50 rarest Led Zeppelin and related records by Robert Godwin
Trying to determine the 50 rarest albums by Led Zeppelin is somewhat like trying to determine the 50 rarest coins - it's a matter of opinion. Not only that, new ones are always turning up. The following list is based primarily on the recording's scarcity, and does not include bootleg recordings.
At this writing, the rarest official Led Zeppelin release is the original Japanese Atlantic/Polydor pressing of "Immigrant Song" backed with "Out On The Tiles." The only official single to feature both songs, this disk is valued at $2000 by collectors. Runner-up on the list is "She Just Satisfies", a solo single recorded by Page and drummer Bobbie Graham for the Fontana label in 1965, which has been known to be worth as much as $700.
The third most sought-after Zeppelin release is "Communication Breakdown"/"Good Times Bad Times," a promo-only item with an interesting history. In 1969 Atlantic tried to pressure Zeppelin into releasing a UK single, but the band resisted because they did not approve of the 'commercial implications.' As a result, the record was pressed but did not get past the promotional stage. Copies of this sell steadily for $200.
Next is a curiosity from the African nation, Angola. Two things contribute to the rarity of this piece: it was pressed just prior to a major political upheaval (which still continues), and it is the only Zeppelin piece to be licensed in such an obscure (in rock and roll terms) land. It comes with a very attractive picture sleeve and is extremely hard to find.
Prior to the release of Led Zeppelin I in 1969, white label test pressings were distributed quite extensively by Atlantic to college and FM radio stations. The labels of these promos say "Test Pressing", and feature the typed words, "Led Zeppelin." If you can find one, expect to pay as much as $200. Atlantic, still pushing for a British single release, pressed a mid-1969 promo of "Whole Lotta Love"/"Living Loving Maid." The band again foiled the company's intentions, and as a result these rare promos now sell for over $150.
Back in 1968, Atlantic's U.S. division disseminated promo seven-inch copies of "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"/"Dazed And Confused." This came in an attractive picture sleeve depicting the Hindenburg crash. This very hard-to-find release today commands as much as $150. In 1972 Atlantic tried yet again for a U.K. single, this time with the approval of Robert Plant. However, Plant could not convince the rest of the band and we are once more left with a promo-only of "D'yer Mak'er"/"Over The Hills And Far Away." Collectors should note that this is the only record available with these two songs back to back.
Another facet of Atlantic's massive push for Zeppelin in 1969 included an in-store promotional album featuring Page and company on one side and Dusty Springfield on the other! Slipcased in a black and white cover, the album includes songs from the first album that are periodically interrupted by some unintentionally hilarious voice-overs encouraging the prospective consumer to "fly higher with Led Zeppelin." This remnant of stranger, if more innocent, days currently sells for approximately $150.
And speaking of stranger days, we now take a leap back to the summer of 1966, when Robert Plant was still struggling in his native Birmingham with a band named Listen. Listen signed with CBS and recorded a single that is now valued at $120. Very few were sold - it seems no one was listening - and most extant copies are promos or DJ releases. Plant then recorded two other failed singles as a solo artist. There is some evidence that CBS was trying to groom Robert to be the next Pat Boone, and it is even suspected that his vocal tracks were slowed down in order to make his croon more convincing. These bizarre artifacts no sell for about $120 apiece.
Another quirky early solo release is John Paul Jones's 1964 debut with Pye Records. "A Foggy Day In Vietnam"/"Baja" was also released in the US by Parkway. Both versions are valued at roughly $100. The US version is dated "1962" on the label; the error is not explained.
In the early Seventies, SR International licensed LZ II from Atlantic for distribution through the RCA record club. This resulted in a variation on the traditional "Brown Bomber" jacket. Pressed in Austria, this very handsome piece is now valued between $100 and $150. Similarly priced is the original Japanese pressing by Nippon Grammophon of Led Zeppelin I, which features a gatefold cover. Another jacket variation to watch out for (and there aren't very many) is the "German double", which combined the first two albums in a beautiful gatefold jacket. This was released without the knowledge or consent of the band and was almost immediately withdrawn - $120 to $150 will probably cover this one. Rumor has it that there is Yugoslavian version; if you find yourself in Ljublyana of Zagreb, buy it!
BBC's broadcast of Zep at the Paris Theater in 1971 has been bootlegged beyond belief, but the original BBC transcription disks are extremely hard to find. Prices vary enormously on this release, but do not expect to pay any less than $100 for a single album. The Westwood One radio network has re-broadcast most of the BBC shows a number of times. These Westwood pressings usually sell for $100 to $150 for the complete two-album set. A four-song promo for Houses Of The Holy was pressed for the US Armed Forces Network; again, expect to pay $100.
