With the combination of four members of Led Zeppelin, the group could boast an almost unparalleled musical IQ. However, that factor alone isn’t always enough to guarantee success, and Robert Plant puts the band’s meteoric rise down to one key ingredient — and they had it in abundance.
Before Zeppelin formed, Page’s name had already acquired plenty of hype, and there was excitement about his new project, a factor that gave the band a leg-up that most new outfits aren’t fortunate enough to receive. His experience in The Yardbirds alongside his work on the session circuit also provided Page with a deep understanding of the industry’s mechanics, which distinguished them from their contemporaries.
Page was a calming influence on his giddy bandmates, and his importance can’t be downplayed. He took it upon himself to take on a leadership role in the band and stopped their newfound success from distracting them. Discussing the formative years of the band,Plant later reminisced during an interview with The Sun, stating: “Jimmy was the boss in the beginning. He and Jonesy bankrolled the whole thing. When we started playing, they were the luminaries but Bonzo and I carried a lot of excitement and raw crap from the Midlands.”
While Page’s leadership role was vital during their early years together, if it wasn’t for one other asset they had at their disposal, then his skill set would have been redundant. Pinpointing the area which propelled Led Zeppelin into superstardom, Plant continued, “We were very fortunate because we had this thing called chemistry, although I hate to use that term. It was a fantastic and fortuitous accident.
“There was something evocative and slightly addictive about us because, in the middle of all our madness, you could feel and hear that it was Zeppelin. For the four of us, it was almost like role play. Self-expression was never marred, and there was always a free pass to take an idea to the extreme.”
Jimmy Page’s opinion on why Zeppelin resonated so profoundly with the masses is more simplistic than the theory of his bandmate, and he puts it down to their sheer untamed ability. “I have to say we were four amazing musicians playing as a band as opposed to one superstar surrounded by other musicians. The bottom line for me is that the music has brought so much pleasure,” he told the same publication.
Plant’s explanation of Led Zeppelin’s rise to success is more nuanced and thorough than Page’s, although that doesn’t necessarily mean the guitarist is wrong. Of course, their talent was critical in helping them conquer the landscape of popular music, but ability alone only gets you so far, and it’s their chemistry that galvanised them into becoming an unstoppable force.