The New Led Zeppelin Pinball Machines Need to Be in Bars if They Ever Reopen

You may be a casual pinball player like me. However, if (also like me) you write about Led Zeppelin frequently, you may find yourself staring at a press release for a pinball machine based on the music and aesthetic of rock’s greatest band. And you might find yourself impressed despite your initial skepticism.

In fact, you may even be hoping to get a crack at one of these Zep-worthy machines when bars reopen for socializing and related carousing. Stern, the machine’s maker, didn’t just nail the look of the machines; the Zeppelin songs and game choices reflect a number of sound decisions.

That included focusing on the more hard-hitting (and mostly early) Zep catalogue, with tracks such as “Good Times Bad Times” featured. But Physical Graffiti (1975) wasn’t ignored. Nor was a classic, prog-inflected track from Houses of the Holy (1973).

The new Led Zeppelin pinball machines feature heavy Zep songs and designs based on 2 early albums

Led Zeppelin pinball machines
The base Zep pinball machine features a ‘Led Zeppelin III’ design. | Stern Pinball

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The Zep pinball machines come in three models. In the base (Pro) model, you’re looking at a design based on the Led Zeppelin III (1970) album cover. Though Jimmy Page didn’t like the way the cover design came out (he later called it “teenybopperish”), it’s one of the most distinctive Zep covers.

It featured rainbow-colored butterflies, shells, stars, and other whimsical drawings on a white background. And it contained a wheel inside the front cover that you can rotate to see the faces of the different band members.

Though you don’t get any of those effects on the pinball machine, it’s still a cool look. The next model up (Premium) runs with the cover of Zep’s 1969 debut. You simply can’t top the image of the burning zeppelin going down in flames, and I’m hoping taverns in my area go with this one.

Finally, the Limited Edition model, the priciest of the bunch, runs with the Swan Song (i.e., Icarus) image. Of the three, I consider it the least impressive, visually. Stern is only making 500, and at press time they appeared to have already sold out, so my opinion clearly has no impact in this regard.

The Zep pinball machines run on themes of different tours and landmark performances

Led Zeppelin pinball
A look at the Premium Zep pinball machine based on the debut Led Zeppelin album. | Stern Pinball

Being a pinball novice, I won’t walk you through the intricacies of the games itself, but I can comment on some of the themes and song choices. All three machines features 10 songs. In addition to the 1969 debut’s opening track, you’ll hear “Communication Breakdown” from the first record.

From Led Zeppelin II (1969), players will hear “Whole Lotta Love” and “Ramble On.” From III, you get the obvious pick: the thrashing opener, “Immigrant Song.” And “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll” round out the list from the first four Zep albums. That’s a lot of rocking.

Beyond that, the machines play “The Song Remains the Same” from Houses of the Holy and two tracks from Physical Graffiti: “Kashmir” and “Trampled Under Foot.” Meanwhile, players can navigate the ’71 U.K. tour or the U.S. tours of ’75 and ’77. Likewise, Zep’s historic Earl’s Court shows get featured.

If you’re dreaming of seeing one of these machines under the Christmas tree, it would be a pricey proposition (they start around $6,000 and run up to $10,000 for the priciest model). But maybe Zep fans can convince local bar owners to bring one in for 2021. Surely, players will immediately begin defraying the cost.