"Stairway To Heaven" probably would have sold quite well as a single, but it was never released. However, in a ploy to get the maximum amount of airplay, Atlantic pressed seven-inch promo of the song with a picture sleeve. $100 will probably get you one of these in mint condition.
Overseas seven-inch pressings are many and varied, but two of the rarest are the Spanish picture sleeve promos from Houses Of The Holy. The sleeves are entirely different from the commercial releases and are worth approximately $80 apiece. Another overseas gem is a Brazilian promo EP that was included in special issues of Rock Espetacular magazine. The EP features the blues epic "Since I've Been Loving You," along with "Friends" and "Celebration Day." This is the only 7" with these three songs and is valued at $65. Eastern bloc pressings were very limited; one of the rarest is the Yugoslavian seven-inch of "D'yer Mak'er," accompanied by a nice picture sleeve. This is worth about $60.
All 10 of Zeppelin's albums were available as white-label promos, with the most valuable being LZ I, which commands from $50 to $100. Also be on the watch for the mono white label version of Houses Of The Holy.
Some of the rarest releases come from Japan. Several late-Sixties Nippon Grammophon-pressed singles are now valued at $60. A US promo for "Gallow's Pole" can be had for about the same money.
Moving back to 1968, the Yardbirds released and then promptly withdrew a single featuring Jimmy Page, entitled "Goodnight Sweet Josephine." Although the song is really quite poor, it is a shame that the B-side was not given more of a chance. "Think About It" includes some of Page's best work with the band and hints at things to come. If you are lucky enough to find a copy, be prepared to pay $60. If not, buy the British edition of the Yardbird's Little Games, which includes six tracks with Page that do not appear on the US original.
P.J. Proby's album, Three Week Hero (Liberty), was the first commercial release featuring all four members of Led Zeppelin (Plant plays harmonica). Worth approximately $50, this UK-only record is still sought after by Proby collectors and Zep fans alike.
Another valuable promo is an Atlantic-licensed EP with picture sleeves designed for jukeboxes. These occasionally turn up for $30, but can cost as much $60.
An Australian pressing of Led Zeppelin II that featured a picture of the band inside the gatefold, instead of the traditional blimp in floodlights, was quickly withdrawn. It now commands $50. Another classic piece that was also withdrawn is Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page. Released by Epic in 1971 to cash in on Zeppelin's growing popularity, the album featured poorly produced recordings of the band in action at the Anderson Theater in NY. Jimmy Page, who owned the rights to the Yardbirds' name, served an injunction against Epic demanding immediate withdrawal of the offending piece. Although Page maintains that the band's performance is inferior, this album is highly recommended. His playing is forceful, and the early version of "Dazed And Confused" is historic. Counterfeits sell for approximately $40, but it is well-worth investing the extra $20 or so to get an original.
Some EP variations from Mexico are available periodically for about $25 to $35; these usually come in handsome picture sleeves. Also look for similar items from Taiwan. There are several variations of the fourth album, but one of the most sought-after is the pink vinyl edition released in the UK.
Ten standard singles were released in Europe, but there were a few interesting variations. "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp"/"Out On The Tiles" from Holland is not available anywhere else, and two pieces from Italy - "Heartbreaker"/"Bring It On Home" and "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp"/"Immigrant Song" - are also unique. All three are valued at $20 to $40. Another unique Italian promo piece pairs the live version of "Rock And Roll" from TSRTS with a disco track by the Trammps. This was intended for jukeboxes only.
Five thousand copied of "Trampled Underfoot"/"Black Country Woman" were pressed and given away in a printed sleeve to store owners who bought inventory of Zep's albums. These are still quite elusive and are valued at $20. The 10 most common singles were made available in New Zealand in the mid-Eighties in a boxed set. Each disk came in a blue WEA dust sleeve and the pressings were of superior quality. One odd aspect of the set is that some of the A- and B-sides are reversed, presumably by accident. Due to its size and scarcity, the set now sells for about $100.
Our list cocludes with two cover variations. In Uruguay, where most of Zep's albums were released, an extremely strange promo copy of ITTOD was pressed. It has a picture of the band on the cover, which suggests that it could be a pirate. The other is definitely not a pirate. A UK version of LZ I that features the name of the band and the Atlantic logo in blue lettering instead of orange now fethces $20.
