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TBL ARCHIVE SPECIAL: LED ZEPPELIN OVER EUROPE 1980 – 32 YEARS GONE – RE LAUNCH OF THE BOOK FEATHER IN THE WIND

29 June 2012 15,203 views 4 Comments

32 years ago tomorrow, Led Zeppelin performed at the Festhalle in Frankfurt on their final tour. This tour is extensively chronicled in the book Feather In The Wind Led Zeppelin Over Europe 1980. By way of a re-launch for the book and to mark the anniversary, this  TBL Archive Special presents the introduction chapter text to the book and an interview with Dave Lewis on the writing of the book.

Flashback to the Frankfurt Festhalle, Germany – on the evening of June 30th, 1980 around 8pm:

I am in the confines of the grand Festhalle venue in the heart of Frankfurt and I am standing no more than ten feet away from the four members of Led Zeppelin.  The occasion is the tenth gig on the current tour of the band who have reigned supreme as the world’s greatest live rock attraction for much of the past decade. However the 1980s are upon us, and many things have happened since Led Zeppelin undertook their last full scale tour some three years ago.

The musical landscape they one stood over like a colossus, has changed radically. The onset of punk rock and new wave has challenged the status quo of the mega-bands – the so called dinosaur acts.

In fact, Robert Plant will make reference to the dinosaur tag on more than  one occasion on this tour. Aside from the new wave of bands who rely on sharp, incisive three minute blasts of power pop, a new movement of rock outfits, spawned on the hard and heavy riffs that powered Zeppelin to the top, are in the wings ready to take dislodge their crown.

Within the next twelve months, the likes of Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Diamond Head, etc., will begin to dominate the music press in a similar manner in which Zeppelin were once courted,  ushering in a movement that will be termed ‘’The new wave of British heavy metal.’’

Led Zeppelin are performing in Europe in an attempt to thwart such challenges and re-establish themselves as a working band. That aforementioned  last tour, a gargantuous trek across America in the summer of 1977, attracted a combined audience of nearly one million. Last August over 200,000 came to pay homage to them over two Saturday gigs at Knebworth.

Things, though, have moved on considerably, even since then. This tour has garnered little publicity back home, and though a hardcore of UK followers have made the trip over, by their standard this is a very low key affair.

Tonight, though, they are playing one of the larger venues on the tour. The 13,500 capacity Festhalle . Ten years ago, Zeppelin became the first band ever to play this venue and their return is much anticipated by the German audience. Tonight’s crowd is also boosted by the presence of a number of  US servicemen based at the nearby US Army base where Elvis Presley did some of his time for Uncle Sam way back when.

Understandably, the four members look a little apprehensive as they mill around the short stairway that will soon usher them on to the stage. This is the second show of the tour that my friend Tom and I are taking in. Twelve days ago, we witnessed their vibrant second night in Cologne. Since then the tour has not been without it’s problems. Last Friday, John Bonham collapsed on stage in Nuremberg after just 16 minutes and the show was cancelled.

When we met with security man Dave Moulder earlier in the day, he was keen to play down the events saying John had merely suffered from nervous exhaustion. A show in Zurich last night appears to have gone well. The heavily bearded drummer seems his boisterous self as he banters with Robert Plant. Plant is again wearing the green cap sleeve top and jeans attire that has been his ever present uniform for the tour. He too looks upbeat, if a little bit nervous. John Paul Jones, with suave short hair and smart shirt, is interacting with them. Jimmy Page is dressed in a white suit with a green top and matching green sneakers. He looks slightly sweaty, but is smiling warmly as the imposing frame of manager Peter Grant points out the all important presence of Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun – the man who has guided their career at the label from the very beginning.

The lights are dimmed, and road manager Phil Carlo shines a torch through the dark and leads them up to the stage. Bonzo climbs the rostrum to the drums, Jonesy turns right where his tech assistant Andy Ledbetter straps on the Alembic bass, and Jimmy Page walks onto the stage to the left, followed by Robert Plant.

As they walk into the glare of the spotlights, those assembled in the Frankfurt Festhalle finally view all four members of Led Zeppelin and the place erupts.

Guitar tech Ray Thomas straps on the Gibson and Jimmy moves to the effects pedals. A few snare shots and bass shuffles from John Bonham is the signal for the guitarist to lean back and exhort a fierce moaning wail from the Gibson. Robert stakes a stance to his immediate right –the spotlights pick out the pair in regal splendour and then BLAM!

They launch into Train Kept A Rollin’, the old Johnny Burnette barnstormer The Yardbirds used in their heyday, and indeed Zep played on their first US tours. Now it is being revived to kick start what will be two hours of full-on power and excitement.

Tom and I are extremely fortunate to be watching all this action unfold just a few mere feet from the stage. As the band begin their ascent to the stage, Peter Grant acknowledges us and nods approvingly as Dave Moulder ushers us to the side of the stage. In effect, we have been allowed into their tight-knit inner sanctum.

Watching Led Zeppelin live on stage from this ultimate vantage point is, unsurprisingly, an astonishing experience and one that we will repeat in Mannheim and Munich later in the week.

Freeze frame Frankfurt Festhalle, Germany – June 30th, 1980 around 10.30pm:

Robert Plant, with microphone in hands held aloft, is shaded by a single spotlight. Jimmy Page is showered in sweat but still grinning as his guitar tech takes the Gibson. To his right John Paul Jones is dapper and cool as ever after driving the Zeppelin rhythm section for nigh on two hours. John Bonham, happy and smiling, jumps from the drum rostrum and strides over to the  side of the stage where manager Peter Grant, promoter Harvey Goldsmith and the esteemed head of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertugen, are ready to receive them in a joyous celebration.  Indeed, Harvey is keen to preserve this moment, duly hands me his camera, and asks me to take a photo of him and Ahmet by the side of the stage.

