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Platters of the gods: the Led Zeppelin albums you'll never find

Montage of rare Led Zeppelin album sleeves
(Image credit: Ross Halfin)

A fascinating new Led Zeppelin book arrived via Reel Art Press in August. Led Zeppelin Vinyl, The Essential Collection, by photographer Ross Halfin, collects a multitude of sleeves of the band’s vast array of official and unofficial releases, as well as offering the most comprehensive Zeppelin discography to date. The heavy lifting for the latter was done by Zep singles collector Nick Anderson, with help from Brian Hutchinson. 

“It’s the most up-to-date list you’ll ever find,” says Halfin. “All of the live stuff is presented alphabetically, with full info about its background – venue and recording date. That’s what interested Jimmy Page the most.” 

Halfin came up with the idea after enduring one too many coffee-table books for collectors of classic rock vinyl. “You know the type,” he says, “it’s always same old stuff – a Joy Division album to be trendy, plus Sgt. Pepper, The Dark Side Of The Moon and the rest. The only Zeppelin they include is IV or the first album. So because I collect records, as does Jimmy, I realised that a gap in the market existed for a book like this.” 

For a band with only eight studio albums and supposedly no single releases in their 12-year career, the book is a treasure trove. “Across the band’s existence there were three or four thousand official releases,” Halfin explains. “Atlantic put out singles in Asia and other places that Zeppelin never saw or knew about until many years later. The book is not meant to be complete, because you will always find something that nobody knew about.” 

With a recommended retail price of £49.95, The Essential Collection is good value for a book of this type. “This is for the fans, and I really wanted it to be affordable,” Halfin says. “Doing a thousand-pound limited-edition book didn’t appeal to me; it had to be something that could be a Christmas or birthday present, or a treat for somebody that collects records. 

"My goal was to present unusual graphics. Among the great things about Zeppelin was their artwork, because it asked questions. I used to look at Led Zeppelin II and wonder who on earth were those people on its cover. And you could stare at Physical Graffiti for hours.” 

So where should fans seek out some of the unofficial, ‘under the radar’ or rare records featured in the book? 

“Nowhere official. And that’s the joy of it,” says Halfin. “Visit record fairs, markets or boot sales. It’s all about what Jimmy once called going on vinyl safari – the thrill is the hunt, who knows what you’ll return with?” 

Alt

Vietnamese pressing of Led Zeppelin I

The book’s rarest sleeve is a Vietnamese pressing of Zep’s debut album. “That’s on red vinyl and came out in 1970,” Halfin explains. “It’s the only copy that’s ever surfaced. I believe it was for the US forces. It’s so unusual, even Jimmy Page hasn’t got that one. I’m sure he’d like it but I’m not giving it up.”  (Image credit: Ross Halfin)

Bonzo’s Birthday Party album cover

Bonzo’s Birthday Party, recorded on John’s birthday in 1973. The cover was drawn by a famous artist called William Stout. Years later I tracked him down in and bought the original artwork from him.” (Image credit: Ross Halfin)

“An Indian pressing of Led Zeppelin IV

"An Indian pressing of Led Zeppelin IV. It’s completely weird.” (Image credit: Ross Halfin)

A bootleg of Zeppelin at the Whisky A Go Go in 1969

“A bootleg of Zeppelin at the Whisky A Go Go in 1969. It’s on blue, green, red and yellow vinyl. The yellow one is the rarest because only a hundred and fifty were pressed. It also came out on CD." (Image credit: Ross Halfin)

Turkish edition of Led Zeppelin II

“A Turkish edition of Led Zeppelin II. They’re now almost impossible to find because most of them were destroyed. I’ve no idea what the cover is meant to be. They probably didn’t use the original because it featured World War Two outfits.” (Image credit: Ross Halfin)

The first Led Zeppelin bootleg, taken from a radio broadcast in March 1970

“The first Led Zeppelin bootleg, taken from a radio broadcast in March 1970. ‘Pb’ stood for ‘pure blues’, and is also the chemical symbol for lead. Very clever.” (Image credit: Ross Halfin)

Turkish single of Immigrant Song

“One of the collection’s oddest examples, this is from Turkey – a load of people walking. Not sure how that ties in with Immigrant Song [misspelled ‘Immigrand’], but I quite like it.” (Image credit: Ross Halfin)

Turkish Black Dog single

“A Turkish edition of the Black Dog single in 1971, featuring, of course, a black dog.” (Image credit: Ross Halfin)

Knebworth Bootleg cover

“Gettin’ The Led Out is one of the many recordings from Knebworth 1979. It’s a Lichtenstein painting, a great piece of art.” (Image credit: Ross Halfin)

Goosestep Waltz bootleg

“The cover of Goosestep Waltz, a recording from Southampton 1973, is an image of Charlotte Rampling from the film The Night Porter. Because she’s wearing an SS hat it’s now deemed highly inappropriate, but I love it.” (Image credit: Ross Halfin)

Led Zeppelin Vinyl: The Essential Collection by Ross Halfin, is out now via Reel Art Press.