What Led Zeppelin created during their reign of terror was truly remarkable, Jimmy Page building on the name he had already established thanks to his extraordinary work in The Yardbirds. When he first stepped on to the stage with Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones on September 7th, 1968, even he wouldn’t have believed what they would go on to achieve.
Jimmy Page had taken over from Jeff Beck as lead guitarist in The Yardbirds two years prior in 1966—with Beck previously taking over from Eric Clapton—so it’s no great surprise that he went on to have such a long, fruitful career as he has enjoyed.
Their final album, Little Games, was released in July 1967, only in the US, with the record’s commercial and critical failing almost sealing the band’s fate. It was clear that the band were fizzling out and there was no longer the same demand for material from The Yardbirds as a few years prior.
The Yardbirds would play their farewell concert in July 1968, at Luton College of Technology in Bedfordshire, a show which was hardly a grandiose send-off. However, they had been booked to do a run of shows in Scandinavia for September and, rather than cancel, Jimmy Page saw it as the perfect opportunity to get a new band together, who he planned to call The New Yardbirds even though they were a completely different entity.
Page and bassist Chris Dreja immediately began putting a new line-up together, their choice for the singer was Terry Reid, but he declined. However, he did suggest Robert Plant’s name who, of course, would accept. He then recommended his old bandmate, John Bonham, who willfully joined the team.
After Chris Dreja’s wife recommended that he leave his passion project behind and instead become a photographer, he dropped out of the project — missing out on an opportunity to be in Led Zeppelin. John Paul Jones then inquired about the vacant position of bass guitarist, as Page had known Jones since they were both session musicians, and agreed to let him join as the final member.
On September 7th, 1968, they took to the stage as a four-piece for the first time at the unlikely location of the Gladsaxe Teen Club of Gladsaxe, Denmark, where they would deliver a now-historic set.
“Their performance and their music were absolutely flawless, and the music continued to ring nicely in the ears for some time after the curtains were drawn after their show,” a newsletter issued by the venue said of the performance. “Let me in particular give my praise to Jimmy Page who has made a great job with the three new men. They really succeeded and in particular the guitar solo by Page created huge applause. We can therefore conclude that the New Yardbirds are at least as good as the old ones were.”
Jorgen Angel, who photographed the performance, later told Kashmir: “It’s only a short while before the concert that we realized it wouldn’t the ‘real’ Yardbirds that were going to play. Gladsaxe Teen Club had booked the Yardbirds a few months before, but the Yardbirds broke up, and Peter Grant and Jimmy Page came with other musicians to fulfil those commitments.
“They signed a contract for a small tour in Scandinavia. Jimmy recruited three other guys and they played all the clubs where the Yardbirds were supposed to play,” Angel added.
The band were then forced into changing their name after a cease and desist letter by Chris Dreja who was undoubtedly fuming about his decision to leave the group, saying they could only use the Yardbirds name for the Scandanavian dates.
The name Led Zeppelin was then born and by November 1968 they had gone on to secure a $143,000 advance contract from Atlantic Records which, at the time, was the biggest deal ever for a new act at the time and the rest is history.