Led Zeppelin has announced a remastered live album and an official book as the first of “all manner of surprises” coming for its 50th-anniversary year.
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The British rock band is one of the bestselling acts of all time, with its sales put as many as 300 million “record units.” (That number is especially remarkable when it has shunned singles in favor of albums, which produce more revenue.) Led Zeppelin is joining a lucrative multimillion bandwagon of other acts variously marking their golden anniversaries with box sets, rarities, exhibitions and other events.
Led Zeppelin’s remastered album How The West Was Won, just confirmed, will be joined by an illustrated book in the next few months, with fans hungry for more and speculating on what founding guitarist Jimmy Page meant in an interview in October last year. “There’ll be Led Zeppelin product coming out, for sure, that people haven’t heardbecause I’m working on that,” he told the Academy of Achievement. He spoke of surprises in 2018 and added: “Then I hope to be seen to playing, so I had better get on with it.”
Hope should perhaps not be raised too high when rumors about a reunion of the three surviving members have been constantly dismissed. The present writer was one of the lucky guests at London’s O2 on December 10,2007, to witness the one-time band reunion for the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert. In subsequent conversations, it was clear that singer Robert Plant was not interested in the idea of a further tour. In 2014, reports were denied that billionaire Richard Branson had offered $800 million for a 35-date world tour by Led Zep, which would have made it the most lucrative of all time. British newspapers said that Plant had dramatically torn up Branson’s document. The only problem was Branson rebutted making the offer to start with. Either way, Plant is getting mightily bored with the reunion subject coming up again in interviews. Plant and Page have recorded and toured (simply as “Plant and Page,”) including some Led Zeppelin songs, though the singer has long been focused on his solo career such as last year’s Carry Fire.
Still, Led Zeppelin followers are expecting more events to come. How The West Was Won is out on March 23 in multiple formats from Atlantic/ Swan Song. The three-CD album, recorded at the Los Angeles Forum and Long Beach Arena in June1972 and first released in 2003, is now remixed under Page’s supervision and will include the first vinyl and Blu-ray audio editions. The deluxe editions have a book of rare and previously unpublished photos, and a high-quality print of the original album cover, the first 30,000 of which will be individually numbered.As before, standouts include a 25-minute version of “Dazed And Confused,” plus a 21-minute medley based around “Whole Lotta Love” and road tests of songs from Houses Of The Holy, which was only released nine months after the concerts.
Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones at the UK premiere of the film Celebration Day. (Philip... <+> Toscano/PA Images via Getty Images)
Even so, some fans will be left waiting for more in 2018, because some songs done at the 1972 shows were not included on the How The West Was Won album, such as “Communication Breakdown.”
There are questions on how much there is left in the archives. Led Zeppelin has already released its nine main albums a few times on CD. There was an initial batch in the 1980s, though like many early CDs, they were not particularly well mastered or packaged. These were much improved a decade later. Most recently, from 2014, the albums have been newly remastered from the master tapes with bonus discs. The extra material is mainly rough studio mixes and demos as well as a few unreleased tracks and live material. The album that was the most expanded was the final compilation Coda from 1982. It was extended to three discs and cherry-picks the best unheard tracks from across the band’s career. Page followed in 2016 with The Complete BBC Sessions, a remastered version of the group’s appearances on British radio between 1969 and 1971 but now including eight unreleased recordings, three of which were rescued from a previously lost British broadcast session in 1969.
While all of these discs could be assembled into a mighty 50th-anniversary box, fans are speculating on what else may be on offer. A revival of the movie The Song Remains The Same or a documentary using rare footage have been suggested.
Certainly, record-company archivists have been trawling all available sources with work that rivals the best detectives or investigative journalists. Last November, Page produced Yardbirds ’68, a double CD. One disc contains buffed-up recordings during the Yardbirds’ last American tour, while the second features studio demos.
There are some 400 Led Zeppelin bootleg albums, some of them amateur audience tapes or stolen from studio soundboards. The band has long tried to prevent these.
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A news release talking up the How The West Was Won album says the group’s 50th-anniversary celebration officially begins in September and “details of additional Led Zeppelin 50th- Anniversary releases and events will be announced later this year.”
The September date makes sense. On September 7, 1968, Page and Plant came together with multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones and late drummer John Bonham in Gladsaxe, Denmark. Then billed as “The New Yardbirds,” the band went into the studio weeks later to record their debut album, and the rest is history.
All surviving Zeppelin members have been collaborating with ReelArtPress to publish an official illustrated book celebrating the semi-centennial. (Update: The book will be out in October, called Led Zeppelin by Led Zeppelin. It will be a 368-page volume and will featureunseen photographs and artwork from the band’s archives and contributions from photographers around the world.)
Hi. I"m Mark Beech. I"ve written about arts, performing arts, entertainment and culture, especially rock music, for longer than Taylor Swift has been on earth. I"m the…Read More
Hi. I"m Mark Beech. I"ve written about arts, performing arts, entertainment and culture, especially rock music, for longer than Taylor Swift has been on earth. I"m the editor of Dante magazine and write for other publications such as Art & Auction and ArtInfo. My book All You Need is Rock, published by Thistle in 2014, is a collection of a decade"s worth of writing as the rock critic for Bloomberg News, where I helped run Muse, the art/ luxury/ lifestyle section. My other books include The Dictionary of Rock & Pop Names. I"ve been a journalist since graduating from Oxford University, working for ITN and many London newspapers. Now and again I remember to sleep. I have also written plays and poetry and I"m a Fellow of Britain"s Royal Society of Arts. For more, follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Feel free to contact me at anytime at mark