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24 February 2012 6,454 views 5 Comments

37 years ago today February 24th 1975 Led Zeppelin’s sixth album Physical Graffiti was unleashed on an eagerly awaiting Zep public. This 15 track double album stands for many as their premier recorded statement. Over three decades on, it remains the perfect one stop summary of every ingredient that makes Led Zeppelin THE outstanding rock band of yesterday… of today and tomorrow…

I vividly remember the pure excitement of investing in the new Led Zeppelin album that day 37 years ago. Feasting my eyes on that incredible sleeve, and the first drop of the needle on that magnificent Swan Song emblazoned vinyl.

I am sure I won’t be the only one who will be placing this double album top of their playlist over this weekend

You can hear some exclusive work in progress musical sketches of Ten Years Gone,Sick Again and Wanton Song on the On This Day feature on  the Jimmy Page web site today (Friday)

To celebrate this anniversary, we present a special TBL Archive Extract over the next few days – this offers some background to the album’s recording, a look at the creative process involved in the making of the album and some retro reviews that recreates the high regard that Physical Graffiti was held in when it first appeared.

The NME journalist Nick Kent in his review of the album famously described the band at the time as the ‘’Quintessential doyens of the kamikaze dissbuster game.’’

Put more simply Led Zeppelin in 1975 were pretty good!

Now read on….

First to backtrack: the background to the construction of the record:

For this inaugural Swan Song release, Led Zeppelin finally succumbed to the double album format. A combination of new material recorded early in 1974 at Headley Grange, coupled with a summary of strong material from previous sessions, made up the contents of this blockbuster release.

After the hugely successful 1973 American tour, Led Zeppelin unwound, did some home movie work for their film, and took their time approaching their next recording sessions. It wasn’t until November that they returned to Headley Grange with Ronnie Lane’s mobile studio for location recording, but the sessions came to a halt fairly quickly and the time was given over to Bad Company, also managed by Peter Grant. At the time the reason given was that John Paul Jones was ill, but it later emerged that Jones had wanted to quit the band as he was fed up with touring. He even suggested – somewhat tongue-in-cheek – that he’s been offered a position as choirmaster at Winchester Cathedral. Peter Grant urged caution, suggesting that Jones was overwrought from the incessant touring and should take a rest from Zeppelin for a few weeks. Jones changed his mind and sessions resumed at Headley Grange after the Christmas holidays.

Once re-united, it was a case of pooling ideas. Mostly what they had were, as Robert later described them, ‘the belters’. “We got eight tracks off,” he explained in the spring of 1974, “and a lot of them are really raunchy. We did some real belters with live vocals, off-the-wall stuff that turned out really nice.”

Similar to the sessions for the previous two albums, the location recording technique gave them ample time to develop material along the way. Plant again: “Some of the tracks we assembled in our own fashioned way of running through a track and realising before we knew it that we had stumbled on something completely different.” Jimmy had also worked out various musical sketches at his Plumpton home studio before hand to bring in and record.

Those eight tracks, engineered by Ron Nevison, extended beyond the length of a conventional album and this prompted them to construct a double set. This was achieved by reassessing the material recorded for earlier albums, from which seven further tracks were added. The whole package was mixed down by the late Keith Harwood at Olympic, and released as Physical Graffiti in 1975. It was a massive outpouring of Zeppelin music that proved to be the definitive summary of their studio work.

The sleeve design is one of their most elaborate. The front cover depicts a New York tenement block (actual location: 96 St. Marks, NYC), through which interchanging window illustrations reveal such candid shots as the group dressed in drag, and Bonzo in tights for the Roy Harper St. Valentines Day gig.

The title Physical Graffiti was coined by Jimmy Page to illustrate the whole physical and written energy that had gone into producing the set. The release date was timed to coincide with their 1975 tour campaign which commenced in America in January. Minor delays kept it from appearing until late February. When it did appear the demand was staggering.

Physical Graffiti made what had by now become Led Zeppelin’s customary entry at number one on the UK chart, while America just went Graffiti mad. It entered every US chart at number three, then a record for a new entry, before lodging itself at the top for six weeks. Even more remarkable was the fact all five previous Zepp albums returned to the Billboard chart. No other rock act had ever been so well represented.

It had been two years since their last album, but the waiting had been worth it. Led Zeppelin had delivered. It still stands as their finest recorded achievement. Given the luxury of the double format, Physical Graffiti mirrors every facet of the Zeppelin repertoire. The end result is a finely balanced embarrassment of riches. Through light and shade, from a whisper to a scream, this one has it all.



On Tuesday February 28th at 8.30pm Letz Zep vocalist BillyKulke will be making a special appearance at popular live musicvenue, the Charlie Butler pub in Mortlake, to cut a ribbon revealing a remarkable new artwork. Crispin Mallett, the music-mad landlord of the CharlieButler, loves rock and Led Zeppelin in particular, and he came up with the ideaof decorating one of the walls of the pub with a mural of the cover sleeve ofthe 1979 Zeppelin album In Through the Out Door.

Crispin invited local artist Stuart Webb to paint the picture and those who have had a sneak preview report that it is a superb reproduction of the original album cover. Stuart, who has been hard at work on the painting for the last couple of weeks,commented: “Album covers of this era were an art form in their own right and Zeppelin produced some wonderful examples. In Through the Out Door has been a truly inspiring project to work on. The central character is the focal point the room and the use of sepia photography with a colour swathe is awesome.”

Join Billy, Stuart,the regulars and Zeppelin fans from all over London to see the mural unveiled at 8.30pm.

The Charlie Butler

40 High Street,


London SW14 8HR


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)


  • crispin mallett said:

    The pub has now been demolished following a decision by the National Planning Appeal centre in Bristol, overruling local appeals because it felt London needed multi-million pound flats. Why do National and London Authorities hate pubs and music? The pub was sold in a very dodgy deal as well

  • RichardG said:

    I’d say PG is their pinnacle…just the range of styles that set them apart from everyone else. Too many highlights to choose, but how about the swagger of The Rover, the unparalleled drumming in IMTOD, the incessant majesty of Kashmir, the tenderness of Ten Years Gone, the explosive Wanton Song…? It never stops surprising, even after 37 years.

    We went to New York for out honeymoon in 2006 and I dragged my wife of 5 days to St Mark’s Place to “recreate” our own version of the cover…

    And assembled from “offcuts” that didn’t fit in other places…incredible. To paraphrase Robert, “It’s not that we knew we were the best, it’s just that we were so far ahead of whoever was number two…” Amen to that!

    Play loudly!

  • Steve said:

    Without doubt Physical Graffiti is Zeps best Album, or is it Houses or Zep 2 or maybe 3 …

  • Simon Cadman said:

    The ‘sketches’ have got to be among the most valuable treasures Jimmy has chosen to share with us from deepest of his archive vaults. I could hardly believe my ears. What a way to celebrate the PG release anniversary. Truly amazing stuff. Don’t know if you ever read these comments, Mr Page, but a massive thank you!

  • Mark Harrison said:

    Oh my word what memories! I vividly recall rushing into the local branch of the now sadly defunct “Woolworth’s” to buy this masterpiece. Just the cover kept me absorbed for hours but the music itself was just…. well you know the rest! Exciting times what with “Earls Court” soon to come!
    All the Best!

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