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6 October 2011 1,457 views 14 Comments

In this age of You Tube where countless clips of Led Zeppelin can be accessed at the click of the mouse, it’s incredible to think that there was a time when there was no readily available visual evidence of the band whatsoever. That was the situation that prevailed prior to October 5th 1976 – all of 35 years ago.Back in 1976 there was no circulating cine film of Led Zeppelin and in the pre video recorder age, no way of accessing the little surviving clips that existed –namely their Beat Club appearances in 1969 and the Danish TV show. The age when collectors would start sharing such grainy delights was a good ten years away still.

The movie Supershow they had contributed a thunderous performance of Dazed And Confused to, was long off the circuit and their one and only UK TV appearance performing Communication Breakdown on How Late It Is on March 21st 1969 was long wiped.
Put simply if you wanted to see moving images of led Zeppelin you had to see the band live on stage –and it this point in their career that wasn’t on the agenda as they were off the road following Robert Plant’s car smash of the previous August.

However that was all about to change as 35 years ago in October 1976 they were readying the release of their long awaited film The Song Remains The Same. For seekers of moving images of Zep like me this was very good news, as was the fact that the trusty old Bob Harris fronted BBC2 TV programme The Old Grey Whistle Test had secured a couple of clips from the film for screening and the first of those was going to air on the night of Tuesday October 5th 1976.

In the Lewis household this was a very big deal and a cause for much anticipation. At that point I’d been lucky enough to see the band live seven times –but save for a quick sighting of Jimmy in The Yardbirds on the Blow Up movie, Jonesy’s TV appearance with Madeline Bell in late 1973 and Robert’s interview on the aforementioned Whistle Test in January 1975, I had no opportunity to view footage of Led Zeppelin as a band –because there hadn’t been one.

But shortly after 11pm that night 35 years ago that situation all changed. The then girlfriend and me plus my mum and dad who stayed up to see what the fuss was all about, waited in anticipation as the familiar Whistle Test theme rolled over the credits. And there was trusty Bob informing us of the content that night…Along side Starz and Joan Armatrading he said there would be music from Led Zeppelin’s film – lo and behold it was the first item on and in absolute sheer wonderment I viewed moving images of Led Zeppelin on TV as they aired the clip of Black Dog. I even took a few photos of the action as it was unfolding but never being at one with a camera, alas all that appeared when I had the film developed was a series of photos of our Alba colour TV and a blank screen.

Oh well I’d soon get to see a lot more on stage Zep action when the film was released. The clip itself was awesome. Plant in all his mid 70s hippie rock god glory (‘’He’s got a lot of hair’’ mused my dad a bit mystifyingly), Jimmy strutting with the Gibson with that tassled jacket ,Bonzo beefing it up and Jonesy well..looking like Jonesy. It was Led Zeppelin on stage in 1973 and remarkably I had now viewed that experience in the comfort of my living room. Incidentally over in America this clip was premiered on The Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert ABC TV Show (anyone out there recall seeing that?)

Being pre video recorder age, there was no chance to re wind and replay it. The images next day were all in my head. Afer airing the clip Bob Harris had revealed that tickets for the London premiere of the film would be going on sale on Saturday. A few frantic calls to Swan Song over the next couple of days revealed this as fact and so it was we travelled up to London on the Friday to sleep over night outside the Warmer West End cinema to be in the front of the queue to secure said premiere tickets. It was the beginning of an incredibly exciting month – a couple of weeks later the interview with Robert and Peter Grant on the River Thames plus the clip of Jimmy’s violin bow sequence (far out man!) was aired. We duly attended the premiere on November 4th when we got to meet them all and then went to the first three nights in London. I would go on to watch the film over 30 times in the cinema in the next two years.
Led Zeppelin – Black Dog

Today there are countless clips of Led Zep on You Tube, from Beat Cub in 1969 through to footage in Munich 80 with the likes of Japan 71, LA Forum 75, Earls Court,Knebworth and Seattle 77 thrown in for good measure. Fantastic first hand visual evidence of how great they were – still are. The film of course is on DVD along with the 2003 DVD. In fact I’ve just watched the Black Dog clip and it still looks brilliant.
Long before all that though, back on an autumn night 35 years ago, I saw Led Zeppelin on screen for the first time. The effect was pretty staggering.
Three decades on I’m still seeking out visual live Zep related thrills -the latest being Robert and The Band Of Joy appearance at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. The attraction remains the same…
Thank You, Robert Plant and the Band of Joy

Aside from thoughts of 1976, I’ve been ensconced in the world of Zep as of November 1971 as I got down to researching a major feature on the Led Zeppelin IV album – and it’s no bad place to be as I’ve been digging around and playing some relevant gigs from that era including the Ipswich tape and of course that night of Electric Magic at the Wembley Empire Ppool. More on all this soon.
Alongside all that, there’s been the TBL 30 distribution ongoing and more promo for the book – the phone interview I did for the Andy Fox Rock Show can be viewed on our You Tube channel (thank you Gary D.) at the end of this piece. Also planning TBL 31, the Knebworth second edition and various other projects that has got the autumn underway.

