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PROUD GALLERY LED ZEP PHOTO EXHIBITION LAUNCH/ FINAL THREE REISSUES FEEDBACK/JPJ NEWS/HOT AUGUST NIGHT ’71/UNLEDDED’ 94/DL DIARY UPDATE

27 August 2015 3,085 views 3 Comments

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Led Zeppelin From The Beginning 1963 – 1975 – Photo Exhibition at Proud Chelsea Gallery:

Launch night – Thursday August 20, 2015:

The launch night of the Proud Chelsea Gallery Led Zeppelin Photo Exhibition proved a big success.

The gallery itself is adorned with a series of superbly displayed framed images from a variety of photographers. Amongst them, superb Earls Court and Madison Square Garden ’77 shots from Michael Putland, US tour 1975 pics from Lynne Goldsmith and early 1969 images from Jorgen Angel.

The Yardbird’s bass player and photographer Chris Dreja is represented by his Jimmy Page Yardbirds era  shots, Peter Grant fisheye lens photo, the iconic back photo of the Led Zep I album and his early 1972 group photo session. There is also a very impressive series of on stage and off stage photos taken by Michael Brennan mainly in Detroit on the 1975 US tour – many of them rarely seen.

The launch attracted a large turn out – I spotted Morning TV presenter John Stapleton amongst them.

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It was great to hook up with photographer Michael Putland. We employed many of his Earls Court photos for the Five Glorious Nights book – the group image that appears on the cover was one of the framed prints on show -as can be seen in the pic.

 

The highlight for me was meeting Chris Dreja. He was an utter gentleman – very proud of his memories photos and full of anecdotes.  I took the opportunity to conduct an interview with him which will appear in the next TBL magazine. The pic below shows me admiring Chris’s iconic back cover shot for the Led Zeppelin I  album.

Suffice to say, the Led Zeppelin From the Beginning 1963 – 1968 Exhibition at the Proud Gallery Kings Road Chelsea is an essential destination if you are visiting London in the coming weeks. It runs until October 4.

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Many thanks to Sophie Kaila and Corali Houlton at Proud Chelsea.

See link at

https://www.proudonline.co.uk/exhibitions

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Led Zeppelin Final Three Reissues Feedback:

This from TBL contributor Ian Dixon:

Presence:

First play and its dense, bit like Exile (and album I have never come to terms with) but I know you hold it in high regard and replaying in the flat on Hi Fi separates starts to unlock it.

I always get distracted  in Achilles, drift off and lose the point, but the rough mix his helping me get a grip. Shout out to Bonzo’s pistol cracks. For an epic I prefer the controlled passion of Nobody’s Fault, probably in a minority there.  For Your Life came over better from the O2, maybe I need headphones? Candy Store Rock feels more Buddy Holly than Elvis to these ears, fun shuffle, while Pod makes me think of The Eagles, but I’m not sure why.  Biggest discovery for me is Tea For One, throw back to Since I’ve Been  Loving You and some great Peter Green guitar, wish there was a bonus disc mix.

In Through The Out Door:

Unimpressed by the packaging. I like the paper bag as I can keep the shrink wrap with the track listing still attached, but no gatefold? The photos seem very obvious and there is not even a montage of the 6 original sleeves.

I always expected the studio swansong (all puns intended) to be more of a Let It Be than Abbey Road, but I’m pleasantly surprised.  Caroulselambra apart the production is shiny, Jones gets his moments in the sun and yet again Bonham is generally super solid. Jimmy’s paws are all over In The Evening and help Caroulselambra not outstay its welcome. Neither of its mixes here really work for me and for once Bonzo is less than outstanding.  But in many ways this feels like a solo Robert Plant Album, in the same fashion that Final Cut is basically solo Roger Waters. At least Plant sounds like he enjoying himself and stays within his range. I wish Jimmy had taken the chance to remix Caroulselambra from scratch and he remains so stubborn over All My Love. Oh well.

Couple of observations – ever noticed the similarity of Fool In The Rain riff to Bob Marley’s Small Axe? And Hot Dog is nothing like as awful as I’d feared, though it does keep threatening to turn into The Benny Hill theme – well if it was good enough for Dolly Parton at Glasto…!

Ian Dixon

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DL Thoughts on Coda:

My Coda: Phone calls, a meeting, the mock up sleeve, a retail competition raffle and romance…

THEN:

It was a Monday night – February 22, 1982 to be precise when my phone went in my bedroom – ”Hi Dave this is Robert Plant – we’d like you to bring in some photos for a project we are doing….”

So began the Coda saga.

Since the release of their In Through The Out Door album for me personally many things had happened. The TBL  magazine had established itself from a crudely written and printed A5 format into an A4 glossy proper typeset magazine.  There was the absolute high of having close proximity on the Over Europe tour in 1980 to the absolute low of the devasting news of September 25th and the statement that signalled it was over on Decenber 4. I still regularly went into the Swan Song office but it a very strange vibe. Nobody quite knew what to do…

In 1981, Robert Plant began picking up the pieces with a return to the stage in the ad hoc band The Honeydrippers. I attended a fair few of those spring ’81 gigs  and It was a great thrill to see him enjoying himself again. TBL issue 6 came out in the August but to be honest my heart wasn’t really in it. Without the buzz of the band itself and with their reputation at an all time low, it was diffiucult to maintain the enthusiasm. It may be hard to believe now but admitting to liking Led Zep was very unhip – the musical climate had moved on – the new wave of British Heavy metal was flowering and elsewhere, electronic music from acts such New Order, Human League, OMD, Gary Numan etc were dominating the charts.