Tonight in Frankfurt, we all have every reason to feel extremely optimistic about the future of Led Zeppelin. Tragically, in less than three months, the band will grind to a halt following the tragic death of John Bonham.

 Fast forward 31 years on:

StudioMix design studio Bedford, England – March 2011

31 years on, I am in StudioMix design studio in Bedford gazing at the various photos Tom and I took when we were situated on the side of the stage watching Led Zeppelin. They are laid out before me as the collation and design of the book you are now reading commences.

So first things first:

How on earth did I manage to secure this prime position up close and personal to Led Zeppelin all those years ago?

I guess it was a combination of fanatical enthusiasm, being in the right place at the right time, and sheer luck.

I had been an extremely fervent Led Zeppelin fan from the day I first heard Whole Lotta Love powering from the radio when I was just 13 years old. I was totally hooked, and from then on this band became an integral part of my life. I took in their shows at Wembley Empire Pool in 1971, Ally Pally 1972, five nights at Earls Court, and of course two weekends at Knebworth. Every album they released, every move they made I soaked up with near religious fervour. By 1976 I was already penning my own reviews and notes on the group and had begun to harbour a massive desire to channel my dedication into chronicling the group in print.

This initially bore fruit when I contributed to a four part series marking Led Zeppelin’s tenth anniversary in the late summer of 1978 for the UK weekly music paper Sounds. I had been eyeing creating my own Led Zeppelin fanzine for about a year, and participating in this well received series was the kick start to getting things moving. Ironically, I was inspired by the do- it- yourself punk fanzines of the day such as Sniffin’ Glue and Ripped And Torn.

Led Zeppelin did not do fan clubs and gaining information was strictly down to whatever coverage Zeppelin were afforded in the then weekly music papers NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, Disc and Record Mirror.  Back then, there was, of course, no internet and in the UK little radio coverage of rock music on TV or radio – and there were no blanket news channels, or even breakfast/daytime TV.

In search of info, and keen to put my thoughts on paper and connect with like-minded fans, I created my own magazine – Tight But Loose (so called after an expression used by both Page and Plant in 1977 to describe their music). I handwrote issue number one (an Earls Court Revisited special), advertised it in the music paper small ads and the response was pretty instant.  There were many more like-minded fans out there across the world that wanted to buy into this hub of info I was committed to supplying.

Luckily for me, this self published magazine struck a chord within the band and their organisation. Within a year, I had developed the format from a hastily handwritten stapled booklet to a glossy A4 format with exclusive photos. The most recent issue – number four published in April, had gone down well within the hallowed walls of their Swan Song record company empire.

Along the way, I had developed a good relationship with their then press agent and office manager, Unity McLean. They saw the intentions of this venture were genuine and seemed more than happy for me to produce it.

Back in 1980, in between my job as manager of the record department at the local WH Smiths in Bedford, I spent a sizable amount of my waking hours, researching, writing and collating material for the magazine. This, of course, was long before the age of the internet, Facebook and Twitter. Today, there are literally thousands of ways to discover information about Led Zeppelin – back then there was precious little.

Central to the function of the Tight But Loose magazine was the ability to produce up-to-the minute information to share. With Led Zeppelin preparing to tour in Europe, the objective was a simple one that spring of 1980.

To report on it all I needed to be right there where the action was.

So I hatched a plan with my good friend Tom Locke in Bedford to travel initially to the Cologne show. Work schedules did not allow for much more in that first week of the tour, but having attended that show and been totally amazed, there was no doubt we needed to be back out there as soon as possible .

So it was, I singled out the week commencing June 30th to catch the gigs in Frankfurt, two in Mannheim and Munich.

As you will discover in the book, many UK fans had the same intention and travelled into Europe to see them. They included original Zep author Howard Mylett, massive Zep/Page fan Mark Harrison and Manchester based fan and collector Steve Jones. In fact, Steve attended ten of the shows on this tour and enjoyed good access himself.

Back to the photos that lay before me:

There’s Robert smiling directly at us as he walked off the stage in Frankfurt. Jimmy handing over the Gibson guitar to Ray Thomas – tweaking the echoplex – singing backing vocals on Whole Lotta Love. There’s Jonesy driving them through Trampled Underfoot and Bonzo nonchalantly smoking as he thundered through the climax of Kashmir. There’s a magnificent shot of them all under the white mist of dry ice that accompanied the performance of Achilles Last Stand. There’s a handful of shots taken by fans out front where you can see Tom and myself at the side of the stage watching the action unfold (see the circled photos on these introduction pages).

Then there’s the handwritten dedication Jimmy wrote for me to use in the TBL magazine after the July 3rd Mannheim show: “Hope we can always live up to your expectations.’’

They did that alright.

Alongside that is another note, this time written for me by Robert Plant in the Plaza Hotel after the Frankfurt show .The message says: “It works – contrary to public opinion’’.

And it did of course…

So many vivid images, so many vivid memories…

Looking at them now I am filled with wonderment and awe.

It’s a feeling I always get when viewing these precious artefacts from events that occurred some three decades ago. From that time when Led Zeppelin’s future tethered like a ‘Feather in the wind,’ to paraphrase a line Robert Plant so eloquently sang in All My Love.

The fact we were accepted into their inner sanctum to the extent of being allowed on to the sacred area of the stage was remarkable. It probably says much about the low key nature of this tour.  Could it have happened at Earls Court or Madison Square Garden? Probably not.

I do feel that the close-knit relationship the band shared with their crew and personnel on the Over Europe tour allowed for a certain extent of informality. Peter Grant had no problem with our close proximity – and neither did any of the rest of their entourage.

