JOHN PAUL JONES BACK ON STAGE/STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN LED ZEPPELIN MASTERS UK TOUR/LZ NEWS/BBC IN CONCERT 46 YEARS GONE/PRESENCE AT 41/DL DIARY BLOG UPDATE
John Paul Jones back on stage:
Tres Coyotes the new band formed by John Paul Jones with Anssi Karttunen and Magnus Lindberg made their live debut in Helsinki, Finland on Wednesday April 5.
Long time TBL contributors Tiina Puska and Minna Luostarinen were in attendance – here’s their first impressions:
”What can we say about the Tres Coyotes; challenging, powerful, enjoyable. JPJ was relaxed and clearly enjoying himself. He played five string bass and mandolin and grand piano. Modern contemporary classical improvisation. It was fantastic”
Photo by Juha Palotie – many thanks to them for that on the spot report.
Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin Masters UK Tour:
The previously mentioned ‘Stairway To Heaven: Led Zeppelin Masters’ touring unit arrives in the UK for the first time this month.
The UK dates are as follows:
Tuesday April 18: Manchester Bridgewater Hall
Wednesday April 19: London Palladium
Thursday April 20: Bristol Colston Hall
Saturday April 22: Newcastle City Hall
Sunday April 23: Edinbugh Usher Hall
Monday April 25 : Birmingham Symphony Hall
Tuesday April 26 Southend Cliffs Pavilion
Wednesday April 27: Plymouth Pavilions
Ticket details are avaialbel form their website see link at
I am aiming to attend the London Palladium show on Wednesday April 19.
Here’s an overview of the show from long time Australian based TBL contributor Michael Rae:
They come from the land of fire and sun!
April 2017 sees a tour of the U.K. by Australia’s Zep Boys. Far from a just another tribute show, the Zep Boys are staging their full Led Zeppelin Masters concert, complete with orchestra- this played to full houses in Australia’s biggest concert halls last year.
I saw the Zep Boys and the Black Dog Orchestra last July at Hamer Hall in Melbourne. To say it was a joyous event is a massive understatement.
Right from the opening bars of “Zepature”, an orchestral overture featuring many of the familiar LZ melodies and chord progressions, there was no doubt that this wasn’t to be a night of a cover band running through the simpler LZ numbers but, rather, a uniquely sensitive and powerful interpretation of the LZ canon.
“Zepature” gave way to “Achilles Last Stand” and what a rendition it was.
The sheer power of the sound was extraordinary. Not ear-bleedingly loud, more that the band and orchestra were so focused and intense. Brilliant musical and vocal virtuosity on display as the band and orchestra took to the song with a will, with Vince Contarino demonstrating an impressive vocal ability.
“All Of My Love” followed, giving the musicians and the audience a breather, with the brass and string sections of the orchestra providing a new perspective on JPJ’s beautiful keyboard parts.
Acoustic numbers, such as “Ramble On”, “Going To California” were underscored with brilliant string arrangements, while every facet of the orchestra was utilized to full effect in the ballads, including “The Rain Song”, “No Quarter”, and, of course, “Stairway To Heaven”. ”Kashmir” was a standout as guitarist, Tzan Niko, teamed with the orchestra to make the pride of Led Zeppelin his own.
The sheer enthusiasm the Zep Boys bring to their show is infectious. There is absolutely no chance you won’t remember laughter at a Zep Boys show.
Roaring versions of “Immigrant Song”, “Black Dog” and “Whole Lotta Love” closed the show and sent the audience out into a cold Melbourne night grinning from ear to ear.
My advice: be sure to see them while they’re in the U.K.!
Photos by Michael Rae.
Led Zeppelin News Update:
In conjunction with the Led Zep news site, each week I will be re- producing highlights from their weekly email update news summary. This goes out every Sunday. Sign up details are below. Many thanks to James Cook.
Sorry for the lateness of this email — LedZepNews has had a busy weekend.
- Led Zeppelin producer Eddie Kramer gave a new interview about “Houses Of The Holy” for the album’s forty-fourth anniversary. “The whole album had a very upbeat quality to it,” he told Mick Wall. Read the full interview here.
