Coda is a compilation album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. The album is a collection of unused tracks from various sessions during Led Zeppelin’s twelve-year career. It was released on 19 November 1982, almost two years after the group had officially disbanded following the death of drummer John Bonham. The word coda, meaning a passage that ends a musical piece following the main body, was therefore chosen as the title.
The fifth Swan Song Records album for the band, Coda was released to honour contractual commitments to Atlantic Records and also to cover tax demands on previous monies earned. It cleared away nearly all of the leftover tracks from the various studio sessions of the 1960s and 1970s. The album was a collection of eight tracks spanning the length of Zeppelin’s twelve-year history. Atlantic counted the release as a studio album, as Swan Song had owed the label a final studio album from the band. According to Martin Popoff, “there’s conjecture that Jimmy [Page] called ‘We’re Gonna Groove’ a studio track and ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ a rehearsal track because Swan Song owed Atlantic one more studio album specifically.”
Guitarist Jimmy Page explained that part of the reasoning for the album’s release related to the popularity of unofficial Led Zeppelin recordings which continued to be circulated by fans: “Coda was released, basically, because there was so much bootleg stuff out. We thought, “Well, if there’s that much interest, then we may as well put the rest of our studio stuff out”. As John Paul Jones recalled: “They were good tracks. A lot of it was recorded around the time punk was really happening… basically there wasn’t a lot of Zeppelin tracks that didn’t go out. We used everything.”
“We’re Gonna Groove” opens the album and, according to the album notes, was recorded at Morgan Studios in June 1969. It was later acknowledged to have come from a January 1970 concert at the Royal Albert Hall, with the guitar parts overdubbed and the original guitar part removed—this can be heard in the original Royal Albert Hall show on 9 January 1970. This song was used to open a number of concerts on their early 1970 tours and was originally intended to be recorded for inclusion in Led Zeppelin II. “I Can’t Quit You Baby” is taken from the same concert as “We’re Gonna Groove” but was listed as a rehearsal in the original liner notes. The recording was edited to remove the overall “live” feel: the crowd noise as well as the beginning and ending of the song were deleted. Crowd tracks were muted on the multitrack mixdown on this recording as with “We’re Gonna Groove”.
“Poor Tom” is from sessions for Led Zeppelin III, having been recorded at Olympic Studios in June 1970, and “Walter’s Walk” is a leftover from the sessions for Houses of the Holy.
Side two consists of three outtakes from the band’s previous album, In Through the Out Door. The opening track, the uptempo “Ozone Baby” was recorded at that album’s sessions at Polar Studios, Stockholm in November 1978, as was the rock’n’roll styled “Darlene”.
The third track, “Bonzo’s Montreux” was recorded at Mountain Studios, Montreaux, Switzerland in September 1976. It was designed as a Bonham drum showcase, which Page treated with various electronic effects, including a harmonizer.
The final track, “Wearing and Tearing” was recorded at Polar in November 1978. It was written as a reaction to punk and to show that Led Zeppelin could compete with the new bands. It was planned to be released as a promotional single to the audience at the 1979 Knebworth Festival, headlined by Led Zeppelin, but this was cancelled at the last minute. It was first performed live at the 1990 Silver Clef Awards Festival at Knebworth in 1990 by Plant’s band with Page guesting.
The 1993 compact disc edition has four additional tracks from the box sets, Led Zeppelin Boxed Set (1990) and Led Zeppelin Boxed Set 2 (1993), the previously unreleased “Travelling Riverside Blues”, “White Summer/Black Mountain Side” and the “Immigrant Song” b-side “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” from the former and the previously unreleased “Baby Come On Home” from the latter.
The album cover was designed by Hipgnosis, the fifth album cover the design group designed for Led Zeppelin. It was also the last album cover Hipgnosis designed before disbanding in 1983. The main four letters CODA are from an alphabet typeface design called “Neon” designed by Bernard Allum in 1978.
Reviewing for Rolling Stone in 1983, Kurt Loder hailed Coda as “a resounding farewell” and a “marvel of compression, deftly tracing the Zeppelin decade with eight powerful, previously unreleased tracks, and no unnecessary elaboration”. Robert Christgau wrote in his “Consumer Guide” column for The Village Voice:
They really were pretty great, and these eight outtakes—three from their elephantine blues phase, three from their unintentional swan song—aren’t where to start discovering why. But despite the calculated clumsiness of the beginnings and the incomplete orchestrations of the end, everything here but the John Bonham Drum Orchestra would convince a disinterested party—a Martian, say. Jimmy Page provides a protean solo on “I Can’t Quit You Baby” and jumbo riffs throughout.
According to Julian Marszalek of The Quietus, however, “Coda has always been regarded as the band’s weakest release. Made up of eight tracks that spanned Led Zeppelin’s lifetime, it refused to flow as an album. Devoid of a coherent narrative, it felt tossed together to make up for contractual obligations.”