After issue 6, there was no big final decision not to do another issue -it just never happened. I was certainly no less a fervent fan – my energies at that time went into producing the best of TBL project which became my first book The Final Acclaim published in late 1983.

Away from Zep, ironically I also had ideas to be a drummer myself – something I’d had at the back of my mind for a while – so I bought a drum kit and formed a band with local friends – though nothing much came of it we did have some great fun. I was also now well engrossed in my day job as manager of the very busy and successful record department at WH Smith.

These things often took precedent over anything else going on – I regret now letting go of the magazine as a regular publication but like I said I, was still writing and chronicling the group via the Final Acclaim book project. In fact the book included reviews of Coda and the then recent solo projects Death Wish 2 and Pictures At Eleven.

Back to the Coda story. I was aware that there was some unreleased material in their archive, notably the tracks they did not use recorded at Polar Studios for In Through The Out Door. Jimmy had mentioned this to me in Swan Song on September 18 1980. I had no idea though, that there was a plan to release them.

Back to the phone call. It was with some shock and awe (this was not an everyday occurrence by any means!) that I took that call from Robert in my bedroom on February 22, 1982. Basically, he wanted me to collate as many photos I had of the group offstage for a project they were looking at. He did not mention at that point about an album. He asked if I was available to come into the Swan Song office that week and of course I replied I was. He made some arrangements and then called me back a couple of hours later to confirm that Thursday would be a good time to come in and meet with him and possibly Jimmy.

So it was, armed with a case full of cuttings and photos, I turned up on the afternoon of Thursday February 24 at the Swan Song office. A buoyant Robert greeted me warmly and we got down to wading through the stuff. Jimmy duly arrived about 4pm. At one point seeing a shot he liked backstage at Knebworth, Robert asked me who took the shot. When I replied Neal Preston, he was immediately on the phone to the US office of Swan Song to get his number. He then promptly called Neal to ask him to send over a batch of contact sheets. Robert also called John Paul jones while I was there.

During all this, it was explained exactly what all this was about. They were going to release a final album made up of unreleased tracks. The sleeve design was to include a collage of off stage photos – hence the reason I was asked to bring in the pics. During the meeting which also included Robert’s soundman Benji Lefevre, I heard them discuss a track titled Walters Walk. Jimmy also told me they were considering calling the album Early Days and Latter Days. Ultimately they went for Coda, though that original title would be deployed for the 1999 and 2000 compilation albums.

Robert also informed me he had completed work on his first solo album and in his words it was ‘’A new step forward’’. Robert and Jimmy waded through my pics and cutting and pulled a few out (The Bath Festival backstage pic I showed them made the final cut) and then they were off in search of rare rockabilly records in Camden. It was another afternoon for the memoirs…

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Things went quiet on the project after that meeting. I did pop in to Swan Song a few times over the next few months but no news of a release for the intended album was forthcoming. The summer was taken up with the release of Robert’s debut Pictures At Eleven and I also attended the Princes Trust charity gig at London’s Dominion Theatre where Robert performed Worse Than Detroit.  Tom and I attended the aftershow reception at which all the artists were duly acknowledged  for their contributions and we were introduced to Prince Charles. Yet another very memorable occasion.

The next I heard about the Coda album was in October when the Warner’s record company rep who called on the WH Smith store where I worked, came in with the full details of the album ready to sell it in for a November release. The mock up presenter sleeve the rep carried (and later gave me see pic above) listed the track details and promotional campaign. It was all beginning to get a little bit exciting.

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I ordered 100 copies for the shop and also booked a full in store display. I was also able to acquire a batch of posters from Swan Song which were part of a raffle prize I concocted for the store in conjunction with the local newspaper.Gary Foy was one of the winners though I did not know him at the time!

The in store display looked fantastic and I wish I had taken a photo of that at the time.

Tuesday November 22, 1982 – that was the day Coda emerged into our lives on a grey November morning . It was also just around the time the good lady Janet and I first got together – oh yes couple fell in love to the plaintive strains of We’re Gonna Groove. It may not have been quite like that but when I invested in every conceivable format of said album (LP, cassette, US LP, white label promo) I think the good lady had an indication of how things might be ahead when it came to such matters!

I also have a copy of the album signed by Hipgnosis designer Aubrey Powell when he came here to film some of my memorabilia for a Robert Plant video in early 2005. As he put it ”The End”. Or at least the end of another beginning.

In stark contrast to the way it has been with the recent reissues, the Coda album seeped out with little fanfare. As I said earlier, the fact is (mad as it now sounds) at that point Led Zeppelin were hardly held in reverential terms. Their influence would of course become evident in years to come. It did enjoy some good reviews and entered the chart at number 4 but compared to past glories. It had a definite feeling of unfinished business. That grey melancholy front cover seemed to mirror the whole mood back then. Whilst the release of those eight cuts did spell something of a closure on the story for now –  it was all a little low key.

