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25 June 2010 13,924 views 8 Comments

To commemorate those epic six Los Angeles Forum shows of June 1977,  here is a lengthy overview of the 1977 tour that first appeared in TBL issue 9. The pre-amble sets the scene on the state of play inside Led Zeppelin at the time and leads on to a summary of three of those June performances as heard via the legendary Listen To This Eddie bootleg plus the two Last LA Forum sets issued back in the mid 90s.

Thanks to the late Mike Millard’s superb audience tapes, we can hear lasting evidence of the sheer excitement of the 1977 Led Zeppelin, capturing a week where the sense of on the road fun was never more evident. Read this…and get those 1977 CD remnants on your player…..

*Just before you do –  TBL subscribers will already know that this is the type of in depth feature that lights up the Tight But Loose magazine  – if you have have yet to indulge and you enjoy this piece ,why not subscribe to the magazine – that way you will ensure you never miss an issue and have on hand a lasting tangible colletable item -to be read and re read again and again.  Subscribing also does much to support the longevity of the magazine and this web site.  Click on the ordering link on the home page and do it today! Many thanks in advance (DL).



Against the background of three of the best live Zep CD’s, some recollections and viewpoints on the state of play as Led Zeppelin made what would be their final trek across America…

“It’s changing now. I mean playing live – that whole stimulus has been missing. When we did that first rehearsal it just clicked all over again. I just feel I’ve cleaned out a load of problems and now I’m ready to get back in the fray, so to speak. Something epic is going to happen musically. That’s what I feel. The next tour. . . you’ll see . . .”

So spoke Jimmy Page at the Swan Song office in November 1976 during an interview with the NME scribe Nick Kent. As can be viewed from the above comments, there was a new wave of optimism around the band as they came back together following the enforced lay off due to Robert’s accident. After all the various promotional interviews for the launch of ‘Presence’ and the ‘Song Remains’ film, the socialising at movie premieres, and the holidaying in tax havens in Montreux and the South of France, finally they were back to what they knew they did best. Playing music.

The formal return to arms occurred in a North London rehearsal studio in the autumn of 1976. And such was their enthusiasm to get back to work this time around instead of re-acquainting themselves musically by easing back in to rehearsals with familiar material of 50s covers – as was the norm on such occasions, they went straight into the fray by immediately attempting to restructure ‘Achilles Last Stand’; for live performance. ‘Achilles’ of course was the killer opening track from their latest studio album. In his ecstatic review of ‘Presence’ in Sounds (possibly the best description of any Zepp album by any critic during their career), John Ingram had noted somewhat astutely if rather blatantly, that Achilles Last Stand’ “would be a motherfucker played live”. It was obviously a notion shared within the band. When confronted with adapting a live arrangement for their multi dubbed epic, Jimmy Page assumed it would require the deployment of the Gibson double neck. Upon rehearsals it was the trusty Les Paul that surprisingly proved most appropriate for the piece, aided by a few timely flicks of the eventide harmoniser.

That autumn’s rehearsals marked Led Zeppelin’s initial preparation for a planned world tour that would open in North America and move to Canada before stretching into South America and winding its way back to the UK. Further rehearsals took place at ELP’s Manticore Studio in Fulham in the early weeks of 1977. Here the band developed a totally new set list, reviving the long deleted full acoustic set and rearranging tracks such as The Battle Of Evermore’ and ‘Ten Years Gone’ for their debut as live performances. For the latter track Jonesy brought in a new custom made three necked guitar while Jimmy toyed with the idea of playing pedal steel guitar on stage (an idea that was eventually dropped). For Robert they brought in a new toy – a vocal harmoniser that allowed him instantly to double track his voice. Much planning went into creating a balanced programme that would present a new look to America. With no new album to play alongside the tour (‘Presence’ being a year old already), the group took to the road to present what they would ultimately dub simply as An Evening With Led Zeppelin’.

The Fulham rehearsal location allowed them to venture into central London at night to view the then emerging Punk scene – checking out the likes of The Damned and Easter at the Roxy club in Soho much to the bemusement of the UK rock press. Visitors to the rehearsals in Manticore include Billy Idol and Generation X and Steve Marriott – the latter jamming with them on old Muddy Waters numbers, an experience that freaked Robert out – such was his admiration for the late, great ex-Small Face and one time number one choice as a vocalist during Jimmy’s attempts to get the first Led Zeppelin incarnation off the ground in 1966.

By the end of January the set had been honed to perfection and Robert, aware of the physical demands about to be put upon him tor the first time since his accident, booked in a weekly bout of training with the Wolverhampton Wanderers soccer team. Everything was set for a Feb 27 opening at the Convention Centre, Forth Worth, Texas and their equipment was meticulously packed and airlifted to the Showco HQ in Dallas for a final PA test. Then the troubles started.