I would like to think that there was also an element of trust in place, knowing that anything I reported back for the TBL magazine would be done so with the highest integrity –  a value I continue to uphold in all things I project with TBL to this day.

It has long since been my plan to encapsulate this latter era in book form, and what you hold before you now is the result of many years of research and collation that has led to this extensive documenting of the final Led Zeppelin tour.

This tour dubbed ‘’Over Europe 1980’’ was a low key 14 date trek across  Germany, Belgium, Holland, Austria and Switzerland with a radically streamlined stage presentation and set list –  the basic aim was to get back to being a working band after all the layoffs and grand scale of their 1979 Knebworth appearances.

This book attempts to offer a fresh perspective of those final days of the band. Central to that objective is the 58 page gig-to-gig analysis and breakdown of those 14 final gigs – from the venue details to what they wore, what they played, and what was said on stage at every show.

To supplement all that, there are a series of firsthand views from two contrasting set of witnesses to the events of the summer of 1980: The fans who were lucky enough to be in attendance, coupled with those who were backstage tasked with ensuring the wheels of the slightly reduced Zeppelin juggernaut rolled on across Europe that summer of 1980.

My own unsurprisingly slightly rose tinted chronicles from the time are reproduced in full as they first appeared in the fifth issue of the Tight But Loose magazine published in October 1980.

From across the water, Larry M. Bergmann Jr. relays some passionate observations of the way this final European jaunt sounded to the ears of a fervent American fan (one of thousands who were somewhat in the dark on the proceedings unfolding in Europe). As renowned US collector Brian Knapp remarked to me recently, for many American fans their affair with the band was abruptly cut short with the untimely curtailment of the 1977 US tour.

Then there’s the aftermath effect of the Over Europe tour leading to the tragic events of September 25th, 1980 and the subsequent fallout that would result in that statement of December 4, 1980 that explained ‘They could not continue as they were.’

There are also a series of extensive appendix sections – including a fully illustrated Over Europe 1980 bootleg discography, a guide to Over Europe 1980 memorabilia items, on tour statistics, a review of their cancelled US fall tour, and a Coda discography tracking the various releases of their posthumous album released in November 1982.

The book is illustrated throughout with an abundance of rarely seen colour photos. It’s something of a paradox, but this Over Europe 1980 tour was one of the least professionally shot of their career. Few official photographers were on hand to capture the shows; however the tour was captured by many fans in attendance on the small instamatic type cameras that were easy to get past security. It’s these photos that light up the book – it’s worth stating that these are not professionally shot images and as such the clarity and reproduction is variable – this is not one of your glossy coffee table photographic volumes that have flooded the market.

What I would say is that the often grainy reproduction here often brings out the pure essence of how Led Zeppelin looked on this tour in a candid and honest way that only adds to the mystique of this era. They are the last great evocative images of the band in action. Variable quality or not, they help unfold the story with an authenticity that compliments the low key nature of the tour. These last remaining live on stage images of Led Zeppelin as a working unit only adds to the fascination for this little chronicled period of their history.

It’s worth pointing out that producing this book has also been something of a  rite of passage for me. This book is without doubt a personal journey in recounting one of the times of my life and the various personal photos I have included reflects that. As much as it’s a book about Led Zeppelin, it often unavoidably slips into being something of an autobiographical account of my experiences in being very close to the action back then.

The fact remains that these memories are ingrained on my brain. Being so close to the action that summer of ‘80 left an undeniable stamp on me as a person. I was a mere 23 years old and there was a lot of growing up type personal stuff was going on in my life at that time. As you will read in the actual diary entries I have reproduced, their music and the whole fabric of Led Zeppelin was a huge part of my world – and the fact that I was able to dip into the inner workings of their organization was also a huge thrill. There’s no finer example of that than the astonishing events that unfolded when I visited the Swan Song office in Kings Road, London on the afternoon of Thursday, September 18th, 1980.

Jimmy Page was holding court there that very afternoon and I spent half an hour talking to him in the top floor meeting room. Whilst there he showed me a working model of the lighting rig they were assembling for the forthcoming American tour, complete with models of each member. On reflection that was an incredibly poignant episode. For that same time the very next week – seven days on – the tragic events  that would bring to an end to all such hopes and dreams of a new era for Led Zeppelin would be unfolding.

The Over Europe 1980 tour also cemented a lifelong friendship with my companion Tom Locke. I had already known him since I was 17 and we had shared the Earls Court and Knebworth experiences (and a ride in the back of Robert’s Cherokee jeep). Travelling together by ferry and rail to those hallowed destinations formed a camaraderie of fun (beer) and laughter that shines ever brightly today. While life’s ups and downs may have tested us our friendship in the intervening years, the bond formed by our love of this amazing band knows no bounds. Be it the 02 Arena on a cold December night to see the real thing ignite again – or a back street pub in Leighton Buzzard to see the latest Zep tribute band. Tom is always there or thereabouts, relaying his pride of our shared Zep heritage. My world remains a truly better place for his friendship.

This most intensive study of a single Led Zeppelin tour ever produced, is made all the more compelling by the fact it focuses on the latter Zeppelin era when so many questions were being asked of the band – not least did they still have a future and where did they sit within the changing musical trends of the 1980s?

It’s worth focusing on such issues for a moment, because as you will read there are conflicting opinions to the state of play around the band at the time.

Compared to previous tours, one thing is for sure. This was a vastly different Led Zeppelin that came out to face the 1980s on the night of June 17th of that first year of a new decade. Firstly, there was the scaled down set list and presentation. No big lights, no large stage, no lasers. No Dazed And Confused, no Moby Dick or No Quarter. A slicker, neater, more compact operation that indicated fresh thinking and something of a rejuvenation within the ranks.

