Led Zeppelin are one of the most revered rock outfits of all time. Each of its four members were vital cogs in the mystical behemoth that earned a cult rock and roll following like no other. Frontman Robert Plant possessed a siren-like vocal range that is unmatched, Jimmy Page was the master of power riffs, John Paul Jones the bassist and magical multi-instrumentalist, and drummer John Bonham fused jazz and rock in a way that had never been heard before, earning legions of disciples in the process.
The band filled the gaping chasm left by The Beatles in the wake of their demise in 1970, and were commercial giants on both sides of the Atlantic. They reformulated rock in an expansive way, effectively setting the scene for the likes of U2 and Bruce Springsteen. Their sound was gargantuan and unlike anything anybody had ever heard at that point. Come to the release of their magnum opus, 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV, Jimmy Page had realised his long-term goal of exploring the heavier underbelly of rock, aiding the proliferation of what would become known as metal.
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Led Zeppelin. It’s well known that at the start of their careers, they were critically panned, and that the band always found it hard to shake off such unfettered hatred completely. The mainstream media always seemed to have an agenda against the quartet, but this didn’t matter, their fans were unwavering in their support, and those who backed them from the beginning were there until the very end.
One of the band’s earliest supporters was publisher and eccentric Felix Dennis, the mind behind countercultural magazine OZ and men’s publication Maxim. In a March 1969 edition of OZ, Dennis provided a perceptive account of the future trajectory of Led Zeppelin’s career. Reviewing the band’s self-titled debut album, Dennis showered some love on the newcomers and was right about a lot of things.
“Very occasionally, a long-playing record is released that defies immediate classification or description,” he said, “Simply because it’s so obviously a turning point in rock music that only time proves capable of shifting it into eventual perspective. (Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, The Byrds‘ Younger Than Yesterday, Disraeli Gears, Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? and Sgt. Pepper). This Led Zeppelin album is like that.”
Apart from predicting the classic status of Zeppelin’s debut, Dennis showered intense praise on the record, discussing its emotive impact. “This album makes you feel good,” he conveyed. “It makes you feel good to hear a band with so much to say and the conspicuous ability to say it as they feel it; to translate what’s in their heads to music. It makes you feel good to hear Bonham and Jones working together, creating those deep, surging, undercurrents of rhythm as Page again and again molests the more vulnerable areas of his Telecaster.”
Regardless of the lip service that Dennis paid to Led Zeppelin, the most pertinent segment of the review came at the end. Showing an incredible deal of foresight, he provided us with an accurate account of how Led Zeppelin’s future looked. Whether he’d looked into his crystal ball or otherwise, his prediction proved scarily accurate. Only a couple of years after the review was released, Led Zeppelin would go on to become one of the most successful bands in history.
“Of course, as a result of this album,” Dennis posited, “We’ll lose the group to the States, and almost certainly within the month the Melody Maker letters page will headline – ‘Is Page BETTER Than God?!!’ – and then the BBC will begin negotiations on a feature film… but there’s more to it than that. There is a phrase nobody uses anymore, (not since we de-freaked our hair, handed back granny her beads, quietly disposing of kaftans and joss sticks to jumble collections). That phrase exactly sums up Led Zeppelin‘s debut album. Remember Good Vibrations?”.
Dennis’ account is perhaps the most accurate in musical history. Balanced and realistic, there’s no surprise he became one of Britain’s most well-respected journalists.