Choosing the Top 10 Led Zeppelin album covers is a bit harder than it is for some other artists. Likewise, having fewer choices might make it easier. The main reason for that is that Zeppelin only released nine studio albums.
The untimely death of John Bonham effectively finished Led Zeppelin, and so realistically, no more albums were possible after 1980. So, to get to the 10 best Led Zeppelin album covers, I included a “live” album cover – The Song Remains The Same.
The Greatest Rock Band?
Some would say yes. But, it is difficult to answer that. Do we mean in comparison to others from the period when they were at their best? Or do we mean the greatest ever?
I suppose I was fortunate, growing up in West London during the 60s, we got to see most of them. And, in many cases, when the bands were at their best. Some bands were hyped out of the right place in the pecking order. So, nothing changes much, does it?
As an example, The Yardbirds were always better than The Rolling Stones in those early days. Sorry if that upsets Stones fans, but they were.
Zep came along five or six years after most. Although Jimmy Page was well-known to us mainly from his time with the Yardbirds, who also had Jeff Beck. But Zeppelin always had an “on-stage” nemesis that they had to compete and deal with.
Zeppelin started recording their first album in 1968. But, by that time, they were already playing the West London clubs and farther afield. If I remember correctly, their first gig together was in Denmark, but they walked straight into The Who. Already established with a big reputation, Townshend and his team as a live act were unstoppable.
They were everything a rock band should be. Loud, aggressive, a great singer and frontman, and good musicians. But, The Who had something extra, apart from smashing up everything that moved. They had an extraordinary songwriter in Pete Townshend.
So, pardon the pun, who was better?
At the time, The Who. But, it has to be said that Zeppelin became very good, and some of the work that John Paul Jones created for Zep could not have been beaten. And, as they later “conquered” America, they built a formidable reputation.
So which was the better rock band? The Who were at first, but later with the loss of Moon, Zeppelin undoubtedly took on the mantle. I think it’s best to call it a draw.
Top 10 Led Zeppelin Album Covers
That is what we are here to look at. The album covers that were given to one of the greatest rock bands ever. At the outset, I have to say that, in the main, the greatest Led Zeppelin album covers were never as good as the music inside. Let’s take a look, starting with one that was not a studio album.
10 The Song Remains The Same
This is the soundtrack album from the film of the same name. It was recorded at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1973 but was not released until 1976. They did play games with it a little bit, and it wasn’t strictly, and as you hear it, a “live” album. Some tracks in the live show were excluded and replaced by others that weren’t in the film and recorded elsewhere.
As a live album, it was a disappointment to most. But, it was released at a time in the mid-70s when if they had recorded “Three Blind Mice,” their fans would still have screamed, “Wonderful.”
A Message In The Derelict Hall?
The album cover itself is rather sparse. A black background and, in the middle, a drawing of a small derelict concert hall. Is that supposed to indicate Jimmy Page’s belief that Rock music as we knew it was dying?
If that is the case, then it does its job. I would have thought that since this is an album to go with the movie, that someone could have been rather more creative. Perhaps live shots of the concert might have been a better option. But, that’s just me.
The venue used in the drawing was not just a random building. It was where they had their rehearsals before their 1977 tour kicked off. The album cover has a multi-page insert inside.[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFW-_2-gPEI[/yt]
9 Houses Of The Holy
Naked children crawling over rocks is not the type of album cover you might get away with today. This famous Led Zeppelin album cover has long been a subject of discussion as to its meaning. Was it a nod to the film Village of the Damned from the 60s? Or, possibly Arthur C Clarke’s book, Childhood’s End, about the end of mankind.
Jimmy Page was in his occult phase at the time, so we can only speculate where the ideas came from. Rather bleak and ominous and not the most appealing of covers.[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6DpLpFc2ZY[/yt]
This was an album cover designed by the company Hipgnosis. They are said to have produced some classic album covers. But this is not one of them. This wasn’t the last studio album that Zeppelin recorded, but it was the last released.
It is an album that is full of material not previously released, plus some outtakes. “Coda” is a musical term meaning the concluding passage. The title is appropriate, given that it would be the last material by the original band. But what message was Hipgnosis trying to portray? It’s Friday afternoon, and time to go home?[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RunTziaqymA[/yt]
Released in 1976, this memorable Led Zeppelin album cover also generated a fair amount of speculation. There are echoes of more Arthur C. Clarke with what appears to be a scaled-down monolith on the family table.
People have tried to give the scene a supernatural meaning. They argue that every period of civilization has depended on a “higher presence” to govern it. I would agree that has been the case in the past, but now?
The band called the thing “the object.” Maybe it was their version of the monolith. Was it included as a joke knowing that it would open up some serious debate?[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi2D4c5TX-I[/yt]
6 In Through The Out Door
While Coda may have been the last album released, In Through The Out Door was the last album they recorded as the original band. It was released in 1979, a year before Bonham’s death.
