Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: Led Zeppelin, PRESENCE
43 years ago today, Led Zeppelin debuted atop the UK Albums chart with their seventh studio album, an LP which – despite holding the dubious honor of being the slowest-selling album in the band’s catalog – has been described by Jimmy Page as being the most important.
Why? We thought you’d never ask: it’s because it confirmed that the band could rise above the turmoil in the members’ lives and soldier onward.
In this case, the turmoil came from Robert Plant’s unfortunate car accident while on the Greek island of Rhodes in August 1975, which took him out of commission for a fair while, but even as he convalesced, Plant was writing lyrics. He soon reunited with Page in Malibu to get their ducks in a row, songwriting-wise, and in short order the twosome was back together with John Bonham and John Paul Jones to begin rehearsals of the new material.
Despite the problems the band had to endure to get the songs in a position to record, the process of recording and mastering PRESENCE was done with staggering speed, with the entire thing wrapped up in only 18 days, the fastest Led Zeppelin had knocked out an album since their self-titled debut.
Although it shipped gold on its day of release, PRESENCE proved to be an album that took a bit of time for the band’s fans to properly digest, possibly because the material has a different sound, one informed by the circumstances surrounding its writing. As Page told Uncut in 2005, “It's not an easy album for a lot of people to access… It’s not an easy album for a lot of people to listen to.”
With that said, however, it’s also an album that’s earned considerably positive reappraisal over the decades. If you’ve been a bit sketchy on PRESENCE yourself, today would be a perfect day to give it another spin and see maybe you can hear something you’ve missed.
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