In early February Robert contracted a severe bout of laryngitis and the tour schedule was postponed. During the next few weeks the tour itinerary went through various revisions. At one point they looked set to hit Toronto on April 1 and the West Coast in the summer. Eventually that idea was scrapped in favour of them opening in Dallas on the same day. Back in the UK, Earls Court promoter Mel Bush was hopeful of persuading Peter Grant to secure the group to top a one day festival due to be staged in late August at Wrotham Park near Potters Bar. It was to be an entirely unsuccessful quest as their US commitments beckoned.

With all their equipment in America including all of Page’s guitars, there was no room for further rehearsals leading up the opening date. It was therefore a very nervous Led Zeppelin who gathered in the wings of the Dallas Memorial Auditorium on the evening of Friday April 1 1977. (For visual evidence, take a look at the group photo from Neal Preston’s ‘Portraits’ book which captures the moment – also reproduced on the ‘Coda’ gatefold sleeve). So many questions remained unanswered in their minds. Would Robert’s injured foot take the strain? Would the long gap between rehearsals affect their co-ordination? And would America still crave for Led Zeppelin as they had done in previous years? . . . They really needn’t have worried.

From the moment Page slayed across the double neck to pick out the chords for the newly ensconced opening number ‘The Song Remains The Same’ that spring evening in 1977, it was plain for the group and its entourage to see that America’s love affair with Led Zeppelin was far from over.

From Dallas the tour progressed to Oklahoma and a four night stint at the Chicago stadium. From there the statistics began to blur. 40,000 in Cincinnati over two nights, 36,000 in Cleveland – leading to the remarkable 76,229 who attended the group’s appearance at the Silverdome Pontiac in Michigan on April 30 1977. This set a new record for a single act performance beating the previous best of 56,800 who had attended a concert at Tampa, Florida by . . . Led Zeppelin’.

In early May the group split for a two week break. Jimmy spent a four day holiday in Cairo, returning to be in attendance for the presentation of a prestigious Ivor Novello award along with Jones, Plant and Grant at London’s Grosvenor Hotel. By then the tour reports that had been filtering back to England had certainly fuelled my own curiosity to find out just exactly what they were up to. Reviews of the show from Chicago and St. Louis in Sounds and Melody Maker revealed the introduction of Ten Years Gone’, ‘The Battle Of Evermore’ (with Jonesy on vocals), the medley of Black Country Woman’ and ‘Bron Y Aur Stomp’, Jimmy’s guitar solo leading to ‘Achilles Last Stand’, and the link of ‘White Summer’ played live for the first time since 1970 leading to ‘Kashmir’.

With little hope of them playing in the UK, I hatched a plan to fly to New York to catch one of their June Madison Square Garden gigs. This being way before the days of organised overseas rock concert travel (and cheap shuttle air fares), the sheer economical logistics made the idea impossible – despite much assistance from Swan Song’s Unity Maclean to arrange tickets, etc. Instead I decided to wave them off from Heathrow as they flew back to America on May 17. Calling in to the office earlier in the day, I was despatched to find a copy of that day’s edition of the London Evening Standard from the local King’s Road newsagent. The reason was for Swan Song to check that a retraction of a story printed on Monday had been inserted.

The story centered on an alleged incident involving Robert Plant being arrested in Atlanta for pulling a knife and being drunk at Hartsfield Airport. The story was actually perpetuated by a 19 year old youth impersonating Robert – who on the day had been horse riding in Wales! The retraction was printed with an apology which was duly telexed to the Plant home.

A few hours later I arrived at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and met up with the group and entourage as they awaited the call to fly to Alabama. Robert was on peak form, talking to all and sundry and sending up the late arriving Jimmy (“Where’s Patti Page Colesy?”) displaying a swagger and verve that would never quite be the same after this tour. Jonesy, resplendent in a Union Jack cardigan, happily posed for photos and unfolded tales of the three necked guitar. Bonzo seemed a little nervous and detached, anxious to get away. Jimmy arrived late in a misfitting white suit, sweaty and unshaven, hardly a picture of health, but ever articulate and anxious to meet with Robert.

Above -The young DL with half of Led Zeppelin – Heathrow Airport May 17 1977 – Note dinner plate size Led Zep badges on wide lapelled jacket.

