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MELODY MAKER POLL AWARDS 1979 TBL ARCHIVE SPECIAL INCLUDING PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED PHOTOS//LZ NEWS/LA FORUM 1975/ LETZ ZEP ONLINE GIG/ JIMMY IN BRAZIL BOOK/LED ZEPPELIN IV PART 2/FEATHER IN THE WIND BOOK/DL DIARY BLOG UPDATE

26 November 2020 1,869 views 2 Comments

TBL Archive Special :

Melody Maker Poll Awards: November 28, 1979 – 41 years gone…

41 years ago on a late cold November afternoon in 1979, I walked into the plush surroundings of the Waldorf Hotel in London and ordered a vodka and lime at the bar just behind Richard Cole who was organising drinks for three quarters of Led Zeppelin.

The occasion was the annual Melody Maker Poll Awards for which Peter Grant had rounded up Robert, Bonzo and Jonesy to accept a remarkable seven awards. Richard Cole and assorted roadies and tech guys and Swan Song personel were in attendance.

I was there reporting it all for what would become Tight But Loose issue number 4. Some of the text of that report (unbeknown to me) would years later be suitably exaggerated in The Hammer Of The Gods book.

I remember spotting Robert wearing the pair of bright yellow and blue Nike trainers he’d acquired at the Wembley Goal Diggers soccer tournament the previous Sunday which I’d been along to watch. I made a mental note to seek out a similar pair on my return to Bedford – they were my style gurus as well back then and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one though I drew the line at investing in a dragon suit!

melody-jpj

There was an air of supreme confidence amongst the Zep camp that afternoon – their delight in scooping so many awards in those post punk days could be clearly seen. It really did feel like ‘The 1980’s Part One’ was ready to usher in a new exciting era for us all. The photo here with John Paul Jones inspires a host of memories from that early era of the TBL magazine.

It was a fantastic thrill to be in their company that November afternoon all of 41 years ago – the full story originally published in TBL issue 4 and again in the Zep On the Town chapter in my Knebworth book is re-produced below..

DL

 

MM Poll Awards – Zep 7 The Rest 0…

Dateline: Wednesday, November 28th, 1979

Central London, just after midday on a cold sunny winter’s day, Robert Plant has managed to lure himself away from his Worcestershire home for a reason other than football. Well, Peter Grant said he ought to be here.

This formal call to arms is to attend the Melody Maker Poll Awards reception at London’s ever so posh Waldorf Hotel, the reason being that those old defunct dinosaurs, Led Zeppelin, have scooped a total of seven awards in the poll. An extraordinary feat and one worthy of celebration.

Mention celebrating and, well, you’ve got John Bonham. Arriving with the immaculately dressed Richard Coles and the rest of the, dare one say, heavy backstage entourage, he heads straight for the bar and hearty laughter is soon heard to ring out. Peter Grant arrives by chauffeur driven Rolls. Although his character is said to be nothing like as fearsome as one would imagine, he always looks so awesome. I mean really. Not so Mr John Paul Jones, of course. Down for the day from his Sussex home in similar style. He’s wearing the most incredible baggy jeans, cowboy boots, check shirt and light brown bomber jacket, with turned up collar. His hair is what I notice first of all. It’s nigh on shoulder length, but more stylish than I’ve seen it in a long time.

Robert is premiering the new training shoes he was given on Sunday. Bright yellow they are, and very nice, too. Jeans, green shirt and black, thin lapelled jacket completes the attire. Oh, not forgetting his black and red thin scarf, which I’ve seen him with loads of times. On the ’75 tour, at The Song Remains The Same premiere, the ’77 tour and now. The only reason he can give, when I ask him why he’s so attached to it, is “It’s the only one I’ve got left.”

The Waldorf Hotel is an amazing place, and, er, very expensive. Then I buy a single vodka and lime over the bar, before proceedings commence. The cost is £1.40. “Is that with the chair included?” I enquire, after rising from the floor. Thankfully, those wonderful chaps at Melody Maker have footed the bill for the reception and once inside, all manner of alcohol is flowing freely. Robert gets in to conversation with Yes manager, Brian Lane. Most of the other Zep entourage stake a table at the far end of the hall. The only notable omission from the camp is, of course, Jimmy Page, who has just got back from Barbados and couldn’t make it. Three out of four isn’t bad though, for this their first public appearance since Knebworth.

Time for proceedings to start. The host is Monty Python’s Michael Palin. First up to receive an award is Robert Plant for the Top Male Singer. Kate Bush, clad in a dress the shade of Bonzo’s red jacket (wow), steps up to get her female counterpart of the first award. “Top Band – Led Zeppelin” says Mr. Palin, and up step all three to receive the trophy, Bonzo giving a quick throwaway speech. “Best Album – In Through The Out Door” This is getting like the Led Zeppelin Fan Convention!” Robert steps up for this award with the quote, “It’s hard work, but a lot of fun.” The Boomtown Rats take their best single award and then it’s the Zep step(?) again. “Top Guitarist – Jimmy Page” shouts out Mr. Palin, but as no Zep member manages to get up for that award or the next, “Top Producer – Jimmy Page”, both get handed to MM’s Richard Williams.

