Overall,I witnessed the act known as Led Zeppelin a total of eight times over eight years (1969-1977),from the first album through their last official tour of the US. I bought all the albums up to PRESENCE. After that record I stopped buying their albums until the recent (vinyl) re-mastered collections. Every time I attended their show, each one was a unique experience. This band of four changed musically throughout the years, gaining momentum and a rabid fan base with each new release. From a blues based band which rose from the ashes of THE YARDBIRDS, a band playing for recognition as a new unit and up to the mega-band which could sell out many nights in a row at the WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS ARENA in a moments notice,they were truly something to behold, collectively.
January 12,1969: LED ZEPPELIN is released.I almost burnt that record out. It replaced JETHRO TULL’s “This Was” on my turntable.
(1)May 30,1969@Fillmore East: For me the first time and in the best place in NYC, FILLMORE EAST was THEE venue to see LED ZEPPELIN. The talk since late January was how this band from England, the undercard on the bill, destroyed IRON BUTTERFLY which was the headliner for this weekend of shows. The buzz was that Led Zeppelin left IB stunned in the wings awaiting to hit the stage,left only to play their hit IN A GADDA DA VIDA to the chagrin of many. The schism is now widened as a new sound is in town. One must know the background of LED Zeppelin to understand how this one weekend enchanted the NY crowd.
For those who only know of the power and popularity of Led Zeppelin of later days, let me take you back to a time before their very first album hit the stands.
Jimmy Page was one of the “three”, the Triumvirate of Rock Guitarist Gods who moseyed through a British band of some renown named THE YARDBIRDS. This band, legend states took their name from Charlie YARDBIRD Parker, was somewhat known in the USA, but more popular in their homeland of Great Britain. Without giving the long history of the Yardbirds let’s just say they got a CRAWDADDY (a club) gig when the spot was vacated by THE ROLLING STONES, a band on the move. Eric Clapton was the YARDBIRDS guitarist at that time, one who became uncomfortable with the band veering away from it’s blues roots by heading into a pop direction. Clapton leaves and suggest Jimmy Page take his spot. Page was the “go to studio guitarist” at the time and didn’t want to vacate that profitable role, so PAGE suggested JEFF BECK who took the gig.
With BECK’s influence the YARDBIRDS moved toward a psychedelic route with fuzz tones, feedback, and his overall guitar virtuosity. By 1966 JEFF BECK was voted Melody Maker’s GUITARIST OF THE YEAR.When the bass player drops out of The Yardbirds JIMMY PAGE steps in for a spell. When a new bassist is recruited PAGE stays on for a BECK/PAGE “new” dual guitar attack approach. Beck gets sick, misses a few gigs and ultimately leaves the band to Page.With the lead singer Keith Relf’s alcoholism and the band not having any more hits, as well as with the rise of CREAM and JIMI HENDRIX, soon most of The Yardbirds disappeared, leaving Jimmy Page with the name. To fulfill some contractual commitments,with a new manager PETER GRANT on board, the band hits the road as THE NEW YARDBIRDS.
Page had recruited TERRY REID as vocalist but he, with a new MICKIE MOST contract, could not leave. Reid suggested a friend, ROBERT PLANT who brought along his drummer friend JOHN BONHAM. Page called his studio buddy JOHN PAUL JONES for bass and keyboards and after a short tour of Scandinavia, the NEW YARDBIRDS hit the studio to record what would become LED ZEPPELIN’s debut.
The album is released January 12,1969. Some of the tunes hit the New York FM airwaves before but especially immediately after the band’s now legendary performance as the opening act for IRON BUTTERFLY at FILLMORE EAST January 31 and February 1, 1969. This is Led Zeppelin’s first US tour. My buddy Pete attended one of those shows that weekend. He raved about this new band who blew Iron Butterfly off the stage, leaving Iron Butterfly to play just one song, their hit IN A GADDA DA VIDA, and according to Pete, Led Zeppelin came back out due to the booing of Butterfly and the calls for “MORE” Zeppelin. I have never been able to verify that but Pete said it, so…it must be true.
It is now Memorial Day weekend of 1969, a new beginning for a group of us as we copped tickets (5 bucks each) to see Led Zeppelin at Fillmore East, the early show on a Friday Night of a Holiday Weekend.The crowd outside on line awaiting admittance to the sacred hall was a buzzed. Finally, in and seated, house lights go down and BOOM, Woody Herman’s Big Band was way too cool. Followed by DELANEY,BONNIE and FRIENDS with the beautiful RITA COOLIDGE, oh my. The JOSHUA LIGHT SHOW afforded a great back drop, something that I had never witnessed before. Then, “OHHHHH, I CAN’T QUIT YOU BABE” with a power chord which shook me to the core. This tune followed by Dazed and Confused, White Summer, How Many More Times, a drum solo, and the crowd cheering “MORE,MORE”… The encore was short, yet loud, COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN.(Contrary to any set list including on Zep’s website, the band did not open with THE TRAIN KEPT A ROLLIN’)
(Show #2)August 30,1969@ NYS Pavilion (Former World’s Fair Site
My END OF THE SUMMER celebration show was to finish the season where it started with Led Zeppelin exactly three months to the day of my first experience seeing the band live. Tonight would be LED ZEPPELIN, BUDDY GUY &JR. WELLS and RAVEN (August 30,1969). Originally to be held at The Singer Bowl this show was rescheduled for the opened air, standing room only, former site of New York State Pavilion at The World’s Fair. This night would prove to be a totally different experience for me. Standing Room Only, first come first in, no reserved seating and I was very reluctant. Yet, we got there early enough to be one of the first in line, standing outside prior to opening the doors, hoping to find a viewing spot in front, maybe at mid stage. When the doors opened, we got a spot stage right, in front of where I knew Jimmy Page would stand. RAVEN (not the metal band of years later) was as most opening acts would be, an opening act and forgettable when they finished their set but Buddy Guy/ Jr. Wells was a great addition to the bill. Buddy played angelically, and nasty as sin when need be. At one point a balloon from the audience was bounced to him mid song to which he captured and used as a slide on his guitar. To my amazement the balloon did NOT break. This spot where we were standing became dangerous as LED ZEPPELIN time grew nearer, and more so as the show progressed. About the time they performed MOBY DICK, I had had enough and was up stairs walking around the balcony area having given up our prime location. And yes, this IS the show where Bonzo collapsed on the drums to end the night. The set list was similar to the May show @ Fillmore East. NOTE: My ticket stub is featured on the LED ZEPPELIN website.
