With all the publicity and comment about the latest remastering by Jimmy Page of the first three Led Zeppelin albums, it’s as well to remember that in 1970/71, their new folkier direction didn’t go down well with many of their fans.
The faintly exotic and more reflective material on Led Zeppelin III has actually stood the test of time very well. It was the jumping off point for the various musical explorations that peaked with Physical Graffiti. Tracks from LZ III like 'Friends' and 'Gallows Pole' formed the core of the Page and Plant Unplugged release in the 1990s and those same tracks are still featured in Robert Plant’s solo concerts.
But at the time, many fans felt let down that Led Zep III didn’t contain another Whole Lotta Love or Heartbreaker. The new material to be released on Led Zeppelin IV, and being aired on BBC sessions in April 1971, suggested there would be no return to the lemon-squeezing days of yore. A letter to the Melody Maker in May 1971, under the headline ‘Don’t go soft Zeppelin!’ sums up the mood:
“Zep sound great on Whole Lotta Love and their many earlier songs, but please leave the gentle songs to people like The Strawbs, who have grown up with their music and can do it justice. It’s obvious from Zeppelin’s performance on the radio last week, that they just don’t make it without the volume.”
The session to which J. Miller from Chester was referring contains this lovely coupling of Going To Cailfornia and That's The Way. Judge for yourself whether Led Zeppelin were out of their depth.
Other letters in this week’s mail bag included a fan of King Crimson suggesting since their reformation (after the break up of the Court of the Crimson King band) “there seems to be no hope for any other group”. No other musicians could compare, apparently. Robert Fripp would probably have agreed.
And Roger B Bartley of London E12 describes Stevie Wonder as an “abominable popcorn merchant”. Wow, so he’s just produced Music of My Mind and was about to release Talking Book, Innervisions and Fullfillingness’ First Finale. Mr Bartley, you jest.