- Jason Bonham posted an April Fools’ Day prank on Facebook on April 1 which caused hundreds of people to think that Led Zeppelin were reuniting. “Robert and Jimmy will be my guests at the Greek on May 21st,” the Facebook post read before Bonham deleted it. See a screenshot of the deleted Facebook post here.
- A new, restored edition of “Blow-Up,” the 1966 movie that featured Jimmy Page in The Yardbirds, was released on Blu-ray on March 28. The release is part of the Criterion collection, and it uses a new, restored 4K digital transfer of the original film as well as the uncompressed monaural soundtrack. Find out more about the release here.
- There was an unlikely rumour posted on the Led Zeppelin Official Forum this week that Jimmy Page attended the memorial to Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in Los Angeles. We saw no evidence of this, however, and the forum post was later removed.
- Two new videos of Robert Plant performing at the Royal Albert Hall with Nigel Kennedy on March 14 have been posted on YouTube. Here’s new footage of Plant performing “Kashmir” for the first time since the 2007 Led Zeppelin reunion, and here’s footage of Plant performing “Hey Joe.”
April 5 – John Paul Jones’ band Tres Coyotes will have their debut performance in Helsinki, Finland.
April 16 – John Paul Jones will perform at the PRÉSENCES électronique music festival in Paris as one half of the band Minibus Pimps.
April 22 – Jimmy Page and The Black Crowes’ “Live at Jones Beach” and Beverley Martyn’s “Picking Up The Sunshine” will be released on vinyl for Record Store Day.
April 30 – Jimmy Page Records will release “The Beginning…”, a 1961 Chris Farlowe studio session produced by Jimmy Page
May – The March 21, 1975 Seattle soundboard bootleg “Deus Ex Machina” is rumoured to be released this month.
May 23 – A photo of Jimmy Page appears in the new photo book by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready, which will be released today.
May 27 – Unrestored footage of Led Zeppelin performing at the Royal Albert Hall in 1970 will be screened there as part of an event about the director Peter Whitehead.
June 23 – John Paul Jones will perform at the Sun Station Vadsø festival in Norway.
June 24 – John Paul Jones will perform at the Sun Station Vadsø festival in Norway.
Many thanks to James Cook.
The complete Led Zeppelin News email goes out every weekend. To receive it each week sign up here: http://tinyletter.com/LedZepNews
Led Zeppelin News Website: Check out the Led Zeppelin news website at
TBL Archive 1:
BBC Radio One In Concert – 46 years gone:
Led Zeppelin BBC Radio One In Concert – It was 46 years ago:
46 years ago, on Sunday April 4 1971, I first heard the music of Led Zeppelin performed live and the effect was pretty shattering to the ears of a young 14 year old – not to mention rather lasting…
The occasion was the Radio One broadcast of an hours worth of live Zep for John Peel’s In Concert programme (repeated the following Wednesday in the Sounds of the Seventies evening slot).
Recorded three days earlier at the Paris Theatre on the back of the band’s ‘Back to the clubs tour’, at the time this was a very big deal.
Zeppelin had not appeared on a BBC radio session since August of 1969 –their return to the UK airwaves was therefore much anticipated. Especially by me, tuning in a at home on our portable radio eager to hear how they sounded on stage.
My trusty reel to reel tape recorder captured all the action blow by blow. Unfortunately due to the poor reception of the then 247 metres radio band of BBC Radio One –much of it was played out alongside the strains of several foreign radio stations drifting amongst the airwaves. I therefore ended up unwittingly with some rather unique versions of these BBC recordings!
After I had carefully set up my reel to reel tape recorder close the radio, the dulcet tones of John Peel spoke forth: ‘’This is something we’ve waited a long time for on the Sunday repeated on Wednesday show and I know it’s all going to be worth the wait. Would you welcome please Led Zeppelin.”
Oh yes we would welcome them Mr Peel. Blam! The battering ram riff of Immigrant Song reeled from the radio and I was in seventh heaven. This was Led Zeppelin live – and a riveting experience to behold.
