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TBL ARCHIVE SPECIAL: PHYSICAL GRAFFITI 37 YEARS GONE – PART 3

9 March 2012 5,926 views 12 Comments

The third and final part of the TBL Physical Graffiti 37 years Gone Archive Special presents a perceptive overview by Ron Ross published in Phongraph Record March 1975. It was back in early March in 1975 that Led Zeppelin announced they would be playing three shows at Earls Court in late May with tickets to go on sale on March 15. I can still remember the mass exitement of seeing the NME, Sounds and Melody Maker on the news stands – each headlining the announcement. Also out in the UK that week was the issue of Rolling Stone with the cover story and interview with Jimmy and Robert by Cameron Crowe. Reading their words of wisdom back then was also incredibly inspiring.

When I interviewed John Paul Jones last week I reminded him it was 37 years ago this month that Physical Graffiti was topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

”It’s definitely one of my favourites” he commented. ”It was an amazing time for us”. You can read the full interview with John in the forthcoming issue of  the TBL magazine which starts the 2012 TBL subscription –don’t miss out – subscribe now – here’s the ordering link

http://www.tightbutloose.co.uk/?page_id=1469

Right…get ready to pull out the appropriate Zep 1975 soundtrack (here on my playlist I’ve got the original Physical Graffiti LP’s all lined up plus the Feb 14 1975 Nassau Coliseum Uniondale soundboard CD set with that great version of Heartbreaker, the marathon Seattle March 21 Dazed And Confused and the Earls Court May 18 and May 24 versions of No Quarter to joyfully wade through) and recall the glorious Zep era of early 1975…

ZEPPELIN ‘75

Ron Ross, Phonograph Record, March 1975

PICTURE YOURSELF in a seat in a stadium, with ten thousand teens going mad on all sides. Something’s announced and you look up quite swiftly: the band is about to arrive. Hopeful photographers rush to the stage, snapping til they’re dragged away; up come the lights with a roar from the crowd and they’re on.

Led Zep has more flash than diamonds. The undisputed kings of popdom. When, they appear, total mayhem breaks loose, like nothing you’ve ever seen. Once every two years is hardly enough for their fans; there’s no substitute for Led Zeppelin.

Power chords crash from the monstrous PA, towering over your head. Look for the one with guitar in hand and it’s him. Jimmy is the core of Zeppelin. Plant’s the sex symbol but behind him, aahhh…here is a man who took sound and refined it, brought rock & roll basics to heavy metal pop; in terms of pure sound no one ever could touch him, nor in sales figures either for that matter.

Though Jimmy Page denies he ever heard of “punk rock” let alone created it, the heavy metal style Zep forged from their earliest work onward is the sound of rock & roll as most of the people who need it most want to hear it. And while the group may have ventured to sophisticate their original monolithic intensity with experimental diversions on each of their six albums, it is the inexorable bone-crushers from ‘Whole Lotta Love’ to Physical Graffiti‘s ‘Kashmir’ that distinguish Zeppelin from artists dependent on musical trends or extra-musical images for their popularity. Loudness is perhaps the simplest and most direct of all aesthetic sensations, but it is not so simple to create inherently loud music – to think, compose, and play so relentlessly, unfalteringly loud that sheer decibels become more important than what the lyrics are saying and more seductive than the personalities of the performers. It’s their unprecedented feel for rhythm and riff cranked up to nerve-numbing volume that makes Zeppelin perhaps the most successful rock and roll band of all time, and it’s this awe-inspiring control of virtually violent sound that justifies that success. Sound speaks for itself, the ends justify the means.

1974 found Zeppelin busy launching Swan Song and preparing what would become their first double album, Physical Graffiti. Released in the midst of a riotous two-part tour of America, Physical Graffiti is more direct and self-assured than anything that preceded it. Compared to the jazzier, more melodic Houses of the Holy, Graffiti sounds one of the better “it’s only rock ‘n roll” efforts so popular among established bands this year. It sho’ ’nuff is funky in its monstro heaviness, and after repeated listenings, the eighty-three minute set emerges as one of the decade’s most viscerally engaging albums. It’s excitement is just about uninterrupted.