Annie Nightingale is up next, to accept the award for The Old Grey Whistle Test. Chris Squire, the Yes man, follows to get Top Bassist. Phil Collins picks up the Top Drummer award, using Robert’s “hard work, but a lot of fun” one liner. Rick Wakeman can’t make it, and instead sends a recorded message on tape, but the useless P.A. does it no justice, amidst laughs all round. “Top Live Act – Led Zeppelin” and it’s Robert up again to fire his one liner, you guessed it… “Hard work, but a lot of fun”! Brand X, John Peel, Tommy Vance and Yes claim more awards, and finally, Robert takes the seventh Led Zeppelin award, for Top Composer. Proud moments indeed, and a kick in the you know where for all those critics. Ten years after they first scooped the Melody Maker Poll, Led Zeppelin do it again. It’s remarkable.

While a 1920’s style jazz band supply the background music, Zeppelin line up for a photo call with all seven awards. Cameras click merrily and Bonzo sings along with “I Only Have Eyes? For You.” With the serious stuff out of the way, it’s time for the booze and the real ligging to commence.

Robert gets into a long rap with John Peel, concerning the footballing fortunes of Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. A certain B. Geldof also comes over to chirp in. A slightly subdued Bonzo sits in the easy chairs chatting with Peter Grant. John Paul Jones, lovable Jonesey, is playing up to his unassuming image by being, well, unassuming. He looks quite the self satisfied man from Sussex, with glass of wine in hand. He has this soft articulate accent, and when you consider all the riotous behaviour Zeppelin have been associated with over the years, it’s difficult to picture John Paul Jones as part of it all.

He tells me he thought Knebworth was “most exciting.” The sound system had particularly impressed him, As Melody Maker scribe, Steve Gett eyes Jonesy’s Rock Against Journalism badge, talk gets round to the press and John recites an hilarious story about Elton John’s speech at the recent Music Therapy Awards, denouncing a certain Fleet Street The pic here is of Swan Song press officer Unity McLean, Melody Maker journalist Steve Gett and |JPJ.

 

When I get a closer look at one of the MM awards he’s holding (Top Band), Jonesy tells me, “You could have it for yourself, but if I went back to Sussex empty handed, my wife would start wondering where I’d been!” Robert, meanwhile, looks pleased with himself. “D’yer know, I’ve just had half an hour talking soccer” he beams. He’s content now to drink tea and talk with Bob Geldof about B. P. Fallon, ex Zepp publicist. A trainee scribe from MM comes near the Zepp entourage. “I’m looking for quotes” he states. JPJ turns around, and with usual dry wit replies, “Quotes? Oh, Eric Quotes? Haven’t seen him.”

By 3.30 the party is drawing to an end. At this point, Bonzo becomes more of his boisterous self. Looking at the Top Band award, he laughs, “Ah, The Police should have won this. Have you seen them?” he says, doing a mock Sting swing and shouting out the chorus of Message In A Bottle and Walking On The Moon. Geldof turns and laughs, “And you lot only work Tuesday to Friday, don’t you?” enquires the man Bonham. “Why’s that?” asks Robert, falling into the trap. “They Don’t Like Mondays!” Agh!

Bonzo and John Paul Jones await the Rolls. Robert is heading straight back, in his land Rover parked around the corner. As they shake hands with various liggers, The Rats, and the Yes entourage, somebody wishes Wolves success in their bid for Europe. “Yeah” jokes Mr. Plant, “If they don’t make it this season, I’m quitting this business for good – I mean it!”

Outside, the sun is still shining, though there’s a cold nip in the afternoon air. Down the road from The Waldorf, a newspaper stand has just had its delivery of the first print of the music press. Soon everyone will know, for there, emblazoned on the cover of Melody Maker, is the headline ‘7 for Zep.’ A headline which spells out clearly the fact that Led Zeppelin have ended the decade as they began it – at the top.

Dave Lewis, November 1979 – as written for TBL issue 4

Previously Unseen Photos from the Melody Maker Poll Awards: Here’s three previously unpublished photos I came across recently in the TBL archive that I took at the Melody Maker Poll Aards on November 28,1979:

The centre pic shows Robert holding court with Bob Geldof and John Peel and John’s wife Sheila.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LZ News:

Led Zeppelin News Update:

For all the latest Zep and related news check out the Led Zeppelin news website at:

http://ledzepnews.com/

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Led Zeppelin LA Forum 1975:

The Awesome Foursome Live At The Forum (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-1282/83/84)

The Forum, Inglewood, Los Angeles, California, USA – March 24, 1975.

