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7 April 2016 5,371 views 6 Comments

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Presence at 40:

40 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 last year’s reissue – 40 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.

object 3

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 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.

Presence sleeve

I have a fair few copies of this album, including one that retains the 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 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.

Presence… Now:

unboxing four

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 an 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. 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 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 39 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”

Dave Lewis – July 31, 2015

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.

object one

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 Hypgnosist/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.



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.

Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page on the cover of Music Connection magazine (Facebook/Music Connection Magazine)

  • Jimmy Page has given a new interview to Music Connection magazine. He says that he’s had “new music together for quite awhile,” and also hinted again at future plans for a written autobiography. Page said that he owns between 120 and 130 instruments. Read the full interview online here.
  • Robert Plant

Robert Plant signing a stained glass mandolin (

July 20 – Street Music Art festival, Italy
July 22 – Napoli, Italy
July 24 – Taormina, Italy
July 27 – Plzeň, Czech Republic
July 30 – Pula, Croatia

Upcoming events:

April 16 – A vinyl reissue of Jimmy Page’s 1965 solo single “She Just Satisfies” will be released for Record Store Day in the UK.
June 19 – Robert Plant will perform at the Royal Festival Hall in London with Guy Garvey, Nick Mulvey, Nadine Shah and Josephine Oniyama.
July 1 – Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters will perform at the Rock Werchter music festival in Belgium.
July 2 – Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters will perform at the Beauregard Music Festival in France.
July 4 – Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters will perform at Le festival des Nuits d’Istres in France.
July 7 – Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters will perform at the NOS Alive Music Festival in Portugal.
July 20 – Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters will perform at the Street Music Art Festival in Italy.
July 22 – Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters will perform in Italy.
July 24 – Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters will perform in Italy.
July 27 – Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters will perform in the Czech Republic.
July 28 – Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters will perform in Austria.
July 30 – Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters will perform in Croatia.
August 2 – Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters will perform in Germany.
August 4/5/6/7 – Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters will perform at the Wilderness Festival in the UK.

The Led Zeppelin News email goes out every weekend. To receive it each week sign up here:


John Bonham voted Best Drummer in Rolling Stone magazine poll:

This one via Team Rock Radio: The late sticksman beat Cream’s Ginger Baker, Keith Moon from The Who and Neal Peart from Rush to the No.1 spot in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Drummers Of All Time.

The magazine says it based its choices on “one important caveat: we used rock and pop as our rubric, so a drummer’s work needed to directly impact that world to make the list.”

They say that Bonham “changed rock drumming forever” on Led Zeppelin’s first record.

Rolling Stone adds: “Jimmy Page was still amused by the disorienting impact that Good Times Bad Times, with its jaw-dropping bass-drum hiccups, had on listeners: ‘Everyone was laying bets that Bonzo was using two bass drums, but he only had one.’ Heavy, lively, virtuosic and deliberate, that performance laid out the terrain Bonham’s artful clobbering would conquer before his untimely death in 1980.

“At his most brutally paleolithic he never bludgeoned dully, at his most rhythmically dumbfounding he never stooped to unnecessary wankery, and every night on tour he dodged both pitfalls with his glorious stampede through Moby Dick.”

Rolling Stone’s Greatest Drummers Of All Time

Top 10

  1. John Bonham, Led Zeppelin
  2. Keith Moon, The Who
  3. Ginger Baker, cream
  4. Neal Peart, Rush
  5. Hal Blaine
  6. Clyde Stubblefield and John ‘Jabo’ Starks
  7. Gene Krupa
  8. Mitch Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix Experience
  9. Al Jackson Jr, Booker T and The MGs
  10. Stewart Copeland, The Police
  11. See link at

Vancouver 1970 Press Conference footage:

All too short but amazing find – see YouTube clip below


Front of the Daily Mirror:

hep 2

I called into  the newsagents early on Tuesday morning and blimey there was a pic of Robert Plant on the front of today’s Daily Mirror…they get in everywhere!

