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ROBERT PLANT SAVING GRACE UK TOUR ON THE SPOT REPORTS/ LZ NEWS/ DEBORAH BONHAM IN KINROSS/RICHARD COLE TWO YEARS GONE/MM POLL AWARDS 1979 /LED ZEPPELIN IV PART TWO/TEST PRESSINGS/DL DIARY BLOG UPDATE

30 November 2023 1,405 views 2 Comments
Robert Plant & Saving Grace On The Spot Reports:
On the spot report: Robert Plant presents Saving Grace in Gateshead, November 20th, 2023, by Hiroshi
Saving Grace at The Glasshouse (former Sage) in Gateshead on Monday night were magnificent as they always had ever been. Even more so than before. They are another band of joy, shifting space and bringing strange sensations. This is my fifth time I saw them after 2021 and 2022, and it is amazing to recognize the way Team SG have continuously upgraded the show, not only the performance but also the stage production, the sound, the lighting etc. The only unchangeable facet is the backcloth, a lone bison on the dessert that has witnessed the changes through the passing years, the evolution of Saving Grace.
Gone were Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down (with the irresistible In My Time Of Dying tease) and Season Of The Witch (a previous show highlight), among others, but we got four Led Zeppelin songs instead as already reported here. True to form, they were all reworked in one way or the other, not blandly carbon-copied from the originals, given the modern edge to the performances. In particular, Suzi Dian’s haunting mezzo-soprano scatting on Friends was spine-tingling, giving me a thrill. She played more bass and accordion than last time, adding rich nuances to a number of songs. What a talented lady. And don’t forget Robert the bass player on It Don’t Bother Me, a Bert Jansch cover and a rare moment to savour.
Backing up Robert and Suzi was the “three man army (orchestra in other word)”, Kelsey, Worley & Jefferson, an impeccable ensemble of instrumental playing. The wide spectrum of the sonic fabric they wove between them was simply gorgeous and unbelievable.
Robert enriched the night with his usual quips, colourful episodes from the past etc., showing his cryptic but entertaining sense of humour once again. “We come from the land of ice and…oops, from somewhere else.” “We are a folk group. Let’s do some folk.” And so on. What the hell did he mean by mentioning Graham Bond not once but twice?
The Glasshouse Gateshead was another triumph, a night Robert & Co. let the music (not the merch) be our master, one of many houses of the holy on the road. Long may it continue.
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This one from Jonathan Taylor 
Robert Plant and Saving Grace, the Halls, Wolverhampton 25/11/2023.
Oh my oh my.
Just when I thought Robert Plant and Saving Grace couldn’t get any better…they just did.
This Wolverhampton show will live long in my memory.
After a spine-tingling “Gospel Plow” and an effervescent “The Cuckoo”, it is already apparent that this is going to be a truly great show.
Saving Grace, already no strangers to the wonderful and inspiring, play their hearts out tonight. The set list is as it was at the Birmingham gig I attended, though despite the brilliance of that concert somehow Saving Grace find another gear to shift up into, as this home-turf show for Robert
Plant becomes a celebration of everything that is good and right about Robert’s many musical voyages.
Suzi Dian’s vocal on “Too Far From You” is again a standout performance; tonight opening line “Some nights I don’t sleep at all…” shatters my heart into tiny fragments of beauty and longing.
Tonight Dian sings as she always does, with passion and crystal clarity, whilst her on-point bass and particularly her accordion playing are focussed and essential.
Tony Kelsey’s guitar and mandolin explore the nuances of the songs in such loving depth, and when his guitar needs to surge, it is a tsunami.
Oli Jefferson’s drumming is precise, always serving the song, embracing both subtle and powerhouse with equal aplomb.
Matt Worley’s array of guitars, banjo, and mandolin are deployed with intent, melding style and substance and bringing the sonic magic.
Plant’s own “Let The Four Winds Blow” and “The May Queen” are possessed of new energy. Low’s “Everybody’s Song” has power and grace; Moby Grape’s “It’s A Beautiful Day Today” is delicate and lovely; the haunting darkness of “As I Roved Out” is leavened by an inspired take on Bert Jansch’s beautiful “It Don’t Bother Me”, once again featuring Plant on bass.
And on this tour there is the mistral that blows from Plant’s past in the planet-devouring Led Zeppelin; “Friends”, “Four Sticks” and “Gallows Pole” (the latter featuring brief Plant nods in the direction of “Black Dog” and “Whole Lotta Love”) all embrace the gorgeous Saving Grace arrangements; though it is the band’s sublime reimagining of “The Rain Song” that brings a tear to my eye. As if this song wasn’t such a thing of beauty to begin with,
Saving Grace tonight take it by the hand and lead it to a place of fresh love and delight.
Talking of tears…tonight turns out to be a bittersweet concert, as late in the set Plant announces that this gig will be Saving Grace’s last. His love and respect for his bandmates is evident, but he feels that the time is right for Saving Grace to end. The emotion on stage is reflected in the theatre.
Tonight Saving Grace, in their musicianship, verve, sheer belief, and with the joy evident in their playing go out on an absolute high.
Their customary final encore of “I Bid You Goodnight” takes on added poignancy.
I have described Plant as a “restless soul”, and it seems that he is about to move on once again. But in Saving Grace he leaves behind a wonderful moment in his career, a band whose music and performances I will remember with such love and fondness.
Set list:
Gospel Plow/The Cuckoo/Let The Four Winds Blow/Friends/Is That You/Too Far From You/The May Queen/Everybody’s Song/It’s A Beautiful Day Today/The Rain Song/As I Roved Out/It Don’t Bother Me/Four Sticks/Angel Dance. Encores: House Of Cards/Gallows Pole/I Bid You Goodnight.

Many thanks Jonathan

SAVING GRACE FUTURE…

As can be seen below reported on the LZ News posting -and above with Jonathan’s comments – there was some speculation as to what was intended in Robert’s announcement from the stage that the Wolverhampton gig was to be their last ever.

It appears that might not be the case and there there may have been a misunderstanding surrounding what was actually mentioned on the night.

However Jonathan commented:

It certainly felt like a final show announcement to me. Robert didn’t seem playful when he said it, and Suzi Dian’s emotional remarks afterward didn’t feel like just-the-end-of-the-tour.
Don’t get me wrong, I would dearly love Saving Grace to continue, but to me there was no ambiguity on the night.

We shall see what unfolds ahead…

I personally would very much like to see this unit perform again and release an album – perhaps a studio recording or one of their live shows.

Here’s hoping there is more to come from this incredible set of musicians – the three gigs I attended in Birmingham, Cardiff and Cambridge were something really special. They are amongst the very best shows I’ve seen Robert preform during his solo career which I have followed intensely since 1981..

 Dave Lewis – November 30 2023

 

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LZ News:

Here’s the latest Led ZepNews Update

Jimmy Page

Coverdale Page was re-released in Japan

A limited edition transparent blue vinyl re-release of Coverdale Page was released in Japan on November 22 to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the album.

Despite David Coverdale spending the last five years publicly discussing his plans to release an expanded and remastered box set of the album for its thirtieth anniversary, this niche release contains no new music and is only being released in Japan. Neither Coverdale or Jimmy Page have promoted the re-release.

Curious about the weird saga of the thirtieth anniversary box set that wasn’t to be? We covered the saga in this premium subscriber-only post on the LedZepNews Substack earlier this week.

The Bizarre Saga of the Coverdale Page 30th Anniversary Release

 

NOV 23
David Coverdale has since 2018 repeatedly discussed his plans to release a remastered and expanded box set version of the album he released with Jimmy Page on March 15, 1993 that was titled Coverdale Page.

 

Read full story

Robert Plant

The end of Saving Grace … for now? Or forever?

Robert Plant concluded his UK tour with Saving Grace this week, performing in Gateshead on November 20, Bradford on November 22, Stone-on-Trent on November 23 and finally performing a hometown show in Wolverhampton last night on November 25.