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1983 would be dominated by the return to active duty of Robert Plant with the Principal of Moments album and tour – thus Coda was consigned to the Zep catalogue as the final part of the recorded story for now…ahead of course would be the re grouping at Live Aid that put them right back in the spotlight and then the Remasters 1990 releases that would seal their rejuvenation. By then for me I was right back on it all with the writing and collating of the A Celebration book and the return in 1992 of the TBL magazine. It’s been ever onward since then…

As for the contents of the original album  there is much to enjoy and at the time it seemed like bona fida collectors item – something rare and unreleased to cherish. The whole of side one is an absolute joy moving from 1970 to 1972. On side two the Polar material is pure fun and the John Bonham tribute was a testament to what had been lost. If I had a complaint, it was the short running time – we now know Sugar Mamma was dropped in the final selection.

NOW:

Coda Now:

The original album itself sounds as impressive as ever –  the vinyl pressing sparkling and full of vitality.

The real fun of course is with the Companion Discs. Jimmy has used this platform to create what he has described as a celebration of the band’s career and music. That is exactly how it sounds – it becomes a travelogue of their catalogue and career as it zips across the years. In doing so it sparks many a Zep memory – so with the vinyl lined up I took in the entire contents making notes along the way of  what it all evokes in my own Zep memory bank. So here goes…

Companion Disc 1:

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We’re Gonna Groove”  (Alternate Mix) 2.40

I’ve always loved this riveting opener – and it instantly brings to mind the opening of the Albert Hall film on the DVD.  This is an utterly awesome mix – the live drums and vocals from the Albert Hall ’70 now clearly applied. In between the Sol ’82 overdubs, the original live solo can be heard to greater effect. Additional Plant shout at 1 min 35. Bonzo’s drums sounding incredible throughout. Folks this is the definitive version.

If It Keeps On Raining (When The Levee Breaks – Rough Mix) 4.14

This is a simply sensational initial run through from November 1970 with a totally alternate laid back swampy feel, slightly faster in tempo to the original. Robert’s vocals have a sparse low register echoed scat singing element to them,  JPJ’s bass line is a total groove , Bonzo’s drumming funky as hell with a distinctive snare drum sound. One of the key finds of the entire reissue programme…

Bonzo’s Montreux (Mix Construction In  Progress) 4.59

The art of the drummer as master percussionist …always welcome and I  will never hear it again as effectively as I did at the June 16, 2015 Playback event inside Olympic Studios.

Baby Come On Home

I’ve been familiar with this relaxed bluesy strut since it first emerged under the title Tribute To Burt Burns on the Olympic Gold bootleg in the early 90s. It was  first officially released on Box Set 2 and the subsequent package of Coda in the Complete Studio Sessions box set.

Sugar Mama (Mix) 2.50

Another bootleg beauty, first aired on the Alternative Coda bootleg. I always had this down as a Zep II outtake. Now we know it’s a thrilling slice of embryonic Zep from October 3 1968. Marvel at the innocence and first time energetic blast of the embryonic early Zep…

Poor Tom (Instrumental Mix) 2.17

Again one from the Alternative Coda. Instrumental take that highlights John Bonham’s simply sensational New Orleans shuffle throughout. Bluesy acoustic overtones from Jimmy and the harmonica is in there at 1 min 38. Another opportunity to attend a John Bonham masterclass…

Travelling Riverside Blues (BBC Session) 5.11

As first officially released on the first 1990 Remasters box set and the subsequent package of Coda in the Complete Studio Sessions box set plus the 1997 BBC Sessions set. However, it’s been in my collection since 1972 when I obtained it on a crude BBC Top Gear session cassette. That spiralling bottleneck riff still does it for me every time…

Hey, Hey, What Can I Do 3.54

I vividly remember first marvelling at this delightful  countryish groove on the New Age Of Atlantic sampler LP issued in the spring of 1972. I also had it on the B side of the US Immigrant Song Single around the same time. It was and is deserving of an A side billing. Light and shady, warm and friendly – joyous from beginning to end

Companion Disc 2

Four Hands (Four Sticks – Bombay Orchestra) 4.44

The legendary Bombay sessions finally available officially after years of bootleg appearances. This was a revelation when I first heard it back in the early 90s The stereo separation and precise quality is yet another revelation. Tabla drums and flute combine to add a suitably atmospheric quality to this unique instrumental version cut in early 1972. A vivid example of their pioneering quest to push the musical envelope wherever it might take them.

Friends (Bombay Orchestra) 4.27

Again the stereo separation is evident – Robert’s vocals are crystal clear. The mystical vocal moaning’s mixed with the ethnic rhythms, makes for an eerie and compelling listening experience.

