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11 August 2011 13,332 views 5 Comments

32 years ago today Led Zeppelin performed what would be their final UK show at Knebworth Park

To mark the 32nd anniversary here is another round up of recollections from out in the field – As taken from the book Led Zeppelin – Then As It Was At Knebworth 1979.
The second run hardback limited edition updated version available for pre-order now here:

Led Zeppelin Then As It Was….New Edition

Tim Davies,

I remember queing all night with my good friend Chris outside Harlequin Records ( I think it was) in Northampton.
The vibe was great…people were already there in the queue.
I think it was a Saturday morning, there was no college that day, so, after we got the tickets we decided to retire to Chris’s flat for a few jazz cigarettes and listen to some quality Zeppelin !
After what seemed an eternity, Friday August 3rd dawned. We decided to make a flag with a giant “Fat Freddy’s cat” (remember that?) symbol painted on it, so that people we were travelling with and had arranged to meet there would find us!
There were maybe ten of us gathered at the flat of a friend who had got the use of a mini-bus, so, after we had “chilled -out” for a bit we all floated into the bus and began the drive down from Northampton to Knebworth.
One of the girls in the bus had seen Zeppelin in Australia in ’72..I can’t remember which gig she said it was, but she said that one could see the desert and bush behind the stadium and the band played as the sun was setting..which sounded really amazing to my ears !
It was getting dark as we arrived so we quickly set up “camp” which meant opening the crate of beer we had brought with us and then later on we went for a walk around the camp site itself.
The whole camping area resembled a sort of medieval fayre…..There were glowing camp fires, with fans not just from Britain, but it soon became evidant from many lands. Lots of Italians and some Americans.
I remember that at about 3 or 4 in the morning, we all somehow ended up by a huge gate that led towards the arena.
There were loads of fans at the gate, and on it! Eventually the gate gave way and crashed to the ground, and through it we all surged. We staked a claim to a piece of ground sort of half way between the mixing desk and the stage as Chris had read an interview with Jimmy who said that was the best place to hear Zeppelin (good man!!).
At this point I think we all fell asleep and woke up several hours later to the sound of Supertramp’s “Take the Long Way Home” blasting out of the P.A. system. Man was it loud ! …and that was nothing compared to the full power of the P.A. system as we would later find out.
During the afternoon a yellow helicopter buzzed over the crowd. A guy in the group next to us told us that it was Jimmy arriving!
I asked him how he knew and he said that he and his friends had sneaked into the back of the arena a few days before and witnessed the soundcheck. Apparantly Jimmy had arrived in a similar helicopter then.
I tried to imagine what it must have been like for Jimmy as he flew over that crowd !!
After a great day in the sunshine, and lots of great music, the time drew near for Zeppelin to appear.
The wait seemed endless. Quite a lot of people in the crowd seemed quite the worse for wear.
At last the group came on stage and everyone rose to their feet . The roar was unbelievable!
One guy in front of us was having difficulty seeing the stage and had piled a few huge beer cans together and then tried to stand on them. The whole pile gave way and he crashed to the ground and passed out!
The first notes of Jimmy’s guitar blasted out…it was “The Song Remains The Same”.
..the song gathered momentum …eveyone was was hard to hear the music clearly until the sound balance was sorted .I just remember it was incredibly loud and very exciting. Lots of people were shouting “Sit down!” …but how could we when Led Zeppelin were playing 20 metres in front of us !!!
Watching “Achilles Last Stand”, with the white spot lights pointing into the crowd, was as if the mothership from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” had just landed in front of us.
After the last encore, I remember the poor guy who passed out actually came to and asked me when I thought the band were coming on stage. I didn’t have the heart to tell him !
I walked down to the front of the arena after the show …there were people milling around for ages. One American girl was just sitting on the grass saying over and over….”I can’t believe I just saw them!”
Chris and I and a few others hung out most of the night there and then crashed out under the trees at the back of the arena.
In the morning we wandered around, and then helped out for a while picking up the rubbish and putting it into huge bin bags.
A few days later at college, when my ears had stopped ringing, I spoke to Chris….”You know they are playing again on Saturday and Keith Richard’s band are the support !”
“Yeah, I know” came his reply..”fancy hitching down there ??”
How could we say no ……
And we did. Those were the days