Here’s a review of the new soundboard bootleg release:

https://www.collectorsmusicreviews.com/empress-valley-label/led-zeppelin-the-awesome-foursome-live-at-the-forum-empress-valley-supreme-disc-evsd-1282-83-84/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CollectorsMusicReviews+%28Collectors+Music+Reviews%29

Here is a link to listen to it;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHjNKn9a1SY

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Letz Zep Online Concert Details:

UK tribute band Letz Zep have been in contact to announce an online streaming gig – details below:

Its been a long time since we rock and rolled, so the band will be performing an online live concert on Saturday 5 December at 7.30pm GMT.

Check for your local time.

TICKET DETAILS HERE:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/letz-zep-tickets-123724887469

There is an option to purchase a zoom or a live stream ticket

All tickets can be purchased through Paypal internationally. – Once on the payment page there is a dropdown box to a choice of different currencies followed up by the opportunity to set up a paypal account to purchase the ticket.

Letz Zep are available on Spotify, iTunes and all leading download sites.

LETZ ZEP

THE NO 1 TRIBUTE TO LED ZEPPELIN

LIVE AND ONLINE

SATURDAY 5TH DECEMBER 7:30pm

An exciting evening of explosive rock n’ roll !

A set full of all of Zeps greatest songs including:

Whole Lotta Love, Kashmir, Immigrant Song, Black Dog , Rock n Roll,

Plus the acoustic songs Going To California and Bron Y Aur Stomp.

Intimate conversation with the band.

And we sincerely hope you can join us from the comfort of your homes

………………………………..

Jimmy in Brazil book:

Here’s some details via Christina on a planned Jimmy Page in Brazil book…

My name is Christina and I am a Brazilian music journalist and writer of. My friend Bento Araujo gave me your email and told me you are the biggest fan of Led Zeppelin in the UK. I am writing to you because I am the editor of a book with the story of Jimmy Page in Brazil written by journalist and guitarist Leandro Souto Maior. You may know that Mr. Page lived here and had many experiences with Brazilian artists and fans. We are in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign and I would love that British fans could be informed of it (to have the chance to buy it). The book is bilingual (Portuguese and English) so as the campaign. If you have the chance, take a look and evaluate if you think you could help us spreading it between your friends and contacts:

https://www.catarse.me/jimmypagenobrasil

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TBL Archive Special – 2:

Led Zeppelin IV – 49 years gone…

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV

To mark the 49th anniversary of the release of Led Zeppelin IV here’s a TBL archive feature – first compiled for TBL issue 15 though not used at the time – it eventually appeared in the my Celebration II – The Tight But Loose Files book.

The Making Of Led Zepplin IV – Part Two

Early on during the warm up sessions, John Bonham began banging out the cymbal led introduction to Little Richard’s ‘Keep A Knockin”. Ian Stewart joined in the fun, adding a Jerry Lee Lewis barrelhouse piano backdrop. Jones and Page picked up the mantle, adding Scotty Moore-like guitar runs from the, golden era of Sun Records. Plant soon cut in with a vocal line, but instead of tripping effortlessly into one of the many rock’n’roll standards that they performed live on stage he screamed out nondescript lyrics built around a chorus of “It’s been a long time since I rock-‘n’ rolled”. Within minutes they knew they had something, as Page remembers: “We were doing something else at the time but Bonzo played the beginning of a Little Richard track. We had the tape running and I started doing that part of the riff. It ground to a halt after 12 bars but we knew we had something – Robert came in with the lyrics and within 15 minutes it was virtually complete.”

The jam session nature of the song’s construction resulted in it being credited as a four man group composition, and when they played the track during their live act during European and US dates later that year, Plant introduced it under the title ‘It’s Been A Long Time’. When it came to deciding the final track line-up for the album they agreed this three minute and 40 seconds of stomping rock’n’roll should be titled just that. So it became universally known as ‘Rock And Roll’ and it would go on to be a staple Zep stage fave, taking its rightful place as an appropriate set opener from late 1972 through to 1975.

Ian Stewart was also on hand to add his influence to another jam deemed worthy of recording. This was built around the unusual ploy of making the mandolin the lead instrument over another Fifties groove, and was clearly based on Richie Valens’ ‘Ooh My Head’, later to feature in the La Bamba movie. Cornball rockabilly lyrics like “I don’t wanna tutti frutti, no lollipop, come on baby just rock, rock, rock” were merged with Stu’s incessant barrelhouse playing, over which Page and Bonham dubbed a curious rhythmic slapping sound. Nothing more than a playful jam, they dubbed it ‘Boogie With Stu’ in tribute tq the Stones man. With one superior rock’n’roll jam already perfectly executed, this one was left on the cutting room floor. Three years later Page salvaged it for inclusion on the double set Physical Graffiti and offered a composing credit to Valens’ widow. “It was obvious a variation on ‘Ooh My Head’ by the late Ritchie Valens which itself was a variation of Little Richard’s ‘Ooh My Soul’. What we tried to do was credit Ritchie’s mother because we heard she never received any royalties from any of her son’s hits, so what happens is they try to sue us for all of the song. We had to say bugger off to that one!”