There are, no doubt, worlds of Zep oddities waiting to be discovered and suitably price-tagged. Meanwhile, the foregoing should supply Zeppophiles with plenty of drool for thought.
Label (* Title Country
A/P Immigrant Song/Out On The Tiles (with p/c) Japan F She Just Satisfies/Keep Movin' (by Jimmy Page) UK A Communication Breakdown/Good Times Bad Times (promo only) UK A Over The Hills And Far Away/Dancing Days (with p/c) Angola A Led Zeppelin I (white label test pressing LP) USA A Whole Lotta Love/Living Loving Maid (promo only) UK A Babe I'm Gonna Leave You/Dazed And Confused (promo with p/c) USA A D'yer Mak'er/Over The Hills And Far Away (promo only) UK A Led Zeppelin I/Dusty Springfield (promo only LP) USA CBS Our Song/Laughin, Cryin, Laughin (by Robert Plant) UK CBS You'd Better Run/Everybody's Gonna Say (by Listen) UK CBS Long Time Comin'/I've Got A Secret (by Robert Plant) UK Pye A Foggy Day In Vietnam/Baja (by John Paul Jones) UK Pa A Foggy Day In Vietnam/Baja (by John Paul Jones) USA A Led Zeppelin II (LP w/different cover) Austria A Led Zeppelin I (LP w/gatefold cover) Japan A 1st & 2nd Led Zeppelin (first 2 albums in gatefold cover) Germany BBC Live at Paris Studios, 1971 (BBC transcription LP, radio UK
AFR Houses Of The Holy (one-sided LP; radio only) USA LW Maxell presents The Best Of The BBC Rock Hour (2 LP live UK
in 1969, and 1971, radio only, in p/c)
WO In Concert (2LP, live in 1971, radio only) USA A Stairway To Heaven (mono)/Stairway To Heaven (stereo) USA
(promo with p/c)
AH D'yer Mak'er/The Crunge (promo w/different p/c) Spain AH OTHAFA/Dancing Days (promo w/diff. p/c) Spain RE Since I've Been Loving You/Friends; Celebration Day Brazil
AS D'yer Mak'er/The Crunge (with p/c) Yug. A Led Zeppelin (white label promo LP) USA A Whole Lotta Love/Thank You (with p/c) Japan A Living Loving Maid/Bring It On Home (with p/c) Japan A Gallows Pole (mono)/Gallows Pole (stereo) (promo only) USA E Goodnight Sweet Josephine/Think About It (by the Yardbirds) USA L Three Week Hero (LP by P.J. Proby) UK A Dancing Days; D'yer Mak'er/TSRTS; The Crunge (promo, p/c) USA A Rock And Roll; Black Dog/Stairway To Heaven (promo, p/c) USA A Led Zeppelin II (with different inside cover) Australia E Live Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page (withdrawn LP) USA AP Good Times Bad Times; Communication Breakdown/Dazed Mexico
And Confused (with p/c)
A Immigrant Song/Tangerine; Out On The Tiles (with p/c) Mexico A Whole Lotta Love; Living Loving Maid/Heartbreaker (p/c) Mexico AG D'yer Mak'er; OTHAFA/Black Dog; Misty Mountain Hop (p/c) Mexico 4 Track Custard Pie; Boogie With Stu/Night Flight; Down By The Taiwan
A Led Zeppelin IV (LP on pink vinyl) UK A Bron-Y-Aur Stomp/Out On The Tiles (with p/c) Holland A Heartbreaker/Bring It On Home (with p/c) Italy A Bron-Y-Aur Stomp/Immigrant Song (with p/c) Italy SS Rock And Roll (Live)/Disco Inferno (The Trammps) (promo) Italy A The 10 Legendary Singles (Boxed Set) NZ SS In Through The Out Door (prom w/different cover) Uruguay AP Led Zeppelin I (with blue lettering on the cover) UK
(* Abbreviations: A=Atlantic, P=Polydor, F=Fontana, Pa=Parkway, AFR=Armed Forces Radio, LW= London Wavelength, WO=Westwood One, AH= Atlantic Hispavox, RE=Rock Espetacular (magazine), AS=Atlantic Suzy, E=Epic, L=Liberty, AG= Atlantic Gamma, SS=Swan Song.
__ Robert Godwin is the author of "The Illustrated Collector's Guide To Led Zeppelin," which is available from Collector's Guide, PO Box 305, 688 Brant Street, Burlington, Ontario, Canada L7R 3Y2.