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19 January 2012 12,150 views 10 Comments

Since writing this post on Thursday, sadly our friend Alan Johnston died on Friday morning. Our sincere condolences to Emily and all the family. (DL/Janet)

It’s amazing to think that there was a time back in the day that the only way of hearing Led Zeppelin’s music was via the ten original albums – ie the eight original studio albums, The Song Remains The Same soundtrack and the posthumous collection Coda.
There were no greatest hits albums, no Early Days & Latter Days, no BBC sessions, no 1972 live album, Song Remains revamp or Mothership and certainly no i-tunes.

Their albums had been released on CD – albeit not from the original masters and transferred via analogue tapes. The results were decidedly mixed. I did a feature in Record Collector in early 1990 reviewing the original CD’s (I must dig that one out) blisterfully unaware that Jimmy was about to overhaul the entire catalogue for CD.

Thus the arrival in the autumn of 1990 of the six LP CD box set and double Remasters compilations was a very big deal indeed.

I am sure I wasn’t the only one who had not paid much attention to the studio albums in the preceding years. My Zep listening time was taken up analysing the many live shows that were appearing on CD sets and the fresh outtakes that had surfaced.

The arrival of the Remasters sets changed all that.  Suddenly we all realised just exactly what it was that had made this band so special. Lapsed fans got back on the wagon –a whole new generation of younger enthusiasts also jumped aboard.
Overnight Led Zep’s stock shot up…and it’s kept on increasing ever since.

We had a ball selling up the Remasters sets at the Our Price record shop I managed back then – as can be seen via the photo above  taken instore on the day the box set came out in October 1990. Led Zep product racked and ready for mass consumption. This commitment to the casue was duly acknowledged by Warner/Atlantic who later presented me with a very fine triple gold disc award in recognition of the contribution made to the sales. Great times indeed.

This week I had reason to pull out the Remasters sets – I am about to immerse myself in their catalogue for a refresh of text for a written project I am undertaking (details to follow). In doing so I’ve been lending an ear to the original LPs, and the aforementioned post 1990 releases –already it’s proving a revelation.
In fact I’d strongly advise you to do the same.

The Remasters box set on vinyl is a sheer joy from side one to side twelve –particularly the sequencing of the tracks brilliantly done by Jimmy. I searched out my very quint and rather prophetic review published in the December 1990 issue of Record Collector –the final paragraph reads:

’This collection will stand as a lasting testament to the sheer diversity of Zeppelin’s recorded work. It should also prompt re-examination of epic works such as Achilles Last Stand and In The Light. The latter track’s final few minutes, capturing Jimmy’s overdubbed guitar parts rippling across Robert’s chorus, the Jones drone and Bonzo’s timely hammering, is perhaps the most impressive section of the entire 54-track set. And it sounds glorious.
Will they reform? Will there be a live chronological video to supplement this release sometime next year? The remastered “Led Zeppelin” set should keep all Zepp fans riveted to their turntables as we await the next chapter in a story that is far from over.

Not a bad bit of prophesising there –as yes there was a live chronological video albeit 13 years later and yes they did reform albeit for one night only. And absolutely yes this is a story that is far from over…their legacy remains ever in the present tense.

There’s more on the Remasters releases in the next TBL

Which leads us nicely to TBL 31.

I counted them all in and counted them all out. Stuck the labels on (thank you GF), stuck the stamps on, stamped the back of them with the TBL address and then (with the help of the good lady Janet), escorted them down to the post office, kissed them goodbye and crossed my fingers that they all arrive at their selected locations across the 20 plus countries the TBL magazine reaches out to.
Hopefully those close to home will have received their copies and you folks in Europe, America, Canada, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Indonesia,(hi Tatan) Israel (hi Noam) Ecuador (hi Jose)… hold on it’s a coming.

I’m very pleased with the outcome of this one (and may I offer massive thanks to Nick Anderson, Simon Cadman, Gerard Sparaco, Ian Avey ,the relentless Mike Tremaglio, Gary Foy and Mick Lowe for their help in making it what it is).

It was put together in a somewhat piecemeal fashion over the past few months in between various other things going on. There seemed to be lots of different fragments to it but once we collated it all – the variety of features was evident as was the ‘’Back to Zep’’ feel of it all.

