The fourth album by Led Zeppelin was released on November 8th 1971 – 40 years ago. No title is printed on the album, so it is generally referred to as «Led Zeppelin IV», following the naming standard used by the band's first three studio albums. The album has alternatively been referred to as , «Four Symbols», «The Fourth Album», «Untitled», «The Runes», «The Hermit», and «ZoSo», the latter of which is derived from the symbol used by Jimmy Page for the album sleeve.
Upon its release, «Led Zeppelin IV» was a commercial and critical success. The album is one of the best-selling albums worldwide at 32 million units.
The album was initially recorded at Island Record`s newly opened Basing Street Studioes, London, but later moved on to Headly Grange in East Hampshire. Jimmy Page later recalled:
"We needed the sort of facilities where we could have a cup of tea and wander around the garden and go in and do what we had to do.»
Three other songs from the sessions, «Down By The Seaside», «Night Flight» and «Boogie With Stu»" did not appear on the album, but were included four years later on the double album «Physical Grafitti».
After the lukewarm, if not confused and sometimes dismissive, critical reaction «Led Zeppelin III» had received in late 1970, Page decided that the next Led Zeppelin album would not have a title, but would instead feature four hand-drawn symbols on the inner sleeve and record label, each one chosen by the band member it represents.
"We decided that on the fourth album, we would deliberately play down the group name, and there wouldn't be any information whatsoever on the outer jacket", Page explained. "Names, titles and things like that do not mean a thing."
Page has also stated that the decision to release the album without any written information on the album sleeve was contrary to strong advice given to him by a press agent, who said that after a year's absence from both records and touring, the move would be akin to "professional suicide". In his words: "We just happened to have a lot of faith in what we were doing." In an interview he gave to The Times in 2010, he elaborated:
It wasn’t easy. The record company were sort of insisting that the name go on it. There were eyes looking towards heaven if you like. It was hinted it was professional suicide to go out with an album with no title. The reality of it was that we’d had so many dour reviews to our albums along the way. At the time each came out it was difficult sometimes for the reviewers to come to terms with what was on there, without an immediate point of reference to the previous album. But the ethic of the band was very much summing up where we were collectively at that point in time. An untitled album struck me as the best answer to all the critics — because we knew the way that the music was being received both by sales and attendance at concerts.
Owing to the lack of an official title, Atlantic initially distributed graphics of the symbols in many sizes to the press for inclusion in charts and articles. The album was one of the first to be produced without conventional identification, and this communicated an anti-commercial stance that was controversial at the time (especially among certain executives at Atlantic Records).
The album is filled with calssics such as Q»Stairway To Heaven», «Black Dog» and «Rock And Roll».
In the lead-up to its release, a series of teaser advertisements depicting each symbol was placed in the music press.
The album was a massive instant seller. It entered the UK chart at #1 and stayed on the chart for 62 weeks. In the US it stayed on the charts longer than any other Led Zeppelin album and became the biggest selling album in the US not to top the charts (peaking at #2).