Last night’s show, an addition to the original tour schedule, saw Plant make repeated comments on stage about the end of the band that have caused speculation that Saving Grace may have disbanded.

Is Saving Grace actually over? Or did Plant just mean the band has ended its current tour? Opinion is split on what Plant meant, so here’s what we’ve learned today from speaking to multiple attendees of the show:

Saving Grace and Plant performed in Wolverhampton last night, with the band hosting an afterparty for VIPs afterwards that included a free bar. On stage during the show, Plant mentioned the end of the band multiple times, but his comments were ambiguous.

Some attendees say Plant declared the end of the band. “He twice seemed to say very clearly that it was their last ever show, but then immediately said that they would like to play the same venue again someday,” wrote Robert2255 on the official Led Zeppelin forum. “But Suzi had to pause her band introductions because she said she was too emotional to speak – which seems like more of a ‘last show ever’ thing than a ‘last show of the tour’ thing.”

Another unnamed attendee wrote in a Facebook post: “Robert announced sadly that this was their last show and the end of the band.”

Other attendees of the show that LedZepNews spoke to took Plant’s comments to be playfully ambiguous, exagerrating the finality of the end of the tour for comedic effect in front of a hometown crowd.

“He said last show ever followed by ‘before I see Saint Nick’”, said one attendee. “He was going on about his age but he said it was the end of the tour until… [he] said ‘until’ a few times,” said another attendee.

Another attendee told LedZepNews: “At one stage I thought he said that was the end of Saving Grace bit later seemed to imply it was the end for the time being.”

And finally, one person who was invited to the afterparty (and so may have more information about the band’s future than others) said simply: “It was just the end of the tour. They are looking at recording next year.”

The most likely explanation is that Plant has paused working with Saving Grace while he focuses on other projects such as touring with Alison Krauss in the US next Summer. Saving Grace have recorded music together (releasing one track to attendees of the recent tour) and it’s likely that they’ll record again next year.

Here’s our recent breakdown of all of Plant’s current solo projects and what to expect from them.

Robert Plant was interviewed by the Irish Examiner

Robert Plant has given an interview to the Irish Examiner, explaining his decision not to continue performing with Led Zeppelin following the band’s 2007 reunion performance. “I think Jimmy and John Paul, for a while, wanted to keep it going but we all change,” Plant said in the interview.

Robert Plant donates signed copy of Led Zeppelin album

Robert Plant has signed and donated a box set edition of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album for charity. The auction will help to purchase a new tennis wheelchair. At the time of writing, bidding on the signed album on eBay has reached £460.

Robert Plant visits historic music venue

Robert Plant was photographed visiting the historic music venue The Gliderdrome in Boston on the way to his performance with Saving Grace in Grimsby on November 19.

Upcoming events:

  • 2024– Robert Plant will tour with Alison Krauss.
  • January 1– ABC will broadcast highlights of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ceremony at 8pm EST
  • March 21-24– John Paul Jones will perform at the Big Ears music festival in Knoxville, Tennessee both as a solo act and as part of Sons Of Chipotle.
  • April 5– “Led Zeppelin: A Visual Biography” by Martin Popoff will be published.
  • April 6– The exhibition “The Wiltshire Thatcher – a Photographic Journey through Victorian Wessex” featuring the original photograph from the cover of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album will open at Wiltshire Museum.
  • Summer 2024– Robert Plant and Alison Krauss will perform in Vienna, Virginia.
  • September 15– The exhibition “The Wiltshire Thatcher – a Photographic Journey through Victorian Wessex” featuring the original photograph from the cover of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album will close at Wiltshire Museum.

Many thanks to James Cook 

The complete Led ZepNews email goes out periodically. To receive it sign up here:http://tinyletter.com/LedZepNews

Led ZepNews Website: Check out the Led Zeppelin news website at

http://ledzepnews.com/


Jimmy Page announced a new, limited edition Super Dragon amp that recreates the amp he used from 1969 onwards…

A limited edition of only 50 Super Dragon half stacks will be made from November 2023 through the middle of 2024. Each one of the heads will be signed by Jimmy.

“The Super Dragon is a faithful recreation of my “Number 1” amp. After recording the first Led Zeppelin record and creating sounds that define rock guitar I needed an amp capable of reproducing this broad palette of sounds including the light and the shade in the studio and a live setting. Not only was the volume and tone important but it needed to have enough power to hear the subtlety of various aspects of my guitar playing. I experimented with different amps until hearing about a fellow in the USA named Tony Frank who was modifying Marshall amps. I sent Frank my favorite Marshall, a 1968 Super Bass and the result was exactly what I was looking for. Frank’s modification enhanced the amp’s power and expanded the dynamic range. This amp became the main amp for live shows as well as the principal amp I would rely on in the studio for all Led Zeppelin records from Zeppelin II onwards”.   – Jimmy Page –

See more at:
https://www.guitarworld.com/news/jimmy-page-sundragon-super-dragon?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=socialflow&utm_content=guitar-world&fbclid=IwAR3JoVVizkaaT0Iu7X3OJTB6suhcOYXbbLg2rPyomItsCvV9XykMXxXIbxw
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On the spot report:
Deborah Bonham Band in Kinross, November 18th, 2023, by Hiroshi…
Exactly one month after the captivating Terry Reid gig I reported here, I was back to the Backstage in Kinross again, this time for Deborah Bonham. Not following her career at all and taking this as a good chance, I decided to give it a go.
Deborah and the band took the stage in front of an audience of about 100 or so, played for 1 hour and 45 minutes. We were treated to a feast of blues-based rock that was plenty in existence in the 1970s but sadly is in niche in the present day, in these times of the 21st century. Peter Bullick’s guitar play reminded me of the late great Paul Kossoff, full of bends, vibratos, attacks, and above all, so much passion. Certainly a lesser-known, unsung guitar hero on his own. And Deborah — boy can she sing. With all the swaggers she exposed onstage, Deborah made her rock goddess presence felt around her, reminiscent of Elkie Brooks and Maggie Bell, two of the predecessors of the British blues/rock queens. And further beyond, there was the untouchable Janis — speaking of her, Joplin’s influence on Robert Plant is something I often feel overlooked (am I the only one who hears the echo of Ball And Chain through Since I’ve Been Loving You?).
The show culminated with No Angel, the long slow blues tour de force and main set closer, which featured Bullick’s extended guitar work, showing his prowess in full. His solo contained repeated stops and starts, spellbinding the floor in a silence filled with high tension.
The encore was a heaven for the ‘old school’ rock lovers — the threesome of Mr. Big, Ramble On and Rock And Roll, Free and one-two punch of Led Zeppelin classics. On Mr. Big, bassist Ian Rowley played a red Gibson EB-3 as a nod to the late Andy Fraser, instead of the Fender Precision bass he picked during the main set. The lengthy bass solo came to the fore and delivered a heated moment, another show stealer. He kept on using the EB-3 during the encore. Keyboardist Gerard Louis then left the chair to add one more guitar layer that was needed for Ramble On, and Rich Newman who hit the drums hard gave the big loud bangs, a finishing touch to Rock And Roll (that was crossed off on the setlist but eventually played) to round off the exciting night.
After the show, Deborah sit at the merch table for a signing session, and I enjoyed a brief chat with her. She turned out to be a supernice lady.
“We are going to Japan next year,” she said. She couldn’t remember when, though.
We talked about her brother John.
“John loved Japan. He wanted to go there again.” Then she went on, “He told me a funny story. The gentleman who introduced the band practiced all day, ‘Ladies and gentlemen — Led Zeppelin!” But when the night came, he went, ‘Radies and gentremen — Red Zepperin!”
That was a moment we remembered laughter.

Many thanks Hiroshi for that one 

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RICHARD COLE REMEMBERED – TWO YEAR GONE:

Two years ago on December 2 2021 the legendary Led Zeppelin tour manager passed away.

