Physical Graffiti

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Physical Graffiti
Type Double studio album
Artist Led Zeppelin
Release Date 24 February 1975
Recorded July 1970 - February 1974, at various studios.
Genre Hard rock, blues rock, folk rock, rock
Language English
Length 82 minutes 15 seconds
Label Swan Song Records
Catalogue Swan Song SS 2-200 (US), Swan Song SSK 89400 (UK)
Producer Jimmy Page
Engineer Ron Nevison, Keith Harwood, Eddie Kramer, George Chkiantz, Andy Johns

Physical Graffiti is the sixth album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. It is a double album which was released on 24 February 1975. Recording sessions for the album were initially disrupted due to surgery required to remove nodes from Robert Plant's vocal chords. After reuniting at Headley Grange, the band wrote and recorded eight songs, the combined length of which stretched the album beyond the typical length of an LP. This prompted the band to make Physical Graffiti a double album by including previously unreleased tracks from earlier recording sessions.


Physical Graffiti was commercially and critically successful; the album is sixteen times platinum (though this only signifies sales of 8 million copies, as it is a double album) in the United States alone, and has come to be regarded as one of Led Zeppelin's defining works.

The recording sessions for Physical Graffiti initially took place in November 1973 at Headley Grange in East Hampshire, England. For these recordings, the band utilised Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio. However, these sessions came to a halt quickly and the studio time was turned over to the band Bad Company, who used it to record songs for their forthcoming album, Straight Shooter.[1] In an interview he gave in 1975, guitarist and album producer Jimmy Page explained the reason for this abrupt cessation of recording:

It took a long time for this album mainly because when we originally went in to record it, John Paul Jones wasn't well and we had to cancel the time … everything got messed up. It took three months to sort the situation out.[2]

Once they had reconvened, the band recorded eight tracks at Headley Grange in January and February 1974, which were engineered by Ron Nevison. Vocalist Robert Plant later referred to these eight tracks as 'the belters':

We got eight tracks off ... and a lot of them were really raunchy. We did some real belters with live vocals, off-the-wall stuff that turned out really nice.[3]

Similar to the sessions for the previous two albums, the decision to record at the informal surroundings of Headley Grange provided a welcome opportunity for the band to improvise and develop material along the way.[4] As Plant commented:

Some of the tracks we assembled in our own fashioned way of running through a track and realising before we knew it that we had stumbled on something completely different.[5]

Because the eight tracks extended beyond the length of a conventional album, it was decided at some point to include several unreleased songs which had been recorded during the sessions for previous Led Zeppelin albums. The instrumental 'Bron-Yr-Aur' was recorded in July 1970 at Island Studios, London, for Led Zeppelin III. It was named after Bron-Yr-Aur, a cottage in Gwynedd, Wales where the members of Led Zeppelin spent time during the recording of Led Zeppelin III. 'Night Flight' and 'Boogie with Stu' were recorded at Headley Grange and 'Down by the Seaside' at Island Studios, all for Led Zeppelin IV. 'The Rover' and 'Black Country Woman' were recorded at the same sessions as 'D'yer Mak'er' at Stargroves using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio in May 1972. 'Houses of the Holy' was also recorded in May 1972, but at Olympic Studios. The group's fifth album, Houses of the Holy, took its title from this song despite the decision not to include the song on that album. Page explained:

We had more material than the required 40-odd minutes for one album. We had enough material for one and a half LPs, so we figured let's put out a double and use some of the material we had done previously but never released. It seemed like a good time to do that sort of thing, release tracks like 'Boogie with Stu' which we normally wouldn't be able to do … [T]his time we figured it was better to stretch out than to leave off.[6]

Additional overdubs were added and the final mixing of the album was performed in October 1974 by Keith Harwood at Olympic Studios, London. The title 'Physical Graffiti' was coined by Page to illustrate the whole physical and written energy that had gone into producing the set.[7]


In the opinion of Lewis, Physical Graffiti:

was a massive outpouring of [Led] Zeppelin music that proved to be the definitive summary of their studio work ... Given the luxury of a double format, Physical Graffiti mirrors every facet of the Zeppelin repertoire. The end result is a finely balanced embarrassment of riches.[8]

Spanning several years of recording, the album featured forays into a range of musical styles, including hard rock ('The Rover', 'The Wanton Song', 'Sick Again'. 'Houses of the Holy'), eastern-influenced orchestral rock ('Kashmir'), driving funk ('Trampled Under Foot'), acoustic rock and roll ('Boogie with Stu', 'Black Country Woman'), ballad ('Ten Years Gone'), blues rock ('In My Time of Dying') and acoustic guitar instrumental ('Bron-Yr-Aur').[9] The wide range of Physical Graffiti is also underlined by the fact that it contains both the longest and shortest studio recordings by Led Zeppelin. 'In My Time of Dying' clocks in at 11 minutes 5 seconds and 'Bron-Yr-Aur' is 2 minutes 6 seconds. It is also the only Led Zeppelin album to feature bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones playing additional guitar on some tracks.

