Led Zeppelin One to Ten: A Fan's Ranking of Their First Ten Albums, 1969 - 1982

1.   Physical Graffiti 

1975; their sixth studio album, and first double-lp.  I was fourteen, and recorded Physical Graffiti off  KLOS (95.5 FM in Los Angeles) on their "Seventh Day" program, a feature each Sunday evening in which the radio station would play seven albums in their entirety, back to back.  I played that Memorex 120-minute cassette tape to death, before finally, when CDs became the latest rage, but weren't so absurdly expensive, finally legally acquired the music.   My favorite rocker off the album at the moment: "The Rover".  My favorite mystique-laden, moody, slower-build-up-ditty at the moment: "Ten Years Gone".  I also absolutely love "Down by the Seaside," and that steel-pedal, country vibe guitar work.  Does the apartment building photographed on the album cover seem vaguely familiar?  Could it be the very same building where Mick Jagger, six years later (1981) intoned the opening lines for the music video of ... "Waiting on a Friend"?   Affirmative!

2.        Presence 
1976; their seventh studio album (and least commercially successful).  But since it was so little played on radio, it still sounds fresh today.  My favorite rocker off it?  Well, it's damn difficult picking between "Achilles Last Stand" and "Nobody's Fault But Mine," so why not both?  Favorite mystique-laden, moody slow build up tune: "Tea For One."  A superb, forgotten song, that one.  Creepy album cover, if you know what you're looking at; and by "at" I mean that black thing -- "The Object" -- centerpiece on the table, the obelisk (and frankly, I don't see the similarity of the obelisk, besides it being black, to the monolith of 2001: A Space Odyssey, that it allegedly alludes to), that the "happy family" seem so pleased by in their spiffy threads.  The obelisk is an "occult object" used in seances and such.  What "presence" was Led Zeppelin perhaps, attempting to summon with that artwork, if not their music?  Satanic conspiracy theories, anyone?

3.  Houses of the Holy
Houses of the Holy
1973; their fifth studio album.  Another weird album cover I was warned about in Sunday school.  What's with the blond locked little girls with their bare derrieres climbing what look like some famous stone steppes of Ireland toward a glowing entity?  Is it Celtic mythology depicted?; a Druidical rite of passage taking place?; or is it ... demonic?  Dunno.  Favorite rocker: "The Song Remains the Same."  Favorite ultra mystique-laden slow builder: the mesmerizing "No Quarter".  Now that song sounds demonic, er, I mean, divine!

4.   Led Zeppelin III
Led Zeppelin III
1970; their, uh, (do I really need to state the obvious and say this was their...) third album?  Favorite rocker on a largely laid back acoustic album: "Out on the Tiles".  Favorite slow building acoustic song with steel guitars: "Tangerine".  Favorite acoustic song on the album sans steel guitars: "Gallows Pole".  I spent hours examining this cover to find all the faces and hidden messages and mythological allusions. 

5. In Through the Out Door
In Through the Out Door
1979; their eighth (and final) studio album (ninth album released overall).  Favorite ominous, spooky sounding rocker (with its gothic crescendo of an intro, reminiscent of the film, Suspiria's theme): "In The Evening".  Their best hybrid song mixing synthesizers and electric guitars (the epic): "Carouselambra".  Don't ask me how many different versions of the album cover exist.  I'm not that hardcore.  But I do know if you find the rarer covers, and they're in decent shape, you've got a gold mine on your hands.

6.     Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin 1
1969; their first, eponymous record.  Favorite rocker: "Good Times Bad Times."  You know, I've had my share!  Favorite slow builder; so hard to choose, but I think "How Many More Times" barely beats out "Your Time is Gonna Come."  This time, at least.  "Dazed and Confused" has grown mightily on me over the years.  Didn't really care for it, for whatever reasons, as a teen.