Mike Robinson

It was an April mornin’ when they told us we should go

In late April 1979 the air crackled with an electric expectation; whispers grew to a muted roar and, as the supercharged clouds of rumour gathered, finally, the news broke.
Full page ads in that familiar long-legged typeface bestrode the music press: Led Zeppelin would play Knebworth Park in August.

Pandemonium. Tickets were sold out almost instantly and, clutching ours, we were overwhelmed with anticipation and pride.

It was to be a day-long festival, not that anyone cared about any other of the bands playing. We would see Led Zeppelin play on English soil, the first time they had done so since the Earls Court 1975 concerts. This was it, but, nearly 200 miles north and without personal transport, this would also be a bit of a problem. Trains were out of the question. There was no way we’d get back in the early hours. Hitching was not really a possibility, as there would be four of us and none were blonde and good looking.

We’d go by coach. But no. After ringing around none of the coach operators had a clue what we were talking about. Hmmm. After a bit of head scratching an idea broke. We would hire our own coach and, as well as getting ourselves to the gig, we’d fill up the remaining seats with Zeppelin fans from the North East.

We rang the local coach hire company and a 44-seater was booked. To advertise the trip we stuck an ad in the local paper The Evening Gazette. You had to have your own concert ticket, which by now were gold dust, and for £5 you’d be taken from Guisborough to Knebworth and back.

It seems we were not the only ones who had been stuck for travel to the gig. Just over a week after the ad had appeared the seats were sold. Still enquiries came. We rang the coach company. Yes, we could have a bigger coach; were we sure we could fill it? Yes, not a problem. The extra seats sold the next day.

We were to travel overnight to be there for the whole of the day.

The weeks to the concert soon passed and come August 10 the coach was parked and ready in Guisborough. Everyone had been asked to meet up at the coach park. A few late comers from out of the area arrived at my parents’ house. This involved my mum dispensing tea and biscuits to various bemused put polite leather and denim clad blokes and their girlfriends as we waited for the departure time to draw nearer.

Then after a short walk down the lane to the coach we could see the result of our bit of private enterprise as a few dozen disparate souls bound by a common desire to see their favourite band assembled to board the coach. Names were ticked off and everyone climbed aboard. Myself and my good friend and Zeppelin nut, Graeme Hutchinson sat near the front of the coach. My other friend Graham and my very lucky 12 year old brother, Kenny, sat in the seats in front of us. It seemed hours before Kenny settled and he was the target of largely good-natured encouragement to ‘pipe down’ as he knelt, hanging over the back of his seat chatting to us about everything and nothing. A watering stop en route was uneventful as tired looking eyes blinked in the alien light at a quiet service station. And on we drove through the night.

We arrived to a bright morning and thousands of fans. A village of tents and sweet smoke; a gathering of the clans. We took a place in the grassy amphitheatre and ate and drank through the day. Trips for more provisions or to answer nature’s call required bearings to be taken from flagpoles dotted throughout the vast crowd; proclamations from the attendant tribes.

The concert passed too quickly but my memory is punctuated by vivid moments. Most memorable for me was Jimmy threading his way through the intro to Achilles’ Last Stand and John Bonham tripping his bass pedal and detonating hurtingly bright lights, blinding and white into the night.
And the return home?

Well,…… I counted them all out and I counted them all back.

A very successful campaign.