Inside was a very nice plug for David Hepworth’s new book Never A Dull Moment – Rock’s Golden Year in – and yes 1971 was certainly one of the best years for music in my view…




HiFi Lounge/TBL Remembering David Bowie Day – Hi Fi Lounge, Dunton, Bedfordshire – Saturday April 9,2016:

david bowie day

TBL is teaming up with The Hi Fi Lounge dealership to stage a special HiFi Lounge/Remembering David Bowie Day.
The HiFi Lounge is a highly reputable hi- fi dealership situated in an out of town spot in Bedfordshire. It’s situated in a converted granary building in the village of Dunton –just off the A1M –appropriately enough the road to Knebworth and with good links to London and the north.
Following on from previous years, Paul at the Hi Fi lounge will be staging another special open day at the showroom on April 9 2016.
This time the playlist will be dedicated to David Bowie

Here’s the line-up for our Remembering David Bowie Day – this Saturday April 9th 2016:

Upon arrival, be sure to request our David Bowie Survey form – this requests you to fill in your all-time favourite David Bowie albums and singles – we will collate the surveys after lunch and announce the results at 2pm.

10am to 12: Bowie Requests on the player

12 – 1pm:  Bowie DVD presentations

Exclusive!: note the DVD presentation will include an exclusive newly remastered version of the brilliant lost and found Jean Genie Top Of The Pops clip from January 1973.(Thank you GD)

1pm – 2pm:  Blackstar played in full

2pm : The Bowie Quiz – get ready to test your knowledge of the man –swot up on those lyrics now!

3pm: Results of our David Bowie Survey announced

3pm – 5.30: More Bowie requests on the player and DVD

There will also be ample opportunity to view the HiFi Lounge extensive selection of high quality hi fi with main man Paul Clark.

This is of course a great opportunity to hear the music of David Bowie on vinyl on top quality kit – as Paul explains:
If you love Bowie please do come along to help us celebrate all his music, we will be getting out the PMC MB2 SE speakers along with Chord Electronic’s DAVE fed by an Aurender N10 & Chord Mono Power amps and the Michell Orbe so along with my Bowie collection of Vinyl and 24 bit downloads and anything you’d like to bring in it should be a real fun day where we can remember the amazing music of David Bowie on some great sounding kit.

All this plus records for sale!

Chris and Martin will also be coming along with their great collection of new vinyl for sale in our downstairs demo room, even if you are not the biggest Bowie fan but love your vinyl it is definitely worth coming along to see what vinyl delights you can pick up.

This has all the makings of a great day out for David Bowie and vinyl/hi- fi enthusiasts alike.

Refreshments will be available during the day – entry is free – we look forward to seeing all that can make it along.

See link at:


TBL out and about:

Here’s a couple of reports from some events this week

The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism Launch:

Long time TBL contributor Krys Jantzen files this report and pics from Monday’s Rolling Stones Exhibition launch in Chelsea:

The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism

Monday 4 April 2016 – London, England


A warm spring evening in London as two identical cars with blacked-out windows quietly make there way down the King’s Road and through a noisy crowds of fans. It’s the opening night and world premiere of The Rolling Stones exhibition and fans have lined the streets wondering if the band are going to turn up.

Within seconds, passenger doors on both cars swing open and out step Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts. London, please welcome home The Rolling Stones!

The band, fresh off the plane from their historic concert in Cuba last week, were full of energy and on top form. Mick, guarded but ever the professional was happy to chat to fans and sign autographs. Keith and Ronnie were larger than life, laughing and joking with fans, lifelong guitar-slingers still exuding a mischievous and easy charm. And then there was Charlie Watts, looking totally unimpressed by the TV cameras, the world’s press and screaming fans. What a legend!

Step inside the exhibition and its a treasure-trove of Stones history with 500 items from their personal archives. There’s part of me that wishes Led Zeppelin would do something like this – Robert’s original draft lyric notebooks, Bonzo’s drum kits, Jonesy’s Earl’s Court jacket and Jimmy’s 1977 dragon suit would all be very cool to see but then you realise for Zep it was never about the image or the brand, it was all about the music.

Room by room the Exhibitionism is a multi-sensory overload of iconic music and images. The first room tour graphic illustrating every concert in every country around the world from 1962-today is very cool. Next up you find yourself in a recreation of Mick and Keith’s disgusting Edith Grove flat when they were both 19 years old. From there its a journey of 50 years of simply iconic images and music.


Everything you’d expect is here: the music, the guitars, the images, the iconic stage clothes from ’69,’72,’75,’78,81 etc, a backstage area, a recreation of their recording studio, interactive stuff, films, diaries, lyrics and tons of cool memorabilia. Whether you became a fan in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s or more recently, there is detail to fascinate everyone. Although I spotted one or two minor things missing, the exhibition hits all the right notes to immerse a wide audience right up to and including some terrific Hyde Park 2013 footage captured superbly in 3D.

