HOUSES OF THE HOLY AT 41/SCARLET PAGE RESONATORS EXHIBITION/JPJ SEASICK CHARITY T- SHIRT/DEBORAH BONHAM REVIEW/BBC 4 SCREENS BERT JANSCH TRIBUTE/ MARCH 1998/DL DIARY UPDATE
Houses Of The Holy – it was 41 years ago today…
41 years ago today Led Zeppelin released their long awaited fifth album, Houses Of The Holy. Here’s some reflections from on another milestone release from the TBL/DL archive:
Like countless fans across the globe on that spring Wednesday back in March 1973 ,as a 16 year old Zep obsessive, I eagerly snapped up the album . I had been touring the record shops of Bedford daily for the arrival of this opus. This was in the years before I began working in a record shop myself.
At lunchtime I walked the short distance from British Home Stores where I worked to Carlows one of the seven record outlets in the town and laid down my £2.65 (it was an expensive album in the Atlantic del luxe price rang) took it out of the bag and simply gawped in teenage wonderment at the oh so remarkable sleeve.
What was all that about…?!
For me the sleeve suns up the pure mystery and evocative atmosphere of No Quarter.
My diary reveals that once home that night, I gave the album an initial blast before venturing out to play football in the local park (the clocks had just gone forward that week so it was now getting light at night). I was back in my Zep bedroom den straight after to get lost on their world in the album with the catalogue number (which I’d already memorised) K50014.
Now that is an important point –to get lost in their world…. because that is exactly what it was like as Brad Tolinski astutely noted in Guitar World
‘’Led Zeppelin were the best because they were the most exotic and imaginative of rock bands. And the fascination with the group continues because their music still sounds strange, wild and totally alien today as it did three decades ago. Led Zeppelin music was designed to stimulate the imagination, to encourage kids to dream ,to see an open space beyond the grind of daily existence’’
That is exactly how I felt that March evening of 40 years ago. Given that my daily existence was spent in the stockroom of the aforementioned BHS and that the UK at the time was a somewhat drab place to be with industrial unrest, the threat of IRA bombing, to be transported to California sunshine and sweet Calcutta rain, as Robert Plant sang on the still riveting opening track The Song Remains The Same…well that was some ride for this particular 17 year old.
It’s incredible to think back at how important music was then in the pre download instantly accessible world.
There was no itunes platform to preview the album, oh no – the only previews afforded was the screening of a very weird film to match No Quarter on the Old Grey Whistle Test the previous Tuesday and an airing of Dancing Days on Emperor Rosko’s Saturday morning radio show.
You coveted every word, you gazed at the sleeve, you memorised the lyrics (and for this album every song lyric was printed on the inner sleeve). You lived these songs –they became part of your daily life, enhancing your mood, the soundtrack of falling in love and out…you lived and breathed them.
Like every other Led Zeppelin album, Houses Of The Holy more than fulfilled that premise in the coming months and years…
There were however some issues. By and large the press hated it – how shocked was I to read the Melody Maker review the next day that proclaimed ‘’Zep lose their way’’ accompanied by a very indifferent review by the usually supportive Chris Welch.
The problems? –well we all know that well enough:
The Crunge and D’yer Mak’er…two less than serious stabs at enjoying themselves at the expense of critics and perhaps fans alike- particularly the ones groomed on the hard rock of Zep 1 and II.
My learned friend Kevin Hewick in a summary of the album he wrote for the TBL magazine, noted as a 15 year old Zep fan back then being well confused.
‘’Then came ‘The Crunge’ !?!?! Were they joking? Well yes they were but this seemed like a somewhat lame joke.
Over on Side 2 ‘Dancing Days’ seemed a piece of poppy fluff and ‘D’Yer Maker’ was a ‘crunge too far’ for me, a somewhat limp novelty mickey-take of the Caribbean sound that was actually turning into a major force with The Wailers ‘Catch A Fire’ soon to reach our British ears.
This rather lightweight three track sequence did them a lot of damage in my eyes. They seemed to be merely mucking about, a cardinal sin in my pretentious chin stroking world of prog meaningfulness, yet it was also lacking the thrill of Bowie’s pop art glam razzamatazz.’’
Kevin does now have a high regard for the album noting that
‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ is everything you need to know about Led Zeppelin in one song, folk and rock rather than folk rock, their diverse strands united in the same song”
So Led Zep 11 it certainly wasn’t …
As for me… well need you ask – I loved it all!
But I have to say back in 1973 I was going through an intense period of musical discovery and not long after its release, my attention to Houses was somewhat diverted by other musical goings on…
The aforementioned David Bowie whose magnetic presence you could just not ignore that year…in April The Beatles double album retro sets 1962 -1966 and 1967 -1970 captivated me –as I’d just missed their golden period being too young. Other albums such as The Faces Oh La La, Paul McCartney’s & Wings Red Rose Speedway, Alice Cooper Billion Dollar Babies ,The Rolling Stones Goats Head Soup (I saw the latter at Wembley Empire Pool in the September) and in the autumn The Who’s Quadrophenia and Bob Dylan’s Planet Waves demanded my attention. I was at an age of discovering so much music…it was hard to fit it all in.
There was also an album called The Dark Side of The Moon released a week before Houses that would also make a bit of an impression on the record buying public.
Houses Of The Holy did not stay on the UK chart for more than a couple of months and was somewhat eclipsed (no pun intended!) at home by the abundance of fresh and vital music that year….
America as we know, had no such issues…
Overall though, Houses Of The Holy went on to become something of an underrated part of the Zep cannon.In hindsight, this was clearly a band that was pleasing themselves and their fans at the expense of what the critics expected.
The eclectic feel good content meandered from familiar hard rock through acoustic and orchestral arrangements, to brooding synth affairs and ’50s doo-wop/mock reggae and funk pastiches. It was all performed with a joyous abundance that mirrored the positivity that surrounded them at that stage of their career.