20 hours later they were back on stage at the Coliseum in Birmingham, Alabama. The remarkable cine home movie footage that has surfaced from that show illustrates the transition that Jimmy underwent once on stage. On that scratchy film he is literally everywhere, duck walking, dropping to his knees, spinning, turning … the perfect toil for Robert to narcissistically weave between. That Birmingham cine film certainly hones in on the two contrasting images of the tour. On stage they were capable of supreme moments, but off stage all was not so well. The state of health of Jimmy Page was a high topic of contention amongst the entourage throughout the tour. Indeed the second of the four Chicago shows had been cut short when Jimmy collapsed during Ten Year Gone’. This lapse was put down to food poisoning – Page having stated on the day of the gig that he was having trouble arranging a healthy diet on the road. Other problems centered on the addition to the security set up of London criminal John Bindon which caused much unrest amongst the roadies. His presence would of course have even greater consequences when they reached the Oakland Stadium in July. . . It would seem that being the biggest band in the world dictated that they had to have the most notorious minders … the most outrageous road crew behaviour… and of course the most amount of drugs.

Perhaps then it’s even more remarkable how impressive their performances and Page’s in particular could be during this era. It was as if each member of the band possessed an inner strength that drew and fed from their collective power. No matter what craziness was happening off stage, somehow as soon as they faced their audience something clicked. Not that it clicked without some inconsistencies showing through. As on any tour some nights were distinctly better than other nights. As an example – though just days apart, the difference in, say, Bonzo’s performance at San Diego on June 19, where he is surprisingly uncoordinated at times, is fairly striking compared to his domination at the LA shows. No doubt the old road fever was taking effect. The indulgence of certain parts of the set also made for a lack ot urgency. Brian Knapp tells me of the atmosphere of the 77 shows he saw pales against the more intense drive of ’75. The marathon excess of ‘No Quarter’ and ‘Over The Top’ often inspired a mass walk about for certain sections of the audience, unable to focus on the stage for too long amongst the excitement. The repeated problem of firecrackers being thrown at the stage also angered the band – culminating in Jimmy having to stop playing for treatment after being struck on the arm at one show.

As the second part of the tour rolled on, they were all eying with much relish the thought of settling in to the late June string of LA shows. After the trauma of the abandoned date in Tampa when rain stopped play after 20 minutes, matters improved for a six night run at Madison Square Garden. This latest triumph was faithfully reported back to the UK via a centre page spread by Ray Coleman in the Melody Maker issue of June 25. (I vividly remember rushing into the newsagent and excitedly buying up a bulk lot of copies to see how it was all progressing.) By that date they were back in their second home for what can be viewed in retrospect as their last truly great US appearances – and some of the very best of the post 1972 era. And thanks to the delights of those silver rarities, such performances are now available to reassess at the flick of the CD scanner button – providing the listener with the opportunity to travel back to the LA Forum and share again in the madness of the 77 tour.

When it comes to the underground documentation of this era, there have been a crop of ‘releases’ over the years. Many fans will already be familiar with The Destroyer’ soundboard April 27 Cleveland show, which is fine in itself but not the most inspired performances of the tour. 20 more minutes of soundboard quality exists from the June 11 Madison Square show (available on the ‘Silver Coated Rails’ CD) and the other prize catch up to now has been the two volume vinyl doubles ‘For Badge Holders Only’ capturing material from the June 23 LA show including the Keith Moon jam.

Listen To This Eddie’ was previously available on two hard to find vinyl sets. Now for the first time, the whole of this dynamic opening show from LA June 21 1377 is packaged on three CDs with a total playing time of 190 minutes. The sound source is from an audience tape – but it really is an excellent recording – very clear and over spilling with the sort of auditorium atmosphere that cleaner soundboard tapes often lose. The visuals for the inlays are also first class being reproductions of the photos to be found in the 1977 Tour programme.

‘Listen To This Eddie’ is very much the genuine article. A complete Led Zeppelin concert experience, a thrilling aural record that puts you right there on the spot.

The pure excitement of the event is evident from the moment the exuberant crowd noise filters through as the first CD commences. If there was one period in Zeppelin’s live concert history that I could be magically transported back in time to relive, then right now I would select the moment captured here when the group walk on to the stage for this opening LA Forum 1977 date. The expectation level must have been immense. Bonzo is the first to be heard rumbling the Ludwig into action. Then Jimmy scrubs his hands over the Gibson double neck to tease the crowd with a few well chosen chords. Those tantalising warm up chords became something of a Zep on-stage trademark when they employed ‘The Song Remains The Same’ as a set opener post 75. It was the same tactic we home-grown fans would finally revel in at Knebworth two years on.

