Presence is the seventh studio album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, released by Swan Song Records on 31 March 1976. The album was a commercial success, reaching the top of both the British and American album charts, and achieving a triple-platinum certification in the United States, despite receiving mixed reviews from critics and being the slowest-selling studio album by the band (other than the 1982 compilation album Coda).
It was written and recorded during a tumultuous time in the band's history, as singer Robert Plant was recuperating from serious injuries he had sustained the previous year in a car accident. Nevertheless, guitarist Jimmy Page describes Presence as the band's "most important" album, proving they would continue and succeed despite their turmoil.
Guitarist Jimmy Page made the decision to record the album after Led Zeppelin's vocalist Robert Plant sustained serious injuries from a car accident on the Greek island of Rhodes on 5 August 1975, which forced the band to cancel a proposed world tour that was due to commence on 23 August. At this point, Led Zeppelin were arguably at the height of their popularity. When he was taken to a Greek hospital after the accident, Plant recalled:
During a convalescent period on the Channel Island of Jersey and in Malibu, California, Plant wrote some lyrics, and when Page joined him at Malibu, these compositions were fleshed out. The two prepared enough material for rehearsals to begin at Hollywood's SIR Studio, where drummer John Bonham and bass player John Paul Jones joined them.
After a month of rehearsals, the album was recorded in just eighteen days at Musicland Studios in Munich, West Germany, with Plant in a wheelchair. This was the fastest recording turnaround time achieved by the band since their debut album. The rushed recording sessions were in part a result of Led Zeppelin having booked the studio immediately prior to the Rolling Stones, who were shortly to record songs for their album Black and Blue. Upon their arrival, the Stones were amazed that Zeppelin's album had indeed been completed (both recorded and mixed) in a mere eighteen days. Page had simply stayed awake for two days straight to perform all of the guitar overdubs. As he later explained:
I just had to lay it down, more or less: first track... second track – you know, really fast working on that. And all the guitar overdubs on Presence were done in one night. But I didn't think I would be able to do it in one night, I thought I'd have to do it across maybe three different nights to get the individual sections. Everything sort of crystallised and you'll notice everything was just pouring out. I was very happy with the guitar playing on that whole album, you know as far as the maturity of playing goes.
In an interview he gave to Guitar World magazine in 1998, Page stated that he worked an average of 18 to 20 hours per day during the mixing period at Musicland Studios:
[A]fter the band finished recording all its parts, me and the engineer, Keith Harwood, just started mixing until we would fall asleep. Then whoever would wake up first would call the other and we'd go back in and continue to work until we passed out again.
The recording sessions for Presence were also particularly challenging for Plant. The studio was in a basement of an old hotel, and the singer felt claustrophobic. He also experienced physical difficulties as a result of his car accident, and missed his family. He later explained:
I spent the whole process in a wheelchair, so physically I was really frustrated. I think my vocal performance on it is pretty poor. It sounds tired and strained. The saving grace of the album was "Candy Store Rock" and "Achilles Last Stand". The rhythm section on that it was so inspired ... I was furious with Page and [band manager] Peter Grant. I was just furious that I couldn't get back to the woman and the children that I loved. And I was thinking, is all this rock'n'roll worth anything at all?
The album was completed on 26 November 1975. This was the day before Thanksgiving, and in a telephone call to Swan Song Records, Page suggested the album be named Thanksgiving. This idea was quickly dropped, in favour of a title that was thought would represent the powerful force and presence that the band members felt surrounded the group.
One song from the recording sessions, "10 Ribs & All/Carrot Pod Pod" (otherwise known as "Pod") was later released on the 2015 deluxe edition of the album.
Six of the seven songs on the album are Page and Plant compositions; the remaining song being credited to all four band members. This can be explained by the fact that the majority of the songs were formulated at Malibu, where Page (but not Bonham and Jones) had initially joined a recuperating Plant. With Plant at less than full fitness, Page took responsibility for the album's completion, and his playing dominates the album's tracks.
Both Page and Plant had planned this album's recording session as a return to hard rock, much like their debut album, except at a new level of complexity. It marked a change in the Led Zeppelin sound towards more straightforward, guitar-based jams. Whereas their previous albums up to and including the previous year's Physical Graffiti contain electric hard rock anthems balanced with acoustic ballads and intricate arrangements, Presence was seen to include more simplified riffs, and is Led Zeppelin's only studio album that features no keyboards, and with the exception of a rhythm track on "Candy Store Rock", no acoustic guitar. The record stands in sharp contrast to their next studio album In Through the Out Door, which features keyboards on all tracks and pushes Page's guitar into the background on several songs (most notably on "Carouselambra", where Jones takes the lead on a synthesizer for most of the song, and Page is not truly heard until four minutes into the arrangement).
The changed stylistic emphasis on this album was a direct result of the troubled circumstances experienced by the band around the time of its recording. As Page said at the time:
I think it was just a reflection of the total anxiety and emotion of that period. There's a hell of a lot of spontaneity about that album. We went in with virtually nothing and everything just came pouring out.
Plant expressed similar views, stating:
It was really like a cry of survival. There won't be another album like it, put it like that. It was a cry from the depths, the only thing that we could do.
In contrast to earlier albums that contained several tracks that the band chose to play live at Led Zeppelin concerts, only two tracks from Presence were played in full on stage while the band was active. "Achilles Last Stand" and "Nobody's Fault but Mine" were added to the setlist for the 1977 tour of the United States and stayed through the band's final concerts in 1980. Some of the guitar solo from "Tea for One" was also incorporated into "Since I've Been Loving You" in these shows, but the actual song was never performed live until the Page and Plant tour of Japan in 1996, where it received three airings backed by an orchestra. "For Your Life" was played in full by Led Zeppelin for the first time at the Ahmet Ertegün Tribute Concert on 10 December 2007.
