Led Zeppelin IV

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A drawing of a man in a field with a large bundle of sticks on his back
Studio album by Led Zeppelin
Released8 November 1971 (1971-11-08)
RecordedDecember 1970 – March 1971 at various locations
GenreHard rock, heavy metal, folk rock
ProducerJimmy Page
Led Zeppelin chronology
Led Zeppelin III
Houses of the Holy
Singles from (Untitled)
  1. "Black Dog"/"Misty Mountain Hop"
    Released: 2 December 1971 (1971-12-02)
  2. "Rock and Roll"/"Four Sticks"
    Released: 21 February 1972 (1972-02-21)
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A drawing of a man in a field with a large bundle of sticks on his back
Studio album by Led Zeppelin
Released8 November 1971 (1971-11-08)
RecordedDecember 1970 – March 1971 at various locations
GenreHard rock, heavy metal, folk rock
ProducerJimmy Page
Led Zeppelin chronology
Led Zeppelin III
Houses of the Holy
Singles from (Untitled)
  1. "Black Dog"/"Misty Mountain Hop"
    Released: 2 December 1971 (1971-12-02)
  2. "Rock and Roll"/"Four Sticks"
    Released: 21 February 1972 (1972-02-21)

The fourth album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin was released on 8 November 1971. No title is printed on the album, so it is usually referred to as Led Zeppelin IV, following the naming standard used by the band's first three studio albums. The album has alternatively been referred to as the Four Symbols logo, Four Symbols, The Fourth Album (those two titles each having been used in the Atlantic catalogue), Untitled, Runes, The Hermit, and ZoSo, the latter of which is derived from the symbol used by Jimmy Page for the album sleeve. Page often had the ZoSo symbol embroidered on his clothes.[1]

Upon its release, Led Zeppelin IV was a commercial and critical success. The album is one of the best-selling albums worldwide at 32 million units.[2] It is also certified twenty-three times platinum by the RIAA, making it the third-best-selling album ever in the US.[3] In 2003, the album was ranked 69th on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time".


Recording sessions

The album was initially recorded at Island Records' newly opened Basing Street Studios, London, at the same time as Jethro Tull's Aqualung in December 1970.[4] Upon the suggestion of Fleetwood Mac,[5] the band then moved to Headley Grange, a remote Victorian house in East Hampshire, England, to conduct additional recordings. Here they used the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. Jimmy Page later recalled: "We needed the sort of facilities where we could have a cup of tea and wander around the garden and go in and do what we had to do."[6] This relaxed, atmospheric environment at Headley Grange also provided other advantages for the band. As is explained by Dave Lewis, "By moving into Headley Grange for the whole period of recording, many of the tracks [on the album] were made up on the spot and committed to tape almost there and then."[6]

Once the basic tracks had been recorded, the band later added overdubs at Island Studios, then took the completed master tapes to Sunset Sound in Los Angeles for mixing. However, the mix ultimately proved to be less than satisfactory, creating an unwanted delay in the album's release. Further mixing had to be undertaken in London, pushing the final release date back by some months.[6]

Three other songs from the sessions, "Down by the Seaside", "Night Flight" and "Boogie with Stu" (featuring Rolling Stones cofounder/collaborator Ian Stewart on piano), did not appear on the album, but were included four years later on the double album Physical Graffiti.

Album title

After the lukewarm, if not confused and sometimes dismissive, critical reaction Led Zeppelin III had received in late 1970, Page decided that the next Led Zeppelin album would not have a title, but would instead feature four hand-drawn symbols on the inner sleeve and record label, each one chosen by the band member it represents.[5] "We decided that on the fourth album, we would deliberately play down the group name, and there wouldn't be any information whatsoever on the outer jacket", Page explained. "Names, titles and things like that do not mean a thing."[7]

Page has also stated that the decision to release the album without any written information on the album sleeve was contrary to strong advice given to him by a press agent, who said that after a year's absence from both records and touring, the move would be akin to "professional suicide".[8] In his words: "We just happened to have a lot of faith in what we were doing."[8] In an interview he gave to The Times in 2010, he elaborated:

It wasn’t easy. The record company were sort of insisting that the name go on it. There were eyes looking towards heaven if you like. It was hinted it was professional suicide to go out with an album with no title. The reality of it was that we’d had so many dour reviews to our albums along the way. At the time each came out it was difficult sometimes for the reviewers to come to terms with what was on there, without an immediate point of reference to the previous album. But the ethic of the band was very much summing up where we were collectively at that point in time. An untitled album struck me as the best answer to all the critics — because we knew the way that the music was being received both by sales and attendance at concerts.[9]

Owing to the lack of an official title, Atlantic initially distributed graphics of the symbols in many sizes to the press for inclusion in charts and articles. The album was one of the first to be produced without conventional identification, and this communicated an anti-commercial stance that was controversial at the time (especially among certain executives at Atlantic Records).

