Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Led Zeppelin - Houses Of The Holy

“Houses Of The Holy” by Led Zeppelin (1973)

Release Date: March 28, 1973
Produced by Jimmy Page
Genre: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Blues Rock
Label: Atlantic

Chart Positions: #1 (US, UK, Canada, Australia), #3 (Austria, Netherlands, Japan), #4 (Norway), #8 (Germany), #9 (New Zealand, Spain), #11 (Finland), #12 (Portugal), #15 (Sweden), #17 (Italy), #20 (Switzerland, Belgium), #24 (Denmark), #29 (France)
Certifications: 11xPlatinum (US), Platinum (UK, France), Gold (Germany, Argentina, Spain)

Singles: “Over The Hills and Far Away” #51 (US), #63 (Canada), “D’yer Mak’er” #20 (US), #2 (France), #7 (Canada, Poland)

One of the most iconic record covers of the 1970s is Led Zeppelin’s fifth album, Houses of the Holy, released on 28 March 1973 by Atlantic Records. It is their first album composed of entirely original material and it represents a turning point in musical direction for the band, who had begun to record songs with more layering and production techniques.

This was Led Zeppelin's final studio release on Atlantic Records before forming their own label, Swan Song Records, in 1974. It was also the only Led Zeppelin album that contained complete printed lyrics for each song. Although intended for release in January 1973, delays in producing the album cover meant that it was not released until March, when the band was on its 1973 European tour. They had trouble designing and printing the unique album cover by the artistic company Hipgnosis, with the band completely rejecting the initial artwork and the first prints of the final artwork accidentally coming out with a strong purple tint. When they finally got the artwork correct, the album was banned from sale in many locations because of the naked children on the cover who pay homage to the Arthur C. Clarke novel Childhood’s End. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of best album package.

The Houses of the Holy album cover was not a small army of naked children with wigs on, it was only two kids, a brother and sister, who were photographed over the course of ten days at dawn and at dusk. One of them went on to become a world famous TV presenter, Stefan Gates, of the BBC’s popular Cooking in the Danger Zone show.

Gates, who was five at the time said in an interview years later, “For the Zeppelin cover we went to Ireland during the Troubles. I remember arriving at the airport and seeing all these people with guns. We stayed in this little guest house near the Giant’s Causeway and to capture the so-called magic light of dawn and dusk we’d shoot first thing in the morning and at night. I’ve heard people saying they put wigs on several children. But there was only me and my sister and that’s our real hair. I used to love being naked when I was that age so I didn’t mind. I’d whip off my clothes at the drop of a hat and run around having a great time, so I was in my element. My sister was older so she was probably a bit more self-conscious.”

Produced by guitarist Jimmy Page (like all Zeppelin albums), the album featured sophisticated layered guitars, the addition of obscure instrumentation, and other rich production techniques. The album featured styles and sub-genres not heard on previous Led Zeppelin albums, such as funk, reggae, and doo-wop. The album is an indirect tribute to their fan base, who were showing up in record numbers to their live shows.  It perfectly straddles the bands early, more blues-based period from their later work, which consisted of more richly produced studio albums that tilted more towards pop and modern rock. Bass player and keyboardist John Paul Jones temporarily left the band for a few days during this album’s recording but soon returned and stayed with the band until the end.

There were also several recorded songs not included on Houses of the Holy but released on later albums such as Physical Graffiti and Coda. “Physical Graffiti” contained the songs “The Rover,” “Houses of the Holy” and “Black Country Woman.” While “Coda” contained “Walter’s Walk.”

In 1976 Led Zeppelin released their first live album named “The Song Remains The Same” the opening track of “Houses of the Holy.” Prior to the album's sessions the song had been rehearsed with the working title "Worcester and Plumpton Races," which was a reference to Page and Plant's homes. Successive titles were "The Overture" and "The Campaign." Finally as Plant was fine tuning the lyrics the title "The Song Remains The Same" was born.

"The Rain Song" was written in response to a conversation Jimmy Page had with George Harrison. Harrison asked Page why Led Zeppelin had never recorded any ballads.

The first single release “Over The Hills and Far Away” was a moderate hit in North America reaching #51 in the US and #63 in Canada. This evolved from the Yardbirds song "White Summer," an acoustic solo by Jimmy Page. Many of the same riffs and chords are in it. After The Yardbirds broke up, Led Zeppelin continued to play "White Summer" live. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant originally constructed the song in 1970 at Bron-Yr-Aur, a small cottage in Wales where they stayed after completing a gruelling North American concert tour. The song was first called "Many, Many Times", as shown on a picture of the original master on the Led Zeppelin website.

"D'yer Mak'er" (1973)

The second single “D’yer Mak’er” did better on the charts reaching US #20, #2 in France and #7 in both Poland and Canada. The title is a play on the word "Jamaica" when spoken in a British accent. The name of the song is derived from an old joke, where two friends have the following exchange: "My wife's gone to the West Indies." "Jamaica?" (which has a similar pronunciation as "D'you make her?") "No, she wanted to go". This song was meant to imitate reggae and its "dub" derivative emerging from Jamaica in the early 1970s. Its genesis is traced to Led Zeppelin's rehearsals at Stargroves in 1972, when drummer John Bonham started with a beat similar to 1950s doo-wop, and then twisted it into a slight off beat tempo, upon which a reggae influence emerged. The distinctive drum sound was created by placing three microphones a good distance away from Bonham's drums. Led Zeppelin had a curious history of single releases in America. While the band was active, they released just 10 singles, which typically did just well enough to get a mention from Casey Kasem on American Top 40. "D'yer Mak'er" was one of those singles (backed with "The Crunge"), peaking at #20. Zeppelin was never a "singles band," so these releases were intended to drive sales of the albums, which they did. They often sold well enough to make the charts, however, leaving poor Mr. Kasem to wonder how to pronounce the title to this one.

The third single “The Ocean” was released only in Germany and Austria and charted only in Germany at #8. "The Ocean" refers to the sea of fans seen from the stage at Led Zeppelin concerts, to whom this song was dedicated. The voice on the intro is drummer John Bonham. When he says, "We've done four already, but now we're steady and then they went, 1... 2... 3... 4...," he is referring to the takes. They had tried to record it 4 times prior but couldn't get it right, so as a pep talk he said his famous line. In the last line, the "Girl who won my heart" is Robert Plant's daughter Carmen, who was 3 years old at the time.

The album is filled with highlight after highlight, “The Crunge” is a funk tribute to Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and James Brown and evolved out of a jam session built around Bonham’s off-beat drums and a bass riff by Jones. This song was used as the b-side to the single “D’yer Mak’er.” “Dancing Days” used as the b-side to “Over The Hills and Far Away” was the closest that Led Zeppelin ever came to writing a pop song. It was inspired by an Indian tune that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant heard while traveling in Bombay.

"Houses of the Holy (1973) Inside Gatefold Artwork

Led Zeppelin (1973)


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