Back in Europe during the early spring on yet another tour, Robert Plant was quick to defend the album. In an interview at the George V hotel during their two-show residence in Paris in April 1973, he said “So there are some buggers who don’t like the album. Good luck to ‘em. I like it and a few thousand other buggers too. There’s only one way to function and that’s on stage. We’ve reached a high and we ain’t going to lose it. And no bad album review is going to change that.”
As it turned out, Led Zeppelin had the last laugh.
Following their UK and European dates that year, they embarked on a two-legged assault on America for which No Quarter was a further Houses addition to their live set.
Zeppelin opened their US tour by playing two mammoth dates. In Atlanta they drew 49,000 on 4 May while the next day a staggering 56,800 packed into the Tampa Stadium in Florida. This gave them the distinction of attracting the largest audience ever for a single act performance, beating the previous record held by The Beatles for their 1965 Shea Stadium show.
At the same time, the album ascended to the top of the Billboard US chart for a two week reign sandwiched between Elvis’s Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite and The Beatles 1967-1970 compilation. The US tour was an enormous success and by taking on PR Danny Goldberg this time around, they made sure the world knew about it.
By pleasing themselves, Led Zeppelin may not have pleased the critics, but they certainly pleased their ever faithful following.
After the release of Houses Of The Holy more fans than any other act in the world wanted to see Led Zeppelin play live. It was the moment they stopped being a mere rock band and turned into a global phenomenon.
The album that cemented that success is still held in high regard by the ex band members and fans alike. “There was a lot of imagination on that record. I prefer it to the fourth album,’’ Plant remarked a few years back while Jimmy Page reflects “You can hear the fun we were having on and you can also hear the dedication and commitment.’’
Whilst their fourth album had been all about economy with everything in the correct place, Led Zeppelin’s fifth album was less about being perfect and more about letting loose and having fun.
Houses Of The Holy retains that pure feel good factor and 41 years on, stands as a pivotal album in the development of Led Zeppelin’s artistic growth.
I will certainly feel good when I spin this album today, just as I felt good back in my Zep bedroom den 41 years ago.
Houses Of The Holy – Happy 41st Anniversary…
As a postscript to all that – one can only wonder what delights Jimmy has lined up for the companion audio disc due as part of the Led Zeppelin re issue programme…that is tantalising prospect…
DL- March 28th 2014.
Scarlet Page Resonators Exhibition in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust:
Scarlet Page has launched an exhibition at the Royal Albert Hall to benefit the Teenage Cancer Charity.
Jimmy Page attended the launch on March 24th alongside guests such as John Squire of The Stone Roses and Level 42’s Mark King.
Here’s the info:
A host of rock icons have been immortalised in a new photography exhibition at London’s Royal Albert Hall.
The Resonators series was shot and curated by rock photographer Scarlet Page and forms part of this year’s Teenage Cancer Trust event. It chronicles legendary rock guitarists including her dad Jimmy Page, plus Jeff Beck, Slash, Brian May, Sir Paul McCartney, Slash, Noel Gallagher, Noel Gallagher,Mark Knopfler, Steve Jones, Nile Rodgers, Paul Weller and Wilco Johnson.
Resonators will open to coincide with the recently announced Teenage Cancer Trust concerts, which start at the Royal Albert Hall on March 24th, and the exhibition will run until April 24th. The first print of each 25 print run will be signed by the artist and Scarlet, and will be auctioned via eBay with all profits going to Teenage Cancer Trust. The auction will run from 8pm on 23rd March for 7 days. Come back then to place your bids!
For a full list of subjects please visit the Resonators Facebook page. Resonators is kindly sponsored by Metro Imaging and Happy Finish. The daughter of Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page (the ‘guitarist’s guitarist), Scarlet grew up surrounded by music and musicians. Since starting her career in photography she has established herself as a successful and in-demand music photographer. It wasn’t until she’d been working in the industry for over 15 years that she finally managed to shoot Jimmy ‘officially’ for a Sunday newspaper. The resulting shot gave her the idea to shoot portraits of other guitar legends. Scarlet explains, “I really wanted to do a charity project and Teenage Cancer Trust, with its incredible musical pedigree and the amazing work it does, seemed ideal. I’ve been shooting now for over a year, and I’m not going to stop just yet.” Resonators exhibition can be viewed when attending performances, or on the following free public open days until 24th April:
Saturday 29 March 11am – 4pm
Sunday 30 March 11am – 4pm
Sunday 6 April 11am – 4pm
Saturday 19 April 11am – 4pm
More details at
Scarlet appeared on the Shaun Keaveny show on BBC 6 Music aired on March 26th. Listen again here:
John Paul Jones signs Seasick Steve t- shirt for Streets of London Charity:
John Paul Jones has signed a T shirt to aid the Streets Of London charity – here’s the info:
More than 30 major artists – including some of the biggest names in music – have lent us their support by signing T-shirts or donating other signed items especially for this Streets of London charity auction:
Alt-J, Annie Lennox, Atoms for Peace, Band of Horses, Bastille, Biffy Clyro, Billy Bragg, Bombay Bicycle Club, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sande, Florence and the Machine, Foals, Franz Ferdinand, Gaz Coombes, Green Day, John Paul Jones, Johnny Flynn, The Killers, Kings of Leon, The Lumineers, Mumford and Sons, The National, Noah And The Whale, Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, Primal Scream, The Rolling Stones, Seasick Steve, Tom Odell, The Vaccines, White Lies, Wilco, The XX.
All proceeds from this auction will benefit the work of The Connection at St Martin’s, a charity we have supported previously. They do amazing work helping more than 200 homeless people in central London each day.