I was already in love with their three studio albums, I had missed out on their 1969 broadcasts so hearing them live was absolute confirmation that all my enthusiasm was justified. On record they were fantastic -but their songs performed live took all into another stratosphere.
No more so than the next track that was aired. As I was later to discover via the bootlegs, this hour long presentation was edited down from a full set.
On this Sunday evening broadcast Immigrant Song therefore did not segue into Heartbreaker as was the custom of their then live act. Instead we heard Dazed And Confused. All nigh on 18 minutes of it.
This was my baptism into the free form improvisational world of live Led Zep. It was then I realised that the studio versions were just the starting point. Dazed And Confused live went off into all sorts of tangents – the drama of the slowed down intro, the violin bow episode, the call and response sequence through to the lengthy outro – it was all there.
Within the space of 18 minutes my estimation and appreciation of Led Zeppelin shot up 100%.
That trend continued as they performed a dreamy What Is And What Should Never Be, Stairway To Heaven and Going To California from their yet to be released fourth album, That’s The Way and the Whole Lotta Love marathon that had a rock’n’roll medley that included That’s Alright Mama and Mess Of Blues. Phew…
My original reel to reel tape (and the tape recorder) is sadly long gone. However, this BBC performance would emerge first on a series of bootleg LP’s (I had the BBC Broadcast LP with that great Will Stout pig cover on Trade Mark Of Quality when it intially came out in 1973) and then on a variety of CD bootleg sets and officially on the BBC Sessions album in 1997 and last year on the updated Complete BBC Session set.
So thank you John Peel for persuading Led Zeppelin to perform on Radio One again back in the spring of 1971. I have countless hours of live Led Zeppelin at my disposal but it’s that very first hour that still resonates as much as any, as it unlocked the (up until then) secret world of Led Zeppelin in concert. It ultimately led to a fascination for me to hear as many of their live performances as possible.
46 years on, that desire is as strong as ever – and Led Zeppelin as recorded at the BBC back in April 1971 remains one of my all time favourite Zep recordings.
On that April afternoon, as a fledgling 14 year old Led Zeppelin fan listening intently to every second of the BBC broadcast, never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that 45 year hence, I would be asked by Jimmy Page to contribute liner notes to an official release of this epic recording.
That truly is the wonder of devotion…
Dave Lewis – April 4, 2017.
TBL Archive 2:
Presence at 41:
41 years ago this week, Presence, the seventh Led Zeppelin album was released worldwide. To mark the occasion, here is a Then and Now perspective I collated for the 2015 reissue – 41 years on it’s still the true heart and soul of the Led Zep catalogue…
For me personally, the Presence album is and always be tangibly associated with my own circumstances of the time. Playing out my own soap opera, as an impressionable 19 year old caught up in my first love affair played out to the soundtrack of the new Led Zeppelin album.
Back in early August 1975 we were still bathing in the warm afterglow of Earls Court. That feeling was promptly curtailed when the news came through via the national press here, that Robert had been involved in a serious car smash on the Greek island of Rhodes.
It was in early September that I read in Rolling Stone that the band had decamped to Malibu to aid Robert’s recovery – and were planning to write and rehearse for a new album. Subsequent news reports had them sighted on stage in an ad hoc performance in Jersey. There was also the report in NME that they had recorded a new album in Musicland Studios – in a mere three weeks and it would be released in early 1976.
So in January 1976, I rang the Swan Song office in London to find out a release date and more details. March was sited – the Melody Maker ran a news story not long after that the album would be titled Obelisk and released in February. They were on the right lines with the title –as we know an obelisk would be the distinctive feature of a simply bizarre cover design.
Before all that, Robert Plant had given some ‘good to be alive’ interviews in New York. He mentioned one track to be titled Achilles Last Stand ”You know immortal but for the heel -or for being a heel. I mustn’t joke about it because I’m very proud of it”.
The very nature of the title laid down its credentials – I just knew it was going to be an epic. In his review of the Presence album in Sounds, Jonh Ingram declared it would be ”A motherfucker live”. Both these forecasts would prove to be entirely correct.
Jimmy Page’ s press interview for the album staged in March were equally positive. ”It really does sum up a period for the band A little bit of the past, a little bit of the future”.
