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Led Zeppelin History: ‘Houses of the Holy’ Released on This Date, March 28, 1973



Led Zeppelin threw fans a curveball when they released their fifth album, Houses of the Holy, on March 28, 1973. Or did they? The band never remained in one stylistic place for very long, and they tackled several genres (R&B, reggae, psychedelic jazz) on the well-received Houses of Holy

Led Zeppelin fans got a sneak peek at ‘Houses of the Holy’ months in advance

Houses of the Holy might have been Led Zeppelin’s brightest album. The sharp production mirrored the positive vibes of many of the songs. Heavy electric blues, a staple of the first four albums, virtually disappeared on HOH. If fans were surprised by the sonic shift, they shouldn’t have been.

“Although everyone was clamoring for another Led Zeppelin IV, it’s very dangerous to try and duplicate yourself. I won’t name any names, but I’m sure you’ve heard bands that endlessly repeat themselves. After four or five albums, they just burn up,” Page said, per Centennial Media’s Legends of Music Spotlight: Led Zeppelin. “With us, you never knew what was coming. I think you can really hear the fun we had on Houses, and you can hear the dedication.”

Led Zeppelin never stood in one place for long, and they telegraphed their next move in the summer of 1972. Several Houses of the Holy songs — “The Rain Song,” “The Song Remains the Same,” “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “The Ocean,” and “Dancing Days” — appeared on the band’s concert setlists starting on June 25, 1972, according to Zep’s website. 

Led Zeppelin playing the new songs for fans several months before the album dropped indicates how much of a groove they were in. The music was ready to go. The Houses of the Holy snag came with the sleeve.

The band delayed ‘Houses of the Holy’ over the artwork

It’s not much of a secret that Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page hated the Led Zeppelin III cover. The colorful yet busy collage didn’t sit well with him. Page had deja vu with Houses of the Holy.


The storied design firm Hipgnosis — which created several iconic album covers, including Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon — missed the mark with its initial idea. Led Zeppelin fired the original designer when he suggested that a picture of a tennis racket adorn the cover.

Hipgnosis designer Aubrey Powell designed the now-iconic orange-hued cover, but Page disliked that one, too. And the album faced a two-month delay because Powell had to hand-tint the photo that comprised the cover. What was supposed to be a January 1973 release happened on March 28, 1973, instead, according to Rolling Stone.

The album became one of Led Zeppelin’s most successful albums

Hardcore fans knew the songs, and the band delayed the album because of the cover art, but none of that mattered when Led Zeppelin finally released Houses of the Holy.

Rolling Stone levied a negative review in 1973. It wasn’t the only publication that felt Led Zeppelin lost its way on its fifth album. The 50 years since its release prove Houses of the Holy is a landmark album, but reviews didn’t matter to the most important people — Led Zeppelin fans. 

They sent the album to No. 1 on the Billboard album chart six weeks after its release; it spent 106 weeks among the top 20 records. Only the first, second, and fourth studio albums spent more time on the charts. The RIAA certified it gold (500,000 in sales) less than two weeks after it hit shelves, and it has since gone platinum 11 times over. 

The ardent fans knew what they were getting with Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. They endured an artwork delay and flocked to record stores to buy it when it debuted on March 28, 1973. Professional reviewers panned it at the time, but Zep’s fifth album endures as one of its finest works and a classic rock gem.


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Source: Cheat Sheet

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