1) It is the first Led Zeppelin album to be released without a proper title. The album is represented by four symbols that have been misinterpreted, tattooed, and written on notebooks, Pee-Chee folders, and school desks for generations of youth. The album has a number of unofficial titles, including Led Zeppelin IV, Zoso, Zofo, Runes, and Four Symbols (Peru simply released it as The New Led Zeppelin Album.) Since there is no actual title, I choose to call it (untitled 4th album), since that’s what it is and I know exactly what I’m referring to.
2) Each of the four symbols are said to represent each member of the group. Robert Plant, being the lofty vocalist who once wore jeans that did not hide his breathing patterns, was represented by a feather within a circle. Awwwww. The complex funky drums of John Bonham was represented by three circles, which were chosen for different reasons but I like to think it represents the fact that his one bass drum and wicked foot sounded like his drum kit had three bass drums. That would called a flashback to my assumption, feel free to share your own.
Regardless of what the symbols actually meant or represented for each member, it seemed to help give the group identities in an unexpected way. The group were not teen sensations by any means, but the mystery of each symbol made it possible for listeners to come up with their own associations. John Paul Jones‘ symbol might be a way to describe his complex bass playing, while Jimmy Page‘s could be Satanic, a viking something or other, or absolutely nothing. Some may not have known or cared about the members until they were represented with a “symbol”, but for the last 40 years we can look at the four symbols and say “oh, that’s Jimmy, John, Bonzo, and Robert” in that order, placing it alongside “John, Paul, George & Ringo”.
3) The album would feature vocalist Sandy Denny in “The Battle Of Evermore”, becoming the first and only non-LZ member to appear on an album throughout the band’s entire discography. Denny, better known as a vocalist for Fairport Convention, was 24 when she did the vocals with the group. Just as Billy Preston will forever be known as “the fifth Beatle”, Denny was credited on the album with her own unique symbol as well, three triangles that is said to represent pyramids.
She would die seven years later of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 31.
4) The band specifically did not want to give the album a title, nor did they want anything on the cover to identify it as being a “Led Zeppelin” item. Atlantic Records thought the band was nuts, either Jimmy Page was consuming too much demon dust or he was confident enough to understand the popularity of the group and take a risk to say that their music could be represented by symbols and imagery. Atlantic felt there had to be one way to show it was a Led Zeppelin record, so they compromised. On the record itself, the record label is the only place on the entire album where you see the words “Led Zeppelin” printed.
Their name was not printed anywhere on the cover, including the spine. In fact the spine lacks any type of identification, including label name and catalog #. Outside of knowing how the cover looked beforehand, the only way you could identify it as Led Zeppelin was their name on the sticker placed on the cellophane.
The UK and US were the band’s primary markets, so Atlantic in both countries granted the compromise. However, that did not stop other Atlantic divisions in other countries to place the words “Led Zeppelin” on the spine or cover, or in some instances, calling it Led Zeppelin IV, done so since their second and third albums were called Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin III. It also didn’t stop Atlantic from printing their name on other formats for the album, so if you purchased the cassette, reel-to-reel, and a decade later on compact disc, you would see their name on places other than the label:
5) It was the first Led Zeppelin album to have a lyric sheet, although in this case it was only just for “Stairway To Heaven”, so that added immediate emphasis on that song. Was it special? Like the lyrics indicated, did the song also have two meanings? The song was the band’s double rainbow, because everyone continues to ask what the song really means? People thought the song was a disgrace, if not blasphemous, because they were a hard rock/”acid rock” band singing about something with spiritual and religious references, which you did not do. If people used to think John Lennon‘s suggestion that his group were treated as if they were more popular than Jesus Christ was a means for a public burning, one can only imagine what the moral majority thought about a bunch of savage, British long hairs, who were open about having sex, drinking, and “loving the blues” (which was a “savage endorsement” for anything that was black), singing about going to heaven looking as they did.
