The rock band Led Zeppelin (John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, John Bonham and Jimmy Page) poses for a portrait in 1968.
By the mid-seventies, Led Zeppelin was the most popular rock band in the world. They sold more than 300 million records, and devoured the world with their thunderous sound and their wicked ways. But the group disbanded after the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980.
Guitarist Jimmy Page (center, rear) is photographed with the English rock band Carter-Lewis and the Southerners, c. 1964.
An art college student, Page became renowned as a session player comfortable in many different genres, from rockabilly to rock 'n' roll to acoustic blues and electric blues
Bass guitarist John Paul Jones (pictured here in 1969) was also working as a session player when his wife saw a notice in a music newspaper that Jimmy Page was forming a band. "I was doing so much work in sessions - I don't know, 20 20 sessions a week, I was going completely crazy and burning out," Page explained to Mason. "So she said, 'Why don't you call him up? See if he needs a bass player.' And I went, 'You gotta be crazy. I've got too much work going on, I can't do this.'"
But Page did call: "[Jones] said, 'I'm going up to the Village to see a singer and we think he knows a drummer. I'll tell you what they're like when I get back.' And he came back, said, 'They're amazing. Come on, let's go and rehearse.'"
The singer was Robert Plant. He had played with drummer John Bonham in the Band of Joy, when he was recruited by Jones to join his new band.
Jones recalled to Mason their first rehearsal together: "So Page suggested a thing, he said, 'Well, there's a thing we used to do with the Yardbirds called 'Train Kept A-Rollin'' which is basically a blues sequence with this riff. So he just counted in, 'Three, four ...' and just like, whoa, the room just exploded.
"I mean, rhythm section particularly are always, like, wary in a new situation," he laughed. "Because you've gotta work really closely together. And so I'm thinking, 'Oh, I wonder what the drummer's like.' And he was probably thinking, 'I wonder what the bass player's like.' But within, I don't know, four bars, we all knew - 'Oh, thank goodness for that. This is gonna work. This is great.'"
Guitarist Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, photographed in London in December 1968.
A poster advertising a 1969 concert at Fillmore West in San Francisco starring Country Joe & The Fish, Led Zeppelin, and Taj Mahal.
Led Zeppelin's first album, first released in the U.S. by Atlantic Records in January 1969. Songs included "Good Times Bad Times," "Dazed and Confused," "Communication Breakdown" and "I Can't Quit You Baby."
Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin in pictured in a recording studio with Robert Plant and John Paul Jones, May 23, 1969.
The second studio album by Led Zeppelin, released in October 1969. Songs featured included "Whole Lotta Love," "Ramble On" and "Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)."
The band made its name on the underground circuit of touring, and by American FM radio (given that their recorded output did not led itself easily to bite-sized pop hits for AM radio play). "FM radio was alive and well at this point of time, and they were playing whole album sides, for heaven's sake," Page told Mason. "They don't have some silly tune, singles. You could hear people's work properly. It was so refreshing to be in a tour bus, listening to, like, the local FM station and saying, 'Yes, this is what we've all been about in music. It's really surfaced. And it's there, it's alive and well.' And then you go back to England, be faced with doing some silly single.
"So I'd learned that the thing to do was to be making albums. And sure, okay, something needs to be played on the AM station for heralding the fact that there's an album. Well, so be it. But we're not gonna concentrate on singles because we're gonna concentrate on the albums."
Bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham of the British rock group Led Zeppelin perform at the Bath Festival, Shepton Mallet, June 28, 1970.
Guitarist Jimmy Page of the rock band Led Zeppelin holds court at a press conference before their show at the Forum on September 4, 1970 in Los Angeles, Calif.
"Led Zeppelin III," released in October 1970. The album included "Immigrant Song," "That's the Way," and "Since I've Been Loving You."
Lead singer Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin performs on stage at Madison Square Garden on September 3, 1971 in New York City.
"Led Zeppelin IV," released November 1971, featured the songs "Stairway to Heaven," "Black Dog," and "When the Levee Breaks."
