Led Zeppelin History – April 21

Today in 1998 Jimmy Page and Robert Plant released their second post-Zeppelin album together, Walking Into Clarksdale. (Clarksdale is a Mississippi delta-area town known for its blues music history.)

Track List:
Shining in the Light
When the World Was Young
Upon a Golden Horse
Blue Train
Please Read the Letter
Most High
Heart in Your Hand
Walking into Clarksdale
Burning Up
When I Was a Child
House of Love
Sons of Freedom

“Most High” and “Shining in the Light” were released as singles, with a music video also done for “Most High”. In 1998 “Most High” also won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. If “Please Read the Letter” sounds like a more recent title to you, it’s probably because Plant re-recorded the song with Alison Krauss for their 2007 collaboration album Raising Sand. This re-recording won the Record Of The Year award at the 2008 Grammys.

Led Zeppelin History – April 20

Today in 1974 Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham made a cameo appearance in the UK film Son of Dracula, along with Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, Peter Frampton and Harry Nilsson. Bonham, Moon and Frampton played musicians; Bonham played drums in Count Downe’s (Nilsson) backing band. Storyline: Due to be crowned King of the Netherworld by his mentor Merlin the Magician (Starr) at a monster’s convention, Count Downe (Nilsson), the son of Count Dracula, falls in love with the beautiful but human Amber and finds himself in conflict with Baron Frankenstein, who is vying for the same honorary title. The movie (tagline: “The First Rock-and-Roll Dracula Movie!”) was poorly received, and remains unavailable to this day on either VHS or DVD.

Led Zeppelin History – April 15

Today in 1977 Led Zeppelin’s show in the St. Louis Arena was almost cancelled when a member of the audience started shooting bottle rockets at the start of the show, and hit Jimmy Page in the chest with one. The group left the stage but finally came back out when the crowd got so upset that a riot almost broke out. They performed no encore, however.

Setlist: The Song Remains The Same, The Rover (intro), Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter, Ten Years Gone, Battle of Evermore, Going to California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer ~ Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Out On the Tiles (intro), Moby Dick, Jimmy Page solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway to Heaven.

Led Zeppelin History – April 13

Today in 1970 Zeppelin played the Montreal Forum in Montreal, Canada. The 17,500 fans set a new attendance record, and Zeppelin grossed $93,000. But it sounds like the reviewer just didn’t get it; the review wasn’t exactly glowing…

The Montreal Forum and promoter Donald K. Donald probably established two new records last night: approximately 17,500 people (the largest crowd yet) paid their way into the Forum to hear Led Zeppelin (the loudest rock group yet). And Led Zeppelin laid it on. For more than two hours, the British foursome sprayed the crowd with their painfully loud brand of blues – a harsh, frantic sound achieved through the combined efforts of John Bonham on drums, John Paul Jones on bass and organ, Jimmy Page on guitar and lead singer Robert Plant.

On record, Zeppelin have carved their own niche in the pop world, grounding their original blues tunes with heavy drumming and booming bass lines, topping them off with Plant’s high-pitched screech and Page’s gymnastic, highly-gimmicked freeform guitar.

The effect is stunning. Although there is a sameness to much of Zeppelin’s material, the interplay among the group has produced some fine, sensitive music. Last night, Led Zeppelin had to prove they could do it all in a live performance. They failed, but it was a splendid failure. As Robert Plant sings, “been dazed and confused for so long it’s not true”, Zeppelin did all the right things last night, but in the wrong order. The result was a concert top-heavy in technique and low on funk.

This is a group of great virtuosity, but the talent should never be allowed to overcome the music. What came across at the Forum was more expertise than honest excitement; a tired, almost automatic performance that hardly did justice to the two Zeppelin albums.

Jimmy Page is a talented guitarist. His nearly classical technique and imaginative use of electronic effects and accessories (e.g., a violin bow) gives the group its snaring sound. But last night’s guitar solos seemed vain attempts at instant orgasm, with Page sacrificing honest involvement for dazzling finger work. His intentions were clear but the music didn’t quite make it. Plant’s singing suffered much the same fate. Occasionally, and on Heartbreaker in particular, he and Page traded moaning phrases with a touch of the interplay that characterizes the best of Zeppelin’s music. But mostly, the singing seemed strained, with Plant losing the tune on more than one occasion.

If the music itself never really moved, the total sound certainly had its effect. The audience was up for this concert (it almost seemed to be the “Spring Prom” for Montreal’s music freaks) and thrilled to the sheer power of Zeppelin’s performance.

With technical assistance from the States, the Forum’s PA system never sounded stronger. No one in the building could have escaped the vibrations. As for me, I can’t hear the keys as I type this.  (H. Aronoff, Gazette, April 1970)

Led Zeppelin History – April 12

Today in 1970, while en route to Canada, Jimmy Page’s 1960 Gibson Les Paul custom “Black Beauty” was stolen. The guitar had been purchased in 1962 and was used throughout Jimmy’s session days. He had decided to take the guitar out for the 1970 Led Zeppelin tours; it can be seen on the Royal Albert Hall performance on the Led Zeppelin DVD. Photos exist of Jimmy rehearsing with the guitar backstage at the April 10 show in Miami. It was most likely played for the last time at the April 12 show in Minneapolis, since it never found its way to Canada that night. Jimmy took out an ad (below) in Rolling Stone magazine a few years afterwards (July 19, 1973), but with no luck. The guitar was eventually returned to Jimmy though, just last year, with the assistance of Facebook and a guitar collector.