In the entire song, the word “heaven” is only mentioned three times: the beginning, a verse long before the drums kick in, and the ending. Yet people feared this song as if it was the coming of the apocalypse. Was it the piper calling everyone to join him, and if so, who was the piper? Satan? It sounds funny, as if it was some Saturday Night Live Church Lady skit, but it was these people who later felt that by backmasking, the technique of playing the record backwards, you would be able to detect the song’s true “double meaning”. If you do so, there’s a part of the song which sounds like Plant is singing “here’s to my sweet Satan/the one who’ll lead the path, who makes me ad, whose power is Satan”. WHOA! THIS ALBUM AND BAND ARE DEMONIC!!!
The song would become the one song out of many that would help define the group permanently. In many articles throughout the years, “Stairway To Heaven” is defined as the song that explains the power and majesty of their sound in under 8 minutes, from the gentle and delicate ways of the singing and acoustic guitar, to the introduction of the rhythm section, to the moment when Page creates “the parting of the skies” with the pathway towards his guitar solo, and then that guitar kicks in and vacuums everyone into the sky before Bonham pulls everyone in with one serious pull with his flourishes, the brief calming heard with Plant singing brief harmonies which leads us to the climax of Page’s solo, which then leads us to the inevitable walk down the road where we eventually see the lady we all know whose brightness keeps us looking before she tells us how everything still turn to gold, and some how if we all listen very hard, the truth will come to us at last. WHAT?!??!?! You’re listening with open ears and open eyes, and then the revelation comes in: “when are are one and one is all/to be a rock and not to roll!” Now everyone is climaxing on each other, everyone is touching each others skin for the first time, and then the afterglow allows the listener to finally settle down. What can one possibly do next? In the old days, you would clean your afterglow off and go on a “Misty Mountain Hop”, where you talk about walking in the park the other day and what do you, what do you think you saw? The lady? Who knows, but then again, you know how it is, right?
Despite its popularity, the song was never officially released as a single. In fact, Led Zeppelin insisted that none of their songs were to be released as singles, since they didn’t need it. Singles were a representation of “pop success”, and they were what you would call an “album oriented” band, a group that sold on the power of their albums. Atlantic UK did not release any LZ singles, but the U.S. market did have singles. In different articles over the years, Page and Plant would say they were a bit angry by Atlantic in the U.S. trying to push them as a “singles band”, and yet they continued to this throughout the group’s existence until Bonham’s death. Atlantic did press up a promotional, radio-only 45rpm single with “Stairway To Heaven”, compressing the song’s 7:55 length onto one side of a little record. 7″ 45rpm singles sound good up until a point, the general rule by pressing plants is that a song should be 3 minutes and 30 seconds or less for optimum quality (if you collect ska/reggae/dancehall records, many artists and producers obeyed that pressing plant golden rule). The moment you go over 3:30, quality suffers due to a need to compress the sound in order for it to fit it on one side of a 45. 4:00 to 4:30 is okay, 5:00 to 5:30 is pushing it, but an 8 minute song? It’s laughable to think that there were radio stations who used that promo 45 as the only way to play “Stairway To Heaven”, and with that kind of compression, one false touch and the record could have a skip/scratch that would lead to record replacement.
As for the public, they did not have a choice. “Stairway To Heaven” was played on FM radio constantly, and since there was no U.S. 45 released for it, fans had to buy the album in order to have the song at home. It has been said that the (untitled 4th album) was purchased at a rate similar to buying a 45, which helped it not only climb the charts, but helped to keep that album selling for years and now decades. (When the Philippines released it as a 45, it was separated as Part I and Part II. Not sure how radio stations are programmed there, but there may be a small population of Filipino LZ fans who may have never heard Part II.)
The (untitled 4th album) finally broke the band into pop territory without them making that effort, there was not a deliberate effort for the group to be teen sensations (other than to whatever young groupies were showing up backstage after a show). It was because of this that fans realized: there are seven other songs on this album. At a time when record buyers “obeyed the ritual” of listening to an album in full, fans discovered the band’s musical diversity, which lead to some buying the band’s previous three albums if they didn’t do so, and perhaps sticking around for future releases. It was with this album that Led Zeppelin became mega superstars, and that would stay that way until the end, for better or worse.
If there’s one Led Zeppelin album you’ll find at yard and garage sales, thrift store and charity shops, and of course used record stores, it’ll be this one.