I’ve done enough canvassing of this issue already –suffice to say if you are reading this TBL 31 is right up your street –and the limited collectors cover is selling out fast.
One important note. There has been some difficulties experienced when paying pay pal via the www.tblweb. com domain.
So here’s the tip if there’s a problem which is on all the buying pages:
IMPORTANT ORDERING VIA PAY PAL PLEASE NOTE: if you are signed in on the pay pal link will not connect – please log out and log back in under to recitify -the pay pal will then connect -apologies for inconvenience.

‘’That Muhammad Ali he’s fantastic. Next to me he’s got to be about the most fantastic character there is’’
So spoke Robert Plant with typical mid 70s knowing arrogance in early 1974 in an interview down the phone to a journalist for the NME. He was talking about Ali’s recent rematch triumph over Joe Frazier staged at the singer’s old hunting ground Madison Square Garden on January 28th 1974

I’ve been watching the captivating programmes screened this week to commemorate the legendary Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday.

The brilliant When Ali Came To Britain documentary programmes had some amazing cine footage of Ali visiting various UK boxing cubs through the years. It also revealed his friendship with a guy who had collected a petition when Ali was penalised for refusing the draft in the mid 60s. He lived on an ordinary housing estate in Oxford but that did not stop the Champ calling in on him when he was over (‘’he used to show the kids magic tricks’’ was one quote) –it was evidence of Ali’s amazing man of the people common touch that has endeared him to so many over the decades.

I still vidily remember walking to school being mortified to learn that Ali had lost the famous fight of the century against Joe Frazier in 1971 – and I can equally recall the thrill of commentator Harry Carpenter exclaiming ‘’He’s won the title back at 32! ‘’ as Ali defeated George Foreman in the famous ‘’Rumble in the Jungle’’1974.

Watching footage of his more recent years with Ali in such poor health brought a lump to the throat. For me and millions of others he will always be THE undisputed champ. He is another icon of my past that instantly revives more innocent times – I don’t want to sound like some  boring old living in the past fart, but those times and such icons seem firmly of a different era.

Staying with the boxing theme, one of my Christmas little treats was to invest in the splendid Scorpio label title (Abandoned) Desire by Bob Dylan – this has the quadraphonic mix of the original album plus a disc of outtakes with great sleeve notes. As Desire is one of my favourite albums, this has been something of a welcomed January companion (just as it was around these parts 36 years ago when it was first released).

The opening track of course tells the tale of Rubin Hurricane’’ Carter ‘’the man the authorities came to blame, for something he never done’’ – the story of Rubin Carter a contender for the middleweight crown until his wrongful imprisonment for a murder he did not commit (he was eventually released in 1985 when the judge overturned the conviction on appeal).

The whole album is stock full of prime Dylan – a heady concoction of protest, oblique storytelling, and forlorn laments. Listening to it again confirms that it is a piece of music I have immense affinity for. It’s captured the current reflective mood here perfectly along with another intense Dylan record Blood On The Tracks. The sweet evocative tones of Sandy Denny on Who Knows Where The Time Goes  has been another January comfort

Here’s the January playlist that has reverberated round these parts in the past couple of weeks…

DL Top Ten Vinyl Playlist:
1  Remasters box set – Led Zeppelin (Same picture with a different frame)
2  Speciality of The House –The Rolling Stones (1972-75 peak period)
3  History Of – Fairport Convention (Always a warm pleasure on cold nights)
4  Shepperton Rehearsals –Led Zeppelin (on vinyl – on fire)
5  Dollars In Drag – David Bowie (1970s bootleg of Marquee Club 73 and more)
6  Concert For Bangla Desh – George Harrison & Friends (as purchased for £5.50 40 years ago this month)
7  Smile – The Beach Boys (thank you Andrew R)
8  Death Wish 2 – Jimmy Page (the original – I daren’t open the shrink wrapped new version!)
9  Best Of – New Order (1980s throwback inspired by Dec’s book)
10  The Bomb Shelter Sessions – Vintage Trouble (Blimey new music – thank you John P!)

