Betty. Betty has remained in hospital undergoing tests for her heart problem. She has gained some strength in the past few days and we continue to hope she makes more progress ahead. In between the hospital visits more work has been going in on the Knebworth book here with Mick and I assessing the first few pages of design. Good to catch up with the reports and you tube clips of Robert’s tour ( keep your reports coming) – he is on very good form. Over the Easter weekend I’m hoping to catch up on some listening including the Studio Magik box etc…oh and a fair bit of Houses Of The Holy…more on that to follow


Until next time…

Keep listening, keep reading…

Dave Lewis/Gary Foy

March 28th , 2013.

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  • Dean said:

    HOTH was my first introduction to the wonder of Led Zeppelin as a 13 year old when it was released. A good friend played it to me and from the opening bars of TSRTS I was hooked and on my way to a lifelong love affair. I agree with some of the the Crunge comments as although I appreciate the pisstake it’s my least favourite LZ song. D’yer Mak’er however I absolutely love, for it’s fun, and Bonzo’s brilliant drumming. This is still one of my favourite LZ albums with so many classics, and the awesome live versions on HTWWW are such a joy.
    Talking about it reminds me how with little publicity and radio air play in Australia, Zep were introduced to growing legions of fans by word of mouth from friends and it was almost like being a part of some secret society.
    I was lucky enough to be in the 4th row at Robert Plant’s concert in Adelaide last week. Truly brilliant, my mates and I all had a great time. It was awesome to hear the LZ songs reworked and his voice is still so good.
    It’s been an especially great time being a LZ fan these past few months! Can’t wait to hear what Jimmy has in store for us later this year with the remasters.

  • Hunt Sidway said:

    Houses of the Holy was always the favorite Zeppelin album of my late friend, Charlie Quillen. Charlie was a consummate guitarist, a few years older than me, so about DL’s age, and he studied with Chet Atkins (!!!) for a while in his teens, then linked up with jazz legend Jimmy Raney (fabulously well known in Japan, not so much a household name in the USA, not sure how he fares in the UK) who was his mentor for a decade or more. To Charlie, HOTH was clean, bright, nimble, and very, very musical, in comparison to Physical Graffiti, which he felt was ponderous at times. He felt Jimmy’s playing was at his absolute best on this album, and the minimal guitar effects really highlighted Page’s deft skills. Houses’ production quality seemed to shimmer with an audio translucence, as opposed to the first four albums, which were dense somehow.

    Those impressions from my dear reposed friend always stayed with me, and I have a very special appreciation for this album due to his musical perspective.

    — Hunt

  • Larry said:

    Thanks for that Houses commentary Dave, absolutely great stuff. Your comments on how we listened to music back then, and the importance of the album covers, is so true. Can’t wait to pick up the Record Collector!

    I didn’t come to HOTH until 1975 after Physical Graffiti, which was the first Zep album I ever bought new. Maybe since their music was all so new and exciting to me at the time, I never had any reservations about the album, I loved all of it.

    The Crunge took me a little getting used to, but it was clear from the beginning…or maybe the end (“Where’s that confounded bridge?”), that this track was not to be taken too seriously. That said, the boys do a nice job laying down a mean groove!

    D’yer Mak’er…we incorrectly pronounced it “dire maker” here in the States, something that I imagine amused the band no end…but come on, piss-take or not, Bonham’s gargantuan drumming on this makes it one of the most distinctive of all the Zeppelin tracks, and it was always a favorite on rock radio here. Ditto Dancing Days, which is still one of my favorite Plant vocal performances, and a flat out rockin’ track.

    The rest of it…TSRTS, Rain Song, OTHAFA (one of their finest tracks), No Quarter and The Ocean…stacks up with anything on any of their other albums.

    As with any Zeppelin album, you can’t go wrong here and it’s stood the test of time.

  • Ian from France said:

    I wouldn’t change a note of HOTH. Which is why I’m not that thrilled to hear about possible reissues containing outtakes/alternate versions. To go into another world, the preparatory sketches for Van Gogh’s Sunflowers might be interesting – but you wouldn’t want them sellotaped over the original. Not even down the side of the frame. On display in a different room, maybe.

    And D’yer Mak’er is brilliant! Does anyone remember laughter?

  • andrew johnson said:

    I love Dyer Maker. I love the feel of the track and how it just glides along. Jimmy really does take a back seat here to Bonzo who ends up playing lead drums. The album was released going into a Nthn Hemishere spring/summer and if Dyer maker isnt music to dance around a bonfire to on a beach with a beer in one hand and a joint in the other then i dont know what is. Sure it didnt have the shimmering magic of Rain Song or the menace of No Quarter but hey it was still Led Zeppelin. My complaint if any with HOTH is why they buggerised around with Plants vocal on Song remains the Same. He ends up at times sounding somewhere between Barry Gibb and Donny Osmond! I have never understood it and never will

  • Andrew R said:

    I have to agree with the others above while HOTH is essential Zep, without The crunge and especially Dyermaker and with niteflight and down by the seaside added it might be the album of 73 not a certain floyd piece! Will still look forward, as always to your writing Dave.

  • Wolfgang Seidel said:

    Houses of the Holy, sandwiched between two absolutely masterworks, is their most playful album, sometimes a bit light, like “Dancin’ Days”, a bit weird like “The Crunge”, it includes their(in my humble opinion) worst song “D’yer Mak’er” and moments of brilliance “The Song Remains The Same”, “The Ocean”, “No Quarter”, “Rain Song”, and “Over The Hills And Far Away”. I think, without HOTH, they couldn’t make “Physical Graffity”, nevertheless, it is a bit in the shadow of the fourth album and “Physical Graffity”

  • Ian from France said:

    If you want to know what joy sounds like – Houses of the Holy.

  • Karl said:

    I vividly remember the release of HOTH 40 years ago. I was still at school and the school caretaker was a guy called Dennis Bird. Better known to people who knew him as Dickie Bird. Dickie ran a weekly music club in the local Liberal hall called “The Blues Club”. Memorable because you could not come in unless you had shoulder length hair (Seriously). In March 73 Dickie was in his element because he had acquired HOTH and was going to play it in its entirety. Vol 4 had come out in Nov 71 so that was still fresh in the memory and we all expected more of the same. You just could not picture the look on people’s faces when “The Crunge” came up. Abject horror is an vast understatement. “What is that fucking shit” people were saying. To make it worse, that was followed by Dancing Days and D’yer Mak’er. This was a knife in the heart from Led Zep. I was was raised on V1, V2 And V4. I don’t want fake reggae. Leave that to the pros from Jamaica. Poor Dickie was near suicidal until No Quarter kicked off. “Jesus Christ” he said “That’s more like it”. And yep, roll on 40 years and I still loath The Crunge and D’yer Mak’er. When I think of other songs they wrote at that time which were left off HOTH I wanna cry that two tracks out of eight ruined the HOTH experience for me. Led Zep may have been “having fun” but I certainly failed to see that.

  • Michael in Melbourne said:

    Congrats on the great article in Record Collector, Dave. By the joys of the internet, I’ve been able to buy an electronic copy with the RC app. Much better than waiting for nigh unto the 41st anniversary for the hard copy mag to reach Australia’s shores! I have closed my office. cranked up the stereo and really enjoyed reading your fine work while listening to HOTH. I look forward to reading more on the TBL website over the long weekend. Cheers, Michael

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