6) “Stairway To Heaven” would become the band’s metaphorical holy grail, it was the song you chose to understand but never meddled with it. You dare not be any other band and cover it, even though many would, with terrible results. In pop culture, it was put to the test in Cameron Crowe‘s Fast Times At Ridgemont when Side One of the album was part of the Mike Damone 5-point plan in insuring a great make out session. However, when that plan was used by Rat when he went on his date with Stacy Hamilton, you heard “Kashmir”. For years I assumed it was because Rat was a dork and simply bought the wrong tape, but Crowe revealed that Atlantic Records did not grant them permission to use anything from (untitled 4th album), so “Kashmir” from Physical Graffiti was used instead. Rapper and deep music fan Rusty Redenbacher states that some probably assumed it was an intentional mistake, but it was not, and that using “Kashmir” was better for dramatic effect than anything on the (untitled 4th album). While that can be argued, Crowe did eventually get to use more Led Zeppelin songs in his 2000 film Almost Famous. with one scene shot with “Stairway To Heaven” in mind. Page and Atlantic ended up not granting Crowe permission to use the song, but the scene was used (sans-”Stairway”) on an extended version of the film released on DVD as Almost Famous: Untitled. The viewer was given instructions on when to play “Stairway To Heaven” during that specific scene. The DVD of Almost Famous: Untitled was packaged to look like an old bootleg record. The same can be said for the vinyl pressing of the movie’s soundtrack, complete with ringwear and a photo that looks very similar to Led Zeppelin’s arrival in Honolulu with the band holding multitrack tape boxes for what would become Led Zeppelin II. The Untitled subtitle for the director’s cut DVD and the vinyl soundtrack is a reference to the (untitled 4th album).
Actor Mike Myers would use it in the Wayne’s World film as his Wayne character and Tia Carrere‘s character, Cassandra Wong, would walk into a music store, attempt to play a certain guitar melody which lead to the cashier telling them to look at the sign and obey the unspoken golden rule. Music store employees rejoiced.
7) Of course, this album is much more than just the “Heaven” song. The album begins with the sound of what sounds like someone starting up the tape machine, and Page and Jones tuning up and checking their strings before the song begins. Led Zeppelin would have a reputation for starting out their albums with incredible songs with maximum impact, and “Black Dog” is a perfect example of this.
Because of its popularity among fans and radio DJ’s, it became one of three songs that helped represent the album, the other being “Rock’N’Roll”. Anyone who has listened to their music or read articles and books about them know how much their influences played a role in what they recorded, written, and played. Plant had a huge fascination with American rock’n’roll from the 1950′s, and “Rock’N’Roll definitely played on his love of Elvis Presley, which he would also do in the live version of “Whole Lotta Love” on The Song Remains The Same when he had to “shake it one time” for him. In the band’s live bootleg album legacy, Plant and the band would make it a regular practice to honor Presley and other 50′s songs with full on medleys, often done within the context of “Whole Lotta Love”. Whatever came to Plant’s mind at the time is what they ended up playing, which is the same process they’d use in the studio. That process ended up with great songs, but it also lead to eventual litigation as singers, songwriters, and musicians who heard their own songs on Led Zeppelin’s wondered about the lack of songwriting and publishing credits. But for “Rock’N’Roll”, it was pure admiration and homage to their childhood fantasies, and over the years its frequent time on the radio makes it feel as if it gets more airplay than “Black Dog”.
The folk qualities of “The Battle Of Evermore” may have some as a surprise, if not a shock, to those who loved the band’s vibrant electricity, but it was a way to calm the listener down a bit, at least in theory, as it was something they did in concert, especially when they started to incorpirate acoustic material with Led Zeppelin III. The mammoth attack of “Stairway To Heaven” would lead to listeners flipping the record over and becoming playful with the happy “Misty Mountain Hop”, and what exactly was this bop, perhaps discovered once the listener went over the hill? As Plant may have hinted, he really didn’t know.
