Best Album Covers: Led Zeppelin
This is the next entry in Best Album Covers, a series begun right here. The first successful long-playing microgroove record for the phonograph was introduced by Columbia Records back in June of 1948. Yet, album covers (the paper board packaging that held them) didn’t come into their own graphically till decades later. Eventually becoming the cultural stamp on the music of the time. Catching the eyes of potential record-buyers and later their ears and minds. Melding the musical experience with the artist into a unique visual form.
Why Compact Disc versions of album art don’t exactly raise the same reaction these days was looked at in this post. Although, music label artistry continues to be noticed and discussed among the material published today. The bits and bytes are looking over their shoulder, though, because vinyl hasn’t entirely gone the way of the dinosaur. Online or at the record shops still out there. Cover art hasn’t lost purpose, either for old and new. Mostly, it’s my contention while digital reigns supreme, its vigor among fans lacks the tactile passion of the past LPs.
Hence the reason for this series. Some register more with me musically than others, though. Yet, the artwork will always take center stage, at least here. Let’s continue shall we?
Allmusic described the work of guitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham thusly:
“Led Zeppelin had a fully formed, distinctive sound from the outset, as their eponymous debut illustrates. Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme, Zeppelin created a majestic, powerful brand of guitar rock constructed around simple, memorable riffs and lumbering rhythms. But the key to the group’s attack was subtlety: it wasn’t just an onslaught of guitar noise, it was shaded and textured, filled with alternating dynamics and tempos.”
It’s said a group member declared of their formation, ‘It would probably go over like a lead balloon…a lead zeppelin!’
An earful was what music fans yearned for, and what they got. Fairly distinctively by this band. This, their debut album, marked the shift of 60s British rock from psychedelia into something much harder. Bluesier, in fact. It shot them, like a cannon, into radio’s stratosphere, mainly on the FM side. Especially those six-minute plus LP cuts. Without a doubt, Led Zeppelin was the definitive heavy metal band to take the field back then.
Admittedly, I remain a black & white photography enthusiast. Color dazzles, though. It distracts, too. Remove those sensations from the eye and all that’s left in the image is its composition. Its art, paraphrasing my old dark room instructor. Little wonder this album cover gathered my perception.
Decades later, another self-titled album made its mark via a graphic declaration using a snapshot of a startling tragic event from the past. That it got its idea via this LP artwork seems obvious. Based on the photograph of the burning Luftschiff Zeppelin #129 as it exploded over New Jersey in 1937, Led Zep’s cover art was intended to make a statement. The cropped, high contrast, and grainy imagery signaled an era of rock was coming to an end. And out of its ashes a new style of music, as well as a new turbulent decade, lay ahead.
Per Wikipedia, “During the first few weeks of release in the UK, the sleeve featured the band’s name and the Atlantic logo in turquoise. When this was switched to the now-common orange print later in the year, the turquoise-printed sleeve became a collector’s item.”
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Led Zeppelin
Track Listing (and yes, turn that record over):
- “Good Times Bad Times”
- “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”
- “You Shook Me”
- “Dazed And Confused”
- “Your Time Is Gonna Come”
- “Black Mountain Side”
- “Communication Breakdown”
- “I Can’t Quit You Baby”
- “How Many More Times”
The entire series can be found here.
16 Responses to “Best Album Covers: Led Zeppelin”
While the second album is probably my favorite, this one features — in my opinion — the best art work. And that’s saying something, when you consider that Zeppelin was a band that gave us some really innovative album covers.
I probably replayed their second album the most, too. Led Zep did indeed have an impressive stable of LP artwork. Many thanks, John.
Fantastic. While I love the art work of this and the music therein, my emotional attachment goes to the 1975 album and interesting artwork in ‘Physical Graffiti’
‘Physical Graffiti’ was another impressive album, for sure. Many thanks, Cindy.
Great introductory album!
Excellent choice, as well.
One could always count on superb cover artwork with Led Zeppelin. Never got the full bore hang of their later ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Though their dirt floor Honky Tonk, ‘Hot Dog’ rocks out loud!
Thank you very kindly, Kevin. Led Zep albums really did call for them to be cranked high :-).
A zeppelin on the cover, how fitting 😀 Great post Michael!
Thank you very much, Ruth :-).
I’m partial to III, but this is an excellent album and an iconic album cover. Great choice, Michael!
Great album to be partial to, Eric. Thank you very much, my friend.
Great album and probably one of the most iconic covers in music, full stop. Nice piece Michael.
Thank you so much, Chris. Much appreciated.
[…] surprise — I think I’ve made it clear by now that high-contrast images capture my […]
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I think four was there best album, but I love 1 two
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Definitely, a whole lotta love for led zep around here. Thank you very much, Megan! 🙂
[…] of album designers, as noted, have retasked well-known photographs (see examples 1, 2, and 3) to make statements or elicit reaction. Relevant for original illustrations, as well, and […]