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The huge impact that Stanley Kubrick had on Led Zeppelin


“If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.” ― Stanley Kubrick

The world of creativity is, by nature, a collaborative realm where influences and inspirations rub off on each other. Led Zeppelin were musical magpies collecting what they could from J.R.R Tolkien’s imaginings, Link Wray’s wild ‘Rumble’, blues, rock and everything else. With the sharing is caring milieu of the arts there are some forces, however, that are so singular their impact is almost seismic.

Stanley Kubrick was a visionary director who imparted a giant footprint on culture. His seminal work 2001: A Space Odyssey was so revolutionary and ahead of its time that it changed the face of cinema. Tom Hanks was so inspired by the picture that he told the BBC, “[When I watched it] I realised that cinema was nothing more than a collection of colour and sound and the end result is an emotional wallop that you might not be able to understand. This was the wow moment […] that led me to being a kid yearning to be an artist.”

Later works like A Clockwork Orange proved similarly revolutionary. People hadn’t seen such violent abandon on screen and it stirred a reaction from the art world which is still felt today. Kubrick’s unique blend of visuals, sound and story, coupled with his unwavering artistic integrity and single-minded creative intent has spawned a generation of disciples in the creative realm, whether that be in movies, music or other areas of art. Led Zeppelin were among his most ardent followers. 

Of all of their members, John Bonham was least sartorially striking, choosing to forgo the becloaked stylings of Jimmy Page or the leather trousered aesthetic of Robert Plant in favour of the crazy couture of Clockwork Orange. The band were so enamoured by the movie that Bonham often took to wearing the iconic outfit of a ‘droog’. His white boiler suit and bowler hat wardrobe garnered him the nickname Mr. Ultraviolence from Robert Plant.

Alex DeLarge’s chaotic personality became a touchstone for the band after 1972. The band coupled the modernised sound of Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 9 in D Minor’, into their sonic output and built around the image of an unruly outsider gang. However, this wasn’t the only way that the oeuvre of Kubrick rubbed off on them. 

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The cover for their album Presence is also a nod to the masterful director and his film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The artwork was created by Hipgnosis, the collective also responsible for Dark Side of the Moon. And as Page explains: “There was no working title for the album. The record-jacket designer said ‘When I think of the group, I always think of power and force. There’s a definite presence there.’ That was it. He wanted to call it Obelisk. To me, it was more important what was behind the obelisk. The cover is very tongue-in-cheek, to be quite honest. Sort of a joke on [the film] 2001. I think it’s quite amusing.”

Aside from all these tangible links and admiring comments that band members have made over the years, perhaps the most notable link between the two is how bold they were with their visionary ways. Both ‘Led Zep’ and Kubrick lived and died on being entirely uncompromising and always as bold as they could be, and yet, never just for the sake of it.