St. Tristan’s Sword (Rough Mix) 5.41

This three way instrumental work out from 1970 is built around a totally invigorating bass and drum pattern – the bass and drum syncopation between JPJ and Bonzo is just outstanding. Bonzo putting to good use his best New Orleans shuffle ala Poor Tom. Enter Jimmy for a Hendrix like feast not unlike his rampant playing on Jennings Farm Blues.  At 2 mins 18 it all breezes off in another direction with a clipped guitar effect as it chugs on with yet more scintillating Page runs in the Jennings Farm Blues tradition. There’s also a bridge part that would later to be employed on Over the Hills And Far Away.   Like the instrumental La La on the Zep II companion disc, it’s hard to assess where this piece was going. A Led Zep studio brain storm to see what they had and could build on. Whatever it was destined for, it’s a simply splendid example of them having a blow – and what a blow this is.

Desire (The Wanton Song – Rough Mix) 4.09

Instant memories of early 1975 are ignited whenever this invigorating riff exercise busts in. Playful and less rigid in structure –mainly guitar driven though the clavinet can be heard rumbling in there. Robert’s last vocal cry is slightly extended.  Different take to the bootlegged alternate take aired on the WPLJ radio station in 1975 with far superior vocal. You gotta love it…

Bring It On Home (Rough Mix) 2.32

Here they are unleashed in the studio with all the intensity of their early barnstorming live performances. I consider the live version from LA in 1970 as heard on Live On Blueberry Hill as one of the all time great live moments. here, it’s straight into the riff part with Robert’s wailing harmonica – and then very much a live vocal with the singer freely expressing himself with complete  abandonment-  as he was doing nightly on stage in the US at the time.  Bonzo tearing along with it all as the harmonica comes back in. Totally wild and chaotic with an electric ending. Superb snapshot of their on the road ad hoc studio recording methods. Simply blistering…

Walter’s Walk (Rough Mix) 3.19

It’s always been all about the riff…another slice of Alternative Coda. A brash instrumental take – the jittery riffing exercise that would later be applied to Hots On For Nowhere is very apparent. It’s a great moment when the riff bursts in at 2 mins 20.

Everybody Makes It Through (In The Light – Rough Mix) 8.33

Opens with the familiar drone of the original. What we have here is a mix that features the early ‘’Sunshine brings laughter’’ lyrics of the version of this on the Physical Graffiti companion disc matched to Jonesy’s drone links. Another work in progress snapshot of one of their finest creations…

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Conclusion:

So there it all is –  the final three Led Zeppelin reissues dissected both then and now. A whole feast of new listening that has taken us back to the original albums with fresh perspective.

The cycle is complete – and yes we have partied like its 1976, 1979 and 1982…

They will continue to keep us forever young…

Dave Lewis  – August 25, 2015.

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John Paul Jones News:

This snippet via JPJ’s website –

[08/24/2015] A weekend spent recording excerpts of The Ghost Sonata with Welsh National Opera and Tŷ Cerdd studio. Amazing players and singers.

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Hot August Night in 1971:

As it’s that time of year, it was good this week to pull out the August 23 1971 recording from Fort Worth – all of 44 years gone. Here’s some thoughts on this fantastic  performance sourced from TBL issue 30:

Going to Fort Worth…A Hot August Night of Electric Magic in 1971…

By comment consent the go-to recording for evidence of the Zep prowess on their seventh US tour is Going To California the famous audience recording from Berkeley September 14th. Alongside that undoubted gem, I have great affinity for the less profiled audience sourced tape that captures part of their set live at the Tarrent County Convention Center Fort Worth in Texas on August 23rd 1971. This surfaced around the late 1990’s on a two CD set titled Hot August Night via the Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin label (TDOLZ042).

The story behind this recording came to light in an interview with the taper published in Hugh Jones’ superb Proximity magazine in the summer of 1997.It revealed how the taper had used a Sony TC110 recorder –rather foolishly he only took a Sony C120 cassette to record on –thus when he turned over the tape he began recording over the opening segment of the show he captured on the first side of the tape. For that reason the recording kicks off just as Jimmy is getting into the violin bow solo during Dazed And Confused. The good news however is that from a vantage point of being in the fifth row right in line with Jimmy – the sound quality of the guitar resonates loud and clear. As an example of the aggressive virtuosity the guitarist effortlessly achieved that night–this is a riveting recording. Stairway To Heaven is captured in its intense embryonic live setting while Celebration Day comes reeling out of the traps in a full on double neck bombardment.

The taper is so close to the action you can her several off mic comments from Plant and Bonham. ‘’Can I have a cup of tea’’ says Robert before a perfect delivery of What Is And What Should Never Be. The version of That’s The Way is thrilling in it’s intimacy with JPJ’s mandolin shining brightly. An edit of Moby Dick showcases the usual Bonzo stampede.hot_august_night_r

Whole Lotta Love opens with one of those improvised muscular choppy riff exercises that Jimmy often slotted in eventually forming the riff that ate the world. Following a stirring medley, the taper took a stroll backstage and bumped into Plant as they awaited an encore – he was quite a way back in the venue for the taping of Communication Breakdown which abruptly cuts.

It’s a shame this Fort Worth recording only exists in a series of set list highlights. However, what is here in my view, is as at times as good as anything captured from the entire 1971 era. With Robert’s vocals being slightly low in the mix, this is an absolute primer in illustrating the instrumental side of the band. Page, Jones and Bonzo are on fire here locking in to some incredible musicianship time and time again. Put simply, as a live band Led Zeppelin at this period were just breathtaking in their ambition.

