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IT WAS 40 YEARS AGO TODAY – LED ZEPPELIN AT EARLS COURT SUNDAY MAY 25 1975 /DL DIARY UPDATE

25 May 2015 1,917 views 4 Comments

 fluff 25

TBL Celebrates the 40th anniversary of Led Zeppelin at Earls Court:

Turning the clock back 40 years..

SUNDAY MAY 25 ,1975:

Setlist: Rock And Roll/Sick Again/Over The Hills And Far Away/In My Time Of Dying/The Song Remains The Same/The Rain Song/Kashmir/No Quarter/Tangerine/Going To California/That’s The Way/Bron-Y-Aur Stomp/Trampled Underfoot/Moby Dick/Dazed And Confused (inc. San Francisco)/Stairway To Heaven/Whole Lotta Love – The Crunge – Black Dog/Heartbreaker/Communication Breakdown (inc. D’yer Mak’er).

So the party was nearly over. Got up at 1pm and on the train at 5. Very busy around Earls Court – the unofficial programmes and posters were doing brisk business.

We had an excellent view  for this last swan song – a straight face on view on the back tier front stalls. I remember vividly Alan Freeman’s introduction ”We are here today because you and I have great taste…”.

There was a sense amongst us all of this show being the last as Plant put it in his opening speech for ”A considerable time”. ”Still there are always the 1980’s” – what an ironic statement that was to prove.

The arrival of that soundboard tape of this performance a few years ago revealed that the band were completely at ease that final night. Free from the pressure of the opening gigs, clearly looking forward to their summer break and respective tax exile travels and content in the knowledge that their public acclaim at home was at a new height, well they could just lay back and enjoy it.

That’s exactly what they did, performing with a great sense of camaraderie. Given that freedom, this performance easily rivalled the previous night and often exceeded it. May 24 remains my personal Earls Court favourite, but May 25 was the best group performance of the five nights.

There were still many great moments to savour before the final exit:  Page’s free form solo on Over The Hills – right out there as he closed his eyes and drifted off – thoughts maybe of life in far off palces the next week; another refrain of You Shook Me during In My Time Of Dying; Plant playfully scat singing ad-lib lines of Friends and Mystery Train before ‘Bron–Y-Aur Stomp’; the San Franciso insert returning during what would be the final live complete version of Dazed And Confused with John Bonham; and then on into the home straight with an emotional ‘Stairway’ preceded by Plant’s moving reference to his daughter Carmen:

“Well Carmen, here it is – this song’s to a little girl who sits there probably wondering what it’s all about… So, where is the bridge? So Carmen, here’s your chance to find out where the bridge is… and if you know, please let me know after the show.”

Fittingly, they added some extras for this final flurry: after the usual ‘Whole Lotta Love’/’Black Dog’ they returned to the stage again to perform Heartbreaker, Plant shouting out “Any requests” in a manner he would repeat at Live Aid ten years hence. They stayed on stage to decide what to do next, and at the suggestion of a cameramen pulled out ‘Communication Breakdown’. It said everything about the spirit of Earls Court that this final statement carried a final twist, Plant ad-libbing lines from the never before played live D’yer Mak’er, aping the reggae style of the then emerging Bob Marley. The extended middle section featured a spontaneous series of instrumental stops and starts between Page, Jones and Bonham.

“Well it’s been about three hours and forty-five minutes. It’s time we went back to listen to some Bob Marley & The Wailers. Thank you very much for showing us we’re still alive and well. And it’s goodnight from me and goodnight from you. Good night and watch out for the holy grail.”

There was a party inside Earls Court after the final show attended by all the group and various guests including Jeff Beck, Chris Squire from Yes, Alan Freeman and Bob Harris. Music was supplied by Gonzalez and Dr Feelgood. The next day Plant left England for Agadir with his wife Maureen, subsequently meeting up with Jimmy in Marakesh for a spate of travelling that would inspire the song Achilles Last Stand. The plan was for the group to reconvene in Paris in August to prepare for a series of outdoor dates in America due to commence in San Francisco later that month.

The events of August 4 would change all that. On that day, holidaying in Rhodes, Robert and his wife were seriously injured when their rented car spun off the road.

It was the first of a series of misfortunes that would dog the band for the rest of their career. The glory days were over.

In retrospect, those glory days ended as the four of them left the Earls Court stage for the final time late on the evening of May 25, 1975.

More DL personal thoughts:

Great moments on the final run in: Page’s free form solo on over The Hills – right out there as he closed his eyes and drifted off – thoughts maybe of life in the Agadir the next week…Another refrain of You Shook Me at the end of In My Time…the San Francisco insert back in for what would be the final full version of Dazed And Confused ever played. An emotional Stairway with Plant’s moving reference to his daughter Carmen ”A song to a little girl who sits there and who wonders what it’s all about”…and then the encores.

When it was apparent they were coming back again after Black Dog we rushed down to the side of the stage and had a great view of Heartbreaker and Communication Breakdown. The latter with its stop start reggae scat signing middle section was just utterly sensational.

I’ve just watched the DVD of that encore segment – for  pure out and out Zeppelin in their own world and nothing else mattered vibe – it may be the best footage of them ever captured.

”And its goodnight from him….”