For example, lined up against the run of shows just three years earlier at the Los Angeles Forum, there was much less swagger about them. Too much had gone on not for them to have been affected by the tragedies and lay-offs.

This was a slimline Led Zep, less boisterous both on and off stage, though not without a sense of fun (Robert’s ‘Eye Thank Yew’ sketch would be a source of much merriment). Leaner, yet not necessarily fitter, but on any given Over Europe night they were stacked with intent. An intent that sometimes had the performances bordering on a speed level of 45 rpm when 331/3was the norm. Witness the super-fast deliveries of Trampled Underfoot, Rock And Roll and Communication Breakdown.

On the nights they really nailed Achilles Last Stand (check out Munich July 5th) or Kashmir (check out Frankfurt June 30th), John Bonham was at the nerve centre of it all and playing with the abandonment of say, the Royal Albert Hall ’70.  He still cared as did John Paul Jones, the steady anchor with the Billy Fury haircut (as Plant put it). Performances such as Nobody’s Fault But Mine (check out Brussels June 20th) and the beautifully melodic All My Love (check out Zurich June 29th or Munich July 5th) showcased his undisputed musicianship.

For all his prior misgivings, Robert Plant in the main seemed to be having a great time. The sweat-stained green cap sleeve tops he wore bore evidence of the effort he was putting in. Robert Plant may have been less the hippy Adonis but he was totally immersed in the band again – a full-on interested Plant could always sway the balance – there’s no finer example of that than his performance at the 02. In Europe 1980 he was never swamped by the enormity of the music. He led from the front and yes it did work…contrary to what the critics might have said.

Then there was Jimmy Page…

Oh Jimmy: stick-thin and enigmatic in white suit, baggy suit, and red or blue sneakers. Jimmy’s application, though not always 100 per cent in delivery, still saw him pushing the songs in different directions – the semi-jammed guitar masterclass performances of Trampled Underfoot being a vivid example. On stage he was still the man to watch. Grinning, cringing, side stepping, duck-walking, but always so beautifully in sync with the music regardless of the shapes he was throwing.

Musically erratic he may have been at this point, but again when he was on it such as the sonic thrust of Train Kept A Rollin’ (their best opener since Immigrant Song?), the theremin-led Whole Lotta Love, or the night in Zurich when he pulled out all the previous stops that had made Heartbreaker such a compelling tour de force, Jimmy Page recaptured the sparkle and excitement that first lit up the ballrooms of America a decade previous.

Yes, they were erratic and there were nights when it did not always come together with the fluency of their earlier years. When it was good though, the 1980 Led Zeppelin was still utterly spellbinding. I know because I was lucky enough to be there.

In preserving all this, the bootleg market has been well served with 1980 tapes and soundboard recordings. And therein lies a problem. The first round of soundboard tapes that seeped out in the 1990s on the Toasted Condor labels were dry and flat recordings. Taken off the desk for reference and never intended for release,  and if the rumours are to be believed, unscrupulously extracted from Page’s house.

This put the Over Europe tour in something of a shady light and what was already a somewhat misrepresented era now carried even more stigma and  somewhat of a backlash prevailed. Thankfully, the balance has been redressed with superior releases of the soundboard tapes and some cracking audience tapes surfacing.

Another function of this book is that I hope it inspires the reader to search out these recorded remnants, which in the modern age are not too difficult to track on the internet. There are many delights to be found.

Listening to Led Zeppelin performing in Europe all those years back reveals an endearingly vulnerable quality unique to this tour. The cock-sure knowing arrogance of 1973 and 1975 was long gone.  Instead, what we hear over those performances is a purity and honesty in their playing.

That mistakes occur only lends to the humility of these four players who had long since needed to prove themselves.

So yes, Led Zeppelin were loud, brutal and primeval, and still projected that gift of spontaneous musical combustion.

But no, Led Zeppelin were not washed up in 1980. True, the grandiosity of 1977 and Knebworth was a thing of the past, but by and large the performances of those Europe gigs provided enough evidence that they could reclaim their American crown had they toured there in the autumn.

America was a whole different ballgame to the climate in the UK. Punk and new wave never fully penetrated there, and they would have been on decidedly more safer ground than here at home.

Given all that had gone on in the past three years, the question still remained: What kind of future did Led Zeppelin have in the 1980s?

Looking back, it’s apparent that a proportion of their once loyal home grown fan base were probably fed up with waiting for them to play with some sense of regularity like their earlier days. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, some had chosen to side with the new emerging face of rock.

The so called ‘’New wave of British heavy metal’’with the likes of Leppard and Maiden were taking hold. Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, David Coverdale’s Whitesnake, the maturing Rush, the durable Queen and the likes of AC/DC and Motorhead (the latter scored a number one album with their live album No Sleep ‘Til Hammersmith in 1981), were all ready and primed to take up the interest of lapsed Zeppelin enthusiasts. Whilst my own enthusiasm never waned, it’s interesting to note that the other gigs I attended that year were by Japan (a then emerging electro dance band), The Photos (a Police like power pop outfit), Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (a no nonsense US rock band) and The Jam (maturing out of the punk eras into an intelligent and soulful Paul Weller led unit). I was Led Zep through and through, but there was a lot of other emerging music to enjoy.

The sheer lack of activity over the past two years, and even the ten months that divided their successful Knebworth comeback and the Over Europe dates, did reek of complacency. After the success of Knebworth, it was rumoured they would cash in on that wave of support by staging a UK tour that Christmas. Nothing happened and the news that they were planning a European tour with no sign of any homeland appearances must have beguiled many of their UK fans.

