Led Zeppelin enjoyed their share of commercial and critical success during their heyday in the early 1970s. And, 40 years after their last album, Zeppelin’s place in rock history is secure.
In fact, few bands – outside of The Beatles – have enjoyed as much posthumous attention and success as Zeppelin. The chronicler of the rock n’ roll generation, Rolling Stone magazine, even ranked Zeppelin as the 14th greatest act of all time.
Dave Grohl, of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, notes the transcendent nature of Zeppelin’s work and the influence they had on his own career: “I had faith in [them] as a spiritual entity. They showed me that human beings could channel this music somehow…It wasn’t coming from a songbook. It wasn’t coming from a producer…It was coming from four musicians taking music to places it hadn’t been before.”
Zeppelin’s entire catalog consists of just under 100 songs, including epic tracks like Stairway to Heaven, Black Dog, Kashmir, and Ramble On.
But, not every Led Zeppelin song is an enduring classic. They also produced quite a few clunkers and duds, including Candy Store Rock, Royal Orleans, and Hots on for Nowhere.
Fortunately, when it comes time to evaluate the contribution and influence of an artist, what matters most is their peak – the best of what they produced. We remember and celebrate Whole Lot of Love and forget Hats Off to (Roy) Harper.
And, that’s the way it should be, because meaningful contribution requires experimenting and taking risks. Back to Dave Grohl: Led Zeppelin “weren’t content being in one place, and they were always trying something new.” And, not everything new is going to land.
So, if even one of the greatest bands of all-time regularly missed the mark, why shouldn’t you expect to, too?
How might it change your approach if you planned for half of your efforts to be more Candy Store than Stairway? Might you take some bigger bets? Could you ship faster? What might that do for your business?
What would Led Zeppelin’s place in history be today if they played it safe and only shipped guaranteed winners?