For a band notorious for taking its own sweet time making records, Led Zeppelin made the Presence album in record time. It was just another challenge for the biggest band in rock circa 1976. The outfit was still reeling from singer Robert Plant's terrible car crash in August of that year, which left him with a broken leg and elbow. It would cause the band to cancel the end of the Physical Graffiti tour, and add more stress to the Presence recording sessions. Time was limited, as their booked studio time would rub right up against the Rolling Stones, who were set to record Black and Blue. Jimmy Page would ultimately beg Mick Jagger and company for a few more days to complete the project.
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While it was another smash hit in terms of sales, critics were quick to write off Presence as a failure. Those big numbers would still result in Led Zeppelin's poorest-selling original full-length. The record's success would be further hampered by the splashy release of double-live album, The Song Remains the Same, just six months after the debut of Presence.
With a bitter Plant confined to a wheelchair, drummer John Bonham up his "Bonzo" ways (like punching Kim Fowley associate Michelle Myers in the face for looking at him at the Rainbow one night), and John Paul Jones increasingly bored ("I learned all about baseball during that period, as the World Series was on and there was not much else to do but watch it," Jones one said), the album became the Jimmy Page show.
Even though Presence is often written off as Zeppelin's "worst" albums, there are four big reasons it should be reconsidered in the group's catalog.
1. "Achilles' Last Stand"
The album's epic ten-and-a-half-minute opening track lives up to its name with an urgency and desperation not heard on many Led Zeppelin tracks. Plant wails from his wheelchair as the band rages through tempo changes and a blistering guitar solo from Jimmy Page.
2. "Nobody's Fault But Mine
A sly adaptation of of Blind Willie Johnson's "It's Nobody Fault But Mine." the group revived some of that Physical Graffiti magic with this phase-heavy stop-start-again electric romp.
3. "Candy Store Rock"
With such a dark pall over Presence, "Candy Store Rock" would provide a moment of lightness. Written within about an hour, the group would knock out the throwback rockabilly styled song at Germany's Musicland Studios.
4. "The Object"
Artwork and presentation were always a vital part of every Led Zeppelin album release. It was important to the band that any given record's packaging was as engaging as the music inside. Designers Hipgnosis would create "The Object" that was at the center of the Presence campaign. The idea, according to Hipgnosis co-founder Storm Thorgerson, was that the obelisk represented the power of Led Zeppelin, which was "so powerful, they didn't need to be there." The band's Swan Song label would even send out promotional copies of "The Object," including one that ended up on TV's Pawn Stars.
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