Find out more about us at www.streetsoflondon.org.uk, and ‘Like’ us on Facebook for news about our next Concert for Homelessness – we’ll be announcing details of the line-up for our next show in the coming few weeks.
Bid now – this is your chance to own some great signed memorabilia and help homeless people get ahead. Thank you for your support!
Signed Limited Edition Streets Of London T-shirt + signed Seasick Steve ‘You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks’ CD album (new)
Both items have been hand-signed by Seasick Steve, Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones and Seasick Steve drummer Dan Magnusson, in support of Streets of London.
The T-shirt is a limited edition, new, white Gildan Soft Style Ring Spun T-shirt featuring Streets of London logo (front) and details of Concert for Homelessness headlined by Seasick Steve (back), 100% Cotton, size L (approx 73.5cm [29in] long x 54cm [21.5in] wide)
These items will be accompanied by a letter from Streets of London confirming their authenticity.
Deborah Bonham Band:
The Deborah Bonham band are currently on tour in support of the relaase of Deb’s new album Spirit. This is due out at the end of next month. Forthcoming dates line up as follows:
Fri 28 March DARLINGTON The Forum www.darlington-r-n-b-club.co.uk
Sat 29 March NORFOLK Blakeney Harbour www.blakeneyharbourroom.co.uk
Thu 10 April LONDON Half Moon Putney www.halfmoon.co.uk
Sat 12 April FRANCE TBC
Sun 13 April FRANCE Callac (22) TBC www.106db.com
Tue 15 April MILTON KEYNES Stables Theatre www.stables.org
Thu 17 April LEICESTER Musician www.themusicianpub.co.uk
Fri 18 April NANTWICH Crown Hotel Jazz & Blues Festival www.nantwichjazz.com
Fri 25 April STOURBRIDGE Moochers www.moochers.co.uk
Sat 26 April RIPLEY N.YORKS Town Hall www.ripleylive.com
Fri 30 May COBSTOCK
Fri 20 June WALES BUILTH WELLS Sonic Rock Fest www.sonicrocksolstice.com
Lorriane Robertson caught up with the show at Backstage at the Green, Kinross, Scotland on March 22nd.
Lorriane files this report for TBL:
Its always a joy when Deborah comes to Scotland and what better venue than this to see her. With a full house, it was lights down and ready to rock. Deborah, in her now traditional stage dress, this one of black velvet and lace with theatrical long sleeves looked fabulous and this was going to be a night to remember
Deborah and the band are now signed to Spectra records and with her new album SPIRIT due out at the end of April we were treated to a selection from the album. I can honestly say that I think this is her best album to date. The songs range from country, to soul, to rock and to blues – always written and sung from the heart. This singer has such an inner strength of spirit, is full of positivity and energy and zest for life and in overcoming all that life throws at us at times.
Highlights of a great gig included No Angel (I was priviledged to have this song dedicated to myself and husband Michael), I Need Love – a powerful love song that is so full of emotion, Painbirds – this song is another beautiful one and Deborah has taken the Sparklehorse version and made it her own and Take Me Down – an uplifting country groove which has Debbie playing guitar.
Then of course there was The Old Hyde. Always sung from her heart – this was made all the more poignant as there was a photograph of her dear brother John looking across at her from the side of stage – very emotive indeed.
The band line up has Peter Bullick on guitars, Ian Rowley on bass and harmonica, Gerard Louis on keyboards and Richard Newman on drums. Go and catch a show if you can. Trust me – you will have a great time. Haste ye back Deborah Bonham Band….
Lorraine Robertson –
Thanks Lorraine and for the pic
Robert Plant By Myself and Bert Jansch Tribute concert on BBC 4 tonight:
BBC 4 is re-airing the 2011 Robert Plant By Myself documentary tonight (Friday March 28th ) at 9pm.This is followed by the screening of last December’s Bert Jansch tribute concert staged at the Royal Festival Hall. This features performances by Robert Plant, Bonnie Dobson, Bernard Butler, Ralph McTell, Martin Carthy etc. Definitely worth catching for Robert’s superb version of Go Your Way My Love.
More details at
Many thanks to James Cook at for his assistance on TBL news collation..
Mojo Knebworth book review :
Here’s the review of the Knebworth book in the current issue of Mojo. I’ll take three stars though it reads like a five star review!
For those who think they know everything about Led Zeppelin but don’t…order the required reading here now!
DL Diary Update:
It’s been a case of Good Times Bad Times here these past few days – on the positive side, there’s been some good progress on the TBL front, namely the text and design of the forthcoming issue 37, and I was well pleased with the review of the Knebworth book on Mojo…..the downside is that Janet’s mum Betty has had to be admitted to hospital. She had not been feeling well at the weekend and with increased breathing problems, Betty was admitted early in the week. Doctors have diagnosed a water on the lung condition. It’s a worrying time and we are hoping the medication will soon have her back to strength.
The good lady and I were due to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary with a stay on Brighton today (Friday) and Saturday. With Betty’s condition we have obviously had to cancel that plan. We will try and get a meal out somewhere over the weekend leading to the anniversary on Monday.
Anyway…30 years ago…some thoughts…
Back in 1984 when Janet and I took those marriage vows, the world of Led Zeppelin was a much calmer place – which on reflection may have been a good thing – given today’s intensive pace I may well have not made it down the aisle!
We had enjoyed Robert Plant’s UK tour dates late in 1983 (we did the Newcastle, two London and Oxford dates) – from there the tour went to Australia and Hong Kong. His next project would be the Honeydrippers Vol 1 album released in the autumn of that year.
Jimmy was about to get more active and there were various live cameos around that time, notably with Ian Stewarts Rocket in Nottingham and at the Piotoria Blues Festival. He was also began a collaboration with Roy Harper which would culminate in the Cambridge Festival appearances (we were away for that one and missed out) and that memorable interview on The Old Grey Whistle Test. Ahead would be the formation of The Firm with Paul Rodgers.