Andy Balcom, Goole

Mum had gone to bed and dad was at work that fateful night in 1979 when the news was announced on The Old Grey Whistle Test. “Led Zeppelin are to headline this year’s Knebworth Festival on August 4”.
Bloody Hell!
I was 16. I’d been a fan since seeing that wonderful Whistle Test film for Trampled Underfoot three years earlier. After that I was then beaten into submission by my mate Suggy’s brother who played In My Time Of Dying to us over and over again.
I’d followed the ’77 US tour religiously in Melody Maker and Sounds but now they were playing in England. I had to go.
“Mum…” I recall testing the water to see if she was asleep or not that night. “Can I go to see Zeppelin in August pleeeese?”
Negotiations had begun. Living in the backwater of Goole meant that I’d had a pretty sheltered existence and going to gigs hundreds of miles away was by parental permission only. Over the ensuing week Mother undertook a deal of research; phoning my uncle in Welwyn to gauge his opinion on Knebworth (positive) and checking amongst her friends at work to see if any of their sons were going.
Fortune smiled. My mum and Richard Bramham’s mum were kindred spirits. Both intercepted their son’s copy of Sounds and Melody Maker on a Thursday morning so they could keep up with our so called “Heavy Metal” obsession. Richard was only an acquaintance but he was going to Knebworth, and more importantly was a mature-gig-attending-18-year-old. My saviour.
When my ticket came, however, it was for the second night as the first had sold out. Luckily Richard also got tickets for the second date. So we were game on. Over the weeks prior to the show I walked the dog to a standstill dreaming of what the set would be. What Jimmy would be wearing and how great it would all be.
As for the day itself, it was all very much a blur. I can quote the set list to this day and vividly remember the glowing red violin bow and the thrill as the green laser shot from the end of it.
I remember a great moment during the Kashmir crescendo where I, and everyone around me mimed the drum part together and the white light spectacle of Achilles Last Stand.
All too soon we were queuing for the bus back to Stevenage station and then, much later, waiting on a Sheffield station. The adventure was over, but what a ride it had been.
So that was my very first gig. I had seen a group called Drifting Harmony at Goole Baths but this was the first proper show… and I’ll never ever forget it.

Gary Simpson, Roxburghshire

I was in the midst of my finals so I couldn’t get tickets for the first show – so I was delighted when the August 11th show was announced. The minibus trip down the A1 from Scotland took us most of Friday. We woke early on the Saturday and started the trek towards the arena. In my naiveté’ I got fleeced for the counterfeit programme.
Then the interminable wait through the dreadful support bill (Chas And Dave?!) and the mind numbing delay before The New Barbarians arrived. Finally at 10.30 pm it was time for the real show.
Much of the detail has been somewhat lost in the ravages of time but I can vividly recall trembling as they appeared on the stage. Paul Gambaccinni’s notes form the programme are still apposite “This group is part of our lives.”
There then followed my one and only sight of Led Zeppelin in concert. It is still impossible to be objective about it even after all these years. There were moments of high drama and brilliance. Achilles Last Stand, White Summer, Kashmir, In The Evening and the amazing Communication which closed the show after 1pm. Then there were also moments of incredible sloppiness but it somehow seemed irrelevant. I was there. I had plugged into the source, paid my respects to the phenomenon that was Led Zeppelin.
There was an element of near religious pilgrimage about the whole day. It was a kind of thanksgiving to what they’d given us over the past eleven years. I’m just grateful I took the opportunity when it was there.

Gary Wade, Cheadle

I went to the August 11 show. I was 15 and it was my very first gig – some debut! At that age it was a huge adventure. My mate Andrew Dillon got the tickets and his dad took us down in the car the night before. I’d spent the previous month on a crash course of Zeppelin albums being a Genesis fan first and foremost at that time. It was a real eye-opener camping out alongside all the hippie-types on the Friday night.
Inside the arena we found a spot on a raised mound. It was a strange support act line up, and as the day went on the arena kept filling up. The toilets were dreadful and finding your way back to your own spot was also very difficult. I had my first (and last) joint which I have to confess did nothing for me at all.
Then there was the long wait for The New Barbarians who proved to be a real disappointment. As the stage was set up for Zeppelin the adrenaline kicked in and any tiredness disappeared. I’d seen The Song Remains The Same movie but this at last was the real thing.
The roar of the crowd when they came on was just unbelievable and the combination of that and the lights and the sound inspired a rush of tears through the sheer emotion of it all. To be honest the gig was a bit of a blur. Jimmy’s laser bow the most vivid memory.
Thirty years on the critical view is that they were great but a little rusty but I prefer to remember it just as an incredible emotional experience that has stayed with me ever since and led me to many more fantastic Zeppelin related experiences.

