August 15, 1979. Led Zeppelin, the biggest rock band of the 1970s, releases their eighth studio album. It would be their last, but not for the reason that you think.
When you take a birds-eye view of the timeline, it’s seems easy to connect the dots: the band releases the album in August 1979, a little over a year later drummer John Bonham dies, and the remaining members decide to call it quits. Of course, any band losing a core member is a recipe for a breakup. But when you look closer at Led Zeppelin in the late 70s, you see that the band was already trending toward their end.
The list of contributing factors is long and troubling: Robert Plant losing his 5-year-old son tragically in June of 1977. The band’s taxation exile preventing them from playing live on UK soil for over two years in the late 70s. Jimmy Page’s struggles with heroin. Bonham’s struggles with alcohol. These struggles taxing the writing and recording process in late 1978 and early 1979.
So while Bonham’s untimely death is usually–and rightfully–cited as the reason Led Zeppelin broke up, it’s an easy argument to make that the band was headed in that direction anyway. Still, what they left us with in In Through The Out Door was another rock masterpiece. Plant and John Paul Jones’ influence is heard in the songwriting over that of Page and Bonham, and the dynamic provides an interesting contrast when you put the album up against the rest of Led Zeppelin’s discography.
And it gave us “Fool In The Rain,” which rules.