Jan 17, 1969: Led Zeppelin Debut – U.S. Release

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Led Zeppelin Album Cover

Led Zeppelin debut released On This Day

Some time this morning in 1969, no doubt having heard the album on the radio, a fan went into a record store somewhere, plunked down $2.79, walked home with his shrink-wrapped masterpiece, put it on the turntable and listened to the first notes of “Good Times Bad Times.” It wouldn’t have dawned on him – or anyone at the time – that this was history in the making. But On This Day in 1969: Led Zeppelin‘s self-titled debut was released on Atlantic Records to U.S. retailers, changing the classic rock game.

[Note: many archivists peg the date to January 12, 1969 which was a Sunday and thus not likely. But there’s also a December 1968 letter from an Atlantic Records’ executive with yet another date. See below.]

Or was it January 20, 1969?

Things had come together very quickly. The band formed in August 1968, toured in September and recorded the album in October. The now-familiar album cover is, of course, a photo of the famous German airship, the Hindenburg, as it burned while attempting to land in New Jersey after its trans-continental voyage.

The album made its chart debut at #77 on Feb. 22

According to The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin by Dave Lewis, prior to its street date Atlantic had already “distributed a few hundred advance white label copies to key radio stations and reviewers. A positive reaction… resulted in the album generating 50,000 advance orders,” a very healthy number at the time for a debut album. It debuted at #77 on Feb. 22 in Record World. The band toured incessantly that year and the album rose steadily up the charts, peaking at #10 and earning gold certification (for 500,000 copies sold) by summer.

Led Zeppelin was not initially well-received by music critics (though many reassessed their earlier opinions). Many fans consider it their masterpiece. Today, the songs “Good Times Bad Times” (the album’s only single), “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” “Communication Breakdown,” and, of course, “Dazed and Confused,” reads like a greatest hits album.

Just nine months later, the band released Led Zeppelin II.

Led Zeppelin (including Jimmy “Paige”) received their Gold album on July 24. This photo appeared in the Aug. 16, 1969 issue of Record World

Related: 10 best second classic rock albums

Our mystery buyer bought the first of what is now more than eight million copies sold in the U.S. We wonder if his worn, scratched copy is still around and how many times he’s played it.

The deluxe edition (available here), released in 2014, contains a second disc of eight songs recorded in Paris in 1969.

Related: Listings for 100s of current and upcoming classic rock tours

Best Classic Bands Staff

10 Comments so far

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  1. Big Newfie
    #1 Big Newfie 18 January, 2017, 11:59

    Outstanding. Excellent performance.
    It shows how proud a father Glenn was.

    Reply this comment
  2. JCB
    #2 JCB 18 January, 2020, 08:03

    The album that changed everything that followed. Absolute savage guitar playing, bombastic drumming and in your face power. Like nothing before it. A lot of critics think Hendrix was the guy in 69, wrong, it was Page by a country mile. Nobody had ever played so clean yet so incredibly powerful. That album is a friggin masterpiece. If these songs don’t blow you away you’re dead already.

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  3. Rocky
    #3 Rocky 18 January, 2020, 09:24

    Good assessment, JCB, though I love me some Hendrix. A friend attended a concert early in their first tour and when he came back he said, “…those guys are going to go far.” In addition, it’s very possible that the first person to plunk down $2.79 for that first album purchase might have been a “her”. Might’ve been me.

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  4. Bomber
    #4 Bomber 22 January, 2020, 21:16

    I remember playing this on my stereo sparks were coming from the back especially during Dazed and Confused Zeppelin played The Boston Tea Party on their first tour. The critics were wrong about Zeppelin and Sabbath. When FM brokeout the legendary WBCN Boston was at the forefront.

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  5. Muddywatersmann
    #5 Muddywatersmann 18 January, 2022, 02:14

    I remember seeing this album @ record store day it was released! Based upon cover art and band photo on back, not aware of band @ all, as I recall, I bought it, ran home, put album on record player, not knowing what to expect: GOOD TIMES opening was an unexpected sonic bomb, and rest of album was deeply hypnotic, deeply bluesy, sexy, amazing music….This album and 2- 4 are my fave albums by them! And I remember paying $2.69 for album in Philly…

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  6. A DJ
    #6 A DJ 18 January, 2022, 21:15

    I saw Led Zeppelin the day after this album came out at the Boston Tea Party with my brother Peter. The album had sold out in two hours in Boston the day before and you could not walk anywhere in my brother’s dorm without hearing it blasting out joyously.
    We had our noses pressed against the doors to the Tea Party and rushed to the front row and Jimmy Page came out and was right in front of us with Robert center stage just to our left. The show was fantastic and was the album come to life. We talked with Robert and Jimmy after the show and Robert asked me if he thought people would like them. I told them that I thought they would be loved by anyone who got to see and hear them and we all know that the rest is history. One of the best first albums of all time.

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  7. jd
    #7 jd 17 January, 2023, 11:55

    Heard “Communications Breakdown”, and went right out and bought this superb LP, then bought tickets and saw this amazing band at the Fillmore East….. unforgettable, legendary.

    Reply this comment
  8. Lugan
    #8 Lugan 18 January, 2023, 08:35

    Saw them along with Jethro Tull and Vanilla Fudge at the Kinetic Playground in Chicago in 1969. What a great show of future stars.

    Reply this comment
  9. RoundHouse
    #9 RoundHouse 18 January, 2023, 15:45

    The first original front cover sleeve copies of this great album ( at least in Great Britain, but I am not sure about the USA first original front cover release ) had the name of the LP “LED ZEPPELIN” printed by using turquoise as the original color. It seems that the unhappy record management did not care for this choice of color (?!) and had those first copies withdrawn, replacing it now with the future printed orange color title… Needless to add here the huge collectable value of those first original cover releases !

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  10. Tyre
    #10 Tyre 18 January, 2024, 06:50

    Led Zep 1 & II a pair of the greatest Albums

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