Those chords eventually mould into the stinging intra of ‘The Song Remains The Same’. Immediately your senses are further assaulted by the quite brutal percussion of John Bonham. He rides alongside the galvanised guitar effects eventually breaking into the most inscrutable snare roll that underpins Jones’ bass patterns and Page’s role to emerge as the pivotal effect of the whole track. From that moment on, his playing dominates the proceedings. As I earlier observed, his performance a few days earlier had been decidedly lackluster in San Diego. Plant later explains he has just recovered from a bout of food poisoning and it’s obvious in LA John Bonham is back firing on all cylinders. The ‘Song’ swings into ‘Sick Again’ via ‘The Rover’ riff link as was commonplace at the time. They take a while to get into the groove here, but eventually with Robert teasing the crowd the momentum is increased leading to an extended outro that finds Page reeling off a series of telling phrases. “Good Evening” says Plant sedately before a more celebratory “I mean Good Eveeeening! Well, we finally made it. Haven’t seen you since. …. Anybody here when we played with Bad Company? That was the first time we ever managed to get back on stage again … So tonight no beating about the bush. We’re just gonna play ‘coz that’s what we’re here for.” But before they play there’ a pause of over a minute as Jimmy gets in check. Then it’s ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ and again it’s a Bonham led fusion as the drummer blisters alongside Jones and Page on this most intense dynamic excursion. Plant meanwhile screams and grapples with the stuttered lyric.

There’s a telling no-nonsense stance about Plant’s next introduction. “It is indeed a great pleasure to be back in California for many many reasons, among those it’s very hard to see the sun in a basement in New York. This is a song about. . . well, it’s not even worth telling you what it’s about. YOU know!”. That statement says much about the affinity the group shares with its LA audience. Plant knows and they know that this is the tale of the passage of man . . . ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’. One of the few inflexible parts of the 77 set, this number was brought in at the June Madison Square stint and was employed in rotation with ‘In My Time Of Dying1. One of my all time fave live pieces, it’s good to hear it in this setting. Jonesy’s eight string Alembic patterns can be heard very clearly and Jimmy steps on the eventide to double up the effects of the solo – which is not quite as impressive as the June 23 ‘Badge holders’ cut but mighty fine nonetheless. “That was a song that speaks for itself. This is a song that comes from what you might call the urban blues of the United Kingdom. A song that you probably already know but a song very close to all of us in the band from time to time and things like that.” The ’77 incarnation of Since I’ve Been Loving You’ as captured on the opening LA show just might be the version to live or die by. The reason is simple. Jimmy Page’s playing throughout is just so precise, with every lick charged with vivid intensity. Over which Plant delivers a flowing vocal and John Bonham again delivers a truly devastating performance. Just marvel at the closing coda as he scatters his arms around the kit forming a barrage of power and glory.

“Welcome back to the world, John Bonham, who had a terrible fit of food poisoning”, acknowledges Plant. “He’s been taking too many rhinestones. That by the way featured Jimmy Page on guitar. . .” The noise and sheer bravado that greets the latter statement is quite startling, prompting Plant to later mimic the crowd any time they begin to get out of hand. “I didn’t say Jimmy!”. “No Quarter’ follows, the first of the marathons. The ’77 version for me suffers from just a little too much instrumental freedom as Jonesy romps through boogie woogie and neo- classical themes before Page returns to add some undisciplined guitar work.

One interesting addition to the song is the “Dogs of doom are howling more” refrain which finds Plant in a call and response mode with Jimmy during the final movement. This arrangement was retained for Knebworth and even survived the rather bizarre Plant solo rendition employed on some of the ‘Manic Nirvana’ 1990 shows. A final observation here: when one considers the song’s gruelling half hour length, it’s perhaps not too hard to see why it inspired some restlessness amongst the crowd. ‘No Quarter1 lacked the visual anything-could-happen appeal of the other lengthy live opus Dazed And Confused’ and it pushed I’d take the compact ’73 version and the majesty of the Earls Court deliveries over anything performed post 75.

Robert battles with the restless crowd (“I didn’t say Jimmy!”) to explain that the next track came out of rehearsals as they looked to perform material they’d previously ignored. “Jonesy most kindly went out and bought a three necked instrument which since then has often hurt his back in many a hotel, so with the aid of Jonesy’s three necked instrument we’re gonna try a thing from ‘Physical Graffiti’ called Ten Years Gone'”. Robert delivers an outstanding vocal here set against some immensely fluid Telecaster work from James P. Unfortunately the effect of this track is then marred considerably by an untidy fade and edit at 5.28 into the song which misses part of the final verse. The acoustic set is thankfully all intact as Robert sets the scene. “It brings to the front of the stage a man who had a very bad stomach complaint – John Bonham. The Rhinestone Cowgirl. I guess he’s a Cowgirl In The Sand . . .” The latter reference inspires a “bring on Neil Young” plea from a wag in the crowd. Instead they perform The Battle Of Evermore’ with Jonesy on vocals and Bonzo hitting the tambourine with gusto towards the end.

