Think you know everything about ‘Physical Graffiti’? What about the great goose attack? Or John Paul Jones almost scuppering the record with his organ ambitions? To celebrate the 41st birthday of the sixth studio album by Led Zeppelin, released on February 24, here’s 21 facts you might not know.
When ‘Physical Graffiti’ was released, all five of Zeppelin’s previous albums re-entered the Billboard charts, making them the first band to have six albums chart at one time.
‘Bron-Yr-Aur’ was written around the time of ‘Led Zeppelin III’ but was finally released on ‘Physical Graffiti’. Jimmy Page’s acoustic work was influenced by the likes of folk guitarists Bert Jansch and Davy Graham.
Zeppelin were eager to record a double album as it was seen as the defining artistic statement of the time. ‘Physical Graffiti’ followed the Beatles’ ‘White Album’, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Exile on Main Street’, Bob Dylan’s ‘Blonde on Blonde’ and, just the previous year, the Who’s ‘Quadrophenia.’
Of Kashmir’s famous riff, Page says: “I had it before going in there [to record]. I had a piece of music that I’d been working on, and just on the tail end of it I had that riff. I thought ‘Uh-oh. This is something I really want to try.’ I couldn’t wait to get into Headley Grange with John Bonham and do this.”
The album was recorded in the spring of 1974 at former poorhouse Headley Grange. Jimmy Page had a room in the freezing house but the rest of the band chose to stay nearby at a country hotel.
The band used a mobile studio belonging to Ronnie Lane of the Faces – a cheaper alternative to the Rolling Stones’ studio they had previously used.
One morning during the recording process John Bonham arrived with a big bag containing 1,500 pills of the sedative Mandrax. He planned to conceal them from the rest of the band by taping them to the inside of his drum heads. A member of the crew pointed out the flaw in his plan: Bonham had a Perspex kit.
Of Bonham, sound engineer Benji LeFevre said: “Like most drummers, Bonzo tended to exceed the limit more than most people would. Sometimes he was particularly cruel to Mick Hinton — his roadie. Bonzo would punch him in the face for no reason at all.”
John Paul Jones’ clavinet line on ‘Trampled Under Foot’ was inspired by Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’.
‘In My Time of Dying’ is a reworking of Blind Willie Johnson’s ‘Jesus, Make Up My Dying Bed’ from 1927. Another variation of the song was recorded by Bob Dylan.
Confusingly, ‘Houses Of The Holy’ appears on Physical Graffiti after being left off earlier album ‘Houses Of The Holy’. Rick Rubin once said of the track: “This is a funk jam with really interesting, jazzy chords. It’s one of their more compact feeling songs. And it’s the only Zep song to use what sounds like a cowbell.”
John Paul Jones almost quit Zeppelin prior to recording the album as he’d been offered the position of choirmaster at Winchester Cathedral.
The buildings on the cover were the same ones that Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were later filmed in front of in the video for The Rolling Stones’ ‘Waiting On A Friend’. Cover art designer Peter Corriston has said he was looking for a building that was symmetrical with interesting details.
‘Boogie With Stu’ is so named because it is indeed a boogie with Ian Stewart, The Rolling Stones’ road manager and pianist.
‘Black Country Woman’ was recorded in the back garden of Mick Jagger’s home, Stargroves, in 1972. Recording outdoors proved to be difficult. On one occasion at Headley Grange when Plant tried to go outside to sing the song, he was attacked by a flock of angry geese.
‘Kashmir’ is 8:28 minutes long, which radio stations said they would not have played if it hadn’t been for the success of the similarly lengthy ‘Stairway To Heaven’.
The session was marked by bouts of debauchery. Recording halted took while the band led farm animals up to the first floor of Headley Grange and and let off flares.
Recording was stopped for several weeks when one of the roadies, Peppy, drove John Bonham’s new car — a BMW 3.0 CSl — into a wall. Bonzo was so upset that Peppy hid in a wardrobe for 36 hours.
The term ‘Custard Pie’ refers to a woman’s genitals, as in the lyrics: “Your custard pie, yeah, sweet and nice / When you cut it mama, save me a slice”, as well as “chewin’ a piece of your custard pie”.
‘Down By The Seaside’ was heavily influenced by Neil Young’s ‘Down By The River’. It was recorded in 1971 and was intended for release on ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ but was held for ‘Physical Graffiti’.
Tom Morello says ‘The Wanton Song’ was a major influence for the verse riffing on Rage Against The Machines’ ‘Vietnow’.