October 1969: Led Zeppelin Release LED ZEPPELIN II
Released October 22, 1969, Led Zeppelin II is a true cornerstone of rock and roll. It’s the inimitable combination of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham launching their hard-edged and blues-based sounds into the stratosphere. With Page handling production, and Eddie Kramer engineering, they crafted an enduring collection of timeless tracks forever etched in the Mount Rushmore of rock and roll.
Led Zeppelin II was born in a crossfire whirlwind of rock and roll chaos. The band had blown the doors off the international rock scene with their explosive debut album. It was while Zeppelin was on the road touring in support of their debut--and dealing with the ensuing mania that came with their newfound fame--when Led Zeppelin II was conceived.
“It was quite insane, really,” Jimmy Page told Rolling Stone years after the fact. “We had no time, and we had to write numbers in hotel rooms. By the time the album came out, I was really fed up with it. I’d just heard it so many times in so many places. I really think I had lost confidence in it.”
Recorded in various studios around the world, Page was particularly keen on getting to work in America. So much so that he corralled the band into a New York studio the same night they were out celebrating Led Zeppelin hitting gold status.
"There was an urgency to being in the States," John Bonham later recalled. "I remember we went out to the airport to meet our wives, got them back to the hotel and then went straight back to the studio and did 'Bring It on Home.' We did a lot that year like that."
Page’s urgency paid off. Led Zeppelin II hit record stores like a bomb, selling enough copies to soar to #1 on the Billboard 200 for the week of December 27, 1969. The album battled with the Beatles' Abbey Road, which was the #1 album in the country for the first two weeks of 1970. Led Zeppelin II retook the top spot for the week of January 17, 1970, only for Abbey Road to take it right back the following week of January 24.
Over the week of January 31, 1970, Led Zeppelin II was again the #1 album in America, a position it held for for the following four weeks in a row. The record sold an astonishing three million copies in just the first six months of release.
Led Zeppelin II has the distinction of featuring a rare Led Zeppelin single: "Whole Lotta Love." Released in November 1969, the record was a smash, rocketing all the way to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of January 31, 1970. The #1 song in America that week: the Jackson 5 with "I Want You Back."
FUN FACT: it was during the feverish period of activity making Led Zeppelin II that the band’s notorious manager, Peter Grant, turned down an invitation for the group to perform at Woodstock. "I said no to Woodstock because I knew we'd just be another band on the bill," was Grant's explanation for the decision.