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Then As It Was Led Zeppelin At Knebworth 1979 30 Years Gone

22 July 2009 5,015 views No Comment

Cover Jacket REVISED COVER Bi.indd

Tight But Loose Publishing presents

Then As It Was

Led Zeppelin At Knebworth 1979

30 Years Gone

Compiled by Dave Lewis


Then as it was…

This time there’s no sleeping bags required…

“Mum…” I recall testing the water to see if she was asleep or not that night. “Can I go to see Zeppelin in August pleeeese?”

Negotiations had begun. Living in the backwater of Goole meant that I’d had a pretty sheltered existence and going to gigs hundreds of miles away was by parental permission only. Over the ensuing week Mother undertook a deal of research; phoning my uncle in Welwyn Garden City to gauge his opinion on Knebworth (positive) and checking amongst her friends at work to see if any of their sons were going. Fortune smiled. My mum and Richard Bramham’s mum were kindred spirits. We were going to Knebworth…’’(Andy Balcom)

‘’After a raucous evening in a local hostelry we settled down for a long sleepless night by the perimeter fence like a small platoon of eager commandos. Around 4am word got around that a hole had been found a few hundred yards away, and sure enough on arrival, we found a scene similar to ‘The Great Escape’ with shafts of light illuminating figures running hell for leather. So off we went with all the enthusiasm of a bunch of cub scouts only to find yet again our hopes stalled by the reality of the tall corrugated interior fence that would not let us enter for some hours yet.’’ (Alex Machin)

‘’I remember the merchandise finally going on sale late in the afternoon with huge queues. Choosing the Swan Song T-shirt, buying the programme, badge, and poster, anything Zeppelin that was on sale.  The sound of Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show filled the campsite and the cheers went up when anything Zeppelin related was mentioned or played. I also remember hearing everyone shouting “Wally!” and wondering what on earth this meant – was it a new drug? A Zep reference that I had missed somewhere along the way?. The title of their new album? Whatever it or he was – he was mighty popular!’’ (Mick Bulow)

‘’The imminent arrival of Zeppelin was the cue for me to open my last remaining booze of the day – in those innocent teenage days we’d probably downed no more than a couple of cans of cheap lager each during the day but this was the cue to hit the hard stuff, a bottle of red wine and that was the start of my chemical-induced Zeppelin experience. Spurred on by the excitement of the unfolding gig, my intake spiralled out of control.  By the time Jimmy Page picked up his violin bow and began his long-anticipated, laser-strewn guitar solo I was on another planet.
The journey back was a nightmare with our first real hangovers kicking in but it didn’t matter – we were kicked out of the car at about 6am and crawled into bed knowing we had witnessed history.’’ (Peter Anderson)

‘’The lights bathed the band in clear vision and the audience went crazy. When things settled down you could sense a new found confidence, they knew at this point they were still the biggest and best band in the world, and here were a hundred thousand fans agreeing, and at the same giving punk and the UK music press an almighty one fingered salute.’’ (Stuart Whitehead)

‘’Then they finally appeared. I remember the pitch black… the anticipation and then the notes from Page’s double neck that launched into ‘The Song Remains The Same’. Every time I see that at the start of the video I can vividly remember the excitement I felt at that moment.’’ (Ian Avey)

‘’ During previous twenty six hours, I’d suffered sleep deprivation, asphyxiation, sunburn, dehydration, been soaked to the skin and trodden on (Trampled Underfoot?) and towards the end of the set, I remember thinking that although this was a great show, I’d never do it again, well, not for anyone…… other than Led Zeppelin of course.’’ (Phil Tattershall)

‘’There was an element of near religious pilgrimage about the whole day. It was a kind of thanksgiving to what they’d given us over the past eleven years. I’m just grateful I took the opportunity when it was there.’’ (Gary Simpson)

‘’ I have an abiding image of Jimmy Page enveloped in a laser beam pyramid, a lone figure to the right of the stage, thrashing the bow across his guitar and bathed in blue light. Amid multiple encores, Rock And Roll’ and ‘Heartbreaker’ saw them out and left us ecstatic, wondering when we would see them again.’’ (Dena Zarans)

‘’I’ve seen many great bands since but none will match Zeppelin they still remain the greatest band ever. That day was so special. The crowd at the end singing you’ll never walk alone” was just so emotional.  It was a special time, it will never be repeated but there legacy lives on.’’ (Jon West)

