Led Zeppelin’s ‘Houses of the Holy’ Reigns On

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After releasing their first four albums in less than three years, Led Zeppelin took what seemed like forever to release their fifth. In fact, it was less than 17 months. But after the regularity of their previous releases, the gap this time seemed eternal.

On March 28, 2023, the 50th anniversary of Houses of the Holy, Jimmy Page shared some insight into the recording process. “My original idea for the opening tracks… was that a short overture would be a rousing instrumental introduction with layered electric guitars that would segue in to ’The Seasons,’ later to be titled ‘The Rain Song.’ Again there would be a contrasting acoustic guitar instrumental movement with melotron that could lead to the first vocal of the album and the first verse of the song.

“I bought my home studio demo of a rough sketch of ‘The Rain Song’ on cassette to rehearsals to illustrate the sequence and textures of this piece to the band. During the routining of the overture now titled ‘The Plumpton and Worcester Races,’ the half time section was born and the overture shaped in to the song, ‘The Song Remains The Same.’ These rehearsals were done in Puddle Town on the River Piddle in Dorset, U.K.

Page continued. “The first set of recordings were done at Olympic Studios with George Chkiantz. We then came to record at Stargroves, Sir Mick Jagger’s country home, and like Headley Grange, with the Rolling Stones’ recording truck.

“‘The Song Remains The Same’ was played on a Fender 12 string, the same one used on ‘Becks Bolero,’ with my trusty Les Paul Number One on overdubs in a standard turning. The ‘Rain Song’ was an unorthodox tuning on acoustic and electric guitars. On live shows, it became a work-out feature for the double neck.”

For the album’s cover art the band and their management turned to the accomplished English design studio, Hipgnosis, for inspiration. Co-founder Aubrey Powell, inspired by Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 science fiction novel, Childhood’s End, selected the remote area in Northern Ireland called Giant’s Causeway, a natural series of rock and columns which attracts over one million visitors each year, for the location of a photo shoot.

Siblings Stefan Gates—just five at the time—and his slightly older sister, Samantha, were selected for what proved to be a treacherous assignment. The children were pictured on the cover as they ascended the rocky terrain. Both are unclothed.

The Houses of the Holy album cover

There are laws in place that allow the use of photographs of underage, nude models in art, provided the images are not indecent, obscene or pornographic. (The Protection of Children Act is in place to ensure that children are not exploited.)

Houses of the Holy was released on March 28, 1973. The album, featuring such Led Zeppelin favorites as “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Dy’er Maker” and “The Song Remains the Same”—but not, ironically, the song “Houses of the Holy”—was another enormous success, reaching #1 in both the U.K. and U.S.

In 1974, the Houses of the Holy album cover was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Album Package, an acknowledgment of the creative artwork design.

On April 26, 2019, Michelle W, the administrator of the popular Led Zeppelin–Ultimate Fan Page group on Facebook wrote: “So…apparently Facebook has decided to remove my previous post this morning that included a link to a petition that someone started regarding being blocked/banned for posting anything that included the Houses of the Holy album cover.

“Facebook told me that my post violated their Community Standards resulting in it being removed. I have requested a review. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they will allow any posting of that album.

“It appears that those who control what goes on Facebook allow the hate crimes, demeaning posts to women and sexually explicit pages yet continue to block/ban an iconic album cover.”

Three days later, Michelle wrote: “Facebook continues to remove and ban posts related to Houses of the Holy. So just to test things, I reported Nirvana’s album cover. You would think a baby boy’s penis would go against their standards…but as you can see, it doesn’t.

Part of the reply Michelle received from Facebook

“I figured if they are going crazy removing all trace of the Houses of the Holy cover for nudity, why not Nirvana? It’s interesting how one cover that depicts nudity is not against the standards, but a 46-year-old classic album does. What a double standard! I think I will post a video from Houses of the Holy in protest. LoL.”