 

Led Zeppelin tour manager and so much more.

Such a friend and support to Janet and I in recent challenging times – writer of the wonderful Foreword to the Evenings With Led Zeppelin book.

I had so many special conversations and times with him over many years  –the last being when I visited him in October 2021. Even though his health was failing it was such an uplifting occasion as we talked about those Zep glory years – his pride for it all so evident right to the end.

He was of course aware of the rock’n’roll lifestyle they all led and regretful of some incidents that surrounded his role.

”There was and always will be only one Led Zeppelin’’ are the opening words he wrote in that Foreword…

There was and always will be only one Richard Cole and he is so sorely missed…he was truly one of the most extraordinary people I have ever had the fortune to know.

RIP dear Richard…

Here’s some personal thoughts of Richard one year on …

Over many years Richard was always been so supportive of my Led Zeppelin writings – in 2018 he contributed the most wonderful Foreword for the Evenings With Led Zeppelin book  I wrote with Mike Tremaglio. Early in 2021 I interviewed him on the phone about the Zep Knebworth concerts for a feature I wrote for  Rock Candy magazine. This would prove to be his final word on Zep in print.

His pioneering tour managing role with Led Zeppelin and before that with The Who and Yardbirds was a crucial element in Zep’s world conquering success. For within all the much documented sex drugs and rock’ n’roll he was an incredibly shrewd operator and a highly intelligent negotiator. With the maverick manager Peter Grant and the four members of Led Zeppelin he formed a formidable team – ‘’it was always six of everything’’ he once told me.

I met him on a fair few occasions in the Swan Song office in the late 1970s. The first time was when he came marching up the stairs, took one look at me sitting in the office and proclaimed ‘’Who’s that ‘effin ice cream! (abbreviated cockney rhyming slag =ice cream feezer (geezer).

I rather shakily introduced myself as a fan and writer of my own Zep magazine. Thankfully he soon warmed to my presence. Years later we often laughed about that rather frightening (for me) indignant first crossing of paths.

I also saw him in tour manager action first hand when he was ushering the band into place at Heathrow Airport on May 17 1977  prior to their flight to commence the second part of the massive US tour. His command of the task in hand was more than evident. How lucky I was to be there and witness that…

When Richard moved to Kensington in the early 2000s I made contact with him again and eventually met to conduct a lengthy  interview for a US radio station. It was an illumining day and the first of many in his company. I think the fact that I came from the angle of how he got Zep from A to B on any given tour rather than all the usual stuff he was asked about, allowed me to gain his trust.

He loved telling those on the road stories and when it came to the Evenings With Led Zeppelin book he very graciously accepted my request to write the Foreword.

‘’Looking through this book brings it all back to me -city by city and gig to gig’’  he wrote. ‘’It’s like a virtual travelogue of 11 years of my life. 11 years of my life that seem barely imaginable now but 11 years I wouldn’t have missed for the world and what incredible times they were.’’

On May 17 1977 I made a journey to Heathrow Airport to see the members of Led Zeppelin gather as they prepared to fly out for the second leg of their mammoth US tour. It was of course incredibly exciting to see them all –and one thing I was able to see at close proximity was Richard’s sense of organisation. It was his job to ensure they got there and on time with minimum fuss –and he did it with such integrity and drive…

Here’s a rarely seen photo (courtesy of Russ Rees and Peter Jones) of Richard at Heathrow that afternoon with John Bonham just in front of him.

I showed Richard this on my last visit to see him on October 18 2021 and of course he was full of tales of this adventure.

Richard was immensely proud of his role within the success of Led Zeppelin – and his memory for those times was vivid right to the end. Often he would randomly ring me and dispute some minor detail in the book when it was in the work in progress stage and I of course always bowed to his superior knowledge – because he was there…

Much more than his role in the world of Led Zeppelin and his other management roles with the likes of The Quireboys, Richard was a loyal friend to many and away from the rock’n’roll mayhem, he was also a very sensitive soul  – he was a tireless worker for AA, attending regular meetings to support others.

He was also aware of the affectionate and esteem he was held in within the Zep fan community and enjoyed the acclaim and rapport he had with the Richard Cole Appreciation Society Facebook group ably maintained by Sean Atkinson.

He was certainly a great friend to us here. Despite his own ongoing health issues he was always ringing to find out how Janet and I were – so sympathetic and supportive of my own mental health issues and Janet’s leg break problems.

During 2021 I have been aware of how poor his health was and on October 19 I went to visit him at his flat in Kensington.

Despite his obvious failing health he was in amazingly good spirits. There’s no doubt he knew his time was coming to an end and I was aware this was likely to be the last time I ever saw him. Failing health or not -it did not stop him lighting up a cigerette – the maverick to the last…

For a good couple of hours he relayed to me many a tale of being on the road, right back to his early touring days with The Who and The New Vaudeville Band – so many incredible stories and as ever relayed with much humour.

He told me that in 1974 when he had a bit of a brief falling out with Peter Grant he went off to work with Eric Clapton on his comeback tour. Now Richard was good friends with the Elvis Presley camp and Elvis himself – -having met him on more than one occasion. Eric made a request to visit Elvis and asked Richard to try and arrange it. Richard rang Elvis’ personal associate  Jerry Shilling to ask if Elvis would have an audience with the pair. Word came back from the King ‘’ Look, I know who Richard Cole is but who’s this Eric Clapton guy?’’

Such was the reputation of Richard Cole – perhaps the most famous tour manager in the history of rock’n’roll. Like I said, his pride for it and his role within it all was always so evident – right to the very end.

Last October on that bright autumn morning in Kensington it was again uplifting and inspiring to be in his company for one what would prove to be the final time. As I was leaving I asked Richard if he would sign my copy  of his Stairway To Heaven book that I brought along..

‘’To my dear friend Dave Lewis’’ he wrote.

‘’Thank you for your wonderful books and magazines over the years.

Best always, Richard – October 18 2021’’

I will treasure that for evermore…and how I  miss his phone calls and discussions on the Zep touring years. How for instance, he got Zep from a gig at the Ohio University  on May 18 1969 to performing at the Tyrone Theatre in Minneapolis the next day – his way. He was always a man of such insightful detail.

That he took me into his confidence and showed much interest in my work and showed such compassion to Janet and I, remains one of the truly blessed things that has happened in my life.

”There was and always will be only one Led Zeppelin’’ he wrote in the Foreword to the Evenings With Led Zeppelin book

‘’Whenever Led Zeppelin hit the stage it was telepathic.  For the next two and a half hours there was no better place to be than where I was, stood right next to them on those stages. Watching, waiting and ready to do anything I could to help. They were simply fantastic and I’m immensely proud to have worked with them’’

Indeed there was and always will be only one Richard Cole…

An incredibly intelligent, warm, kind and generous man – he is so sorely missed.

RIP dear Richard…

Dave Lewis – December 1 2022

Richard Cole  1946 – 2021 

The sad passing of Richard Cole last December inspired a wealth of tributes including of course from Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.

I had a lot of feedback and comments at the time  here’s  a couple of the many tributes that were paid to the man who was the Led Zeppelin tour manager and so much more…

Phil Carlo roadie and road manager with Bad Company, Zep and Jimmy Page commented ”Richard was such a great help to me when I first started working with Zeppelin 50 years ago this month. He will be much missed”

Guy Griffin of The Quireboys who Richard worked with in the 90s said ”What an amazing man – he was like a father figure when he looked after me age 21 on tour in America with The Quireboys”

 

Richard Cole Obituaries:

On December 8 both the London Times and Telegraph ran extensive obituaries to Richard.  I think Richard would have had a few choice expletives if he knew the Telegraph had mis -captioned the photo they used – it says Robert Plant with Richard Cole – it’s actually Roy Harper…

Chris Charlesworth did a very perceptive Richard Cole obituary on his always excellent Just Backdated blog – see link here:

https://justbackdated.blogspot.com/2021/12/richard-cole.html

Jimmy Page and Robert Plant paid tribute to him, with Page calling him “a brother and a friend to the end.” Plant visited Cole earlier this year, and wrote that he was “brave to the end.”