Achilles Last Stand was indeed an epic – as I was to find out on the evening of Saturday April 3 1976. Alan Freeman had played the entire album on his Saturday afternoon show – alas I was working that day but we taped it and – the first time I heard that opening salvo unfold was in a car travelling the byways of Bedfordshire on a bright spring Saturday evening.
It sounded like something from another planet. It sounded simply magnificent.
I still have that original BASF tape. Somehow it sounded more impressive than the LP. I think it may be a slightly different mix – and there is a slight edit in Royal Orleans. During that broadcast, Alan Freeman let the whole album run without gaps or links between the tracks – there is some noticeable surface noise in evidence indicating it may have been an acetate playing.
Upon its arrival in the record department of WH Smith where I worked, Presence caused a sales rush I’d not seen in the store since – well the release of their last album Physical Graffiti. The store had a side window and that space was reserved for an entire display of the album put in by the WEA display team. How I wish I had taken a photo of that window and the bemused reaction of passers-by as they gazed a the Higpnosis sleeve design in some bewilderment.
The WEA rep that called on the WH Smith store also kindly arranged for me to receive a stand up counter display and hanging mobile – ordered direct from Swan Song in New York. What a moment that was when it arrived and after it’s use in the shop, it was to eventually appear in my Zep shrine of a bedroom.
A week after the release of Presence, my then girlfriend Fiona and I went to London on a Saturday to hang around the Kings Road Swan Song office -just to be near their aura -it’s what I did back then! I remember peering into the basement window of the office and seeing a poster for the album framed.
Presence went on to become our soundtrack of that very hot summer of 1976.
On in the mini bus when we went to see The Who at Charlton Athletic football ground, out on the Phillips portable cassette player by the bank when we swam in the river.
I also took the album to every party we went to, including one memorable 18th birthday party of a friend staged at a sedate village hall Here, the pulsating tones of Achilles Last Stand momentarily replaced the more dulcet tones of The Real Thing’s current disco smash You To Me Are Everything – much to the astonishment of the rather less rock orientated young ladies to be found dancing around their hand bags!
I also made a rather bizarre Presence fashion statement. In November ,when it came to showing my colours as it were in dressing up to attend The Song Remains The Same film premiere at London’s Warner West End (where we had queued overnight to get tickets), I came up with a rather novel idea. The cardboard black obelisk Object that had come with the aforementioned hanging mobile was strung arund my neck to join the Page like white scarf I was wearing. It must have looked faintly ridiculous though Jimmy seemed impressed when I thrust it his way when they came up the stairs to take their seats at the cinema that night!
Unsurprisingly, bits of cardboard obelisk mixed with scarves did not catch on around the Kings Road. However, my empathy for the seventh led Zeppelin album did not wane one bit.
The release a mere six months after Presence of The Song Remains The Same, did overshadow the Presence album for a while. I was all over the live soundtrack and subsequent screenings of the film – but when I returned to it a year or so later, Presence still sounded the business.
In the intervening years, I’ve remained incredibly loyal to Presence, often justifying its greatness in print and in the pub!
It was one of the first Zep albums I acquired on CD around 1988 and by then, it had become my near fave Zep album.
I for one was not surprised when at the 02 reunion, the previously unplayed live For Your Life enjoyed all the plaudits it so deserved as being one of the evening’s undoubted highlights. I’ve always had a great affinity for that track.
I have a fair few copies of this album, including one that retains the original shrink wrap –and another that has an inscription by Aubrey Powell the co-designer of the sleeve –this says ‘’What’s that obelisk exactly?’’ –a reference to the mysterious sleeve. This was signed for me by Po when he came here to film some memorabilia for a Robert Plant video in 2005. Recently I’ve picked up a Chile pressing with a single sleeve and full title and track listing sticker. I also have a copy personally signed to me by Jimmy Page.
So to the album:
The thing about Presence is that it was the product of adversity. On the run from the UK tax system, Plant injured in a car accident, tour cancelled, all energies quicky funnelled into making an album as quickly as possible.
For Jimmy Page,this adversity spurred on a surge of creative drive.