It’s hard to believe now but Led Zeppelin’s overall reputation was somewhat diluted – radio play was non-existent in the UK and even in the US, the likes of new kids on the block such as Van Halen were rendering Zep seemingly old hat.
All this would radically change a year later with the after effect of the Live Aid reunion. The release of the Remasters box set in late 1990 would restore the Zep legacy once and for all…we haven’t looked back since…
As for my own projects, my very first book The Final Acclaim – a best of TBL compendium had been published by Babylon Books in the summer of 1983. Whilst I was well pleased to have something in print, it never really got the distribution it deserved and was soon sold out (and I didn’t see a lot of return financially !) Here’s a pic of the book on display in W H Smith Bedford in November 1983. Wish I had all those copies now!
I did have a plan at the back of my mind to create a major Zeppelin reference work which would eventually see the light of day as the A Celebration book in 1991. The TBL mag was regretfully lying dormant after my enthusiasm to keep it on track waned in 1982. However a major comeback was not too many years away!
I was actually now writing a weekly column for the local paper the Beds Times which fed my creative writing passion and I was absolutely immersed in music retail as manager of the WH Smith record department in Bedford – which is where romance blossomed amongst the vinyl racks with the good lady!
It’s worth noting as well that the good lady Janet knew what she was taking on when it came to the matter of Led Zep. Our relationship had been heightened by her penchant for the In Through The Out Door album which was forever on the W H Smith instore record deck.
The UK music market was incredibly buoyant at that time and boy did we rack up the sales – notably Michael Jackson’s Thriller (his Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video on VHS was released the day before our wedding and was the first major selling music video of the era) along with the likes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Wham, Paul Young, Madonna etc.
This was the mid 1980s boom time for the music industry and records (particularly 12 inch singles) were flying out the door. The number one single when we got married was Lionel Ritchie’s Hello and the ex Commodore man also held the top spot on the album chart with Can’t Slow Down – followed by Howard Jones Human Lib, the aforementioned Thriller and Dire Straits Alchemy. Oh the 1980s’ didn’t we love ’em!
At the time I regularly listed in my diary a top 12 playlist of my fave tracks of the particular month. Looking back this was always influenced by the stuff we were selling in the shop at the time. This is how they lined up for March 1984:
1: Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin
2: All My Love – Led Zeppelin
The above two tracks were played by the church organist during our Wedding service – and expertly played too – it had to be done!
3: Ain’t Nobody –Chaka Khan
4: Thriller – Michael Jackson
5: Head Start To Happiness – The Style Council/Paul Weller
6: Michael Jackson – PYT (Pretty Young Thing)
7: Your Love is King – Sade
8: Jump – Van Halen (even I succumbed to this one!)
9: Doctor Medusa – Propaganda (on the ZTT label –a Trevor Horn production ala Frankie Goes To Hollywood)
10: Glad it’s All Over – Captain Sensible (The Damned drummer on a solo ditty and as for the title…I probably was in a good way!)
11: Just Be Good To Me – SOS Band – (80s dance floor extended mix –the sort of thing we played in the shop and sold lots of – a top track.)
12: Tonight’s’ The Night – Rod Stewart – this was the record we had played as our first dance at the wedding reception.
So that was the backdrop of sounds that surrounded us as we made those vows 30 years ago on Saturday March 31st. 1984.
And of course it seems like a second…but a lifetime away.
Meanwhile back in 2014 – on the player David Bowie Young Americans –inspired great feature on that album in this month’s Mojo, Glen Campbell Greatest Hits – sometimes only Glen’s dulcet tones will do….and Led Zeppelin …oh yes Led Zeppelin when only the best will do – Tangerine from Earls Court a reflective song to match a reflective mood here at times this week, the whole of the pioneering Led Zeppelin III – as Jimmy put it ’’When we went into the studio it was a summing up of where we were at that point in time. So there was no way the third album was going to like the first.’’….and this morning Houses of The Holy sounded just magnificent on the work car run taking Sam and Adam in.
April now beckons and with TBL 37 to wrap, record store day ahead and various other projects on the go – it’s going to be full on and once again we strive ever onward …
And finally….yet more reflections…
The Mad Month of March 1998:
I know I’ve run this before, but the postings on Jimmy’s site this week has prompted me to dig out the Mad Month of March text from TBL 13 that chronicles this intensive period that saw them stage the showpiece Shepherds Bush gig plus appearances of Top of The Pops and TFI Friday.
1998 really was a fantastic year for Page and Plant activity – for some of us in the TBL crew perhaps the last carefree period before we got a bit older and a bit more responsible (not!).
Personally looking back over this text it almost seems like another age – it was the age for me of balancing a frantic music retail job along with all the TBL capers – my I must have had some energy back then –or maybe it was the pints of fosters! I was running on adrenalin that’s for sure but it was incredibly exciting at the time…amazing to think that back then Sam was only 7 years old and Adam just over 2.
As for Jimmy and Robert …you forget how good they were together at this point – and the late much missed Michael Lee was integral in making their performances so enjoyable – he really kicked the whole thing along…
Hello to the many TBL crew members who shared all this back then – prepare to get most nostalgic and most high in recalling the time when we were walking into everywhere with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant back in March 1998:
I’ll dedicate this TBL archive piece to Michael Lee and Howard Mylett -RIP
This DL retro diary picks up the events as they announce the Shepherds Bush gig.
Wednesday March 11 1998
There have been rumours of a special Page Plant launch gig for the album happening in London for some time. They did attempt to book the Shepherds Bush Empire back in January. Locations in Islington and Kilburn have also been checked out in recent weeks. An early morning fax from the PP PR office confirms that on March 25 they will be playing a special gig at a London venue.
