Saturday 5 July 2014

Let's Get Physical

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.


  1. Agreed on the pulling power of cover art. I bought too many KISS LPs until I woke up to the fact the sleeves were better than the songs,,,

    Have you checked Pop Spots? Block out a couple of hours browsing time...

  2. That's a fabulous link Mondo; a real interactive sleeveface.

    Kiss? For me, it all starts and ends with Detroit Rock City. And maybe Do You Love Me. I walked out on them at Wembley Arena after two songs. Then again, I'd only gone along to see the support band.

  3. Imagine this happening? As unlikely as bumping into Macca on the Abbey Road zebra crossing.

  4. LZ really pushed the boat out with that cover. I still remember the day I bought the album when it first came out, handing over £3.25 (a princely sum and quite alot of paper round pay) to the hippy in Virgin. Still as awesome as ever.

  5. Without a doubt my favourite Zep album - with Trampled Under Foot and of course to me the best Zep song by far... Kashmir - well that is true except on days I think Archille's Last Stand is the best Zep song by far... ;-)

    Album cover art is now lost in the age of the instant download. Funny that some of the best music ever... Zep, Floyd et. al. also was normally housed in covers with iconic art work.