A remastered version of Coda, along with Presence and In Through the Out Door, was reissued on 31 July 2015. The reissue comes in six formats: a standard CD edition, a deluxe three-CD edition, a standard LP version, a deluxe three-LP version, a super deluxe three-CD plus three-LP version with a hardback book, and as high resolution 24-bit/96k digital downloads. The deluxe and super deluxe editions feature bonus material containing alternative takes and previously unreleased songs, “If It Keeps On Raining”, “Sugar Mama”, “Four Hands”, “St. Tristan’s Sword”, and “Desire”. The reissue was released with an altered colour version of the original album’s artwork as its bonus disc’s cover.
The reissue was met with generally positive reviews. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 78, based on 8 reviews. In Rolling Stone, David Fricke said it is “the unlikely closing triumph in Page’s series of deluxe Zeppelin reissues: a dynamic pocket history in rarities, across three discs with 15 bonus tracks, of his band’s epic-blues achievement”. Pitchfork journalist Mark Richardson was less impressed by the bonus disc, believing “there is nothing particularly noteworthy about the ‘Bombay Orchestra’ (1972) tracks”. (wikipedia)
Released two years after the 1980 death of John Bonham, Coda tied up most of the loose ends Led Zeppelin left hanging: it officially issued a bunch of tracks circulating on bootleg and it fulfilled their obligation to Atlantic Records. Coda doesn’t contain every non-LP track Zeppelin released — notably, the B-side “Hey Hey What Can I Do” and anything from the BBC sessions were left untouched (they’d be added to Coda on a 1993 CD revision of the compilation, and also appear on the major three-disc overhaul Jimmy Page masterminded in 2015) — but it does gather much of what was floating around in the wake of their demise, including three blistering rockers that were rejected for In Through the Out Door. If “Ozone Baby,” “Darlene,” or “Wearing and Tearing” — rockers that alternately cut loose, groove, and menace — had made the cut for In Through the Out Door, that album wouldn’t have had its vague progressive edge and when they’re included alongside a revival of the band’s early raver “We’re Gonna Groove,” the big-boned funk of the Houses of the Holy outtake “Walter’s Walk,” and the folk stomp “Poor Tom” (naturally taken from the sessions for Led Zeppelin III), they wind up underscoring the band’s often underappreciated lighter side. For heaviness, there’s a live version of “I Can’t Quit You Baby” and “Bonzo’s Montreux,” a solo showcase for the departed drummer, and when this pair is added to the six doses of hard-charging rock & roll, it amounts to a good snapshot of much of what made Led Zeppelin a great band: when they were cooking, they really did groove. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
John Bonham (drums, percussion)
John Paul Jones (bass, guitar, keyboards)
Jimmy Page (guitars, electronic effects)
Robert Plant (vocals, harmonica)
Bombay Orchestra (on 17. + 18.)
01. We’re Gonna Groove (Live on 9 January 1970 at the Royal Albert Hall, London, England) (Edit; remix with guitar overdubs and live audience eliminated) (Bethea/King) 2.38
02. Poor Tom (Led Zeppelin III outtake, 1970) (Page/Plant/Bonham) 3.02
03. I Can’t Quit You Baby (Live on 9 January 1970 at the Royal Albert Hall, London, England: sound rehearsal, edited version) (Dixon) 4.18
04. Walter’s Walk (Houses of the Holy outtake, possibly with later overdubs, 1972) (Page/Plant/Bonham/Jones) 4.32
05. Ozone Baby (In Through the Out Door outtake, 1978) (Page/Plant) 3.36
06. Darlene (In Through the Out Door outtake, 1978) (Bonham/Jones/Page/Plant) 5.07
07. Bonzo’s Montreux (Recorded in 1976) (Bonham) 4.22
08. Wearing And Tearing (In Through the Out Door outtake, 1978) (Page/Plant) 5.30
The 2 companion discs:
09. We’re Gonna Groove (Alternate mix) (Bethea/King) 2.40
10. If It Keeps On Raining (When The Levee Breaks) (Rough mix) (Bonham/Jones/ Minnie/Page/Plant) 4.14
11. Bonzo’s Montreux (Mix construction in progress) (Bonham) 5.00
12. Baby Come On Home (Berns/Page/Plant) 4.30
13. Sugar Mama (mix) (Led Zeppelin outtake) (Page/Plant) 2.51
14. Poor Tom (Instrumental mix) (Page/Plant) 2.17
15. Travelling Riverside Blues (BBC Session) (Johnson/Page/Plant) 5.12
16. Hey, Hey, What Can I Do (Bonham/Jones/Page/Plant) 3.57
17. Four Hands (Four Sticks) (Bombay Orchestra) (Page/Plant) 4.46
18. Friends (Bombay Orchestra) (Page/Plant) 4.27
19. St. Tristan’s Sword (Rough mix) (Led Zeppelin III outtake) (Page) 5.42
20. Desire (The Wanton Song) (Rough mix) (Page/Plant) 4.10
21.Bring It On Home (Rough mix) (Dixon) 2.32
22. Walter’s Walk (Rough mix) (Page/Plant) 3.20
23. Everybody Makes It Through (In The Light) (Rough mix) (Jones/Page/Plant) 8.34
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