“This next song we should dedicate to a lot of good friends we’ve met along the way, some are going back to New York tomorrow . . . Dear Danny (Goldberg?), we’ll miss you so much and your American Express card. Lots of good people who we’ve met – especially the people who made us write this song (wah).” ‘Going To California’ is noticeable for yet another Joni reference (“They say she plays guitar and cries and sings and she lives in Bel Air”). “I wonder if she still lives there”, he can be heard to mutter off mic after the song. A couple of teasing choruses of ‘Hangman’ from Robert ushers in the medley of ‘Black Country Woman’/’Bron Y Aur Stomp’, which then leaves the stage to Jimmy Page. From the delightful opening strum of the modal tuned Dan Electro he turns in an aggressive solo rendition of ‘White Summer/BIack Mountain Side’. Played faster compared to the rather sedate politeness of the box set BBC version – and for the first time in LA for seven years, it builds the tension before swinging directly into ‘Kashmir’ (another ’77 set ritual that stayed with them for the rest of their touring days), Unsurprisingly on this occasion it’s Bonzo who again comes to the fore adding the power to match Robert’s impassioned final pleading.

Moby Dick’ re-titled ‘Over The Top’ for the marathon delivery on this tour is preceded by an hilariously obnoxious Plant introduction as a delay occurs in setting up. Witness: “That was called Kashmir… Let me take you there. Bit of trouble with the musical equipment here. Right now the man who fought against the elements. The man who fought food poisoning. The man who drinks Heineken . . . The man who doesn’t get out of bed . . . the man who hasn’t got a cymbal . . . the man who’s having a chat with this man who knows the man who tunes Jimmy’s guitar and comes from Scotland and doesn’t know the man they call Tim but does know Audrey from Dallas thank you. The man who now learns to construct his own drum kit . . . the man who’s not very professional . . . shudd-up wait a minute … the man who said he could go back to a building site anytime and we all agreed … the man who’s holding up the show … the Rhinestone Cowgirl . . . C’mon Bonzo get on with it … the man who played the Los Angeles Aztecs and beat them 10-1 by himself. . . C’mon you silly fucker. . . the man one wonders is he worth waiting for. . and doesn’t realise there’s a curfew here … a childhood friend .a man who many people once said . . never heard of him . John Bonham Over The Toppppppll!” It’s an introduction that hones in on the off stage silliness of this part of the tour. Over The Top’ is just that as Bonzo powers on and on

Next up a rare ’77 tour bonus. Heartbreaker’ made only fleeting appearances in 1977 first being introduced on the June 10 Madison Square appearance. Predictably there’s a genuine desire to perform it for the LA crowd and it positively leaps from the speakers. Bonzo brings a subtle difference to the Page solo by serenading the high neck guitar chops with a crash of hi hat and snare. On into the home straight Page performs the showpiece ‘Guitar Solo’. This opus signified the end of ‘Dazed And Confused’, as it incorporated the violin bow episode into a lengthy solo extravaganza. Obviously more of a visual piece, it does make for some decidedly uneasy listening as Page attains an abusive howl of noise from the guitar. ‘Star Spangled Spanner’ performed with a nod in the direction of James Marshall Hendrix moves into the bow episode which eventually makes way for the introduction of ‘Achilles Last Stand’. Needless to say this is yet another Bonzo tour de force. After that it’s Robert’s closing speech. “Achilles Last Stand … at least we thought . . . very nice to see some friends just arrived from England – Mr. Phil Carson, a man who played bass in Japan with Dusty Springfield a long time ago. See we know all the Oldies (off mic) and all the pushers!”

“Well no doubt you picked up on the atmosphere at least on stage tonight. It’s like a high point of the whole tour to be back here. Maybe after six nights it may not be so easy to say that but at the moment …. we give you this song . . . .” ‘Stairway To Heaven’ ’77 style includes some great ad libs (“Does anybody remember forests?”) and moves its way into an evocative Page solo. Rigorously crafted against Bonzo’s hi hat jiggling it moves through rock, flamenco and Latin influences and includes that great moment when everything just stops . . .

As the kids froth . . . it’s an apocalyptic encore medley of Whole Lotta Love/Rock And Roll’ that bursts forth with a great repeated and harmonised final “Lonely Lonely Lonely” refrain which leaves a breathless Plant to wave farewell. “LA, it’s like a good woman – Good Night!”

And that was only the first night. As a complete concert souvenir, ‘Listen To This Eddie’ is probably the most authentic slice of live Zep explosion packaged for the underground market since ‘Blueberry Hill’, and I can think of no higher recommendation than that.

But the LA story doesn’t end there. By the wonder of more silver rarities, this time via two double packages on the Badge holder/Great Dane Italian label, we can continue the progress of the tour and enjoy two more nights at the Inglewood California venue. Allegedly taped by the same guys that did the opening night, ‘The Last LA Forum 2 Days’ contains similar quality audience tapes of the complete performance on June 25 and 74 minutes of the last ever LA Forum show on June 27 – spread over a pair of double disc sets with similar grey graphics, reproducing the No Split In Zepp’ November ’77 NME Jimmy Page interview headline.