There are certain audience recordings that genuinely capture the pure authenticity and intimacy of Zeppelin in full flight. Hot August Night is one of them. It remains one of my favourite remnants of this era. What might be dubbed as Going to Fort Worth, is a scintillating Zep audio experience right up there with Going To California. It’s what the term ‘Electric Magic’ was invented for. Dave Lewis August 9th, 2011.

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Unledded 21 Years Gone:

Another couple of prime August dates to reflect on  – this text is from TBL issue 10 and the Celebration 2: The Tight But Loose Files book:

The London Unledded Filming for MTV: in the presence of pure Moroccan Roll…

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Jimmy Page and Robert Plant had taken most of August 1994 to film the long-mooted MTV project, the end results of which would appear as an MTV Unplugged special in October. Location trips to Marrakech and Wales would now be rounded off with two live performances before an invited audience at a secret London location set for the nights of August 25 & 26.

Feedback from those close to the project had been very positive. The filming in Marrakech had gone very smoothly with the airing of three new songs – two untitled and one dubbed ‘City Don’t Cry’. In Wales, despite the rain they had managed to film some excellent footage with ‘When The Levee Breaks’ proving particularly inspiring. A dress rehearsal for the London shows on Wednesday had also gone remarkably well according to those in attendance. Confirmation of the deployment of a full orchestra and an Egyptian string and drum section certainly whetted my appetite – it all sounded almost surreal.

Festival Pier 5 pm, the meeting point at which invited fans were advised to attend. many of them have been selected from a ballot of TBL subscribers supplied by me to the P and P management. In another queue are 50 MTV/radio station competition winners flown all expenses paid from the US. They line up excitedly amongst the other lucky fans. It’s a long wait and security is very tight, with everybody subjected to a metal detector test for obvious reasons. Interestingly enough, the billing for tonight’s show on the ticket is: “An Evening With Page And Plant”; Friday’s reads: “Plant and Page” and the laminated passes have Page Plant at the top… and Plant Page at the bottom – a subtle method of solving the who gets top billing wrangle.

Around ten to eight Alex the MTV coordinator does some cheer leading warm ups. “Let’s hear it for Rex King!” shouts Alex and an appropriate cheer goes up for the long term Plant/Page aide who is marching around the stage checking last minute details – an appreciative cheer for the man responsible for many of us being here tonight. Minutes later with the camera angles tested and the subtle lighting set, a short no-nonsense announcement precedes what we’ve waited fourteen years to hear. “Please welcome Robert Plant and Jimmy Page” … and it’s a thunderous welcome.

Robert Plant strides on stage from the left followed by Charlie Jones and Michael Lee, Jimmy enters from behind a black curtain on the right and immediately takes off his suit jacket to reveal a Knebworth style blue shirt.

Looking slightly nervous but ready to do what’s to be done they confer briefly in the centre of the stage like newly-weds after signing the register. For this particular remarriage the ceremony is about to begin.

“Good Evening… Let’s get, er, plugged in then,” remarks Robert tongue-in-cheek, immediately debunking the idea that this will be the familiar Unplugged arrangement. Jimmy straps on the cherry red Gibson and picks out the welcoming chords of ‘Thank You’, a tentative run through delivered in the arrangement employed on last year’s Fate Of Nations tour. Jimmy switches to the Gibson ‘58 prior to his ex-partner uttering the words “and if I say to you tomorrow” right next to him. You have to go back twenty-two years for the last time these words were spoken on stage within the vicinity of the pair. ‘What Is And What Should Never Be’ is much welcomed if slightly flawed with Jimmy particularly hesitant on the solo. It warms up towards the end as Jimmy scrubs across the strings for that familiar stereo panned Zepp II trademark.

For the next song Jimmy settles into a chair and straps on an Andy Manson three-necked guitar. Robert introduces Nigel Eaton on hurdy-gurdy, James Sutherland on Bodhran percussion and Porl Thompson on acoustic guitar and welcomes to the far left of the stage an Indian vocalist Najma Akhtar… who will duet with him on ‘Battle Of Evermore’. It’s a joy to hear Jimmy picking out the melody against the whirring hurdy-gurdy and the interplay between Robert and Nashma is very effective. Towards the close they add a new coda reminiscent of Achilles. Never an easy number to project live, this arrangement is the first fruits of the ambitious extended Plant Page alliance. And it work supremely well.

“From here to Batley is not that far,” jokes Robert, referring to the cabaret circuit. The same line-up (minus Najma) stays on for ‘Gallows Pole’. Long rumoured to be part of the new set, Jimmy strums over the 12- and 6-string Ovation double neck, Charlie provides a steadfast bass anchor to the intricate arrangement, Porl handles the banjo parts and Michael Lee storms in as the pace builds. This is the first display from the drummer that again confirms his ability to bring just the right amount of dynamics to the rhythm section, striking his drums in a very Bonham-like manner that adds to the whole atmosphere. As the song speeds to a climax Robert really lets go, losing himself in the ‘Keep a swinging’ repeat refrain before it all dramatically stops.

“We’ll be back in a while,” announces Robert, signalling the end of part one. As the lights go up we excitedly exchange views. Everybody has been knocked out with the last two numbers and are similarly agreed that the opening pair of Zepp II standards had been merely a warm up. But of course we really haven’t seen anything yet.