Tickets will be made available on a first come first served basis from 8am on Saturday at the Virgin Megastore in London – limited to just two per person. The London Forum (formerly known as the Town And Country Club where Plant played in the late ’80’s/ early ’90’s) is named as the venue – but this is quickly retracted by mid day when it becomes official that the gig will now take place at the popular Shepherds Bush Empire. Jimmy and Robert announce the fact during an excellent early afternoon live interview on the alternative rock London radio station XFM. For me this kick-starts a hive of TBL activity as I speedily mail out a stop gap Newsletter Extra and inform many others by phone. It’s soon becomes apparent that to ensure entry it’s going to mean an early morning trip to London to buy tickets. Fellow TBL crew member Gary Foy and I plan our strategy. Only 1,000 tickets are going to be sold and as the news spreads it’s evident that many fans are making a big effort to get in line.
Saturday March 14 1998:
Well I really thought my queuing days were over! Overnight stays for tickets for Earls Court, Song Remains Premiere, Knebworth etc. were all part of the game, way back. (Trivia note: It’s 23 years, almost to the day, that tickets went on sale for Earls Court; and 3 years since the tickets were released for the ’95 UK tour.) The advent of credit card bookings had rendered that method all but redundant. Not today. Luckily it’s a very mild mid-March morning as I leave Bedford on the train at 5.30am I must admit my heart was beating pretty fast as I ventured up the tube steps at Tottenham Court Road – just how long was this queue going to be and were we in with a chance? Well the queue was certainly long, with about 150 already in line, but it looked as though we would be OK. Many at the front of the queue had camped out all night
The atmosphere is really excellent – some-thing of a Led Zepp Convention reunion as many TBL subscribers and faces come over to say “Hi”. Many have travelled overnight form far and wide: Pat Lyons is here from Wales; Gary Woollard from the West Country; Anne Marsden from Stockport. By 8am the queue is moving forward into the Virgin Megastore. (Incidentally this is a place I know well as I’ve attended many meetings here for work – though I never thought I’d end up queuing to get in!)
It’s a funny old feeling to shuffle by a display of Zeppelin titles CD’s and books including Concert File and Celebration. Finally at 9.15 we get served and the tickets are in our hands. The tickets themselves sport the new Page and Plant logo script writing. Myself and Gary celebrate with a McDonald’s breakfast, a quick look around the record stores and a couple of lunch-time pints. Then it’s home to watch the Most High video which has been aired that morning on the Chart show. The job is done. Next stop Shepherds Bush.
Wednesday March 25 1998:
As usual before a period of PP activity the days leading up to the events had been a little fraught.
In fact I have to say for me personally it was a real strain that often had me wondering if all this was worth it. (at least for two minutes anyway).
Trying to arrange everything at work so I could get away was a constant pressure – the previous week I’d put in a 66 hour week (I kid you not -this retail manager lark is hard work!) .Then there were the many arrangements to make for the next three days and the repeated phone calls for tickets info etc. The night before the show I took 14 calls in two hours including one when I was in bed!
There’s no doubt that this particular show has spurred a huge wave of interest and the desire to get tickets is quite staggering. I do my best to help all those I can which does begin to cause concern when one or two options don’t go as planned As well as the gig, other events have unfolded: they are recording a Top Of The Pops segment at Elstree tomorrow night; and a live appearance will follow Friday on the popular Channel 4 show TFI Friday. Days of worry over gaining entry to the latter (and ensuring as many other key fans could gain entry as well) have ensured – not least being the little problem that TFI’s regulations adopt an 18 to 30 age limit! A call from their office asks me just how old those wanting to attend really are. I manage to convince them that we are young thinking thirty something’s (nearly).
But first there is the little matter of the first proper Page Plant show in London for three years. The gig itself is being used by Mercury as something of launch for the new album – with over 800 tickets being made available for European press and media. In the delight-fully titled Moon On The Green on a grey March afternoon, it’s very apparent that this is a real hot ticket. Touts are asking, and it would seem selling tickets for up to £200. or two late arrangements see old TBL stager Tom Locke in There’s a real buzz in the air, this one really does feel like an event.
I’ve already seen Luis Rey and Howard Mylett, but to complete the Zep author line up it’s great to bump into Robert Godwin, coupling some London business to catch the show. The venue itself is excellent – a real theatre (it was formerly owned by the BBC and used for countless TV variety and music shows) – while the downstairs area is very intimate and in close proximity to the stage where-ever you are. The TBL crew decide on a down the front strategy and within minutes I’m in a superb vantage point in front of the stage to the left by the PA.
This is going to be very exciting indeed. And sure enough the excitement mounts as the lights go down ,the spotlights flash on the assembled and that Egyptian music (boy how I love than tune!) signifies the beginning of the Page Plant return to London.
From my view I can clearly see Jimmy Page with Gibson strapped on in the darkness at the far side of the stage waiting for the cue and for Robert to fly on as is the custom as they hit the intro of Wanton Song. And fly on he does, dressed in identical garb to the Istanbul second night, black leather trousers tucked in the boots, dark rimmed T-shirt. And we are off. Bring It On Home, Heartbreaker and Ramble On follow in quick fire succession. Plant may not be quite as immediately vibrant as he was in Istanbul, pacing himself maybe for what’s to come. Page though is already lighting up the stage – seemingly lost in the noise of his own creating.
“Well the old devils are back,” laughs Plant. Walking To Clarksdale featuring Page on the new PRS guitar with McCarty neck follows, complete with that supercharged tempo change and then it’s into No Quarter. Here Page drifts through the solo, eyes closed, slightly leaning back and oozing out that much missed solo.