The first two sides contain not a single bum cut, and if dinosaurs danced they’d have done the kung fu to tunes like ‘Trampled Underfoot’, with Jones’ jiving electric piano, and ‘Custard Pie’, with its lunatic harp break from Plant. ‘In My Time of Dying’ runs over eleven minutes, all of it gripping, as Page pulls out every possible stop before Robert’s vocal degenerates into babbling baby talk. ‘Kashmir’ is gorgeous and cruelly imperial, like the music that might have accompanied Cleopatra’s barge as it was pulled down the Nile by a thousand struggling slaves. There is a refreshingly live feel to most of the backing tracks, since Zep utilized Ronnie Lane’s and the Rolling Stones’ mobile studios for many of them.

Sides three and four of Physical Graffiti are not as uniformly terrific as the first two but there’s enough variety to justify a double album. The cuts run the gamut in scale from Jimmy’s folky acoustic ‘Bron-Yr-Aur’ to ‘In the Light’, a ‘Stairway’ styled anthem of sorts with a very attractive ascending riff as its hook. ‘Down by the Sea Side’ is surprisingly Californian and pop for Zeppelin, with a relaxed Leslied lead from Page, until the break when he really gets down to some of the most facile fretting on the album.

Side four’s ‘Boogie with Stu’ features the Stones’ side-kick Ian Stewart on barrelhouse piano and a fine mandolin solo. ‘Black Country Woman’ is an extemporaneous blues pastiche of the kind which Plant apparently finds very funny. Concluding the album is a direct descendant from ‘Whole Lotta Love’ entitled ‘Sick Again’, an all out raver that condemns the Hollywood groupie scene which Zeppelin’s charisma did so much to perpetuate before the band “grew out of it.”

All in all, Physical Graffiti is a massive chunk of super-sound, which while it provides few surprises, is as immediate and right on the money as Zeppelin’s first album was when it was released six years ago. Zeppelin’s recorded work changes to remain essentially the same, but their live performances have improved immensely over the last few years. Though Robert was hampered by the flu and Jimmy by an accident to the third finger of his left hand, Zeppelin’s concerts on the first part of their 1975 tour were as spectacular as the thousands of fans who waited overnight for tickets knew they would be.

If they were night after night consistently on top of their two and a half hour show, there were nights like the band’s second at New York’s Madison Square Garden, when they were brilliantly definitive. There was no question that their devoted following was hearing rock and roll as it was meant to be played, and the energy the band radiates places them in a class by themselves. Even Page’s moves on stage can be compared only to Townshend at his theatrical best, and on the basis of music alone, there probably isn’t a better and more exciting guitarist working today. John Paul Jones’ solid musicianship is particularly important to the band live. Bonham’s drum solo is the first I ever heard which ran over ten minutes and ended just when it should have. And in spite of his range being affected by his sore throat, there was something affable about Plant’s self-confidence which is as likable as it is lascivious. Led Zeppelin give you something to remember; it’s hard to put into words, but it’s no less real for that.

Like each of their concerts, Led Zeppelin’s career began on an impossibly high level and soared upward and onward from there. They now outsell the Rolling Stones two albums to one, and since Swan Song was shipping 1 1.5 million copies of Physical Graffiti upon its release in America, a representative for the label predicted that Zep’s sixth platinum album would be number one in two weeks. Not only is Atlantic looking forward to possibly the biggest album in their long history of big albums, but retailers all over the country have been begging for a Zeppelin album to bring people into the stores. Rock is dead? Try to convince Led Zeppelin.

© Ron Ross,1975

Reviews by kind permission of  Rocks Backpages -not to be reproduced without prior permission. Visit  http://www.rocksbackpages.com/

Here’s some Physical Graffiti related items from the DL Collection:

 

Physical Graffiti Spanish pressing – purchased on holiday with the Wallbanger boys in Loret De Mar in June 1975

 

Various Physical Graffiti covers including the original UK pressing with the black window sticker

Above is a very rare peice of memorabilia:  Physical Graffiti original US mock up fold out sleeve design artwork -with alternate window designs and title letters -subsequently amended for the finished version.

This was given to me by the Warner/Atlantic rep who called on the WH Smith record dept I worked at in November 1974. It was used as a presenter to record dealers as the album was being sold in to the shops prior to its release.

Tangible Graffiti bootleg LP of Physical Graffiti outtakes/rehearsals -note the sleeve copies the original black window sticker. Purchased at a Bedford record fair in 1984

Robert Plant News update:

Robert Plant has announced his first US date of the year. He will be among the headliners for the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, which marks its 25th anniversary this year.“This is spectacular news,” said Melville Tillis, longtime festival co-chairman. “We have been in dialogue with Robert Plant for several months, and are thrilled he will be here.”