I remember as a kid hearing “Four Sticks” and wondering if it referred to Bonham’s drum sticks, since the song had a cool rhythm to it and it sounded fuller than someone who normally played with the regular two sticks. (The Wikipedia entry for “Four Sticks” reveals that Bonham did indeed play the song with two pairs of drumsticks, or “four sticks”, thus the song title.) The song starts out with a 5/8 time signature, moves into 3/4 (or a 6/8) briefly before bouncing back into 5/4, then back to 3/4. Page eventually introduces a moody guitar solo/passage which keeps the song at 3/4 for a bit before the band move back to the 5/4 and 3/4 thing. I always thought that was cool, since the standard pop/rock song would always be in 4/4, and maybe a 3/4 just to be adventurous. To go back and forth like that with time signatures appealed to me, especially as I was a young Pink Floyd fan who wanted to hear more bands like this, which lead me to Yes, King Crimson, and the vast world of progressive rock, which would play around with different time signatures and tempos throughout an album, if not the same song. As a math nerd, all of this was cool to me because I felt I discovered the secret to the song by understanding the time signatures, and little did I know that this was also influencing a younger generation of music fans and musicians to where it would lead to the sub-genre of “math rock”.
Speaking of Pink Floyd, while the album lacked any proper credits, it should be noted that with Jones, the group incorporated the piano, organs, keyboards, and synthesizers in a way that would not overwhelm or completely change the band’s sound. In “Four Sticks”, Jones is credited as playing the VCS3 synthesizer, which was used extensively by Pink Floyd as the hypnotizing melody in Dark Side Of The Moon‘s “On The Run”. Jones never shied away from playing instruments other than the bass throughout their catalog, making “The Rain Song” on Houses Of The Holy reach a slight country music feel in the second half, or turning “Kashmir” into a distant-yet-familiar masterpiece with its Mellotron wall mixed in with an Indian orchestra, or making “In The Light” sound spacey and out-of-this-world. When the band released In Through The Out Door in 1978, many fans and critics cited it as a far departure from their core sound, with some assuming that by being a “dinosaur rock band” competing in the disco era, they had to conform to the “modern ways” when Jones had been using some kind of keyboard instrument since the debut album, such as the organ in “Your Time Is Gonna Come” and the Mellotron in “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”.
The band got acoustic again with the charming “Going To California”, showing a respect for musicians that would help to create and define what is now known as The California Sound. Perhaps it was due to the fact that the band always loved acoustic music, and maybe due to half of the 4th album being recorded in California, it may have been a subtle tribute to the place they spent a lot of time in.
The untitled 4th album ends where things began: with the blues. “When The Levee Breaks” was pulled from the Memphis Minnie songbook, and it became the album’s official climax. If the band were slowly reaching higher, perhaps heavenly heights on Side 1, they allowed themselves to return down to Earth as mortals by bringing things back down to the people and more specifically the mud and flood waters that have often been used as metaphors for countless blues songs. That incredible loud and booming drum sound came from Bonham’s drums being placed in a long hallway, and the microphones being positioned above in the distance that would allow it to catch the reverb and the “sound of the room”. In the 50′s and 60′s, before producers and engineers would mic a drum set in complex ways (sometimes for each piece of percussion so that the hi-hat would have a mic, the bass drum would have a mic, the snare, etc. so that it would result in a preferably cleaner and “accurate” sound during the mixing phase of the drum track and eventual song), they would simply place a microphone above the drummer and that’s the sound you would get on tape: the immediate sound of the drums below and a bit of the sound of the room which catches the reverb of the drums bouncing off of it. Countless pop, rock, soul, R&B, and jazz records of the 50′s and 60′s were done this way, and as Bonham was a huge fan of James Brown‘s records, Page was able to capture that feeling in the band’s early records, including “When The Levee Breaks”.
Also, the reason the song has a slightly eerie and sludgy feel was due to two reasons. For one, the song was recorded at a certain tempo and key. In order to give the song an earthier, bluesy feel, it was slowed down by a few percent. For those of you who play around with audio programs, ripping the song from a standard redbook CD will result in a WAV file at 44.1 kilohertz, or kHz. Adjust (not convert) the sample rate so that it will be at 48 kHz. Doing this will compact the song from 7:07 to 6:33, and by doing this, you will hear the instrumental backing track as it was originally recorded.