Whilst there’s little doubt they would have gone to America and enjoyed huge acclaim again, it’s quite feasible they may well have struggled to retain their heavyweight crown in the UK come the dawning of 1981 and beyond.

By his own admission, Robert Plant was finding life in Led Zeppelin much less  of an attraction than prior to the tragedies that befell him post-1975. It’s not hard to imagine that he would have broke off to record a Honeydrippers-type solo album. Or that John Paul Jones would probably have quite enjoyed doing the school run and indulging in the many production offers that came his way. Maybe John Bonham would have accepted that invitation from Paul McCartney and joined a revamped Wings. Jimmy’s pursuit of guitar orchestration might well have led him to undertake soundtrack projects experimenting with the Roland Synthesiser and other guitar gismos.

Some of the above notions did of course become reality after the death of John Bonham.

Led Zeppelin may well have found it difficult to have reigned supreme in the manner they did from 1970 to 1980 . The layoffs, the changing musical landscape, the attitude of personalities within the band may well have taken their toll. Given the freedom of solo projects they could well have come back together periodically, perhaps in the way Genesis did, and sustained the challenges of a new era and continued to make inspiring concert performances and innovative music.

Within the following 270 pages of this chronicle of that latter era, I hope some indication of where it might all have headed is revealed. It’s a contentious topic and one ripe for discussion. The spirit was still willing for sure, and there was enough evidence on stage in Europe that they still had it. What they really needed to do was go out and prove it – and a week at the City Hall Newcastle or London’s Rainbow, or even a ‘’Back to the clubs’’ tour (something Plant undertook himself with the Honeydrippers in the spring of 1981), could well have been all that it would have taken to prove they still cared, still wanted to be seen, and could still cut it. Such a move I personally feel would have put them right back on track.

As it was, the tragic events of that late September day in 1980 rendered all of the above mere speculation. What we do know is that their instant demise would eventually lead to them being rightly heralded and admired for producing a remarkable catalogue of work that has proved to be the absolute barometer and yardstick of all things rock and beyond – as well as an ongoing inspiration for musicians young and old.

We also know from the events at the 02 Arena on the night of December 10th, 2007, thatthe principal players alongside Jason Bonham are still capable of recreating the magic of their glorious past – and in a way that made it look entirely contemporary. As Q magazine’s Paul Rees commented in his review of the show, ‘’How can they possibly leave all this behind again?’’

That they (or in truth Robert Plant) resisted a full scale tour, only enhances that night of December nights, and  what went before in the years 1968 to 1980.

And what went before during that summer of 1980 is the subject of Feather In the Wind – Led Zeppelin Over Europe 1980 .

It all adds up to what I hope is an illuminating volume that pours fresh light on the final days of Led Zeppelin as they attempted to rejuvenate their career by doing what they did best – performing live on stage. Something that they could still do better than any other band on the planet.

So this is the Led Zeppelin tour – the tour that time nearly forgot until now…remembered and re-assessed in greater detail than ever before.

This is their last journey…If you weren’t there then, you can be now…

Dave Lewis

Don’t miss out –to share this final journey on the Led Zeppelin tour that time forgot…order your copy now:

Led Zeppelin Feather In The Wind – Over Europe 1980 by Dave Lewis

 * Full colour design throughout with over 250 rarely seen photos and memorabilia images.  

 * Limited hardback first edition – each book individually numbered, certified and signed by the author

* Limited offer: Free copy of the Tight But Loose magazine with every order!

 Order the book now and you will receive a free copy of the Tight But Loose magazine. This is issue 29 which features a two page summary on the making of the Feather In The Wind book plus Stairway To Heaven at 40 analysis, Led Zeppelin Back to the clubs 1971 tour log, John Paul Jones – A night at the Opera, Bob Harris interview plus Glenn Hughes and Jason Bonham on Black Country Communion and much more.

 Order now via this link

http://www.tightbutloose.co.uk/?page_id=9965

……..

 Led Zeppelin Feather In The Wind – Over Europe 1980 –An interview with Dave Lewis 

In this interview with Tight But Loose website news editor Gary Foy, Dave Lewis explains how he came to be up close and personal with Led Zeppelin during their final days and his thoughts on the collation of book.

 GF: So how did you manage to be in such close proximity to the band on this tour?

DL: I guess it was a combination of my fanatical enthusiasm for the band, being in the right place at the right time, and sheer opportunism and good luck.

I had been an extremely fervent Led Zeppelin fan from the day I first heard Whole Lotta Love powering from the radio when I was just 13 years old. I was totally hooked, and from then on this band became an integral part of my life. I took in their shows at Wembley Empire Pool in 1971, Ally Pally 1972, five nights at Earls Court 1975, and of course two weekends at Knebworth 1979. Every album they released, every move they made I soaked up with near religious fervour. By 1976 I was already penning my own reviews and notes on the group and had begun to harbour a massive desire to channel my dedication into chronicling the group in print.

This initially bore fruit when I collaborated with Geoff Barton on a four part series marking Led Zeppelin’s tenth anniversary in the late summer of 1978 for the UK weekly music paper Sounds. I had also been eyeing creating my own Led Zeppelin fanzine for about a year, and participating in this well received series was the kick start to getting things moving. Ironically, I was inspired by the do-it-yourself punk fanzines of the day such as Sniffin’ Glue and Ripped And Torn.

Led Zeppelin did not do fan clubs and gaining information was strictly down to whatever coverage Zeppelin were afforded in the then weekly music papers NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, Disc and Record Mirror.  Back then, there was, of course, no internet, Twitter or Facebook, and in the UK little coverage of rock music on radio or TV – and there were no blanket news channels, or breakfast/daytime TV.