After the break Jimmy and Robert reappear with Charlie and Michael. Charlie stands beside a huge double bass as the principal pair settle down on seats at the centre of the stage. “Perhaps this is how we should have done this song originally all those years ago,” announces Robert as Jimmy picks out on acoustic guitar the intro of ‘Rain Song’. Robert comes in with the first verse and then the orchestra majestically glides in to replace the mellotron parts of the studio version. This is quite breathtaking. Robert sings the lyrics beautifully and Jimmy plays perfect fingerstyle in all the right places. As the song beefs up Michael comes in with suitably dynamic tom-tom injections (early on in the song he’d used brushes like Bonham). It’s left to Jimmy to close proceedings with the descending scales that he carries off perfectly.

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From one emotional moment to another. Jimmy returns to the Gibson and picks out another familiar intro, this time to ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ and it’s played with all the intensity of 1971. This is a real crystallisation of the power of the Plant/Page alliance, aided subtlety by the string orchestra. On the chorus they strut forward over the mike ala The Song Remains movie version. Plant is brilliant here, breaking into a fully fledged mid-Seventies pose with mike in hand and Jimmy’s solo is a crescendo of notes, the like of which we haven’t heard for many a long year. This is Led Zeppelin in all but name and the spirit is alive and kicking, compellingly so.

Next Robert offers stage right to the arrival of the Egyptian string and drum section led by Hossam Ramzy who is handed the mike to personally introduce the boys in the band. He develops an instant rapport with the audience as he runs through the team sheet and inspires much amusement when he gets in a plug for his brother’s Indian restaurant. “I think we should dedicate this to the original drummer with four sticks,” says Robert to rapturous cheers. An ambitious arrangement of ‘Four Stick’s follows with Michael tearing along with two stick in hand – a lovely tribute. Robert interprets every nuance and phrase of the original lyric in a slightly lower register while Jimmy plays the riff on acoustic guitar and it all speeds up to a compelling climax as the three sections (European strings band/ Egyptian strings) compete for authority.

Robert asks Jimmy to introduce the next number and as ever he greets the audience humbly before handing over to the Egyptian section for a lengthy intro. This is shades of Bombay orchestra ’72, a little unsettled in tempo early on but unravelling successfully enough by the second verse. If ‘Friends’ appeared just a trifle laboured, the next number wipes out any minor misgivings completely. Robert duly delivers a lengthy and revealing speech regarding this new alliance and their desire to look back and revisit some past glories. And they don’t come any more glorious than Kashmir.

The ‘Pride Of Led Zeppelin’ is radically reworked for the Nineties opening with Robert singing the first verse in a slow tempo accompanied by Jimmy on the Trans Performance Gibson, creating a phased gizmo effect on the pedals. This merges into the Hossum percussion of the East and then on into the familiar and invigoratingly performed riff and they’re off on that mystic road again. What makes this exercise so fulfilling is the interplay between band and orchestra – on numerous occasions Jimmy and Robert halt the band performance and glance over to the Egyptian players who take it all into a different time zone. The finger cymbal player merrily jigs around to the riff much to Jimmy’s amusement. As we get to the fade and the “Let me take you there” refrains, the whole thing speeds up into a truly memorable climax which sees Jimmy playing a rumbling ‘Achilles’-like rlff off against Michael Lee’s stop-start drumming. In turn they pass the riff over to the Moroccan brass and string players, formulating a call and response sequence that threatens to take the roof off. If the TV cameras have got the right angles this will look sensational on screen

With ‘Kashmir’ successfully climbed they leave the stage together, smiling and waving as they go. That appears to be the end, particularly when the background blues music strikes up again, but minutes later they appear from behind the black curtain and make their way on stage again. Jimmy straps on the Ovation double neck, Robert makes another little speech: “This was written on the side of a Welsh mountain in a cottage about half an hour before the young lady furiously taking pictures in front of me was conceived (a reference to Page’s daughter Scarlet in the front row). Was I there? Possibly!” laughs the man, with Jimmy grinning behind. “See we’re happy again!” – a memorable statement which the entire audience would certainly endorse.

A lovely laid back arrangement of ‘That’s The Way’ follows with Michael Lee adding a new drum accompaniment and Porl taking up the banjo. Robert picks up the tambourine and strikes up that classic pose – a pose I’d long since give up ever seeing again. Jimmy meanwhile rocks back and forth as he strums out the chords to a song last performed live by the pair nigh on twenty years ago.

Smiles, handshakes, cheers, waves, goodbye and it’s all over. “Thanks for coming along – hope to see you tomorrow,” says the man from MTV. The crowd filters out still star struck. And incredibly there’s more to come tomorrow . . .

 DATELINE: FRIDAY AUGUST 26:

Festival Pier 5 p.m. Here we go again. The waiting this time out takes place in an orderly queue along the Thames. It’s a markedly more relaxed atmosphere amongst us – many are here for the second night and we know what to expect. Over at the London Studios the demand for entry seems to have heightened considerably with many more red ticketed guests in line. Lining up towards the door is tense with more than a little confusion of who is eligible to go in and who is not. Once inside studio 2 it’s evident there are far more in attendance tonight, with many standing around the doorways at each corner of the studio. The Indian warm-up music is one Robert’s choice. Once the big door is shut and the red light goes on it’s also evident that those assembled are a lot more relaxed tonight and in the mood to enjoy every moment of this last night of filming.

