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25 February 2010 3,955 views 3 Comments


That’s the younger less than forty DL and Gary Foy outside the famous 96 St. Marks Place building in New York some 15 years ago. 20 years previously as I gazed adoringly at that distinctive Physical Graffiti sleeve on February 24th 1975, the idea that one day I might stand on the very spot where that iconic sleeve artwork was conceived would have seemed a pretty unlikely one.

But it incredibly it all come to pass, thanks to Jimmy and Robert reuniting and taking to the road and a little help from some friends (Larry R and Kim get in touch!).

So here we are on the 35th anniversary of that iconic album – Physical Graffiti. The very title indicated something mysterious and special when I first saw it announced in the NME in late ’74. Then there was the waiting. Ah yes the waiting. Initially it was set for November 29th 1974. That date passed and nothing. Then it was going to be January 10th 1975 and so it went on until finally on a grey February morning, I took receipt of the record boxes delivered that day at WH Smith where I worked. And there in a parcel marked WEA/CBS Distribution was a box full of that beautiful double album. Had it out of the box immediately –took it down the pub lunchtime to show Dec, Phil, Tom and co…oh yes this was the big one – a massive outpouring of new Zeppelin music.

It ushered in a memorable year that would peak with those five glorious days in May. Since then Physical Graffiti has been a constant in my life. Not long after its release, the WEA rep kindly gave me the original sleeve artwork mock up which still takes pride of place in my collection. On holiday in Spain that year I could not resist handing over a pocket full of pesetas for the Spanish pressing. I have it on cassette and 8 track cartridge. When I first got a CD player in 1988 it was the first CD I purchased.  The emergence of the Tangible Vandalism rehearsals bootleg in the early 80’s was a shot in the arm in a less than vibrant Zep period, and the first time I heard the 33 minutes of outtakes that surfaced in 1997 remains one of my most memorable listening experiences.

Then there have been the numerous live Graffiti moments:

Ten Years Gone and Sick Again at Knebworth, Trampled Underfoot at Leicester University in ’88, Kashmir at MTV Unledded, The Wanton Song at Later With Jools, Night Flight at the ULU in ’98 , In My Time of Dying at the 02 Reunion.

Selections from Physical Graffiti played live over the years have also provided some of my all time fave gig going moments.

Last Saturday was the same sort of cold sunny afternoon to that of 35 years back on saturday February 22nd 1975. That was the afternoon Alan Freeman previewed five tracks from the album. The previous night I’d had the Old Grey Whistle Test taped on a cassette to hear the previews of Houses Of The Holy and Trampled Underfoot. I was out at the Rainbow grooving to Black Oak Arkansas at the time (that’s another story and another occasion when I lost my key!).

On that Saturday Alan aired Custard Pie, Night Flight, The Wanton Song, Down By The Seaside and Sick Again in that sequence with no break. As Robert uttered the opening line ‘’I received a message from my brother across the water he sat laughin’ as he wrote the ends in sight’’ I remember exclaiming ‘’Oh that voice!’’ in excited wonderment.

Last Saturday coming back on the bus from a snowy Northampton, I programmed the iPod to those same five tracks. They sounded every bit as impressive as they did when I first heard them that afternoon at the then girlfriends house all those years back.

35 years of Physical Graffiti. 35 years of the greatest record ever made.

It just does not get better than that.

Playing it on record, CD and iPod over the past few days has been a joy.

In today’s internet driven world of instantly accessible everything, it’s easy to forget the impact a mere record could have.

A mere record? Physical Graffiti was and could never be a mere anything.

It’s a living breathing, masterpiece.

So happy 35th birthday Custard Pie, The Rover, In My Time Of Dying, Houses Of The Holy, Trampled  Underfoot, Kashmir, In The Light, Bron Yr Aur, Down By The Seaside, Ten Years Gone, Night Flight, The Wanton Song, Boogie With Stu, Black Country Woman and Sick Again.

These 15 performances continue to enrich my life and thousands of others across the globe. Long may they continue to do so.

In the light you will find the road…to 96 St. Marks Place…and we did! Pic GF.

