Everyone has their favourite Led Zeppelin record, and it’s normally the usual suspects, Physical Graffiti and Led Zeppelin IV, that pop-up. However, the band’s later work is often overlooked, and, for one album specifically, Jimmy Page believes more praise is required.
Following the release of Physical Graffiti in 1975, people questioned where Zeppelin could go from there, doubting that they had the nouse to eclipse its greatness. Expectations were mightily high, but time was of the essence, and the group returned to the studio to work on the follow-up that same year.
In an ideal world, Led Zep would have taken time off from recording and toured their most-recent album. However, Robert Plant would suffer a broken leg that scuppered their plans to hit the road in the States, and they retreated to the studio.
Due to Plant’s injury, Page took the lead on the project, and they went to Germany to record what became Presence. In terms of sales, the album was a success and topped the charts internationally, but the general response to the record was rather lukewarm.
Despite the mixed reaction, Page still believes it stands up and is proud of the creation. “I certainly really like it. It’s a bit of a muso’s album, though, isn’t it? So many times, I speak to people and they say that Presence is their favourite, and it always surprises me, because you’ve got to really listen to what’s going on,” he told Louder Sound.
The guitarist discussed the less than desirable conditions that they made their seventh album, but he also noted that this adversity helped influence the powerful sound of Presence. “Robert had had his accident [a car crash in Rhodes in August 1975], so his leg was in plaster in the studio. So that was a set of circumstances right there that wasn’t in script,” he added.
Adding: “So Presence was very reflective of what was going on – a lot of darkness and intensity. There’s some extraordinary stuff on there: from my point of view, ‘Achilles Last Stand,’ but also ‘Tea For One,‘ where Robert is singing his heart out.”
Presence represents the end of the line for Led Zeppelin, and following the tragedy of losing his son Karac in 1977, Plant felt compelled for the band to change their musical direction for their final album, In Through the Out Door.
For Page, Presence is one of his highlights from their entire career. Additionally, the fact that it remains somewhat of a secret compared to their more notable work seems only to endear the guitarist to the record further, and he takes pleasure in it coyly flying under the radar.