Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti Has Turned 40

Is Physical Graffiti it the greatest Led ​Zep album? Perhaps not. But even four decades after its release it still basically defines rock. 

Forty years ago today, the first vinyl pressings of Led Zeppelin’s fifth studio album, Physical Graffiti, landed in bins in records shops around the United States. It was already the #1 album on the Billboard charts and, since that fateful day, it has gone platinum 16 times. And that’s just album sales. “Kashmir” alone cemented Led Zeppelin as the greatest rock band in the world. They still are. Go ahead and disagree.  

When the album came out, Led Zep—Robert Plant as screechy shouty singer, Jimmy Page as Les Paul virtuoso, John Paul Jones as symphonic bassist, John Bonham as chained gorilla on drums—had just finished a terrifyingly excessive world tour in support of Houses of the Holy. They then, through sheer force of will and talent, recorded a double album that contained at least three timeless tracks capable of withstanding the rock and roll end times (which may or may not be underway). “Houses of the Holy,” for instance, is an unused title track from the previous album, and the occasional blasting of this song on your car stereo is as integral to driving a car as a steering wheel, seat or engine.

Same goes for “”Trampled Under Foot,” “Kashmir,” and, if the light is just right, “Down By The Seaside.” Really, radio stations are as indebted to Led Zeppelin as anyone. With the state of rock and roll today—marginalized, over-perfected, underperforming—we count on albums like Physical Graffiti to carry the torch.