The Only Led Zeppelin Song That Ever Cracked the Top 10
Everybody knows that rock ‘n’ roll critics don’t always get it right. Just take Rolling Stone magazine’s review of the first Led Zeppelin album. That was an exercise in getting almost everything wrong. Then, when Led Zeppelin II came out, the same reviewer did it all over again.
So it’s no wonder that Zeppelin became wary of — and even downright hostile toward — critics in their midst. After releasing their first albums, they were packing venues and selling so many records they didn’t need to impress rock journalists.
What’s more, the band (along with manager Peter Grant) decided on a policy of not releasing singles and avoiding TV appearances, too. If you wanted to heat their best work, you needed to buy a record or a concert ticket.
That meant Zeppelin wouldn’t be like The Beatles as far as No. 1 singles were concerned. In fact, the most dominant force in 1970s rock only had one song make it into the top 10.
‘Whole Lotta Love’ hit No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970.
Led Zeppelin’s Billboard Hot 100 chart history begins with “Good Times Bad Times,” the opening track of the band’s self-titled debut. In April 1969, the single peaked way down at No. 80. (The 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in” ruled the chart that week.)
By late in the year, the buzz surrounding Zeppelin had morphed into a roar with the release of Led Zeppelin II. As fans sent the album to No. 1, they swarmed to see the band perform the epic “Whole Lotta Love” live. Naturally, Atlantic wanted to release the track as a single.
However, at nearly six minutes in length — and with a psychedelic middle section that freaked out AM radio — “Whole Lotta Love” had to go out in a edited version. Fans and DJs didn’t really care, and the record sold like hotcakes across the country.
As a single, the track made it all the way to No. 4 in its edited form. Given Jimmy Page and Zeppelin’s obsession with their music, the experience wouldn’t be repeating itself — no matter what Atlantic wanted.
Led Zeppelin never released a UK single in their time together.
While Led Zeppelin ignored the singles Atlantic released later in America, they stood firm on the issue in their home country. The band never released a UK single as a group. (“Whole Lotta Love” went out as the band’s first upon Zep’s 30-year anniversary in 1997.)
The thing is, after 1969, Zeppelin never needed to do anything but sell its albums. By April ’70, Led Zeppelin II had sold 3 million copies and held No. 1 for seven weeks. (In the UK, it spent over two years on the charts.) The band’s second release turned out to be its most dominant on the charts.
As for sales, Zeppelin’s top album (Led Zeppelin IV) remains among the biggest-selling records of all time with more than 23 million copies certified in the U.S. All told, the band has sold over 300 million albums across the world.
It turned out those singles and TV appearances weren’t necessary after all. The only catch is, the band needed to be as good as Led Zeppelin.
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