It was an act of defiance and protection. Their whole existence as a band was now in question. Plant’s car cash had rendered them unable to perform live – something they had always taken for granted. Page suddenly became the absolute leader again. It was at that point he must have realised above all the craziness that surrounded them, it was the band, the music and the ability to perform together that was the whole reason for being in Led Zeppelin. Indeed for him inventing Led Zeppelin in the first place.
That realisation ignited Page’s creative muse and motivation to the extent that he wanted the album to be completed quicker than anything they had recorded since the debut album. His reaction was to take a firm hand grip of the Munich recording sessions, leading them in much the way he had at Olympic in 1968, many of the arrangement occurred in the studio as they were recording. When the studio time ran over, he wrapped it up with a massive overdub session with engineer Keith Harwood.
That urgency and spontaneity made for little time for the experimentation of the past.
For on Presence there are no boogies with Stu, no hat’s off to Harper’s. No funk or reggae parodies – no mellotrons or synths. Just full on full power Led Zep. The basic bass/drums/guitar/vocal approach gives the record a very live feel – leading to my conclusion that Presence is the nearest they got to capturing over a complete studio album, the unpredictable edge and power of their on-stage performances.
It’s also stock full of Jimmy Page’s genius guitar rages. Achilles Last Stand, For Your Life and Nobody’s Fault But Mine are all as good as anything he has ever applied himself to.
Given the circumstances it was recorded under, this seventh Led Zeppelin album was an amazing achievement – it’s an album that reflects the real heart and soul of Led Zeppelin.
So to this new remaster – and as was the way with Physical Graffiti, I played it through non stop at full blast. Sound wise, it has the same new sheen that has characterised the previous reissues.
Achilles retains the majesty and mystery that so transfixed us way back.
For Your Life has that undeniable dark lyrical edge has it grinds its way through its six minute duration. The Page solo here still sounds like one of his best …maybe THE best – unfolding with incredible venom.
Royal Orleans is full of funk on a lighter level punctuated by Page Jones and Bonham pounding out the riff, over which Plant unfolds the humorous story of road fever goings on in a New Orleans hotel. Bonzo’s conga drumming is right to the fore half way through and benefits greatly from this new remaster.
Over on side two, Nobody’s Fault But Like Mine is graced with a truly startling introduction as good as any track anywhere. For all their early blues musings they never dressed up an old blues tune more inventively than when they re wrote Blind Willie’s Nobody’s Fault. Lemon squeezing Delta dealings merge with Page’s sonic guitar technology. Absoluyely masterful.
In the 50s singer Ral Donner skit Candy Store Rock, we find them just turning themselves on – playing on a 50s groove in the manner they approached the countless off the cuff juke box faves within many a Whole Lotta Love live medley. On the new remaster this a revelation – as the echo effect of Plant’s vocals zip right across the speakers.
The pure intuitive swing of Hots On For Nowhere reflects its very live in the studio construction and as Charles Shaar Murray so astutely noted in his NME review of the time, brings to mind ”What Glenn Miller would have sounded like if he had played in a murderously heavy four piece rock band”.
Leaving the understandably downbeat Tea For One, a slow blues reflecting Robert Plant’s hurt at being away form his family. ”Time goes very slowly when you cant kick a ball or kick a roadie even kick your drummer so time has been the teacher and I’ve been the pupil” he noted at the time.
Summary: This new Presence remaster only goes to emphasis how great an achievement this seventh Led Zeppelin album was, and is. A crucial album in the catalogue which will rightly attain many accolades in the coming days and weeks. Folks – you are going to absolutely love this one…
Companion Audio Disc Content:
So to the Companion Disc Audio content:
For Your Life (Reference Mix) 6.28
As the riff halts each time, there’s a pronounced echo effect. Altogether a denser mix. At 3 mins 18 additional vocal nuances from Robert. Again the overdubs are more upfront. The solo is an alternate version – the final stinging one has yet to be added. This one bends and twists on to the canvas creeping up on the listener in the process. Always on the edge…and essential in any mix..