So once again we can imagine we’re front row centre as Page stalks the stage in white dragon suit, firing out the chords that will become ‘The Song Remains The Same’. Fresh from a day off and having survived a Keith Moon encore three days previously, the whole band sound on a crest of a touring wave. In general, this fourth night at the Forum is every bit as exciting as the ‘Eddie’ set and the fact that this particular gig contains three additional songs not performed on the opening night is the veritable icing on the cake. So by the time they have romped through the urgent ‘Song Remains’ and a muscular ‘Sick Again’ and Plant has observed that “It’s Saturday night” . . and driven the band through a tough and cooking ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ (and, yes, Bonzo is still all there . . .) we can enjoy the first of the set alternatives. In place of ‘Over The Hills’ the boys opt for ‘In My Time Of Dying’. Not that this is any old version of ‘In My Time Of Dying’. It opens perfunctorily enough but it’s soon clear that, as Luis Rey observed in his log, Page is definitely on! So much so that when Plant reaches the “Oh My Jesus” refrain and begins a completely spontaneous version of ‘Rip It Up’ (“Well it’s Saturday night and I just got paid” . . .) Page is immediately with him backed by Bonzo and Jonesy as they skit around this 50s fun for a few seconds before returning to the original theme. Then Robert throws in lines from both ‘You Shook Me’ and Let That Boy Boogie’ (“So many roads”) at the finale. Yes, it’s one of those nights.

“Tonight is the annual general meeting of the LA Badge holders”, Plant tells the audience, sustaining the in-joke theme of the famous ‘For Badge holders Only’ June 23 LA concert. This was a sketch whereby Robert referred to the tour entourage as being privileged badge holders – no doubt equipped with Led Zeppelin United States of America 1977′ tour laminates and passes. Following a no-nonsense delivery of ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’, Robert introduces John Paul Jones. “This features a man who has a badge holder in the wings who we haven’t quite got the spotlight trained on yet . . . for John Paul Jones’ badge holder – ‘No Quarter’.” Following that particular opus, Jimmy can be heard tuning the Telecaster in preparation for Ten Years Gone’ which is duly delivered tight but loose with the man pulling out some undeniably beautiful lyrical guitar phrases. This performance of the song reinforces my opinion that the decision to play this most difficult of on-stage arrangements made for one of the most ambitious and ultimately moving parts of their post ’75 concerts.

The acoustic set unfolds and tonight Plant enigmatically follows the “They say she plays guitar and cries and sings” line in ‘Going To California1 with the comment “And I saw her last night”. Another LA set bonus occurs with the inclusion of Trampled Underfoot’ (previously employed as an encore number on the first leg of the ’77 tour), which is slotted in after ‘Kashmir1, a space reserved for ‘Heartbreaker’ on the opening LA night. Robert precedes it by enlightening the audience on the song’s source of reference – namely Robert Johnson’s ‘Terraplane Blues’. “Anybody heard of Robert Johnson? Does anybody remember laughter? Well, Robert Johnson was one of the first guys to liken the automobile to the actual physical side of love making and he recorded a track called Terraplane Blues’. This is a sort of 1975 version equivalent . . . it’s called ‘Trampled Underfoot’.”

Moby Dick/Over The Top’ is graced with the usual cryptic intro though not as extensive as the epic opening night’s lengthy sketch. “As the atmosphere builds in this building I think it’s only right that we should introduce the main stay ot the whole driving force behind sleeping with Led Zeppelin . . . John Bonham Over The Toppppppp!”

And finally to a very reverent Stairway’, complete with typically reverent Plant speech. “So amidst the confusion that surrounds all of us in our lives … as life takes its course (people adjust snare drums and bass drums), yes, it’s all the same . . . having a nervous breakdown . . . who knows? Here’s a song that has the opposite effect of ‘Communication Breakdown’.” Enter Page s opening chords accompanied by an exploding firecracker. The reference to ‘Communication Breakdown’ is not without substance, as, come the encore, instead of the ‘Whole Lotta Love/Rock And Roll’ customary medley, they instead come out of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and blitz into a short punchy rare ’77 version of ‘Communication Breakdown’ with Robert putting all that Manticore rehearsing with the harmoniser to good effect. “Thank you very much LA. Good Night!”

Just another night on the road? Hardly.

But then it never was just another anything when Led Zeppelin hit Los Angeles. As can be seen by their insistence to throw in the odd set variation, the four experienced a spontaneous rapport with their Califoiamian audience that ensured a high energy performance every time.

From there we move to the final night of the LA stint with disc 2 of the second The Last LA Forum 2 Days’ containing 74 minutes of highlights from another high energy performance.

