Led Zeppelin, one of the most influential hard rock bands of the 1970s, had a complex relationship with the press. Despite their immense popularity and sold-out shows, they faced scathing reviews from prominent media outlets, which didn’t necessarily endear them to international critics. Unlike other bands of the era, Zeppelin didn’t rely on constant radio play or produce chart-topping singles. Instead, they embraced albums as their chosen medium, focusing on creating cohesive musical journeys rather than promoting individual tracks.
The Power of the Album
Led Zeppelin, in their quest for artistic integrity, consistently crafted remarkable records that transcended the boundaries of traditional radio hits. Although they delivered outstanding performances and attracted massive crowds worldwide, their songs seldom dominated the airwaves. Surprisingly, none of their albums produced hit singles, except for “Whole Lotta Love,” which gained radio play and entered the top ten long after its initial release. Despite releasing “Communication Breakdown” as one of their early singles from their debut record, the band employed a crafty strategy when it came to one of their earliest masterpieces, fooling radio stations.
Towards the end of their debut album, “How Many More Times” served as a glimpse of what awaited listeners on Led Zeppelin II. This powerful track featured a fierce blues riff and showcased Robert Plant’s intense vocal prowess. While there was some debate surrounding the potential of “Communication Breakdown” as a punchy radio hit, Zeppelin decided to take a similar approach with the album closer by deceiving radio stations.
On the album’s sleeve, Zeppelin listed the song’s time code as 3:30, despite its actual length of eight minutes, including a midsection jam. Instead of creating a radio-friendly edit that might have compromised the integrity of the song, the band opted to give the full version to radio stations, hoping that the DJs wouldn’t notice the subterfuge.
Live Power and Influential Legacy
Despite being outside the realm of radio-friendly songs, Led Zeppelin captivated audiences with mesmerizing live performances of “How Many More Times” during their American tours. The song unleashed a ferocious blend of blues and rock that left audiences spellbound. Its impact extended beyond their own success, as other rock bands, including Deep Purple, drew inspiration from its groove and incorporated elements of the track into their own single, “Black Night,” a few years later.
Zeppelin’s Mystique and Enduring Success
Zeppelin’s indifference to the challenges of getting an eight-minute song on the radio epitomized their allure. Throughout their illustrious career, they cultivated a certain mystique, keeping their most clandestine activities shielded from the public eye. They proudly defied critics who dared to speak ill of their music, which only added to their enigmatic aura.
Despite missing out on a wider radio audience, Led Zeppelin managed to transcend boundaries and became a significant inspiration for artists ranging from Aerosmith to Rush. Over time, they established themselves as a staple of classic rock radio formats. Even though their songs didn’t conform to the parameters of standard radio hits, Zeppelin’s unparalleled talent and groundbreaking sound propelled them to the pinnacle of the musical world.