In the summer of 1974 the rock behemoth that was Led Zeppelin retreated to the country and recorded a selection of tunes that would come to define them. The resulting album would be their Exile on Main Street, their White Album, if you will. That's right, an album so big in every sense of the word it would have to be released as a double album and housed in an all singing, all dancing, gatefold sleeve. Physical Graffiti, when it came out in February of the following year, would, at a stroke, put every rock album that had ever been released before it in the shade.
The sleeve depicts a pair of tenement blocks in New York and as men of a certain age (and women for that matter) will tell you, in the seventies you saw
an album long before you ever heard it: the artwork was as crucial to the success of an album as the strength of its songs, the dexterity of the guitar solos or the dark art skills of the knob twiddlers.
And Physical Graffiti was no exception. From taking it out of the rack in the record shop, paying for it at the counter and bringing it home on the bus, you couldn't take your eyes off the cover. Where was the photograph taken? Who was that sat on the steps? What does it remind me of?
And, of course, the question we all asked ourselves: will it be as good as Houses of the Holy?
The answers I came up with: 96-98 St Mark's Place, Greenwich Village - where the basement is now home to Physical Graffitea.
John Bonham. Jose Feliciano's Compartments (pictured above right) and, oh yes, it was as good as anything they would ever release.