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The Making of Led Zeppelin’s Final Album – In Through the Out

Days Before “In Through the Out Door”

By 1979, Led Zeppelin seemed to be at the tail end of an 11-year reign over rock music. After the release of their seventh studio album, “Presence”, in 1976, the band decided not to tour due to a number of personal issues, beginning a long period of silence for Zeppelin. The cancellation of the tour was due in part to a serious car accident involving Robert Plant and in part to Jimmy Page’s alleged drug abuse. The band did end up touring very briefly in 1977, although the tour was cut short due to the death of Plant’s five-year-old son, Karac. Prior to the release of the band’s final LP, “In Through the Out Door”, the future of Led Zeppelin was all but determined and it was unclear whether any new music would be released again. It seemed as if the greatest rock band of the 1970’s was finally expiring. 

Inner-Zeppelin Turmoil

The making of “In Through the Out Door” defined a clear separation among the members of the band. The majority of the album was written by multi-instrumentalist John Paul Jones and vocalist Robert Plant; a surprising deviation from the usual Page and Plant songwriting dynamic. Prior to the release of “In Through the Out Door”, guitarist Jimmy Page had been credited with taking a hand in writing every Led Zeppelin song released, aside from covers. On the final album, Page was noticeably absent from writing credits on “All My Love” and “South Bound Suarez”. Both Jones and Plant have suggested to multiple sources that they took the primary hand in creating “In Through the Out Door” and that the separation among the band members was clear in its production. In discussing the absence of Page in a 1991 interview, John Paul Jones stated, “We were left alone quite a lot of the time, along with [drummer John Bonham], and so we tended to get on with it, I think. I suppose you could say that “In Through the Out Door” is my album, the way “Presence” was Jimmy’s album.” Although it seems that Jimmy Page had very little to do with the album, he was still given the producer’s credit. He has been recorded in several interviews stating that he actually had more involvement in the album than it seemed. In an interview with “Mojo”Page stated, “‘In Through the Out Door’ was done in a little over three weeks, so I couldn’t have been in that bad a shape,” alluding to his rumored drug abuse in the years following “Presence” and preceding “In Through the Out Door”No matter the exact details of the delegation of the album’s production, it was clear that there was definitely some separation among the band members that was not present in previous albums. 

The Release

“In Through the Out Door” was released in August of 1979 as Led Zeppelin’s eighth studio album. Overall, the album was well-regarded by the public and was most definitely comparable to earlier successful Zeppelin works. The album debuted at No. 1 on both American and European charts and it was clear that fans had been made to wait far too long for new music. The album is yet another example of Led Zeppelin’s incredible range and fearlessness towards musical experimentation. Songs such as “Fool in the Rain” show John Bonham’s impressive drum work, as well as an incredible solo and multiple creative run by Page on guitar. The integration of Latin music and samba beat influences in the song further exhibit the recurring creative risks present on every Zeppelin album. The most notable creative liberties taken on “In Through the Out Door” undoubtedly come from John Paul Jones, with his use of multiple instruments, such as a synthesizer. This was possibly John Paul Jones’ most significant work. Without the regular influence of Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin was in serious need of an instrumental frontman, and Jonesy stepped right in. His growing role in the band was apparent and he subsequently received much more praise and recognition than he previously had. Although the album is quite different from the more rock-heavy albums that Zeppelin had previously released, “In Through the Out Door” was an important addition to the band’s repertoire and lives on as an important album in rock history. 

“All My Love”

Possibly the most notable track on the LP is “All My Love”, one of only two Led Zeppelin songs that Jimmy Page did not have a hand in writing. Although it may be one of Led Zeppelin’s most widely known songs, the band considers it to be something entirely different from their usual releases. It is clear that Page’s absence took a bit of Zeppelin’s hard rock element out of the equation, as “All My Love” is often credited as being one of their ‘softest’ songs released. Both Jimmy Page and John Bonham can be found expressing their disapproval of “All My Love” to multiple sources. In an interview with “Light and Shade”, Page stated, “I could just imagine people doing the wave and all of that. And I thought ‘That is not us. That is not us’,” alluding to the  more soft and intimate feel that accompanied “All My Love”. Another quote by Page in the same interview states, “In its place it was fine, but I would not have wanted to pursue that direction in the future.” Of course, the song did end up on the final version of “In Through the Out Door”, even after the artistic disapproval of Page and Bonham. Despite their concern with the softness of the song, “All My Love” was ultimately included on the album because of Plant’s undeniably beautiful vocal performance and pure passion. “All My Love” is not a song of Plant’s declaration of romantic love, as many listeners may assume. Robert Plant wrote the lyrics of “All My Love” as a tribute to his late son, Karac, who passed away in 1977 at the age of 5. The death of Plant’s son was a devastating loss for him, as well as the band. “All My Love” is a timeless classic rock ballad that shows a more intimate side of Led Zeppelin, furthering proving their mastery of range. 

Sources: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/217029/light-and-shade-by-brad-tolinski/