‘’There was an amazing buzz around the place and it was astonishing to witness what a pilgrimage this was for so many people.  We met fans from Italy, and even America.  At such a tender age, I was amazed at how someone could travel all that way for a gig!  I’ve done it myself since, but we were certainly young and naïve.’’ (Jerry Bloom)

‘’The concert had finished and everyone was piling out of the fenced off arena. Spirits were high, and we were in a hurry to find our tent and crash. It was pitch black and the cigarette ends lit up the queue going to the camp site which stretched ahead curving in a right angle after 100 yards or so round to the left. Why wait in line? Sparky decided we’d cut across the right angle and join the queue further down. I dithered as usual thinking through the fog of booze and joints there must be a reason for the dog-leg in the queue. He grabbed my hand and started to run. We got up quite a speed until the earth gave way beneath our feet.

There has been a reason why no one had ventured across that bit of the grass…

Have you guessed?


Yes the organisers of the concert had removed the wooden cubicles and my dear partner had dragged the pair of us into the open cess pits. We were thigh deep in human waste. It was like quicksand the more you struggled, the deeper you sank. And the smell…

For some reason no one would come near us on all night and as for the 100 mile train journey back to Suffolk, via London Liverpool Station…well you can imagine…’’(Louise Clarke)

‘’God they were fantastic. Not only the best band I had ever seen (and will ever see) but so much better than any other band. At the end I slept in a ditch, I couldn’t talk as my throat was gone with the cheering, and I was tired. By September I had all of the albums and life was never the same again. In that one day my music taste formed around one band, and although I love other music, lots of other music, nobody else compares. Thirty years on Knebworth in 1979 seems like both yesterday and in another life.

The fact remains that other than the birth of my children this was the most important day of my life.’’ (Andy Griffiths)

*Extracts copyright Dave Lewis/Tight But Loose Publishing 2009

…These people are talking about a shared experience that occurred thirty years ago on the first two Saturdays in August 1979.

Thousands of rock fans descended on Knebworth Park just outside Stevenage to witness what would ultimately be the last UK performances by Led Zeppelin.

Thirty years on the memories are still vivid.

Then As It Was – Led Zeppelin At Knebworth 30 Years Gone is a new book compiled by Dave Lewis that chronicles this milestone event in rock history.

The build up, the performances, the aftermath…the eye witness accounts of those who still proudly boast

‘’I Was There….’’

These nostalgic recollections from out in the field capture the final days of a legendary band and the simpler more innocent times of the last great British festival gatherings of the 1970s…

And this time there’s no sleeping bags required…


The book is available to order on-line via pay pal

Please click here for full ordering details

It is also available to order from the Wymer UK book site


Dave Lewis talks about compiling the new book

Then As It Was – Led Zeppelin At Knebworth 30 Years Gone

Q: So what’s the idea behind the book?

DL: I was looking to mark the 30th anniversary of the Knebworth shows in some way during 2009 and I had already gathered a fairly large amount of material. The initial idea was for a feature in my Tight But Loose Zep magazine, but it quickly became evident that there was scope to do something more substantial. It then grew from there. To do this milestone anniversary real justice a book format seemed more appropriate, so that led me to come up with a plan to produce a hardback limited edition book. I knew I had various angles from which to unfold the story, and once I got going the text began to expand quite rapidly resulting in a total word count of over 83,000.

The basic aim is to pay homage to this key episode in the bands history and provide a unique chronicle that recreates the atmosphere of that summer of thirty years ago – a period that is still held in high affection by Led Zeppelin fans all over the world.

Q: How long has it taken to come to fruition?

DL: Once I had viewed the Knebworth story as a book project rather than a feature for the magazine, it was already early May and it’s been full on from then on because the aim was to publish in early August. This is the first project under the new Tight But Loose Publications banner, and I’ve been involved in all aspects of getting this off the ground, from collating the text, liaising with printers, planning marketing, setting up the launch etc. There has of course been some key assistance along the way notably Graeme Hutchinson, Rob Ayling and Jerry Bloom who all encouraged me to get the idea moving, Gary Davies, Lorraine Robertson and Jez Firth who checked the text, and the massive input of TBL designer Martyn Lewis who once again has made it all come alive.

Q: Isn’t a book about just two gigs a little restricting?

DL: Not when it concerns Led Zeppelin. The book encompasses the last eighteen months of the bands existence so alongside the actual gigs, there’s all the build up and aftermath. In documenting that you get the feel of not only the whole state of the band at the time, but the musical landscape in the UK.

