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Robert & Alison Raising Evermore / Earls Court Relived. (Again)

23 May 2008 1,868 views No Comment

To Wembley for the Robert and Alison gig. A rendezvous with the boy Foy in the afternoon at The Chandos was followed by a rather confused journey to North London that ended up with a bus ride across the Wembley Triangle (more like Bermuda) to finally get to The Torch pub – scene of many a past pre Wembley TBL meet.  There it was good to see some familiar faces, Graeme, Pam, Krys J, Eddie E ,Kam and Julie ,Dave Fox, Dave Rigg, Anne Marsden,  Alistair etc.

The gig: Often beguiling sometimes quite magnificent. Once you’ve got your head around Robert not being the sole centre of attention it works. Alison sang like an angel throughout. The set momentum seemed to waver at times but the finale of Nothin’, Please Read The Letter and The Battle Of Evermore was stunning. The latter a soaring creation that further enhanced the reputation of this sometimes underplayed solid gold Zeppelin nugget. Nice to hear Robert referencing Sandy Denny beforehand.  I was sat next to legendary radio/TV broadcaster (and Knebworth ’79 programme note writer) Paul Gambaccini. who seemed to enjoy very much. A lift home with Kam and Julie gave me a chance to catch up with them and I was in for 1am.

More days out are to follow. I’m hoping to catch Debbie Bonham’s 100 Club gig next week and on Saturday there’s the TBL meet. Gary and I checked out The Chandos Pub in St Martin’s Lane and it looks good. We are planning to be in the upstairs bar from 2pm. A toast to dear Bonzo is assured

On this day 33 years ago I was waking up to the prospect of 9 hours of live Led Zeppelin ahead. I’m playing the CD of May 23 as I write this and it sounds (Dazed is on) fantastic. The spectra of those shows continue to hang heavy over these parts. As I’ve said before they were some of the best days of their lives…and definitely mine too. Therefore I cannot resist the opportunity to relive the heady events of that amazing weekend – especially as the dates of the gigs fall on the exact days this year.

What follows is my diary log of the three gigs that first appeared on the site on the occasion of the 30th anniversary. I still think they were the greatest series of concerts Led Zeppelin ever performed.

Here’s why.

FIRDAY MAY 23 1975

TICKET: GALLARY BLOCK 98 ROW F SEAT 6

The days in between the first gigs had been pretty non stop. Tuesday at short notice I went to see Swan Song artists The Pretty Things support Status Quo at Ipswich with the Atlantic rep who called on the record shop I worked in. Next day he brought in to the shop 30 copies of the limited edition Trampled Underfoot single – yet another bonus!. Thursday was spent soaking up the music press with the arrival of the NME and Melody Maker front covers (those cover pics were just awesome!) – The excitement just didn’t stop. 

So imagine waking up on a Friday morning with the prospect of over nine hours of live Led Zeppelin in store over the next three days.

Talk about the weekend starts here!

But that was the treat in store as I went to catch the train on Friday May 23 for gig 3. Earlier I’d had a passport pic taken suitably dressed in Earls Court T shirt – I was due to fly out with my friends to sunny Loret De Mar in a week’s time.

After the frantic pace of attending the two first gigs, Friday seemed a much more relaxed affair and I took much more in. The weather was good too and beforehand the then girlfriend Fiona and I drank a bottle of wine in Hyde Park. Then it was to SW8. The view this time was the opposite side – we scrambled down a few tiers taking some empty seats. A full on if slightly distant view of Page’s side. From the moment Plant gave out an excited Immigrant Song ”Aha ah” squeal as Bonzo and Jimmy did the usual warm up, well  it was so evident they were up for it.

”Last week we did a couple of warm up dates for these three nights. We believe that these were the first three gigs sold out so these must be the ones with the most energy stored up because you’ve been waiting”. That opening Plant speech was met with tremendous applause. 

Highlights: A truly scintillating Page solo in Over The Hills (one of the very best ever), Plant’s You Shook Me reference at the end of In My Time, the image of Page swathed in blue light up on the screen delicately picking out The Rain Song, Tangerine yet again so moving and a Dazed that included the San Francisco interlude.

