Legendary rock band Led Zeppelin has released two previously unheard recordings to whet the appetite for an upcoming re-release of their first three albums in June. The new material consists of a slow bluesy song entitled Key to the Highway, and an early version of their 1969 hit Whole Lotta Love. It is the first time Zeppelin has publicly introduced fresh songs since their last album Coda (a collection of unused tracks from their 12-year career) was launched in 1982.
As well as the reissue of Led Zeppelin I, II and III in two months’ time, fans of the group can expect companion discs featuring early versions, live recordings, and works in progress of a selection of songs. It is planned for the band’s entire catalogue to be reissued toward the back end of 2014, with guitarist Jimmy Page painstakingly going through every recording from Zeppelin’s studio sessions and picking the best works to go out to the public. “I don’t want to die and have somebody else do it,” the 70-year-old said.
Key to the Highway is a classic blues song, first recorded by pianist Charlie Segar in 1940. Perhaps the most famous cover was performed by Eric Clapton and his band Derek and the Dominos in 1970, when he and Duane Allman began an impromptu performance of the piece, unaware that they were being recorded at the time. The Rolling Stones also included a hidden 33-second snippet of Key to the Highway on their 1986 album Dirty Work in tribute to founding member Ian Stewart, who died just after it was recorded.
The second of the two previously unheard recordings Led Zeppelin has chosen to release features Whole Lotta Love as it was being perfected for Led Zeppelin II. The track, noted for it’s distinct guitar riff, was ranked third greatest hard rock song of all time by American cable channel VH1 in 2009, and sold over 1 million copies in the US five months after its release.
Since the death of drummer John Bonham in 1980, Led Zeppelin has not recorded any new material as a band, and played just one reunion concert 37 years later in 2007 at the 02 Arena. Despite the unmitigated success of the performance, vocalist Robert Plant has ruled out another one, claiming the chances of himself, Jimmy Page, John Paul-Jones and perhaps even Bonham’s son Jason (who filled in on drums at the 02) reuniting on-stage again were “zero.”
Looking back at his own contribution to Zeppelin’s heyday in the 70’s, Plant notices one or two imperfections. “My enthusiasm sometimes got in the way of finesse,” he says, “I listen to it and go, ‘wow, why didn’t I shut up a bit?’ I kind of overcooked it.” The West Bromwich-born singer also added that rumors insinuating tracks would be released featuring bass player John Paul-Jones on vocals were false.
Page meanwhile, who supervised the 1990 Led Zeppelin Remastered Box Set, has reminisced with fondness about his time with the band. “It’s undeniable that we’re good,” he said, “The band was the real deal.” With the initial 3-album reissue slated for a June 2 launch, Page chose to put out the two previously unheard Led Zeppelin recordings at just the right time, ensuring fan enthusiasm is at a peak for one of the most exciting releases of the band’s history.
Opinion by Zachary John