In search of info, and keen to put my thoughts on paper and connect with like-minded fans, I created my own magazine – Tight But Loose (so called after an expression used by both Page and Plant in 1977 to describe their music). I handwrote issue number one (an Earls Court Revisited special), advertised it in the music paper small ads, and the response was pretty instant.  There were many more like-minded fans out there across the world who wanted to buy into this hub of info I was committed to supplying.

Luckily for me, this self-published magazine struck a chord within the band and their organisation. Within a year, I had developed the format from a hastily handwritten, stapled booklet to a glossy A4 format with exclusive photos. The then most recent issue – number four published in April 1980, had gone down well within the hallowed walls of their Swan Song record company empire.

Along the way, I had developed a good relationship with their then press agent and office manager, Unity McLean. They saw the intentions of this venture were genuine and were more than happy for me to produce it.

In between my job as manager of the record shop department at the local WH Smiths in Bedford, I spent a sizable amount of my waking hours, researching, writing and collating material for the magazine. With Led Zeppelin preparing to tour in Europe, the objective was a simple one that spring of 1980. To accurately report on it all, I needed to be right there where the action was. So I hatched a plan to attend a number of gigs. Again their office via Unity was very helpful, supplying me with passes and all the details.

 GF: How many gigs did you attend?

DL: Along with my TBL colleague Tom Locke, we attended the second night in Cologne, plus dates in Frankfurt, two in Mannheim and the penultimate gig in Munich. There was a real relaxed feel about the affair, and compared to previous Zep tours it was all very low key.

On the tour they had a tight-knit team of people around them with Harvey Goldsmith on hand to assist the operation. I was already on good terms with a number of Swan Song associates and security people. They were more than happy for us to be in close proximity.

For the Cologne show we were ushered into the photo pit to see the show – although bizarrely there were no photographers present.

The next four gigs we were allowed access to view the action from the side of the stage. It was incredibly exciting to be so close to the band. The fact we were accepted into their inner sanctum to the extent of being allowed on to that sacred area of the stage was remarkable. It probably says much about the low key nature of this tour. Could it have happened at Earls Court or Madison Square Garden? Probably not.

I do feel that the close-knit relationship the band shared with their crew and personnel on the Over Europe tour allowed for a certain extent of informality. Their manager, Peter Grant, had no problem with our presence and neither did any of the rest of their entourage. I would like to think that there was also an element of trust in place, knowing that anything I reported back for the TBL magazine would be done so with the highest integrity – a value I continue to uphold in all things I project with TBL to this day.

GF: Given all the press backlash of the time, what was the morale of the band on the Over Europe tour in your view?

DL: Compared to previous tours, one thing is for sure – this was a vastly different Led Zeppelin that came out to face the 1980s on the night of June 17th of that first year of a new decade. Firstly, there was the scaled down set list and presentation. No big lights, no large stage, no lasers. No Dazed And Confused, no Moby Dick or No Quarter. A slicker, neater, more compact operation that indicated fresh thinking and something of a rejuvenation within the ranks.

Lined up against the run of shows just three years earlier at the Los Angeles Forum, there was much less swagger about them.

There was also a distinct lack of interest from the press on this tour. Only Melody Maker bothered to cover it alongside a couple of German music magazines. Given the blanket coverage they had enjoyed for their Knebworth comeback ten months previous, it was further indication of the changing musical trends – Led Zeppelin no longer garnered instant press coverage in the homeland like they once had.

As for the band itself, too much had gone on for them not to have been affected by the tragedies and lay-offs. Jimmy, as can be seen from the photos, was very thin. There were the obvious rumours of off stage excess and drugs going around. I have to say we saw no evidence of that.  We did see a fair bit of them at the hotels and they all seemed pretty relaxed and just keen to get on with the job of getting out there and playing again. John Bonham’s collapse from a stomach upset, brought on by eating too many bananas which halted the show in Nuremberg after just 16 minutes, was somewhat worrying, but he seemed to get over that very quickly.

GF: Musically how did it compare to say Earls Court in 1975? 

DL: As I said, this was something of a different band from that glory era. They were somewhat erratic at times, but on any given night on the tour they came out packed with intent.

On the nights they really nailed tracks like Achilles Last Stand (check out Munich July 5th) or Kashmir (check out Frankfurt June 30th), John Bonham was at the nerve centre of it all and still playing with the abandonment of vintage nights such as the Royal Albert Hall in 1970. He still cared as did John Paul Jones, the steady anchor with the Billy Fury haircut (as Plant put it). Performances such as Nobody’s Fault But Mine (check out Brussels June 20th) and the beautifully melodic All My Love (check out Zurich June 29th or Munich July 5th) showcased his undisputed musicianship.

For all his prior misgivings about touring, Robert Plant in the main seemed to be having a great time. The sweat-stained green cap sleeve tops he wore bore evidence of the effort he was putting in. Robert Plant may have been less the hippy Adonis, but he was totally immersed in the band again – a full-on interested Plant could always sway the balance – there’s no finer example of that than his performance at the 02. In Europe 1980 he was never swamped by the enormity of the music. He led from the front and yes it did work…contrary to what the critics might have said.

As for Jimmy – he was stick-thin and enigmatic in white suit, baggy suit, and red or blue sneakers. Jimmy’s application, though not always 100 percent in delivery, still saw him pushing the songs in different directions – the semi-jammed guitar masterclass performances of Trampled Underfoot being a vivid example. On stage he was still the man to watch. Grinning, cringing, side-stepping, duck-walking and constantly battling to be in sync with the music  amongst the shapes he was throwing.

Musically erratic he may have been at this point, but again, when he was on it such as the sonic thrust of Train Kept A Rollin’ (their best opener since Immigrant Song?), the theremin-led Whole Lotta Love, or the night in Zurich when he pulled out all the previous stops that had made Heartbreaker such a compelling tour de force, Jimmy Page recaptured the sparkle and excitement that first lit up the ballrooms of America a decade previous.