The festival will be held August  10-12 in Clarksdale and will feature more than 40 bands over the course of the three-day event. Robert’s band line up has been announced as Patty Griffin, West African virtuoso musician  Juldeh Camara, guitarists Justin Adams, Billy Fuller on bass, keyboards  John Baggott and Dave Smith on drums.

For updates, visit the festival website: www.sunflowerfest.org

Don’t forget you can follow Dave Lewis/TBL on Twitter  –  LedzeppelinTBL

and Facebook (add us as a friend) at

http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=1611296783

And finally  two glorious clips from you know when….the word genuis doesn’t even begin to describe Jimmy’s solo in Over The Hills And Far Away and the same applies for Trampled Underfoot.

Have a great weekend… (DL- March 9 2012)

Led Zeppelin – Over the Hills and Far Away – Earl’s Court 1975

Led Zeppelin – Trampled Under Foot Earl’s Court 1975

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12 Comments »

  • L. Cypher said:

    Sick Again … What a way to end a double album … VERY underrated!

  • Kam said:

    There’s just too many highlights on the album to list!

  • paul webber said:

    the greatest album ever made no album on the planet comes close it is my bench mark…………every track is pure brilliance…needless to say i love this album……….and that should be law, and im not joking………….paul webber.

  • Ian Hunter said:

    The Rover. Rarely gets a mention amongst the many highlights of this album but this track has it all. Achilles Last Stand forerunner. Superb wailing and moaning and a real groove.’Tight but Loose’ describes it perfectly. Perfect on headphones when standing alone at the summit of a high Lakeland Mountain. And the wind is crying………………

  • Kevin Turner said:

    Physical Graffiti was the album that introduced me to the bands music and I have my Father to thank for it, He brought it from a workmate in ’76 for £1 for me as he knew I liked ‘that rock music racket’ and I’m forever thankful he did! I don’t think he was quite so pleased when it didn’t come off the turntable for 3 weeks solid. It was without doubt one of the most important listening experiences of my adult life and remains my outright favorite album of all time….thanks Dad!

  • Colin said:

    This albums sums up Zep at their best for me.1975 they were in their pomp tight but loose,silence and thunder followed by a great series of concert at Earls Court,unsurpassed.

  • Steve said:

    Jimmy says its Stairway whereas Robert says its Kashmir but for me the single recorded moment which best represents the very essence and synergy that was/is Led Zeppelin is the estatic drum break 9:10 min into “In My Time Of Dying”. You have to listen to the whole song mind you . In fact you have to listen to everything they recorded leading up to that point 🙂 Its magnificent.

  • Mark Harrison said:

    I remember,on reading the announcements of the shows, my joy turning to BLIND PANIC!! I was 16. There was NO QUESTION of me NOT GOING to them. Such exciting times it was untrue……
    Mark

  • Mikael Olsson said:

    For me it’s a top three from Zeppelin. What i like the most is the diversity of musicalstyles. Like the majestic Kashmir, the dreamy ” In the light”,the beautiful “Ten Years Gone”,the funky cool “Houses of the holy” the brutal “Wanton Song” to the delightful “Bron-Y-Aur”. Its all there. One of the best albums ever made in my opinion!!

  • Chris S said:

    One of the 1st LP’s I ever purchased back in the day. I am now somewhere at approximately 18,000-change LP’s and CD’s later…and counting, and Physical Graffiti is still the benchmark by which I measure all other rock releases. Awe inspiring and containing tracks of such power and majesty. Still the best ever for me.

  • Dave Lewis (author) said:

    John thanks for your comments
    Ten Years Gone is indeed a work of rare beauty – and would be in my top 5 all time Zep tracks for sure

  • John C said:

    Quite simply the most accomplished, diverse rock album of all time. Whilst the shear raw power of the 1st Lp is for the purist and the 4th Lp has tracks even the wife would dance to. Graffiti encompasses the whole Zeppelin ethos “keep changing”, Ok it had unreleased tracks from the Zep 3 sessions, but the new tracks were a result of dynamite excavation.

    One black mark Dave if I may (from a great write up), you didn’t mention “Ten Years Gone” – a wonderful Page instrumental with Plants words of longing added, the album will always be remembered for “Kashmir”, but this is the true gem in this colossus of an album.

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