Several tracks off the album became live staples at Led Zeppelin concerts. In particular, the songs 'In My Time of Dying', 'Trampled Under Foot', 'Kashmir', 'Ten Years Gone' and 'Sick Again' became regular components of the band's live concert set lists following the release of the album.[10] According to vocalist Robert Plant, of all the albums Led Zeppelin released, Physical Graffiti represented the band at its most creative and most expressive.[11] He has commented that it is his favourite Led Zeppelin album. Similarly, guitarist Jimmy Page considers this album to be a 'high watermark' for Led Zeppelin.[12]

Album sleeve design

The album's sleeve design features a photograph of a New York City tenement block, with interchanging window illustrations. The album designer, Peter Corriston, was looking for a building that was symmetrical with interesting details, that was not obstructed by other objects and would fit the square album cover. He said:

We walked around the city for a few weeks looking for the right building. I had come up a concept for the band based on the tenement, people living there and moving in and out. The original album featured the building with the windows cut out on the cover and various sleeves that could be placed under the cover, filling the windows with the album title, track information or liner notes.[13]

The two five-story buildings photographed for the album cover are located at 96 and 98 St. Mark's Place in New York City.[14][15] But to enable it to fit, the fourth floor had to be cropped out. So for the album cover it became a four-story building instead.[16] The front cover is a daytime image, while the back cover is the same image but at nighttime. Mike Doud is listed as the cover artist on the inner sleeve and either the concept or design or both were his, he passed away in the early 1990's and this album design was one of his crowning achievements in a lifetime of design, he was later to win a Grammy for best album cover of the year 1978. There is currently a used clothing store in the basement of 96 St. Mark's Place called Physical Graffiti. The building has been profiled on the television show, Rock Junket.

The original album jacket for the LP album included four covers made up of two inners (for each disc), a middle insert cover and an outer cover. The inner covers depict various objects, famous people, and members of the band[17] on each window. The middle insert cover is white and details all the album track listings and recording information. The outer cover has die-cut windows on the building, so when the middle cover is wrapped around the inner covers and slid into the outer cover, the title of the album is shown on the front cover, spelling out the name 'Physical Graffiti'.

In 1976 the album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of best album package.

Release and critical reception

The album was released on 24 February 1975, at a time when Led Zeppelin was undertaking its tenth concert tour of North America. Delays in the production of the album's sleeve design prevented its release prior to the commencement of the tour.[18]

Physical Graffiti was the band's first release on their own Swan Song Records label, which had been launched in May 1974. Until this point, all of Led Zeppelin's albums had been released on Atlantic Records. The album was a commercial and critical success, having built up a huge advance order, and when eventually released it reached number 1 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart. It has since proven to be one of the most popular releases by the group, selling 8 million copies in the United States alone (which has made it 16 times platinum as it is a double album). Physical Graffiti was the first album to go platinum on advance orders alone.[19] Shortly after its release, all previous Led Zeppelin albums simultaneously re-entered the top-200 album chart.[20]

Billboard magazine's 5 star review of the album stated: '[Physical Graffiti] is a tour de force through a number of musical styles, from straight rock to blues to folky acoustic to orchestral sounds.'[21] In 1998 Q magazine readers voted Physical Graffiti the 28th greatest album of all time; in 2000 Q placed it at number 32 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever; and in 2001 the same magazine named it as one of the 50 Heaviest Albums Of All Time. In 2003 the TV network VH1 named it the 71st greatest album ever. In 2003, the album was ranked number 70 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The album is also listed in Robert Dimery and Stevie Chick's 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2005).


