Led Zeppelin lived larger than life during their peak years. They produced a string of hit records, toured the world on a private jet, and played sold-out concerts. About the only black eye was a disastrous show that lasted less than an hour that might be their worst concert. Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant said one famous movie scene came from another of the band’s concert mishaps.
Led Zeppelin toured frequently early in their career to build their audience
Led Zeppelin shied away from releasing singles (their first in the United Kingdom didn’t launch until 1997) and almost never performed on TV. The band built their audience by touring, and they did it frequently. The group played dozens of dates in Scandinavia, England, and North America’s west coast in late 1968 before their debut album even hit the shelves in early 1969. Led Zeppelin toured the globe every year from 1968 to 1973, played hundreds of shows, and broke records set by The Beatles in the process. Zep’s live shows could sometimes last hours. One might have lasted a little bit longer after one mistake that Plant said was spoofed in a classic movie.
Robert Plant said a Led Zeppelin backstage snafu ended up in ‘This Is Spinal Tap’
The 1984 movie This Is Spinal Tap follows the fictional band led by Nigel Tufnel (actor Christopher Guest), David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), and mild-mannered bassist Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) as they embark on a North American tour. It was a work of fiction, but one scene hit close to home for Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant. Spinal Tap gets lost backstage at a show in Cleveland, taking wrong turn after wrong turn and running into a maintenance worker twice on their way to the stage.
According to Led Zeppelin FAQ author George Case, Plant said the scene could be based on Led Zeppelin: Band founder Jimmy Page, who avoided disaster when he chose the name Led Zeppelin over two terrible options, recognized other nods to his group, writes Case. I definitely recognized the band politics,” Page said of the film. “People getting puffed up and self-important.” A backstage detour and intraband detour weren’t the only Led Zeppelin nods in This Is Spinal Tap.
Zep faced pushback over an album cover, just like Spinal Tap did
This Is Spinal Tap’s mockumentary style included another tribute to Led Zeppelin. Spinal Tap faced pushback from the record company over a graphic album cover and settled for an all-black LP. The cover lacked the band’s name or any identifying marks. The same thing happened to LEd Zeppelin, but in reverse Atlantic Records pushed back when Led Zeppelin wanted an album cover that didn’t include the band’s name. No name. No song titles. Nothing but four meaningful symbols representing each band member to identify the players.
It was a statement from the band that the music was more important than who played it. Spinal Tap rolls over and accepts the record company’s wishes. Led Zeppelin held firm and released one of the most identifiable album covers ever with Led Zeppelin IV. Robert Plant said one scene from This Is Spinal Tap was based on Led Zeppelin, but it seems the fictional band encountered some of the same issues as the legendary classic rock quartet.