The mandolin was very much a feature of the Zep IV recording sessions. JP Jones had initially acquired it for some of the Zep III numbers, notably ‘That’s The Way’. One night in Headley Grange, Page began picking his way around that same mandolin and so began the genesis of another track.

“I picked up the mandolin, well actually it was Jonesy’s mandolin and these chords just came out. It was my first experiment with mandolin. I suppose mandolin players would laugh because it must be the standard thing to play those chords but possibly not with that approach. It did sound a little like a ‘let’s dance around the maypole number’ but it wasn’t purposely like that.”

Plant had written one new track, ‘The Battle Of Evermore’, after reading a book on the Scottish wars. He felt the track needed another vocalist to act as a foil, so they called in ex-Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny to provide a rare cameo.

“It’s really more of a playlet than a song,” said Plant. “After I wrote the lyrics I realised I needed another completely different voice as well to give the song full impact. So I asked Sandy Denny to come along and sing on the track. So while I sang the events in the song, Sandy answered back as if she was the pulse of the peo-ple on the battlements. Sandy was playing the town crier urging people to throw down their weapons.”

Zep and Fairport had long since enjoyed a rapport, Fairport bassist Dave Pegg hailing from the same Black Country area and being a lifelong friend of Plant and Bonham. Zep had jammed with Fairport at the Troubadour in LA on their last US tour and all the group had partied with Sandy at the Melody Maker poll awards in London the previous September. A month later Page and Plant went to see Sandy’s new group Fotheringay supporting Elton John at the Albert Hall. At Headley Grange Plant sang a guide vocal, leaving out the response lines for Denny to insert. Plant also claims to have played guitar on the track. The end result was an engaging folk lament and another cornerstone of the completed album.

At the time Sandy noted Plant’s own prowess on the session. “We started out soft but I was hoarse by the end trying to keep up with him,” she said.

Her vocal part was taken on by John Paul Jones when Zep finally performed the song live on their 1977 US tour. For their Unledded MTV reunion Page and Plant brought in Indian vocalist Najma Akhtar to perform with them on the track.

The acoustic guitars and mandolins were also prevalent on ‘Going To California’, which was very much in the style of ‘That’s The Way’ from the previous album, and despite its title it was another number written, at the Snowdonia cottage. The song included references to a Californian earthquake, though its main influence was Joni Mitchell. Both Page and Plant had long since admired her work – in fact California was the title of one of the tracks on her Blue album. Page commented, “Joni is able to look at something that’s happened to her, drawback, crystallise it and then write about it.”

In live versions of the song Plant would often throw in subtle Joni references like the night at Earl’s Court in 1975 when he sung the line, “They say she plays guitar and cries and sings,” adding “in parking lots…”. Lyrically the song told of the unending search for the ultimate lady. “It’s hard,” Plant would sing on stage-infinitely hard…”.

Another of Plant’s heroes, Neil Young, provided the inspiration for ‘Down By The Seaside’, one of the first numbers they worked on at Island in late 1970. Written a few months earlier at Bron Yr Aur, it mirrored Young’s laid-back vocal on songs like ‘Heart Of Gold’. Midway through it all went up a tempo, led by a stinging Page solo before it returning to the original country groove. With so much material at their disposal this was another track that did not fit in the scheme of things at the time, and Page later remixed it for inclusion on Physical Graffiti.

During their weeks at Headley Grange the band had little time for the usual boisterous antics. Tour manager Richard Cole, who more often than not took on the responsibility for relieving boredom with fun and games, noted: “There weren’t any serious drugs around the band at that point – just dope and a bit of coke-Mostly we had an account at a shop in the village and we’d go down there and collect large quantities of cider. They were playing at being country squires. They found an old shotgun and used to shoot at squirrels in the woods, not that they ever hit any. An I there was this lovely old black Labrador dog wandering around which we used to feed.”

The dog in question would eventually provide the simple title of another Headley Grange creation, as Jones recalls: “There was an old black dog around the Grange that went off to do what dogs did and came back and slept. It was quite a powerful image at the time so we called one track ‘Black Dog’.”

‘Black Dog’, largely the product of a bass riff brought in I John Paul, was a classic monster riff exercise in the grand Zep tradition that was destined to dispel all the ‘Zep go soft’ claims when it blared out as the opening track of the album. “It’s definitely one of my favourite riffs,” he says. “It was originally all in 3/16 time but no one could keep up with that!”