DL Top Ten CD’s Playlist:
1  (Abandoned) Desire – Bob Dylan ( timeless winter album)
2  Blood On The Tracks – Bob Dylan (as above)
3: At the BBC – Sandy Denny (comfort and joy)
3  Geisha- Smoke Gets In Your Eyes –Led Zeppelin (peaking in Japan)
4  Sound + Vision –David Bowie (great box set compilation)
5  L ong Road Home –John Fogerty/Creedance Clearwater Revival (dug out this definitive set from the swamp rockers inspired by the recent Mojo feature)
6  Live In Sydney –Led Zeppelin (it was nearly 40 years ago)
7  Get Back – The Beatles (bootleg version as recorded 43 years ago this month)
8  Tommy – LSO and guest vocalists (brilliant orchestral score)
9  Southampton 73 –Led Zeppelin (crystal clarity from another peak period )
10 Cameo –Dusty Springfield (early 70s Dusty delight)

There’s a big week ahead for our Sam who takes her final exams on the NCTJ journalist course she has been attending since last September in London. Good luck Sam!

Football – oh yes the beautiful game – and it’s been that at times recently for the good old Tottenham Hotspur still on the noisy Manchester pairs tails –though you know it could all go wrong –witness the stuttering display against Wolves which resulted in a 1-1 draw. Here’s hoping they can keep up their challenge as Champions League contenders. Man City away this Sunday will be the test.

Robert would have not been too pleased with Wolves 1-0 defeat in the FA cup third round replay last night against nearby rivals Birmingham City – he was in attendance and seen on camera a couple of times by the ITV cameras covering the game.

DL bike travels photographic latest: My travels on the trusty bike took me to one of our local parks (the one I frequented in my youth) to catch the ritual of Sunday morning football – something I knew of all too well in my football playing days with the near legendary Wallbanger FC. Sunday’s match on the park was more a case of the moderately beautiful game. In fact the swearing and cursing could be heard for some distance as 22 likely lads thrashed it out. Here’s a DL pic from the action

One distressing issue that has been going on here in recent week has been the deep concern for the failing health of one of my lifelong friends Alan Johnston.
Alan is a friend of Barry who  worked with me way back in WH Smith days circa 1977 -79 and I first met him around that time. A massive music fan, Alan has witnessed nigh on a 1,000 gigs from Genesis to The Cure, Pauline Murray and Penetration, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Slits, John Cooper Clarke,  ,The Undertones, Echo & The Bunneymnen,B52s etc.ect

He is also a big player in the chronicling of New Order having attended many gigs with my good friend Dec back in the early 80s. He was also an early advocator of the use of video recording setting up the video production unit Highway 40.

Other instant AJ memories:  Alan bought my first drum kit off me in 1982, generously and spontaneously filmed our wedding in 1984 , compiled various instore video clips when I managed the Sound FX(later Our Price) record shop (including a rather deft one for Sigue Sigue Sputnik –hey remember them!),  Alan also rang me from Carcassonne in France (I was in the pub!) when he was on holiday in 2007 and stumbled upon Robert Plant and Strange Sensation playing down the road at Le Chateau (he took some great pre gig pics see below). His wife Emily could not attend on that occasion so it was fantastic when Alan got tickets for them both and they came to the wonderful pre meet and Birmingham Symphony Hall Robert Plant Band Of Joy show in October 2010.

Robert Plant signing autographs in Carcassonne July 27th 2007 – photo taken by Alan Johnston

Alan J, Emily and DL –  pre gig meet before Robert Plant Band Of Joy – Birmingham October 27th 2010 –

A wonderful memory made even more special after yesterday’s sad news of Alan’s passing.

So it more than grieves all that know him to see him suffering a terminal cancer illness at the age of nearly 51 years old. We had a reunion meal with him and his wife Emily and daughter Flo (his son Arthur was sensibly watching Spurs V Cheltenham despite being a Cheslea fan ) a couple of Saturday’s ago near his home in Stamford. Dec’s sister Yvonne was briefly over from America as was other friends Steve and Lorriane – Budge, Viv, Barry and Jane (and their daughters) from the old gang were also there.  I can only describe the afternoon as spiritual as Alan somehow fought off his frailty to become totally animated laughing at the pics I took along and enthusing as he always does on music, raving about a cover version of Nirvana ‘s Nevermind by reggae singer Little Roy.  When it came to leaving it was simply heart-wrenching watching the likes of Yvonne, Steve and Lorraine who were going back to America the next day, say goodbye to him for what is going to be the last time.
It was an emotional, draining but beautiful occasion and I’ll never forget it.

