"It was taken from the balls, you know," Plant said of Presence. "It was a cry from the depths, the only thing that we could do." It's Led Zeppelin's most tightly focused record: seven tracks, no acoustic songs, no keyboards, just jewel-hard power – from the frantically charging "Achilles Last Stand" to "Nobody's Fault but Mine," a variation on a Blind Willie Johnson song where the band turns its firepower on itself.
They had reason to be frustrated. After the August 1975 car accident that confined Plant to a wheelchair for months, Led Zeppelin had to cancel an American tour. Unable to return to England for tax reasons, they developed the core of Presence in rehearsals at Los Angeles' SIR Studio in October, then headed to chilly Munich, Germany, to record in the hotel-basement studio Musicland. From the start, the group knew they wouldn't have long (the Rolling Stones had already reserved Musicland to add overdubs to Black and Blue in early December). So they blasted through the recording process in 18 days, with Plant often singing from his wheelchair.
Page asked the Stones if he could have a little more time to finish guitar overdubs; he reportedly stayed up around the clock for two days to get them done, with "Achilles Last Stand" occupying the first day and everything else the next. Though it didn't come with any major hits, Page called it Zeppelin's "most important album": bleak, bruised and crackling with electric fury.
– Douglas Wolk