Another reason why “When The Levee Breaks” and a few other songs on the album have a slightly muddy feel was, according to Page in interviews, the equipment used in the mixing process. The entire album was recorded before Page decided to mix the album at Sunset Sound Studio in Los Angeles, which had been used for countless albums over the years, including The Beach Boys‘ Pet Sounds. Page, who not only produced the band’s music but oversaw the mixing sessions, was not happy with how those mixes sounded. Time being of the essence (and of course money), and while Page came close to scrapping everything and mixing the entire album from scratch, he decided to delay its release until dealing with the consequences, touching up a few spots, and releasing it as is. The sound of the album was distinctive for its slightly muddy, perhaps American, sound, compared to the cleanliness of how music was recorded in the band’s native England. In fact, with The Beatles being lovers of all that was American, during one of their many American visits, they visited the Capitol Records recording studio to investigate and see what kind of equipment was found in their studios. It was there and in other American studios that they found the tools that they had hoped to duplicate in their recordings, but were not able to since the equipment at EMI in London (build by and made to the studio’s specifications by EMI themselves) was made differently. For a short time, a number of 7″ 45rpm records were mixed and mastered in the U.S. by one Dave Dexter, Jr., who did not like the mono mixes meant for single release. He would use echo and reverb in a way that was distinctive to a number of records on Capitol, and some were even mixed in Duophonic, Capitol’s way of creating “fake stereo”, or where one channel would be mixed with a lot of low end, the other channel with a lot of high end, to create a false sound image of “stereo”. Some fans hated it and felt it was not what The Beatles intended, and yet there are a few interviews with Beatles members who, when asked about the Capitol “Dave Dexter Jr.” mixes, they said “I actually prefer that one”. It may have been one way for The Beatles to sound like some of their musical heroes, to drench it in that “country & western” reverb that would make them sound like Buck Owens records. (On the other hand, as some Beatles fans hated the Dave Dexter Jr. reverb, done by running it through Capitol Records’ echo chambers made exclusively for the studio, Beach Boys fans praised the same echo chambers when Brian Wilson used it for their music in the 1960′s, including Pet Sounds, an album that prompted Paul McCartney to answer back with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which has its share of audio quirks that made it sound very different from what the band had recorded before.) During the same year that the (untitled 4th album) was being mixed, the Rolling Stones would find themselves at Sunset Sound in L.A. recording and mixing what would become their double LP masterpiece, Exile On Main St., a record that would also become known for its doomy, gloomy, and murky/muddy sound, which was perfect for the band’s own blues fetish. That album comes off more American than the band themselves, and yet 39 years later still stands out as incredible genius from the group.
8) Led Zeppelin had a bit of life ahead of them, but with the (untitled 4th album), their fate was sealed. It would become one of the most important rock’n’roll albums of all time, one of the most influential hard rock and heavy metal albums, it became everything that every music artist wants to achieve: immortality. I’m certain there are people who do not have any other Led Zeppelin albums in their hard copy or digital collections, and for a lot of them there’s no reason to. By limiting themselves to just this album, released on November 8, 1971, they are missing out on a band who loved what they did and played their hearts out, and they definitely rocked out with their cocks out, from London to Seattle, with special oils and mud sharks. With this album, they moved away from playing college venues to playing bigger arenas, and eventually stadiums when the mid-1970′s made that a common practice among rock’n’roll’s elite.
They wanted bigger, better and more, and Led Zeppelin experienced all of this. They became bigger than life by making an album that seemed to follow a “back to the essence” mentality a lot of artists were going through. Joni Mitchell wrote the song “Woodstock” even though she wasn’t at the festival, but her words “we got to get ourselves back to the garden” helped to define the Woodstock generation when it was covered by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young a few months after the festival. You would see bands known for their big sound and themes creating albums with artwork that was simple in tone. Some might say as rock’n’roll started to become ROCK, it started to become believers of its own hype, but some were saying “get out of the concert hall, stop inhailing that hashish and breathe in some fresh air.” For a few years, a number of artists did.
I had parents who saw that I loved my music a bit too much, so they would say “go outside, play with friends, go to the park, ride your bike, go to the store get some ice cream.” Which I did, and I’m forever grateful. I grew up in Hawai’i, surrounded by loads of trees, ponds, rivers, streams, and oceans. Seeing all of these images was just automatic, it was part of my childhood, so there’s all of these associations with growing up and these album covers. Which of course leads us back to Led Zeppelin. As the song once said, and it makes me wonder when I see the cover of the (untitled 4th album) and I ask mysef “what does it mean?”