So yes, they were erratic and there were nights when it did not always come together with the fluency of their earlier years. When it was good though, the 1980 Led Zeppelin was still very impressive indeed. I know because I was lucky enough to have been there.

GF: Aside from your own recollections, what else does the book include?

DL: There are also a number of recollections from fellow fans who attended the shows out front –including the first UK Zep author Howard Mylett long-term Manchester based collector Steve Jones, alongside a series of retrospective views from those that were backstage tasked with ensuring the wheels of the slightly reduced Zeppelin juggernaut rolled on across Europe that summer of 1980. This includes interviews with guitar tech Tim Marten, Showco sound engineer Rusty Brutsche, WEA tour co-ordinator Michael Kirschner, plus  Atlantic Records executive Phil Carson and Bad Company’s Simon Kirke, both of whom jammed onstage with the band on the Over Europe tour.

Central to the book is the 58 pages that form the detailed gig to gig analysis of the 14 shows. This documents everything from the set list details to what they wore, to full transcriptions of what was said in between songs.

From across the water, US fan Larry M. Bergmann Jr. relays some passionate observations of the way this final European jaunt sounded to the ears of a fervent American fan (one of thousands who were somewhat in the dark on the proceedings unfolding in Europe). For many American fans their affair with the band was abruptly cut short with the untimely curtailment of the 1977 US tour.

The final chapter looks at the aftermath effect of the Over Europe tour leading to the tragic events ofSeptember 25th,1980and the subsequent fallout that would result in that statement of December 4th, 1980that explained ‘They could not continue as they were.’

There’s also an extensive appendix section that logs the multitude of bootleg titles that have emerged from the tour collated up by UK collector Graeme Hutchinson, plus an illustrated guide to the tour memorabilia with full details of the posters, tickets t-shirts, etc., and a discography of the posthumously released Coda album compiled by Nick Anderson. I’d also like to take the opportunity to single out US Zep archivist Mike Tremaglio for his input and overseeing of the text.

GF: I take it there are many rare photos featured in the book?

DL: Absolutely. The book is illustrated throughout with an abundance of rarely seen colour photos. It’s something of a paradox, but this Led Zeppelin Over Europe 1980 tour was one of the least professionally shot of their career. Few official photographers were on hand to capture the shows; however, the tour was captured by many fans in attendance on the small instamatic type cameras that were easy to get past security. It’s these photos that light up the book including many of the photos my colleague Tom and I took from the side of the stage.

Whilst not professionally shot, these images capture the tour in a candid and honest way that only adds to the mystique of this era. They are the last great evocative images of the band in action, and as such they help unfold the story with an authenticity that compliments the low key nature of the tour.

These last remaining live on stage images of Led Zeppelin as a working unit only adds to the fascination for this little chronicled period of their history.

GF: You mentioned there’s a bootleg discography – the Over Europe 1980 tour was extensively captured on various releases – what’s your opinion of the quality of the tapes?   

DL: The bootleg market has been well served with 1980 tapes and soundboard recordings. And therein lies a problem. The first round of soundboard tapes that seeped out in the 1990s on the Toasted Condor labels were dry and flat recordings. They were taken off the desk for reference and never intended for release, and if the rumours are to be believed, unscrupulously extracted from Page’s house.

This put the Over Europe tour in something of a shady light, and what was already a somewhat misrepresented era now carried even more stigma, and somewhat of a backlash prevailed. Thankfully, the balance has been redressed with superior releases of the soundboard tapes and some cracking audience tapes surfacing.

Another function of this book is that I hope it inspires the reader to search out these recorded remnants (which in the modern age are not too difficult to track on the internet). There are many delights to be found. Recordings of the shows in Cologne, Brussels, Zurich, Frankfurt and Berlin are particularly worth seeking out.

Listening to Led Zeppelin performing in Europe all those years back reveals an endearingly vulnerable quality unique to this tour. The cock-sure knowing arrogance of 1973 and 1975 was long gone.  Instead, what we hear over those performances is a purity and honesty in their playing. That mistakes occur only lends to the humility of these four players who had long since needed to prove themselves.

GF: How do you think Led Zeppelin would have fared in the 1980s had John Bonham not have died?

DL: I think the planned autumn American tour would have seen them reclaim their crown there. America was a whole different ball game to the climate in the UK. Punk and new wave never fully penetrated there, and they would have been on decidedly more safer ground than here at home.

Looking back, it’s apparent that a proportion of their once loyal home grown fan base was probably fed up with waiting for them to play with some sense of regularity like their earlier days. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, some had chosen to side with the new emerging face of rock.

The musical landscape they one stood over like a colossus had changed radically. The onset of punk rock and new wave had challenged the status quo of the mega-bands – the so called dinosaur acts.  In fact, Robert Plant made reference to the dinosaur tag on more than one occasion on this tour. Aside from the new wave of bands who relied on sharp, incisive three minute blasts of power pop, a new movement of rock outfits, spawned on the hard and heavy riffs that powered Zeppelin to the top, were in the wings ready to dislodge their crown.

The so called ‘’New Wave of British Heavy Metal,’’ with the likes of Def Leppard and Iron Maiden were taking hold. Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, David Coverdale’s Whitesnake, the maturing Rush, the durable Queen, and the likes of AC/DC and Motorhead were all ready and primed to take up the interest of lapsed Zeppelin enthusiasts.

The sheer lack of activity over the prior two years, and even the ten months that divided their successful Knebworth comeback and the Over Europe dates, did reek of complacency. After the success of Knebworth, it was rumoured they would cash in on that wave of support by staging a UK tour that Christmas. Nothing happened and the news that they were planning a European tour with no sign of any homeland appearances must have beguiled many of their UK fans.