This was a period of big upheaval. Punk rock had arrived and out of it grew the new wave .This movement was set to render dinosaur bands such as Zeppelin redundant. So what you have is the situation of Zeppelin attempting to re-connect with their audience again, in the face of much derision from the press and media. How they coped with that is an interesting story in itself.

It’s worth noting that in 1979 there was still some confusion of where a band like Zep stood in the scheme of things. The music press found that hard to deal with. You only have to look at one of news pages from the time to see that. For example the announcement of Zep’s comeback in the NME ran alongside stories about Rod Stewart, The Damned, Peter Tosh and punk poet John Cooper Clarke. A diversity of old wave and new. After 1980 there’s no doubt the emerging new wave acts were dominating the column inches. In that early eighties era the dinosaurs perhaps were extinct, but by then Zeppelin were no more.

Q: The UK press was very wary of them by then – how much of a pressure was that do you think?

DL: I think they found it hard to ignore, particularly Robert Plant.  In the book I summarise both the press reaction to the Knebworth shows and the In Through The Out Door album.  They did suffer some highly critical reaction – Plant himself made comment to that on stage during their second appearance. They were very sensitive to it all. Taken as a whole though, there were some very balanced views.  To quote Phil Sutcliffe in his review in Sounds at the time  ‘’How would you feel if you saw a dinosaur coming down the street? Surprise, fear, fascination, awe. All of these things. It’s by no means all bad to be a living fossil’’

The fact is, Zeppelin was still a very powerful musical force and I think journalists seemed to have a job admitting that without losing face. In his foreword in the book, Ross Halfin makes a good point that the press didn’t really dislike Zep that much – not in the same way they derided say ELP or Yes.

Q: It could be said they hardly endeared themselves to the press by coming back on such a large scale as Knebworth.

DL: That’s a fair point. I think Peter Grant was of the opinion that it had to be the biggest comeback possible. When I interviewed him in the early 90s, he told me he felt at the time if they were going to prove they were still the biggest band in the world they needed the biggest platform. By doing that it did make them quite remote from their audience. My own opinion is that they could have combined the Knebworth shows with say a week of gigs at London’s Rainbow Theatre. That would have been in keeping with their peers such as The Who. They combined a Wembley Stadium show with dates at The Rainbow and Hammersmith Odeon that year. The Who also seemed more in touch with the musical climate of the time as their Wembley gig had support acts such as The Stranglers and AC/DC, a far more interesting bill than the Knebworth line up that bizarrely included Chas and Dave.

Q: What’s the general consensus of opinion about the band’s performances at Knebworth?

DL: There have certainly been mixed opinions over the years. What I do think has happened, is that time has been pretty kind to how Zep at Knebworth is viewed. In the early 90s the poor quality video footage from the second week that surfaced did I think lead to a negative view of the Knebworth event. That situation probably wasn’t helped by Plant himself, who often made public his disdain for their performances at Knebworth.  The turning point came when Page unearthed the full multi track camera footage from the Knebworth shows when compiling the official Zep DVD.  Yes they may have been rusty, but I think all three of them were surprised by the power that was so evident still. Subsequently the segment Page edited together for the official DVD in 2003 was clear evidence that when it was good, Zep’s performance at Knebworth was very good indeed. The event itself was pure Zeppelin theatre with the screen, lasers and lighting. The DVD segment highlights all that, plus of course the mass adulation from the crowd. It’s generally agreed that the first performance was superior to the second week. In his chapter in the book Larry Bergmann makes the point that the press reaction to the first show may have put them on the back foot leading into that second show. Overall though, Knebworth was a triumph and it put Zep right back in the spotlight.

Q: The centrepiece of the book is the first hand recollections from fans that were there – how did you go about collating this feedback?

DL:  Zep at Knebworth was almost as much about the fans as it was the performances. My objective was to mirror that fact, and to that end I put out a request on the TBL web site for fans to send in their recollections and experiences from being out in the field. The response was excellent, and these first hand accounts form the core of the book.

From these recollections, you can detect the air of wonder that this event created. For many young rock fans it was there first gig and the first (and in most cases last) opportunity to see Zeppelin perform live. The prospect of how the band would fare in the post punk musical climate of the day proved irresistible.  The fans faced long coach journeys, primitive camping facilities, poor sanitary conditions and long queues for food and drink. Not to mention a very mediocre support bill. Reading through them, it’s evident the esteem Zep were held in at the time. There’s over thirty such reminisces – all very vivid, some humorous, some quite moving.  It tells the story of much simpler days. Zep at Knebworth was not the corporate affair that today’s big festival gatherings have become. There was innocence about it all.

Q: Can you provide an insight into some of these recollections?

