So far in this series, I haven’t actually had the pleasure of writing about a legitimately great album… until now. So this very well might be an altogether forgettable post with zero insight and zero things to be said that haven’t already been said about an album for which much has been said. If not, hurray!
Album: Led Zeppelin II
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Release Date: October 22, 1969
Copies Sold In The U.S.: 12 Million
Why Was This Popular?
Because America Loves Prophetic Hard Rock
If we’re talking about the excess-driven juggernaut that hard rock and heavy metal became in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Led Zeppelin II is more or less ground zero. Sure, The Who and Jimi Hendrix and Cream and other ’60s bands of the like had taken rock music into new earsplitting realms of cacophonous drums and wailing guitar solos. But Zeppelin II is where rock went from something that revolved around a bunch of stoned moptops jamming away in crowded clubs, to something that revolved around a bunch of longhaired Golden Gods, whose thirst for power could only be quenched by staring out in to a sea of Stadium-goers, and saying “I created you, and I will destroy you… WITH ROCK!!!”
Ok, so maybe that wasn’t Led Zeppelin’s intent, but I just wanted to point out that as great as Zeppelin were, they were basically responsible for turning rock music into something kinda ridiculous. This ridiculousness has probably factored into Zeppelin II’s album sales more than a little bit, since so many cheesy bands can draw their lineage back to this album. I reckon for every teenager that ever got into Quiet Riot or Ratt in the eighties, there was most likely a record store clerk or older brother waiting in the wings with a copy of Zeppelin II and armed with the phrase, “If you think that rocks, then check this shit out.”
Also, getting back to the Golden God persona that Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin basically invented, I think this was something that audiences were more than ready for by the early ‘70s. Zeppelin II after all came out only a few months after Woodstock, an event that proved rock music could be this communal, almost religious experience. Then here comes a band with a gloriously heavy sound that was perfectly equipped for turning stadiums in to cathedrals. And I think it’s that kind of mythic status that has continued to feed the band’s legacy (and its record sales) over the years.
Did It Deserve To Be Popular?
You know, as much as Zeppelin II is responsible for giving birth to the David Coverdale’s and the Kip Winger’s of the world, it’s hard to hear any of that baggage when listening to this album. I mean whenever you get to hear a bunch of musicians capturing lighting in a bottle on record, it’s always gonna be pretty captivating to listen to—regardless of the aftereffects. Though as much of a pound-for-pound classic that Zeppelin II is, it is a bit surprising that it was supposedly recorded in a fairly scattershot manner, with tracks being laid down in a bunch of different studios all over the U.S. and Britain while the band was touring extensively. Which you’d think would give the album an unfocused feel, but it’s quite the opposite. Instead the band sounds like it has officially solidified into one cohesive unit, all while rallying around Jimmy Page’s monolithic guitar riffs.
And on top of that, Zep II has a replayability factor compared to say Led Zeppelin IV, since apart from “Whole Lotta Love”, it’s not quite stacked with classic rock radio staples that you’re probably sick of. Instead, it’s filled with Zeppelin songs that you’ve probably heard quite a bit, like “Ramble On” or “Heartbreaker”, but have never quite worn out their welcome. This is a big reason why II has always been my favorite Led Zeppelin album, since I got kind of burned out on the band after they managed to infiltrate my life around the age of 15 or 16.
Would I Pay Money For This?
Yes, and I already have. Which leads me to another reason why it’s my favorite Zeppelin album, and that’s the fact that this was the first album of theirs I ever bought. Well, apart from an ill-advised greatest hits collection, to which my only excuse is that I was young and the CD had a sweet astronaut-themed cover. Also, if my memory serves me correctly, this and The Who’s Quadrophenia were the first albums I ever bought on vinyl. Good times.
Next Time On The People’s Albums: I try to figure out when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em as I take a gamble on Kenny Roger’s Greatest Hits.