 

The Last Interview:

Here’s the last interview that Richard gave. He very kindly agreed to do this interview with me on the phone in early 2021. It’s his recollections of the Led Zeppelin Knebworth concerts in 1979. It was featured in the 2021 June/July issue of Rock Candy in a feature I wrote on Zep at Knebworth…

As their tour manager Richard Cole was the man who made sure Led Zeppelin got from point A to B, and as he reveals to Dave Lewis  ‘’It was an unforgettable experience… there was always a special camaraderie and that was still all there at Knebworth.’’

Dave Lewis: Having not toured for two years, what was your reaction to Peter Grant’s decision to stage Zep’s comeback at Knebworth?

Richard Cole: I was very  pleased that we were back working. The way it would work is that Peter Grant would discuss things with the band and he would inform me of the plans. Then it was up to me to logistically work it all out. I do remember going to discuss the Knebworth plans with Freddy Bannister at his home in Knightsbridge. Then I went to Knebworth house and met the Cobbold family who owned it. The first thing we did was look around the park to see where the stage would be best suited. I then liaised with Ian Knight who did the lighting production and Showco our PA company in Dallas.

DL: What logistical issues did you face in presenting what would be the band’s largest ever UK shows?

RC: Not many really, as we’d already had a lot of experience in running big shows with massive audiences – there had been a few of those on the last Zep US tour. The Showco PA came over and it was a fairly smooth set up as I remember. We tested all the gear and did two warm-ups in Copenhagen. The morale was very high and the rehearsals were great. We built the stage at Bray Studios, and it was one of the biggest they’d ever performed on. At the soundcheck on the Thursday, Robert, Bonzo, and the guys went out front to hear what the sound was like. That was when Jason took over on drums for a number.

Basically my job was to make sure everything fell into place and to do that there was a lot of preparation. I had to make sure they got on stage, played and then we left, although there was a bit more to it than that. I was talking to Metallica’s tour manager once and he told me their crew stretches to over a 100 people – we did Knebworth on something like 30.

DL: What are your memories of the shows?

RC: I knew they were on form and the audience reaction was incredible. You have to remember though that I was backwards and forwards all the time – I didn’t get to see a show all the way through or stand on the side of the stage for long. There was always other business to take care of. At the second Knebworth show it was down to me to pay Keith and Ronnie for their set – I paid it in cash from the day’s takings. It occurred to me when I attended their O2 reunion show for Ahmet Ertegun in 2007 that it was the first time I had ever sat and watched an entire Zep show. Usually I was running around making sure everything was going to plan.

DL: Do you think Zep had a future in the 1980s?

RC: Yes I do. Knebworth was never planned as some sort of grand farewell. Looking back, there were countries they missed out on such as Brazil – though that was a bit dangerous at the time, with one band out there having all their equipment stolen. Safety was always a big priority for Peter. When they decided to scale it all down I was in favour of that. What could happen is that you are in competition with other bands, and it was like ‘oh the Stones have more lights than us so we need to get more than them.’ It was getting more manageable in that way.

DL: From road managing that first US tour that kicked off concert in Denver on Boxing Day in 1968 through to the Knebworth dates, that must have been some ride – how do you look back on it now?

RC: It was a really rapid rise for sure – in 1969 and ’70, bands like Blood Sweat and Tears were going out for like $15,000 a night. We were getting good money from the second US tour onwards and then we began overtaking them all. There were so many landmarks along the way – obviously playing Madison Square Garden for the first time was a thrill. Then we went from doing a single night to three and then  six. That was unheard of at the time.

Everything really changed when we they opened the 1973 US tour in Atlanta playing to 49,000 and then playing to 56,000 in Tampa the next night which beat The Beatles attendance record at Shea Stadium. That was when Peter instructed me to hire a private jet for them and that led to using the Starship.

I sometimes recorded the shows for them on cassette and give them the tape to listen to. That did cause arguments if one of them was not as loud as they should have been in the mix.

The thing is they trusted us – the management and road crew – and we trusted the band. You are only going to get that if you start off at the beginning, and as you get bigger the roles get bigger and the trust becomes more important. That is what it was like working with Led Zeppelin. On that first US tour I was driving the band myself from gig to gig in a hired Lincoln Convertible – and then within four years we all end up on board the Starship. To have been a part of all that is simply unforgettable – it really was an amazing time.

Nowadays you get the situation where bands bring in a tour manager for a certain tour and then get another one for the next tour. We always worked like a team and the camaraderie between us was very special and it was still all there when Led Zeppelin made their comeback at Knebworth.

Dave Lewis April 19, 2021

 


With Richard at the 02 Reunion post gig party December 2007 and before the Celebration Day film premiere October 2012.

 

 

 

 

 



TBL Archive Special :

Melody Maker Poll Awards: November 28, 1979 – 44 years gone…

44 years ago on a late cold November afternoon in 1979, I walked into the plush surroundings of the Waldorf Hotel in London and ordered a vodka and lime at the bar just behind Richard Cole who was with three quarters of Led Zeppelin.

The occasion was the annual Melody Maker Poll Awards for which Peter Grant had rounded up Robert, Bonzo and Jonesy to accept a remarkable seven awards. Richard Cole and assorted roadies and tech guys and Swan Song personnel were in attendance.

I was there reporting it all for what would become Tight But Loose issue number 4. Some of the text of that report (unbeknown to me) would years later be suitably exaggerated in The Hammer Of The Gods book.

I remember spotting Robert wearing the pair of bright yellow and blue Nike trainers he’d acquired at the Wembley Goal Diggers soccer tournament the previous Sunday which I’d been along to watch. I made a mental note to seek out a similar pair on my return to Bedford – they were my style gurus as well back then and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one though I drew the line at investing in a dragon suit!

melody-jpj

There was an air of supreme confidence amongst the Zep camp that afternoon – their delight in scooping so many awards in those post punk days could be clearly seen. It really did feel like ‘The 1980’s Part One’ was ready to usher in a new exciting era for us all. The photo here with John Paul Jones inspires a host of memories from that early era of the TBL magazine.

It was a fantastic thrill to be in their company that November afternoon all of 44 years ago – the full story originally published in TBL issue 4 and again in the Zep On the Town chapter in my Knebworth book is re-produced below..

Dave Lewis – November 30 ,2023

 

MM Poll Awards – Zep 7 The Rest 0…

Dateline: Wednesday, November 28th, 1979

Central London, just after midday on a cold sunny winter’s day, Robert Plant has managed to lure himself away from his Worcestershire home for a reason other than football. Well, Peter Grant said he ought to be here.

This formal call to arms is to attend the Melody Maker Poll Awards reception at London’s ever so posh Waldorf Hotel, the reason being that those old defunct dinosaurs, Led Zeppelin, have scooped a total of seven awards in the poll. An extraordinary feat and one worthy of celebration.

Mention celebrating and, well, you’ve got John Bonham. Arriving with the immaculately dressed Richard Coles and the rest of the, dare one say, heavy backstage entourage, he heads straight for the bar and hearty laughter is soon heard to ring out. Peter Grant arrives by chauffeur driven Rolls. Although his character is said to be nothing like as fearsome as one would imagine, he always looks so awesome. I mean really. Not so Mr John Paul Jones, of course. Down for the day from his Sussex home in similar style. He’s wearing the most incredible baggy jeans, cowboy boots, check shirt and light brown bomber jacket, with turned up collar. His hair is what I notice first of all. It’s nigh on shoulder length, but more stylish than I’ve seen it in a long time.

Robert is premiering the new training shoes he was given on Sunday. Bright yellow they are, and very nice, too. Jeans, green shirt and black, thin lapelled jacket completes the attire. Oh, not forgetting his black and red thin scarf, which I’ve seen him with loads of times. On the ’75 tour, at The Song Remains The Same premiere, the ’77 tour and now. The only reason he can give, when I ask him why he’s so attached to it, is “It’s the only one I’ve got left.”

The Waldorf Hotel is an amazing place, and, er, very expensive. Then I buy a single vodka and lime over the bar, before proceedings commence. The cost is £1.40. “Is that with the chair included?” I enquire, after rising from the floor. Thankfully, those wonderful chaps at Melody Maker have footed the bill for the reception and once inside, all manner of alcohol is flowing freely. Robert gets in to conversation with Yes manager, Brian Lane. Most of the other Zep entourage stake a table at the far end of the hall. The only notable omission from the camp is, of course, Jimmy Page, who has just got back from Barbados and couldn’t make it. Three out of four isn’t bad though, for this their first public appearance since Knebworth.

Time for proceedings to start. The host is Monty Python’s Michael Palin. First up to receive an award is Robert Plant for the Top Male Singer. Kate Bush, clad in a dress the shade of Bonzo’s red jacket (wow), steps up to get her female counterpart of the first award. “Top Band – Led Zeppelin” says Mr. Palin, and up step all three to receive the trophy, Bonzo giving a quick throwaway speech. “Best Album – In Through The Out Door” This is getting like the Led Zeppelin Fan Convention!” Robert steps up for this award with the quote, “It’s hard work, but a lot of fun.” The Boomtown Rats take their best single award and then it’s the Zep step(?) again. “Top Guitarist – Jimmy Page” shouts out Mr. Palin, but as no Zep member manages to get up for that award or the next, “Top Producer – Jimmy Page”, both get handed to MM’s Richard Williams.

Annie Nightingale is up next, to accept the award for The Old Grey Whistle Test. Chris Squire, the Yes man, follows to get Top Bassist. Phil Collins picks up the Top Drummer award, using Robert’s “hard work, but a lot of fun” one liner. Rick Wakeman can’t make it, and instead sends a recorded message on tape, but the useless P.A. does it no justice, amidst laughs all round. “Top Live Act – Led Zeppelin” and it’s Robert up again to fire his one liner, you guessed it… “Hard work, but a lot of fun”! Brand X, John Peel, Tommy Vance and Yes claim more awards, and finally, Robert takes the seventh Led Zeppelin award, for Top Composer. Proud moments indeed, and a kick in the you know where for all those critics. Ten years after they first scooped the Melody Maker Poll, Led Zeppelin do it again. It’s remarkable.

While a 1920’s style jazz band supply the background music, Zeppelin line up for a photo call with all seven awards. Cameras click merrily and Bonzo sings along with “I Only Have Eyes? For You.” With the serious stuff out of the way, it’s time for the booze and the real ligging to commence.

Robert gets into a long rap with John Peel, concerning the footballing fortunes of Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. A certain B. Geldof also comes over to chirp in. A slightly subdued Bonzo sits in the easy chairs chatting with Peter Grant. John Paul Jones, lovable Jonesey, is playing up to his unassuming image by being, well, unassuming. He looks quite the self satisfied man from Sussex, with glass of wine in hand. He has this soft articulate accent, and when you consider all the riotous behaviour Zeppelin have been associated with over the years, it’s difficult to picture John Paul Jones as part of it all.

He tells me he thought Knebworth was “most exciting.” The sound system had particularly impressed him, As Melody Maker scribe, Steve Gett eyes Jonesy’s Rock Against Journalism badge, talk gets round to the press and John recites an hilarious story about Elton John’s speech at the recent Music Therapy Awards, denouncing a certain Fleet Street The pic here is of Swan Song press officer Unity McLean, Melody Maker journalist Steve Gett and|JPJ.

 

When I get a closer look at one of the MM awards he’s holding (Top Band), Jonesy tells me, “You could have it for yourself, but if I went back to Sussex empty handed, my wife would start wondering where I’d been!” Robert, meanwhile, looks pleased with himself. “D’yer know, I’ve just had half an hour talking soccer” he beams. He’s content now to drink tea and talk with Bob Geldof about B. P. Fallon, ex Zepp publicist. A trainee scribe from MM comes near the Zepp entourage. “I’m looking for quotes” he states. JPJ turns around, and with usual dry wit replies, “Quotes? Oh, Eric Quotes? Haven’t seen him.”

By 3.30 the party is drawing to an end. At this point, Bonzo becomes more of his boisterous self. Looking at the Top Band award, he laughs, “Ah, The Police should have won this. Have you seen them?” he says, doing a mock Sting swing and shouting out the chorus of Message In A Bottle and Walking On The Moon. Geldof turns and laughs, “And you lot only work Tuesday to Friday, don’t you?” enquires the man Bonham. “Why’s that?” asks Robert, falling into the trap. “They Don’t Like Mondays!” Agh!

Bonzo and John Paul Jones await the Rolls. Robert is heading straight back, in his land Rover parked around the corner. As they shake hands with various liggers, The Rats, and the Yes entourage, somebody wishes Wolves success in their bid for Europe. “Yeah” jokes Mr. Plant, “If they don’t make it this season, I’m quitting this business for good – I mean it!”

Outside, the sun is still shining, though there’s a cold nip in the afternoon air. Down the road from The Waldorf, a newspaper stand has just had its delivery of the first print of the music press. Soon everyone will know, for there, emblazoned on the cover of Melody Maker, is the headline ‘7 for Zep.’ A headline which spells out clearly the fact that Led Zeppelin have ended the decade as they began it – at the top.

Dave Lewis, November 1979 – as written for TBL issue 4

Previously Unseen Photos from the Melody Maker Poll Awards: Here’s three previously unpublished photos I came across recently in the TBL archive that I took at the Melody Maker Poll Awards on November 28,1979:

The centre pic shows Robert holding court with Bob Geldof and John Peel and John’s wife Sheila.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TBL Archive Special – 

Led Zeppelin IV – 52 years gone…

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV

To mark the 52nd anniversary of the release of Led Zeppelin IV here’s a TBL archive feature – first compiled for TBL issue 15 though not used at the time – it eventually appeared in the my Celebration II – The Tight But Loose Files book.

The Making Of Led Zepplin IV – Part Two

Early on during the warm up sessions, John Bonham began banging out the cymbal led introduction to Little Richard’s ‘Keep A Knockin”. Ian Stewart joined in the fun, adding a Jerry Lee Lewis barrelhouse piano backdrop. Jones and Page picked up the mantle, adding Scotty Moore-like guitar runs from the, golden era of Sun Records. Plant soon cut in with a vocal line, but instead of tripping effortlessly into one of the many rock’n’roll standards that they performed live on stage he screamed out nondescript lyrics built around a chorus of “It’s been a long time since I rock-‘n’ rolled”. Within minutes they knew they had something, as Page remembers: “We were doing something else at the time but Bonzo played the beginning of a Little Richard track. We had the tape running and I started doing that part of the riff. It ground to a halt after 12 bars but we knew we had something – Robert came in with the lyrics and within 15 minutes it was virtually complete.”

The jam session nature of the song’s construction resulted in it being credited as a four man group composition, and when they played the track during their live act during European and US dates later that year, Plant introduced it under the title ‘It’s Been A Long Time’. When it came to deciding the final track line-up for the album they agreed this three minute and 40 seconds of stomping rock’n’roll should be titled just that. So it became universally known as ‘Rock And Roll’ and it would go on to be a staple Zep stage fave, taking its rightful place as an appropriate set opener from late 1972 through to 1975.

Ian Stewart was also on hand to add his influence to another jam deemed worthy of recording. This was built around the unusual ploy of making the mandolin the lead instrument over another Fifties groove, and was clearly based on Richie Valens’ ‘Ooh My Head’, later to feature in the La Bamba movie. Cornball rockabilly lyrics like “I don’t wanna tutti frutti, no lollipop, come on baby just rock, rock, rock” were merged with Stu’s incessant barrelhouse playing, over which Page and Bonham dubbed a curious rhythmic slapping sound. Nothing more than a playful jam, they dubbed it ‘Boogie With Stu’ in tribute tq the Stones man. With one superior rock’n’roll jam already perfectly executed, this one was left on the cutting room floor. Three years later Page salvaged it for inclusion on the double set Physical Graffiti and offered a composing credit to Valens’ widow. “It was obvious a variation on ‘Ooh My Head’ by the late Ritchie Valens which itself was a variation of Little Richard’s ‘Ooh My Soul’. What we tried to do was credit Ritchie’s mother because we heard she never received any royalties from any of her son’s hits, so what happens is they try to sue us for all of the song. We had to say bugger off to that one!”

The mandolin was very much a feature of the Zep IV recording sessions. JP Jones had initially acquired it for some of the Zep III numbers, notably ‘That’s The Way’. One night in Headley Grange, Page began picking his way around that same mandolin and so began the genesis of another track.

“I picked up the mandolin, well actually it was Jonesy’s mandolin and these chords just came out. It was my first experiment with mandolin. I suppose mandolin players would laugh because it must be the standard thing to play those chords but possibly not with that approach. It did sound a little like a ‘let’s dance around the maypole number’ but it wasn’t purposely like that.”

Plant had written one new track, ‘The Battle Of Evermore’, after reading a book on the Scottish wars. He felt the track needed another vocalist to act as a foil, so they called in ex-Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny to provide a rare cameo.

“It’s really more of a playlet than a song,” said Plant. “After I wrote the lyrics I realised I needed another completely different voice as well to give the song full impact. So I asked Sandy Denny to come along and sing on the track. So while I sang the events in the song, Sandy answered back as if she was the pulse of the peo-ple on the battlements. Sandy was playing the town crier urging people to throw down their weapons.”

Zep and Fairport had long since enjoyed a rapport, Fairport bassist Dave Pegg hailing from the same Black Country area and being a lifelong friend of Plant and Bonham. Zep had jammed with Fairport at the Troubadour in LA on their last US tour and all the group had partied with Sandy at the Melody Maker poll awards in London the previous September. A month later Page and Plant went to see Sandy’s new group Fotheringay supporting Elton John at the Albert Hall. At Headley Grange Plant sang a guide vocal, leaving out the response lines for Denny to insert. Plant also claims to have played guitar on the track. The end result was an engaging folk lament and another cornerstone of the completed album.

At the time Sandy noted Plant’s own prowess on the session. “We started out soft but I was hoarse by the end trying to keep up with him,” she said.

Her vocal part was taken on by John Paul Jones when Zep finally performed the song live on their 1977 US tour. For their Unledded MTV reunion Page and Plant brought in Indian vocalist Najma Akhtar to perform with them on the track.

The acoustic guitars and mandolins were also prevalent on ‘Going To California’, which was very much in the style of ‘That’s The Way’ from the previous album, and despite its title it was another number written, at the Snowdonia cottage. The song included references to a Californian earthquake, though its main influence was Joni Mitchell. Both Page and Plant had long since admired her work – in fact California was the title of one of the tracks on her Blue album. Page commented, “Joni is able to look at something that’s happened to her, drawback, crystallise it and then write about it.”

In live versions of the song Plant would often throw in subtle Joni references like the night at Earl’s Court in 1975 when he sung the line, “They say she plays guitar and cries and sings,” adding “in parking lots…”. Lyrically the song told of the unending search for the ultimate lady. “It’s hard,” Plant would sing on stage-infinitely hard…”.

Another of Plant’s heroes, Neil Young, provided the inspiration for ‘Down By The Seaside’, one of the first numbers they worked on at Island in late 1970. Written a few months earlier at Bron Yr Aur, it mirrored Young’s laid-back vocal on songs like ‘Heart Of Gold’. Midway through it all went up a tempo, led by a stinging Page solo before it returning to the original country groove. With so much material at their disposal this was another track that did not fit in the scheme of things at the time, and Page later remixed it for inclusion on Physical Graffiti.

During their weeks at Headley Grange the band had little time for the usual boisterous antics. Tour manager Richard Cole, who more often than not took on the responsibility for relieving boredom with fun and games, noted: “There weren’t any serious drugs around the band at that point – just dope and a bit of coke-Mostly we had an account at a shop in the village and we’d go down there and collect large quantities of cider. They were playing at being country squires. They found an old shotgun and used to shoot at squirrels in the woods, not that they ever hit any. An I there was this lovely old black Labrador dog wandering around which we used to feed.”

The dog in question would eventually provide the simple title of another Headley Grange creation, as Jones recalls: “There was an old black dog around the Grange that went off to do what dogs did and came back and slept. It was quite a powerful image at the time so we called one track ‘Black Dog’.”

‘Black Dog’, largely the product of a bass riff brought in I John Paul, was a classic monster riff exercise in the grand Zep tradition that was destined to dispel all the ‘Zep go soft’ claims when it blared out as the opening track of the album. “It’s definitely one of my favourite riffs,” he says. “It was originally all in 3/16 time but no one could keep up with that!”

Plant’s acapella vocal between the riffs was an arrangement Page had picked up from Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’. The almost impossible to copy rhythmic swing (a combination of 4/4 time set against 5/4) of the ‘Black Dog’ riff was a key indication of how far ahead of the game Zeppelin really were. Band such as Grand Funk Railroad were already being touted as the logical successor to Zep’s heavyweight crown. Their monolithic riffing was completely devoid of the grace and timing compared to the likes of ‘Black Dog’ – a fact that would become most evident upon the album’s release. Page’s fade out solo was a cleverly overdubbed and triple tracked guitar pieced together by four different solos.

“The effect on those guitars was something I’d learned from Bill Hawelson,” remembers Johns. “He worked with Buffalo Springfield. I plugged Jimmy’s Les Paul into a direct box and from there in a mic channel.”

Page again: “We used the mic amp of the mixing board to get distortion. Then we ran it through two Urie 1176 Universal compressors,” When Page was reviewing the tapes for the Remasters box set he recalled that the guitars almost sound like an analogue synthesiser.

The thorny and eternally topical question of legalising marijuana was the subject under discussion in ‘Misty Mountain Hop’. I chunky rocker revolving around a pleasing JPJ electric piano riff suitably enhanced by Page strident chords and Bonham’s precise drumming, it’s worth noting at this point the quite exemplary percussive contribution Bonzo made to these sessions. His work on every track was superbly applied – check out the subtle drop-ping off the beat at four minutes 17 on this track’s fade. Plant’s semi-rapped vocal style here might be described as the first rock rap, predating the nu-metal movement by two decades. In doing so he exposed the problems of a certain Black Country hippy taking a walk in the park with the police looking over his shoulder.

John Paul Jones led the construction of this song. “I got up before everyone else one morning and I was sitting playing around on the electric piano. When the others got up I played them what I’d done and it went from there.”

Where Zep was really beginning to score was in their ability to balance the controversial acoustic element within their more familiar electric dynamics. Another prime example of this was ‘Four Sticks’. Led by a brilliantly incessant Page riff and powered by Bonham’s literal use of four drumsticks – hence the title – it meandered off into a spiralling acoustic section (“When the owls cry in the night”) underscored by JPJ’s then pioneering use of a VCR synthesiser, and all mixed by Page to achieve maximum stereo split. “We tried different ways of approaching it. The idea was to get an abstract feeling. We tried it a few times and it didn’t come off until the day Bonzo had a Double Diamond beer, picked up two sets of sticks and went for it. It was magic.”

“We did this at Island studios. It was a bastard to mix,” says Andy Johns. “When I originally recorded the basic tracks I com-pressed the drums, then when I went to mix it I couldn’t make it work. I did five or six mixes.” It was also reported at the time that the master tape of this track was at one point lost. Following the album’s release ‘Four Sticks’ was re-recorded in October 1972 when Page and Plant conducted an experimental recording session in Bombay with the local symphony orchestra, the results of which remain officially unreleased.

Since their very inception Page and co had frequently plundered their blues influences to come up with new renderings of old blues tunes. For the fourth album sessions, they worked  on an old Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy recording titled ‘When The Levee Breaks’.

In the final credits they did add Memphis Minnie to the eventual credits, though justifiably they also credited themselves in recreating the tune in a radical new arrangement. The end result was simply a blues rock colossus. Page: “I came up with the guitar riff and Robert sang the words which were inspired by Memphis Minnie’s arrangement – though if you heard the original you wouldn’t recognise the two”.

Page remembers ‘Levee’ being a difficult track to record. “We tried to record that in the studio before we got to Headley Grange and it sounded flat. But once we got the drum sound at Headley Grange it was like boom… and that made the difference immediately. It was very exciting to listen to that drum sound on head-phones.”

As we know know can be heard on the Coda Companion Audio disc they tried an initial version in a different arrangement.

That unique drum sound in Headley Grange was created by positioning Bonham’s drums in the hallway of the house, known as the Minstrel’s Gallery. Engineer Andy Johns:

“The other guys were out having a drink and John Bonham and I were at the house. He still complained that he wasn’t getting the sound he wanted. T finally had an idea. We got his drums and put him in the hallway and then hung two Ml 60 mikes from the staircase and pointed them towards the kit. His kit was very well] balanced internally, each drum’s volume was consistent with the others. In the truck I put him into two channels and compressed the drums. Jimmy had this Italian echo unit called a Binson that used a steel drum instead of a tape – it had a real special sound and I used that as well. I remember sitting there thinking it sounded utterly amazing so I ran out of the truck and said, ‘Bonzo you gotta come in and hear this!’ He shouted, ‘Whoa that’s it. That’s what I’ve been hearing!’”

Page was equally enthusiastic. “What you’re hearing on the record is the sound of the hall with the stereo mike on the stairs second flight up. There were a lot of different effects in there. Phased vocal and a backwards echoed harmonica solo. I’d used backwards echo as far back as The Yardbirds’ days.” (The effect can be heard on The Yardbirds’ track ‘Ten Little Indians’ from their Little Games album.)

That drum sound remains today the most sampled beat of al time – first introduced by the likes of The Beastie Boys and the house DJ’s in the late Eighties, it has lit up countless rap and dance tunes in varying speeds and tempos. It remains one of the most startling percussive statements ever committed to tape.

Another number recorded at Headley Grange and over dubbed at Island Studios dealt with the then topical subject of nuclear war. During an interview in 1971, on seeing a front page headline that read “Nuclear Test Damage Threat”, Plant had this to say about the then current state of the world: “It really breaks my heart that we’re all singing songs about love and peace and togetherness and really there’s so little of it.”

These views were reflected in the lyrics to ‘Night Flight’ a bright, breezy rocker. “I received a message from my brother across the water, he sat laughing as he said the end’s in sight” Supplemented by Page’s guitar fed through a Leslie speaker t give it a swirling effect and Jonesy’s Hammond organ, the track was one of the most commercial from the sessions but when: came to the final selection it was omitted from the album. Like ‘Boogie With Stu’ and ‘Down By The Seaside’ it was another track Page would revisit when it came to putting together their 197 double album Physical Graffiti.

Which leaves just one song to discuss; the proverbial mill-stone around their necks. Couples have played it during their marriage services, radio stations still can’t stop playing it (four million logged plays and counting), would-be guitarists learn their craft by it, and the Australians, led by Rolf Harris, have made a whole parody industry out of it. Evil messages were claimed to be heard when it was played backwards. The singer allegedly hates it.

There was a time, however, when ‘Stairway To Heaven’ was simply the longest track on Led Zeppelin’s new album. They knew it was good, but they could never have dreamt the sheer commotion that this eight-minute epic would cause over the ensuing decades. It’s been both loved and loathed in equal measures.

Routined at Headley Grange, ‘Stairway’ was actually recorded at Island Studios in London’s Notting Hill. Page had much of the chord sequence on a demo when they first tried it out. “I’d been recording demos on a home unit called a new Vista,” he said. “It was the deck from the Pye Mobile that had been used to record things like The Who’s Live At Leeds – and we’d used it to record our Albert Hall gig. I’d been fooling around with the acoustic guitar and came up with the different sections which I married together. So I had the structure and then 1 ran it through Jonesy. I’d had the chord sequence pretty much worked out and Robert came up with 60 per cent of the lyrics on the spot.”

Andy Johns remembers: “We did the track at Island in London. Jimmy had the tune pretty much worked out. He played acoustic in the iso booth. He was the thread that held it all together. We had Bonzo out in the main room and John Paul played a Horner electric piano.”

Robert’s lyrics were pieced together very quickly at the Grange. “Jimmy and I stayed up one night and we got the theme of it right there and then. The lyrics were a cynical thing about a woman getting everything she wanted without getting anything back.”

Jonesy’s contribution was the memorable and tranquil opening sequence. “We always had a lot of instruments lying around so I picked up a bass recorder and played along with Jimmy. Later at Island I multi-tracked the recorders to get it right.”

Page made three separate attempts at the solo – and rather than deploy the usual Gibson Les Paul he returned to the battered old Telecaster (a gift from Jeff Beck) that he had used on the first Zep album. “1 winged the guitar solo really. When it came to recording it I warmed up and did three of them. They were all quite different from each other. I did have the first phrase worked out and then there was the link phrase. I did check them before the tape ran. The one we used was:definitely the best”.

The result was one of the only guitar solos in history as likely to be whistled by milkman as air-guitared in the bedroom, such was the tracks eventual universal appeal. By the late Seventies Plant had tired of the tune and started to deride it publicly. “There are only so many times you can sing it and mean it,” he said. “It just became so sanctimonious.” His antipathy towards it resulted in a major backstage row with Page before their 1988 Atlantic Records 40th anniversary reunion at Madison Square Garden. Right up to them going on stage he was refusing to sing it, although he relented at the last minute.

Back in 1971 Led Zeppelin were immensely proud of ‘Stairway To Heaven’, and Page still views it as the apex of their career. Talking to Cameron Crowe from Rolling Stone in 1975, he said: “To me, I thought it crystallized the essence of the band. It had everything there and showed us at our best as a band and as a unit. Every musician wants to be to do something of lasting quality something which will hold up for years and I guess we did it with ‘Stairway’.”

With the recordings completed by early February, Page took Andy John’s advice and flew with Peter Grant and Johns to Sunset Studios in Los Angles to mix the tracks. Just as they were flying into LA the city suffered a minor earthquake, as Page recalled: “The funny thing is that on ‘Going To California’ you’ve got the line ‘mountains and the canyon’s started to tremble and shake’ and curiously, as we landed, there was a mild earthquake. In the hotel room before going to the studio you could feel the bed shake.”

Unfortunately the mix down did not go as, planned, much to Andy John’s embarrassment. “I convinced Jimmy to mix it in Los Angeles. We booked time at Sunset Sound but the room that I’d worked in before had been completely changed. So we used another room there and mixed the entire album. We came back to London and played it back at Studio One at Olympic. Anyway we put it on and it sounded terrible. I thought my number was up -but the others seemed to look to Jimmy, even though it was just as much my fault. So it had to be remixed again and that was difficult.”

Despite all these problems, the resulting production was one of Page’s finest. Rarely again did he so precisely capture the four strands of the group on record so clearly. For all their triumphs, subsequent Zep albums often suffered from an uneven mix. Compare Led Zep IV to the muddy, leaden sound of their final album In Through The Out Door. There is just no comparison, a testament perhaps to how this relaxed style of recording, away from the distractions of the city, suited them. Maybe it would have been a wise move to have invested in their own mobile recording unit.

They had hoped to have the album out by late April but that would now be impossible. Instead Page and Johns mixed most of it again between their spring UK and European tour dates at Olympic Studios. The only mix from the Los Angeles trip that was deemed fit for eventual release was ‘When The Levee Breaks’. The album finally went off to be cut at Trident Studios in London with more lacquers being cut at The Beatles’ Apple Studios in the mid-summer of 1971.

By that time they had already began previewing numbers from the album in their new stage set. The first airing of new material occurred on Friday, March 5, at Belfast’s Ulster Hall, when ‘Black Dog’,  ‘Going To California’ and ‘Stairway To Heaven’ were all played live for the first time. For ‘Stairway’ Page acquired a custom built Gibson ES1275 double-neck guitar to perform the six and 12-string passages the song requires.

The so called ‘Back to the clubs’ UK tour saw them return to venues such as London’s Marquee where they had first established their reputation in the early days. UK listeners to Radio One’s John Peel in Concert programme were also privy to an exclusive airing of this new material. On Sunday April 4 they broad-casted a one hour Zep live show recorded four days earlier at the Paris Cinema in London. ‘Going To California’ and ‘Stairway’ were the new numbers aired. For ‘Stairway’ this would be airplay number one – with another four million to follow during the next two decades.

In Europe a month later they previewed more songs from the fourth album. At an extraordinary gig at the KB Hallen in Copenhagen on May 3 ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Going To California’ and ‘Stairway To Heaven’ were joined by the only known live performance of ‘Four Sticks’ (“Well try something we’ve never done before… there’s every chance that we will fall apart,” Plant warned the audience) and premieres of ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ and ‘Rock And Roll’ (introduced as ‘It’s Been A Long Time’) during the encores.

Dave Lewis

To be Continued…

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Led Zeppelin reissue white label test pressings:

At the excellent Victoria VIP Record Fair last Saturday, I visited the Willowpitch Vinyl Record Specialist stall. The owner Rupe showed me a batch of very interesting Led Zeppelin white label test pressings he had acquired.

These test pressings are for the deluxe editions of the Led Zeppelin reissues from 2013. All of the Zep albums are represented from Led Zeppelin 1 through to Coda plus The Complete BBC Sessions and How The West Was Won and the 2012 Celebration Day release. They originate from a German  pressing plant. Asking price for these multi discs sets range from £300 to £600 each.

I passed on these myself but anyone Zep collectors interested can get more details from Willowpitch at their website www.willowpitch.co.uk

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DL Diary Blog Update:

Friday November 24:

Black Friday treats at the always excellent Slide Records in Bedford…
When Black Friday comes it’s time for some Record Store Day releases…
This morning I was well pleased to secure these Black Friday RSD gems including the Joni Mitchell Court and Spark Demos, a reissue of the 1974 Splinter album The Place I Love produced by George Harrison on the Dark Horse record label – plus the superb 3 LP Little Feat Live at Manchester Free Trade Hall July 29 1977 drawn from the Waiting For Columbus tapes…
Black Friday RSD sorted- thanks Warren and Nerys!

Saturday November 25:

Saturday is platterday and there’s a whole lot on offer at the Victoria VIP record fair today – I’m ready to browse…and probably invest in one or two…!

Sunday November 26:

The find of the day for me at the excellent Victoria VIP Record Fair yesterday…
A US copy of the 1971 Who single Won’t Get Fooled Again on the Decca label in its original sleeve..
It has the inscription under the title ‘’From The Motion Picture ‘Lifehouse’ ‘’
This was a clear case of the Decca record label jumping the gun – the Lifehouse film was abandoned as was the album theme. Some of songs prepared for Pete Townshend’s Lifehouse idea emerged on Who’s Next.
So this single is something of a key artefact in the Lifehouse saga – £3? I’ll take it!
The single also has some odd name anomalies – Pete Townshend is billed as Peter Townshend while produce Glyn Johns becomes Glyn John.
Ross Halfin a big Who fan was very impressed when I showed him this yesterday – it was great to catch up with Ross and we both agreed that the recent Who’s Next/Lifehouse deluxe box set was a magnificent release…

Sunday November 26:

Another great find at the excellent Victoria VIP Record Fair yesterday…
A copy of the bootleg 2 LP set Led Zeppelin 1977 – Richfield Coliseum Cleveland April 27. This is the soundboard recording featured on the famous Destroyer releases.
This copy new sealed and unplayed – a bargain £35.

Monday November 27:

It’s a Happy Birthday to our very good friend Mr. Phil Harris…
I first celebrated Phil’s Birthday back in 1974 at his 18th Birthday party at the Civic Theatre in Bedford all of 49 years ago – as can be seen in the pic taken at the Victoria Record Fair last Saturday, he’s a little bit taken aback that it was that long ago!
Happy Birthday Phil from Janet and I – have a great day mate!

Monday November 27:

At the excellent Victoria VIP Record Fair last Saturday, I was very pleased to receive an early Christmas present from my esteemed record collecting comrade Ian Saikia.
Ian got this at the Record Planet Mega Record Fair in Brabanthallen a couple of weeks back.
It’s a 32 page 12 month Led Zeppelin 2024 calendar made up of photos taken by Magnus Landqvist at the Zep gig on March 6 1973 at the Royal Tennis Hall Stockholm in Sweden.
The photos are a set of previously unpublished black and white shows from the Stockholm gig and look great. There’s also some detailed background info on the gig and photographer.

Monday November 27:

Our beautiful boy Ollie is two years old today…

Thursday November 30:

Black Friday treats on a Thursday at the Slide Record Shop..

I was well pleased earlier today to invest in the Black Friday Record Store Release The Faces – Had Me a Real Good Time at The BBC

This was an outstanding request I’d put in and Warren managed to order a copy  – top result…

Thanks Warren and Nerys!

Update here…

December is once again upon us and it’s a busy time all round. As can be seen above, the Victoria Record Fair was a real blast and it’s been lovely celebrating Ollie’s second Birthday.

Here’s the current DL playlist that will be reverberating around these parts in the coming weeks…

The Beatles 1962 – 1966 – 3LP

The Beatles 1967 – 1970 – 3LP

Led Zeppelin – Dancing Days Are Here Again -Southampton 1973 – 4LP bootleg

Robert Plant – Band Of Joy LP

Stephen Stills Live at Berkeley 1971 – CD

The Rolling Stones – Hackney Diamonds – LP

The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed – LP

Yes – Live USA ’71 – CD

Elton John – Madman Across The Water – 2 CD anniversary edition

Dionne Warwick -Sings The Great Bacharach & David Songs – 25th anniversary Collection – CD

Thanks for listening 

Until next time…

Dave  Lewis – November  30 2023

TBL website updates written and compiled by Dave Lewis

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2 Comments »

  • Gary wade said:

    your archive is a thing of wonder dave, love it

  • Robert Thornton said:

    Here’s my two cents on the Wolverhampton show (I’m the Robert2255 quoted above). Midway through the show, Robert said that the show marked the end of the band’s 4 year journey, “until I meet St.Nick” (whatever that means). I’m not certain that he used the word ‘end’, but the comment produced a mix of cheers but also groans from the crowd, so I evidently wasn’t the only person who understood him to be announcing the end of the band. Then later he said more explicitly that it was the band’s last ever show – again, not certain that those were his exact words- though I think they might have been – but he certainly said something that seemed as clear and unambiguous as that. But moments later he made the comment about wanting to play the same venue again – and it was definitely ‘we’ and not ‘I’. So who knows? But Suzi’s end of tour message on her Facebook page doesn’t give any impression that it was their final show.

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