Releasing the album without an official title has made it difficult to consistently identify. While most commonly called Led Zeppelin IV, Atlantic Records catalogues have used the names Four Symbols and The Fourth Album. It has also been referred to as ZoSo (which, as noted under, Page's symbol appears to spell), Untitled and Runes.[6] Page frequently refers to the album in interviews as "the fourth album" and "Led Zeppelin IV",[8][10][11] and Plant thinks of it as "the fourth album, that's it".[12] Not only does the album have no title, but there is no writing anywhere on the front or back cover, or even a catalogue number on the spine (at least on the original LP release).

The four symbols

The four symbols representing (from left to right);
at the top; Page, Jones
at the bottom; Bonham and Plant

The idea for each member of the band to choose a personal emblem for the cover was Page's.[8] In an interview he gave in 1977, he recalled:

"After all this crap that we'd had with the critics, I put it to everybody else that it'd be a good idea to put out something totally anonymous. At first I wanted just one symbol on it, but then it was decided that since it was our fourth album and there were four of us, we could each choose our own symbol. I designed mine and everyone else had their own reasons for using the symbols that they used."[8]

Page stated that he designed his own symbol[5][6] and has never publicly disclosed any reasoning behind it. However, it has been argued that his symbol appeared as early as 1557 to represent Saturn.[13][14] The symbol is sometimes referred to as "ZoSo", though Page has explained that it was not in fact intended to be a word at all.[5]

Bassist John Paul Jones' symbol, which he chose from Rudolf Koch's Book of Signs,[5] is a single circle intersecting three vesica pisces (a triquetra). It is intended to symbolise a person who possesses both confidence and competence.[6]

Drummer John Bonham's symbol, the three interlocking rings, was picked by the drummer from the same book.[5] It represents the triad of mother, father and child.[6][15], but also happens -- inverted -- to be the logo for Ballantine beer.[6]

Singer Robert Plant's symbol of a feather within a circle was his own design, being based on the sign of the supposed Mu civilisation.[5][6]

Sandy Denny's symbol, which in Christianity is an old symbol for the Godhead "beyond that nothing is known about it".

There is also a fifth, smaller symbol chosen by guest vocalist Sandy Denny representing her contribution to the track "The Battle of Evermore"; it appears in the credits list on the inner sleeve of the LP, serving as an asterisk and is shaped like three triangles touching at their points.

During Led Zeppelin's tour of the United Kingdom in winter 1971, which took place shortly following the release of the album, the band visually projected the four symbols on their stage equipment. Page's symbol was put onto one of his Marshall amplifiers, Bonham's three interlinked circles adorned the outer face of his bass drum, Jones had his symbol stencilled onto material which was draped across his Fender Rhodes keyboard, and Plant's feather symbol was painted onto a side speaker PA cabinet. Only Page's and Bonham's symbols were retained for subsequent Led Zeppelin concert tours.[16]

Album cover and inside sleeve

The 19th-century rustic oil painting on the front of the album was purchased from an antique shop in Reading, Berkshire by Plant.[5][6][17] The painting was then juxtaposed and affixed to the internal, papered wall of the partly demolished suburban house for the photograph to be taken.