Who is the old man, carrying the weight of a bundle of sticks? Is it really an old 19th century painting that Plant found somewhere during his worldly travels, or was that nothing more than B.S. to cover the truth? If it was a then-new photo, who is the man and does the image signify anything? We do know that the word “fag” means “a bundle of sticks”, and in England it is slang for a “cigarette stick”. “Fag” is a derogatory term for a homosexual, and in Led Zeppelin’s travels it has been said that some people did not like them because they were long haired men who looked feminine. Is the old man carrying a bundle of sticks a reference to some metaphorical “old man”, a/k/a establishment, carrying the weight and burden of the new generation of “young girly men”? If so, then is “Four Sticks” double entendre as a slur for the four men in the band? As a kid, one could come up with a bunch of theories and upon reading a Led Zeppelin article or book, you’d discover… absolutely nothing. Then you open up the cover and see a man holding a lamp on a mountain top, perhaps getting up there with the help of a misty mountain hop, but you see a long haired man trying to reach the old man with the lantern. Who are these people? Then you’d read on how some interpreted the river in the painting as that of being the Styx River, as depicted in Green mythology as being “a river that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead.” Is this a myth? Is this Biblical? What does it mean? If this is indeed the Styx River, does the Styx have anything to do with the bundle of sticks and “Four Sticks”?
Let’s get deeper. You look at the front cover again and of course note that the portrait of the old man with a bundle of sticks is on a wall, but when you look at the back cover, you see that this is an abandoned wall and behind it, an apartment building that looks quite “modern” compared to the relic imagery of the man. You then think “why is this portrait hanging on this wall, and is this wall an abandoned or condemned building or home that has to do with the apartment building in the distance? Is this to suggest that one day, that apartment building now considered modern will become like an old man, and be viewed as a relic with a future generation? What else lies in the distance, and can we as Led Zeppelin fans do anything to resolve this, if it is meant to be resolved at all?”
Then to go even further, there’s the theory that the inside painting, which is called The Hermit and is credited to one Barrington Colby, reveals something else. If you go to a mirror and place the gatefold image onto it, the mountain that the hermit is standing on allegedly reveals the face of a “black dog”.
Getting back to reality, I did find the truth to where that apartment building is. According to an article I found at FeelNumb.com, the building is located at Butterfield Court in Eve Hill, Dudley, England, and was still there as of December 2010. There are still theories as to what the cover represents, one being that the front is meant to represent the England of the past, but behind the demolished wall is modern England, one can say that you are seeing a level of progress. Is that progress a metaphor for the band’s growth and/or success? If so, what’s the significance of going to a place like Butterfield Court? Or if it is true that Page wanted the album to be as anonymous as possible, were the images merely random things meant to fuck with people’s heads for decades?
Perhaps that’s the point. We all enter the world seeing people, buildings, books, portraits and paintings unsure of their actual origin, so that all we have to do is apply a bit of guesswork and motivation to research and see where our minds (and curiosity) end up. The same could be said about the music, although I existed in “the life of the album”, so it was of my life even though I was too young to comprehend any of it when it was released. The cover was placed in our laps and we wondered if the imagery and symbols had anything to do with anything. As a kid it was cool to figure out the why’s and what’s, but we allowed ourselves to just take in the music and let that consume us. The cover was just that, a book cover that wrapped up a mighty audio dialogue that lasted a mere 42 minutes and with that that last “spank” of the guitar at the end of “When The Levee Breaks”, it was over. Yet 40 years later, we are still talking about the band, this album, the songs, the imagery, and everything extra that has little to do with one simple fact: four British guys loved writing, playing, and recorded music. They enjoyed reading about different theories and belief systems, along with different styles of music played by different cultures and ethnicities, and by looking at various aspects of the world and including it in their music, some viewed them as being evil. They were and still remain “a band of the occult”, and that could very well be why The O’Jays wrote and recorded a more spiritual song about their “Stairway To Heaven”, just so that mythical place would be nicer to hear about without the Satanic overtones.