Plant’s acapella vocal between the riffs was an arrangement Page had picked up from Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Oh Well’. The almost impossible to copy rhythmic swing (a combination of 4/4 time set against 5/4) of the ‘Black Dog’ riff was a key indication of how far ahead of the game Zeppelin really were. Band such as Grand Funk Railroad were already being touted as the logical successor to Zep’s heavyweight crown. Their monolithic riffing was completely devoid of the grace and timing compared to the likes of ‘Black Dog’ – a fact that would become most evident upon the album’s release. Page’s fade out solo was a cleverly overdubbed and triple tracked guitar pieced together by four different solos.

“The effect on those guitars was something I’d learned from Bill Hawelson,” remembers Johns. “He worked with Buffalo Springfield. I plugged Jimmy’s Les Paul into a direct box and from there in a mic channel.”

Page again: “We used the mic amp of the mixing board to get distortion. Then we ran it through two Urie 1176 Universal compressors,” When Page was reviewing the tapes for the Remasters box set he recalled that the guitars almost sound like an analogue synthesiser.

The thorny and eternally topical question of legalising marijuana was the subject under discussion in ‘Misty Mountain Hop’. I chunky rocker revolving around a pleasing JPJ electric piano riff suitably enhanced by Page strident chords and Bonham’s precise drumming, it’s worth noting at this point the quite exemplary percussive contribution Bonzo made to these sessions. His work on every track was superbly applied – check out the subtle drop-ping off the beat at four minutes 17 on this track’s fade. Plant’s semi-rapped vocal style here might be described as the first rock rap, predating the nu-metal movement by two decades. In doing so he exposed the problems of a certain Black Country hippy taking a walk in the park with the police looking over his shoulder.

John Paul Jones led the construction of this song. “I got up before everyone else one morning and I was sitting playing around on the electric piano. When the others got up I played them what I’d done and it went from there.”

Where Zep was really beginning to score was in their ability to balance the controversial acoustic element within their more familiar electric dynamics. Another prime example of this was ‘Four Sticks’. Led by a brilliantly incessant Page riff and powered by Bonham’s literal use of four drumsticks – hence the title – it meandered off into a spiralling acoustic section (“When the owls cry in the night”) underscored by JPJ’s then pioneering use of a VCR synthesiser, and all mixed by Page to achieve maximum stereo split. “We tried different ways of approaching it. The idea was to get an abstract feeling. We tried it a few times and it didn’t come off until the day Bonzo had a Double Diamond beer, picked up two sets of sticks and went for it. It was magic.”

“We did this at Island studios. It was a bastard to mix,” says Andy Johns. “When I originally recorded the basic tracks I com-pressed the drums, then when I went to mix it I couldn’t make it work. I did five or six mixes.” It was also reported at the time that the master tape of this track was at one point lost. Following the album’s release ‘Four Sticks’ was re-recorded in October 1972 when Page and Plant conducted an experimental recording session in Bombay with the local symphony orchestra, the results of which remain officially unreleased.

Since their very inception Page and co had frequently plundered their blues influences to come up with new renderings of old blues tunes. For the fourth album sessions, they worked  on an old Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy recording titled ‘When The Levee Breaks’.

In the final credits they did add Memphis Minnie to the eventual credits, though justifiably they also credited themselves in recreating the tune in a radical new arrangement. The end result was simply a blues rock colossus. Page: “I came up with the guitar riff and Robert sang the words which were inspired by Memphis Minnie’s arrangement – though if you heard the original you wouldn’t recognise the two”.

Page remembers ‘Levee’ being a difficult track to record. “We tried to record that in the studio before we got to Headley Grange and it sounded flat. But once we got the drum sound at Headley Grange it was like boom… and that made the difference immediately. It was very exciting to listen to that drum sound on head-phones.”

As we know know can be heard on the Coda Companion Audio disc they tried an initial version in a different arrangement.

That unique drum sound in Headley Grange was created by positioning Bonham’s drums in the hallway of the house, known as the Minstrel’s Gallery. Engineer Andy Johns:

“The other guys were out having a drink and John Bonham and I were at the house. He still complained that he wasn’t getting the sound he wanted. T finally had an idea. We got his drums and put him in the hallway and then hung two Ml 60 mikes from the staircase and pointed them towards the kit. His kit was very well] balanced internally, each drum’s volume was consistent with the others. In the truck I put him into two channels and compressed the drums. Jimmy had this Italian echo unit called a Binson that used a steel drum instead of a tape – it had a real special sound and I used that as well. I remember sitting there thinking it sounded utterly amazing so I ran out of the truck and said, ‘Bonzo you gotta come in and hear this!’ He shouted, ‘Whoa that’s it. That’s what I’ve been hearing!’”

