Tag Archives: Physical Graffiti

Physical Graffiti

Physical GraffittiPhysical Graffiti is the sixth studio album by the British rock band, Led Zeppelin.

Without a doubt it is my favorite and shows a depth and diversity of this historic rock band not reached by any of the previous releases. Physical Graffiti was Led Zeppelin’s true coming of age and a masterpiece of rock that still stands today.

It released on February 24, 1975, a full two years after the previous album, Houses of the Holy. The long hiatus from recording was to give bassist John Paul Jones some time off from touring. Had circumstances been a bit different at the time, JPJ could’ve ended up choirmaster at Winchester Cathedral.

After the time off he returned to the band ready to record.

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Jones reflects on this period:

I didn’t want to harm the group, but I didn’t want my family to fall apart either. We toured a huge amount in those early days. We were all very tired and under pressure and it just came to a head. When I first joined the band, I didn’t think it would go on for that long, two or three years perhaps, and then I’d carry on with my career as a musician and doing movie music.

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The band returned to Headley Grange in January of ’74 and laid down eight tracks in short order.

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Robert Plant talks about these tracks:

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.

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Because the eight tracks extended beyond the length of a conventional album, it was decided to include several unreleased songs which had been recorded during the sessions for previous Led Zeppelin albums. The instrumental “Bron-Yr-Aur” was recorded in July 1970 at Island Studios, London, for Led Zeppelin III. It was named after Bron-Yr-Aur, a cottage in Gwynedd, Wales where the members of Led Zeppelin spent time during the recording of Led Zeppelin III. “Night Flight” and “Boogie with Stu” were recorded at Headley Grange and “Down by the Seaside” at Island Studios, all for Led Zeppelin IV. “The Rover” and “Black Country Woman” were recorded at the same sessions as “D’yer Mak’er” at Stargroves using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio in May 1972. “Houses of the Holy” was also recorded in May 1972, but at Olympic Studios. The group’s fifth album,Houses of the Holy, took its title from this song despite the decision not to include the song on that album.

 

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Jimmy Page explains:

We had more material than the required 40-odd minutes for one album. We had enough material for one and a half LPs, so we figured let’s put out a double and use some of the material we had done previously but never released. It seemed like a good time to do that sort of thing, release tracks like “Boogie With Stu” which we normally wouldn’t be able to do… This time we figured it was better to stretch out than to leave off.

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Within two weeks of release Physical Graffiti was at the top of the US Billboard chart. It is 16x Platinum in the United States.

By comparison, Led Zeppelin’s next album, Presence was a commercial failure at 3x Platinum and a peak at #1 for two weeks on the U.S. Charts after which it was quickly replaced by The Rolling Stones, Black and Blue.

It’s hard to fathom a “two week, #1 album” as a failure but Physical Graffiti set the bar very high for Zeppelin.

At 37 years old Graffiti stands the test of time and still gets play in this old rock and roller’s music machine.

The album cover is a photographic image of #96 & #98 St. Mark’s place in Manhattan’s East Village.

Rock and Roll Saturday – “Physical Graffitti”

For this week I figured I had to pick a Led Zeppelin album. And frankly, that’s a pretty tough choice. “Led Zeppelin I” was nothing short of a rock masterpiece the minute it left the press. Zeppelin established themselves as a hard rock band with it’s roots in the blues. Page and Plant breathed new life into Willie Dixon’s You Shook Me and I Can’t Quit You Baby. I loved it the first time I gave it a spin. Between Dazed and Confused and Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, I was hooked on Zeppelin from day one.

I Can’t Quit You, Baby, so I’m gonna put you down for awhile.
Said you messed up my happy home, Made me mistreat my only child.
— Led Zeppelin I

And then to follow that up with LZ II, which included the band’s first #1 single, Whole Lotta Love. This is the song that really introduced the masses to Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones. Me… I was already a fan. With the hard driving Livin’ Lovin’ Maid, the soft ballad Thank You, and the closing trio on side two, Ramble OnMoby Dick, and Bring It on Home, Led Zeppelin II solidly set the band in the stratosphere of rock.

With a purple umbrella and a fifty cent hat,
Livin’, lovin’, she’s just a woman.
Missus cool rides out in her aged Cadillac.
Livin’, lovin’, she’s just a woman.
— Led Zeppelin II

LZ III came along to mixed reviews as the band drifted more towards a rockzy, folkzy, acousticy sound which largely failed to resonate with fans and critics worldwide. Other than the Immigrant Song and Gallows Pole, this piece of vinyl was lost in mediocrity .

Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while,
Think I see my friends coming, Riding a many mile.
Friends, did you get some silver?
Did you get a little gold?
What did you bring me, my dear friends,
To keep me from the Gallows Pole?
What did you bring me to keep me from the Gallows Pole?
— Led Zeppelin III

The fourth album, LZ IV saw a return to the band’s rock and blues roots that got them to the top of the heap in the first place. Stairway to Heaven is listed globally as one of the greatest rock songs ever, and that’s saying something. As good as Stairway was it was surrounded by some top notch rock on both sides of the platter that could stand on it’s on. Aside from Stairway one of my favorites on the album is the old Memphis Minnie, When The Levee Breaks. Add to that, Black Dog, Battle for Evermore, and Misty Mountain Hop, and you’ve got some of Zeppelin’s best music.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul.
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold.
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last.
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll.
— Led Zeppelin IV

Which bring us to Houses of the Holy. (LZ V)

Although a commercial success, HOTH launched to mixed reviews. If I was ranking the bottom of the Zeppelin gene pool it would be a close second between LZ III and HOTH for the cellar dweller. (That’s without considering albums 7, 8, & 9) This album was the first release that featured all Zeppelin original material and I think suffered from over-production. D’yer Mak’er was the bright spot from the recording session.

Where’s that confounded bridge?
— Robert Plant (The Crunge)

My album pick for Led Zeppelin this week is… Physical Graffitti. (Actually that’s not really true because I just can’t pick a favorite so I sort of  highlighted them all, including the lesser of the bunch.) This two album set was Zeppelin’s sixth studio album. In my ever so humble opinion, I think this was Led Zeppelin truly coming of age.

The recording sessions for Physical Graffiti initially took place in November 1973 at Headley Grange in East Hampshire, England. The album was an extremely commercial success going 16x platinum. I wore out two complete vinyls. I can tell you as I have been sitting here writing this, I’ve tripped back down memory lane with PG in the headphones. I don’t think there’s a bad cut from start to finish. The song writing is pure Zeppelin. Page’s guitar never sounded better, and the production was not overblown. If I had the put two words together to describe Physical Graffiti it would be UNDERSTATED FINESSE.

Some of my favorites from this twin-vinyl are of course Kashmir, Ten Years Gone, Trampled Under Foot, In My Time of Dying, The Wanton Song, and the marvelous solo instrumental by Jimmy Page , Bron-Yr-Aur.

I’m never gonna leave you. I never gonna leave
Holdin’ on, ten years gone
Ten years gone, holdin’ on, ten years gone
— Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYpydtdlWxA]

I could keep on going with Presence from 1976, In Through the Out Door ’79, and their last album Coda in 1982, the ninth and final studio album, two years after the untimely death of drummer John Bonham. None of these ever reached the heights of the previous six.

“Coda was released, basically, because there was so
much bootleg stuff out. We thought, “Well, if there’s
that much interest, then we may as well put the rest
of our studio stuff out”.
— Jimmy Page