Last weekend of course it felt like high summer as we enjoyed a freak heat wave with the UK logging the hottest October day since records began. It spurred a fair bit of action on the old bicycles as I clocked up some miles riding in the lovely Indian summer sunshine. On Sunday afternoon it was to Adam’s soccer coach Dave Collins place, a fellow Spurs man as we watched excitedly as the White Hart Lane boys triumphed over the old enemy Arsenal (sorry Cliff!). The hot weather couldn’t last and it’s already got a lot cooler around these parts.

Chip off the old block dept: Our Sam is doing a one placement at the local paper as part of her journalist course – here is her gig review of the Mercury Prize nominated artist Ghostpoet

On the player lots of good stuff –BBC3’s Singer songwriter night led to a bit of Joni Mitchell on vinyl (Hissing Of Summer Lawns) and the CD compilation Late Night John Martyn. Plenty of Zep at the BBC has been on (thank you Larry B) and the aforementioned 1971 blasts. Also got to grips with The Hollies Clarke Hicks and Nash Years alongside the new Be Bop Deluxe compilation Futurist Manifesto 1974-1978 I’ve always enjoyed Bill Nelson’s sparky compositions from that era such as Made In Heaven and Jet Silver And The Dolls Of Venus. A great Rolling Stones vinyl bootleg of Exile outtakes has been on and while we are on the subject enjoyed Uncut magazine 50 Greatest Bootleg feature for which the catch all Lost Sessions volumes were in at number 8. Ahead I am looking forward to soaking up the new George Harrison documentary Living In The Material World and the forthcoming Jethro Tull Aqaulung  reissue. A quick wanted plea: anyone know of a copy of the album (preferably vinyl or CD) Television Live At The Old Waldorf 1978 San Francisco on offer – it was part of the world record day release and I’m keen to search that little gem out.

The Corn Exchange Bedford -where real ale will be consummed October 6th -8th

I will be frequenting the hallowed walls of Bedford Corn Exchange over the next three days on more than one occasion as it plays host to the annual Bedford Beer Festival- one of the key dates in our local calendar. The esteemed venue was the scene of many gigs during the 1960s and 70s  and more recently has enjoyed a revival with appearances by Hawkwind Adam Ant in the past few months and Marc Almond due soon. I think I’ve mentioned before that The Beatles played there in December 1962. Back in September 1966 both Cream and The Who performed there within the space of a week –The Who on Sept 10th, Cream on Sept 15th. Wish I’d been old enough to attend those gigs myself.

I had  a quick look in there yesterday during the opening day of the festival but there was no sign of the Zep related named ales ranging from Black Dog to Stairway To Heaven I’ve sampled in the past  –or that John Paul Jones one they had at the Earls Court Great British Beer Festival. I’ll keep looking and while I am in there take a cursory glance around the lovely old building and recall the days of Cream and The Who. After one or two of the old dark mysterious ales, I may well be proclaiming ‘’I Feel Free’’ rather than ‘’I Can See For Miles’’…
As my good friend Tom says – you know the rest…

Bert Jansch 1943 -2011

Just as I was putting this together the sad news of the death of the legendary folk guitarist Bert Jansch came though. Bert was of course a hugh influence on Jimmy Page – most notably for the arrangement of Black Mountain Side on the first Led Zeppelin album which was based on Bert’s Black Waterside. Echoes of Bert’s unique stlye can be heard on the likes of Bron Yr Aur Stomp and Tangerine.  Jimmy once stated in an interview ”At one point I was absolutely obsessed with Bert Jansch. When I first heard that LP (Jack Orion)) I couldn’t believe it – it was so far ahead of what everyone else was doing”. All here at TBL are saddened by his death at the age of  67 to cancer. Our condolances go to his family and friends. I’ll be searching out the vinyl albums I have in my collection today to recall his unique musicianship.

Steve Jobs 1955 – 2011

I awoke this morning to further sad news -the passing of the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to cancer at age 56.  Suffice to say, he transformed the way we listen to music and communicate through the creation of the iPod, iTunes etc.  His story, the impact of the creation of the iPod and the sheer appreciation of music in general via Dylan Jones’ various playlists , is superbly told in Dylan Jones book iPod,Therefore I Am. I t’s one of my favourite books and highly recommended . I’ll be returning to it with a level of poignancy after todays news.