The action commences with yet another quite awesome Over The Hills And Far Away’. It’s preceded by a tantalising warm up from Jimmy before he embarks on the revolving intro (guaranteed to send shivers down my spine every time). The solo is just out of this world. A series of staggered ripples from the Gibson that swoop and dive across the speakers. It brings to mind that story from the beginning of the ’75 tour when Jimmy informed Robert he was tired at one of the shows and to expect short solos – only to extend Over The Hill to eight minutes – a direct response to the surge of energy created between the band and its audience. In fact ‘Over The Hills’ is nigh on nine minutes on this final LA night. A fitting Swan song.

‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ is next up (dedicated to JJ Jackson, the US DJ), with Bonzo providing another colossal climax. Then it’s to the acoustic set. And not just any old acoustic set. A skit through ‘I Just Can’t Be Satisfied’ sets the scene for the unorthodox nature of the proceedings. “Here’s a song that’s very reminiscent of somewhere we’re going to be in about 24 hours time, it’s a place called England” Plant tells the audience before “The Battle Of Evermore”. Following a delicate ‘Going To California’ (complete with supporting bird whistle from the crowd – “Who’s got that fucking whistle – I think we’ve had enough of that now thanks”, says Plant), we hear one of the most remarkable moments of the tour. The medley of ‘Black Country Woman’/’Bron Y Aur Stomp’ is extended to some 14 minutes to take in a lengthy acoustic solo that develops into ‘Dancing Days’. Yep ‘Dancing Days’ a long deleted live chestnut from the 72/73 era. This version has Bonzo beefing up Jimmy’s acoustic lead and Plant merging the lines of the opening verses to create a spontaneous delivery unique to but a handful of dates on this tour. “How about that. We ain’t done ‘Dancing Days’ for five years. I don’t think we will again” he jokes.

An edited Achilles’ (inspiring visions of that great ’77 cine film excerpt of the track), and a tremendous ‘Stairway To Heaven’ closes the main proceedings. Before that Plant offers up a closing speech. “It’s most peculiar to walk away from the microphone one minute and come back and find it covered in honey. Obviously it’s the last night of the tour! It’s been great. 6 days, 6 nights in LA. It’s been a mindbender”. This particular version of ‘Stairway’ reminds me of the majesty the piece carried back then. The whole Rolf Harris syndrome has rendered the song into laughable parody these days … In 1977 it really did still mean something with Robert’s impassioned delivery (“Bonzo’s got some good news”), and Jimmy performing a meandering solo to match.

We then experience all the craziness of the LA wind up as the band return amidst firecrackers and chaos for one final surge – and Robert gets in another speech. “Before we continue we’d like to thank you for being a great audience. Sincerely, no bullshit. Bunch of geriatrics like us. It’s really hard work, yer know. We’d like to thank all the members of the full supporting cast … the sound and light crew, Showco, a very good sound system as you know. Every night the acoustic set’s no good but the rest has been great. Benji Lefevre, the man from England, for all the funny noises, Ray Thomas from Scotland who can’t tune guitars, Mick Hinton who was a bus conductor in Cambridge and can’t tune the drums, Brian, who’s covered in 7-Up and all the people in the wings who’ve been making rude gestures for 6 days. And most of all the badge holders of California!” Cue ‘Whole Lotta Love’ in to ‘Rock And Roll1 and it’s all over.

And just as they usher themselves offstage and into the limos, there’s one final telling and now poignant comment from Robert to the LA faithful. “Thank you very very much. Never thought we’d come back but we did. And we shall come back again … I think . . . we should all know you all by first names by now but we don’t. . . maybe next time.” Then it was off into the limos into the night and a return to the English sanity. Nobody knew it at the time, of course, but Led Zeppelin’s 8 year old love affair with Los Angeles was at an end.

Reliving the 1977 live experience courtesy of these very enjoyable CD sets, demonstrates how inventive and exciting the band could still be, despite the madness of the touring charade that surrounded their status as the biggest draw in the world.

The plan of course was to hit the major US stadiums in the late summer, culminating in an appearance in front of 95,000 at the JKF Stadium in Philadelphia (ironically the scene of the first public Plant/Page/Jones reunion some 8 years later at Live Aid). Unfortunately they never got that far. In late July at the Oakland Stadium, violent off-stage Incidents would vastly overshadow the on-stage action and those events in turn were rendered almost inconsequential when the tour was promptly halted with the news ot Robert’s family tragedy.