Page was equally enthusiastic. “What you’re hearing on the record is the sound of the hall with the stereo mike on the stairs second flight up. There were a lot of different effects in there. Phased vocal and a backwards echoed harmonica solo. I’d used backwards echo as far back as The Yardbirds’ days.” (The effect can be heard on The Yardbirds’ track ‘Ten Little Indians’ from their Little Games album.)

That drum sound remains today the most sampled beat of al time – first introduced by the likes of The Beastie Boys and the house DJ’s in the late Eighties, it has lit up countless rap and dance tunes in varying speeds and tempos. It remains one of the most startling percussive statements ever committed to tape.

Another number recorded at Headley Grange and over dubbed at Island Studios dealt with the then topical subject of nuclear war. During an interview in 1971, on seeing a front page headline that read “Nuclear Test Damage Threat”, Plant had this to say about the then current state of the world: “It really breaks my heart that we’re all singing songs about love and peace and togetherness and really there’s so little of it.”

These views were reflected in the lyrics to ‘Night Flight’ a bright, breezy rocker. “I received a message from my brother across the water, he sat laughing as he said the end’s in sight” Supplemented by Page’s guitar fed through a Leslie speaker t give it a swirling effect and Jonesy’s Hammond organ, the track was one of the most commercial from the sessions but when: came to the final selection it was omitted from the album. Like ‘Boogie With Stu’ and ‘Down By The Seaside’ it was another track Page would revisit when it came to putting together their 197 double album Physical Graffiti.

Which leaves just one song to discuss; the proverbial mill-stone around their necks. Couples have played it during their marriage services, radio stations still can’t stop playing it (four million logged plays and counting), would-be guitarists learn their craft by it, and the Australians, led by Rolf Harris, have made a whole parody industry out of it. Evil messages were claimed to be heard when it was played backwards. The singer allegedly hates it.

There was a time, however, when ‘Stairway To Heaven’ was simply the longest track on Led Zeppelin’s new album. They knew it was good, but they could never have dreamt the sheer commotion that this eight-minute epic would cause over the ensuing decades. It’s been both loved and loathed in equal measures.

Routined at Headley Grange, ‘Stairway’ was actually recorded at Island Studios in London’s Notting Hill. Page had much of the chord sequence on a demo when they first tried it out. “I’d been recording demos on a home unit called a new Vista,” he said. “It was the deck from the Pye Mobile that had been used to record things like The Who’s Live At Leeds – and we’d used it to record our Albert Hall gig. I’d been fooling around with the acoustic guitar and came up with the different sections which I married together. So I had the structure and then 1 ran it through Jonesy. I’d had the chord sequence pretty much worked out and Robert came up with 60 per cent of the lyrics on the spot.”

Andy Johns remembers: “We did the track at Island in London. Jimmy had the tune pretty much worked out. He played acoustic in the iso booth. He was the thread that held it all together. We had Bonzo out in the main room and John Paul played a Horner electric piano.”

Robert’s lyrics were pieced together very quickly at the Grange. “Jimmy and I stayed up one night and we got the theme of it right there and then. The lyrics were a cynical thing about a woman getting everything she wanted without getting anything back.”

Jonesy’s contribution was the memorable and tranquil opening sequence. “We always had a lot of instruments lying around so I picked up a bass recorder and played along with Jimmy. Later at Island I multi-tracked the recorders to get it right.”

Page made three separate attempts at the solo – and rather than deploy the usual Gibson Les Paul he returned to the battered old Telecaster (a gift from Jeff Beck) that he had used on the first Zep album. “1 winged the guitar solo really. When it came to recording it I warmed up and did three of them. They were all quite different from each other. I did have the first phrase worked out and then there was the link phrase. I did check them before the tape ran. The one we used was:definitely the best”.

The result was one of the only guitar solos in history as likely to be whistled by milkman as air-guitared in the bedroom, such was the tracks eventual universal appeal. By the late Seventies Plant had tired of the tune and started to deride it publicly. “There are only so many times you can sing it and mean it,” he said. “It just became so sanctimonious.” His antipathy towards it resulted in a major backstage row with Page before their 1988 Atlantic Records 40th anniversary reunion at Madison Square Garden. Right up to them going on stage he was refusing to sing it, although he relented at the last minute.

Back in 1971 Led Zeppelin were immensely proud of ‘Stairway To Heaven’, and Page still views it as the apex of their career. Talking to Cameron Crowe from Rolling Stone in 1975, he said: “To me, I thought it crystallized the essence of the band. It had everything there and showed us at our best as a band and as a unit. Every musician wants to be to do something of lasting quality something which will hold up for years and I guess we did it with ‘Stairway’.”

