Led Zeppelin album: How the iconic Hindenburg album cover came to be

Led Zeppelin: Our music was pretty radical says Jimmy Page

Led Zeppelin’s first album was recorded in just 36 hours, with most tracks recorded live with very little overdubbing, which perfect the sound. It spent 71 weeks in the UK after its release on January 12, 1970, which was a huge achievement for a relatively new band. The cover of the album was controversial and had an intriguing image – but how did the Hindenburg picture come about?

The image on the front of Led Zeppelin’s self-titled first album is of the Hindenburg disaster, which took place many years before the record came out.

The Hindenburg disaster was when a German passenger airship, the LZ 129 Hindenburg, caught on fire and was destroyed when it tried to moor into a mast in New Jersey, USA.

There were 97 people on board the Hindenburg at the time, 36 of whom were passengers and 61 of whom were in the crew.

Altogether, 36 people died, 22 of whom were in the crew and 13 were passengers, while the final death was someone on the ground.

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The iconic image used on the cover of the album was of the moment the Hindenburg hit the mast at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst, and an explosion took place.

The image was taken by Sam Shere of the disaster of May 6, 1937, and is a clear reference to the band’s name, Led Zeppelin.

A zeppelin is another name for an airship like the Hindenburg, and the image was redesigned to be used for the album cover by George Hardie.

The image rendered the original black-and-white photograph in ink using a mezzotint technique, and was used as a logo on other album covers later on.

There was some controversy around the image being used, and a relative of the inventor of the zeppelin, Frau Eva von Zeppelin, threatened the band with legal action.

Her threats were also around the use of the name zeppelin by the band, asking they refrain from its use in Denmark.

According to Led Zeppelin 1968-1980: The Story Of A Band And Their Music by Keith Shadwick, the press generated from this intervention only helped the band’s image.

It was reported that Jimmy Page, the band’s guitarist, told the Press: “We shall call ourselves the Nobs when we go to Copenhagen.”

This did in fact take place, and in February 1970, the band were billed as The Nobs at a performance in Copenhagen.

As for the music of the album, it was self funded by the band’s manager, Peter Grant, and Jimmy, costing £1,782.

Today, that amount is worth £27,747.60, showing this was no small amount they had to put down.

At the time of the album’s release, it did not do very well with critics, but in retrospect has been considered one of the most important rock albums of all time.

AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine said of the album long after its release: “Although the album isn’t as varied as some of their later efforts, it nevertheless marked a significant turning point in the evolution of hard rock and heavy metal.”

The BBC’s Greg Moffitt wrote in 2010: “Zeppelin may have been a product of the 60s, but their often bombastic style signposted a new decade and the arrival of a new breed of rock bands.

“Fortunately for Zeppelin, their first effort was every bit as dramatic, dynamic and compelling as the sleeve which bound it.

“Recorded at London’s Olympic Studios during October 1968, it showcased an ambitiols and inventive fusion of blues and rock which paved the way for virtually every big-riffing outfit of the 70s.

“It wasn’t heavy metal, but it sure was heavy.”

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