So far so good. Then an early magic moment. It occurs when Page lets out a couple of heavily reverbed tremolo chords, and those in the know can tell what’s coming. It’s the world premier of the new ballad When I Was A Child. This is masterful as Plant unfolds the reflective tale with ease. It’s always a real privilege to witness a piece of Page Plant history unfolding and that’s how it feels as they delicately offer up this new one. There’s a great moment right at the close as Robert goes into the final lines “When I was… when I was a…’’ stepping back from the mic each time as Jimmy’s final chords echo around the theatre.
Robert has a humorous running banter with our own resident TBL barrack boy responding to a shout of “California’’ as they take to the chairs. “No it’s Birkhamstead actually!” Memories swim before us as they deliver a wonderfully melodic Tangerine, causing instant Earls Court retro lump in the throat for this particular viewer. An urgent stomp through Gallows Pole follows.
From there the on in they can really do no wrong. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You enjoys it’s first UK live airing by the pair for some 29 years. Burning Up is dominated by Page scrubbing out that repeated riff and How Many More Times is just outstanding. I have a perfect view of Page leaning back and step-ping on the wah wah for the intro – an image that I will retain and store alongside other great visual moments in their history (such as the same guitarist stepping on the wah wah for Trampled Underfoot down the road in Hammersmith ten years back). The violin bow episode is greeted by huge cheering and the moment it all speeds up is another great one with Michael Lee proving his worth yet again. Most High is next as we hit the home straight. This month’s signature tune as I stated before that really brings the best out in Plant. A cocksure Whole Lotta Love signals the end of the main proceedings.
Then they’re back on and it’s another premiere – an incessant drum track booms out and then Page holds down the most delightfully grunge like wah of wah of House Of Love. This one really swings live with Plant screech-ing out the chorus line “It’s just a little too much,’’ and Page hitting those descending chords. A Sick Again for the millennium.
“So this is the alternative to Radio Two,” laughs Robert. “It’s been great, thank you!’’
They’re back on again and Page begins pumping out some fast urgent lines. For one minute I thought this was going to swing into Sons Of Freedom from the new album, instead it heads into a blistering rendering of Cross-roads performed · la the Cream version.
Finally we get an emotional (can it be anything else?) Thank You which has Page again taking on the solo in his own time and Plant commenting at the close “Just some silly old buggers singing some love songs!’’ Rock And Roll then proceeds to inspire the best reaction from a London crowd I’ve heard since… well you name it… They take a bow and exit right.
The aftermath glow as we slowly disperse soars through the atmosphere. By coincidence, or maybe not, a couple of long tern fans Dena and Nigel D joyously echo the same state-ent to me. “The best since Earls Court.’’ Now that is some accolade.
It’s easy to get carried away with the sheer presence of the occasion. But let’s not beat about the bush (no pun intended!), this really was a special occasion. A real intimate reconciliation with their audience. Let’s face it for the paying fan this was an audience that really wanted to be there, given the effort needed to get tickets.
For me personally it’s been a real revelation to be in such close proximity to it all. To experience once again that feeling that makes everything (including all the stress running this thing causes) worthwhile. This has been a very memorable evening. Best since Earls Court? Well I have to say for pure out-and-out enjoyment this one will take some beating.
Thursday March 26 1998:
A day of drizzling rain brightened up by several excited calls from those in attendance last night.
Then it’s to Elstree, which handily isn’t too far down the Bedford Thames link train line. A dull and wet Elstree 7pm on a Thursday night inspires the usual “What the hell are we doing here’’ cry amongst Mr and Mrs Foy and myself. What we are doing here is getting ready to line up in the queue to gain entry to the special recording of Page and Plant for BBC’s Top of The Pops. That’s right, Top Of The Pops, the programme Led Zeppelin stoutly refused to appear on, and by default the programme Whole Lotta Love (in a big band rock version) became the signature tune of throughout the ’70’s.
They are filming tonight for what will be an exclusive live performance insert in the coming weeks of their new single Most High. Radio One gave out a phone number to ring last Friday to ring for tickets. Luckily the TBL crew have been on the case (Thanks Rob D and Mr Linwood), and here we are in line. The regular Top Of The Pops has already been filmed earlier in the evening, we now wait to gain access to the studio. We are let in out of the rain at 8.30 and ushered into a cloak-room area. The crowd does seem to be an odd bunch. Around 20 or 30 are known to me – the rest seem to have jumped on the Radio One ticket bandwagon – I’d love to have asked a few of them the depth of their interest in Zeppelin/Page and Plant.
Anyway, after nearly 3 hours of waiting – at 10pm we are led into the small studio. A small stage set up with a cut down Page amp run (one Fender amp, two cabs and oddly, the Theremin set up) features a large Jimmy Page Robert Plant logo on the actual floor which will no doubt be captured by the overhead camera.
A pair of warm up announcers relay the instructions “We want you to make the most amazing noise possible when they come on.’’ To get us in the mood, the studio version of Rock And Roll is given a playback. The rent-a-crowd behind me push forward giving me a rather splendid vantage point right in front of Jimmy. Last night was close, but hey, how much closer can you get?
Rock And Roll fades and on they walk – Robert wearing the long sleeve shirt he had on at the first Istanbul concert. Jimmy has his first noticeable change of clothes on the tour – pin stripe trousers and a nice dark silk shirt sensibly worn outside the strides. They move forward shaking out stretched hands at the front. I had wondered if they were going to do a mime playback to Most High. From the moment Jimmy slugs out the opening chords I know I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is most definitely live and we are most definitely high!
