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Back to Earls Court / Last Shop Standing / TBL23

26 April 2009 4,322 views 7 Comments

Dave LewisIt was back to the scene of those halcyon May days of 1975 last week when I attended the London Trade Book Fair at Earls Court.

The treasured old building still looks much the same from the outside though with the addition of the adjoining Earls Court 2 arena it has increased in size. It was comforting to see that the white surround that separates the tiers was still intact and the big old clock is still in place. Probably not the one of course that seemed to visibly slow as it edged its way around to 8pm on the evenings of May 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 nigh on thirty four years ago. Couldn’t resist taking a few snaps of what remains an iconic landmark for me and after all the recent upheavals, it was good to be back amongst such comfortable and inspiring surroundings.

I attended this massive annual trade event with the Purple/Blackmore chronicler Jerry Bloom. It was a timely opportunity to indulge in a bit of the old networking amongst the various book publisher stands that had set up from all corners of the world.

The Omnibus Press stand had an impressive backdrop with a ‘77 image of Robert Plant. They were championing their new version of Neal Preston’s Led Zeppelin Portraits book due in a revamped version later in the year. Among the attendees, I had a chat with John Blake now well busy with his own publishing company. Back in the 1970’s and 80’s John was one of the first celebrity columnists writing for the Evening Standard and later The Sun and covered Zep extensively. By his own admission though, he did himself no favours reporting on the so called black magic antics of the guitarist in said group. A tactic which as he remarked did little to endear him to the Zep fold.

After a very full day in Earls Court Jerry and I whizzed over to Charring Cross for a meet in a rather splendid bar with Steve Hammonds from Universal Records. Jerry is doing some work with him on the forthcoming Blackmore’s Rainbow CD re issues and I was well pleased to find out Steve had been reading TBL since 1979. Roger Dopson long time reissue compiler known for his work on the Joe Meek catalogue also dropped in. Roger was also responsible for the excellent Your Time Is Gonna Come pre Zep and offshoot compilation that came out via Sanctuary in 2007. Also briefly spoke to Classic Rock’s Malcolm Dome who was in the bar, a man I’ve shared the spoils on a few interview DVD’s and I seem to recall once wrote a less than complimentary review of one of my books. Ah well it’s all water under the bridge now.

The Earls Court visit prompted the annual return to my Prelude To Earls Court playlist on the old iPod. This has a variety of Zep performances from the Feb/March 1975 US dates – The Totnes TBL HQ has therefore been resounding to the strains of that amazing version of Dazed And Confused from the March 27 show in LA which includes the incredible Loving You segment – alongside that jazzy off the cuff improvisation from the same night during No Quarter. Also on the Prelude playlist is a hint at what was to come in Earls Court when Plant let slip lyrics from Tangerine prior to Stairway at the Feb 14 Nassau show – a brief taster for a song that would again light up those memorable May days.

Talking of Tangerine, couple of weeks back I had an mp3 file come through of the fascinating original outtake version of the song as recorded in April 1968 by The Yardbirds with Jimmy when it was known as Knowing That I’m Losing You.

Ironically on my first (post retail job) day after finishing in Borders on Friday, last Saturday was deemed World Record Store Day, a story flagged on the early morning BBC news report. It was an admirable campaign spearheaded by the likes of the Rough Trade store in London to highlight that there are such places of delight still in existence. Not here in Bedford though – as little as six years ago there were five such outlets, one of which I spent 11 years working in and the other no less than 17. Our Price, MVC and Andy’s have all long since gone and W H Smith now has little to offer and we all know what happened to Woolworths. This plight is highlighted in what looks to be an excellent new book titled Last Shop Standing by Graham Jones which I saw at the book trade fair and need to have a read of sometime.

For my part on the day I kept the CD tray firmly shut sticking to a vinyl only playlist policy of which the double LP Koss a profile of the late great Paul Kossoff and the old Zep bootleg Earls Court Vol 1 were the highlights.

In amongst getting down to trying to map out some possible future Zep related projects and get my life in some semblance of order in these extraordinary times, there’s been the proofing of the new TBL to complete which will be going out this week.

What can I tell you other than that Martyn has done another fantastic design job and the plain fact is that it deserves to be seen by a far wider audience than we currently attract.

Things are tight in these credit crunch days but we all need our little treats.

The appreciation of a band who still sound as exciting today as they did 40 years ago is one, and the new issue of Tight But Loose will considerably aid that enjoyment yet again.

