December 1979: Led Zeppelin Release FOOL IN THE RAIN

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Led Zeppelin was famous for many reasons; one legend among the band's fans was Jimmy Page and company's notorious stance against releasing singles from Led Zeppelin albums. The edict came about after Zeppelin's imposing manager, Peter Grant, struck a deal in the group's contract giving them complete control over what was released under the Led Zeppelin moniker.

What really pushed Led Zeppelin over the brink regarding singles was the "Whole Lotta Love" radio debacle of 1969: "It was only for American AM radio stations to promote the LP and that was a full-length version of the LP track," drummer John Bonham told Melody Maker at the time.

When some of those stations took the liberty to create their own "radio edit" of the track by cutting out a big instrumental passage of the song, the band saw red. The demand for radio-ready Zeppelin was so strong that the group finally relented to the release, with "Whole Lotta Love" soaring all the way to #4 on the Hot 100 for the week of January 31, 1970. The #1 song in America that week: The Jackson 5, "I Want You Back."

“I produced ‘Whole Lotta Love’ — and the entire second album — as an un-editable expression, a work that had to be aired on stereo FM to make sense,” guitarist Jimmy Page stressed to the Wall Street Journal in 2014.

"I always thought of the Stones as a pop group who made singles," singer Robert Plant said in 2005. "The whole idea of what we did competing with Bobby Goldsboro for airplay as they were wasn’t where we were at. What we said was there’s no point putting out a single when the album is the statement of the band."

Fast-forward 10 years to 1979, and the release of Led Zeppelin's eighth and final studio album, In Through the Out Door. With the LP having a strong influence from bassist John Paul Jones and singer Robert Plant, the pair were inspired to write what became the album's biggest song by a particular sporting event.

According to biographer Dave Lewis in his book, Led Zeppelin: From a Whisper to a Scream – Complete Guide to Their Music (2012), Plant and Jones were fired up by the samba beats that permeated the 1978 FIFA World Cup tournament in Argentina. The plan was to bring that same energy to the track "Fool in the Rain."

"The idea emerged to layer on their own samba halfway through the hop-skip riff arrangement," Lewis wrote. "Crazed as it sounds, it works beautifully right through JP's [Jones] street whistles to Bonzo's [drummer Bonham] delightfully constructed timpani crashes."

The buzz around the song was immediate after the release of In Through the Out Door in November 1979, with many FM radio stations focusing on "Fool in the Rain." It was enough to inspire Atlantic to issue the track as a single on December 7, 1979. A surprise crossover radio hit, "Fool in the Rain" made a strong chart run, just missing the top 20 with a peak position of #21 for the week of February 16, 1980. In contrast, the #1 song in America that week: Captain and Tennille, "Do That to Me One More Time."

SAD FACT: Led Zeppelin never performed "Fool in the Rain" live. Given the song's arrangement, it would have required additional musicians to pull off in concert. The band only performed two shows in 1979--the legendary Knebworth sets--and 14 more gigs in 1980 before John Bonham tragically died in on September 25, 1980.