From Istanbul via Shepherds Bush to Elstree. Most High has travelled a bit in the last few weeks and now, here at 10 past 10 on a Thursday evening, not far off the East Enders set, well it sounds a very British experience despite the ethnic feel. To the left Phil Andrews adds the oriental keyboard solo as Jimmy turns to Michael Lee to add some rough-shod rhythm. Its all over too soon, and what we want is a little bit more. Robert looks over to Jimmy and nods – a guitar change ensures as the familiar Gibson is brought on. A smiling Jimmy straps on – “Here’s a new one from our latest tablet of stone’’ laughs Robert. The backing drum track of House Of Love duly rolls out but hold it- Jimmy has a problem. He waves his arms “No hold it – I can’t see my cue!’’. It would seem the cameramen leaping in and out of them has covered the cue sheet that rolls on one of the monitors. Second take and they’re off. This is turning into a great live number with Robert’s “It’s just a little too much” refrain’ incessantly hitting home.
Is that it?… More milling around on stage ensures… will they or won’t they? They will! Jimmy goes off to change his sweat soaked shirt. He returns wearing an Abbey Road T-shirt. Meantime, Robert enjoys some banter with the crowd. “Wolves for the cup’’ shouts one wag, “’You don’t mean that!’’ he laughs. “Where’s Pans People?” (a reference to the old all girl dance troupe the programme featured years back) is another cry that inspires a laugh on stage.
Jimmy appears and Robert explains the origins of the next number “OK here’s one that was written even before we were born’’. A compact run through Crossroads which is fast becoming the cover version standard of the ’98 tour follows.
Right at the close Jimmy holds the Gibson aloft, and even before he has had time to finish the song a member of the audience jumps on stage to shake his hand, to be followed (a little foolishly) by a handful of others who hug Robert and add to the on-stage chaos. Fearing “Zeppelin stars in stage riot at Top of the Pops” type headlines assorted roadies and road managers disperse the crowd and Jimmy and Robert lead off. It would seem the mini invasion might well have curtailed anything else they might have been planning.
“Well that was absolutely fucking brilliant!’’ shouts the announcer back on stage. Are they doing anymore… hold on, no, that’s if for tonight. Thanks for coming!’’
It’s all happened in under 20 minutes, and no sooner than being cut off in our prime we are walking along Elstree High Street in search of the nearest chippie. (We later hear Jimmy had gone off to eat at the local Wimpey!).
Well that was bizarre. Did it happen? Well it did but the whole night holds something of a dream like atmosphere. It all happened so quickly. But yes, they were there, on Top of the Pops on a Thursday night, just like it used to be when I religiously watched it each week hoping for a glimpse of something decent… perhaps Free, or the Stones doing their new single. But never surely Jimmy Page and Robert Plant together. Surely that would be a sell out.
How times have changed. And incredibly, there’s more TV fun to come tomorrow.
Friday March 27 1998:
And so it goes on. This week really is turning into one of, if not the most, memorable Zeppelin related since Earls Court and today it’s Friday so it must be TFI Friday. That’s right, the immensely popular music show hosted by the incredulous Chris Evans and scripted by big Zepp fan Danny Baker. Now I have much admiration for Evans – one of the most gifted broadcasters of the last 15 years. I also never miss the show – it’s brand of celebrity interviews, sketches and live music is never less than interesting. Page and Plant were announced for the show a couple of weeks back. Pleasingly the opportunity arose to ensure some TBL representation at the show (a situation that once again was not without it’s stress for me but I guess it was worth it in the end).
It’s nice to be taking along the good lady Janet today – it was 15 years ago in a similar TV studio setting such as today (The Tube in June ’83 – my word that seems a lifetime ago!)) that she first became acquainted with the live Robert Plant experience. So it’s fitting that we should be going back to a TV studio to see not just Robert but Jimmy too, an opportunity for her to enjoy the event and perhaps view at first hand the reason for all the endless phone calls that disrupt Coronation Street and many other things in the Totnes household.
Lunch time in Hammersmith. Unfortunately the TBL crew meet has gone a little off course. The pub we were advised to meet in has, er, well, been renamed! Luckily we all manage to catch each other in the Wetherspoons pub and from there it’s off to the near-by Riverside Studios.
Another queue begins but finally we are in (and no problems with the age situation, so Zimmer-frame rock rules after all!) Then it’s more excited waiting outside the studio and eventually we are moved in around 4pm. (Not before the strains of a Most High run-through have been heard earlier). Once in, we quickly gather around the stage that they will be performing on. Which is not too hard to decipher. Clues: Ludwig drum kit, Jimmy’s effects panel and one solitary microphone at the front (and we all know who that’s for).
A studio announcer runs us through pro-ceedings and gets the rules out of the way. We’ve got to keep smiling and dancing throughout whichever bands on. “I know a lot of you are here to see one special act’’ says the man to a huge cheer. Before long it’s ready to roll, red light on and cue the music.
Chris Evans is giving the programme run down… he’s already making a big thing of Page and Plant being on – and as he’s doing that, it all starts happening down the front. Tim, Charlie and Michael are in position, Jimmy climbs up to the stage and straps on the Gibson. Robert hugs the mic waiting for the cue. (Fashion notes: Jimmy retains the pin stripe trousers and reverts to the black T-shirt; Robert has a similar T-shirt on to Wednesday, but opts for the baggier trousers similar to those worn early on the Eastern Europe dates. “They sold 100 million albums… second only to The Beatles and Woolworths! They raised rock on high, they juggled both Led and Zeppelin… and they’re here now, and now with Rock And Roll here are Jimmy Page and Robert Plant!’’
And it bloody well is – right in front of our eyes. How close can it get! Bedlam follows as we rock it up with them – Jimmy looking supremely confident as he struts around – Robert mic off within a minute – all the old poses. It’s absolutely glorious.
Three and half sweat soaked minutes later and they finish to rapturous cheers. Phew now that was pretty exiting! “Led Zeppelin!’’ proclaims Evans. “Led Zeppelin’s Rock And Roll by Mr Jimmy Page and Mr Robert Plant!”