Lifelong fans may wish for more on details on Brian Jones, Altamont, Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman, the drug busts, etc but this is no journey through the past darkly. Instead its a loud, authentic and hugely enjoyable celebration of the band.

Catch it while you can. It’s in London for the next five months before it goes on its world tour moving eventually to the States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Brazil and back to Europe. If you’re a fan of the band, Exhibitionism is simply a must-see. Everything you know and love is here. The images, the excess, the memorabilia and the music.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Rolling Stones!

Krys Jantzen

The Sessions – A Live re-staging of The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios

As mentioned last week the good lady Janet and I ventured out last Friday to catch this show -here’s my thoughts on it all:

sessions one

The Sessions – A Live re-staging of The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios

Royal Albert Hall – April 1, 2016

How many flaws does it take to fill the Albert Hall?

To celebrate our wedding anniversary (32 years tomorrow on March 31 – oh yes!) the good lady Janet and I decided on a visit to London on Friday – we also booked tickets for the premiere of The Sessions – a new live show that recreates The Beatles Abbey Road recording sessions.

It’s something of a timely full circle for the good lady and I, for the first time we went on a date to London back in the summer of 1983, we were lucky enough to actually be inside Abbey Road’s number two studio when the doors were opened for a special Beatles at Abbey Road video presentation hosted by the late DJ Roger Scott. It was incredibly exciting to be inside the hallowed studio where all that amazing music had been created. It was also thrilling to hear the likes of How Do You Do It and the acoustic While My Guitar Gently Weeps long before they were officially released.

I was not quite sure what to expect on Friday – I had watched the preview video and it did look impressive with staging by the celebrated designers Stufish and with original Beatles studio engineer Geoff Emerick, it looked to have much to commend it. In fact on the preview video clip Geoff states ‘As far as I’m concerned, it’s got to be the best Beatles show ever’’

So to the Royal Albert Hall – my favorite venue and steeped in history –in fact Janet and I were here back in September 1983 for the Jimmy Page ARMS appearances. Whenever I am in this building you can’t help but think how amazing it must have been to be here on that celebrated night of January 9, 1970 when Zep triumphed here.

Tonight this wonderful hall is totally sold out.

First the good news:

The staging itself of The Sessions is excellent – the actual stage has been bought out to create a surround view effect and we have a fab(four!) view to the right of the hall five rows up. The stage has gauze curtains on which the various images are shown – I remember David Bowie used a similar concept on his Sound & Vision tour.

The various players interpreting the music are highly proficient. The show incorporates a variety of Fab Four players and an excellent orchestra

The music – well what’s not to like? This is one of the greatest catalogues of songs ever crafted, timelessly joyful and always will be. To hear the likes of I Should Have Known Better, Eight Days A Week, Drive My Car, A Day In The Life, Something etc echoing across the hall was of course pretty fantastic.

But….this is a show that claims will take you on an intimate journey of The Beatles inside Abbey Road studios, reimagining how their music was conceived and created.

On that level after witnessing it all, the question for me is how many flaws does it take to fill the Albert Hall?

On this performance quite a few.

It all started rather jarringly in 1967 with the recreation of The Beatles Our World TV show which as any Beatle will know, was filmed inside Abbey Road live as they performed All You Need Is Love – a much seen clip.

It then switched back to the 1962/3 and the early Beatles at work. The linking spoken narration was handled by a character taking on the George Martin role – explaining how he forged a relationship with the group etc.

This was partially successful but I really felt the whole thing needed a proper narrator throughout – someone like a Bob Harris or Johnnie Walker – or similar, bringing authority and chronology to the story and informing the audience what was going on and unfolding the story.

The Martin figure did add context to some of the happenings on stage – such as explaining to Paul how a string section would work on Yesterday etc –but all too often the studio dialogue was quite hard to follow.

As for the visuals and images – sometimes very effective but all too often lacking in imagination and here we come to a big problem. The small print informs that this show is unofficial and in no way connected to Apple or Abbey Road Studios – and that may have accounted for the total lack of actual Beatles footage or photos. Aside from one photo of The Beatles at the end of the show, there was nothing visually of the actual group. That for me diluted the whole effect.

Here is a prime example. In performing In My Life, George Martin was seen rehearsing the keyboard part and upon the songs intro, the crowd clapped enthusiastically. This surely is one of the most poignant moments in The Beatles catalogue -the accompanying images cried out for shots of George Martin and John Lennon. This would have added a key emotional link to the performance of the song. Instead we got images of Beatles concert tickets. Go figure…

Surely somewhere in the budget they could have secured the rights to actual Beatles photos and film to portray on the screens?

