Physical Graffiti

Physical Graffiti

Infobox Album
Name = Physical Graffiti
Type = Double album
Artist = Led Zeppelin

Released = February 24, 1975
Recorded = July 1970; December 1970-March 1971; May 1972; January–February 1974; October 1974
Length = 82:15
Label = Swan Song
Producer = Jimmy Page
Reviews =
*Allmusic Rating|5|5 [ link]
*"Q" Rating|5|5 [ November 2000]
*Robert Christgau (B+) [ link]
*"Rolling Stone" (Very Favorable) [ link]
Last album = "Houses of the Holy"
This album = "Physical Graffiti"
Next album = "Presence"
Misc = Extra album cover 2
Upper caption = Back cover
Type = Studio album

Lower caption =

"Physical Graffiti" is the sixth album by the English hard rock band Led Zeppelin. It is a double album which was released on February 24, 1975. Recording sessions for the album were initially disrupted when John Paul Jones considered leaving the band. After reuniting at Headley Grange, the band wrote and recorded eight songs, the combined length of which stretched the album beyond the typical length of an LP. This prompted the band to make "Physical Graffiti" a double album by including previously unreleased tracks from earlier recording sessions.

"Physical Graffiti" was commercially and critically successful; the album has sold 16 million copies in the United States alone and has come to be regarded as one of Led Zeppelin's defining works. RS500|70

Recording history

The recording sessions for "Physical Graffiti" initially took place in November 1973 at Headley Grange in East Hampshire, England. For these recordings, the band utilised Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio. However, these sessions came to a halt quickly and the studio time was turned over to the band Bad Company, who used it to record songs for their forthcoming album, "Straight Shooter".Dave Lewis (1994), "The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin", Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9] In an interview he gave in 1975, guitarist and album producer Jimmy Page explained the reason for this abrupt cessation of recording:

It took a long time for this album mainly because when we originally went in to record it, John Paul Jones wasn't well and we had to cancel the time . . . everything got messed up. It took three months to sort the situation out.cite web|url=|title=Cameron Crowe interview Led Zeppelin |accessdate=2007-11-07|date=1975-03-18]

However, according to Led Zeppelin author Dave Lewis,

it later emerged that Jones had wanted to quit the band and take up a position as choirmaster at Winchester Cathedral. Peter Grant urged caution, suggesting that Jones was overwrought from the incessant touring and should take a rest from Zeppelin for a few weeks. Jones changed his mind and sessions resumed at Headley Grange after the Christmas holidays.Dave Lewis (1994), "The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin", Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9]

Once they had reconvened, the band recorded eight tracks at Headley Grange in January and February 1974, which were engineered by Ron Nevison. Vocalist Robert Plant later referred to these eight tracks as "the belters":

We got eight tracks off ... and a lot of them were really raunchy. We did some real belters with live vocals, off-the-wall stuff that turned out really nice.Dave Lewis (1994), "The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin", Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9]

Similar to the sessions for the previous two albums, the decision to record at the informal surroundings of Headley Grange provided a welcome opportunity for the band to improvise and develop material along the way.Dave Lewis (1994), "The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin", Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9] As Plant commented:

Some of the tracks we assembled in our own fashioned way of running through a track and realising before we knew it that we had stumbled on something completely different.Dave Lewis (1994), "The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin", Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9]

Because the eight tracks extended beyond the length of a conventional album, it was decided at some point to include several unreleased songs which had been recorded during the sessions for previous Led Zeppelin albums. The instrumental "Bron-Yr-Aur" was recorded in July 1970 at Island Studios, London, for "Led Zeppelin III". "Night Flight" and "Boogie with Stu" were recorded at Headley Grange and "Down by the Seaside" at Island Studios, all for "Led Zeppelin IV". "The Rover" and "Black Country Woman" were recorded at the same sessions as "D'yer Mak'er" at Stargroves using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio in May 1972. "Houses of the Holy" was also recorded in May 1972, but at Olympic Studios. The group's fifth album, "Houses of the Holy", took its title from this song despite the decision not to include the song on that album. Page explained:

We had more material than the required 40-odd minutes for one album. We had enough material for one and a half LPs, so we figured let's put out a double and use some of the material we had done previously but never released. It seemed like a good time to do that sort of thing, release tracks like "Boogie With Stu" which we normally wouldn't be able to do ... [T] his time we figured it was better to stretch out than to leave off.Dave Schulps, [ Interview with Jimmy Page] , "Trouser Press", October 1977.]

