By the time Led Zeppelin’s forth album came out in November of 1971, they were well on their way to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world. The band had released four albums in three years since 1969 and during the recording of those albums, some fully formed songs were left in the can. There was talk about putting out their fourth album as a double, or even as a set of four EP’s. This plan was ditched though and fans had to wait until 1973 for their fifth album, ‘Houses of the Holy; to come out. A gap of a year between albums was not unheard of at this point, but was still rare.
In April of 1972, the band moved to Mick Jagger’s home, Stargroves, to record their next LP. Hiring the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, they set to work. They also had to find the time to rehearse for the live shows that took place in Australasia, North America, Japan and the UK. So as to not to lose momentum, what if the band’s management thought that a stop gap album of outtakes would keep the band in the public consciousness, and also find a home for the material the band had been stockpiling*. With the release of the Led Zeppelin box sets in the 1990s and the deluxe edition in the second decade of this century, this task has been made considerably easier.
Looking back at the first album, there was ‘Sugar Mama’. Credited, when it was eventually released, to Page and Plant, this was an old blues standard given the Led Zep treatment. ‘Baby Come On Home’ is also pulled from those first album session tapes. Another song credited to Page and Plant, but was based on a song of the same title written by the legendary Bert Burns so he received a co-writing credit as well. There were no unreleased finished songs from the second album and when looking at the deluxe edition of that album which came out in 2014, it is easy to see why. The bonus tracks on that collection are mostly backing tracks and rough mixes for the songs that were released on the parent album. The second album most probably suffered from a dearth material as they did spend a good deal of 1969 touring. It is amazing they produced anything at all that year, let alone an album with some rock classics on it as ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ on it. The rest of the album isn’t too bad either.
After the hectic touring and recording schedule that was 1969, Page and Plant retreated to Wales to take a break and to write some new material. This lead to a more pastoral sounding album and a number of outtakes, raining from the beautiful ‘Bron-Yr-Sur’ to the reimagined blues medley of ‘Key To The Highway/Trouble in Mind’. The sessions for this album produced the only song to have been released at the time this album could have been compiled, and that is ‘Hey Hey, What Can I Do’. This was the B-Side to the ‘Immigrant Song ‘single, but as this single was not released in the UK, this album (if it had been released) would have been the first time many British fans of the band would have heard it.
There would have been a case for putting on a couple of studio jams, and two could have been put forward. ‘Jennings Farms Blues’ (which would develop into Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp) as well as ‘St. Tristian’s Sword’. Both of these were recorded during the Led Zeppelin III sessions. Both being unfinished run throughs meant that they do not warrant too many repeat listens. However, it could have been felt that putting them in the record as a bonus seven inch record would have made the record better value for money for the bands fans. Doing this would have made this record one of the first to put in a bonus single in this way. Led Zeppelin’s fourth album contributed the rest of the album outtakes but this would not have been enough to fill out an entire album. Another look through the archive would have meant using a song that was recorded for the BBC that had not been released before. ‘Travelling Riverside Blues’ was chosen and ‘We’re Gonna Groove’, which had been recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970, but with some guitar overdubs and the audience noise removed.
One song that was considered for this collection and not used was ‘No Quarter’. An early version of this had been recorded at the fourth album sessions, but had been left unfinished. It would be resurrected for the ‘Houses Of The Holy’ album.
Considering this is an album of outtakes and live tracks, this is a pretty solid collection. With ‘Houses Of The Holy’ not coming out until March 1973, this would have been a perfect stop gap for the band whilst they continued to tour and work on new material. The late summer of 1972 would have been a perfect time to release this, especially as Led Zeppelin would have just finished their North American tour and before they went to Japan and the UK in the October.
Would this album have ever been considered back in 1972? No chance. Considering it has taken the best part of 50 years for some of this material to come out, there was no way this would have come out in 1972. A shame really as I suspect there would have been a few bands back in the day who would have loved such a high quality record being released under their name.
- Poor Tom – Third Album Outtake – Original Released on Coda (1982)
- Down By The Seaside – Fourth Album Outtake – Originally Released on Physical Graffiti (1975)
- Night Flight – Fourth Album Outtake – Originally Released on Physical Graffiti (1975)
- Baby Come on Home – First Album Outtake – Originally Released on Box Set 2 (1993)
- Hey Hey What Can I Do – Third Album Outtake – Originally Released on the B-Side of Immigrant Song (1970)
- Key To The Highway/Trouble In Mind – Third Album Outtake – Originally Released on Led Zeppelin III Deluxe Edition (2014)
- We’re Gonna Groove – Recorded Live 1970 – Originally Released on Coda (1982)
- Sugar Mama – First Album Outtake – Originally Released on CodaDeluxe Edition (2015)
- Boogie With Stu – Fourth Album Outtake – Originally Released on Physical Graffiti (1975)
- Travelling Riverside Blues – BBC Session – Originally released on Box Set 1 (1990)
- Bron-Yr-Aur – Third Album Outtake – Originally Released on Physical Graffiti (1975)
- Jennings Farm Blues – Third Album Outtake – Originally Release on Led Zeppelin III Deluxe Edition (2014)
- St. Tristan’s Sword – Third Album Outtake – Originally Release on Led Zeppelin III Deluxe Edition (2014)
Album artwork found on Reddit can created by u/Mellow_404.
*This actual happened when the band completed the sessions for the album Physical Graffiti. They had three sides of music they wished to release and placed some outtakes on there to make up the numbers.