Led Zeppelin is one of the most legendary rock bands ever, and many predicted they would be. Atlantic Records had so much confidence in the band at the time that they gave them an unprecedented advance for their first album. Fortunately, the gamble paid off for Atlantic as Led Zeppelin was a massive success.
Led Zeppelin was formed in 1968
Guitarist Jimmy Page was coming off of his time with The Yardbirds and formed Led Zeppelin by recruiting singer Robert Plant, bass player John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. The band played together for the first time in a London basement and knew they had something incredible.
Led Zeppelin had their first gig in Gladsaxe, and many knew they were watching future rock icons. Manager Peter Grant said he knew this band would be wildly successful after their first performance.
“I remember everything about that first show,” Grant shared in a 1990 interview. “It was so … exciting! Just to be part of it was fantastic. There was never a thought of, God, this is going to sell X amount of records. I thought it could be the best band ever.”
Led Zeppelin received the biggest advance ever from Atlantic Records
According to Rolling Stone, Page never allowed the band to take a break. The guitarist wanted them to get a record out as soon as possible so that he could send it to numerous labels.
“I wanted artistic control in a vise grip because I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the band,” Page told Brad Tolinski in the book Conversations With Jimmy Page. “In fact, I financed and completely recorded the first album before going to Atlantic,” Page told Brad Tolinski in the book Conversations With Jimmy Page.
Page was able to keep the costs of the recording sessions to a minimum because he had a “clear vision.” However, Led Zeppelin had a lot of money to work with as Atlantic Records gave them a check of $200,000. Recording costs came out to about £1, 782. This was the biggest advance ever given to a band at the time.
“It wasn’t your typical story where you get an advance to make an album,” Page continued. “We arrived at Atlantic with tapes in hand. The other advantage to having such a clear vision of what I wanted the band to be was that it kept recording costs to a minimum. We recorded the whole first album in a matter of thirty hours. That’s the truth. I know because I paid the bill.”
How successful was Led Zeppelin’s first album?
The historical move from Atlantic paid off as Led Zeppelin was released in 1969 and was immediately successful. While reviews for the album were mixed, it quickly reached the top 10 on album charts in the US and the UK. Page took a chance, and that risk paid off.
“So many people are frightened to take a chance in life and there’s so many chances you have to take,” the guitarist told Cameron Crowe. “I’m attracted by the unknown, but I take precautions. I don’t go walking into things blind.”