This ambience transcends itself to the players and after a polite intro Jimmy and Robert stride up and take the stand. Looking well at ease Robert throws a nutmeg to the intended set list by switching into ‘What Is And What Should Never Be’ and then ‘Thank You’. The opening number is marred slightly by some feedback but ‘Thank Yo’u is spot on and inspires the first spontaneous cheer of the evening when Jimmy turns his back towards Michael and spits out a fluid Gibson solo.

unledded three

The set list for the rest of the proceedings is similar to the previous night. ‘The Battle Of Evermore’ is perfection – a modern day mantra that puts any previous, precarious incarnations well into the shade. During a break following a false start for ‘Gallows Pole’ Robert sings the opening line to ‘When The Levee Breaks’ explaining that “This was one we did to eight people including two sheep in Wales last week” . ‘Gallows’ duly follows and is again heightened by some intensive Plant scat singing at the close.

Back on stage with the orchestra ‘Rain Song’ is performed with much subtlety if not quite the fluency of the previous night. “This is one of everybody’s favourites” is the signal for them to take it up a gear for another startling delivery of ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ with a solo that another spontaneous burst of applause from the appreciative audience.

Another enjoyable factor tonight is the relaxed on stage banter between Robert and the audience. The intimacy of the studio allows for a clear rapport, inspiring heckles along the lines of “Tell us a Joke Jimmy”; “He doesn’t know any,” replies Robert. Another bit of light-hearted banter revolves around Robert’s comment on his own between-song raps on various bootlegs. “Have you heard some of the talking on the bootlegs – crap isn’ t it?” he says. “Especially last night,” shouts out some wag. “Oh wait till I tell Jimmy that!” says Robert moving over to where Jimmy is tuning up.

UNLEDDED FOYUR

The Moroccan roll of ‘Four Sticks’ and ‘Friends’ bursts forth with the latter infinitely better than Thursday’s version, and Messrs Plant and Page then deliver a new revamped version of ‘Kashmir’. This really is awesome, a mesmerising performance complete with retro “Woman talkin to ya!” adlib from Plant during the drawn out section and an improvised final five minutes which reincarnates the spirit of Led Zeppelin with dazzling accuracy as they improvise dangerously around the speeded-up finale. It brings to mind the crazed unpredictability of middle period Zepp live epics such as ‘Dazed’ and ‘No Quarter’ – and all the while Plant undercuts it with the pleading charm of the lyric and the Egyptian section bring it on home. Truly this is the pride of Plant and Page.

A standing ovation is nothing less that they deserve. Back they stride for the new look ‘That’s The Way’… and off they go again as the lights go up. Some people think it’s all over… but a welcome announcement to return to our seats signals the arrival of Jimmy and Robert who take their seats at the front of the stage. Jimmy dons the Ovation double neck. A tape loop recreating the absent Moroccan musician due to play on this number revolves around the studio. It is the premier of the new Plant/Page composition ‘Wonderful One’. The loop has a repetitive percussive feel similar to the opening of ‘Come Into My Life’ from Fate Of Nations, and the song itself develops mournfully as Jimmy drifts over the strings. Plant sings poetic couplings in the ‘All My Love’ vein as the gentle love song washes over.

The exercise is repeated when they run through the number again for the benefit of the camera angles. ‘Wonderful One’ is the first newly premiered live Plant Page composition since they ushered in ‘Hot Dog’ and ‘In The Evening’ at Copenhagen and Knebworth.

It seems to be all over… until an MTV official consults with the outside Manor Mobile Studio and realises there needs to be more, so back they stride again. “We’re gonna do one number again and then one we didn’t think we were gonna do, so here goes,” announces Robert before they swing onto ‘That’s The Way’ with Jimmy weaving some beautiful descant chording around those familiar lyrics. Finally. and this time it really is finally. with help from Paul on guitar and the hurdy-gurdy man, Robert leads them through a welcome ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ (“Another one we did in Wales to eight people including two sheep”). However this is not the heavyweight blues stomping Presence arrangement but a swinging, rootsy, semi-acoustic run through with Jimmy on the Ovation double-neck. In fact this arrangement has far more in common with the Blind Willie Johnson original than any other version I‘ve heard them attempt and it all flows to a satisfying climax. There s a great moment for the cameras as they make their way from the stage, Jimmy and Robert cuddling together, both smiling gleefully. It’s a moment that crystallises the spirit of the whole event.

For Robert it’s back to the Midlands to follow the fortunes of Wolverhampton Wanderers. A relaxed looking James Patrick emerges with chauffeur happy to pose and sign autographs .

………………………….

What was most striking about the MTV filming was the integrity that Robert and Jimmy brought the whole affair. Sidestepping the hyperbole of a fully fledged Led Zeppelin reunion, Jimmy and Robert managed to recreate the key ingredients of the Zepp ethic by cleverly reinventing the catalogue. In recycling those original songs for Nineties consumption the pair have brought a respect to this project that has been sorely lacking in the mega tour reunions of their Seventies peers.

