Over the years, Led Zeppelin has seen seven – count ‘em, seven – of their albums sitting atop the Billboard 200, most recently the 2003 live document How the West Was Won, but the last of their studio albums to achieve this impressive feat was In Through the Out Door.
Produced by Jimmy Page and released on the band’s own Swan Song Records, In Through the Out Door bears a title inspired by Led Zeppelin’s myriad of trials and tribulations whilst battling back from their tax-exile status and getting into the public eye once more. The LP was the band’s first new studio album in three years, but in the intervening years since the release of their previous album, 1976’s Presence, much had occurred in the lives of the band members. As a result, there’s a decidedly different sonic feel to the LP than some of the albums which preceded it, not least of which because John Paul Jones and Robert Plant had more creative influence over its contents.
There were many reasons for this, but as Jones noted to Uncut, one of the biggest in terms of his musical contributions was that he had “a new toy.”
“I had this big new keyboard, and Robert and I just got to rehearsals early, basically, and…with Zeppelin writing, if you came up with good things, and everybody agreed that they were good things, they got used,” said Jones. “There was no formula for writing. So Robert and I, by the time everybody turned up for rehearsals, we’d written three or four songs. So we started rehearsing those immediately, because they were something to be getting on with.”
While not necessarily a regular contender on lists of “the one Led Zeppelin album you absolutely must own,” In Through the Out Door was a tremendous commercial success, hitting No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and staying there for seven weeks. As such, it remains tied with Led Zeppelin II as the band’s album to have spent the most weeks in the top spot, but perhaps more important is the fact that it’s sold six million copies to date.
It might’ve seemed like it was going to be a struggle, but it’s clear that with In Through the Out Door, Led Zeppelin made it back in, and in a big way. Shame it wasn’t destined to be for the long haul: within a year, the group disbanded after the death of drummer John Bonham.