Go to the TBL site and order it now and enjoy that thrill of the package landing on the door mat – then choose the appropriate 1969 Zep sound track, and sit back and indulge in this latest round of essential Led Zeppelin reading.

For us to remain the last (Zep) magazine standing we need your support.

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  • Jeff said:

    Hi Dave,
    I live in Hazleton, PA, a small city in northeastern Pennsylvania that’s about 100 miles west of New York City and 100 miles north from Philly.
    At one time we too, had a couple independent record and book shops until the big chains (FYE and Waldenbooks/Borders in particular) knocked all but one of them out of the game.
    The most famous (locally) was Bugsy’s Hop, a hole-the-wall joint where getting the latest vinyl releases was a right of passage for years here.
    Thankfully, we have Joe Nardone’s Gallery of Sound, a regional chain (maybe five or six stores) scattered through NEPA. The place is staffed by people such as yourself, knowledgable audiophiles who are more than happy to allow customers (particularly regulars such as myself) to browse for hours or just hang out and talk tunes. And, if there’s anything — from a rare import to an old vinyl classic — you can’t find or want, the staff is more than happy to track it down or order it for you.
    Too bad you don’t live here my friend, working at Gallery of Sound would suit you tremendously.

  • simon said:

    …no it F%&%G well ain’t!

  • Nuvo911 said:

    Is that Simon Cowell?

  • Simon said:

    As a Brit now in California I read with dismay the demise of record stores back home. Nostalgia apart, the migration to MP3 takes away the great joy of searchign out new music, getting inspired by album artwork (without which I would never have got into Yes, Roxy Music, Led Zep IV or many, many other great discoveries).
    Also hope the journey you are on is a rewarding one. Times are tough in retail for sure. All teh best.

    BTW – yesterday I unearthed two grainy photos I took of the Led Zep concert in December 1971 (I think!) at the Locarno Ballroom Coventry. I remember two main things – One, my ears rang for days after the Immigrant Song opener and Two, a bomb scare led to a part evacuation (remember this was the height of the IRA campaign in the Midlands) and we managed to move from teh balcony to about 15 feet from the stage, alongside several hundred otehr Zep fans who refused to leave! Blitz spirit indeed…

  • Chris Wright said:

    The inevitable consignment of the record shop into history is maybe the saddest by-product in the age of the download. Buying vinyl was such a tangible and physical link with the music industry and an absolutely wonderful souvenir of youth. Zeppelin were of course well aware of this vital connection and produced so many unforgettable album covers – I suppose the standout ones being Three and Physical Graffiti. That said, what we are witnessing is, of course, progress. Who could argue that the internet hasn’t been a wonderful way for musicians to communicate in new ways with their audience, and vice versa. But I for one am sad that my kids will never get to experience that wonderful mix of the smell of fresh vinyl and lavishly produced, newly printed sleeves.

  • Michaela Firth said:

    Loved reading the latest ‘adventures’. Great photo too …had to have a real check to see who it was!
    Couldn’t agree more about the demise of a good ‘record’ / music shop. In Milton Keynes , we have some of the best shopping in the country and we now have just 1 ‘music’ store and a ‘book store’ that stocks some very overpriced CDs!
    Maybe we need to start a petition …..others do for less deserving causes.
    Look forward to next TBL
    PS article in Record Collector was excellent

  • Paul said:

    Hi Dave

    I am dumb struck that there are no record stores in Bedford anymore. I worked in Bedford in the 1980’s and would spend most of my lunchbreaks looking though the stock at Andy’s records and the others. I also purchased many items from a very knowledgeable chap who work downstairs in the record department of WH Smith. At the time I used to wonder why posters for Led Zeppelin (promos for Coda if I remember)were on the back wall behind the counter, when they did not have a new release. Of course i did not take long for me to find out the reason why. I ordered many Beatles albums, singles and CD’s from you all of which still reside in my collection and have gone on to be very collectable. In 1989 I moved to Kidderminster….Robert Plant country….a town with a very strong musical history. But like Bedford if you want to buy music you’re only real choice in the internet. What a sad state of affairs.
    However for any of your readers who in the Midlands, take yourself over to Burton-On-Trent and to Henry’s records in Station Street. This great shop is like going back in time and he has a large selection of Zeppelin vinyl in stok. Also if you ask him nicely, John will tell you about while running the student union he booked Zeppelin to play at Leeds University.
    Glad to hear you are back in employment.


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