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  • Sc Galveston island said:

    Don kirchners played r&r and maybe bd. My dad said plant looks like Chris homrighous (a childhood friend) my brother and me got a big kick out of that. To say we were thrilled to cath our first glimpse of zep live would be an understatement. Travelled 80 miles to north Houston from the island to watch the srts at a midnight movie. The young uns don’t know how good they have it today. Peace. the a

  • Nick said:

    Awesome Dave. I guess its easy to tell im from the states using a word like awesome. I too waited anxiously back in Oct/76.For me it was Don Kirshner’s rock concert to premiere footage of Led Zeppelin.It was listed in that weeks TV guide. Don Kirshner aired Rock & Roll from the opening of the movie.Later in the show a short edited version of Dazed & Confused. I must say the opening of Dazed live from the movie those flash/fire pots go off.I was mesmerized. It was an evening I will never forget.Zep on the tele….Cheers to all

  • jon stratton said:

    Brilliant post.I was there at the Warner West End with my friend Matt(where are you now?)and we saw you with the object from Presence hanging round your neck.I remember the film blowing me away to see the band in close up. The only time I saw them was at Earls Court and for years before I only saw a few photos in Melody Maker and suchlike.The 70’s really were another planet but I wonder whether our appreciation of music was more in those days cos we had to really listen and not be distracted by visuals
    All the Best Dave

  • Steve said:

    Jansch and Jobs : summing up generation 🙂

  • Lorraine Robertson said:

    Fantastic post Dave…just superb…….especially the clip of Robert and his amazing Band of Joy….tears falling…happy ones…smiling face….I miss him a lot!!! Sublime…♥…thank YOU!!

  • Peter Aquino said:

    Post of the Year, Dave!!

  • Trev Butcher said:

    Just a note for you all, I attended a gig on Saturday night by Thea Gilmore the excellent singer/songwriter and she played some tracks from a new album ‘Don’t Stop Singing’ which is a collection of songs with lyrics by the late Sandy Denny. The songs were beautiful and I thought you might like to give it a listen. The track ‘Glistening Bay’ is available to listen to on Thea’s website Very Fairport Convention!

    The album is due out on 7th November.

  • Colin Sheil said:

    Great post Dave – really enjoyed the interview with Andy Fox who seems like a thoroughly good bloke ! Yes indeed fond memories of the elusive search for SRTS screenings in Dublin in the early ’80’s – showings in fleapit cinemas in Fairview & Dun Laoghaire circa 1982 which caused us such unbridled joy. Then the endless wait for the VHS release. We are so spoilt these days with the interweb and all such great things – in those days Zeppelin info was like gold-dust. Love the new TBL by the way – just ordered and received a great “Nurses Do It Better !’ T- Shirt from Olli at Ottees from the ad in the new issue – an excellent quality product (my other half is a nurse so I’m ok). Truly Bert Jansch was a genius and so sad to hear of his passing – and Steve Jobs, what a revolutionary

  • Steve said:

    I remember that OGWT clip well and I also recall that further footage from the movie comprising of a clip of Pages violin bow solo on Dazed and Confused was aired a few days later on Chris Kellys “Claperboard” which was a childrens show on ITV 🙂

  • andrew johnson said:

    I remember SRTS was on for a week at our local theatre about the time of Knebworth and by the last night the sound system was weakening under the Bonham/Jones nightly onslaught. By the time we got to Black Dog one of the speakers was on the blink and this burly guy rose from his seat at the front and bashed the speaker a couple of times til it sprung back to life , this had to be done about 6 more times that night and everytime there was a loud cheer for him from the gathered masses…hahaha , goodtimes

  • Kathy Urich said:

    Great read Dave. Living in Iowa, America’s heartland in the 1970’s was kinda like living on an island. When we heard news of a Zeppelin show it was in Minnesota, Chicago, etc. and by the time the news trickled in, it was already sold out. SO when TSRTS movie came out this was a frickin event. I was 16, I remember to this day seeing the film for the first time, having been a fan since the young age of 11. Until the film I had no visual, other than my CIRCUS, CREEM etc. This 16-year old had an uber crush on, yes you guessed it Robert Plant. I can remember hearing gasps from the gals in the theater when he came on screen, and then his fantasy sequence holy smokes. Now everything we want to see is at our finger tips what a wild ride. I was very sad to hear of Bert’s passing. My favorite song is ‘Poision’ off the Birthday album as I call it. Then Steve Jobs again more sad news, are lives have all been touched by both of these men R.I.P. Thanks Dave for keeping the flame alive.

  • Mark Harrison said:

    That month of the screenings on the TV the release of the album and the release of the film WAS so exciting! I’m convinced that was the cause of my lung collapsing on November 7! During the “procedure” to extract escaped air from my chest (I won’t go into details! A rather fetching nurse was instructed to hold my hand. During the ensuing conversation I discovered she had seen Zeppelin at Earls Court the previous year! When I told her I had also been there and where I had been due to go that evening (to see the film) that was it! As Robert would say “Nurses do it better!”

  • Greg Purling said:

    I couldn’t let the opportunity pass without recommending to one and all how a decent set of headphones plugged into your USB port greatly enhances one’s viewing and listening pleasure of these (and other) You Tube clips. It really does make a huge difference – the sound is superb.

    Dave – quick plug for Norwich Beer Festival coming up (24-29 October).

  • Steve Jennings said:

    Dave, wonderful post. The Youtube video of Robert performing Thank You brought a huge smile to my face, he looks so happy. I also have vivid memories of watching the Black Dog footage on the OGWT together with my Dad. When TSRTS finally arrived in Hull, I missed quite a few afternoon’s at the local tech college 🙂

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