It’s been a bit of a week of retro delight here. Couldn’t find my original old vinyl copy of The Who Live At Leeds anywhere, so had to order a replacement via eBay to assist the research for the feature I’m amassing. Missed the postman delivering it and had to get on the old bike and collect it from the post office. Back home what joy again to open a brown 12inch sized package. Memories of opening up all those precious Zep bootlegs I got on mail order way back – Blueberry Hill, Mudslide, Going To California, Three Days After etc etc…and the sheer delight of assessing the sleeve, this one with its multitude of inserts and then onto the player. For all the elongated CD re issues the original 6 track LP is still the best version of The Who Live At Leeds.

If that wasn’t enough, my request for old Alan ‘’Fluff’ Freeman radio shows was duly answered by Mr. Archive himself Gary Davies. As I type this, a recording of the legendary Fluff’s show from Saturday August 19 1978 is playing. Oh yes, so let’s have more Boston, Zep, Thin Lizzy, Sabbath, Barclay James Harvest, Ted Nugent, Edgar Winter, Renaissance, Yes, Mike Oldfield, Gordon Giltrap,  ELP etc …as my mate Tom would say ‘’You know the rest’’. I’d forgotten what a true master broadcaster Alan Freeman was with his classical links and memorable lines. In fact did anyone (outside of the late great Tommy Vance maybe) utter the words ‘’Led Zeppelin’’’ with more glorious conviction than good old Fluff ?

‘’Alright? Not ‘alf’’.

He had great taste as he told us at Earls Court and listening to this amazing show from ’78 confirms that manifold. Mr. Davies you did me proud.

Nice wallpaper! The very young DL in the Dents Road bedroom shrine probably listening to the Alan Freeman show in 1976

Had a quick look at my diary for that August 19 1978 Saturday. It was a hot one, Spurs drew 1-1 at Nott’s Forest and I brought the new Who album Who Are You. Talking of which…

Elsewhere here it’s been full on with Who Live At Leeds research – also had some great stuff come in for the next TBL magazine via Stephen Humphries and Mike Tremaglio (thanks fellas), Mr Foy did a great job in co co-ordinating the Physical Graffiti TBL archive extracts (thanks mate). Caught the second half of Spurs 3-0 win at Wigan on what must be the worst playing surface since the days of Derby County’s Baseball ground. Last night it was good to see Spurs sweep aside Bolton to go through to the sixth round of the FA Cup, though Fulham away is another tricky one.

Feb 26 update: I was lucky enough to be in attendance at  the  Sound & Vision Cancer Research UK charity show at Abbey Road. Full report now on the site.

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  • Jez Firth said:

    Stood on that spot myself a few years ago with my Wife. What a feeling!! What an album.


  • Hiroshi said:

    …and here is another pilgrim who payed a visit to 96 St. Marks Place, coming all the way from Japan. That was early September, 1991, if my memory serves. I also visited the Electric Lady Studios on West 8th street then.

    Frankly speaking, Physical Graffiti is not among my favorites in their catalogue. To me, the album lacks a strong focus and the diversity of the material doesn’t make up for it as does The Beatles’ ‘White Album’.

    But I can vividly remember the days I, like every like-minded person around the world back then, was eagerly anticipating the arrival of this new Led Zeppelin album. I can remember the sheer excitement I felt when the then popular FM Osaka DJ, Yuichi Kawamura, aired Custard Pie and Trampled Under Foot during his radio program as a taster from the album, a couple of weeks prior to its general release, as well as his concern when he mentioned that the group was undergoing the American tour, causing enthusiastic responses at every stop, with Jimmy’s fingers injured.

    Perhaps my ultimate PG experience came when Page and Plant opened the show with Custard Pie, at the Osaka-jo Hall (AKA Castle Hall), Feb. 15, 1996. To this day, it remains the only show where they used it as the opener (as on the PG album), and as it was the first ever sight of the duo performing on stage together side by side for me, that particular performance left a lasting impression on me. As the performance unfolded in front of my eyes, I kind of visualized a would-be show of the planned Japanese leg of the PG tour that I so wished to realize, only to be marred by the fateful incident. Wishful thinking as it was, it is safe to assume that they may well have added a couple of PG songs to the setlist from the Summer US tour onward, and I often sighted that Custard Pie would serve as a clashing opener, more fitting for that role in the PG tour than the by then well-worn Rock And Roll…

    And later in the set, the now legendary, only known Page/Plant performance of Ten Years Gone further hit the nail on the head. That made my day — one more treat for many Zep devotees in and around Osaka, one of those places “where things make sense”.

  • Gerry M. said:

    The greatest by the greatest!!!


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