10 Ribs & All/Carrot Pod Pod (Pod) (Reference Mix) 6.48
Opens with low key piano from John Paul Jones. Instantly reminded me of the JPJ piano concerto type solos applied to the live versions of No Quarter in 1975 notably at Earls Court. The plaintive piano arrangement also recalls to mind his playing on Ice Fishing At Night on The Thunderthief solo album.
Mournful, forlorn and reflective, it creates a beautiful atmosphere. Jimmy drifts in at 2mins 39 with some minor descending electric strumming, quite possibly courtesy of the Telecaster B bender. Behind all that there’s an acoustic guitar – all very autumnal and Ten Years Gone- ish. Then John Bonham enters at 3 mins 01 and like Jimmy says, it will make you smile – it might even make you cry. It all leads on to something of a crescendo in an All My Love outro tempo.
So Jonesy did take the piano out of the flight case for the Munich recordings – it’s emergence throws a new light on what had previously thought to be an 18 day frenzy of guitar, bass and drums arrangements. There was indeed some subtly going on down at Musicland Studios and here it is. One for the theorists indeed – but one things for sure, with a suitable Plant lyric this has all the makings of a classic Zep romantic offering in the Ten Years Gone/In The Light vein. An absolute revelation.
Royal Orleans (Reference Mix) 3.01
A‘3-4’ count in and hi-hat from Bonzo and we are off for a reference mix that features a very different vocal delivery to the officially released version.
Robert Plant applying the lyrics in a harsh bluesy manner which reminded me of Dr John. The final gruff snarl at 2.52 of ‘Oh whiskers’’ brings to a close a very unorthodox Plant vocal performance. Robert taking on the role of the New Orleans night tripper…
Hots On For Nowhere (Reference Mix) 4.47
Both the vocal and bass are much more upfront in the mix which makes for a grittier texture. There are no vocal overdubs on the outro section just Roberts ‘Oh- ho-ho’’ – right through to a full ending after Jimmy’s guitar part as Robert adds a final ‘’Aha oh- oh- ho’’ phrase. Still swinging without the overdubs…
Which leaves one performance left to dissect:
Ones Are Won (Achilles Last Stand ( Reference Mix) 10.28
The vocal track is more upfront and with less echo and sheen making for a different texture to the vocal. The stereo effect of the guitar overdubs has a slightly different resonance. Slightly alternate overdubs in the mix at 5 min 53. The ‘’I know the way, know the way, know the way’’ overdub has yet to be added.
On the ‘’Aha aha-a’’ Robert refrain, Jimmy plays right along with the vocal creating a call and response sparring effect. At 9 mins 12, there’s an extra Robert vocal croon and more echo effects – all leading to a more defined jangling Page finale. The guitar army cometh – and the grandiose just got even more grandiose…
So let me leave this overview of Presence on an Achilles note.
So much has happened since I first heard that epic performance for the first time some 41 years ago on a spring Saturday evening. In a world where the only thing that’s constant is change, for me Achilles Last Stand still acts as something of a standard bearer of their music.
The defining moment of the defining band…and now the final mesmeric chord progression performed by Jimmy Page at the close of a Led Zeppelin masterpiece, marches relentlessly on in this new remaster of the Presence album – still searching for that place to rest the search….
”Where the mighty arms of Atlas hold the heavens from the earth”
The Mystery Of The Object: That Bizarre Sleeve.
In the January 17 issue of Melody Maker, a news report suggested that the forthcoming Led Zeppelin album would be titled Obelisk and was due for release on February 20. Although they were a good six weeks out with the release date, and the eventual album title, the rumour of Obelisk gave hint to the actual sleeve design. For the sleeve would feature an obelisk (dictionary defined meaning: monolithic shaft of stone, square or rectangular in section with pyramical apex or simiar shape) or as Swan Song would dub it “The Object”.
The first visual evidence of this was leaked to Sounds in early March. “US adverts for the new Zeppelin album look like a scene from an early Sixties breakfast cereal ad” is how they described the illustration. By now the album had been officially titled Presence and Atlantic’s marketing team were advising of the delays in a press release as they tried to co-ordinate their sales campaign, stating that “Led Zeppelin oversee all and every detail of the production of their albums to ensure the end result is nothing short of excellent. Finally, on April 6 1976, the full extent of the bizarre gatefold sleeve was revealed alongside the seven new compositons it housed.