The lack of live interpretations of the Presence material is perhaps understandable given that it would be a full year before they would return to the road.
The cover and inside sleeve, created by Hipgnosis, features images of people interacting with a black obelisk-shaped object. Inside the sleeve, the item is referred to simply as "The Object". It was intended to represent Zeppelin's "force and presence". In the liner notes of the first Led Zeppelin boxed set, Page explained:
There was no working title for the album. The record-jacket designer said 'When I think of the group, I always think of power and force. There's a definite presence there.' That was it. He wanted to call it Obelisk'. To me, it was more important what was behind the obelisk. The cover is very tongue-in-cheek, to be quite honest. Sort of a joke on [the film] 2001. I think it's quite amusing.
Hipgnosis cofounder Storm Thorgerson wrote of the obelisk:
[It] appeared mysteriously in many walks of life and seemed central therefore to the lives of the people involved. At the same time, the object 'contaminated' various found images. More weirdly, the object was in fact not an object at all, but an oddly shaped whole having no moulding or shadow. Zeppelin were so powerful they didn't even need to be there in the flesh; the memory would do. And still does.
The background in the cover photograph is an artificial marina, installed in London's Earl's Court arena for the annual Boat Show, in the winter of 1974–75. The band played a series of concerts at this venue in May 1975, a few months after the boat show. The back photo was taken during a summer break in a classroom at London's Westminster City School. Designer George Hardie was married to one of the teaching staff. He and Hipgnosis were nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Album Package category in 1977.
|The Daily Telegraph|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
The album was released on 31 March 1976, having been delayed by the completion of the album sleeve. In Britain it attained one of the highest ever advance orders, shipping gold on the day of release. It entered at #2 and peaked the following week at #1 on the US Billboard Pop Albums chart and entered at #24 on the Cashbox Top 100 Albums, before rising to #1 the following week. However, this album is the lowest selling of their careers, and it received lukewarm reviews upon its release. In late 1976 the album was also overshadowed by the release of the band's movie and soundtrack The Song Remains the Same.
According to Dave Lewis, "The direct, hard-hitting nature of the seven recordings failed to connect with a fan base more accustomed to the diversity and experimental edge of their previous work. Page later acknowledged that, because the album conveys a sense of urgency resulting from the troubled circumstances in which it was recorded, "it's not an easy album for a lot of people to access ... [I]t's not an easy album for a lot of people to listen to."
However, despite its initially subdued reception, Lewis considers that Presence:
"has become a much underrated element of their catalogue. The basic drums-bass-guitars formula may lack the diversity of previous Zeppelin sets, but in terms of sheer energy, Presence packs a considerable punch, and has emerged as one of their most potent performances... This album is also a triumph for Jimmy Page. His production and dominant guitar style has an urgency and passion that reflects the troubled period that the group were going through at the time. Presence is Led Zeppelin with their backs against the wall."
Music journalist Stephen Davis (author of Led Zeppelin biography Hammer of the Gods) gave Presence a mixed review in Rolling Stone when it was released, but revised his opinion over the years, declaring Presence his favourite Led Zeppelin album and the best on-record studio representation of the band's elemental sound.
A remastered version of Presence, along with In Through the Out Door and Coda were reissued on 31 July 2015. The reissue comes in six formats: a standard CD edition, a deluxe two-CD edition, a standard LP version, a deluxe two-LP version, a super deluxe two-CD plus two-LP version with a hardback book, and as high resolution 96k/24-bit digital downloads. The deluxe and super deluxe editions feature bonus material containing alternative takes and one previously unreleased instrumental, "10 Ribs & All/Carrot Pod Pod". The reissue was released with an inverted color version of the original album's artwork as the bonus disc's cover.
|1.||"Achilles Last Stand"||10:30|
|2.||"For Your Life"||6:21|
|3.||"Royal Orleans" (John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Page, and Plant)||2:59|
|4.||"Nobody's Fault but Mine"||6:16|
|5.||"Candy Store Rock"||4:08|
|6.||"Hots On for Nowhere"||4:44|
|7.||"Tea for One"||9:23|
|1.||"Two Ones Are Won" ("Achilles Last Stand"; reference mix)||10:28|
|2.||"For Your Life" (reference mix)||6:28|
|3.||"10 Ribs & All/Carrot Pod Pod" (reference mix; Jones and Page)||6:49|
|4.||"Royal Orleans" (reference mix; Bonham, Jones, Page, and Plant)||3:00|
|5.||"Hots On for Nowhere" (reference mix)||4:44|
|Chart (1976)||Peak position|
|Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart||4|
|Canadian RPM Top 100 Albums Chart||16|
|Danish Albums Chart||13|
|French Albums Chart||5|
|Italian Albums Chart||15|
|Japanese Albums Chart||2|
|New Zealand Top 50 Albums Chart||8|
|Norwegian Albums Chart||4|
|Spanish Albums Chart||7|
|Swedish Albums Chart||8|
|UK Albums Chart||1|
|US Billboard 200 Albums Chart||1|
|West German Albums Chart||27|
|Chart (2015)||Peak position|
|Swiss Albums Chart||9|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||300,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||3× Platinum||3,000,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
Rock Follies (television soundtrack)
|UK Albums Chart number one album
24 April – 1 May 1976
Wings at the Speed of Sound by Wings
|Billboard 200 number-one album
1–14 May 1976
Black and Blue by The Rolling Stones