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Led Zeppelin, formed in 1968 by:
- Jimmy Page (Guitar)
Close to 30 years after disbanding following Bonham's death in 1980, the band continues to be held in high regard for their artistic achievements, commercial success, and broad influence. The band has sold over 200 million albums worldwide, including 111.5 million certified units in the United States and they have had all of their original studio albums reach the top 10 of the Billboard album chart in the U.S., with six reaching the number one spot. Led Zeppelin are ranked #1 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. Rolling Stone magazine has described Led Zeppelin as "the heaviest band of all time", "the biggest band of the '70s" and "unquestionably one of the most enduring bands in rock history." Similarly, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes the band being "as influential in that decade (70s) as the Beatles were in the prior one." In 2007, the surviving members of Led Zeppelin reunited (along with deceased drummer John Bonham's son, Jason) for the Ahmet ErtegŁn Tribute Concert at The O2 Arena in London.
The beginning of Led Zeppelin can be traced back to the English blues-influenced rock band The Yardbirds. Jimmy Page joined The Yardbirds in 1966 to replace the original bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, who had decided to leave the group. Shortly after, Page switched from bass to lead guitar, creating a dual-lead guitar line up with Jeff Beck. Following the departure of Beck from the group in October 1966, The Yardbirds, tired from constant touring and recording, were beginning to wind down. Page wanted to form a supergroup with himself and Beck on guitars and The Who's rhythm section - drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle. Vocalists Steve Winwood and Steve Marriott were also considered for the project. The group never formed, although Page, Beck and Moon did record a song together in 1966, "Beck's Bolero", which is featured on Beck's 1968 album, Truth. The recording session also included bassist-keyboardist John Paul Jones, who told Page that he would be interested in collaborating with him on future projects.
The Yardbirds played their final gig in July 1968. However, they were still committed to performing several concerts in Scandinavia, so drummer Jim McCarty and vocalist Keith Relf authorised Page and bassist Chris Dreja to use the Yardbirds name to fulfill the band's obligations. Page and Dreja began putting a new line-up together. Page's first choice for lead singer, Terry Reid, declined the offer, but suggested Robert Plant, a West Bromwich singer. Plant eventually accepted the position, recommending a drummer, John Bonham from nearby Redditch. When Dreja dropped out of the project to become a photographer (he would later take the photograph that appeared on the back of Led Zeppelin's debut album), John Paul Jones, at the suggestion of his wife, contacted Page about the vacant position. Being familiar with Jones' credentials, Page agreed to bring in Jones as the final piece.
The group came together for the first time in a room below a record store on Gerrard Street in London. Page suggested that they try playing "Train Kept A-Rollin'", a rockabilly song popularised by Johnny Burnette that had been given new life by the Yardbirds. "As soon as I heard John Bonham play," recalled Jones, "I knew this was going to be great... We locked together as a team immediately." Shortly afterwards, the group played together on the final day of sessions for the P.J. Proby album, Three Week Hero. The album's song "Jim's Blues" was the first studio track to feature all four members of the future Led Zeppelin. Proby recalled, "Come the last day we found we had some studio time, so I just asked the band to play while I just came up with the words. They weren't Led Zeppelin at the time, they were the New Yardbirds and they were going to be my band." The band completed the Scandinavian tour as The New Yardbirds, playing together for the first time in front of a live audience at Gladsaxe Teen Clubs in Gladsaxe, Denmark on 7 September 1968. However, it was clear to the band that performing under the old Yardbirds tag was akin to working under false pretences and upon returning from Scandinavia they decided to change their name. One account of the band's naming, which has become almost legendary, has it that Keith Moon and John Entwistle, drummer and bassist for The Who, respectively, suggested that a possible supergroup containing themselves, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck would go down like a lead zeppelin, a term Entwistle used to describe a bad gig. The group deliberately dropped the 'a' in Lead at the suggestion of their manager, Peter Grant, to prevent "thick Americans" from pronouncing it "leed". Grant also secured for the new band an advance deal of $200,000 from Atlantic Records in November 1968, then the biggest deal of its kind for a new band. Atlantic was a label known for a catalogue of blues, soul and jazz artists, but in the late 1960s it began to take an interest in progressive British rock acts, and signed Led Zeppelin without having ever seen them, largely on the recommendation of singer Dusty Springfield. Under the terms of the contract secured by Grant, the band alone would decide when they would release albums and tour and had final say over the contents and design of each album. They also would decide how to promote each release and which (if any) tracks to release as singles and formed their own company, Superhype, to handle all publishing rights.