Reviewer Country Review Year Score
Scott Floman (Goldmine) United States Rock and Soul Album Reviews 2002 A+


Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Grammy Award United States Grammy Award for Best Recording Package[22] 1976 Nominee
Mojo United Kingdom The 100 Greatest Albums Ever Made[23] 1996 47
Classic Rock United Kingdom 100 Greatest Rock Album Ever[24] 2001 5
Q United Kingdom 100 Greatest Albums Ever[25] 2003 41
Record Collector United Kingdom Classic Albums from 21 Genres for the 21st Century[26] 2005 *
Robert Dimery United States 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[27] 2005 *
Q United Kingdom 100 Best Albums Ever[28] 2006 57
Classic Rock United Kingdom 100 Greatest British Rock Album Ever[29] 2006 7
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame United States The Definitive 200: Top 200 Albums of All-Time[30] 2007 93

(*) designates unordered lists.

Track list

Album information

Track listing:

  • Side 1:
  1. 'Custard Pie' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 4:20
  2. 'The Rover' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 5:44
  3. 'In My Time of Dying' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, John Bonham) – 2:58
  • Side 2:
  1. 'Houses of the Holy' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 4:01
  2. 'Trampled Under Foot' (John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 5:38
  3. 'Kashmir' (John Bonham, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 8:31
  • Side 3:
  1. 'In the Light' (John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 8:46
  2. 'Bron-Yr-Aur' (Jimmy Page) – 2:07
  3. 'Down by the Seaside' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 5:15
  4. 'Ten Years Gone' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 6:55
  • Side 4:
  1. 'Night Flight' (John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 3:37
  2. 'The Wanton Song' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 4:10
  3. 'Boogie with Stu' (John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Ian Stewart, Mrs. Valens) – 6:55
  4. 'Black Country Woman' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 4:30
  5. 'Sick Again' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) – 4:40

(*) Some cassette versions of the album place 'Bron-Yr-Aur' immediately after 'Kashmir', presumably to make each side of the cassette last approximately the same amount of time.
(**) Credited to 'Mrs. Valens, mother of Ritchie Valens'. The credit came about after the band had heard Valens' mother never received any royalties from any of her son's hits.

Chart positions


Chart (1975) Peak Position
Japanese Albums Chart[32] 13
UK Albums Chart[33] 1
US Billboard The 200 Albums Chart[34] 1
US Cash Box Top 100 Albums Chart[35] 1
US Record World Top Pop Albums Chart[36] 1
Canadian RPM Top 100 Chart[37] 1
Norwegian Albums Chart[38] 4
Austrian Albums Chart[39] 2
Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart 2
New Zealand Top 50 Albums Chart[40] 3
German Albums Chart[41] 17
Spanish Albums Chart[42] 2
French Albums Chart[43] 2


Year Single Chart Position
1975 'Trampled Under Foot' Billboard Hot 100 Singles (Pop Singles)[44] 38

Sales certifications

Country Sales Certification
France (SNEP) 100,000+ Gold[45]
Germany (IFPI) 100,000+ Gold[46]
Argentina (CAPIF) 30,000+ Gold[47]
United Kingdom (BPI) 1,200,000+ 2× Platinum[48]
United States (RIAA) 8,000,000+ 16× Multi-Platinum[49]
Australia (ARIA) 210,000+ 3× Platinum[50]

Certification history

Organization Level Date
RIAA – USA Gold 6 March 1975
RIAA – USA Platinum 11 December 1990
RIAA – USA 4× Platinum 11 December 1990
RIAA – USA 9× Platinum 25 November 1997
RIAA – USA 15× Platinum 3 May 1999
RIAA – USA 16× Platinum 30 January 2006


  • Musicians:
    • Jimmy Page – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mandolin, producer, remastering, digital remastering
    • Robert Plant – vocals, harmonica
    • John Paul Jones – bass guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, organ, piano, Mellotron, clavinet, bass pedals, mandolin, acoustic guitar
    • John Bonham - drums, percussion

Additional musicians:

    • Ian Stewart - piano on 'Boogie with Stu'
  • Production:
    • Peter Grant – executive producer
    • Keith Harwood – engineer, mixing
    • Eddie Kramer – engineer, mixing
    • Andy Johns - engineer
    • Ron Nevison - engineer
    • Mike Doud – artwork, design, cover design
    • Peter Corriston – artwork, design, cover design
    • Elliot Erwitt – photography
    • Roy Harper - photography
    • B. P. Fallon - photography
    • Dave Heffernan – illustrations
    • Maurice Tate - tinting
    • Barry Diament - original CD mastering engineer (mid-1980s)
    • George Marino - remastered CD engineer (1990)


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