Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Debut of Led Zeppelin IV

I guess most people think of "Stairway to Heaven" when they think of Led Zeppelin's fourth studio album, which was released 40 years ago today.

I do, too, but I have other memories of that album as well.

The album became the third best–selling album in the United States. It was one of the first albums I ever owned, but I never owned it in vinyl. I had a cassette tape of it, and it was one of a handful of cassettes I took with me when my family moved to Nashville for my father's sabbatical.

It was a rare afternoon in those days when I came home from school and did not listen to that album from start to finish on my portable cassette player. I guess I looked upon it as my lifeline — long before the concept of lifelines became popular — even though I didn't have much variety in my "collection."

The music was really remarkable. To my knowledge, no one has ever described the album better than Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic.com: It was, he wrote, "a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of '70s hard rock."

Erlewine described it as "majestic hard rock with a mystical, rural English folk that gives the record epic scope. Even at its most basic — the muscular, tradtionalist 'Rock and Roll' — the album has a grand sense of drama, which is deepened by Robert Plant's burgeoning obsession with mythology and mysticism."

Even today, if I listen to that album, I remember those days. Nashville was a rather lonely place for me, and I was glad my father's sabbatical lasted only four months. When it was over, we returned to my hometown where my friends were, and I continued to listen to that Led Zeppelin album.

Until I began adding to my collection.

Eventually, I owned several Led Zeppelin albums, as did most of my friends — "Houses of the Holy," "Physical Graffiti," etc.

I didn't get "Led Zeppelin IV" when it was first released. I got it a few years later. Maybe that means I was something of a late convert to Zeppelin's music.

Late or not, though, the music spoke to me at that time in my life.

It still speaks to me today.