And this highlights another key problem with this show for me – as proficiently as the songs were performed, at no point did they move me –it all seemed rather sterile – this from a catalogue that has many moments of awe inspiring emotional beauty.

I know it’s a bit nitpicky but I also felt the studio info they displayed as each song was played to be insufficient. While release dates were accurate, there was no effort to pick out which songs were album tracks or singles in their own right. The accompanying studio notes were also lacking in delivery – I had to laugh when the notes displayed for While My Guitar Gently mentioned Eric Clapton’s guitar contribution –only for the song itself to be delivered in the acoustic outtake version.

Such detail may have gone over the heads of many in attendance but for me, it’s the kind of detail that gives any show credibility – official or otherwise.

I also felt the screens could have been used to tell the timeline of the story –with key dates relayed unfolding the saga. Oh and the live visuals shown were just slightly out of sync.

There were some excellent musical moments in the first half – notably the performance of Nowhere Man with the fab four harmonizing around the overhead mike – and I have to single out the drummer who had Ringo’s patterns down to a T. And also showed what an amazing contribution Ringo made to the sound of the group. No laughing at the back please, R. Starkey was a superb drummer.

The first half ended with a mass singalong Yellow Submarine – and here was yet another problem. Suddenly the stage was full of communal singers and dancers – though as the good lady Janet remarked, there was no regard for 1960s fashion – one of the backing singers wearing a dress right out Top Shop.

Suddenly we were in the realm of musical theatre. I am not saying it wasn’t entertaining because it was – but again the whole context of the show was thrown off kilter.

If there had been some measure of storytelling and context in some of the first half well that was thrown right out of the window for the opening sequence of the second half.

With no explanation we were into the Sgt Pepper era – no narrative of how giving up touring allowed them studio experimentation .

We had Sgt Pepper/ With A Little Help From My Friends/ Lucy In The Sky/ She’s Leaving Home/ Benefit of Mr Kite /Within You Without You and A Day In the Life. A hugely enjoyable array of songs for sure.

The George Martin figure was back to explain a little about Magical Mystery Tour and Brian Epstein’s passing, where again it went into musical theatre territory with the eggmen sequence from the film played out to I Am The Walrus.

Bizarrely, we were then thrust a year back in the timeline for Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields. The latter paring was a grave chronological error as surely those two tracks (initially worked on in late 1966) should have preceeded the Sgt Pepper recordings to tell the story of the first steps on the new era of Beatles recording. For a minute I thought this might some late April Fool joke.

The performance of Strawberry Fields also highlighted another short fall. If this was a show bringing you intimately close to the Abbey Road recording process surely this song’s genesis – from stark acoustic number to psychedelic freak out should have been explained and performed in that way. That really would have taken revealed what it was really like to be at a Beatles recording session…

There was again no explanation to another bizarre sequence of John Lennon sitting on Yoko Ono’s bed performing Julia. The point needed to be made that back in 1968, her presence made those sessions uneasy for the others. However the White album period was well covered with excellent deliveries of Back In The USSR and Helter Skelter.

Then there another story shift as the whole of the Let It be album was bypassed and we into Abbey Road and the finale of Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight and The End. This may have been because the bulk of Let It Be recordings took place at Twickenham and the Apple Studios and not Abbey Road.

I think I am right in saying however, work was done on the Let It Be single at what was the last Beatles recording session at Abbey Road on January 4 1970 (minus John who was away). Therefore, Let It Be surely deserved a performance here leading as it did to the final split announced just after the song was being issued as their final UK single in early 1970.

After the bows and curtain calls they performed a celebratory if rather predictable Hey Jude encore finale.

For the average paying punter this show may well have it the mark. Maybe I am too immersed in the story and the detail but for me it did not do what it said on the tin.

As I was watching it – I did wonder if such a format could work for the Led Zep catalogue and given a lot of attention to detail, it probably could. Of course it would have to re-create a series of differing studio locations.


All that said, much of it was very enjoyable but ultimately The Sessions ended up being something of a glorified Beatles tribute band experience (an expensive one at that) – and in this format, fell short of what it was actually claiming to project. With some fine tuning, it could be much better.

There may not have been as many as 4,o00 – but there were more than a few flaws filling the Albert Hall on this premiere night.

Dave Lewis – April 3, 2016.


