The journey that Led Zeppelin went on during the late 1960s and all throughout the ’70s was one of tremendous growth. Starting as a facsimile of the Yardbirds playing blues covers in Scandinavian clubs, the band that was quickly assembled to fulfil Jimmy Page‘s outstanding contract had enough chemistry to get a new name and a debut album out in quick succession. From there, it was a wild ride that involved pioneering modern heavy metal and stadium rock.
However, it wasn’t an easy road to get there. The strain of constantly being on tour caused John Paul Jones to burn out so severely that he almost quit before the recording of Led Zeppelin IV. Robert Plant learned of his son Karac’s death while on the band’s 1977 tour and retreated to try and recuperate his personal life. Page began a debilitating addiction to heroin around the recording of Presence, while John Bonham’s alcohol intake would prove to be his undoing. Despite the changing cultural tides of punk and new wave, plus the band’s tax exile status that kept them out of the UK for nearly two years, Led Zeppelin retained their audience and were still the biggest band in the world in 1978. Internally, however, all was not well.
When the group arrived at ABBA’s Polar Studios in Stockholm, they quickly found themselves divided into two camps: Jones and Plant, who were largely abstaining from excess and stayed focused on recording, and Bonham and Page, who were incapacitated at various points due to addiction. The traditional songwriting duo of Page and Plant was usurped by the new working relationship between Jones and Plant, and for the first time ever on a Led Zeppelin album, there were songs where Page did not have a writing credit.
Page was quick to acknowledge Jones’ contributions, not only to the album but in keeping Zeppelin together as a working band. “Jones had complete numbers that he’d written, you know, with verses, choruses, middles, and it was fantastic,” Page told The Guardian in 2015. “Presence had been an electric guitar album. [Then] Jones had this writing renaissance, because he hadn’t written whole numbers before and suddenly he had”.
Still, Page has also acknowledged that he isn’t keen on the album as a whole, and it’s for one specific reason that both he and Bonham shared. “We thought In Through the Out Door was a little soft,” Page explained in a 1993 interview with Guitar World. “I was not really very keen on [‘All My Love’]. I could just imagine people doing the wave and all of that. And I thought ‘That is not us. That is not us.’”
“Bonzo and I had already started discussing plans for a hard-driving rock album after that,” Page concluded. “I would not have wanted
to pursue that direction in the future.” Page and Plant even went to see the ascending punk rockers The Damned to try and suss out their direction for the future, but unfortunately, that was put on permanent hold with Bonham’s death in 1980. In Through the Out Door remains the final Led Zeppelin album, and although Page might think it’s a bit soft, it remains a wonderful swan song for the legendary group.