Anxious not to let this Earls Court experience end, we hung around the front of the stage. Going home was not an option. We had spent some considerable hours in this building over the past week and we did not want to let it go..and there was a vague notion just maybe… well surely it can’t possibly happen but maybe we could get a glimpse of our heroes…

Incredibly, as the arena emptied we were able to walk through the black curtain at the side of the stage –with no security guards around we were able to walk unchallenged through to the backstage area which comprised of various luxery caravans.

There sitting on a limo was Robert Plant –  blue sparkled jacket, white scarf and draped in bracelets and rings looking for all the world like a Greek god. Being right in front of Robert at that moment was just incredible. An unforgettable image. After getting over the sheer shock of seeing him, I asked the rather dumb question when would they be playing in England again. ”There’s a lot of traveling to do first” was his reply. We walked across to the entrance where the aftershow party was taking place with Plant and his wife Maureen and Rusty from Showco . Robert sang a few lines from Kashmir as he scuttled through the entrance. We also saw Bonzo, Jonesy and Jimmy arrived along with Chris Squire from Yes, Bob Harris and Jeff Beck.

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Robert at the Earls  Court Swan Song party:

Knowing they would have to come out at some point we waited outside the party entrance. There was no way we were going anywhere until then!

About 3am I took a walk around the building and with no one around I was able to slip back into the arena –the entrance I took brought me direct onto the stage  – yes incredibly I found myself on the Earls Court stage – now deserted except for some PA gear and Jonesy’s grand piano. It was an amazing feeling looking out from the actual focal point from where hours earlier Led Zeppelin had performed from. Standing where they had stood…

Eventually we saw them all leave the party at around 4am. Jimmy looking frail in white suit but keen to acknowledge the remaining fans – one of them asked how his finger was – ”oh fine now it’s so nice you all care”. Jonesy and Bonzo signed autographs and Robert looking rather out of it, was ushered through to the limos. That was our final view of Led Zeppelin at well after 4am on the morning of May 26th 1975.

…and coming down wasn’t easy!

Monday May 26th was thankfully a bank holiday and after arriving back home at 7.30am I then slept all day. The real cream on the whole week had been the fact I’d met them all and got their autographs – there was no plan of action to do that, it had just all slotted into place. Relaying it all to everyone back in Bedford was quite strange as it all appeared quite dream like. But it really  did happen and I have the autographs to prove it!

Days later I was in the heat of Lorret De Mar on a the Wallbanger lad’s holiday. My fellow Earls Court attendees Phil, Tom and Dec were with me and Phil  brought along the tape he’d made of the May 24th show he recorded next to me at Earls Court on a primitive cassette portable. It rained once in Loret and we all piled into his room to hear the tape. A bizarre experience as Earls Court came alive again in foreign surroundings. Incidentally alongside reveling in the late night discos (one of them was called Moby Dick!), the highlight of the holiday was the batch of Zep Spanish pressing singles I uncovered in the local record shop- it just never stopped!

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Once back home I began scribbling down some notes on my Earls Court experiences. -this would eventually form the basis of the Earls Court feature in the first issue of Tight But Loose. Inspired by the likes of Nick Kent I started to formulate a feature I dubbed Earls Court Relived. As my mate Tom often says ‘’You know the rest’’

So that was the week that was – Led Zeppelin five times in the space of seven days.  To say it has had a lasting effect on me is an absolute understatement. It really was the moment my life switched into colour.

There would be many dazzling episodes ahead, but perhaps nothing with the sheer uncomplicated joy and optimism of that week in May 1975 all of 40 years ago.

They were, are and always will be the glory days of Led Zeppelin

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DL Diary Update:

40 years on – at fairly short notice we decided to have a bit of an Earls Court 40th anniversary gathering here last night – it was an opportunity to mark the completion of the book – beers were drunk, we had a fun quiz (Tom and Jackie won) and of course my fellow Bedford May 24 Earls Court attendees Tom and Phil shared our memories of that amazing day – and we also skyped Dec in Ireland. All in all, it’s been hugely enjoyable to look back on this week of weeks all of 40 years ago and as the singer put it, it really does feel like a second but a lifetime ago.

It will be back on to TBL 39 matters this week as we get ready for another TBL summer of Led Zeppelin…more on all that to follow.

Dave Lewis – May 25, 2015.

You Tube Clips:

Stairway To Heaven:

Heartbreaker:

Communication Breakdown:

Until next time…

Keep listening, keep reading…

Dave Lewis/Gary Foy –  May 25, 2015 

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4 Comments »

  • Ed-Washington DC said:

    Zeppelin five times in seven days. And you lived to tell the story.

    Fabulous.

  • Andy J said:

    Thanks for this fantastic series of articles, Dave. As you know I was at that last night and it still remains my greatest ever concert experience so I feel really privileged to have been there. Keep up the great work and hopefully you’ll find the time to get out the other book you were planning on these historic concerts.

  • Stephen said:

    Such a cool story about getting backstage. Nowadays, in the world of post-9/11 security and retina scans, the chances of sneaking behind a curtain to mingle with he biggest band in the world would be nigh on impossible. And all the stuff about enjoying the blithe pleasures of youth, before the arrival of kids, mortgages, and middle-age was spot on. It tied in neatly with the beginning of the end for the band. Post 1975 it was never quite the same, although there were some glimpses of the old magic from time to time. In my opinion, 1975 was the last time all the members of the band really believed in what they were doing. Anyway, great post, Dave, really touching and captured the essence of the time perfectly.

  • Steven Babcock said:

    Thanks for sharing the memories. You’re so lucky to have attended these shows!

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