The next day, Michelle posted: “FINALLY! The joke’s on me, apparently. I’m back from my 24-hour ban for posting ‘The Ocean’ YouTube video on my personal profile. (The Houses of the Holy cover was the thumbnail of the video, which resulted in the ban.) After trying unsuccessfully to appeal it, I had to wait out my ban. I have since scoured this page, over eight years of postings, and removed any trace of the big, bad evil Houses of the Holy album.

“Who would have thought that in 2019, an album cover could cause so much trouble on a social media site that allows much worse.”

It took a while, but Facebook’s “problem” with the album cover was finally resolved.

For more on the album cover shoot, under difficult weather conditions, we recommend this article.

Related: How Led Zeppelin broke through with “Whole Lotta Love”

Best Classic Bands Staff

12 Comments so far

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  1. LedZepUFP
    #1 LedZepUFP 2 May, 2019, 19:12

    Thank you to the kind folks at Best Classic Bands for covering this outrageous behaviour by the folks who run/monitor Facebook. The fact that an album 46 years old is now being targeted is just unfathomable. I appreciate you sharing our story.

    Reply this comment
    • skb
      skb 2 May, 2019, 22:07

      I am so happy that this has been brought to the light of others!! I am a friend of Michelle’s and I also run a fan page focusing mainly on Jimmy Page but also on Zep as well. Last year when this all began on Facebook, I was one of the first ones to be banned completely for 3 full days because I posted a picture of the album for it’s anniversary date of release! Everyone needs to realize that Facebook should not be able to censor one thing without censoring another! According to Facebook’s own rules, there is not ONE single thing wrong with the HOTH cover. I’m so glad this has been posted to make more people aware!!

      Reply this comment
      • Robyn
        Robyn 3 May, 2019, 00:47

        I know but I am waiting for Facebook to post a true reason. Nothing yet‍♀️

        Reply this comment
  2. norm
    #2 norm 3 May, 2019, 00:10

    Interesting! Note that this album was released 8 months earlier in March 1973 (precisely 28 March 1973), not November 28, 1973.

    Reply this comment
  3. Djjohn UICRadio
    #3 Djjohn UICRadio 3 May, 2019, 05:24

    I received a 24 hour and a 72 hour ban for my recent postings on the anniversary of the album’s release. I wanted to share this article on Facebook, but I am afraid of another ban.

    Reply this comment
  4. Kaizer
    #4 Kaizer 3 May, 2019, 08:15

    I received a warning from fb for the first post, then sharing it got me a 24 hour ban, then I tried to sign a petition at Change.org, which landed me in fb jail for 3 more days. I suppose we need to remove anything from the Renaissance era as well in this “offended” era. There is nothing sexual about the HOTH album cover until their censors minds made it so.

    Reply this comment
  5. Toaster
    #5 Toaster 3 May, 2019, 11:19

    My posted link to their song “over the hills and far away” was blocked as well it’s annoying

    Reply this comment
  6. jeeni.
    #6 jeeni. 6 May, 2019, 09:50

    My posted link to their song “over the hills and far away” was blocked as well; it’s annoying

    Reply this comment
  7. John
    #7 John 13 May, 2019, 00:35

    I posted a photo of HOUSES OF THE HOLY album cover on Facebook a couple weeks ago and I wasn’t banned

    Reply this comment
  8. Bobby Frufracker
    #8 Bobby Frufracker 29 March, 2021, 09:43

    They also suspended me for posting Rick Wright’s “Wet Dream” LP cover, and I’ve read they’ve done the same for Be Bop Deluxe’s “Sunburst Finish.” What’s next, the Venus de Milo?

    Reply this comment
  9. JayBird
    #9 JayBird 29 March, 2023, 11:54

    OMG the cover offended someone. Petty crap. Why doesn’t FB go after fake websites that rip people off instead ?? I see them every day and they are not vetted. FB is a joke being played on us all.

    Reply this comment

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