Page said "Stairway to Heaven" - one of the most-played pieces of music on the radio, despite a length of over eight minutes - was not released as a single. "There was no way it could be edited" said Page. ""It started off at one tempo, and then accelerates all the way through. So it was impossible, really, to do edits on it that would be convincing."
When asked to explain its popularity, he suggested it was because
The rock band Led Zeppelin performs onstage 1972. From left: John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, playing his Gibson Les Paul electric guitar with a bow.
Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin is seen in concert at Chicago Stadium, May 5, 1973.
John Paul Jones, John Bonham, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, pictured in front of their jet in New York, July 24, 1973.
Jones said the jet made perfect sense: "If you were doing a four-week tour, you'd choose four bases: New York, L.A., New Orleans, Chicago, something like that. And then you'd have a limo at the hotel go straight onto the tarmac, onto the plane, 20 minute flight, half an hour at the most to the show, you'd be out, and you'd be back at the base by midnight after the show. You'd have your food on the plane, it was just wonderful." Without the jet, he said, "you'd finish the show, there'd be a motel, the town would've closed during the show, so there's no food anywhere. I mean, I had to go to bed so hungry some nights, just nothing anywhere to eat. There was no catering, there's no nothing. You know, it was like, 'Oh God
John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Bonham of Led Zepplin in a promotional photo from Swan Song. The group formed the label in 1974 under Atlantic Records.
The Led Zeppelin double-album "Physical Graffiti" (1975) including previously-unreleased tracks from prior sessions. Song included "Trampled Under Foot," "In My Time of Dying," "Down by the Seaside," "Black Country Woman" and "Bron-Yr-Aur."
The 1979 album "In Through the Out Door" was the last Led Zeppelin comprised of totally new material, including the song "Fool in the Rain." Some material recorded during the 1978 sessions was dropped form the album, and later released in the compilation "Coda."
Singer Robert Plant of the British band Led Zeppelin performs on stage at Earl's Court in London, England in May 1975.
Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, playing a Gibson Les Paul guitar, performs onstage at New York City's Madison Square Garden during filming for "The Song Remains The Same," July 23, 1973.
The marquee of the Fox Wilshire theater at the Los Angeles premiere of the Led Zeppelin concert movie "The Song Remains The Same," October 21, 1976. The film was one of the first to feature Dolby multi-track stereo sound.
Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin performs on stage at Oakland Coliseum, July 23, 1977.
Drummer John Bonham (pictured here in December 1968), died in 1980 at age 32.
Jones said that when Bonham passed away, the group agreed unanimously to disband "immediately," he told Mason. ""It wasn't the band anymore. I mean, he was such an integral part."
"That must have been an incredibly difficult decision," Mason said.
"No, it was an easy decision," Jones replied.
When Led Zeppelin reunited in London for one night only in 2007, for a concert to honor the late head of Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun, more than 20 million people applied for the 18,000 passes.
In November 2012, the band released the DVD "Celebration Day," a concert film of Led Zeppelin's December 2007 tribute concert to Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, recorded in London's O2 Arena.
Members of the rock group Led Zeppelin pose with the children of the late John Bonham after being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, January 12, 1995 in New York. From left: Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Zoe and Jason Bonham, and Robert Plant.
British rock legend Robert Plant performs with his band the Strange Sensation during the Somerset House Summer Series at Somerset House on July 10, 2006 in London, England.
Singer Robert Plant and bluegrass queen Alison Krauss hold their Grammy awards in the photo room during the 51st annual Grammy Awards, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, February 8, 2009. Plant and Krauss won five awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year, for their acclaimed collaboration, "Raising Sand."
Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Leona Lewis perform during the Closing Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China.
Musician John Paul Jones (right) conducts the orchestral part of the song "The Pretender" during the 50th annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center on February 10, 2008 in Los Angeles, Calif.
John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin pose following a dinner for Kennedy Center honorees hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the U.S. Department of State on December 1, 2012 in Washington, D.C.
Kennedy Center Honorees John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin; comedian and late night talk show host David Letterman; blues musician Buddy Guy; ballerina Natalia Makarova; and actor Dustin Hoffman are seen during the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors December 2, 2012 in Washington, D.C. Each was honored for their lifetime contributions to the arts.