Zeppelin had created a series of enigmas with their controversial and striking sleeve designs. For Presence they went right out on a tangent. The idea was conceived by Storm and Po of the Hipgnosis design team who’d worked on the Houses Of The Holy sleeve. The concept came about after a group meeting between Hipgnosis, Peter Grant and George Hardie (a fine art designer who had worked on the first Zeppelin sleeve). It was apparent to Storm and Po that Zeppelin projected an almost unseen presence of power – the brief was to translate that presence into a visual illustration.
Storm takes up the story. “What we came up with was the idea of placing an item from one time or another into a surrounding from another time. So we chose all those pictures from the Forties and Fifties and contaminated them with the presence of the black obsessional object. The black object stands as being as powerful as one’s imagination cares it to be and we felt Zeppelin could rightfully feel the same way about themselves in the world of rock music. So, in those scenes The Object. as we dubbed it, was essential to all parts of the society. And those people in the scenes were trying to discover what The Object was – and how its presence was felt.
“The front and back pictures were shot by us. The back cover girl was the same child model we’d used in the Houses Of The Holy shoot. All the inner spread photos were lifted from US magazines such as Life and Look. The object was pointed on by Richard Manning – Jimmy Page actually asked us to alter the shape of the design of it and the title Presence was their suggestion. I think the whole sleeve concept was very appropriate for Zeppelin. The band are a very powerful band, musically and socially, and the black object is a definite thing of power. Its pervasive presence and mystery appealed very strongly to them.”
Jimmy was in agreement with most of their ideas. “It came out of that conversation when Hypgnosis said we had a very positive force. The fact that four people can create an effect. there’s definitely a presence there – and that was it. They came up with The Object and wanted to call it Obelisk. I held out for Presence. You think about more than just a symbol that way.”
In designing The Object, Hypgnosis were commissioned by Swan Song to have around 1,000 of them made as a three dimensional promotional items. Not all of them were welcome in the Zeppelin households.
The mystery prompted Rolling Stone reporter Cameron Crowe to call the London Swan Song office. He reported the following: “Richard Cole answered the phone ‘I’ve no idea what it all means. I’m not sure they even know. Hold on for Robert”. Cole clamped his hand over the phone and returned to the receiver. ‘This is great’. Plant came on and exclaimed, ‘I’m glad people are wondering what it means. The most I can say though is that everybody should work it out for themselves – it’s not hard to work out especially for our Kubrickian fans.’ Plant’s comments seemed a clue that The Obiect is Zeppelin’s miniature modified version of the monolith featured in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Designer Aubrey Powell denied this. ‘Didn’t think of that – I just had a tremendous feeling when we took it to them that this design was absolutely right for the band at this point in time’. Back to Plant ‘Whatever you want to say, it says it. The Object can be taken in many ways. Let’s just say we like plucking these mysteries out. We used symbols on the fourth album. They’re fun and add to the music. But there’s not much fun in knowing everything is there?’”
The Kubrick 2001 theme was also taken up by an hilarious Earth News radio special broadcast in the US at the time of the album’s release. Here’s some of that dialogue: “The Object is black… and twisted and obviously worse for wear and tear since its original appearance in 2001. To look at it on the pictures decorating the new Led Zeppelin album it would seem The Object is now back in the year 1950 or thereabouts. Robert Plant has contemplated The Object perceiving in it the messages that others might discover in The Pyramids of Egypt. ‘It’s been ever present throughout time,’ he told us. ‘We just took one moment in time in which to illuminate its presence in society.’
“The Object may not be welcome everywhere – it appeared recently in the home of John Bonham who told us this story. ‘While I was away my wife received one of these Objects in the post and put it on the table. There was tape machine running, recording the children singing, and when they played it back, there was another sound on the tape altogether so there’s something to think about. In fact Pat put it outside the house we won’t have it in the house at all.’ So be forewarned! If Led Zeppelin’s music is sounding a little strange to you lately it may be because of that Object on the cover. If so, follow the lead of John Bonham’s wife and put the album sleeve out of the house.”