With the recordings completed by early February, Page took Andy John’s advice and flew with Peter Grant and Johns to Sunset Studios in Los Angles to mix the tracks. Just as they were flying into LA the city suffered a minor earthquake, as Page recalled: “The funny thing is that on ‘Going To California’ you’ve got the line ‘mountains and the canyon’s started to tremble and shake’ and curiously, as we landed, there was a mild earthquake. In the hotel room before going to the studio you could feel the bed shake.”

Unfortunately the mix down did not go as, planned, much to Andy John’s embarrassment. “I convinced Jimmy to mix it in Los Angeles. We booked time at Sunset Sound but the room that I’d worked in before had been completely changed. So we used another room there and mixed the entire album. We came back to London and played it back at Studio One at Olympic. Anyway we put it on and it sounded terrible. I thought my number was up -but the others seemed to look to Jimmy, even though it was just as much my fault. So it had to be remixed again and that was difficult.”

Despite all these problems, the resulting production was one of Page’s finest. Rarely again did he so precisely capture the four strands of the group on record so clearly. For all their triumphs, subsequent Zep albums often suffered from an uneven mix. Compare Led Zep IV to the muddy, leaden sound of their final album In Through The Out Door. There is just no comparison, a testament perhaps to how this relaxed style of recording, away from the distractions of the city, suited them. Maybe it would have been a wise move to have invested in their own mobile recording unit.

They had hoped to have the album out by late April but that would now be impossible. Instead Page and Johns mixed most of it again between their spring UK and European tour dates at Olympic Studios. The only mix from the Los Angeles trip that was deemed fit for eventual release was ‘When The Levee Breaks’. The album finally went off to be cut at Trident Studios in London with more lacquers being cut at The Beatles’ Apple Studios in the mid-summer of 1971.

By that time they had already began previewing numbers from the album in their new stage set. The first airing of new material occurred on Friday, March 5, at Belfast’s Ulster Hall, when ‘Black Dog’,  ‘Going To California’ and ‘Stairway To Heaven’ were all played live for the first time. For ‘Stairway’ Page acquired a custom built Gibson ES1275 double-neck guitar to perform the six and 12-string passages the song requires.

The so called ‘Back to the clubs’ UK tour saw them return to venues such as London’s Marquee where they had first established their reputation in the early days. UK listeners to Radio One’s John Peel in Concert programme were also privy to an exclusive airing of this new material. On Sunday April 4 they broad-casted a one hour Zep live show recorded four days earlier at the Paris Cinema in London. ‘Going To California’ and ‘Stairway’ were the new numbers aired. For ‘Stairway’ this would be airplay number one – with another four million to follow during the next two decades.

In Europe a month later they previewed more songs from the fourth album. At an extraordinary gig at the KB Hallen in Copenhagen on May 3 ‘Black Dog’ and ‘Going To California’ and ‘Stairway To Heaven’ were joined by the only known live performance of ‘Four Sticks’ (“Well try something we’ve never done before… there’s every chance that we will fall apart,” Plant warned the audience) and premieres of ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ and ‘Rock And Roll’ (introduced as ‘It’s Been A Long Time’) during the encores.

Dave Lewis

To be Continued…

Led Zeppelin IV cover artwork – the way it might look now:

The iconic cover of Led Zeppelin IV…then and now – how it might look today…

 

 

 

……………………………..

LED ZEPPELIN FEATHER IN THE WIND – OVER EUROPE 1980

40TH ANNIVERSARY STRICTLY LIMITED REPACKAGE

WRITTEN AND COMPILED BY DAVE LEWIS

To mark  the 40th Anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s final tour over Europe in 1980 I am making available a strictly limited edition repackage of the Led Zeppelin Feather In The Wind – Over Europe 1980

This 40th anniversary limited edition has a glossy newly designed book jacket my Mick Lowe with exclusives on stage photos from the Over Europe 1980 tour.

Each book includes an additional separate four page insert. This features a new 2,000 word interview with author Dave Lewis conducted with Mike Trmaglio in which he discusses the making of the book and the impact of the events of that final Led Zeppelin in the summer of 1980. Each insert is individually numbered and signed by the author.

Please note the actual book content is the version published in 2011.  There is no additional content to the actual book. The repackage consists of a brand new cover and the limited edition four page interview insert.

It all adds up to another exclusive strictly limited TBL collectors item. If you have yet to invest in the book previously this is an opportunity to do so.

This repackage of the book is being made available in a strictly limited edition of just 65 copies – each book is individually numbered and signed by the author. Please note delivery times will be longer than usual due to the current situation.

These are the last 65 copies of the books print run – once they are gone –they are gone and the book will be out of print.

This is therefore a final opportunity to invest in a unique limited edition package of this highly acclaimed book. Initial demand has been strong so hurry and order before they sell out…

Here’s the order link:

http://www.tightbutloose.co.uk/books-t-shirts/led-zeppelin-feather-in-the-wind-over-europe-1980-book/

……………………………….