DL Well without giving too much away, there’s a view of the band’s second warm up show in Copenhagen as told by a then 15 year old fan….an hilarious and superbly written account of one young lady fans quest to see if Jimmy was at home at his Boleskine Highland address the week before Knebworth. As for the two Knebworth shows, tales include stories such as how one guy averted a potential  flooding of the site by fixing two large hoses together that were causing water to slide into the crowd. There’s the innocent fan who was baffled by the repeated cries of ‘Wally’’ at the campsite  thinking it might be some new drug or obscure Zep song title (It’s actually an old English rock festival tradition).The enterprising fans from the North East who hired their own coach to get to and from the show, a moving account of the two Canadian fans who won a radio contest to fly over and ended up getting a name check from Robert Plant on stage with their request for Zep to play Trampled Underfoot (‘’This is a little up tempo ditty we’ve been asked to do by some people in Vancouver’’). Then there’s the rather unfortunate story of a young lady who took a short cut coming out of the show and ended up quite literally in the s***. All this for the love of Led Zeppelin!

Q: What can you reveal about the photo content of the book?

DL: Again what I’ve tried to do is offer a fans angle of the event so there is a good sprinkling of shots taken by fans at the time. These really capture the atmosphere of it all. They encapsulate everything from the setting up of the stage, through the August 2nd soundcheck, to shots of the crowd assembling. There’s lots of denim and hair prevalent of course. Despite the punk explosion, looking at the crowd photos you realise that in 1979 it was rock music that still very much held sway. As for photos of Zep on stage, again I’ve tapped into fans archives. There’s also extensive use of the Knebworth photo collection of Alan Perry who took some very good shots from both weeks.

Q: The book contains your original review from the Tight But Loose magazine, how do you look back on that?

DL: There’s no denying it’s a rose tinted view but maybe that’s not too surprising. Back then I was 22 year old and my whole world revolved around Zeppelin. I lived and breathed it, so Knebworth was a very big deal. My Zep magazine Tight But Loose was in its infancy and obviously I wanted to offer extensive coverage in the next issue. The review of the August 4th show was a virtual transcript of the tape I had, complete with Plant’s in between patter. I’m not the only one I’m sure who can still reel off verbatim whole chunks of what he said on stage. I arrived early on the morning of August 2nd with the prospect of a 60 hour wait before they came on stage.

It’s a shame however that I missed out on spreading the TBL word. In the desperate rush to get near the stage as the gates went down at 4am during the first gig, I dropped the leaflets I had printed up to hand out in the crowd. Not a great marketing move!

Q: Knebworth has always been something of a controversial episode in Zep’s history. Not least because of the disagreements between promoter Freddy Bannister and Peter Grant. Does the book chronicle that?

DL: I do touch on the controversy of the attendance figures. Clearly there was a problem with Peter Grant and Freddie Bannister which has been addressed in other books–notably Freddy’s own autobiography.

I also document the whole build up to the event and the aftermath to offer a clear focus on the state of play within the band at the time. As I state in the introduction, it was a very different Led Zeppelin that approached the Knebworth shows to the one that walked off stage after the triumphant Earls Court shows four years earlier. The setbacks and tragedies had taken their toll.  In undertaking a comeback of Knebworth size proportions they had a lot to lose. That air of expectancy was very tangible leading up to the first show.

Q: Who else has contributed to the book?

DL: As I mentioned, the renowned rock photographer Ross Halfin has written a foreword which documents his experiences in shooting the second show. Chris Charlesworth, one time Melody Maker writer and one of the few journalists accepted into the Zep camp, has contributed a very perceptive opening preface overview.

There’s also an engrossing interesting retro view of the whole Knebworth episode from the perspective of an American fan Larry Bergmann. Zep was still a massive deal over there in the late 1970s – there was no punk rock explosion to harm them and In Through The Out Door was a massive seller and number one for weeks. It was sighted as being something of a saviour to the flagging US music industry at the time. So it’s good to gain a view of how it all appeared from across the water.

Q: What’s your take on the In Through The Out Door album – isn’t it generally viewed as one of their weaker albums?

DL: It probably is viewed that way. There is some filler notably Hot Dog, but overall I think it still had enough high points to make it a successful record.

It certainly carries a high level of John Paul Jones led invention, which for a band in their eleventh year was pretty admirable. This is evident on the likes of Fool In The Rain and Carouselambra.  Tracks such as In the Evening, All My Love and I’m Gonna Crawl have also all stood the test of time well. As Nick Kent at the NME commented in his review of the time, the good qualities were worthy of investigation. He stated ‘’There are potential points of departure on this album that deserve following through. The doctor orders a period of intense activity.’’ It’s just a shame they never got an opportunity to heed such advice.