It also goes to prove what dividends lengthy rehearsals can provide. The chemistry of this re-alliance was more than plain to see and it put into perspective once and for all the shortcomings of the ill prepared Atlantic 1988 reunion. You can expect it all to come flowing back within days – but given a responsible period of preparation and the affinity these long term musicians and friends have for each other becomes very evident.

Finally, in employing the extra trappings of the orchestra and Egyptian players this MTV project has proved to be a case of Page and Plant completing a previously unfinished picture. The experimentation on certain numbers is what would probably have emerged had there been a Eighties tour Part One. This was always the beauty of Led Zeppelin – never a vehicle for mere rock music. Time and again they transcended the genre. Now 14 years on in the hands of two of the main components the group s legacy has been reborn. And they have ultimately proved that they really were the very best. Page and Plant… Plant and Page… which ever way it lines up the chemistry remains.

Dave Lewis – August 1994.

Dedicated to Michael Lee 1969 – 2008.

…………………………

DL Diary Update:

Last Thursday It was straight back into the TBL/Zep fray after our holiday. With barely a few hours sleep after our early morning return, I was London bound for the excellent Proud Gallery Led Zep Photo Exhibition.

Proud 31

It was great to hook up with TBL contributors Richard Grubb, Cliff ‘the ticket man’ Hilliard and Krys Jantzen plus Mr Foy and the TBL competition winner Guy Haslem and his friend Paul. A top gathering indeed. The pic here shows the TBL editor at work interviewing the lovely and legendary Chris Dreja. From then on here , it’s been a case of catching up orders, trips to the post and responding to the backlog of e-mail that built up while we were away.

There’s also been plenty of preparation and planning for what is already shaping up to be a very busy autumn.

After a week away from the player, there’s been a few recent acquisitions to catch up on including The Rolling Stones Live at The Marquee 1971 archive release on vinyl and  Ginger Baker At His Best – the early 70s double album compilation – I’ve been looking for this for a while and found a bargain priced copy on eBay recently.

While we are on the subject, it was brought to my attention that a sale of copies of TBL issue 1, 2, 3 and 5  recently fetched a very respectable £415 on eBay recently. Wish I had stored a few more of those way back in the day – I only have one copy of each!

Also on the player:

Bob Dylan Hard Rain – compelling 1976 Rolling Thunder live set, Miles Davis Kind of Blue Sessions, Duane Allman An Anthology Vol II (some amazing stuff on that including King Curtis, Wilson Pickett and Lulu tracks) and inspired by reading the new Adam Faith biography, I pulled out The Best of Adam Faith and his excellent 1974 album I Survived – this has guest appearances from Richie Blackmore and Russ Ballard. I’ve always admired the late Adam Faith – his portrayal of Budgie in the early 70s TV series  was just wonderful and evokes the period so well – it remains one of all time favourite TV series.

August has heralded a series of family birthdays with Adam, Janet’s Mum Bet and next Monday the good lady herself. I am next in line clocking up 59  the next Saturday. Before all that it will happy birthday Janet Lewis 40 plus 11…..

Dave Lewis – August 27, 2015

……………………….

YouTube Clips:

Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love from Hot August Night – Forth Worth 1971:

Jimmy Page & Robert Plant Unledded performance – London Studios August 1994 – Thank You:

The Battle Of Evermore

Four Sticks:


 

That’s The Way: 

 

Until next time…

Have a great  weekend bank holiday weekend

Keep listening, keep reading…

Dave Lewis/Gary Foy –  August 27, 2015. 

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3 Comments »

  • The Old Hermit said:

    I’ll never understand Jimmy’s reasoning for excluding both ‘Sugar Mama’ and Hey, Hey, What Can I Do’ in favour of two live tracks – ‘We’re Gonna Groove’ and ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby’ – which were given unnecessary overdubs and erroneously passed off as studio tracks… had those first two tracks being included on the album’s release in 1982 instead of the latter two tracks, it would have been a flat-out essential purchase for any music fan never mind any Zeppelin fan, even moreso with the inclusion in 1993 of both ‘Baby Come On Home’ and ‘Travelling Riverside Blues’.

    And that original cover did it no favours whatsoever, had it been the recent black/grey remasters negative cover shown above from the start (preferably with the iconic Led Zeppelin band logo), it would have at least looked functional and dignified, a rather apt description of the album itself.

    Best wishes for the future, Dave.

  • Hiroshi said:

    Dave, I hope you asked Chris Dreja if he remembered where the last performance of The Yardbirds happened in 1968 — Montgomery AL or Luton.

    I had a chat with Chris and Jim McCarty after a Yardbirds show at the Billboard Live in Osaka, March 2011. I remember I asked whether the Epiphone Rivoli bass guitar played by Paul Samwell-Smith, Jimmy Page and Chris through the 1960’s was an identical one. Their answer was yes, and Chris added, “That was a band guitar”, which means it was owned by the group rather than a person. I’m not sure, though I wonder if Paul left it to be shared by them when he quit.

  • Byron Lewis said:

    Wow – a phone in your bedroom – the stuff of dreams. Was 1471 available then?

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