7.     The Song Remains the Same
Led Zeppelin: The Song Remains the SameThe Song Remains the Same [Vinyl]
1976; their first live double-lp (8th album released to date), the soundtrack to their surreal, concert documentary film, the concert footage shot in 1973 at Madison Square Gardens.  I like watching the movie more than I do listening to the soundtrack.  What a trip, those four dream sequence vignettes, each one featuring a member of the band, particularly Jimmy Page's cheesily concocted occultic red eyes staring at the jittery camera while he's ... doing God knows what! ... in an English glen beside a pond!  Can't get enough of the John Bonham footage too.  He died at 33!  I prefer his music legacy more than the legacies left behind by Hendrix, Morrison, Moon, Joplin, Phil Lynott, and even Bon Scott.  Hard rockers all; all OD'd.  I still don't understand the appeal of drinking thirty-something shots of (whatever it was) one right after the other, tempting the grave like that.  Love you, Bonzo!  Hope you've got some nice drum sticks in the sky!  But what a boozing bozo, Dude, to meet your death like that.

8.    Led Zeppelin IV
1971; untitled album, most popularly known as their fourth record (IV), but also known as "ZOSO" or "Runes" (see image above of the band member's "runes") among their fans.  I've heard the rockers on this record so many millions of times that I can't say I really have a favorite anymore.  "Black Dog," hey hey mama, probably.  The only song left on this one that still amps me up, makes me go off in my ride (assuming I'm alone, say, commuting back and forth from work) with my invisible, imaginary drum sticks, no surprise, "Stairway to Heaven".  I've heard it played backwards on reel-to-reel tape too.  And there is something there, no joke. One song on side Two, now that I consider it, still intrigues me also: "Four Sticks". 

9.    Led Zeppelin II
Led Zeppelin II
1969; the album that bumped "Abbey Road" from Billboard's #1 album position in November, and that announced loudly to the dawning 1970s, "Hard rock is here!"  I love the Tolkien imagery and allusions of "Ramble On," but my favorite slower song on the album, bar none, has to be the beautiful, "Thank You."  No, Led Zeppelin, "thank you!".  My favorite rocker is "Bring it On Home," with that opening harmonica and Robert Plant mimicking (he, a white Brit) a black American blues singer, before abruptly flooring the gas pedal with those drums ... that guitar ... I didn't get, as a teenager, that Robert Plant was, well, hopefully it's only adults here (there's nobody here, Enrique, don't worry about it), having a recorded orgasm (allegedly) during the psychedelic-sonics of the interlude to "Whole Lotta Love".

10.         Coda
1982; ah, the end ... an album of previously unreleased outtakes, with an exceptional retrospective photo-spread of the band mates covering their entire twelve year history included inside.  There's nothing really classic here, but what a healing salve this short, eight song compilation (only thirty-two minutes playing time; short by Zeppelin standards) covering music recorded 1969-1978, was for fans who thought, with Bonham's death, they'd never hear "new" Led Zeppelin music again.  Notice also the upside-down cross on the cover (can you see it?)  Those dastardly musicians!  My favorite on the record is "Poor Tom".

For more on the band, read my review/gushing fan piece, on Stephen R. Davis', Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga ... right here.

Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga

And what would a Zeppelin piece be without at least a mention of their Swan Song record label and cool angelically asexual logo?!  I wore my Swan Song logo T-shirt with pride, New-Wavers with their trendy spiked haircuts be damned!

Official Led Zeppelin YouTube Video Channel.


  1. Yay! I have "Hammer" on the way right now. Good grief! Is that a Led Zep Onesie?

  2. Oh you're in for a treat Tani! Fascinating rock-bio. Yep, that's a Led Zep Onesie. How cool is that?

  3. They also have some of the best album covers of all time, thanks to their collaboration with the great design firm of Hipgnosis (who also, of course, did so many great Pink Floyd covers as well).

    Cool piece, Brent--makes me want to load up some more Zep on the iPod and play it really, really loud. (And, if there were a time machine and I could go back forty years, smoke some dope, too... :-)

  4. Thanks for that Hipgnosis link! I had no clue about that; and learned that the Houses of the Holy cover was conceived via Clarke's Childhood End.

    Yes, do put more Zep on the iPod and make your ears bleed. Ahhh ... to be young and wasted again ...


Post a Comment