Musically, there can be little doubt that had the tour continued on the wave of optimism that surrounded the June dates, new peaks of creativity would have been scaled that would have led to an equally creative bout of recording for the next studio album (tentatively titled Tight But Loose’), which was scheduled for the end of the year. There was every indication following the cancellation of the tour that the final chapter in the Led Zeppelin story had been written. Despite Page’s autumn round of interviews to dispel the split stories, for a long period Robert had confided to close friends that he would not perform with the group again. Slowly a period of rehabilitation did take place. Initially, they got together at Clearwell in May 1978 and from there it was to Sweden’s Polar Studios, and on into the grand comeback at Knebworth and the rejuvenation attempt in Europe in 1980 before the ultimate tragedy would dictate the final end.

And that’s exactly the reason the music preserved on these LA CD’s is so vital. Along with soon to be issued June 23 ‘Badge holders Only’ set, ‘Listen To This Eddie’ and ‘LA Forum The Last 2 Days’ offer an invaluable record of a series of concerts that alongside the early Fillmore stands and the Earls Court season, rank as some of the most outstanding of the band’s entire career. They really do document, to paraphrase an old Yardbirds’ bootleg, the last hurrah. An era when Led Zeppelin, like the gods of antiquity, still seemed so utterly immortal.

1977 and all that. . . and evenings with Led Zeppelin. Relive them at your earliest convenience.

Dave Lewis 1993

First published in TBL issue 9 – currently unavailable – reprint planned.

This version Copyright Dave Lewis/TBL 2010 – not to be reproduced without prior permission

Dedicated to all who used to frequent the Saturday Camden and Victoria Record Fairs in London during the early 1990s (Hi Julian, Eddie, Gary, Dave Linwood , Nigel, Andy ,Simon, Tony, Keith, Mark  Phil T, etc) where we used to eagerly snap up the latest Zep CD’s in abundance and then swap stories, compare recordings, read Phil T’s excellent Led Boots guide and drink a beer or two in the nearby pub. Great days.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)


  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    I was not on the flight so not sure of that!

  • Dean B. said:

    DL: That picture of Heathrow – May 17, 1977….. were you on that Pan Am flight? As it turns out: My father PAA First officer was flying that plane. He met the band before the flight. I believe Bonham was wearing a white N.A. TOUR 1977 t-shirt, and he switched shirts in the lav and gave it to my father. Amazing little piece of memorabilia !

  • Dawn Godfree said:

    Hello Dave:

    I wanted to write to you to tell you how amazing it is that you have so much love and respect for, not just your, but OUR beloved Led Zeppelin! I have read many of your stories, some from Steve Sauer (Led Zeppelin News), and, other trusted sources. I’m 61, Dave, and I can’t believe I never saw them when I was younger. I am so jealous of some of your stories, i.e. 5 days of Earl’s Court. I read that on Frank Reddon’s site. Oh, sure, I had always knew who they were, but never saw them. Whole Lotta Love and Black Dog (I always thought it was Hey Hey Mama), but I had no idea what else they sang.

    I was watching the closing ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics and, yes, you know the rest!! To myself, “wholly crap; so that’s Jimmy Page”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Needless to say, I have done alot of listening, reading, and writing, to people like yourself, that love the best band EVER!

    At present, I am waiting with anticipation to see what Lord Page has up his sleeve (I mean, who isn’t), and, to see if he wins or loses the recent legal suit he’s involved in. I also read Ross Halfin’s Diary, hoping one day he’ll slip up and say something he’s not supposed to regarding you know who!
    Best regards to you, Dave!

  • Brendan said:

    What I like about that photo of Dave and Zeppelin is the innocence and real sense that Plant is a human being. He looks like “Robert Plant” the one you see on stage and off. Other famous people seem to “play” the part. He “IS” the part. Dave between this, and the Townshend hug at Shepperton, “Hats Off To (Lewis)”. We won’t go into the 1980 tour!

    Thanks for sharing all this.

  • Dave Linwood said:

    Nice to read the article again Dave and thanks for the name-check.

    I always remember the Record fair days with affection and yes, Phil’s Boots guide was definitive reading – and thanks to Phil’s hard work, regularly updated!

    The halcyon days of haggling with dealers over the cost of their bootlegs wares!

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    Great memories indeed -being at Bath must have been amazing.
    In those record fair days you were the vinyl champion for sure – nobody had more pressings per Zep album than you!
    Keep rockin…

  • tony grazioso said:

    may the sheer power of the mighty blimp live on forever!!!!!

  • Alan Cousins said:

    Those were the days where have they gone record fairs and the pub searching for Led Zeppelin singles and Lps and the great conversations, I will be at Glastonbury Sunday 40 years from the first time yes I know it was September 19th who could forget Jimi Hendrix had died the night before, what a year Led Zeppelin Shepton Mallet June 27th &28 the best show I ever saw them perform and I saw a few in those early years living in Somerset I was hopping something great might have taken place but no, anyway if I close my eyes maybe the images of that great time will return.

    Best Wishes Dave
    PS we must try and catch up Alan

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