This time we did miss the train finally getting back to Bedford at 4.30am. It was now Saturday May 24th and this one was going to be the big one. Second row seats beckoned. Who needed sleep with that prospect ahead!  

SATURDAY MAY 24 1975

TICKET BLOCK AA ROW B SEAT 8

My friend Dec had queued up for these tickets for this one over night when they went on sale in March. Five of us went from Bedford (Hi Dec,Tom and ,Phil!).We went shopping in Oxford Street in the afternoon and then across to Earls Court – walking along the aisles and up to the front of the stage, well you can imagine the feeling. We were just so close to Bonzo’s drum kit-and the amp set up. It was so amazing. I was second row to the right of the stage.

What can I say – being in such close proximity to one of the highest profile gigs Led Zeppelin ever performed, well was beyond compare.

Images ingrained on my brain for 33 years: Watching Page slither across the stage as they hit Sick Again, Plant seemingly lost in a trance right in front of us as Page did the solo in Over The Hills, dry ice seeping above us over the front rows in No Quarter (should have bottled it –imagine that on ebay!) the stand up microphones being brought out for the four part harmony of Tangerine, the acoustic segment -so close so intimate, Trampled and the revolving lighting creating a real sense of speed, Page’s violin bow and going ”Ahhh’! as the lasers spiraled above us. The last few moments of Stairway as the mirrorball created that swirling spinning effect and thinking I must have died and gone to heaven!

The encores with the neon sign lighting up…Plant strutting over to our side in Black Dog and looking straight at us and smiling.

It was just too much. We left in a dazed state -how could we not – we had just seen Led Zeppelin at the ultimate vantage point. Nothing else mattered right then.

Certainly not rushing for the train. We predictably missed the last one back and slept on the station amongst several disgruntled Scotsman.

Finally it was back to Bedford at 8am. The party was drawing to an end…but there was a final memorable date with Earls Court remaining…and one that really would cement for all time my addiction for this band.

ENGLAND 5 SCOTLAND 1 (SORRY BILLY!)

There were other events going on aside from Zep at Earls Court on that epic Saturday. In the afternoon England beat Scotland 5-1 at Wembley – a result that made for quite a few depleted and drunken Scots as we made our way to Earls Court. For the record England’s scorers were Beattie,Bell,Johnson and two from Gerry Francis.

The England line up that afternoon read: Clemence,Whitworth,Beattie,Bell,Watson,Todd,Bell,Channon,

Johnson,Francis,Keegan,sub Thomas.

Can’t say Bonzo would have been too excited over this result . ”I think football’s a load of bollocks” was his no nonsense summary as they came back on for the encore.- a retort to the numerous soccer references Plant had made on stage during the gigs.

Some 24 years later history would repeat itself when I watched England triumph 2-0 over Scotland at Hampden in the Euro 2000 play offs before setting off to see Robert perform with the Priory at the Red Lion Birmingham. In stark contrast to Earls Court’s 17,000

capacity just 300 were in the pub that night!    

SUNDAY MAY 25 2005

TICKET FIRST TIER FRONT STALLS BLOCK 19 ROW DD SEAT 35

So the party was nearly over. Got up at 1pm and on the train at 5 – my brother John and wife Sally attended this show – the man of course responsible for taking me to see Zep in 71 and 72. I was wearing the mirror shades I’d brought in Oxford Street the previous day and he always relays the tale how he watched me come into the arena straining my eyes and taking off the shades as I looked to find my seat. The shades sensibly stayed off for the gig!

Great view for this last swan song – straight face on view on the back tier front stalls. I remember vividly Alan Freeman’s introduction ”We are here today because you and I have great taste…”.

There was a sense amongst the audience of the show being the last as Plant put it in his opening speech for ”A considerable time”.

”Still there are always the 1980’s” – what an ironic statement that was to prove.