According to engineer Nevison, the decision to expand the album to include songs from previous sessions was not part of the original planning:

I never knew that "Physical Graffiti" was going to be a double album. When we started out we were just cutting tracks for a new record. I left the project before they started pulling in songs from "Houses of the Holy" and getting them up to scratch. So I didn't know it was a double [album] until it came out."Their Time is Gonna Come", "Classic Rock Magazine", December 2007]

Additional overdubs were added and the final mixing of the album was performed in October 1974 by Keith Harwood at Olympic Studios, London. The title "Physical Graffiti" was coined by Page to illustrate the whole physical and written energy that had gone into producing the set.Dave Lewis (1994), "The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin", Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9]


In the opinion of Lewis, "Physical Graffiti"

was a massive outpouring of [Led] Zeppelin music that proved to be the definitive summary of their studio work ... Given the luxury of a double format, "Physical Graffiti" mirrors every facet of the Zeppelin repertoire. The end result is a finely balanced embarrassment of riches.Dave Lewis (1994), "The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin", Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9]

Spanning several years of recording, the album featured forays into a range of musical styles, including hard rock ("The Rover", "The Wanton Song", "Sick Again". "Houses of the Holy"), eastern-influenced orchestral rock ("Kashmir"), driving funk ("Trampled Under Foot"), acoustic rock and roll ("Boogie With Stu", "Black Country Woman"), love ballad ("Ten Years Gone"), blues rock ("In My Time of Dying") and acoustic guitar instrumental ("Bron-Yr-Aur"). [ Review at All Music Guide] ] [; Rolling Stone Review, Mar, 27 1975] ] Dave Lewis (1994), "The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin", Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9] The wide range of "Physical Graffiti" is also underlined by the fact that it contains both the longest and shortest studio recordings by Led Zeppelin. "In My Time of Dying" clocks in at 11 minutes 5 seconds and "Bron-Yr-Aur" is 2 minutes 6 seconds.

Several tracks off the album became live staples at Led Zeppelin concerts. In particular, the songs "In My Time of Dying", "Trampled Under Foot", "Kashmir", "Ten Years Gone" and"Sick Again" became regular components of the band's live concert set lists following the release of the album.Dave Lewis (1994), "The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin", Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9]

Vocalist Robert Plant has stated that, of all the albums Led Zeppelin released, "Physical Graffiti" represented the band at its most creative and most expressive.Allan Jones, "Robert Plant: ‘We did what we set out to do...’", "Uncut Magazine", May 2008, pp. 38-43.] He has commented that it is his favourite Led Zeppelin album. It is also the only Led Zeppelin album to feature bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones playing additional guitar on some tracks.

Album sleeve design

The album's sleeve design features a photograph of a New York City tenement block, with interchanging window illustrations. The album designer, Peter Corriston, was looking for a building that was symmetrical with interesting details, that was not obstructed by other objects and would fit the square album cover. He said:

We walked around the city for a few weeks looking for the right building. I had come up a concept for the band based on the tenement, people living there and moving in and out. The original album featured the building with the windows cut out on the cover and various sleeves that could be placed under the cover, filling the windows with the album title, track information or liner notes.cite web |url=|publisher=The New York Times |title=F.Y.I.|accessdate=2008-03-15]

The two buildings photographed for the album cover are located at 96 and 98 St. Mark's Place in New York City.cite web |url=| |title=NYC Album Art: Physical Graffiti|accessdate=2008-03-15] cite web |url=,-73.985882&sspn=0.016588,0.031071&ie=UTF8&t=h&om=1&layer=tc&cbll=40.727363,-73.984745&cbp=1,212.648874598071,0.5,0&ll=40.729308,-73.985893&spn=0.004789,0.013379&z=17 |publisher= Google |title=Google Maps: From LudLow St. New York NY to Rivington St |accessdate=2008-03-15] But to enable it to fit, the building (which is actually a five-story building) had to be cropped out. So for the album cover it became a four-story building instead. The buildings used on the cover were the same that Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were filmed in front of in the Rolling Stones music video "Waiting on a Friend".cite web |url= |publisher= |title= Rolling Stones: Waiting On A Friend (Video 1981)|accessdate=2008-03-15] There is currently a used clothing store in the basementcalled 'Physical Graffiti'. The building was recently profiled on the television show, "Rock Junket". [ [ See The Physical Graffiti Building ] ]

The original album jacket for the LP included 4 covers made up of 2 inners (for each disc), a middle insert cover and an outer cover. The inner covers depict various objects and people (including photos of the band members in drag)Dave Lewis (1994), "The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin", Omnibus Press, ISBN 0-7119-3528-9] on each window. The middle insert cover is white with all the album track listings and recording information etc. The outer cover has die-cut windows on the building, so when the middle cover is wrapped around the inner covers and slid into the outer cover, the title of the album is shown on the front cover, spelling out the name "Physical Graffiti".

