May 2003: Led Zeppelin Release HOW THE WEST WAS WON

Friday, May 27, 2022

According to Jimmy Page, guitar legend and the mastermind behind Led Zeppelin, it's the live album that truly captures the band at its performing peak: "While I was searching through the archives for visual and audio material for the Led Zeppelin DVD I re-discovered these 1972 performances from the 25th June, LA Forum and 27th June, Long Beach Arena," Page shared in the liner notes. "This is Led Zeppelin at its best and an illustration of How The West Was Won."

It was May 27, 2003, when the highlights from those extraordinary shows were released as triple-album How the West Was Won.

"I’d wanted to do a chronological live Zeppelin album since 1980, starting with tracks from the Albert Hall, but we could never get anyone to agree on anything," Page explained during an interview. "In retrospect, though, it was probably a good thing it took so long. It’s a great moment right now for something like this. Because of the digital technology we were able to use to restore these things it’s almost like going back in time. Albert Hall, for example, looks like it was recorded yesterday."

How the West Was Won captures Led Zeppelin blazing through early catalog classics including "Immigrant Song," "Going to California" and a show-stopping version of "Stairway to Heaven." There's also an extended take on "Whole Lotta Love" that runs for over 20 minutes.

"It was always very intense on stage," said bassist John Paul Jones. "That’s what made it so much fun, so enjoyable and interesting. We weren’t just going out there bashing out hits, or stuff people knew or whatever, stuff that you would expect people to like, we were up there to make the best, often improvised, music we could. To make it sound really hot and really happening all the time requires commitment and work and application. You had to turn up and you had to know what you were doing once you started."

The release of a new Led Zeppelin live album shook up the music charts from the moment How the West Was Won was released, with the release debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200 for the week of June 14, 2003. It was certified gold and platinum by the RIAA soon thereafter on June 30, 2003.