“Led Zeppelin II”: The Brown Bomber

Revisiting Led Zeppelin’s second album released in 1969

“Led Zeppelin II”: The Brown Bomber

By 1969 Led Zeppelin had started to achieve notoriety as one of the heaviest bands in Rock music, their formula of Blues combined with Psychedelic and heavy guitar driven songs earned them that fame. Though the band was only formed the previous year, 1968, all the members already had somehow of a name reputation in music, being through the bands they were in (Band Of Joy, The Yardbirds) or as producers and session musicians for many 1960’s acts. Their first album “Led Zeppelin” it’s considered one of their best, but as a trend that would continue during the 1970’s, Led Zeppelin tried to best themselves in every album. “Led Zeppelin II” was released on October 22nd, 1969, it’s regarded as the band’s heaviest albums, but aside of that it features a selection of songs that include some of their biggest classics, starting by the opening track Willie Dixon’s based “Whole Lotta Love”, an absolute concert staple for the band and influential in developing the Heavy Metal genre that would rule during the subsequent decade. “The Lemon Song”, a heavy blues rock song based on Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor” with explicit allusions to sex “squeeze my lemon”, “Heartbreaker” another heavy guitar driven song that also became a staple on the band’s concerts and “Thank You”, an exotic blend of Psychedelic Pop and Rock, softer than most of the songs in the album. “Ramble On”, that starts of on a traditional acoustic blues riff evolves into heavy drum pounding by John Bonham and the audible bass lines of John Paul Jones, and on “Moby Dick” John Bonham has his moment, the instrumental that evolves into a drum solo, usually extended on concerts. “What Is And Never Should Be” it’s also a successful blend between Blues, Psychedelic and Hard Rock, a formula that Zeppelin used during their first four albums.”Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman” fits perfectly into the era the album was released, Blues Rock, not very Heavy but not mild neither, an enjoyable song but not the best on the album, though Page’s guitar parts are some of the best. “Bring It On Home”, the Willie Dixon blues cover closes the album.



Album Art

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The album art and cover was created from a poster by David Juniper, who was simply told by the band to come up with an interesting idea.His design was based on a photograph of the Jagdstaffel 11 Division of the German Air Force during World War I, the famed Flying Circus led by the Red Baron. After the picture was tinted, the faces of the four members of the band were airbrushed on from a 1969 publicity photograph. Other faces added, according to Juniper, were either Miles Davis or Blind Willie Johnson, a friend of Andy Warhol and astronaut Neil Armstrong, although it is actually fellow astronaut Frank Borman. The cover also pictured the outline of a Zeppelin on a brown background (similar to the cover of the band’s first album), which gave the album its nickname “Brown Bomber”.In 1970 Juniper was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of best album package for Led Zeppelin II.



Legacy and Influence

“Led Zeppelin II” it’s not the band’s best album, but it gets pretty close, it’s definitely the heaviest, however, the lack of the songwriting craft (or play) that was to come later on “Led Zeppelin III” and “Led Zeppelin IV” it’s still not there, glimpses of it yes, but not the full formula. It’s a development album, perhaps even a tribute album to their Blues influence (Zeppelin were never shy to go for grabs and modify and in this album they go for big grabs) a growth of Zeppelin as a band, and their first truthfully successful album that paved the way for the others to come and played a tremendous role on Heavy Metal development during the 1970’s and 1980’s. “Led Zeppelin II” knocked the “untouchable” Beatles “Abbey Road” from No.1 in the U.S Charts, and that, for such a young band with one year old, was like a vision of the future to come in a crystal ball, it was just in time to make it as one of the 1960’s greatest albums.

Side 1
1 “Whole Lotta Love” (John Bonham Willie Dixon John Paul Jones Jimmy Page Robert Plant)
2 “What Is and What Should Never Be” (Page Plant)
3 “The Lemon Song” (Bonham Chester Burnett Jones Page Plant)
4 “Thank You” (Page Plant)

Side 2
5 “Heartbreaker” (Bonham Jones Page Plant)
6 “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)”(Page Plant)
7 “Ramble On” (Page Plant)
8 “Moby Dick” (Bonham Jones Page)
9 “Bring It on Home” (Dixon)

Personnel:
John Bonham: drums, timpani, backing vocals
John Paul Jones: bass, organ, backing vocals
Jimmy Page: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, steel guitar, theremin, producer
Robert Plant: lead vocals, harmonica

Additional Personnel:
George Chkiantz: engineer
Peter Grant: executive producer
Chris Huston: engineer
Andy Johns: engineer
David Juniper: artwork
Eddie Kramer: director of engineering, engineer, mixing

Produced by: Jimmy Page
Recorded during: April–August 1969 at Olympic and Morgan Studios in London, England; A&M, Quantum, Sunset, Mirror Sound and Mystic Studios in Los Angeles, California; Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee; A&R, Juggy Sound, Groove and Mayfair Studios in New York City; and the “hut” in Vancouver
Released: October 22nd, 1969
Label: Atlantic

Singles:
“Whole Lotta Love” Released: 7 November 1969 (US)

Strongest Tracks:
“Whole Lotta Love”, “The Lemon Song” , “Thank You”, “Heartbreaker” “Ramble On”, “Moby Dick”



Watch Led Zeppelin performing “Whole Lotta Love” live in 1970

Listen to “Led Zeppelin II” on Spotify

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