The ball was already rolling on January 12, 1969. Led Zeppelin had performed a small Scandinavian tour the previous September,. before recording the first album. They landed in America on Christmas Eve, 1968, and gave their first American performance in Denver two days later.
Many of those early performances are legendary, including four nights at Bill Graham's Fillmore West, ending on this night. But a rock band may be conceived on stage, it is born with it's recordings. On that last night at Bill Graham's Fillmore West, Led Zeppelin was a band with an album. Their first, self titled Led Zeppelin, was released earlier in the day. In Frank Reddon's Sonic Boom, it is recounted how the record hit the streets and took the rock world by storm.
Forty years later what's surprising is how many of the elements that would make Led Zeppelin the biggest band for the next ten years were already there: Hard driving in Communication Breakdown, Bonham's superior stand out drumming in Good Times Bad Times; the acoustic side of Babe I'm Going To Leave You, the Indian influence and Kashmir tuning of Black Mountain Side; the blues in You Shook Me and I Can't Quit You Baby; and reminiscent of their live shows, in Your Time is Gonna Come and How Many More Times, the band catches a groove and rides it straight through. Led Zeppelin would grow, develop and mature, but Led Zeppelin, the album, showcased what they were, and what they would always be. The production is startling as well with Led Zeppelin is an album that sounds fresh even today.
Led Zeppelin is the album that started it all, not an album that changed music, but an album that signalled the birth of the band that would do so. However, throwing on the LP and listening to it after forty years, it's an album that deserves to be celebrated on it's own merit alone.