1970s: Led Zeppelin
If Jimi Hendrix was the first guitar god, the members of Led Zeppelin were the first rock gods. The English band lambasted the blues, turning them inside out with a bone-crushing rhythm section that recoiled in a thunderous roar that shook the entire world's definition of rock. Jimmy Page's hammering guitar, John Paul Jones's haunting arrangements, John Bonham's fierce battering of the drums, and Robert Plant's eerie howl on vocals combined to form the world's first (and since unequaled) heavy-metal band.
Led Zeppelin set the bar for rock-and-roll excess, both sonically and in its treatment of hotel rooms. Unlike the Beatles, whose clean-cut image helped fuel their success, Led Zeppelin relied on delinquency, overindulgence, and unadulterated hedonism offstage, redirecting the world's intemperance after the '60s free-love comedown. From every riff to every rumor, everything about the band was massive. It would have all seemed a bit over the top had the music not been so equally unforgettable. The band's most famous epic, "Stairway to Heaven," became the most played song in the history of album-oriented radio.
But not everything about the band was so "in your face." It was shrouded in mystery, playing off of mysticism and mythology in its lyrics and on its album covers, and granting little access to press and fans - all of which only fed the group's mass appeal and controversial nature. Led Zeppelin was also the first band to consider an entire album as a whole, conceptualizing album-oriented rock from the starting gate (Led Zeppelin I) and choosing to let its deafening music do most of the talking. Our collective ears are still ringing in the new millennium.
Our Signature Track: "Stairway to Heaven"
The Underdogs: (Translation: You may or may not have heard of them; either way, they weren't as famous [or as rich] as the group above. But they were just as cool.)
The Buzzcocks, "Ever Fallen in Love? (With Someone You Shouldn't've)"
The Clash, "London Calling"
Deep Purple, "Smoke on the Water"