DL Diary Blog Update:

Barn April 1

Friday vinyl treats at the Vinyl Barn Bedford last Friday – the pickings included singles by The Faces, David Bowie, Sensational Alex Harvey Band (Gamblin ‘Bar Room Blues) and James Brown –thank you Darren Harte.

A tricky past few days with Janet’s mum not so good again and the good lady Janet also a bit poorly.

It’s been a bit of a slog to keep on top of things with TBl 41 design and text work on going and a few important other plates to spin – there’s also been a fair amount of prep on the HiFi Lounge/TBL Remembering David Bowie Day which is staged this Saturday.

As can be seen above, The Sessions show proved to be a little less than perfect experience though Janet and I had a great couple of days celebrating our wedding anniversary.

April is already looking like a very busy month and a bit daunting with the workload on here. I am aiming to be in a position to announce full details of the forthcoming TBL issue 41 by the end of the month. I will then be endeavouring to have the magazine distribution underway by late May. That’s the plan ahead – I can say there’s some great stuff brewing in this issue and I am very much looking forward to getting it out there. At some point soon, I’ll also be previewing the book project Mike Tremaglio are chipping away at – it’s another very exciting project – Mike has been doing some absolutely amazing research recently. More on all this to follow.

Football wise, it looks as though Leicester are going to make it an historic Premier League season by holding on to the top spot. Hats off to them – hopefully Spurs can keep the challenge going though Manchester United at home this Sunday won’t be easy. Here’s hoping.

On the player – a few of the recent singles I’ve purchased including The Faces Cindy Incidentally, various Beatles EPs – Zep wise well it’s been a Presence week and it still sounds amazing. David Hepworth’s plugs for his Never A Dull Moment Rock’s Golden Year has had me assessing that memorable year of 1971 -I am looking forward to getting the book – and searching out some of the great 1971 albums it champions.

On Wednesday David Hepworth was also on BBC Breakfast Time talking about the book – as I was reeling off the albums that came out that year I had to laugh when Janet remarked ”how come you can name countless albums released 45 years ago –  but still can’t remember to put the toilet seat down”… she has a point!

TBL’s Krys Jantzen was right on the spot for the opening of the Rolling Stones Exhibitionism on Monday night. That’s another event that Janet and I aim to catch at some point ahead. I noted Kry’s comments re a possible Led Zeppelin exhibition – I actually think there is huge scope for this – and it would certainly clear my loft a bit!

This Saturday all roads lead to Dunton in Bedfordshire for the HiFi Lounge Remembering David Bowie Day.

We will be conducting a poll to determine the attendees fave Bowie albums and singles. We are also showing an exclusive remastered version of the simply sensational Top of The Pops  January 1973 Jean Genie clip that surfaced a couple of years back (see YouTube below).

Full report on all this to follow next week.

Dave Lewis – April 7, 2016.


YouTube clips:

Vancouver 1970 Press Conference footage:

David Bowie – The Jean Genie Top of the Pops clip – January 1973:

Until next time…

Have a great weekend,

Dave Lewis/Gary Foy – April 7, 2016.

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  • Mark Williams said:

    Re. The today announced Stairway lawsuit & May 10th trial, there might be an upside as it least it will bring Jimmy & Robert together, maybe in the same room even !

    Hope it doesn’t interrupt Jimmy’s touring plans though…..

  • Rick Key said:

    Absolutely amazing performance by David Bowie! Liked this part of your story on the original release of Presence “A week after the release of Presence, my then girlfriend 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… ” Some of the strange things we did in our youth back in those days!

  • Bill Cromwell said:

    Dave, you and I have always been on the same page regarding Presence. It deserves more accolades, but whatever. For me, those tracks will always represent the peak of their powers and their most mature, confident sound. It’s their most swaggering record. Keep up the great work! Hope you’re feeling well!

  • Stephen said:

    Page is frustrating as ever in his latest interview in Music Connection:

    Q: Is the Zep archive tapped out?
    A: dodge question

    Q: What is your new music going to be like?
    A: dodge question

    Come on Jimmy be a bit more open and respectful with your fans.
    When you are endlessly vague, interview after interview, it isn’t mysterious and enigmatic anymore, it is just plain annoying!
    Your fans deserve better.

  • russell ritchin said:



  • David Linwood said:

    Love that Bowie Clip. Listen to the last harmonica solo Dave, is that the Beatles “Love Me Do” harmonica “riff” I can hear?

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