Page has explained that the cover of the fourth album was intended to bring out a city/country dichotomy that had initially surfaced on Led Zeppelin III:

It represented the change in the balance which was going on. There was the old countryman and the blocks of flats being knocked down. It was just a way of saying that we should look after the earth, not rape and pillage it.[8]

However, regarding the meaning of the album cover, he has also stated:

The cover was supposed to be something that was for other people to savour rather than for me to actually spell everything out, which would make the whole thing rather disappointing on that level of your own personal adventure into the music.[18]

The album cover was among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail for a set of "Classic Album Cover" postage stamps issued in January 2010.[19]

The inside illustration, entitled "The Hermit" and credited to Barrington Colby MOM, was influenced by the design of the card of the same name in the Rider-Waite tarot deck.[6] This character was later portrayed by Page himself in Led Zeppelin's concert film, The Song Remains the Same (1976). The inner painting is also referred to as View in Half or Varying Light and was sold at auction under that name in 1981.[20]

Varied versions of the artwork within the album exist. Some versions depict a longhaired and bearded supplicant climbing at the base of the mountain, while some others do not show the six pointed star within the hermit's lantern. If the inside cover of the album is held vertically against a mirror, a man's face can be seen hidden in the rocks below the hermit. Speculation exists that the face is actually that of a black dog.[20]

The typeface for the lyrics to "Stairway to Heaven", printed on the inside sleeve of the album, was Page's contribution. He found it in an old arts and crafts magazine called The Studio which dated from the late 19th century. He thought the lettering was interesting and arranged for someone to work up a whole alphabet.[17]

Release and critical reaction

Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic5/5 stars[21]
BBC MusicFavourable[22]
Blender5/5 stars[23]
Robert ChristgauA[25]
Entertainment WeeklyA+[26]
Q5/5 stars[27]
Rolling StoneFavourable[28]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[29]

In the lead-up to the album's release, a series of teaser advertisements depicting each symbol was placed in the music press.[6]

The album was a massive instant seller. It entered the UK chart at No. 1 and stayed on the chart for 62 weeks.[6] In the US it stayed on the charts longer than any other Led Zeppelin album and became the biggest selling album in the US not to top the charts (peaking at #2).[6]

"Ultimately," writes Lewis, "the fourth Zeppelin album would be the most durable seller in their catalogue and the most impressive critical and commercial success of their career".[6] Music critic Robert Christgau has dubbed it "a genre masterpiece".[31]


In 1998, Q magazine readers voted Led Zeppelin IV the 26th greatest album of all time; in 2000 Q placed it at No. 26 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2003, the album was ranked number 66 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It is ranked at No. 7 on Pitchfork Media's Top 100 Albums of the 1970s.

In 2006, the album was rated No. 1 on Classic Rock magazine's 100 Greatest British Albums poll; that same year it was voted No. 1 in Guitar World 100 Greatest Albums readers' poll and was ranked No. 7 in ABC media's top ten albums.

MojoUnited Kingdom"The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made"[32]199624
Grammy AwardsUnited StatesGrammy Hall of Fame Award[33]1999*
The GuitarUnited States"Album of the Millennium"[34]19992
Classic RockUnited Kingdom"100 Greatest Rock Albums Ever"[35]20011
Rolling StoneUnited States"500 Greatest Albums Ever"[36]200366
Pitchfork MediaUnited States"Top 100 Albums of the 1970s"[37]20047
QUnited Kingdom"The Greatest Classic Rock Albums Ever"[38]2004*
Robert DimeryUnited States1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[39]2005*
QUnited Kingdom"100 Best Albums Ever"[40]200621
Classic RockUnited Kingdom"100 Greatest British Rock Album Ever"[41]20061
Rock and Roll Hall of FameUnited States"The Definitive 200: Top 200 Albums of All-Time"[42]20074

(*) designates unordered lists.

Track listing

Side one
1."Black Dog"  John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant4:54
2."Rock and Roll"  John Bonham, Jones, Page, and Plant3:40
3."The Battle of Evermore"  Page and Plant5:51
4."Stairway to Heaven"  Page and Plant8:02
Side two
5."Misty Mountain Hop"  Jones, Page, and Plant4:38
6."Four Sticks"  Page and Plant4:44
7."Going to California"  Page and Plant3:31
8."When the Levee Breaks"  Bonham, Jones, Memphis Minnie, Page, and Plant7:07

Sales chart performance

Chart (1971–1972)Peak Position
Japanese Albums Chart[43]2
Norwegian Albums Chart[44]3
UK Albums Chart[45]1
US Billboard 200[46]2
German Albums Chart[47]9
French Albums Chart[48]2
US Cash Box Top 100 Albums Chart[49]1
US Record World Top Pop Albums Chart[50]1
Canadian RPM 100 Albums[51]1
Spanish Albums Chart[52]8
Australian Go-Set Top 20 Albums Chart[53]2
1971"Black Dog"US Billboard Hot 100[54]15
1972"Rock and Roll"Billboard Hot 100[55]47