DL Diary Blog Update:

Saturday November 21:

Remembering the late great Peter Grant 25 years gone today..

Here’s a fabulous timepiece – a feature on bootleg records from the BBC news programme 24 Hours first aired in 1971.

It has a short interview with Peter Grant – we showed this at the TBL fan gathering staged at the Atlas pub in Fulham in 2017 and it went down a storm…love the film of the vintage London record shops…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4ecGsYBluI&fbclid=IwAR0n05sc2pSfkm_ONp97uLeE_HM170DmYLLv8RPzqXidAYimG1-b1JamnD0

Remembering the late great legendary Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant 25 years gone today…

Here’s an example of how Peter Grant dismissed the music business in one fail swoop in 1972…

In January 1972 Peter Grant received a letter from Bernard Chevry organiser of the Midem Music Festival. This was a high profile annual music biz gathering held in France where agents, managers, artists etc would convene to do business.

This particular year as the letter explains, they selected LED ZEPPELIN and his musicians to perform at the International Groups Night.

Evidently the not so clued in organisers had no idea who Led Zeppelin actually were or in this case who he was.

Peter Grant’s response was to take out a full page advert in the music industry trade paper Record Retailer. In the advert he reproduced the Midem letter in full with the bold headline ‘’MR. ZEPPELIN REGRETS…..’’

Cue rather embarrassed Midem Festival organisers…

It was a vivid example of how out of touch much of the music industry was at the time and how gleefully Peter took the opportunity to put them right.

Of course, Led Zeppelin did not need the help of Midem or anyone else for that matter as by this time, they were well on the way to becoming the greatest rock attraction of the decade….

Saturday November 21:

Saturday is platterday – on the player marking its original UK release 49 years ago this week Led Zeppelin IV…this is the coloured vinyl UK limited edition release from 1978…and sounding mighty fine..

Saturday is platterday – on the player Led Zeppelin Going To California the brilliant bootleg double album that captures the band on top of their game at the Berkeley Theatre on September 14 1971.

A mere 67 days later I would witness for myself the true extent of the onstage power when I was lucky enough to attend their Electric Magic performance at the Empire Pool Wembley, 49 years ago today…

 

 

 

 

Sunday November 22:

On the player here The Beatles White Album released this day in 1968…the progression and development between With The Beatles released on the same day just five years earlier is just stunning…I am not in the school of thought that this would have made a great single album ..it’s a complete 30 track experience …it’s The Beatles

 

 

 

 

Sunday November 22:

It was 57 years ago today…

I have collected a fair few JFK memorial albums over the years… historian remnants from the events of, as Bob Dylan sings on the brilliant Murder Most Foul ‘a dark day in Dallas’’…

Update here:

It’s been a familiar mix of ups and downs. Janet has been struggling a bit with her leg – being on it so much at the pre school is causing some increased muscle discomfort and soreness. The regular call from the physio was much needed and helpful this week.  The Feather In The Wind Led Zeppelin Over Europe 40th Anniversary re- packaged book is selling well and I’ve been busy packing orders – if you would like a copy see the order link above.

The new tier system set by the government to help prevent the spread of the virus has the Bedford area in tier 2 – as ever our thoughts are with you all in staying safe and well.

Yesterday I was thinking about my Mum a lot as it was 30 years to the day that she sadly passed away – here’s a lovely photo of her in the back garden in Dents Road taken in the 1960s …

Some particular inspirations this past week…

A chat on the phone with my old work college Pat O’Reilly…

Watching the excellent Miles Davis documentary on BBC 4…

Watching the re-run of the brilliant Pink Floyd Classic albums The Dark Side Of The Moon album on Sky Arts…

Listening to BBC Radio 4’s documentary on the George Harrison All Things Must Pass album…

Spurs 2-0 win over Man City taking them to the top of the Premier League…

Thanks for listening – stay safe and well you very lovely people…

Dave  Lewis – November 26, 2020

Until next time, stay safe and stay well…

Website updates written and compiled by Dave Lewis

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The TBL/DL Facebook page has regular updates and photos – be sure to check it out

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2 Comments »

  • Hiroshi said:

    In relation to Led Zeppelin IV…kind of follow up of my Zep in Japan article.
    According to Music Life magazine, Nov, 1971 issue that featured a substantial coverage of the group’s Japanese visit, on September 26, the second day of their tour break and holiday in Kyoto, the members had no choice but to stay the hotel for most of the day before late check-out because of rain, unfortunately. The report goes, with cassette tape recorder by his side, Robert was seen practicing a song from the then unreleased fourth album, one that was not played live on stage in Japan. Misty Mountain Hop? Four Sticks? When The Levee Breaks? You’ll never know…

  • Roy JOHN Watson said:

    jimmy page books books more books interviews here and thereb its new music we want but i dont think we will get any now

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