ledzeppivRelease date: November 8, 1971

Credits: Robert Plant (vocals); Jimmy Page (Guitar); John Paul Jones (Keyboard); John Bonham (drums)

Backstory: When Plant, Page, Jones and Bonham went into the studio in 1970 to record their fourth album, they were sick of hearing that the popularity and success of their band was based on some gimmick, rather than their creativity and imagination. (Rolling Stone had famously called Page’s writing skills “weak and unimaginative” in their review of Zeppelin I.) “It was designed as our response to the music critics who maintained that the success of our first three albums was driven by hype and not talent,” Page said in 2001. “So we stripped everything away, and let the music do the talking.” The result was simple cover art devoid of their faces, their names, or even a title. Instead, eight songs that fused the hard rock, folk, and blues with Plant’s newfound obsession with mythology, religion and the occult spoke for the band, and became one of the greatest albums of rock and roll history.

Stairway to Overexposure: Before it was a punch line for Wayne’s World, “Stairway to Heaven” was one of the most dramatic and original songs to come out of rock and roll—but it’s popularity would turn on it by the end of the decade. “In a way the song has been a victim of its startling originality and intense emotion,” music critic Neil McCormick wrote in 2014. “Overplayed on rock radio, badly imitated by legions of lesser bands and worn out by ham fisted buskers. But clear your mind of cliché by association and it’s still a mind-blowing piece of music.”

Four Symbols: While the band had a good reason to leave this album untitled (and the names of their previous albums, I, II, and III, made IV the obvious moniker) the four symbolic runes on the back cover gave the name another alternate title—and fodder for their squadrons of stoner fans. “[Paige] showed us The Book of Signs,” Jones later recalled, referring to a 1930 German text that traced Christian and pre-Christian designs. “And said we should each choose a symbol. So [Bonham] and I did this, though later we discovered Jimmy and Robert had their symbols specially designed, which was typical.”

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