The arrival of that soundboard tape of this performance few years ago revealed that the band were completely at ease that final night. Free from the pressure of the opening gigs, clearly looking forward to their summer break and respective tax exile travels and content in the knowledge that their public acclaim at home was at a new height, well they could just lay back and enjoy it.

That’s exactly what they did performing with a great sense of camaraderie. Given that freedom, this performance easily rivaled the previous night and often exceeded it. May 24 remains my personal Earls Court favourite but May 25 was the best group performance of the five nights.

Great moments on the final run in: Page’s free form solo on over The Hills – right out there as he closed his eyes and drifted off – thoughts maybe of life in the Agadir the next week…Another refrain of You Shook Me at the end of In My Time…the San Francisco insert back in for what would be the final full version of Dazed And Confused ever played. An emotional Stairway with Plant’s moving reference to his daughter Carmen ”A song to a little girl who sits there and who wonders what it’s all about”…and then the encores. When it was apparent they were coming back again after Black Dog we rushed down to the side of the stage and had a great view of Heartbreaker and Communication Breakdown. The latter with its stop start reggae scat signing middle section was just sensational.

Anxious not to let this Earls Court experience end, we hung around the front of the stage and incredibly, as the arena emptied we were able to walk through the black curtain at the side of the stage and walk unchallenged through to the backstage area.

There sitting on a limo was Robert Plant –  blue sparkled jacket, white scarf and draped in bracelets and rings looking for all the world like a Greek god. Being right in front of Robert at that moment was just incredible. An unforgettable image . After getting over the sheer shock of seeing him, I asked the rather dumb question when would they be playing in England again. ”There’s a lot of traveling to do first” was his reply. We walked across to the entrance where the aftershow party was taking place with Plant and his wife Maureen and Rusty from Showco .Robert sang a few lines from Kashmir as he scuttled through the entrance. We also saw Bonzo, Jonesy and Jimmy arrived along with Chris Squire from Yes ,Bob Harris and Jeff Beck.

Knowing they would have to come out at some point we waited outside the party entrance. There was no way we were going anywhere until then!

About 3am I actually walked on to the Earls Court stage now deserted except for some PA gear and Jonesy’s grand piano. It was an incredible feeling looking out from the actual focal point where all this had happened. We saw them all leave the party at around 4. Jimmy looking frail in white suit but keen to acknowledge the remaining fans – one of them asked how his finger was – ”oh fine now it’s so nice you all care”. Jonesy and Bonzo signed autographs and Robert looking rather out of it, was ushered through to the limos. That was our final view of Led Zeppelin at well afer 4am on the morning of May 26 1975.     

…and coming down wasn’t easy!

Monday May 26 was thankfully a bank holiday and after arriving back home at 7.30am I then slept all day. The real cream on the whole week had been the fact I’d met them all and got their autographs – there was no plan of action to do that, it had just all slotted into place.

Days later I was in the heat of Loret De Mar on a lad’s holiday. My fellow Earls Court attendees Phil,Tom and Dec were with me and Phil  brought along the tape he’d made of the May 24 show recorded next to me on a primitive cassette portable. It rained once in Loret and we all piled into his room to hear the tape. A bizarre experience as Earls Court came alive again in foreign surroundings. Incidentally alongside reveling in the late night discos (one of them was called Moby Dick!), the highlight of the hol was the batch of Zep Spanish pressing singles I uncovered in the local record shop- it just never stopped!

Once back home I began scribbling down some notes on my Earls Court experiences. -this would eventually form the basis of the Earls Court feature in the first issue of Tight But Loose.

Can it really be thirty three years ago? To paraphrase Robert’s on stage comments on May 18

”It’s been like a lifetime and yet a second”

In my view they were the greatest series of concerts Led Zeppelin ever played. Put on the disc two of the DVD as it ushers in Going To California – and 49 minutes later I think you’ll agree.

Earls Court May 17-18-23-24-25 1975

They were, are and always will be the glory days of Led Zeppelin

And as you’ve probably gathered from reading all this…some of mine too.

Dave Lewis May 23 2008 

 

 

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