Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones released Led Zeppelin III 50 years ago today in the U.S., on October 5, 1970, with the U.K. and other countries following a few weeks later. The band’s third album in less than two years, it would top the charts in several countries – including the U.S. and the U.K. – on its way to selling more than 13 million copies worldwide. Beyond its overwhelming commercial success, the album also represented a turning point musically for Led Zeppelin as the group expanded its hard-hitting sound to embrace a wider range of styles on acoustic-based songs like “That’s The Way,” “Tangerine,” and “Bron-Y-Aur-Stomp.”
In celebration of the record’s 50th anniversary, the band will reissue the Japanese version of the album’s only single – “Immigrant Song” b/w the non-album track “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” – on 7” vinyl. Limited to 19,700 copies, it comes in a sleeve that replicates the original artwork. The single will be released on January 15, 2021 and can be pre-ordered at www.ledzeppelin.com
“Immigrant Song” was a Top 20 hit in the U.S. and has gone on to become one of the band’s most popular and enduring songs, currently ranking as their second most-streamed track worldwide. It’s also had an enduring impact on pop culture thanks to several memorable appearances in blockbuster motion pictures such as School Of Rock and, most recently, in Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok.
“Immigrant Song” and its lyrical references to Norse mythology were inspired by the band’s concert in Reykjavik, Iceland on June 22, 1970. Six days later, the song made its live debut in England at the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music. That fall, it would appear as the lead-off track on Led Zeppelin III.
Following the whirlwind success of the band’s first two albums and near constant touring, there was an initial rehearsal with Plant and Bonham where Page presented “Immigrant Song,” “Friends,” and what became “Out On The Tiles.” Page and Plant then took to the now famous Bron-Yr-Aur cottage in Wales in 1970 to have a musical sabbatical. The remote 18th-century cottage – which lacked electricity and running water – became home to “That’s The Way.”
Page and Plant later convened with Bonham and Jones for rehearsals before recording began in earnest that May with engineer Andy Johns. The band recorded the album in several locations, including London’s Olympic Studios and Island Studios. Following the recording sessions, Page, who produced the album, took the mixed master tapes to Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, to make the cut for vinyl. Fueled by classic tracks such as “Since I’ve Been Loving You,, “Out On The Tiles,” and “Celebration Day,” Led Zeppelin III has been certified 6x platinum in the U.S. alone while also achieving multi-platinum status in many other countries.
Beyond the music, the album is noteworthy for another reason; it’s innovative artwork. When it was originally released on vinyl, Led Zeppelin III came packaged in a gatefold sleeve, conceived by Page and designed by multi-media artist Zacron (aka Richard Drew), whom Page had met in the early 1960s when Drew was attending Kingston College of Art. For his design, Zacron created a surreal collection of images (planes, birds and butterflies) surrounding several cutout holes. Behind the cover, he placed a rotating disc (volvelle or wheel chart) that featured more images, including photos of all four band members. When the disc was turned by hand, different images would appear in the openings to create an interactive visual experience.
Led Zeppelin III
1. Immigrant Song
3. Celebration Day
4. Since I’ve Been Loving You
5. Out On The Tiles
1. Gallows Pole
3. That’s The Way
4. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
5. Hats Off To (Roy) Harper