How Led Zeppelin Fulfilled a Quest for One Final Set of Songs
Fans were hungry for more music after drummer John Bonham died on Sept. 25, 1980, effectively putting an end to Led Zeppelin.
Their last album, 1979’s In Through the Out Door, marked a strong return after a three-year absence. But the band had broken up, and there wasn’t too much unused music sitting around, because Led Zeppelin didn’t waste much. Over the course of eight albums and 10 years, only one non-LP B-side ("Hey Hey What Can I Do") surfaced. And the few leftover tracks that they had in the can made up roughly half of 1975’s Physical Graffiti.
Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones got together a couple of years later and combed their archives for leftovers. They found eight, which made up Coda, the last official studio record released by Led Zeppelin. The album, released on Nov. 19, 1982, ranges from a pair of 1970 live cuts through In Through the Out Door outtakes. And it holds up as a solid collection for fans and collectors.
The two concert songs – covers of Ben E. King’s "We’re Gonna Groove" and Willie Dixon’s "I Can’t Quit You Baby," which also appeared on Led Zeppelin’s debut – don’t offer much perspective. But the remaining six tracks, like the acoustic shuffle of the Led Zeppelin III outtake "Poor Tom," fill in some missing pieces. Best are the groove-centric "Ozone Baby" and "Darlene," both recorded during the sessions for the last LP.
Listen to Led Zeppelin Perform 'Darlene'
Coda reached No. 6 in 1982, their only non-No. 1 album besides the live Song Remains the Same, their self-titled 1969 debut and, remarkably, the classic untitled fourth album from 1971. Still, it eventually went platinum.
Three songs received substantial airplay – "Darlene," "Ozone Baby" and "Poor Tom" – and Bonham’s drum extravaganza "Bonzo’s Montreux" was combined with the even more spectacular "Moby Dick" for a medley included on the 1990 Led Zeppelin box set.
A handful of other Led Zeppelin outtakes have shown up since the release of Coda on the 2014-15 remasters. But the 1982 collection is the essential record for fans. It’s not perfect, but it remains a key part of the band's catalog.
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