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.
‘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.”
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.
‘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.
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’.