Sales certifications

Argentina (CAPIF)[56]Platinum60,000x
Australia (ARIA)[57]8× Platinum560,000^
Brazil (ABPD)[58]Gold100,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[59]2× Diamond2,000,000^
France (SNEP)[60]2× Platinum600,000*
Germany (BVMI)[61]3× Gold750,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[62]
Remastered edition
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[63]Platinum50,000x
United Kingdom (BPI)[64]6× Platinum1,800,000^
United States (RIAA)[65]23× Platinum23,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone


Led Zeppelin
Additional musicians

See also


  1. ^ Davis, Stephen (2008). "Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga". p.234. HarperCollins, 2008
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  3. ^ "Top 100 Albums". RIAA. http://www.riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php?table=tblTop100. Retrieved 11 August 2008. 
  4. ^ "Their Time is Gonna Come". Classic Rock Magazine. December 2007 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Michael Leonard, "Heaven Sent", Q Led Zeppelin Special Edition, 2003.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Dave Lewis (1994), The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9.
  7. ^ Adams, Cecil. "What Do the Four Symbols on Led Zeppelin's 4th Album Mean?". straightdope.com. http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mledzeppelin.html. Retrieved 11 August 2008. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Dave Schulps, Interview with Jimmy Page, Trouser Press, October 1977.
  9. ^ James Jackson, "Jimmy Page on Led Zeppelin IV, the band's peak and their reunion, The Times, January 8, 2010 .
  10. ^ Interview with Jimmy Page, Guitar World magazine, 1993
  11. ^ Led-Zeppelin.org. "Led Zeppelin Assorted Info". http://www.led-zeppelin.org/reference/index.php?m=assorted3. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  12. ^ Austin Scaggs, Q&A: Robert Plant[dead link], Rolling Stone, 5 May 2005.
  13. ^ "Zoso Jimmy Page's symbol". http://www.inthelight.co.nz/ledzep/zososymbol.htm. Retrieved 25 March 2009. 
  14. ^ Gettings, Fred (1981). The Dictionary of Occult, Hermetic, and Alchemical Sigils and Symbols. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. p. 201. ISBN 0-7100-0095-2. http://books.google.com/?id=W-E9AAAAIAAJ. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  15. ^ In the 1990 Bonham tribute radio special, "It's Been a Long Time", son Jason Bonham confirmed that the symbol was chosen as a representation of man, woman and child
  16. ^ Lewis, Dave; Pallett, Simon (2007). Led Zeppelin: The Concert File. London: Omnibus Press. p. 72. ISBN 0-7119-5307-4. 
  17. ^ a b Tolinski, Brad; Di Bendetto, Greg (January 1998). "Light and Shade". Guitar World 
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  33. ^ "The Grammy Hall of Fame Award". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. http://www.grammy.org/recording-academy/awards/hall-of-fame#l. Retrieved 18 August 2007. [dead link]
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  39. ^ Dimery, Robert – 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die; page 856
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  42. ^ "The Definitive 200: Top 200 Albums of All-Time". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (United States). http://www.rockhall.com/pressroom/definitive-200. Retrieved 10 February 2009. [dead link]
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  62. ^ "Dutch album certifications – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV" (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. http://www.ifpi.nl/nvpi/pagina.asp?pagkey=61112&documentid=1783710. 
  63. ^ "The Official Swiss Charts and Music Community: Awards (Led Zeppelin; '4')". Hung Medien. http://www.swisscharts.com/search_certifications.asp?search=Led+Zeppelin+4. 
  64. ^ "British album certifications – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV". British Phonographic Industry. http://www.bpi.co.uk/certifiedawards/search.aspx.  Enter Led Zeppelin IV in the field Search. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Go
  65. ^ "American album certifications – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV". Recording Industry Association of America. http://www.riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php?artist=%22Led+Zeppelin+IV%22.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links

Preceded by
Top of the Pops, Volume 20 by Various artists
UK Albums Chart number-one album
4–18 December 1971
Succeeded by
Electric Warrior by T. Rex