The rest of the show follows – we nod along to The Smiles and Divine Comedy, cheer to a montage of Gary Lineker’s goals that are shown during his interview and also get well excited everytime Evans mentions Page and Plant – everytime he does the riff of Whole Lotta Love is played, inspiring mass air guitar movements from Evans and those in the bar. After an interview with Full Monty star Paul Barber (who says he’s a fan) it’s time to welcome Page and Plant for their interview. We see them walk along the gantry into the bar. The interview is an excellent one. Plant has a Wolves scarf tied around his wrist and dryly comments that “Old men do it better!’’ in reply to Evan’s question on how they keep it up. Evans brings in Steve from Manchester, a fan who had rung into to his radio show in the morning. (The popular Virgin Radio show had turned into a 45 minute spontaneous Zeppelin showcase.) He asks about the chronological live album “Yeah it could happen in the future” replies Page. Jimmy is really good humoured throughout the interview, another example of the fun they seem to be having. Chris manages to get their names mixed up in his own excitement (Robert Page and Jimmy Plant) and asks a question faxed by Jeremy Clarkeson: “Is it true you once cancelled a tour due to the hose pipe ban,’’ gets a hoot of laughter from Plant, “That’s a good one!’’
Plant does his own Midlands accent describing how the Wolves fans comment to him “Alright Planty, still doing a bit then!’’
Down on stage the cameras have been moved allowing us the ultimate vantage position right under Plant’s monitor. How close can you get! (again). Evans introduces the finale, “Page and Plant playing the new single Most High’’. Charlie and Michael kick into a riff as the boys climb down the stairs and up on to the stage.
Our signature tune kicks in yet again. Page’s guitar sound so pure and clear as he strikes the strings just feet away is just awe inspiring. Robert meanwhile wheels the mic stand around just avoiding the top of our heads. On the solo oriental part Jimmy crunges out the most amazing riffs leading where the oriental part usually leads. And then the finale – with Plant extending the lyrics (rolling up on the monitor in front of us incidentally) and it’s over. Huge cheers, big smiles. They’ve done it once again.
As we shuffle away from the stage I feel a real pride – the same pride I felt on the last night of Earls Court… at Knebworth when we sang You’ll Never Walk Alone… in front of the TV at 1 am in the morning as the camera panned away during Stairway at Live Aid… after they demolished Wearing And Tearing at the Silver Clef show… at Meadowlands Arena during the ovation they received after a stinging Song Remains The Same three years back… and now yet again in this little TV studio on a Friday night – 23 years to the day when they played that famous last night at LA in ’75.
It’s still valid and it still inspires and moves us. Even some of the younger fans here for The Divine Comedy picked up on the vibe. It feels so good to be part of it, knowing that a UK audience of four million are about to see it on the small screen themselves.
7pm Outside Riverside Studios. Robert comes out to applause and walks along with his five year old son Jesse. Eventually he straps into his Gold 500s Mercedes pausing to make a call on his mobile, and drives off with Jesse in the back. Bound for the Midlands and a Sunday rendezvous at Molineux for Wolves against Portsmouth. Jimmy is in an upstairs hospitality room behind Cedrics Cafe. A swelling crowd of well wishers, press photographers and autograph hunters await. Eventually he strolls out looking very relaxed happy to sign for all and sundry -posing with a small child and parents,
Then he’s driven off in a blacked out car.
The TBL crew head back to the Wetherspoon pub for some rousing aftermatch talk passing Hammersmith Odeon (or Apollo as it’s now known)on the way. Ten years ago almost to the month it was there that we witnessed one of the major reunions of the ’80’s when Jimmy joined Robert for that famous segment. They played Rock And Roll that night too. Back then in our wildest dreams we could not have predicted the remarkable series of events we’ve witnessed these past three days. Around the Hammersmith flyover railings there are already poster flyer boards advertising the new single (though not as many once Mr and Mrs Foy and Rob D have been passed). Once in the pub the ale flows. I feel a huge relief that the last three days have gone so well – and at last it’s a time to unwind. Many a beer is drunk in celebration. Luckily the good lady Janet is around to ensure the train doesn’t keep on rollin’ when we head back.
Saturday March 28 1998
It’s back to work with a predictable hangover. However it looks as though TFI Friday has had the desired effect. “When’s the new Led Zeppelin album out?’’ asks a genuinely interested punter “Weren’t they great on TFI last night’’!
Page Plant, Led Zeppelin… I guess now it all blurs into one. Watching the video on Saturday night brings it all back. Catching ourselves on camera and many other familiar faces. One clear fact emerges from this very special TV appearance – it was a real Event with a capital E. To his credit Chris Evans played it up appropriately knowing he was in the presence of men with a legendary past – and a great future. Once again it was a real privilege to have been luckily enough to witness it all. It brings to a close a week that really does in hindsight rank alongside those heady days in SW5 23 years back.
Final Reflections: Three days After
Once again Jimmy Page and Robert Plant have exceeded my expectations. These past three days have produced so many highs, so many moments of absolute pure musical magic.
Can it ever be this good again? Has it been this good before in recent years? Who knows. Perhaps not, but the fact I was able to witness it all is a major triumph and relief. A triumph and relief that for me personally succeeded in successfully re-evaluating the reason why I devote so much time and passion to this thing, and put it all firmly back into focus.
The memories that I and all those that shared in it can now be stored- taking their rightful place in the category marked “Unforgettable’’. Because this mad month of March really was, and is, as good as it gets.
Dave Lewis, April 2nd 1998
So that is the way it was………..back in 1998…
Incredibly this was all of 16 years ago this week and as Sandy sings ”Who knows where the time goes?” ……..but it goes and all too soon…
Dave Lewis – March 28th 2014
Until next time…Keep listening, keep reading…
Have a great weekend…
Dave Lewis/Gary Foy – March 28th , 2014.
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