Led Zeppelin's original contract with Atlantic Records stated that Jimmy Page could replace the other band members if he wanted

Led Zeppelin in 1968
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images)

The original contract Led Zeppelin signed in 1968 with Atlantic Records has been uncovered, and it reveals that band leader Jimmy Page was allowed to replace the other members at any time. The contract, which was obtained by unofficial Led Zeppelin news site LedZepNews, comes from a 2005 court filing made by legal representatives of Steve Weiss, the band's attorney. 

The contract was signed by Jimmy Page and Atlantic Records founder and president Ahmet Ertegun on November 11, 1968, and includes several clauses that may startle fans, not least that Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham could be substituted by other musicians if Jimmy Page saw fit.

The contract, which was agreed between Atlantic and Page's company, Superhype Tapes Limited, reveals that the company could "engage the services of other persons in substitution for the present members of 'The Led Zeppelin'" and that "In all events James Page shall be a member of and the leader of 'The Led Zeppelin'." It goes on to stipulate that any "person or persons whose services are terminated shall not use the name 'The Led Zeppelin' in any commercial or artistic endeavors."

The contract, which was not signed by Plant, Bonham or Jones, also permitted Atlantic to release two "Greatest Hits" or "Best Of" albums by the band per year, and stipulated that Led Zeppelin would receive a royalty rate of 7.33% on record sales in the US, Canada and the UK, and just 5.5% elsewhere.

News of Led Zeppelin's deal with Atlantic was originally announced in a press release issued nearly two weeks after the deal was signed, headlined "Atlantic Records signs England’s hot new group, Led Zeppelin, in one of the biggest deals of the year." 

The release continued: "Led Zeppelin consists of four of the most exciting musicians performing in Britain today. They are Jimmy Page, leader of the group and lead guitarist; John Paul Jones, bassist, pianist, organist, arranger; John Bonham, drums; and Robert Plant, lead vocal and harmonica.

"The pulsations surrounding Led Zeppelin have intensified ever since the group recorded its first (and as yet unreleased) album, which was produced by Jimmy Page, just a month ago in London. 

"Top English and American rock musicians who have heard the tracks have called Led Zeppelin the next group to reach heights achieved by Cream and Hendrix. This Led Zeppelin LP will be released by Atlantic early in January."

Led Zeppelin was released on January 12, 1969. Later that year, the band's original three-year contract with Atlantic was extended by two years. 

The full contract can be read below. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.