In 1976 the album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of best album package.

Philadelphia comedy-punk band the Dead Milkmen spoofed the album cover and title on their 1990 album "Metaphysical Graffiti"

Release and critical reception

The album was released on February 24, 1975. It was the band's first release on their own Swan Song Records label, which had been launched in May 1974. Until this point, all of Led Zeppelin's albums had been released on Atlantic Records.

"Physical Graffiti" was a massive commercial and critical success, reaching #1 on "Billboard's" Pop Albums chart, and it has proven to be one of the most popular releases by the group, selling 16 million copies in the United States alone. "Physical Graffiti" was the first album to go platinum on advance orders alone. [ [ Physical Graffiti: Led Zeppelin: Music ] ] Shortly after the release of "Physical Graffiti", all previous Led Zeppelin albums simultaneously re-entered the top-200 album chart. cite book | title=Hammer of the Gods : the Led Zeppelin saga (LPC) | year=1995 | author=Stephen Davis | pages=225, 277 ISBN 0-330-43859-X ]

Upon its release, a review in "Rolling Stone" magazine referred to "Physical Graffiti" as Led Zeppelin's "bid for artistic respectability", adding that the only competition the band had for the title of 'World's Best Rock Band' were The Rolling Stones and The Who. [; Rolling Stone Review, Mar, 27 1975] ]

In 1998 "Q" magazine readers voted "Physical Graffiti" the 28th greatest album of all time; in 2000 "Q" placed it at number 32 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever; and in 2001 the same magazine named it as one of the 50 Heaviest Albums Of All Time. In 2003 the TV network VH1 named it the 71st greatest album ever. RS500|70

Track listing

CD 1
#"Custard Pie" (Page, Plant) – 4:13
#"The Rover" (Page, Plant) – 5:37
#"In My Time of Dying" (Page, Plant, Jones, Bonham) – 11:05
#"Houses of the Holy" (Page, Plant) – 4:02
#"Trampled Under Foot" (Page, Plant, Jones) – 5:37
#"Kashmir" (Page, Plant, Bonham) – 8:32

CD 2
#"In the Light" (Page, Plant, Jones) – 8:46
#"Bron-Yr-Aur"* (Page) – 2:06
#"Down by the Seaside" (Page, Plant) – 5:13
#"Ten Years Gone" (Page, Plant) – 6:32
#"Night Flight" (Jones, Page, Plant) – 3:36
#"The Wanton Song" (Page, Plant) – 4:07
#"Boogie with Stu" (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant, Ian Stewart, Ritchie Valens**) – 3:53
#"Black Country Woman" (Page, Plant) – 4:24
#"Sick Again" (Page, Plant) – 4:42

* Some cassette versions of the album place "Bron-Yr-Aur" immediately after "Kashmir", presumably to make each side of the cassette last approximately the same amount of time.

** Credited to "Mrs. Valens, mother of Ritchie Valens". According to Jimmy Page, since the jam leaned heavily on "Ooh My Head" by the late Ritchie Valens, it was decided to give credit to his mother "because we heard she never received any royalties from any of her son's hits, and Robert did lean on that lyric a bit. So what happens? They tried to sue us for all of the song! We had to say bugger off". [ [ Led Zeppelin's Influences - Turn Me On, Dead Man ] ]


*Jimmy Pageacoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, producer
*Robert Plantharmonica, vocals, acoustic guitar on "Boogie with Stu"
*John Paul Jonesbass, organ, piano, electric piano, mellotron, guitar, mandolin, VCS3 synthesizer
*John Bonhamdrums, percussion

Additional personnel

*Ian Stewart – piano on "Boogie with Stu"
*George Chkiantz – engineer
*Peter Grant – producer, executive producer
*Keith Harwood – engineer, mixing
*Andy Johns – engineer
*Eddie Kramer – engineer, mixing
*Ron Nevison – engineer
*Mike Doud – artwork, design, cover design
*Peter Corriston – artwork, design, cover design
*Elliot Erwitt – photography
*Dave Heffernan – illustrations
*B.P. Fallon – photography
*Roy Harper – photography

CD Mastering engineers
*Barry Diament - original CD (mid-1980s)
*George Marino - remastered CD (1990)




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