October 22,1969 LED ZEPPELIN II is released.
(Show #3)September 19,1970: Led Zeppelin @Madison Square Garden.One year later from when I last saw them and the boys have hit the big time doing an unusual afternooon/ evening performance with one show at 2pm and then another at 8pm. We had four tickets for the 8pm show, where they opened with IMMIGRANT SONG. Geez, the band was so good and getting bigger by the moment. With two albums under their belt, and the third LED ZEPPELIN III to be released a few weeks after this gig.
October 5,1970 LED ZEPPELIN III is released.
(4)September 3,1971: Led Zeppelin @ MSG This was advertised as a “2 and1/2 hour show with no opening act” and became a disaster of an evening almost immediately. SOLD OUT in a matter of hours. The show was marred by a huge protest mob (riot) developing outside due to “overpriced” tickets $5:50 – $7:50. Inside we were treated to a (dangerous) fireworks show as some idiot was tossing M-80’s from the upper balcony toward the ceiling in the Garden, each exploding just before it landed close to those seated below. Then the stage collapsed.Show over, lights on. Didn’t know if I wanted to experience that again.
November 8,1971 LED ZEPPELIN IV is released.
(5)June 15, 1972: Led Zeppelin @ Nassau Coliseum was advertised as a 3 1/2 hour show and as I was still shaking from the MSG fiasco (9/3/71) less than a year ago so I had NO intentions of going to this venue to see Led Zeppelin especially in this new arena which made headlines by have the Nassau PD bust scores of concert goers in the parking lot for drinking (tailgating) and smoking before a GRATEFUL DEAD show only a few weeks before. BUT at the Todd Rundgren show only a few days before, my girlfriend found two tickets for LZ next to the gear box in my VW. Strange as it sounds she did not place the tickets there and to this day I still never found who or why, but we went to the show, with me looking over my shoulder the whole time. (Great review by Robert Christgau in NEWSDAY- see LZ website for setlist and review of this 2 night stand.)
March 28,1973 HOUSES OF THE HOLY is released.
Rolling Stone: Gordon Fletcher (June 7,1973)
For me, Led Zeppelin began as the epitome of everything good about rock: solid guitar work, forceful vocals and rhythmic backing, devotion to primal blues forms, and most of all, thunderous excitement on stage and vinyl. But as superstardom came to them, so too came the gradual evaporation of those qualities from their sound. In the same way that the Rolling Stones evolved into a senior, “safe” bizarro-perversion band, Led Zeppelin has become a senior, “safe” heavy-metal band. But by its very nature safety cannot coexist with heavy-metal fire and macho intensity (or bizarro-perversion, for that matter), which is probably why Houses of the Holy is one of the dullest and most confusing albums I’ve heard this year.
So with that note by Mr. Fletcher for an album released a few weeks before we enter the HOUSES OF THE HOLY aka Madison Square Garden for my sixth time seeing LED ZEPPELIN, who are probably the most popular band in the world at this moment in time.
(6)July 28, 1973 LED ZEPPELIN @ MSG open with ROCK N ROLL and while my handwritten notes in my journal are limited this very performance was filmed for the THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME. However, this is the stop (NYC) on the tour where $203,000.00 was missing from the band’s hotel safe. Also MSG had decided it safer to sell all tickets for the 3 shows via Money Orders sent to the box office(SASE) rather than deal with the nasty crowds at the box office.
(7)February12,1975: LED ZEPPELIN @ MSG Opened with ROCK AND ROLL, No QUARTER, SONG REMAINS THE SAME,DAZED AND CONFUSED, STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN,MOBY DICK, WHOLE LOTTA LOVE, BLACK DOG, HEARTBREAKER
February 24,1975 PHYSICAL GRAFFITI is released.
March 31,1976 PRESENCE is released.
October 1976 THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME is released.
(8)JUNE 14,1977: LED ZEPPELIN (8th and my last time)@ MSG The NY radio station WPLJ gave away LED ZEPPELIN buttons celebrating the bands six (6) sold out shows.This will be a 3 hour extravaganza when it starts as we were delayed an hour before the band took the stage. In total they played 18 songs opening with THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, had an acoustic set thrown in for good measure, the obligatory Moby Dick, Jimmy Page violin solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love and closed out with Rock and Roll. This was the last US tour for the original foursome.
September 25,1980 Drummer John Bonham dies.
No matter how many rumors hit the streets, no matter how many times it might be said that LED ZEPPELIN is reuniting, I can’t or won’t go see that band. John Paul, Robert, and Jimmy playing with PHIL COLLINS hurts my ears, and Bonham,Jr… well no thanks. RIP Led Zeppelin and thanks for the memories.