They were and still are one of the most famous rock bands of all time being listed alongside The Beatles, Queen, and Pink Floyd. So what was Led Zeppelin’s first song?
Led Zeppelin’s first song was ‘Good Times, Bad Times,’ which was the opening track on their debut album Led Zeppelin. Led Zeppelin has been credited as one of the most influential bands of all time and the most influential band of the 1970s, paving the way for heavy metal and hard rock.
You can read more below about Led Zeppelin’s first album, initial reception among critics, and breakout success.
The first album that Led Zeppelin released was their self-titled album Led Zeppelin. It featured nine songs that were mainly written or adapted by Jimmy Page, the band’s founder, and guitarist.
The very first song on the album was ‘Good Times, Bad Times,’ which as mentioned above was also the band’s debut single. Despite being their debut song, the band never really performed the song in concert throughout the years and there is a reason why.
John Paul Jones, the band’s bassist, told Rolling Stone “that’s the hardest riff I ever wrote, the hardest to play.” ‘Good Times, Bad Times’ was the only song on the A-Side of the album that wasn’t an adaptation of a folk or blues song by another artist.
Other songs on their self-titled album were ‘Communication Breakdown,’ the B-Side track to ‘Good Times, Bad Times.’ Led Zeppelin tended to play it a lot more frequently in concert.
Their very famous adaptation of Anne Bredon’s folk song “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” appeared on Led Zeppelin as well. These are all songs that anyone who listens to rock can probably sing without much thought.
Critics Weren’t Fans of Zeppelin
Despite the fact that Led Zeppelin has appeared on dozens of “most influential rock bands” lists over the decades since their fame, they weren’t initially well received by the press. Actually, the press seemed to hate them.
There were tons of scathing reviews that appeared in many different music magazines, newspapers, and on-air radio. There was a reason behind this too.
As Time puts it very simply, Led Zeppelin “was initially cast as unremarkable amidst a wave of British hype bands in 1969.” Remember they came onto the scene right as the world was coming down from the high carried by the success of The Beatles.
A lot of critics were not able to see the nuance in the sounds of Led Zeppelin’s music. Their ability to take influence from blues and folk and incorporate it into rock music that hadn’t really been heard before.
Critics failed to recognize that this new band was in the process of birthing an altogether new kind of music and forging the way for Album Oriented Rock. At the forefront of these visionless critics was Rolling Stone magazine.
Rolling Stone has even admitted that throughout the 1970s, the magazine and Led Zeppelin were always at odds with each other. The initial negative review by John Mendelsohn and many others led to the band’s well-known dislike for the press.
The only way that they managed to recover from the bad PR was through their good live performances and word-of-mouth. However, they did recover and their album Led Zeppelin became a commercial success.
Led Zeppelin’s Further Success
Even though critics stymied Led Zeppelin’s outright success, they went on to become one of the most triumphant bands to exist. This was due in part to their creativity and notion that their songs were not stand-alone’s.
Led Zeppelin was followed up with a second studio album, Led Zeppelin II, in the same year. It became a massive success when the song “Whole Lotta Love” was released as a single in the United States, and reached number four on the Billboard charts.
However, it was in 1971, when they released their fourth studio album, that Led Zeppelin became the most famous band in the world. This album was untitled but many refer to it as Led Zeppelin IV and it is one of the bestselling albums in history.
This is in part due to a track on the album titled ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ an epic eight-minute-long song that gradually increases in tempo and introduces more and more sounds until its apex. It is widely regarded as the most influential rock song in history.
Led Zeppelin went on to compose a total of eight studio albums until they disbanded due to the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980.