”Some people think it’s all over”……DL and Tom Locke sleep it off…

Phil Hasler,

The first Knebworth show was the only time I actually got to see Zep live, I tried to get tickets for Earls Court in 1975 with no success so when they announced Knebworth I was right up for it. I can remember travelling up with a group of friends there in a mini van. When we got to Knebworth I remember being in the queue of traffic looking out of the window and seeing a young loony freak offering a police woman a large beautifully arranged bunch of dry twigs and weeds. Very strange! We got to where the entrance was and were waved on past it by the police, we ended up on some strange industrial estate in the corner of a car park, after trying to erect our tent by tying the guy ropes to the fence and front of my friends Ford Escort. We gave up on that idea and decided to pack up our stuff and head back to the site, we found a discarded supermarket trolley on the way which made carrying the camping equipment a bit easier .

On arriving at the site we lit a fire and settled down for the night. There was no room in the two man tent for all of us so I ended up trying to sleep by the fire with the other people that could not fit in the tent. In the morning someone walking past stopped to warm themselves by the still smoldering fire and fell into it but did not seem to notice what was happening to him. We got him out of the fire and he continued on his way. We then left our patch and walked to the show field, on arriving at the booths at the entrance I handed over my ticket and was given no stub back which all these years later I still feel pissed off about!
We ended up about half way back on the left facing the massive stage, where we stayed all day watching the support acts and soaking up the atmosphere. I remember what seemed like a very long wait for Zep to come on and I remember enjoying ‘Ten Years Gone’ (always a favourite of mine) The one track I was determined to savior was Kashmir and it did not disappoint, a fantastic performance.

I remember when they left the stage all the fires burning under the night sky, an amazing time. My last memory of that night is walking back to the camp site though the fields and somebody started to sing a song that had been in the charts by Jilted John and on the bit where he goes “and you know who was with him” everybody shouted “Yeah Julie!”.Absolutely hysterical.
Knebworth and Led Zeppelin – A fantastic mad time a very long time ago.

Text taken from the book Led Zeppelin – Then As It Was – At Knebworth 1979 -compiled by Dave Lewis

Copyright Dave Lewis/Tight But Loose Publishing – not to be reproduced without prior permission.

”…it is now…”  DL bids Knebworth a thank you and goodnight.

Led Zeppelin – Sick Again

Led Zeppelin – Kashmir

Led Zeppelin – Communication Breakdown

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  • Gary Wade said:

    ha ha Dave, you’ve embarrassed me again with my boys (21 and 17) who rib me about my teenage exploits – i don’t care and it’s great to keep reminiscing, keep up the good work.

    Gary – still in Cheadle and still drug free!

  • Tim Davies said:

    Check out “Over The Hills And Far Away ” from the first week 04.08.79.
    Enough Said!!…one of the best version EVER !!

  • Steve said:

    At the first Kebworth gig “Sick Again” was when Zeppelin went from a good band to the best bloody band on the planet, from then on in it was exceptional 🙂

  • Geoff Adamson said:

    Has anyone seen the photo of Pagey on his website today ….. .. reading the Financial Times his shares have either fallen or he’s read a review of the Band of Joy…

  • martin Evans said:

    Was it really 32 years ago bloody hell .For this 16 year old in 79 it was life changing , set me on a road of many a zep related adventures and a road that led to the 02 Arena to relive some of that magic I saw that day in a field in Stevanage . What a day , what a band .Oh for a time machine !

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