Q: There are some interesting Knebworth period interviews given by Robert Plant and John Paul Jones transcribed in the book. Wasn’t one of these going to be a promo interview album?

DL: That’s right – it was an interview conducted by J. J.Jackson, a long time supporter of the band. He interviewed Robert and Jonesy after the second Knebworth show and there was a plan to put this interview out as a promo interview album to promote In Through The Out Door in the US. A sleeve was mocked up and a title set ‘’Robert Plant and John Paul Jones Talk About Led Zeppelin Past Present And Future’’ . For reasons unknown it was cancelled.  A handful of covers are known to exist and at lest one promo pressing. The book provides the opportunity to hear the contents of what is regarded as one of the rarest Zep albums.

Q: Wasn’t there a similar situation with a planned Knebworth commemorative single?

DL: Again that’s correct.  In the UK, Jimmy had the idea of issuing two tracks Wearing And Tearing coupled with Darlene both of which were left off In Through The Out Door. This would have been pressed as single to be made available exclusively at the Knebworth shows. Time ran out on that idea and the tracks eventually surfaced on the Coda album in 1982. Ironically Wearing And Tearing was a high energy speed rocker that might have given the punks a run for their money at the time.

Q: What does the appendix sections in the book offer?

DL: This area will certainly interest keen Zep collectors. Graeme Hutchinson has drawn up an extensive list of the bootleg LPs, CD’s and DVD’s that have emerged from the shows. Bootlegs have always played a part in any era of the Zep story and Knebworth is no exception. The lengthy nature of the set list lent itself conveniently to be packaged on multi CD sets and subsequently the two Knebworth shows have been extensively bootlegged. In fact Graeme logs over eighty different vinyl, CD and DVD unofficial releases.

On the same lines, UK collector Nick Anderson also offers a comprehensive and fully illustrated worldwide In Through The Out Door discography. This includes details of the differing promo pressings that came out and the singles that were issued from the album. There’s also am appendix on memorabilia from the Knebworth event honing in on the Brian Knapp Collection, which includes the shirt Jimmy wore at both shows and the violin bow he used with laser effects during his guitar solo showpiece.

Q: When is the book available?

DL: It’s being launched at a special 30th anniversary fan get together at the Lytton Arms Knebworth on Saturday August 8th. I thought it would be quit fitting to stage the launch back at the exact location where all this history unfolded. The Lytton Arms pub is just a few minutes walk from the Knebworth House estate. On the day there will be various Knebworth video playbacks, tribute band Boot Led Zeppelin will be doing a special acoustic set and I’ll be signing copies of the book. There will also be guest speakers spots/quiz/ charity raffle etc. Entry by pre admission only is £10 including buffet (full details go to see

The first run is a strictly limited hardback edition individually numbered and signed by the author.

Q: Where do you think the book’s appeal lies?

DL: Well it will certainly appeal to anyone who attended either of the Knebworth shows – on a nostalgic level it’s an affectionate reminder of the way thing were in that field all of thirty years ago.

For Zep fans that have come on board since, or were elsewhere at the time it provides the opportunity to find out what it was all about. The many aspects that the book covers: from the build up through to the gigs themselves, the aftermath, the interviews of the time, and of course the fan recollections – all adds up to what I hope is an engaging read that chronicles the final days of Led Zeppelin and the simpler times of the last great festival gatherings of the 1970s.

One thing’s for certain – this time there’s no sleeping bags required.

Q: You also have a new issue of the Tight But Loose magazine due out soon.

DL: The new issue is due late summer – we focus on another major anniversary, as it’s 40 years ago Zep were first conquering America and there’s an extensive feature by Zep archivist Mike Tremaglio looking back to the summer of ’69 when the band were on the US summer festival circuit. There’s also more coverage of Knebworth, plus news of It Might Get Loud, the new documentary film Jimmy Page has participated in with Jack White and The Edge. So yes that’s more Zep related reading to bring fans closer to their music.

To paraphrase what they used to say about Sinatra, it’s Led Zeppelin’s world – we just live in it…

Then As It Was – Led Zeppelin At Knebworth

30 Years Gone (Tight But Loose Publishing ISBN 978-0-9540764-2-9) is available from August 8th 2009

For further information:

For information on how to obtain the Led Zeppelin Tight But Loose magazine (new issue due soon) visit

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