Whatever. Those who bought Led Zeppelin III discovered there was a secret message written in the matrix (run-off groove) of the record. It said “Do What Thou Wilt, So Mete It Be”, a quote credited to the composer of the Satanic bible, Aleister Crowley. That fact alone has made millions of people play records backwards and try to find the truth behind their music and alleged demonic ways. Yet if you take away the Satan out of the equation, read the quote. You can interpret it as “do what you want, just let it be.” But the truth is that Crowley actually discovered the phrase from celebrated American, the 6th President of the United States, Benjamin Franklin. Not only was he a man of science and theory, but apparently he was an 18th century freak and an alleged occultist as a member of the Hellfire Club. Perhaps the last laugh was on Page, who may have understood how a bit of controversy could stir up attention and no surprise, most of the controversy surrounding their 4th album and “Stairway To Heaven” has originated from the United States. Page could’ve easily said “but friends, all of this wizardry you assume us in having comes from us being curious by the ways of the land that is the United States.” If you do a bit of research, it suggests that these devilish clubs were nothing more than political and scientific nerds gathering to talk shop, get drunk, find some nature to be influenced by, and have fun. In many ways, this is exactly what Led Zeppelin did in a late 20th century context. Perhaps the hermit in The Song Remains The Same movie, portrayed by Page,is meant to be a metaphor for past scientists and theorists, and maybe Page was saying nothing more than “I love to read, I love to think, and I’m not a genius, but I’m a bit more smarter than the dumb things you assume me of being.”
So mete it be.
EPILOGUE: Led Zeppelin were one of the most bootlegged bands in the vinyl era, not bad for a group that only released eight studio albums and one live album during their existence. There are some fans who now avoid the studio albums and feel the true Led Zep can be discovered in live recordings, where the band went out of their way to perform songs that were different from a performance the night, week, month, and year before. There have been a wide range of bootleg albums dedicated to studio outtakes, including those for the (untitled 4th album), and outside of a small handful of unreleased tracks, Page has never given an outtake project to Atlantic.
The second half of 2011 has revealed an overwhelming wealth of reissues, deluxe edition, super deluxe editions, amd mega super deluxe editions of various albums by respected bands, with a Smiles Sessions box from the Beach Boys to a number of massive Pink Floyd box sets which include demos, outtakes, live performances, and video footage, packaged in a way where you’ll know that will be the final version you’ll ever need. With the recent announcement that major labels will most likely stop releasing compact discs at the end of the year, it would have been the perfect time to give the (untitled 4th album) a super massive mega deluxe edition treatment.
According to an archived thread at the SteveHoffman.tv boards, The International CD Exchange (ICE) newsletter had posted that in 2002, there were plans to release a 2CD edition with the original CD and a disc with unreleased studio outtakes and tracks. The final word at the time was that a representative for WEA said that it was not going to happen.
With the release of Pink Floyd Immersion Box Sets, that has left some fans to post their ideas for what they’d like to see and hear if they could have a hand in making an Immersion-type box set for the (untitled 4th album). One thread, also at SteveHoffman.tv, show that many fans are aware of what exists, such as original mixes, specific outtakes and unreleased tracks, live performances of songs on the album recorded in 1971, and any existing footage that may be in the vaults for DVD inclusion (Page went out of his way to document Led Zeppelin’s career, but has held the majority of it in seclusion.) Some music fans over the years have created unofficial 5.1 surround sound mixes for the album, and it has been suggested that it would be cool for the album to be given an official surround sound mix. In the days of quadraphonic, there had always been rumors there would be LZ albums mixed in 4-channel stereo, but that never happened. The 40th anniversary for this record is here and now, it would have been the perfect opportunity to put together a box but no such luck. For now, you have to resort to the bootlegs such as All That Glitters Is Gold and IV Outtakes, or random compilations like Studio Gems. If there is ever a chance this album is compiled into a super deluxe edition, it would be great to witness its creation, or at least to hear it all in one place. Maybe in the digital era it will simply surface eventually and become a free download, but until then, the bootlegs are the only way to discover what else lurks behind the old man with a bundle of sticks on his back.
Happy 40th birthday, (untitled 4th album).
(For a look at the original Los Angeles billboard that promoted the album, click over to LedZeppelin.com.)