Once again, it was a rather strange arrangement. The album was sold in a brown paper bag, and you didn’t know which one of six covers you would get until you opened it. All the images were the same, but just from a different angle. Each one of the six covers also all included the same people in the same poses.
If you bought the album and still have the brown paper bag, they are worth some money, as most threw them away. Another Hipgnosis design, but the original idea came from Peter Grant.[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRkTo3WbMMQ[/yt]
5 Led Zeppelin III
A rather unique design for an album. If you bought your vinyl copy in the 70s, it is quite likely you have got the “game” version. The game was that it had a rotating pinwheel. That allowed you to change the images in certain spaces created on the cover for that purpose.
Led Zep seemed to like to give you the option of which faces were visible on some of their album covers. This is the album that contained two of the band’s very best tracks, “Immigrant Song” and “Tangerine.”[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkcumppLBXw[/yt]
4 Led Zeppelin IV
This is the Led Zeppelin album that was not given a title. The reason being Jimmy Page thought titles were irrelevant. No comment on that one. He didn’t seem to mind accepting the title of OBE in an honors list in the UK. Maybe that was different.
As it was the fourth album, everyone calls it “Led Zeppelin 4”. The cover, according to Robert Plant, has significance though that isn’t immediately obvious.
The cover includes a photo of an old man carrying a bundle of sticks on his back and holding a cane. Plant said they were making a statement about preservation and taking care of the earth, not just abusing it. The album was released in 1971, and in terms of the quality of the tracks included, it would be my choice as the second-best album they released.[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlDZ0AFN5C0[/yt]
3 Physical Graffiti
Just a picture of a building? Well, yes and no. The building itself was located in New York City at 98 St Marks Place and is still there the last time anyone looked. The actual building is five stories high but was cropped down to four stories for the cover.
They revisited the idea of using recognizable faces that they had previously used on Led Zeppelin II. You can see Laurel and Hardy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Judy Garland, and Elizabeth Taylor in her film role as “Cleopatra.” There is even King Kong. The album was a double, so you could move the sleeves around to put different faces in the windows.[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EH6I31ev1GM[/yt]
2 Led Zeppelin I
This is the album cover that heralded the arrival of Led Zeppelin to the UK in 1969. The album’s content is interesting. Most of the tracks feature Jimmy Page playing a Fender Telecaster. The exception was that he used a Danelectro on “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.”
That created a different, somewhat “thinner” sound to his guitar work. You can hear the difference between Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II when he used one of his 1959 Les Paul guitars.
Back to the cover art…
This is the first of two album covers that give us a clue about who we are dealing with. In my view, that is always a half-decent idea. A simple enough design that made it eminently suitable for printing on t-shirts and just about anything else. Another half-decent idea.
The photo used was that of the crash of the Hindenburg, which burst into flames in 1937. The airships were known as “Zeppelins” after the German inventor Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin.
A dramatic photo that conjures images and interest. One of the real reasons behind the most iconic Led Zeppelin album cover art, I would think.[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1rJohGD9LA[/yt]
1 Led Zeppelin II
And so to the final choice for the Top 10 Led Zeppelin album covers. In my opinion, it’s the best of the bunch and the best of their albums as well.
In keeping with the historical significance of their name, they used a World War I photograph. Superimposed in the background is a white outline of a Zeppelin. It is a famous and well-documented picture of Manfred Von Richtofen, the “Red Baron,” and his squadron “Jagdstaffel 11”.
As a group of German pilots, they had been extraordinarily successful in their air battles. Some of the faces of the airmen were replaced by pictures of the band and their delightful manager Peter Grant. It was the only album to feature the photos of the faces of the band fixed on the front cover. It was their second album, released in 1969.[yt]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7T4LnsuB9Ms[/yt]
Interested in Awesome Rock Music and Groups From the Past?
Well, have a look at our detailed articles on the Best Classic Rock Songs, the Best 70s Rock Songs, the Best 70s Rock Bands, the Best 60s Rock Bands, and the Most Famous British Rock Bands for more incredible song selections.
Of course, you’ll want to listen to them. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Headphones for Music, the Most Comfortable Headphones, the Best Headphones with Volume Control, and the Best Headphones Under $200 you can buy in 2023.
Top 10 Led Zeppelin Album Covers – Final Thoughts
Do the album covers match the quality of the music? Not really, in my opinion. Some of them are relevant and well-produced. They have made some great posters and T-shirts. One or two are thought-provoking, and some have a cryptic message. But others mean nothing and look like a tired afterthought at the end of the day.
In some cases, Led Zeppelin’s top album covers were rather uninspiring. But, thankfully, that cannot be said of the music inside. Led Zeppelin will always be Led Zeppelin, and you could package their music on a Corn Flakes packet, and it would make no difference.
Until next time, let the music play.