Whilst there’s little doubt they would have gone to America and enjoyed huge acclaim again, it’s quite feasible they may well have struggled to retain their heavyweight crown in the UK come the dawning of 1981 and beyond.

GF: Do you think there may have been offshoot solo projects had John Bonham not died?

DL: Yes, I think that would probably have occurred. By his own admission, Robert Plant was finding life in Led Zeppelin much less of an attraction than prior to the tragedies that befell him post-1975. So I think it’s quite feasible that the band members would have undertaken solo projects.  It’s not hard to imagine that he would have broken off to record a Honeydrippers-type solo album. Or that John Paul Jones would probably have quite enjoyed doing the school run and indulging in the many production offers that came his way. Maybe John Bonham would have accepted that invitation from Paul McCartney and joined a revamped Wings. Jimmy’s pursuit of guitar orchestration might well have led him to undertake soundtrack projects experimenting with the Roland Synthesiser and other guitar gismos. Some of the above notions did of course become reality after the death of John Bonham.

Led Zeppelin may well have found it difficult to have reigned supreme in the manner they did from 1970 to 1980. The layoffs, the changing musical landscape, and the attitude of personalities within the band may well have taken their toll. However, given the freedom of solo projects they could well have come back together periodically, perhaps in the way Genesis did, and sustained the challenges of a new era and continued to make inspiring concert performances and innovative music.

Within the 270 pages of this book of the latter Zep era, I hope some indication of where it might all have headed is revealed. It’s a contentious topic and one ripe for discussion. The spirit was still willing for sure, and there was enough evidence on stage in Europe that they still had it. What they really needed to do was get out and play – and a week at the City Hall Newcastle or London’s Rainbow, or even a ‘’Back to the clubs’’ tour (something Plant undertook himself with the Honeydrippers in the spring of 1981), could well have been all that it would have taken to prove they still cared, still wanted to be seen, and could still cut it. Such a move I personally feel would have put them right back on track.

As it was, the tragic events of that late September day in 1980 rendered all of the above mere speculation. What we do know is that their instant demise would eventually lead to them being rightly heralded and admired for producing a remarkable catalogue of work that has proved to be the absolute barometer and yardstick of all things rock and beyond – as well as an ongoing inspiration for musicians young and old.

We also know from the events at the 02 Arena on the night of December 10th, 2007, that the principal players alongside Jason Bonham are still capable of recreating the magic of their glorious past – and in a way that made it look entirely contemporary. As Q magazine’s Paul Rees commented in his review of the show, “How can they possibly leave all this behind again?’’

That they (or principally Robert Plant) resisted a full scale tour only enhances that night of December nights, and what went before in the years 1968 to 1980.

GF: Final thoughts on it all?

DL: It’s certainly been a cathartic experience collating all this and something of a rite of passage for me in re-living it all. The book has developed into something of a personal journey in recounting an incredibly exciting time in my life and the various personal photos I have included reflect that. As much as it’s a book about Led Zeppelin, it often unavoidably slips into being something of an autobiographical account of my experiences in being very close to the action back then.

The fact remains that these memories are ingrained on my brain. Being so close to the action that summer of ’80 left an undeniable stamp on me as a person. I was a mere 23 years old and there was a lot of growing up type personal stuff going on in my life at that time. As can be seen in the actual diary entries I have reproduced, their music and the whole fabric of Led Zeppelin was a huge part of my world – and the fact that I was able to dip into the inner workings of their organization was also a huge thrill. There’s no finer example of that than the astonishing events that unfolded when I visited the Swan Song office in Kings Road, London on the afternoon ofThursday, September 18th, 1980.

Jimmy Page was holding court there that very afternoon and I spent half an hour talking to him in the top floor meeting room. Whilst there he showed me a working model of the lighting rig they were assembling for the forthcoming American tour, complete with models of each member. On reflection that was an incredibly poignant episode. For that same time the very next week – seven days on – the tragic events that would bring to an end all such hopes and dreams of a new era for Led Zeppelin would be unfolding.

That’s just one of so vivid many memories I have from this era.  It has long since been my plan to encapsulate all this in book form, and the forthcoming publication of Led Zeppelin Feather In The WindOver Europe 1980 is the result of many years of research and collation that has led to this extensive documenting of the final Led Zeppelin tour.

It all adds up to what I hope is an illuminating volume that pours fresh light on the final days of Led Zeppelin as they attempted to rejuvenate their career by doing what they did best – performing live on stage – something that they could still do better than any other band on the planet.

This is the Led Zeppelin tour that time forgot…until now…remembered and reassessed in greater detail than ever before. It was their last journey…If you weren’t there then, you can be now…

…….

Led Zeppelin Feather In The Wind – Over Europe 1980 compiled by Dave Lewis (Tight But Loose Publishing) is available now.

Photos by Tom Locke and Dave Lewis  – All photos copyright Dave Lewis/TBL

 

 

 

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4 Comments »

  • abe said:

    i was at that show with my friend pappy it was the best had seen them once before if you look in your pics. and and see a dude a few rows back center waving a top hat that will be me it was so hot i was cooling us off with it we were smashed like we were the pivot point of the front center it was great and ad the x12 with it was great if you know what i mean

  • Gerd Zaunig said:

    Thanks Dave! Love your books and your enthusiam through all those years. Especially their last tour is often treated badly but those were the times. A good opportunity to listen to the Tour Over Europe 1980 shows again.

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    Thanks Jez!

  • Jez said:

    Dave, a sublime piece. I could almost touch it reading your prose. Simply brilliant.

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