In the UK this speculation was taken up by Sounds who asked readers to write in with their own explanations. The results are published here in full – glancing at them some 20 years on, one can only marvel at the eccentric reaction all this Object scrutiny prompted. It was another episode in the grand Zeppelin guessing game. Did it really mean something, or was it all part of their playful desire to add to the mystique?
Whatever it was, you can hardly imagine anyone getting worked up about a sleeve design in this miniatured CD jewel box age. Back then these things seemed to matter as anyone weaned on double gatefold sleeves in the Hipgnosis/Roger Dean/lsland era will testify. However, just when it seemed we were all about to get mixed up in the pretension of all this Object lark – it was firmly debunked by popular satire rockers of the time Albertos Y Lost Trios Paranoias. In a superb spoof on the artwork of the official Zeppelin UK ads, the group advertised their new album with the illustration of “The Thing” – an upright version of The Object all under the slogan “The Albertos Give It To You Straight”.
After seeing that, I can imagine the likes of the more down to earth Bonham reversing his decision to keep that obelisk out in the garden, laughing out aloud at this scam and explaining something along the lines of “I think The Objects a load of bollocks”.
Great art or a load of bollocks? The mystery of The Object (if indeed there was one) certainly kept us all bemused and amused long after the album had drifted from the charts during the late summer of 1976.
DL Diary Blog Update:
As expected, Dec’s 60th birthday visit was full on – and great fun (despite us all fighting off colds). He was here from Tuesday through to Monday. Here’s some pic highlights of the celebrations:
Friday treats at the Vinyl Barn. An early morning visit yields a Miles Davis original Milestones on Fontana, A Best Of Queen EMI Polish pressing with colour sleeve and a real beauty – Chris Farlowe In The Midnight House EP on Immediate – what a find! Thanks Darren Harte !
At StudioMix on Friday with TBL designer Mick Lowe to present Dec with a special 60th birthday framed version of the flyer of his first alternative disco held at the Crown in March 1980…I was there for that one!
With the good lady Janet on Friday night at Dec’s 60th birthday celebrations in The Three Cups and our 33rd wedding annviersary! Celebration night all round!
On Sunday the party really was coming to an end – it was time to go home after a splendid Sunday roast dinner at The Three Cups again (the good lady has suggested I move in!) With Janet, Dec’s sister Yvonne plus Dec and his daughter Alice.
It was back to TBL matters on Monday and work on the Evenings With LZ book project. We are now up to the US tour of April 1970. Meanwhile co author Mike Tremaglio continues to come up with some amazing retro finds and reviews – this week a bunch of rarely seen Scandinavian tour images has come his way. All that will be added to the mix.
On the player:
Led Zeppelin – BBC In Concert 1971
Led Zeppelin – Presence
Led Zeppelin – Viva La Revolution CD sampler
Crosby Stills Nash & Young -The Complete Fillmore Tapes -I’ve been looking for this CD set for a good while.
Miles Davis – Milestones LP
Judee Sill album on the Asylum label – great early 70s singer songwriter.
April is upon us and there’s a lot to do and a lot going on – including the Led Zeppelin Masters Palladium gig and Record Store Day ahead. I’ll also be closely monitoring Spurs performances in the run up to the climax of the Premier League and the FA Cup semi final against Chelsea. They did very well to come back form a goal down against Swansea on Wednesday to win 3-1. There’s still a lot to play for as they say…
This weekend I am in for a bit of the Bruce Springsteen tribute The Bootleg Boss at the nearby St Cuthbert’s Hall – the ticket price includes a hot buffet…
Bruce’n’ Buffet – you gotta love it!
”Tramps like us baby we were born to run…”
Dave Lewis – April 6, 2017
Until next time – have a great weekend…
TBL Website updates compiled by Dave Lewis
with thanks to Gary Foy and James Cook
Follow TBL/DL on Facebook:
The TBL/DL Facebook page has regular updates and photos – be sure to check it out.
And follow TBL/DL on Twitter.