Dec, Barry and I went back to Peterborough hospital last Wednesday to see him Fittingly as he is much featured in the book, Dec handed over the first copy of his brilliant forthcoming book From Heaven To Heaven New Order Live to Alan – who was overwhelmed to see it. As my friend Barry put it,the smile on Alan’s face would have ‘’lit up the stage at a Zep enormodome gig’’.
It’s difficult to articulate about times like this and mere words are never enough. However Sandy’s sweet tones can be held dear – because who knows where the time goes…but it does and all too soon.

Although I may not in the best frame of mind for it, the annual Wallbanger day out is tomorrow ( Friday) where Zep Earls Court vets Tom Locke, Phil Harris and Dec Hickey along with Max Harris and myself join up for an annual reunion. No doubt scarves will be worn, and talk of our days as proud players in the Wallbangers FC and the ‘’usual bollocks’’ as Tom puts it will be on the agenda as we converge on the pubs of darkest Islington on a January Friday afternoon.

Wallbanger 5 last Janaury – the scarves remain the same…expect a similar picture to follow of this years gathering.

Then it will be a back to reality with a hangover and the task of re assessing Led Zeppelin’s catalogue. That Remasters set (and a good few more Zep platters) will be something of a divine inspiration at a time when I need it for sure…

DL –  January 19th 2012

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)


  • Brendan Castle said:

    Another great issue! The photo and quote of Lemmy was a nice touch and very welcoming to this Motorhead fan….

    Look forward to 2012 TBL issues…

  • Dragonladych said:

    Sorry about your loss Dave. My condolences.

  • Dan T said:

    Just got my Issue 31….Great! Thanks!

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    Graeme and Gary – thanks for those comments about Alan which mean a lot to me and to everyone for the very
    complimentary words about TBL 31

  • Gary Davies said:

    Dave, very sorry to read the news of Alan’s passing. I remember talking to him and Emily at the pre-gig meet in Birmingham that night – they seemed like a very nice couple.

    Congrats on yet another splendid TBL mag. I particularly enjoyed reading the Surrey University feature, fascinating stuff. Keep up the good work!

  • Graeme said:

    Hi Dave

    Reading this piece with mixed emotions. Really sorry to hear about the passing of your good friend Alan. My condolences buddy.

    On the brighter side, TBL 31 is another excellent issue. I really enjoyed all the features (as usual). Apart form the fantastic overall presentation I’m amazed how much written content there is to read. Top notch mate. More power to your elbow (and your pen).

    Remasters brings it all back. I’d always been a big Zep fan from 1976 onwards and then in 1990 the big box set came out and my energy and enthusiasm for the band renewed beyond recognition. My addiction as a Zep collector stemmed from this time and I haven’t looked back since (even though the wallet has been strained to the limit at times).

    TBL keeps it right here, right now. Rock on mate!


  • RichardG said:

    I shared your excitement when Remasters first appeared, as you say unless you were aware of the “underground”, 9 albums plus a live double was all you got, so this 4 disc set was a Very Big Deal Indeed – £49.99 I think it was and I got it from Our Price in Newport. The revised running order really caught me off guard – separating SRTS from The Rain Song took a huge adjustment! But this opened up new possibilities in the Zep experience (remember this was way before playlists made this kind of thing easy!) and it took me a long time to go back to the original albums and running order. I am insanely jealous of your vinyl version…having scoured for a copy they seem pretty thin on the ground – got any spare in the back of the loft?!?!?

    TbL 31 is here and keeps getting better, really appreciate the “back to Zep” approach – a fantastic achievement. Pats on backs all round…well done!

    Regarding the Death Wish II vinyl, I wasn’t as disciplined as you and couldn’t wait to check it out. I don’t have an original to compare it to, but it’s one of the best pressings I’ve ever heard, whisper quiet, no crackles or pops whatsoever. It’s had much use in this household over the past few weeks I can tell you!

    Best to all


  • Swin said:

    Dave just started reading the latest TBL ! It’s better than ever. Having subscribed since 1994, the mag gets better & better.I URGE ANYBODY WHO DOES NOT SUBSCRIBE TO DO SO. Dave to you and your team best wishes for 2012. Everonward. SWIN

  • Noam said:

    Hi Dave
    Received my issue 2 days ago . Amazing quality and production . Loving it so far . Especially the Surrey piece 🙂
    Take care

  • Jez said:

    Superb as ever. Remember the excitement of that particular Zep release.

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