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Back To Knebworth …on a blind date

2 August 2008 2,316 views No Comment

29 years ago today I was in a field awaiting the live return of Led Zeppelin.

We got to the Knebworth site at 7am on the Thursday determined to soak up all the pre-gig atmosphere and be as near to the front as possible. Our early stake out was rewarded a few hours later when by chance we happened to be on the Knebworth House forecourt as a cream Cherokee jeep swung around and stopped. “Which way’s the stage area mate?” called a voice from inside.

I’d know that Midlands accent anywhere…for yes it was Robert Plant driving himself down to the soundcheck (no big limos during this era). We duly pointed him in the right direction, got a few pics and asked what they’d be playing “Ahh it’ll all be there” was his mysterious answer.

He was true to his word: some 53 hours later on stage it WAS all there…     

And yes it seems like a lifetime but a second.

I was nearly 23 years old. Pretty much footloose and fancy free having been a year on from my first intense relationship (the only lady I know to have seen all five Earls Court shows!), living at home in dear old Dents Road, working at WH Smith and with two principal interests: Playing soccer on Sundays and socializing with our team Wallbangers FC as often as possible…and chronicling the world of Led Zeppelin with all the love, devotion and enthusiasm that entailed via my Zep magazine Tight But Loose.

The latter bit hasn’t changed much (aside from the technology – i.e. I don’t have to hand write the logo now)… but a lot else has.

Back in 1979 there were but three TV channels, football meant the four main divisions and kick offs were strictly 3pm on a Saturday….the only live matches on TV were the FA Cup Final and England v Scotland…main shops opening on a Sunday was against the law (that would be bliss for me now!)…there was an abundance of weekly music papers – take your pic from Sounds, NME, Melody Maker or Record Mirror (the latter three all had Zep on the front cover that week)…there was no internet or email – correspondence was strictly by post and there were no mobile phones (in fact had there have been that Knebworth weekend we would have linked up with our mate Phil who had turned up on the Friday and never did find us )…the LP record was the dominant form of music carrier (with the challenge of collecting all six sleeves ahead with the imminent release of In Through The Out Door), and the idea that you could carry around your record collection in a tiny white box the size of a fag packet was frankly ludicrous.

Against the background of these much simpler days, Led Zeppelin regained their crown as the world’s top live attraction with two shows that enthralled the thousands in attendance. Despite the grand scale of it all, there was a real innocence about the whole affair. A sense of belonging to something. A real camaraderie amongst those in attendance to being as Plant put it “On a blind date”.

I went back to Knebworth this week on another blind date.

It was great to meet up with Cliff and Mark H and travel again down that A1 road with the Knebworth sign posts. (Memories: “hello…congestion on the A1M” –Plant before Kashmir Aug 4) We were going back to attend the launch of the Knebworth Memories in Music Exhibition. Upon arrival I had a mental flashback of all the cars in the field adjoining the house all those years ago, the Knebworth camp site buzzing on the Friday night with expectancy.

Inside the stately home there were some familiar faces including Independent Radio’s Simon Cadman, Alan Cousins from the west country and Ian Avey from just down the road taking the pics. The undoubted star of the evening was Zacron the eccentric artist who designed the cover of Led Zeppelin 3. He held court with tales of how that elaborate design came to be and his association with Jimmy and the rest.

As we drove out as dusk set in and the rain fell (Memories: “Well it didn’t rain. but it did rain on us in the week”), I had a final glance back at the rolling fields of Knebworth where 29 years ago we waited with the prospect of  Led Zeppelin back on stage

“It’s been great… thank you very much indeed, we’ll see you soon …I don’t know about The Marquee but somewhere soon”

If only…..

On the player it’s been strictly 1979 around these parts – so loads of Knebworth CD’s/iPod selections  (ie:Sick Again, In The Evening, Stairway, Communication Breakdown and also the Copenhagen warm ups with the ambitious Ten Years Gone).

They still had so much to offer. Led Zeppelin at Knebworth could, and should have been a new beginning. As it was it turned out to be the last goodbye on home soil. Being there to unknowingly wave them off was, for all in attendance a truly unforgettable experience.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one recalling those glorious days out in the field over the next few days. 

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