|Swan Song Records|
|Parent company||Warner Music Group|
|Country of origin||UK|
New York City
Swan Song Records was a record label launched by the English rock band Led Zeppelin on 10 May 1974. It was overseen by Led Zeppelin's manager Peter Grant and was a vehicle for the band to promote its own products as well as sign artists who found it difficult to win contracts with other major labels. The decision to launch the label came after Led Zeppelin's five-year contract with Atlantic Records expired at the end of 1973, although Atlantic ultimately distributed the label's product.
Artists that released material on the Swan Song label included Led Zeppelin itself, solo releases by Led Zeppelin band members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, Bad Company, the Pretty Things, Dave Edmunds, Mirabai, Maggie Bell (and the short-lived band she fronted, Midnight Flyer), Detective, and Sad Café. In addition to these artists, two other noted recording acts (though not signed to the label) were credited artists on Swan Song singles, both of which were UK hits in 1981: B. A. Robertson sang a duet with Maggie Bell on the single "Hold Me", and the Stray Cats backed Dave Edmunds on his 1981 single "The Race Is On".
Swan Song ceased active operations in 1983 and now exists only to reissue previously released material.
In January 1974, Led Zeppelin negotiated an agreement with Atlantic Records to set up Swan Song Records. The label was launched with parties in New York and Los Angeles. A lavish media party was also held at Chislehurst Caves in Kent on 31 October 1974, to celebrate the label's first UK release by the Pretty Things, Silk Torpedo (the first US release for Swan Song was the self-titled debut album from Bad Company in June 1974). The company logo, designed by Hipgnosis and illustrated by Joe Petagno, was based on Evening also called The Fall of Day (1869) by painter William Rimmer.
By March 1975, Swan Song had four albums (Bad Company, Silk Torpedo, Physical Graffiti, and Suicide Sal) in the Billboard Top 200 chart. The recording label also partly funded film projects such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail in 1975. In an interview he gave in January of that year, Page offered his perspective on the label:
We've got some good things lined up. I think the Pretty Things LP is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. We're [record] executives and all that crap, but I'll tell you one thing the label was never right from the top Led Zeppelin records. It's designed to bring in other groups and promote acts that have had raw deals in the past. It's a vehicle for them and not for us to just make a few extra pennies over the top.
Two years later, he elaborated on Led Zeppelin's intention to found the label:
We'd been thinking about it for a while and we knew if we formed a label there wouldn't be the kind of fuss and bother we'd been going through over album covers and things like that. Having gone through, ourselves, what appeared to be an interference, or at least an aggravation, on the artistic side by record companies, we wanted to form a label where the artists would be able to fulfill themselves without all of that hassle. Consequently the people we were looking for the label would be people who knew where they were going themselves. We didn't really want to get bogged down in having to develop artists, we wanted people who were together enough to handle that type of thing themselves, like the Pretty Things. Even though they didn't happen, the records they made were very, very good.
Artists who signed with the label but did not produce any releases included Metropolis (which featured members from the Pretty Things), The Message (which featured future Bon Jovi members Alec John Such and Richie Sambora), and Itchy Brother (which featured future members of The Kentucky Headhunters). Artists that Swan Song Records wanted to sign but who bowed out to other labels were Roy Harper and blues guitarist Bobby Parker. When Swan Song's offices were cleared out in 1983, early demos from Iron Maiden, Heart and Paul Young's band Q-Tips were among those found, unplayed and stored, on the shelves.
Swan Song ceased operations in October 1983 due to the break-up of Led Zeppelin and Peter Grant's health problems. An attempt to save the label by Atlantic Records executive Phil Carson proved fruitless. Robert Plant started his own label, Es Paranza Records, in the wake of the closure of Swan Song, while Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones returned to Atlantic Records. Bad Company moved over to both Atlantic and its subsidiary Atco when they resumed in the late 1980s. Today, the label is strictly used for reissues of albums that were released by the label when it was active.
Some of Swan Song's more notable singles include: