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BECOMING LED ZEPPELIN DOCUMENTARY COMPLETED/JOHN BONHAM A CELEBRATION II FESTIVAL DETAILS/ LZ NEWS/DIGGING DEEP PODCAST/SAVING GRACE LATEST/KNEBWORTH AUGUST 4 – IT WAS 42 YEARS AGO TODAY/LZ NEWS/DL DIARY BLOG UDATE

3 August 2021 1,908 views 4 Comments

Becoming Led Zeppelin documentary completed… 

This one via the Variety website…and much welcomed news…

”American Epic” director Bernard MacMahon has revealed the title of his long-awaited and recently completed Led Zeppelin feature documentary: “Becoming Led Zeppelin.”

The project, which was first announced in 2019, has unprecedented access to the band, marking the first and only time the group has participated in a documentary in 50 years. Though 1976 doc “The Song Remains the Same” centred on the band, that was largely a concert film of a series of Madison Square Garden performances in 1973.

“’Becoming Led Zeppelin’ is a film that no one thought could be made,” said MacMahon. “The band’s meteoric rise to stardom was swift and virtually undocumented. Through an intense search across the globe and years of restoration of the visual and audio archive found, this story is finally able to be told.”

A release date hasn’t yet been set for the pic. Altitude Film Sales and Submarine Entertainment will be co-repping sales.

The film includes new interviews with Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, and John Paul Jones, as well as rare archival interviews with the late John Bonham, who died in 1980. The film features never-before-seen archive film and photographs, state-of-the-art audio transfers of the band’s music and the music of other artists who shaped their sound.

When the project was first announced, Page said: “When I saw everything Bernard had done both visually and sonically on the remarkable achievement that is ‘American Epic,’ I knew he would be qualified to tell our story.”

First formed in London in 1968, the English rock band is best known for hits including “Stairway to Heaven,” “Good Times Bad Times” and “The Immigrant Song,” and are considered one of the most influential rock bands in history.

Above photo by Dick Barnatt/Rederns/Getty Images.

See story at this link:

https://variety.com/2021/film/global/led-zeppelin-documentary-bernard-macmahon-1235032389/

More here:

https://www.loudersound.com/news/becoming-led-zeppelin-the-bands-first-authorised-documentary-is-now-complete

More here via LZ News:

Led Zeppelin’s official documentary film “Becoming Led Zeppelin” will be screened at the Venice International Film Festival which takes place on September 1-11

This via LaBiennale.org:

Becoming Led Zeppelin, directed by Bernard MacMahon (American Epic), and co-written and produced by Allison McGourty, with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Robert Plant as themselves, will feature in the out-of-competition section at the 78th Venice International Film Festival of La Biennale di Venezia, directed by Alberto Barbera (September 1—11, 2021).

Becoming Led Zeppelinis a documentary that reveals the individual journeys of the four members of the band, as they move through the music scene of the 1960s, playing small clubs throughout Britain and performing some of the biggest hits of the era, until their meeting in the summer of 1968 for a rehearsal that changes their lives forever. Their four journeys merge into one as they set out to conquer America on a rollercoaster ride that culminates in 1970 when they become the number one band in the world. Before the stairway and the dragon, before the gold and the girls, there were simply four men and their love of music.

Bernard MacMahon says: “With Becoming Led Zeppelin my goal was to make a documentary that looks and feels like a musical. I wanted to weave together the four diverse stories of the band members before and after they formed their group with large sections of their story advanced using only music and imagery and to contextualize the music with the locations where it was created and the world events that inspired it. I used only original prints and negatives, with over 70,000 frames of footage manually restored, and devised fantasia sequences, inspired by Singin’ In The Rain, layering unseen performance footage with montages of posters, tickets and travel to create a visual sense of the freneticism of their early career.”

https://www.labiennale.org/en/news/becoming-led-zeppelin-bernard-macmahon-screen-out-competition?fbclid=IwAR2yD-0odb7ZnkuuNIXCNXzQMm7R88g8f3eAYc9wIc-XwV1GIYclHodWUyM

 


John Bonham celebrations for September 25:

John Bonham Celebration Event Details…

JOHN BONHAM A CELEBRATION II FESTIVAL 2021

A  one-day Rock and Blues event celebrating the life of John Henry Bonham takes place on Saturday 25th September in Redditch town centre, Bonzo’s hometown

Two live shows, matinee & evening*, featuring headline acts and special guests at Redditch’ Palace Theatre (Tickets only)

Outdoor festival stage with top local & regional artists on Saturday afternoon (Tickets only) *

Free Pub Gigs in and around the town

 

Here’s more details from Ros Sidaway:

Redditch Gets Set to Rock as John Bonham A Celebration Festival Returns

After having to cancel the 2019 festival and then postpone last year’s planned music event, John Bonham

Memorial Friends are looking forward to finally staging the John Bonham A Celebration II festival in Redditch

on Saturday 25thSeptember.

“The Government’s announcement of their intention to allow large gatherings, including music festivals, to be staged without restrictions from June 2st onwards, came as a huge relief to all involved after what has been a dreadful year, particularly for the ‘live’ music industry “ says Festival Director, Ros Sidaway “It’s also been tough for charities unable to fundraise so we are hoping to raise as much money as possible for our nominated charity, Teenage Cancer Trust West Midlands”

Organised in partnership with the Palace Drum Clinic, this year’s event will have a different format to the big marquee celebration held in 2018. With an open-air music event close to John’s memorial in Mercian Square from midday to 6pm, and matinee and evening shows featuring top rock & blues acts being held at the Palace Theatre, Redditch is set to rock once again.

The first of the Headline Acts were announced on Friday evening and include John Coghlan’s Quo, Stray, Ken Pustelnik’s Groundhogs, CODA – A Tribute To Led Zeppelin and VAMBO, one of the leaders of the New Wave of Classic Rock. Opening the matinee show, will be Young Drummer of the Year 2019 winner, Michael MacCourt. They will be joined on stage by Special Guests and friends of John Bonham sharing their memories of Bonzo.

Tickets for the shows are now on sale via the link below:

https://www.johnbonhamac.com/tickets/4594601296

or the Palace Theatre Box Office on 01527 65203.

If you would like to be involved in this September’s festival, or are interested in sponsoring, advertising or donating raffle prizes, please contact JBMF through the website or contact Ros Sidaway on 07887 525107 or pop into her record shop, Vintage Trax, at 11a Church Green East, Redditch B98 8BP.

Many thanks to Ros for all the info on what is a great day in prospect – more on this as it unfolds in the coming weeks.


LZ News

Led Zeppelin News Update:

For all the latest Zep and related news check out the Led Zeppelin news website at:

http://ledzepnews.com/

Here’s a round up via LZ News of Robert’s Saving Grace gigs…

https://ledzepnews.com/2021/07/26/watch-robert-plant-return-to-performing-live-with-saving-grace/?fbclid=IwAR2pGz8hGeuc0OvErYvoBZAN9zG7qJ3yUdTbhYjIaWTyOUivhzGg1XYHouA


Digging Deep, The Robert Plant Podcast – Series 4 Episode 6 – Polly Come Home:

Another excellent podcast -and the final one of this series…

So here are. We’ve reached the end of another series of Digging Deep with Robert Plant. It’s been a collection of conversations partially defined by the unprecedented times we’ve been living in (and this episode touches on that) but, as always, some amazing music. We end the series with a cover version that Robert and Alison Krauss made their own on their world-conquering Raising Sand album. It’s the perfect way to end for now. And maybe it even points the way to the future

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aACSNTmrTzs

…………………

July 26 2021 -Robert Plant Saving Grace with Robert Plant featuring Suzi Dian Dudley Town Hall

Here’s the set list details for the Dudley gig -many thanks to Gary Foy…

Suzi Dian – vocals

Oli Jefferson – percussion

Tony Kelsey – mandolin, baritone and acoustic guitars

Robert Plant – vocals

Matt Worley – banjo, acoustic and baritone guitars and cuatro

Intro- Escalay – Kronos Quartet

As I Roved Out (Sam Amidon)

The Coo Coo Bird (Clarence Ashley)

Gospel Plow (Bob Dylan)

Move Along Train (Levon Helm)

I Don’t Wanna Hear It- Suzi Dian

Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down (Trad – Band Of Joy)

Everybody’s Song (Low)

House Of Cards (Richard Thompson)

It’s A Beautiful Day Today – Dedicated to Roy Williamson (Moby Grape)

Too Far From You- Suzi Dian (Sarah Siskind)

Two Coats (Patty Loveless)

Chevrolet (Donovan)

Season Of the Witch (Donovan)

Ohio (Patty Griffin)

Encore

Cindy I Will Marry You Someday (Trad – Band Of Joy)

Angel Dance (Los Lobos)


Saving Grace with Robert Plant featuring Susi Dian – Birmingham Town Hall gig postponed:

This via the venue mailout..:

One of the members of the touring party for Saving Grace has been contacted by NHS Track and Trace and is now having to self-isolate.

This unfortunately means that the performance due to take place at Town Hall on Monday 2nd August 2021 will no longer be possible.

We are working with B:Music to find an alternative date. Please wait to be contacted by B:Music box office for further details

Thanks in advance for your understanding, and our apologies for any inconvenience that may have been caused.


Led Zeppelin at Knebworth: 42 Years Gone today…

The Knebworth stage under construction in the early morning of Thursday August 4 1979. Pic by Dave Lewis from the book Then As It Was – Led Zeppelin at Knebworth 1979.

It’s that time of year again…

The anniversary of Led Zeppelin at Knebworth always resonates …Saturday August 4th –just writing that date sends a tingle of excitement because that is the day when it all occurred back in that field just outside Stevenage all of 41 years ago.

41 years ago next  Tuesday Led Zeppelin performed their first show in the UK for four years when they made a triumphant comeback at Knebworth.

SEEING WAS BELIEVING: THEN AS IT REALLY WAS….

Think of Knebworth and the images remain vivid: The campsite, Tommy Vance’s Friday night rock show filling the air, chants of ‘’Zeppelin’’,’’Zeppelin’’ ,the early morning rush for the gates, the long wait during the day ,Skynyd’s Tuesdays Gone fading from the PA. the screen unfolding…and there performing The Song Remains The Same, Led Zeppelin live before our very eyes

Thousands of eyes that still hold thousands of memories.

The reasons are manifold. It was for a majority of fans, their first and ultimately only opportunity to see Led Zeppelin perform live. It was also many fans first experience of attending a major rock gathering. Many of them traveled long distances to be there, and suffered varying hardships to endure it all.

And as an event, from the build up, the tension, the speculation, the giant screen, the laser effects, it was pure Zeppelin theatre. And let us not forget that musically it was also a valiant renaissance. Not perfect by any means, but then Led Zeppelin live was never about perfection. There were undoubtedly some stunning moments that proved the 1979 Led Zeppelin was alive and well and still had new places to go. Examples?

Quite a few: The majestic opening double whammy of The Song Remains The Same and Celebration Day, the stop start dynamism of Nobody’s Fault But Mine, the emotion of Ten Years Gone, the swagger of Sick Again, the white heat and white light of Achilles, the drama of the violin bow solo into In The Evening, the ever reverent Stairway, the revamped Whole Lotta Love , and the pure adrenalin rush of Communication Breakdown the final ever track performed by Led Zeppelin on home soil.

Some of the intensity of 1975 and 1977 may have been missing, but there was more than enough evidence at those shows to indicate that the muse was returning. It would all have come back given more road work. Over Europe assisted that process and the 1980’s touring campaign would have surely cemented it. Getting back to their audience in the UK with say a string of dates at London’s Rainbow, Newcastle City Hall, Manchester Apollo etc, would have been the beginning of yet another era.

Knebworth would then be viewed not as a glorious end but a glorious rebirth.

Somehow, it was never destined to be. Knebworth will forever remain in the heart and soul of Led Zeppelin fans as the last hurrah in the UK.

As the Then As it Was book reveals, the memories remain intact. From long coach journeys made from the north east and beyond causing much parental worry, mysterious cries of ‘’wally’’ on the campsite, the crush to gain entry, sleep and sanitary deprivation, the sheer wonder of seeing the band on stage, right through to the rather unfortunate story of a young lady who took a short cut coming out of the show and ended up quite literally in the s***.

All this for the love of Led Zeppelin

Writing the book was a cathartic experience for me. In these days of huge uncertainty there was strength to be gained in relieving the more innocent times of 40 years ago. Reading through the many recollections submitted had me laughing out loud and often moved to tears. They are a stark reminder of how events in our youth shape our thoughts for years to come. Yes back then we were mere kids and our sense of responsibility rarely wandered beyond the next pint, the next album, the next gig.

But events like Led Zeppelin at Knebworth defined who we were and what made us tick. Yes it’s just a band and some songs as I sometimes try and remind myself…. but in truth it’s so much more. Being at Knebworth in 1979 was a way into a world of empathy and communication. Empathy for the music of Led Zeppelin and communication with like minded souls who’se love for the band knew no bounds. Both those ethics are still very much intact.

Then As It Was is therefore a book about empathy and communication that occurred a long time ago. In a world that has changed beyond recognition.

But its subject matter is still so important to so any people.

Of all the many words written by fans about their experiences the final thoughts of Peter Anderson from Stockport stand out ‘’The journey back was a nightmare’’ he writes, ‘’with our first real hangovers kicking in but it didn’t matter. We were kicked out of the car at 6am and crawled to bed thinking we had witnessed history.’’

‘’Thinking we had witnessed history’’. That line says it all

That’s exactly how I, and thousands of others felt too.

What none of us were aware as we came away from the park that night, was the fact that there would be precious opportunity to be in Led Zeppelin’s company in the future. Of course in retrospect we now know we had witnessed history.

The recollections of fans who were inside that field, as retold in the book, are a lasting testament to that statement and the whole legacy of Led Zeppelin at Knebworth

Then as it was… sadly it can never be again.

The memories of those golden August days of an English summer all of 41 years ago, grow ever precious with each passing year.

To get us firmly in the Kenbworth zone – here’s some excerpts from my Then As It Was – Led Zeppelin At Knebworth 1979 book – so let me take you there – again…

SEEING WAS BELIEVING: THEN AS IT REALLY WAS….

MY KNEBWORTH :

Phil Tattershall, Cockermouth

Freddy Bannister’s announcement that Led Zeppelin would play at his Knebworth festival in the summer of 1979 was greeted with some scepticism by those of us who had eagerly rushed to the post office for our postal orders in 1974. Would it really happen this time? Well, I had to make the effort, just in case.

Tickets for the show were easily secured from Harlequin Records in Oxford Street and I wished away the rest of the summer to make August 4th come more quickly. As it happened, my friend ‘Charlie’ (not his real name, the reason for which will become clear later) and I wasted a couple of weeks in the Lake District and North Wales to kill time and while in Bron-Yr-Aur country, stumbled across a bunch of lads who were doing much the same thing. The pub conversation soon gravitated towards Led Zeppelin (as it does – you know how it is) and it transpired that one of them already had a ticket. ‘’See you at Knebworth’’, we said as we left for home, knowing there was little chance of our paths crossing in such a huge crowd. ‘‘Look out for the biggest flag on the tallest flagpole in the arena, and we’ll be underneath it’’, I yelled as an afterthought.

Back home, the aforementioned flag was fabricated from a bed sheet ‘borrowed’ from my mum (no, she never got it back) and the raw material for the flagpole, in the form of forty feet of angle iron, was acquired by ‘Charlie’ from work.

As the great day approached, transport was arranged (easy, because Knebworth was only 20 miles from home and one of our gang had a big car) and a list of supplies was compiled. Being young and foolish, the list of essentials included the flag and its pole, string, tent pegs and a hammer to keep the pole upright, a ghetto blaster, two blank cassettes, a camera and a few sleeping bags. The non-essentials that didn’t make the list were things like food, drink and a tent.

We left for Knebworth on Friday evening and arrived in plenty of time to make ourselves as comfortable as we could in the holding area some distance from the arena. I remember it as being a deeply unpleasant experience, with noisy drunks and choking bonfire smoke. This, combined with the noise of every radio tuned to Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show made sleep impossible. Resigned to the fact that the gates weren’t due to open until the following morning, we looked forward to a night filled with curious mixture of boredom, discomfort, excitement and anticipation.

The night was mild and dry, much to the annoyance of ‘Uncle Stevie’ a guy walking round the site trying to convince everybody of imminent torrential rain, so they would buy a ‘waterproof’ (actually a plastic refuse sack) from him for 20p. In the middle of the night, word went round that the gates were opening early and the battle for positions began. It became apparent that forty feet of angle iron wasn’t going to hasten our group’s progress and it seemed as if half the crowd had overtaken us by the time we reached the turnstiles.

Resigned to the fact that we would be a long way from the stage, we raised our flag with pride, and shortly afterwards, one of the guys we’d met in Wales turned up as promised. With our tiny patch of ground secured, I took the opportunity to go walkabout and inspect the facilities, which were primitive but yet to become disgusting. On the way back, I noticed that two sections of the 4” yellow hose carrying water across the top of the site had come apart. A high pressure jet of water was spurting out and a small river was already flowing down the field towards the stage. I looked for volunteers to help me wade in and effect a repair, but, strangely, none of the other festival-goers were interested in an early morning cold bath. Heroically, I braved the torrent, steamed in and managed to join the two hoses. When I got back to our flag, the rest of the gang seemed less than enthusiastic about sharing their
groundsheet with a soaked and bedraggled (self proclaiming) ‘saviour of the festival’.

As the opening bars of Supertramp’s ‘Take the long way home’ echoed across the site ‘Charlie’ and ‘Kenny’ (not their real names) spied a transaction of questionable legitimacy taking place nearby between a couple of black guys and two Hell’s Angels. The deal done, the Angels walked away, but ‘Charlie’ and ‘Kenny’ caught the black guys and asked with some xcitement ‘‘Them Angels dealing?’’ The response was positive, but the uncontained delight of my two friends brought about a swift change of mind on the part of the black guys. ‘‘No, wait, it’s us’’, they yelled as C&K turned in pursuit of the grease and leather. ‘‘We said it was the Angels because we thought you were the filth man.’’ It was the first time I’d heard Authority described in this manner. ‘Pigs’, ‘Fuzz’, ‘Old Bill’ were familiar, but ‘Filth’ was a new one on me and I was a little shocked at the lack of respect afforded to the guardians
of the law by the drug-dealing community. Ah, the innocence of youth! ‘Charlie’ and ‘Kenny’ subsequently settled down to pass the time in a zonked out and relaxed way .

The day was filled with a succession of tedious performances from bands who were of little or no interest to 95% of the crowd. In different circumstances, I’m sure that some of the sets would have been hugely entertaining, but this really wasn’t the time or place for the likes of Chas and Dave to blossom into festival mega-stars. I remember thinking at the timethat most of the punters would be far happier listening to Zeppelin albums over the PA. Eventually, our four lads appeared and did their two-and-a-bit hours that are too well documented to warrant further description here. (But if anyone’s interested, I thought it was fantastic. No Quarter’ was a real high point for me.)

During previous twenty six hours, I’d suffered sleep deprivation, asphyxiation, sunburn, dehydration, been soaked to the skin and trodden on (Trampled Underfoot?) and towards the end of the set, I remember thinking that although this was a great show, I’d never do it again….. well, not for anyone other than Led Zeppelin anyway.

We gathered our belongings (minus the angle iron which nobody had the energy to carry) and trudged our way back to the car, which took hours to find. Worse still, it was blocked in by hundreds of other cars, so another night under the stars without food or drink was enjoyed. I eventually arrived home at 7:30 on Sunday morning, proudly clutching the flag, the ghetto blaster, two (no longer blank) cassette tapes, the camera and a roll of exposed film.

MY KNEBWORTH:

Dave Linwood, Potters Bar

I was pissed off. Sitting on the back of the bus on the way home from school. I was a victim of parental logic. Although acquaintances of mine were going to the Zeppelin show, my parents said that if I was to be allowed to go it had to be with someone they knew. After all, how would I, a 15 year old cope on his own amidst the naked drugs and debauchery that was the Knebworth Festival. (I had my own ideas!)

The bus trundled on. I was aware of a sullen face behind me. His name was Dan and he was in the school year below – a mere baby! How uncool. I knew him mainly as a face on the bus, nothing more. In a depressed mood I asked him what his problem was. “Can’t go and see Zeppelin” he said. “Can’t afford it”.

Alarm bells rang. I had a Saturday job, so I had the cash – in fact enough for two tickets. I thought to myself “If I put up with this uncool kid from the year below. I could see Zeppelin live!” Perhaps I could swing it with my parents.

I proposed the solution to my new found friend – the collective mists of depression began to clear. After arriving home, a few phone calls from mission control (my mum) confirmed we were clear for take off. An hour later courtesy of Harlequin Records Brent Cross a Knebworth ticket for Aug 4 was mine!

To the big day. I remember being outside the main entrance gates at Knebworth. There was a police van parked surrounded by hundreds of fans waiting for the gates to be opened. The police got out and could be seen wandering around. As they did a line of blokes appeared, kneeling, trousers down, waddling up to the police van – as a lookout peered around the corner of the van, each took it in turn to piss down the side of the police van. Hilarious!.

About 3am on August 4th the main gates “opened” – in fact they were pushed down. We were off, marching towards the main arena. Obviously when we got there, all the turnstiles were closed. People began to push and shove. As more people from the back arrived the pushing got worse, I remember a girl in front stumbling and before you know it, she was covered by feet. I remember her screaming and then being pulled up and carried over the crowd to safety – she had a badly hurt arm.People were angry and frightened, the shoving and swaying continued. By now I was very hot – I remember things going very fuzzy and hearing a ringing in my ears – my mate grabbed me as I slipped down.

Suddenly, slits of light appeared in the fences, Thank God! the turnstiles were being opened. I handed the two halves of the Zep ticket over. Once inside we didn’t make a rush to the front, we were too shell-shocked. There were many people just wandering around – trying to get some air, cooling out. Looking back it was a dangerous situation.Thankfully we all survived to see a memorable show.

Postscript: 13 years later on May 16 1992 I got married. To my right at the alter was my best man Dan – that’s right, the boy from the bus. He even joked in his best man’s speech that he couldn’t remember whether he had paid me back for that Zeppelin Knebworth ticket. A year later I returned the favour at his wedding. And I still don’t think he ever paid me!

 

MY KNEBWORTH

Phil Harris, Milton Keynes

After a day’s work at HMV in Bedford, I drove down to Knebworth on the Friday evening of Aug 3 with the niave idea that I could meet up with my friends Dave Lewis,Tom Locke,and Dec Hickey. (just like that in a crowd of thousands and before mobile phones)!

I was directed to a car park about a mile away so had to carry a large  hold all of beer all the way back. Needless to say, the planned meeting did not take place and as the beer bag was getting heavy I decided to start drinking it! I did bump into a few guy’s from Bedford but decided to return to my car for a nights sleep.

I was woken early the next morning by a guy tapping on the window offering a joint for breakfast ( I think I might have taken a drag or two).The long walk back to arena started with only two cans of beer for the day. As I walked past the main car park almost the first car I saw was the Princess of the aforementioned Mr Locke (so near and yet so far in the dark of the previous evening)

Once inside, I found a strategic seating place for the day as ‘Billy No Mates’ pretty much dead centre to the stage but quite a way back.A bunch of guy’s from Wales were sat in front of me and one of them knocked over a pint of milk on their ground sheet. When they   saw my large sheet of bubble wrap they suggested I joined them and covered their sheet with mine and very generously they said they would look after the drink supply for the day(result). I remember them making numerous trips back to their van and returning with back packs of beer and cider. After a storming gig these guys left before the end to make their way home (sacrilege, surely like walking out before the end of a cup final!).

Then it was the long walk back to the car and even longer escape from the car park, but even without the company of Mr Lewis and Locke etc it had one hell of a day and a half.

MY KNEBWORTH:

Mark Harrison  – Leighton Buzzard

The run of shows at Earls Court in 1975 were a watershed in my life and the first times I got to see the band live. Unfortunately, I had to wait over four years before my path would cross with the best band in the world.

Knebworth was certainly a bigger event in every sense of the word.  Anticipation, for me, seemed even greater this time – having experienced it at Earls court I wanted it again!  The first show was on the Saturday the fourth; I arrived on Friday night to find…bedlam.

What can only be described as a medieval village spread before us.  The gates were already straining under the pressure – gates that were a mile away from the main arena entrance!  There was a long queue running around the perimeter fence, intended to keep people out. We found a hole in this fence, and crawled through it only to be faced with a massive cornfield with a path running through it, which was there for the crowd to use.

Men with dogs were patrolling this field, and searchlights from the main arena shone like a POW camp!  We had to make sure that we had a good view for the show, so we crawled on our hands and knees through the stalks.  We would bump into people coming the other way, all with the same idea.  It struck me that it was like a prison escape, only we were trying to get in, not out! We’d share strategies and game plans, and sometimes we had to stay deathly quiet as a man and dog approached – it was nerve-wracking, I can tell you!

At around 3:00am we figured that we were near enough to the actual entrance of the main arena and settled down for the night as the gates, some 1200 metres behind us, weren’t due to open until 9.00am.  At 4.00am we woke with a start – they had opened the gates early and tens of thousands of people were streaming towards the arena entrance! We panicked and ran across the field in fear of losing our advantage.  In doing so I lost track of all the people I was with, and did not see them again until early Sunday morning.

So there I was at 5.30am on Saturday 4th August in a field. Zeppelin did not appear until 9.40pm that night.  Can you imagine the torture?  The Hell?   It took one hour just to get to the toilets.  All the support acts were superfluous to the main event.  What did break the ice was at about 1.00pm the DJ saying “in about 8 hours time we will hear this”, and
putting on “Rock and Roll”.  The whole field erupted!

By 9.30pm the atmosphere was like a thunderstorm.  At 9.40pm those familiar chords from “The Song Remains The Same” rang out, the curtain went back and instantaneously we
had a picture of Jimmy on the huge video screen.The rest is history.  Most of the show is a blur to me, though I remember at one point during “No Quarter” where everyone wanted to sit down, and I refused – I couldn’t see.  I turned around and shouted “If you lot think I waited four years to see Led Zeppelin and now I’m going to “sit down”, you can fucking forget it!!”.  On hearing this 1,000 people promptly stood up – what a moment! During the actual show it was hard to know what to actually look at – the Band or the screen behind them.
The set washed over me. They were magnificently loud. No one wanted them to leave. The end was very emotional after a revamped “Whole Lotta Love” and the
crowd breaking into football chanting.

MY KNEBWORTH:

Gary Davies, Birmingham

I went to both the August 4 and 11 shows. I remember a whole load of us went down to Stevenage by coach and we were extremely drunk by the time we arrived. Consequently one chap who was with us got off the coach at Stevenage and promptly got himself knocked down by a passing car when he crossed the road. The ambulance arrived and he was quickly taken off to hospital with a broken leg – missing the whole event.

On the night before the first show, some of us set up a camp fire next to the perimeter fence. We were listening to Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show and a huge cheer went up every time he mentioned or played Zeppelin. Very early in the morning we tried to climb over the fence but were chased out by a couple of dogs.

The next week I decided to proceed more cautiously. By that time I felt like a festival regular. When we got to the main area we positioned ourselves by one of the lighting rigs to the right of the stage. Much drinking and merriment was had throughout the day and it didn’t seem to matter that we were quite a way from the stage. It was just a privilege to be there. As night fell the tension mounted. I got talking to one of the guys up the lighting rig and he allowed me to go up and watch one of the bands from there. I remember he traded one of the light blue security T-shirts with Artist services on the front for a swig of my whiskey. I thought maybe I would be able to get backstage with that shirt on. Some hope!

A friend of mine brought along an 8mm cine camera (colour sound) and shot Zeppelin when they came on. He was in a bit of a state and I thought it would be a waste of time filming them amongst the bedlam. Luckily two of the 3-minute films survived and to this day I still see it on collectors lists. It was good to get a rough copy of the pro-shot Aug 11 all those years later. I still think I was the one who started the crowd singing “You’ll never walk alone” on the first gig.

Looking back on it all in now they may not have played perfectly but it was still amazing. At the time I found myself clasping my hands together pleading with the man upstairs not to let Jimmy make any mistakes.Overall though it was an honour to share in the emotion of it all. It became a two-way thing between the band and the audience and that’s something
I’ll never forget as long as I live.

MY KNEBWORTH

Chris Wright

Mesquite, Nevada, USA

My greatest moment as a rock-obsessed teenager has to be when I learned that Zep would be playing Knebworth on August 4th 1979. I think it was announced by Anne Nightingale on the Whistle Test.All I know is that my entire life focus shifted from whatever else was on my mind to getting THE TICKET – and clearly demand was going to outstrip supply.

Years spent watching The Song Remains The Same several times, every time it showed in my home town of Ipswich, had primed me for this moment – the return of the greatest band on the grandest of stages.

I think Sounds (again precise memory deserts me), listed where tickets would be sold and there were two designated locations in Ipswich, including the recently opened Virgin store
(not mega; quite small).So two of my friends and I purposed to queue overnight to be sure of getting on the bottom rung of that Stairway to Knebworth. No internet or phone
booking in those days (thank god, it actually meant that genuine fans got to see the band – no VIP enclosures or golden circles back then).

Actually we needn’t have bothered queuing. While there was huge demand in the major cities, dear old Ipswich only had about a dozen folk who could be bothered to sleep rough on a Sunday night. The other record shop – Harpers I think? – had absolutely no line at all.So that was easy enough. Then came the whole business of getting there. Thanks to my uncle who so kindly volunteered to drop us off on the Friday night and pick us up at a designated location in Stevenage after the gig was over (no he didn’t think it would end so late either, but I think he has forgiven me now).

So we set off hotfoot for the medieval siege re-enactment otherwise known as the official campsite, which to a wet behind the ears kid from rural Suffolk was quite an eye-opener to say the least! Like most everyone else, we then made our way to the inner sanctum of Knebworth, once the fences were inevitably breached at stupid o’clock in the morning.The wait for that concert was excruciating. Taken as a whole, it really was a hopeless support bill compared with other Knebworth’s and made the waiting all the worse. Chas and Dave – hmm… The only diversion being to occasionally visit the “lavatory” to see if alien life forms had been discovered yet – luckily my friends and I were never stuck in a downwind
position…

But like all huge gigs, the boredom and fatigue was soon forgotten as the excitement grew while the sun began to sink. Thanks to Todd Rundgren’s Utopia for waking us all up and, actually, putting on an excellent set majoring on their most recent album release Adventures in Utopia – Last Of The New Wave Riders being a standout track on the night.

Then, as they had apparently done at Bath many years before, Zeppelin arrived on stage at sunset – no-one who was there will ever forget that dramatic first chord of The Song Remains The Same . A supremely exciting moment.Of course, the done thing with nostalgia is to remember how marvelous it all was. In some ways it exceeded expectations; the almost biblical size of the crowd, the anticipation, the drama of the lasers during Jimmy’s violin solo, the sheer enormity of the return of Zeppelin to a stage.

And yet, for me, this show fell short of what I had hoped for musically. I suppose I expected, no, wanted, the bombastic pomp and flash that I so loved in the film, but of course much had happened in the years since the ’75 tour, not least to poor Robert. And Jimmy had his own now well documented set of problems too.

As a concert, Led Zeppelin at Knebworth 1979 was very much a work in progress. Like Dave Lewis, I remember the brand new In the Evening as “a song of hope” as Percy might say. But I think all of the established songs had been performed better in the past and the two years since the 1977 tour had certainly taken their toll.

Of course, as someone once said, Zeppelin at their worst is still better than most groups at their very best, so there was still lots to admire in a set of songs that had become the soundtrack to our lives back then.

The live DVD that came out in 1993 gave us all a very long awaited opportunity to reassess what we had witnessed in that field just outside Stevenage. The weird thing is that the years have been so kind to the performance, especially the outstanding Bonzo/JPJ rhythm section. It all stands up quite well now. Maybe it’s good editing or maybe, as I think is more likely,
the band could never meet the ridiculously high expectations we all had for their comeback.

As it turned out, Knebworth was the final high point in the Zeppelin story – at least until the 02 gig – so the significance of having been there has only grown with time. We were very lucky people. Best £7.50 I ever spent!Looking back now, we can see the true significance of this concert. The quality of the music was, in fact, secondary to the event itself. The whole
business of being there!

Like thousands of others, it was the only time I would see them. Those memories are carried by me everywhere. Memories of a simpler time – perhaps the last great concert of the rock era.

MY KNEBWORTH:

Peter Anderson, Stockport  UK

All these years on from Knebworth – it seems like only yesterday.  Back then I had just turned 18 years old, was fresh out of school having finished A-levels and enduring my first summer job doing shifts in the now long-gone Smiths Crisps factory in Stockport before going on to Birmingham University at the end of that long hot summer (well at least that’s how I remember it).  I hadn’t really discovered Zeppelin in 1975 and wouldn’t have been allowed to go as far a field as Earls Court, so Knebworth was the first chance that myself and my two mates had to see the band.

The imminent arrival of Zeppelin was the cue for me to open my last remaining booze of the day – in those innocent teenage days we’d probably downed no more than a couple of cans of cheap lager each during the day but this was the cue to hit the hard stuff – a bottle of red wine – and that was the start of my chemical-induced Zeppelin experience!  Spurred on by the sheer excitement of the unfolding gig, my intake spiralled out of control and by the time Jimmy Page picked up his violin bow and began his long-anticipated laser-strewn guitar solo I was on another planet.  As far as we were concerned the critics who gave that August 4th show mixed reviews must have also been somewhere else.

As is often the case I don’t really remember particular details, not surprising really, but in my mind it is still that it was probably the most memorable concert of my life – and still the one that I get the most people saying, “Wow, you were actually there for Zeppelin at Knebworth.” But I do recall thinking that the set list was just about perfect with personal highlights being ’Nobody’s Fault But Mine’, ‘Ten Years Gone’, ‘Hot Dog ‘ (yes I mean it), ‘Achilles Last Stand’ and, of course, ‘Rock And Roll’.

By the time the final notes of ‘Heartbreaker’ had died away we were all ready to just lie down and recover but it was only then that our last minute chauffeur announced that we had to leave immediately because he would be in trouble with his girlfriend if he didn’t get back before morning.  So instead of being allowed to gently sleep off the alcohol our young bodies were entirely unused to we were frog-marched on extremely unsteady feet back to the car.  All I remember is feeling that we were completely surrounded by fire, as various campfires had sprung up on the site during and after the show.  I remember the walk back seemed to be along ridiculously narrow paths and involved crossing a wooden bridge over a river that many people just decided to wade across but really it’s all a bit of a blur.

The journey back was a nightmare with our first real hangovers kicking in but it didn’t matter – we were kicked out of the car at about 6am and crawled into bed thinking we had witnessed history.

 

MY KNEBWORTH: Nigel Paling, Woking UK

So long ago, but it’s just like yesterday…

Tickets for the 4th were from an organised trip by Syd Booth’s record store in Mansfield.  I’d come to be given Led Zeppelin II by a mate at the Swimming Club, following my ‘discovery’ of rock via a Budgie gig one Friday night at the Nottingham Playhouse which led to me buying and seeing The Song Remains The Same.   The August 4th gig was absolute magic but alas, the girlfriend fell asleep and dumped me the day after. However I got tickets for the following week from Selectadisc in Nottingham, near what was to become Rock City.  I wanted to do it all over again (“Nottingham – you’ve got a lot going for you up there” as Plant said).

The two gigs tend to blend into one and I can still see/hear Keef getting on stage with the New Barbarians and mumbling “Hullo Knobworth”, (his emphasis not mine!).  Then there was the traffic, catching up with some sleep on the A1 on the return, the party atmosphere, queues for the loos (and that smell!), ‘ice-cream sellers’ with their trays moving amongst the crowd shouting “Hash, hash for sale!” as dusk fell, cat-calls for “Wally”…  it’s all coming flooding back – the dodgy microphone connection (“Not another one?!”), the slightly out-of-sync video (but at least we saw the band smiling), and that purest of all the magic moments that was the ‘Return of Zeppelin’ as ‘White Summer’ faded away: dum di-di-di dum dum dum, dum di-di-di dum dum dum, dum di-di-di dum dum dum …  pause… crash,‘Kashmir’!

The memory of it still brings tears to the eyes.  For me this moment is quintessentially Zeppelin – soft, unplugged and English, segued into power, mystique, atmosphere, and a rhythm that really takes you there, “Let me take you there”… They certainly did that in that field just outside Stevenage thirty years ago.

MY KNEBWORTH

The late Howard Mylett

My memories of Knebworth are of initial disappointment because when I rang the Swan Song office to ask her if there would be any video screens for such a major show they
informed me there were no such plans. On the day I therefore had to try and position myself to avoid seeing an atom sized Led Zeppelin from what seemed a mile away.

I’d spent the night before sleeping in a friend’s estate car, something I’d never recommend to anyone .On the night the music thumped and thundered across the fields

My American visitor Mark Arevalo’s copy of the tape he’d made at the show was to be my souvenir of the event long after the day. Even with its accompanying ring pulls of lager and cries of ‘sit down’ for anyone daring to block the view. On the way home he placed the cassette in the car player and we were instantly transported back to the show. I loved ‘In The Evening and  ‘Kashmir’, overall it was an overwhelming performance and one I would not have missed for the world. I managed to see Zeppelin’s scaled down trimmed back shows at Zurich and Brussels and it was a new and streamlined group – that introductory burst of ‘Train Kept A Rollin’ packed a punch and had us all thumping the air as we always used to as Zeppelin returned triumphantly again.

MY KNEBWORTH:

Pat Mount

The full story of Pat’s Knebworth experience is the single most perspective piece I’ve ever read on the subject of Led Zeppelin at Knebworth – heartwarming, honest and moving…

Like millions of others, I first heard about it on the Old Grey Whistle Test. Led Zeppelin would be playing at Knebworth on Saturday August 4th. Tickets were on sale. I was 20 years old and had never seen Led Zeppelin. It was 1979 and what a lo-tech world we lived in then. I had all the (vinyl) albums, most of them worn out and scratched enclosed in dog eared, nicotine stained sleeves. I had seen Zep ‘move’ in the flesh just once on celluloid by watching ‘The Song Remains the Same’ movie in a freezing seaside cinema with my girlfriend, Tina, who is now my wife. The abiding memory of this cinema experience was listening to two Afghan coated hippy chicks sat behind us comment excitedly at the size of Robert Plant’s ‘bulge’ in his jeans and the seven mile trip home on a double decker bus on which I announced I was certain I had frostbite because I couldn’t feel my feet. No VHS players were available to purchase videos for and replay again and again in those days: that came later.

In 1979 I had only heard one Zeppelin bootleg, a single LP called ‘Blueberry Hill’. A muddy, bottom heavy, poor quality piece it was too. The ‘etiquette’ of bootleg appreciation had not been developed to the levels I would attain in later years. It had its moments but in truth was a disappointing experience. I had read and heard about the bombastic blood, guts and glory of Zeppelin live but at that point had not found any evidence. All I had was their official recorded work to go on and by anybody’s standards, love ‘em or hate ‘em, that was a phenomenal body of work indeed.

In 1979 I played in a band too but I have to own up, if we had booked Knebworth as a venue, we might have sold 50 tickets on a good day. I was also on the dole. So how was I going to raise the cash to buy the tickets? That’s what Mums are for. Puppy dog eyes and the plaintive that missing this event would seriously damage my mental health for the rest of my living days did the trick.

So, that was one ticket sorted then. Tina bought one too. My mate, Pete got one but his girlfriend Lenore didn’t. As I mentioned previously, I played in a band in 1979 and we were due to visit London to tote our demo tape around various record companies in June of that year. ‘Easy’, said my mate Pete, ‘You can get Lenore a ticket when you are down there’. (Please note this is 1979, no internet, no luxury of land line phone at home or mobile gizmo, credit cards were the exclusive property of millionaires and postal orders were still viewed as legal tender. You literally had to camp outside ticket vendor outlets to ensure you bought your right to see the bands you loved). This was swiftly followed by an announcement that all tickets for the 4th of August had sold out and due to unprecedented demand, Zeppelin would play a second gig at Knebworth on August 11th. ‘Looks like you and Lenore are not going to enjoy this together’, I said to my mate, Pete. So, whilst wearing my feet and brain cells out tramping around London having our band’s demo tape rejected by EMI, RCA et al, I spied a small ticket emporium with a home made poster in the window: ‘ZEP KNEBWORTH TICKETS INSIDE’. In I went with Lenore’s crumpled up tenner stashed in my back pocket. ‘Got any tickets for the 4th?’ I asked nervously. ‘You’re a very lucky boy’, came the reply from a Steve Hillage look-alike complete with tea cosy on his head, ‘someone’s just popped in and exchanged his ticket for the 4th for the 11th’. If you’ve ever used the phrase, ‘thank f**k for that’, I developed the patent. How much did it cost for a Led Zeppelin ticket in 1979? The princely sum of £7.50.

By 1979, I’d seen a few bands live in my home town of Bridlington. Nice and easy it was too. A short stroll out of the pub to the ‘Spa Royal Hall’ to witness the following : Status Quo, Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Wishbone Ash, The Police, Hawkwind, Pat Travers, Lindisfarne, Frankie Miller and others, pretty much a pantheon of what would be regarded as ‘Dad Rock’ these days. I’d never been to an ‘Arena’ gig and most certainly never been to an open air festival. Was I and my future wife prepared for the Knebworth experience? In a word, no.

I’m now in my 50’s. The prospect of ‘Camping’ remained a concept that repulsed me until my late 40’s. Camping was for ‘Carry On’ films. Mud, rain and discomfort. I have since been converted to short spells of cohabiting under canvas by my ever enterprising wife who possesses a superior intellect and has used her persuasive talents to get her curmudgeon of a husband to give it a go. In 1979, however, neither of us had gained the wherewithal to prepare for an open air festival. We were young, skint and woefully unprepared.

So how did we get down to Knebworth then? We took the train on the Friday night before the big event from Bridlington, changing at York and then in a straight line all the way down to Stevenage. My memory fails me here but I do remember at each stop the train gradually filled up with inebriated denim clad hairy blokes who would stick their collective heads out of carriage windows whilst the train trundled along at 70mph and yell ‘Zeppelinnnnnnnnn’ in a fashion not too dissimilar to the way Mel Gibson would enunciate ‘Freedom’ in the film ‘Braveheart’ many years later. I had sincere concerns that although these guys and yours truly shared a passion for the same rock group, there was a distinct possibility they might break into our compartment, slit my throat and rape my future wife. First impressions eh? For the record, this didn’t happen.

And what of our preparations for two days and nights in the open air? Please read the following list:

Two bottles of ‘Olde English’ Cider. (Consumed on the train journey down).

One bottle of Cinzano.

Two sleeping bags.

One bin liner to put them all in.

We packed no food or snacks of any description, no water to tackle our thirst in the early August haze and nothing remotely waterproof should an English monsoon occur. This wasn’t a matter of faith in the magical mysticism of Zeppelin, (what could possibly go wrong?), or a reflection of our ‘Northern’ hardiness, just good old fashioned naivety mixed with a dash of pig ignorance.

When we jumped off the train at Stevenage we had no idea where to go so we just followed everyone else. A slight detour was taken at the station prior to joining the pilgrims on foot because we all needed a pee. It was at this juncture I got a preliminary taste of the 70’s festival experience. At festivals today it’s all pristine portaloos in abundance with soap, loo roll and alcohol sanitizer sprays. In 1979 you could elect to queue for what seemed like hours until your bladder burst, piss your pants where you stood, or find a bottle to place your urine in and save it for later to chuck at unsuspecting members of the audience in front of you once you’d finally got into Knebworth Park. I elected to queue. When I finally elbowed my way to the piss pot I couldn’t relax and ‘let it flow’ because I was sharing my space with pleasant but extremely inebriated fellow male Zeppelin fans who thought it might be a good idea to kick me in the middle of my back to help me get on with it. However on reflection, the toilets at Stevenage railway station would seem positively palatial once I’d sampled the delights of the latrines at Knebworth the following day.

And so, once our bladders had been emptied, we followed the throng to Knebworth. This was it! I was going to see Led Zeppelin! Blimey, this was unreal. As we approached the perimeter of the park, there was a life affirming sense of not being alone. My God, it was 1979 and the British music scene was dominated by post punk politicised bands such as The Clash, The Jam, The Fall, and Joy Division. The music press viewed Led Zeppelin as obsolete, self indulgent and disconnected from the youth of the day. Well, this 20 year old looked around in awe at the thousands of tents, cars, vans and a sea of people as far as the eye could see and thought that ‘Never Mind The Bollocks Part 2’ should have been the title of Zep’s imminent new album. Things were looking good. So it wasn’t just me then? There are thousands of us! We found a space literally on the edge of a motorway and laid out our sleeping bags. If I’d rolled over in my sleep, I would have trundled down a steep embankment straight onto the A1 motorway and been flattened by the first vehicle that came along. It was only as the mist cleared after the gig, I realised how close we all were to meeting our maker.

We tried to sleep but it was impossible. The celebrations by the ‘throng’ continued unabated until the wee small hours and then all of a sudden a hush……

Word was out. Pass it on! Some fans have broken down the perimeter fence. The venue’s security guys have decided to open up the turnstiles in the interests of safety. It’s three in the morning. We either get up now and go for it or look forward to memories of Zeppelin in miniature because if we don’t join the stampede we’ll be right at the back of Knebworth Park when we mince in at 9:00am after a leisurely breakfast of Cinzano. So up we get, pack everything into our bin liners and hotfoot it to the entrance. Finally, after handing over our tickets, we are in! You’d think we would have got a prime spot, a place so close to the stage you could crane your neck up and marvel at Robert Plant’s nasal hair growth but this is 1979 and it’s Led Zeppelin’s first gig on home turf since 1975. In my humble estimation, at least 50,000 people beat us to it. At least we were on the brow of the hill…….

August the 4th was a very long day. First the attempt to get some sleep and conserve energy by sleeping on our recently filled bin liners was rudely awakened by the first of five support bands. There were accusations that Zep had played safe with their choice of support acts. No younger ‘rock’ upstarts were on the bill and certainly no hats were tipped to the New Wave generation. Long established, ‘has been’ and old was the theme, the majority of the bands being American. The two exceptions being British folk rockers Fairport Convention who opened proceedings swiftly followed by Cockney impostors Chas and Dave. Both acts survived, that’s all I can remember except for the shower of cans and bottles thrown at Chas and Dave. In their defence, C&D stoically continued and won over members of the audience who were awake at that time with some clever smart ass patter. The following bands are a blur. Commander Cody? Or was it the Marshall Tucker Band? I’m buggered if I can recall. Then there was the Springsteen ‘lite’ Southside Johnny and his Asbury Jukes. They almost had a residency on the Old Grey Whistle Test at that time and having watched them ad nauseum on TV, I thought they were distinctly underwhelming. As ‘Underwhelmers’ go, they delivered in spades at Knebworth.

It was hot and muggy. The day was punctuated by plagues of Greenfly who crawled onto your exposed skin parts in successive waves. We were thirsty and I needed a pee. I would not recommend Cinzano as a rehydrating fluid. So as I needed to take a leak, I was nominated to bring back four cans of coke. (Not the nose numbing chemical variety). Design of communal rock festival toilets in 1979 were, let’s just say, infantile. Dig a big square hole in a field and put wooden toilets in a row on top, divide male and female by a canvas screen and Bob’s your uncle. Getting there was another challenge as the toilets were situated right at the back of the park. I used a flagpole as a mental marker to find my way back and stepped tentatively on approximately 90,000 people as I weaved slowly towards the back of the field. To this day I have never understood the need for the organisers of the gig to waste money on signs giving direction to the toilets: all you had to do was follow your nose. The stench was gut churning. I was only taking a pee but the sight of turds dropping into the pit from adjoining ‘traps’ was like a Biblical painting of Hades and as I bravely pointed Percy I half expected some horrific Orc to rise up out of the brown, bubbling slime and drag me down under.

Job done, (no pun intended), I sidled down the edge of the park in search of cold fizzy pop. To cut a long story short, I purchased four cans of luke warm Coca-Cola for the ‘Knebworth Festival’ cut price bargain of 75p each. That’s three quid. Now considering the ticket for the privilege of seeing Led Zeppelin and five support acts cost £7.50, I got it into my head we could probably book Todd Rundgren to play at our local pub for just one crate of the stuff. Now where’s that flag so I can find my way back? ‘F**k me, there’s hundreds of ‘em. Yeah, but mine is a skull and crossbones. There are hundreds of those too! Well, don’t panic, just aim for the brow of the hill. ‘Sorry, Sorry!’ I exclaimed as I stood on 90,000 people on the way back. By some miracle I found Tina, Lenore and Pete and collapsed onto my bin liner. ‘This Coke’s warm’, said Pete. ‘F**k off’, I replied.

If you’re the guy that got married on Saturday August the 4th and thought it would be a good idea after your wedding reception to take yourself and your bride in full white regalia to see Led Zeppelin at Knebworth, I apologise in advance for my account of your story. The problem is my friend; you were very drunk and as a consequence a tiny bit stroppy. Why you picked me out of the entire crowd as the best candidate to ‘kiss the f**king bride’ will always remain a mystery to me. Because you were a little bit scary, I declined your offer at first. Nevertheless your powers of persuasion made me change my mind. You may not remember this, but you were decidedly unimpressed with my negative response and resolved the issue by dragging me up onto my feet and pushing my head in the direction of your wife’s face. ‘Kiss my wife’ you insisted. And so I did. And then you let go of me and smiled the sweetest smile before making your way down to the front of the stage. God bless you and I hope you enjoyed the gig.

The sun was beginning to set and Todd Rundgren resplendent in a yellow banana suit took the stage with his band Utopia. I’d heard of Todd but wasn’t expecting the prog rock wig out that followed. I thought we were going to get heartfelt piano led ballads and ‘I Saw the Light’ as an encore. What we got was the first full on ROCK band of the day performed by four virtuosos. They livened the whole day up and got an encore for their efforts. Todd was witty, articulate, a tremendous singer and very sharp on the guitar. The rest of the band, Kasim on bass, Roger on keyboards and Willie on Drums were equally entertaining and shortly after Knebworth I purchased my first Utopia record. The first of many. In a sentence, I became a fan of all things Toddness.

Finally, it’s dark. We know this is it. The crowd is restless. The delay between Utopia and what we hope will be Zeppelin morphs into collective Chinese water torture. Drip….drip……drip. ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd is playing over the P.A system and then suddenly it fades out. What follows is the biggest roar I’ve ever heard from a crowd: an enormous outpouring of love and emotion from thousands of the devoted. Four figures can just be discerned moving into position on stage and that roar gets even louder; it’s thunderous, it’s a true celebration of a hastily assembled bunch of strangers in a field suddenly united in the emotional reward for ‘keeping the faith’. When I listen to this moment on bootleg recordings, it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It’s a ‘bloke’ thing really, and yes there are far more important things in life and yes, I was to be blessed with greater and far more cherished moments in later times but this was 1979, I was 20 years old and reasonably untarnished by the trials and tribulations of what follows by breathing in and out for a further 30 or so years and as a consequence, that ‘moment’ will always remain magical. It’s a ‘freeze frame’, a ‘still’ picture that can be recalled on a whim. It makes your heart beat faster. It makes you feel good. It’s Led Zeppelin for Christ’s sake!

 

Kerrang! That was Jimmy Page. A ‘D’ chord. Drrang, Drrang! A couple more very loud strokes. The Knebworth throng was going nuts. The stage is pitch black. Four or five repetitive snare drum hits cracked through the August night air. Unmistakable. Nobody on earth sounded like that. It was John Bonham. Then all hell broke loose. Jimmy Page launched into the intro to ‘The Song Remains the Same’ and the stage lit up. Wooof! In came Bonham and John Paul Jones. I got up from a crouched position onto my knees to get a better view and to my delight a large video screen at the back of the stage flickered into life. So we are on a brow of a hill somewhere near Stevenage in a field watching Led Zeppelin and if you need dimensions, the rear stage video screen afforded us the luxury of being able to expand what would have been a view of Jimmy, Robert, John Paul and John from approximately 1 inch tall to about 12 inches. ‘Sit down you tw*t’, came the clarion call from the assembled behind me. And so I did as a full can of Carlsberg lager flew two centimetres wide of my right ear.

I promise not to gush. I promise not to follow with a track by track analysis. What follows is an honest recollection of how I felt as the gig unfolded. It’s not all sweetness and light, I can tell you; even at the age of 20 I could surmise that my favourite rock group of all time were a little rusty, overwhelmed by the enormity of the occasion and gingerly dipping their collective toes back into playing live after a break of two years. Colour in a background of being despised as ‘Dinosaurs’ by the rock press cognoscenti, Led Zeppelin were fully primed to take a fall and have it magnified in print as soon as the first bum note or missed cue rang out into the dank and dusty air that night at Knebworth. Led Zeppelin were initially self conscious and totally lacking in that unique camaraderie of yore. There were bum notes and missed cues as well as technical problems. There was a complete lack of bass guitar in the front P.A system for the first two numbers. Zeppelin literally motored through the opening songs, ‘The Song Remains the Same’ and ‘Celebration Day’. They were flying on pure adrenalin but lacked the confident swagger of days gone by. Easy for me to say, isn’t it?

We expect so much of our rock heroes but the myth of Led Zeppelin was peeled away, layer by layer, as the evening faded into night. It was clear that these four ‘Rock’ icons were actually human after all.

Jimmy Page was painfully thin in baggy pants and a button over shirt topped off with neat shoulder length hair. When he played his Les Paul guitar, it was hung waist high not below his knees. He tiptoed around the stage and on occasions stayed rooted to the spot. His early guitar solos lacked fluidity. It was early doors but I couldn’t help thinking my favourite guitar player needed to pull some rabbits out of the hat to reinforce what had been up to that moment my unswerving belief in his untouchable greatness. I was a worried young man. To my relief a hat and a few rabbits were produced out of thin air later in the set.

Robert Plant looked like Robert Plant. The blonde ‘mane’ was intact. He looked lean and fit and his youthful face defied recent tragic events in his personal life. The voice was in great form. It cut through the distorted high octane rendition of the opening song like a diamond. Robert’s voice ricocheted out of the P.A and the delay towers in the arena with a clarity that belied his later confessions of nerves and doubt. He remained ‘chummy’ throughout the entire gig; He was self effacing and avoided the longer hippy inspired ‘between song’ introductions of the past. At Knebworth, Robert Plant was the kid from Kidderminster genuinely moved and grateful for the sea of people in front of him willing him and his band on.

John Paul Jones came dressed for a wedding in a white suit. Just for once, his hair was longer than Jimmy Page’s. He played like a trooper but then again, he was incapable of doing anything else. It’s in his DNA. John Paul Jones doesn’t do crap gigs. The other three? Maybe, but not Jonesy. He was beset by technical problems early on but floored me with his endurance on bass guitar throughout ‘Achilles Last Stand’. How on earth did he keep that pace up for the duration?

And finally, John Bonham. I was actually seeing and hearing John Bonham. That’s it really. He was a ‘big’ man then, a bit of a ten bellies but sat behind that drum kit he was an inspiration. It’s hard to put into words. The only way I can explain it is that ‘what you hear’ is not ‘what you see’. The totally unique ‘Bonzo’ sound live was undermined by the seemingly relaxed style he would hit his drum kit. What you heard was the Thunder of The Gods, what you saw was an economy of movement, no arms in the air thrashing wildly, no theatrics or drumstick twirling just a man hunched over his Ludwig ensemble making comparatively small upper limb movements to produce such a massive sound.

My favourite song of all time is ‘Black Dog’. The studio version on Led Zeppelin IV that is. It is a strange amalgam of the call and response American Blues tradition with the ‘impossible’ hi-tech riff written by John Paul Jones. Pagey is still mistakenly credited with this riff’s creation to this day. I haven’t finished yet. Plant’s searing vocal is set back in an unworldly wash of repeat echo, the lyrics firmly set in testosterone injected aspic. Bonham’s drums play right through the mayhem in ‘f**k you’ 4/4 time and then suddenly not, like the proverbial bull in a china shop. And finally, that guitar sound, that guitar harmony and that guitar solo at the end.

So, here I am at Knebworth in 1979 and Zeppelin choose to play my favourite song of all time as the third song in their set. Do you know what? It was fine. The sound problems had been ironed out and after a quick false intro of ‘Out On the Tiles’, Led Zeppelin truly hit their stride. ‘Hey Hey Mama’ was all it needed. If we had been watching in a house instead of a field, it would have been brought down emphatically by the noise made by the crowd at the end of this song. The band had relaxed considerably and the ‘swagger’ was back. Robert Plant teased us into joining in during the ‘Ah Ah’ refrain and hit a high note which must have been picked up by strays at Battersea Dog’s home. I turned and looked at my girlfriend Tina with a face that said, ‘did you see and hear that?’ She squeezed my hand affectionately as all women do that will never understand football, Meccano and men but felt obliged to offer encouragement. When will I ever grow up……

I’m euphoric now. Pagey’s back in my good books and Zeppelin are cooking on gas. ‘Nobody’s Fault but Mine’ follows. The intro is thin compared to the ‘Presence’ studio album version but once Bonham and Jonesy crash in, there’s no looking back. The false stops in the song are punctuated with roars from the crowd. Plant is soaring, guttural and shaking the sound system, Pagey is dancing, ducking and diving and looking like he’s actually enjoying himself – it’s Led Zeppelin at full throttle. Bang! The ‘Cosmic Energy’ indeed.

What followed was a seemingly long and lacklustre period of the set. The compactness and hard hitting rock and roll overload of ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Nobody’s Fault’ was wasted as a succession of elongated work outs followed. Renditions of ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’, ‘No Quarter’, ‘Ten Years Gone’ gave the young buck music journalists of the day the perfect opportunity to seize on Zeppelin’s penchant for self indulgence and with some justification. The performance was laboured and stretched out. Page’s guitar solos were scratchy and tired. The man was struggling to find the effortless virtuosity of the past and when the video screen showed shots of his face you could see the struggle going on up there in real time. We were provided with a ‘tea break’ when Zeppelin introduced us to a ditty off their imminent new album called ‘Hot Dog’. As they launched into what can be only described as an up tempo Country and Western pastiche, I was filled with horror. My God, if this was deemed by the band as a worthy advert for the new record, what’s the rest of it going to sound like?

Tea break over, back on your heads lads! ‘The Rain Song’ followed. It was an eerily ‘quiet’ version with John Paul Jones holding it together on keyboards. Page was out of it now, it was like he’d got the guitarist’s equivalent of footballer’s cramp; he was sweating profusely and grinding every note out making the whole song look like it required a superhuman effort. Compared to his silky performance of the same number in the film ‘The Song Remains the Same’, this was below par, almost painful to watch.

Ok, it’s just me right? Well, at the time, each song Zeppelin performed at Knebworth was received with tumultuous applause and Viking like battle cries. The assembled throng gave absolutely no indication of being dissatisfied with Led Zeppelin’s performance throughout the entire set. I guess, in context, this was a big night for all of us because the majority were seeing and hearing Led Zeppelin live for the first time. This was a BIG occasion, schoolboy stuff really, something you could tell your kids about in later life. One thing was sure to happen after August 4th 1979, I would bump into people much later in life who would proudly proclaim, ‘I was THERE’. And I have, many, many times. I still have to own up being mildly disappointed sat in that field that night, granted, there were moments of sky scraping greatness but these were few and far between. It was the spirit of the age you see, and Led Zeppelin were sacrificing themselves at the altar of Punk Rock and New Wave; ironic really as ‘Are Friends Electric’ by Gary Numan had just topped the charts and as a consequence would put the new impostors on the back burner as every young musician of the day would trade in their guitars for a synthesiser. And over the pond, ‘ROCK’ was still a big hitter, the latest platinum selling rock band was Van Halen who at that point had released just two albums, the problem was their guitarist, Edward Van Halen, sounded like the second coming and totally turned the sound of the rock guitar on it’s head. He made Jimmy Page sound like Bert Weedon. Led Zeppelin just weren’t READY in August 1979. Hindsight has proved this but as a 20 year old watching my heroes in the flesh that night I didn’t know any of this, only that they weren’t as good as I thought they were going to be. There, I’ve said it, I feel better now. And do you know what? Led Zeppelin are still my favourite band and do you know why? Because as a collector of their unauthorised recordings in my later years I have found plenty of evidence to reinforce my belief that Led Zeppelin were a truly great live experience. It’s just a darn shame I didn’t witness it in person.

Back on your heads lads. Jimmy sits on a stool with his Dan Electro guitar and begins to play ‘White Summer’ and ‘Black Mountain Side’. It’s a ‘struggle’ again as various fluffed notes and pregnant pauses demonstrate that Pagey is not at the top of his form. As he plays the last Coda of ‘Black Mountain Side’, Mr. Page stands up and we are bathed in white light as the whole band crash into ‘Kashmir’. The air is absolutely fizzing with electricity as Bonzo’s phased drums blast out into the night accompanied by Jonesy’s keyboard orchestra. Page looks relaxed again and provides us with a big Cheshire Cat grin and Plant steps up to the microphone, hands on hips and lets rip. Sky scraping greatness is upon us. It is a truly masterful performance and my faith is restored. I look at my girlfriend, Tina and she looks back with a ‘yeah, I know, yes I did just see and hear that’ expression. Magic.

‘Please don’t dip now guys’, I thought as ‘Kashmir’ blew us away and they didn’t. John Paul Jones hit the clavinet keys and ‘Trampled Underfoot’ began in earnest. The song’s punchy and relentless power was topped off by Robert Plant totally in his zone singing with assured confidence. ‘This is what Zep are about’, I thought as I took another glance at Tina. ‘’Yeah, I know’, was the response in her smile. Zeppelin didn’t let up. ‘Sick Again’ was powerful and a return to the short, sharp shock songs Zep could deliver with aplomb. Plant was throwing shapes now and had overcome the previous ‘toe dipping’ with a full on dive into unabashed rock preening and pouting, Page was now totally relaxed and grooving and peeled off a vintage solo and Bonham and Jonesy were totally locked together. The outro was orgasmic with Page pulling rabbits out of that hat with reckless abandon and Plant giving us the echo laden ‘aaaaahs’ we craved. I looked at Tina, ‘Yeah I f**king know, now pick your jaw up from the floor and just enjoy it!’ was the unspoken message written on her beautiful face.

‘Achilles Last Stand’ was next. John Paul Jones and John Bonham were a revelation. The speed of the performance beggared belief. Jonesy chugged through the entire thing on bass with breakneck consistency. I half expected him to be carried off by a team of hyperventilating paramedics once he’d finished. Page sweated his way through it all and managed to pull it off with panache. The fact that the studio version was heavily layered with guitar overdubs was ‘nay problem’, Page just did ‘em all on one friggin’ Les Paul – well it seemed like that, anyway. Plant was majestic, hitting the high notes with ease.

John Henry Bonham. There are no superlatives I can find for the man for his performance on ‘Achilles’ that night. He’s just the best. Period.

I didn’t look at Tina – ‘Football, Meccano and Men’ came to mind…..

The Guitar Solo:

Now it was time for Jimmy Page’s solo spot. In a word, unremarkable. First came a gizmo driven octave divider effect. Up and down went a distorted chord sound with Pagey waving his arms in unison to the rise and fall of the lo-tech effect. Then the violin bow was produced to huge roars from the crowd. Now, if you are one of the few people on earth who can listen to the 23 minute version of ‘Dazed and Confused’ on the ‘Song Remains the Same’ live album and enjoy it to the max, it’s back to mine for drinks and we’ll crank it up on the Hi-Fi. What was good about that version was the sonic width and power of the bowed section coupled with the menace and eeriness of its delivery; in audio terms it was Widescreen guitar psychedelia. At Knebworth, the violin bow section was like fingernails on a blackboard, lacking bite and to be brutally honest, a veritable toe curler. If Eddie Van Halen had jumped on stage at that point and ripped into ‘Eruption’ you would have had to ask James Patrick Page to see you after class. ‘Must try harder, James’. Finally, Jimmy’s violin bow produced a laser beam from its tip and within seconds he was bathed under a rotating laser pyramid as he bashed out echo laden chords to the delight of everyone. It kind of worked, folks, but the majority of it was excruciating. Having thrilled me to bits with his solos in ‘Sick Again’ minutes earlier, Jimmy looked pedestrian during his solo spot. I was back to being ‘mildly disappointed’ again.

A drone like sound from John Paul Jones’s keyboard rung out and Plant enunciated the words ‘In the Evening’. Pow! The ‘Cosmic Energy’ was restored as Zeppelin introduced another track from their imminent new album. The nightmare of the previous rendition of ‘Hot Dog’ was instantly erased by this barnstormer of a song. Thank God for that! Zep haven’t gone ‘Country’ after all! This was trademark stuff with a nod to the new ‘keyboard’ technology of the time but underpinned by Bonzo’s thunder and Page’s swooping guitar riff. The song was received by all like an old friend.

Ok, it’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ time. In 1979 this song had already picked up some momentum as something you shouldn’t be allowed to like. It was dripping with ‘Hippy’ sentimentality. It had absolutely nothing to do with Thatcher’s Britain. We we’re all on the dole for Christ’s sake and were being force fed ‘If the Kid’s are United’ by Sham 69. Well, at least it felt that way to me. Robert Plant would disown ‘Stairway’ in later years. Why? It’s a great song, period. I like it. Now take me to the gallows (pole) for my sins. I’ve tried to set the scene for Led Zeppelin at Knebworth in 1979, a great band who had produced great music loved and cherished by people all over the world. Their 1976 movie depicted the group in splendid mansions surrounded by the green fields of Britain. I didn’t get pissed off when I saw this, it was something to aspire to. Rock and Roll money grabbing excess? No, not really, just a band who toured endlessly with an astute manager who ensured they got paid their dues. However, they were swimming against the tide of a musical revolution, but this time round, the anarchic punk ethic was to dismiss entirely any music that had been made before 1976. Well, that didn’t ring true with this 20 year old. That kind of ethic was too narrow a criteria to subscribe to. How on earth do we evolve if we don’t look back and take out the good bits and move forward? Who’s in charge anyway? The public are. They’ll decide what they like, not the NME, Melody Maker or Rolling Stone. And hey! I’m 20 years old you fuckwits, so how the hell can I be ‘passé’ at such a young age?

If you’ve got this far, you’ve read an honest appraisal of my favourite rock group playing live and it’s not viewed through rose tinted glasses. Zeppelin were bad in places but inspirational in others. The so called revolutionary musicians of the time would morph into obscurity in latter years or change tack to survive. The Sex Pistols made one of the greatest ROCK albums of all time with ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’. It was a fantastic record. I purchased it in 1977 and because the cover of the record was seen as offensive by the authorities, it was presented to me in my local record shop from under the counter in a brown paper bag. The next record I bought in a brown paper bag was two years later. It was called ‘In Through the Out Door’ by Led Zeppelin.

Oh, by the way, ‘Stairway to Heaven’ live at Knebworth 1979 was magnificent.

Led Zeppelin left the stage to tumultuous applause, whoops and howls from 200,000 people. The overwhelming emotion I had was singular; it was good to have them back. Zeppelin’s reappearance as a live act was a comfort zone, a warming reassurance that rock music’s original pioneers still had a place somewhere in our firmament and that, hopefully, there might be some more pioneering to come. ‘Thank God for that’, I thought and on this sentiment I felt that the ‘kids were united’ at Knebworth Park that night, so much so, they burst into a repeat chorus of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Now, I’ve never been to Anfield football ground and stood in the Kop end but I guess after August 4th 1979, I wouldn’t really need to in order to gain a comparison of overt hero worship. It’s a ‘bloke’ thing, really, part two.

After a seemingly endless interval, Led Zeppelin returned to the stage and were received with a roar almost as spine tingling as the assembled throng’s cacophony at the beginning of their set. Robert Plant was speechless for once. Page, Bonham and Jonesy looked genuinely humbled. So this was the cocky, arrogant, ‘lock up your daughters’, TV smashing, narcissistic, coke snorting, money grabbing, groupie abusing, 70’s most over hyped rock and roll band lapping it up before being whisked off to their musk scented, candle lit harems in search of top grade heroin and good times? Not exactly, just four very human beings looking extraordinarily relieved they’d survived an evening with their harshest critics and who may they be? Their fans, of course……

The rest is a blur. Bonzo crashed into the intro of ‘Rock And Roll’ and that ‘roar’ wafted over my head in waves and bounced around the arena. Zeppelin were relaxed now, almost sloppy but they didn’t care and neither did we. It was like the fab four had just got their exam results with mixed grades but f**k it, they had all passed! See you at the end of term party, guys!

‘Whole Lotta Love’ rang out. Delirium. At this point, after being awake for the best part of two days and being severely undernourished, the ‘other fab four’, namely yours truly, Tina, Pete and Lenore decided to cut and run. Fatigue had set in. We were cold and damp and absolutely knackered. We wanted to find a spot to place our collective bin liners before the ‘mad rush’ and try to get some sleep before catching the train home in the morning. I got up and said, ‘Ok, let’s go’, half expecting Robert Plant to stop the band and demand a civil answer to the question of why we were the only four people who had decided to leave out of 200,000 before they had finished their set. We were not alone. Thousands of like minded souls were making their exit. We left the perimeter of Knebworth Park to the strains of ‘Heartbreaker’ echoing through the delay towers.

It seemed to take an age to get back to ‘our spot’. Curiously, everyone who attended Knebworth that night seemed to stick to an unspoken, democratic rule of returning to the place where they had slept the night before. Easy, if you’d got a tent or a vehicle of any description to navigate back to but not so straightforward if your boudoir was a patch of grass next to a steep decline onto the A1 motorway. By some strange miracle, we found our patch and collapsed in four separate heaps.

The morning after came quickly. I remember waking up in a thick dawn mist and peering out of my sleeping bag. My head was trapped in the lats of a wooden fence and I had fresh cobwebs on my forehead. I struggled to get my stiff bones working and eventually stood up to discover we were all inches from falling down an embankment onto the A1 motorway. In blind panic I thought it might be a good idea to wake everyone up. This noble and chivalrous concern to alleviate Tina, Pete and Lenore from being a statistic of Knebworth’s chronic breach of Health and Safety regulations resulting in them being crushed to death by the next Edwin Shirley truck on the inside lane of the A1 resulted in my decision to prod them all with a stick found nearby. My ‘noble chivalry’ was greeted with a collective early dawn chorus of ‘F**k off, you wing nut’.

After a hearty breakfast of Benson and Hedges King Size all round, we set off for Stevenage Railway Station.

The train home was a ‘British Rail’ commuter train called a ‘125’. This was a proud reference to its top speed of 125mph. In real terms, British train users would refer to its name as being a reflection of the train’s tardiness; at the very least, 125 minutes late. For the record, the train arrived on time. For the record, it was jam packed with well dressed, affluent folks blissfully unaware that, once the train pulled in at Stevenage, each carriage would fill up with exhausted, greasy haired oiks looking for a seat to park their bums in: problem was, there weren’t any.

Our choice was stark and simple. Once on the train, sit down in the aisle or get off and wait for the next one. We sat in the aisle. Tina curled up in what was hilariously in those days called a ‘luggage compartment’. Actually, it was the triangular shaped void between every bank of seats that faced each other separated by a table. Tina crawled in, curled up, her eyes closed and it was ‘night, night, make sure the bugs don’t bite’. She was so still, I’d thought she’d stopped breathing, so in the interests of ‘Health and Safety’, I woke her up just to check everything was ok. You can guess the rest………

(She was breathing, alright).

Oh, and another thing, we saw Tina’s school friends, Ty Williamson, Rich Balarkas and Steve Bradley at the station! Big deal, eh? Well, yes actually, if you figure out the probability factor of:200,000 against 3.

Steve Bradley would end up singing in my band for a short period in 1981 after I’d nicked him from ‘Zeppophile’ guitarist Rich Balarkas. Ty Williamson would become a dear friend of mine and we would co-write many songs together years later in the 90’s! We remain in touch to this day united by our mutual appreciation of Jimmy Page and all things Zeppelin and more.

Electric Magic, indeed………..

I leave you with this photo of yours truly, probably trying to blank out Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes in the middle of a field on August the Fourth, 1979.

Impressive bin liner though……..

 

MY KNEBWORTH:

Dave Lewis, Bedford

The announcement of Knebworth was my first (and certainly not last) experience of the perils of magazine deadlines. I’d wrapped TBL 2 in the first week of May. Repeated calls to Swan Song had revealed nothing in the way of gig news in that early Spring. They were being tight lipped about any thing at that time. Under the headline “No news is bad news” I stated that Swan Song have no details to reveal on gigs or the new album. Adding that “Surely it can’t be too long before something is decided”.

Indeed it wasn’t. Copies of that primitive TBL were still being despatched when the announcement came. And where was I went it came through? – in the pub! Tuesday night was football training followed by a drink in the local. When I got home after 11pm that night my dad mumbled to me that “Your group has been mentioned on the programme that has that whispering man on”.

Anxious to find out exactly what was going on I called fellow TBL crew member Tom Locke who luckily knew the details. During that evening’s edition of The Old Grey Whistle Test Annie Nightingale had announced that Led Zeppelin were to top this year’s Knebworth Festival in August.

This was truly momentous news causing little sleep that night. In the morning I called Swan Song and sure enough the details were confirmed. The music press duly announced the event – the NME deployed the biggest news headline I’d ever seen them use to proclaim “Zep Are Back”.

I was actually a little surprised they had decided on Knebworth and just mildly disappointed that it was to be only one show and not a tour. Plus the sheer size of Knebworth would make it quite difficult to see them in anything like close proximity. Still, as Peter Grant would tell me years later, if they were still the best band in the world what better way to prove it than by playing to the biggest audience possible.

The next quest of course was the tickets. Nowadays tickets for a major festival are available on a variety of websites online or at the dial of the credit card booking number. Not so back then. There was a mail order facility but the TBL Bedford crew needed to be certain. Tickets were going on sale at various Harlequin Record shops across the country from Sunday June 3. After a Saturday night pub crawl, Tom, Dec and I made the trip to Cambridge to stake out at the Bridge Street location of Harlequin (incidentally, many years later the shop traded as Our Price and then V Shop the retail outlet I worked for). When we arrived at 2am there were about 60 fans already camped out. I got around three hours sleep, woke with a raging hangover, sold a few TBL’s and waited anxiously in line for the 10am opening. The tickets themselves were a superb design – it was great to come away with something so tangible to the event – not like the computer printed designs of many of today’s tickets.

The following Saturday, June 9, I listened excitedly to Radio One’s afternoon Rock On show. They aired the first Robert Plant interview for two years conducted by Trevor Dann backstage at a Dave Edmunds gig. His statement that “Heroes were in books… old books” could have come down on a stone tablet from Mount Olympus such was its impact on this particular junior TBL editor. Knebworth was going to be the big one.

In the weeks leading up to it, events hurtled along… various changes of bill: Out went Dire Straits, Joni, Van Morrison, Marshall Tucker. In came Commander Cody, Todd Rundgren etc. A second date was added (we got tickets by mail order for that), the new album, as yet untitled, was scheduled for release around the time of the shows. I had planned a pre-Knebworth TBL3 but decided to wait until after the gigs. I had a flyer to distribute at the shows using South Bound Suarez as the likely title for the album – I’d got the track listing of the album and had a hunch that may be the eventual title – I was wrong!

So it was we found ourselves in front of the stage in a pretty deserted Knebworth arena on the morning of Thursday August 2nd. The game plan for the TBL Crew being to get there early (three days early!) and stake out for the soundcheck and get the best possible spot in the arena for the show.

Sounds simple enough but it was not to go entirely to plan. The early copies of NME, Sounds, Melody Maker and Record Mirror were on sale in Stevenage – all carried major Zep stories. In this Internet driven instant communication ’90’s age it will come as some surprise that this was the first I’d heard about them playing two warm up dates in Copenhagen the week before. Swan Song had given nothing away on that one – curses! If I’d known I would have made an effort to get over there, thus keeping up with my new found principle – if they’re playing somewhere, anywhere, I want to be there!

“I wonder what on earth they’ll be wearing?” enquired Dec during one of our speculative pre-gig conversations. A hint was on hand with the first publication of the official Knebworth photo call shot in the NME. And hey, they looked cool… somehow contemporary and looking well ready for action.

We were able to see just how Robert looked when by sheer chance we happened to be at the Knebworth house car park when he drove in for the soundcheck at 6pm. He asked us the way to the backstage area. We duly obliged wishing him well. He looked on top form with his hair styled in a way that made him look younger. Bonzo sped in soon after.

At this point things went a bit pear-shaped for us. We must have looked a bit too conspicuous hanging around by the stage. We were asked by JB – one of the key Zep security man to leave the arena while they tested the PA. Everyone, bar officials and the crew were also asked to leave. So it was we heard only a muffled version of the soundcheck from a few fields away. It was then into Stevenage for a much needed drink and an overnight sleep in the car.

Friday was just incredible. Watching the camp site gradually fill up was just awe inspiring. All those people who had come so far… all here for one group. Repeated chants of “Zeppelin, Zeppelin” filled the air. When Tommy Vance played The Rover as part of his Knebworth serenade Friday Rock Show a tremendous roar went around the site. I can still remember the feeling of immense pride as if it were yesterday.

Originally the gates were due to open at 8.30am. As it was around 3am the fences began to go down and a huge crush developed around the turnstiles. We hastily picked up our gear and ran to the barriers. Looking back now in this post Hillsborough era of crowd control, there could have been a major disaster at the front of the crush similar to the 1989 soccer ground tragedy. I for one was feeling the strain down the front and had to be pulled out by a security guard. It was a frightening experience. Thankfully the turnstiles opened and we were able to run down to a very strong vantage point near the front of the stage.

I do remember one rather unfortunate mishap in the drama to get in. I somehow lost the bag of leaflets I’d got prepared to hand out – missing out on informing 200,000 potential subscribers of this new found platform of communication. Oh well. Dent’s Road would never have coped with the rush of post!

From there on much of my Knebworth memories have been well chronicled in TBL3 and The Final Acclaim book. That particular review earned me the rose tinted glasses label from Sounds writer Hugh Fielder. Looking back now it was incredibly gushing in it’s praise but let’s face it, we were mere kids really and to see your favourite group and in that sort of setting… well it made an amazing impression. I stand by what I wrote back then – it was some of my most passionate prose and to understand all that, well, you really you had to be there.

Be there when that screen flashed on and that opening chord of The Song Remains The Same cried out. I taped the show on my cumbersome Phillips portable – unfortunately the batteries ran out by half way through but I still have the first part, that tape captures our manic excitement as they came on including Tom bellowing “They’re on the fucking stage!!!” If I ever need to explain why it meant so much to anyone, well, one listen to that moment they came on as captured on this old Memorex tape would surely go some way to demonstrating the effect it had on their audience at the time.

Little did I realise that years later that same Phillips portable would capture the voice of Peter Grant as he told me personally what he thought of that period and many more in the two days I spent interviewing him.

And be there when that shot of laser light exploded from Page’s violin bow, the incredible drama of In The Evening, the first inkling of the new Led Zeppelin… and of course, there to hear that “It’s been like a kind of blind date” Plant’s speech before Stairway… and be there when we all erupted into You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

“Thanks for eleven years.”

Then it was all back for a repeat performance the next week. The ensuing days inbetween found me on a high comparable to that Indian summer week of May 17 to 25 four years earlier. We didn’t go down on the second date until early on the Saturday morning – again after a night of Friday night revelry. We still managed to get fairly close to the front. The day was slightly marred by the endless delays between acts and the long wait for the New Barbarians. There was less anticipation than the previous week, although they and us were a lot more relaxed. Whilst not carrying quite the same emotional highs as the first date it was a hugely enjoyable show rounded off by a vibrant Communication Breakdown. Plant’s final comments as he left the stage are etched in my mind for all time

.“We’ll see you again soon… very soon. I don’t know about the Marquee, but somewhere soon.”

As we exited from the field in under the Hertfordshire moonlight little did we know that we had just witnessed Led Zeppelin’s UK Swan Song.

When I got back to Bedford an advance tape (thanks Russ!) of the album awaited. The excitement did not let up for months…years…decades…

Looking back 42 years on there’s no doubt in my mind that that whole summer of 1979 was one of the best times of my life.

…………….

…and a view from across the water by Larry M. Bergmann Jr, Arlington USA

The past 34 years and all of its ups and downs notwithstanding, there is no denying the awesome power of Led Zeppelin at Knebworth.  As we’ve touched on, the emergence of the official DVD as well as both full shows on bootleg leaves it all there for anyone who have an interest.  But forget the video footage for a moment…listen to the audio of the gig…at the beginning of the August 4th tape, the audio picks up before the stage lights have gone down, and the crowd is hearing ‘Tuesday’s Gone’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd being played over the PA.  As the song fades and the lights go down, the deafening, monstrous and passionately heartfelt roar of the fans as Led Zeppelin takes the stage tells the tale.

Those thousands of fans in that field, on that night in 1979 understood……  And all the fans, old and new, thirty years on still do today. Tuesday may be gone…but Saturday remains the same…

And finally….

The folk you bump into at Knebworth!

”Which way to the stage?”

The afternoon of August 2 1979 – Robert Plant arriving at Knebworth House in search of the stage area ready to perform a soundcheck with Led Zeppelin…having already been in the vicinity a few hours I was able to show him the way…just another TBL service…

 

Above text ( aside from Pat Mount’s account) extracted from the book Then As It Was Led Zeppelin At Knebworth 1979 

One More Knebworth story to note…

Led Zeppelin at Knebworth cover feature in the May issue of Rock Candy magazine:

Issue 26 of Rock Candy magazine published last May has a major feature written by yours truly on Led Zeppelin at Knebworth.

It’s a 7,000 word 12 page story of their Knebworth appearances – the build up, the concerts and the aftermath. It also includes a new interview with Richard Cole that I conducted with him on the phone a few weeks ago. This adds his personal perspective on the Knebworth era. Here’s the info…

Rock Candy new issue – – Led Zeppelin at Knebworth… the in-depth story…

Issue 26 of Rock Candy Mag sees renowned Led Zeppelin expert Dave Lewis piecing together the most comprehensive forensic examination ever of the last two shows the original line-up played in the UK, with the band’s close confidant and tour manager Richard Cole confirming in a new interview that “Knebworth was never planned as some sort of grand farewell.” Sadly the death of drummer John Bonham on 25 September 1980 meant that Zeppelin split in December of that year.

On 4 August and 11 August 1979 Led Zeppelin appeared in the grounds of the English stately home Knebworth House. The band hadn’t performed in the UK since 1975, or anywhere else since 1977. Punk rock had happened in the meantime, but Zeppelin’s bullish manager Peter Grant was determined to put on a show to prove his group was still the biggest commercial juggernaut around. The fee Grant was able to negotiate for the band – £1million for one show – was reputed to be the biggest ever paid to a single act at the time, and proved beyond doubt that Zeppelin were still the kings of rock.

The two events – with artists including Todd Rundgren, Southside Johnny, and Fairport Convention in support – were huge successes.

Running at over 7000 words and 12 pages, and featuring both rare memorabilia and personal photos of the event, Dave Lewis and Rock Candy Mag have produced the kind of article you rarely see these days, compiled with love and deep knowledge by people who know their rock inside out and back-to-front.

Be sure to check it out -it’s on the shelves of all the usual magazine outlets in the UK…

To order Rock Candy on line visit

https://www.rockcandymag.com/latest-issue

 


DL Diary Blog Update: 

Thursday July 28:

Great to see our very good friend, long time TBL contributor and all round top man Phil Tattershall with the good lady Janet in the fair city of St Albans this afternoon. Phil was down from the lake district where he lives.

We talked and laughed about many a fabled Zep related occasion not least the fact that Phil had the highest flag pole at Knebworth on August 4 all of 42 years ago…

A fab time indeed which Janet and I found very inspiring …thanks Phil!

Saturday July 31:

Saturday is platterday…on the player the rather brilliant Jimi Hendrix Experience Smash Hits…

Saturday July 31:

Saturday is platterday…on the player the brilliant Rod Stewart album Every Picture Tells A Story released 50 years ago this month and sounding every bit as good as it did back in 1971….

Sunday August 1:

It was 50 years ago today…August 1,1971

Sunday sounds on CD – loading up the brilliant 2 CD version of The Concert For Bangla Desh issued in 1991 – featuring George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Leon Russell, Billy Preston and Bob Dylan and more, performing at Madison square Garden in aid of Bangle Desh relief on August 1, 1971.

50 years ago this week I was enthralled to read about this concert in the music press and I purchased the subsequent live album the day it was released in early January 1972…it remains one of my all time fave albums…

Tuesday August 3:

It was a pleasure this morning to meet up with TBL designer Mick Lowe for the first time in over a year. Mick is now working from home in a superb unit he has built in his garden.

Today at the new StudioMix  location we worked on the exclusive four page interview insert that will be included in the limited edition of 100 copies of the forthcoming Evenings With Led Zeppelin Revised & Expanded book that I am making available signed by me – the interview with myself and co-author Mike Tremaglio was conducted by renowned Zep authority Andy Adams and offers key insight as to how this new edition evolved. 100 only and when they are gone they are gone –order link is here

http://www.tightbutloose.co.uk/evenings-with-led…/

Tuesday August 3:

It was 42 years ago today…

On the Knebworth campsite August 3, 1979 – time for some shut eye and dreams of Led Zeppelin appearing on stage before my very eyes for the first time in four years…I think I dreamt that Jimmy’s violin bow glowed with laser light but surely that could not happen could it?

It was getting closer…

Some particular inspirations this past week…

Watching Robert Plant and the Sensational Space shifters Austin Limits performance on Sky Arts last Friday –thanks to Steve L for flagging this one…

The new issue of Shindig! magazine dropping through the letterbox…

Update here:

August is here and as ever there’s a lot to do…a lot of preparation going on here for the impending publication of the Evenings With Led Zeppelin Revised & Expanded book -Mike and I are both getting very excited at the prospect of holding this new edition in our hands and seeing the fruits of all the work of the past 18 months and more. It was great to be working with TBL designer Mick Lowe again –  now he has relocated StudioMix to his new unit in his garden at home.

Elsewhere the good lady Janet and I ventured out to see Phil Tattershall  – we are being cautious and as careful we can – Janet’s leg has been sore and achy recently which is a worry and we are awaiting further advice from the physio ongoing. It was good to read the news of the completion of the forthcoming Led Zeppelin documentary – a great prospect in store for sure.

Thanks for listening – stay safe and well you very lovely people…

Dave  Lewis – August 4 ,2021

TBL website updates written and compiled by Dave Lewis

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4 Comments »

  • Simon Le Bonzo said:

    Hi Dave,
    Apropos of nothing, PopBitch have thrown up a link to the ‘The Very First Two Hours of MTV’ from 1981.
    Buggles get the honour of being the equivalent of The Move on Radio 1.
    But stay with with it.
    Coming in at number 2 on MTV 1981 is no less than Pat Benatar singing your favourite and mine from Mr R.A. Plant – You Better Run.
    Check it out Zeppers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJtiPRDIqtI
    All best mate,
    Simon

  • Hiroshi said:

    Not only the Birmingham show, but also Saving Grace Saturday headlining slot at Underneath the Stars festival in Yorkshire, July 31, was cancelled at the last minute.
    As I posted on TBL, July 22, I sit out the Buxton Opera House show. It hurts, but the news of these subsequent shows being cancelled/postponed for the obvious reason has convinced me even more that my decision was right. If I was informed back home and required to self-isolate, it would go beyond myself, to my family member, the life in general of our household.

    Stay safe, everyone!

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    many thanks!

  • David Freshman said:

    Dave, your TBL magazine and all the information that you share with us is so appreciated!!!

    I am most excited to receive your’s and Mike’s new book, “Evenings with Led Zeppelin”. I will give my 2018 book to a good friend of mine who simply cannot afford these items.

    All the very best to you!

    Dave Freshman

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