Dave Lewis, the editor of long-running Led Zeppelin magazine Tight But Loose, has released a new book with co-author Mike Tremaglio which chronicles all of Led Zeppelin’s shows in exacting detail.
“Evenings With Led Zeppelin” describes itself as the “complete concert chronicle” of the band.
The 260,000-word book is available to purchase on Amazon for £33.68, and also directly through the Tight But Loose website in a personally signed and numbered limited edition of 100.
LedZepNews has bought a copy of the book, so look out for our review of it soon.
Meanwhile, Lewis kindly sent out this interview with himself and Tremaglio which was carried out by his Tight But Loose collaborator Gary Foy.
Gary Foy: What was the original concept for the book?
Dave Lewis: It initially came out of an idea to funnel Mike’s amazing Led Zeppelin research in some way. We had been collaborating for many years – in fact, Mike’s tour logs began to be a cornerstone of every TBL magazine from around 2007. I was incredibly impressed at his level of detail and archive research.
Mike Tremaglio: It’s intended to fully cover Led Zeppelin’s 12-year concert history on a gig-by-gig basis. Over the past decade-plus, the explosion of archival material, particularly newspaper archives, has provided much insight into the band’s performances across the globe. For fans who’d seen the band live it gives them the opportunity to relive it, and for fans who hadn’t seen them, the background text and countless visuals provide key insight into what the excitement was all about.
GF: How long did the book take to compile?
DL: We had the initial idea back in 2010. Mike had been plugging away for some years on forming a definitive tour itinerary. He had sent me many pages of an early format of what we would later develop into book form. I approached one or two publishers and eventually Chris Charlesworth at Omnibus became interested. It took another couple of years to get something formally accepted. From about 2014 we began formulating the concept of the book. It’s been very full on for the past three years.
I brought in TBL designer Mick Lowe to work with us. I knew Mick would understand what we were looking for visually as he had designed Mike’s tour logs in the TBL magazine.
It’s worth noting that one of the really pleasing things about the end result of the book is Mick concise design – there was a massive amount of information to present and Mick’s skills here really paid off – the gig to gig template making it easy to follow – he has done an outstanding job as the designer of the book.
I also knew Mike’s diligence in researching the concert history of Led Zeppelin was second to none. So our collective objective was to formulate a book that would chronicle the in concert performance history of Led Zeppelin in greater detail and accuracy than ever before.
We also shared the vision of illuminating the performances with summaries, reviews and comments from the time and as much relevant detail as we could come up with. Mike also made it his quest to find as many photos of the venues they played to provide the visual setting of each gig for context.
GF: Given that you both reside on different sides of the Atlantic with you Dave in Bedford and Mike over in Connecticut, was it difficult to collaborate effectively not having the luxury of meeting regularly.
DL: There has never been a problem collaborating in this way. As we know, in an internet driven world, communication is much more effective. We were constantly on email and regularly on skype to thrash out the many issues we faced along the way. What was always inspiring was that we always found ourselves singing from the same hymn sheet as it were. Our vision of what the book should, or should not be was always in harmony with each other.
All of us shared the workload. As Mike collated the concert to concert logs, I worked closely on a day to day basis with Mick Lowe at his StudioMix location in Bedford overseeing the design. The actual design was very much based on Mike’s vison of how it should look with the various images integrated. Mick and I worked on Mike’s proto layout ideas and then developed each page from there. The designed pages were then diligently checked by Mike. We went through many revisions of text and layout – particularly in the latter stages. Right up to signing it all off, we were still discovering new facts and new photos.
I have to put on record that it has been Mike’s constant intense research that has really driven this book to be what it finally has become. Without his relentless pursuits it just would not have happened. There’s no way I could have undertook this task without him. This book really is a triumph for Mike in particular – his commitment has been awe inspiring to say the least.
GF: How does this book differ from the ‘Concert File’ book which is based on a similar gig to gig log?
DL: Firstly, this book concentrates solely on the concerts Led Zeppelin performed between 1968 and 1980 plus the main reunions. Unlike the Concert File there are no studio details or solo activities chronicled.
Looking back I am extremely proud of what myself and co-author Simon Pallet achieved with the Concert File book. Simon did a great job of assessing all the tapes and bootlegs – which assisted greatly in coming up with as accurate a concert itinerary as we could.
However, much of the research was done for that book in the pre-internet days – in fact, it’s over 20 years ago that we initially worked on that. Since then, there’s been so much more to discover and through Mike’s exhaustive research, so much more information has come to the table. As a result, the concerts have been covered in much greater detail along with many more images throughout the book. Not only is the size of the book significantly larger than the original full-sized Concert File book (exactly 400 pages more), but colour pages throughout the entire book allows for the material to be presented in a larger and more visually appealing format.
This really is the Led Zeppelin story from the place they functioned best – live on stage. There’s also a major emphasis on unravelling the story in real time – and by that I mean through deploying countless reviews from the newspapers of the day, particularly the provincial ones in the US. This builds up a real perspective of how Zep were perceived at the time by the journalists of the day.
GF: Can you explain the format of the book?
DL: The early pages commence with a Prologue section that details the early performing days of the four band members. Particular emphasis is placed on each musician’s month-by-month activities in 1968, just before Jimmy Page recruited them for his new Yardbirds line up. It also focuses on the dissolution of The Yardbirds and the circumstances behind how Page selected his new bandmates – culminating in their first rehearsal together in London, August 1968.
The next 500-plus pages chronicle the 516 confirmed gigs Led Zeppelin performed between 1968 and 1980 – all with drummer John Bonham. Also included in those pages are the 90 or so shows that were either cancelled or unconfirmed. The four post-1980 appearances without John Bonham – at Live Aid in 1985, the Atlantic 40th anniversary show in 1988, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1995, and the O2 reunion in memory of Ahmet Ertegun in 2007 – are discussed in a Postscript section.
All of the band’s tours are represented with a cover page summary with the specifics of each given tour, and what it represented to their touring history. In terms of the individual concert entries we note the following:
- Support acts – who were also on the bill for each concert (or festival).
- Setlists – provided only where they can be verified with either recordings or press reviews.
- Background Info – historical context is given to each gig.
- Press Reaction – features masses of reviews from the time. For this section, we have drawn upon countless daily newspapers plus many music papers and magazines published during the 1960s and 1970s.
- Bootleg Recordings – lists the various original recording sources with associated running times for each. While we have mentioned some of the key bootleg album/CD titles, this is neither a bootleg guide nor a performance review guide. Rather, this section focuses on what makes a particular concert unique in terms of either song selection, rare features, or a “fan favorite.”
Also included for concert entries are countless images relevant to a particular gig – all with the intent to provide the reader with a feel for the concert as an “event.” Venue pics are extensively used to provide a visual setting for the gigs, along with accompanying ticket stubs, handbills, concert ads, press reviews, concert memorabilia, etc. – all designed to make each concert come alive.
There are a few of the band’s guest appearances during 1968-1980 that are included, but we have only chronicled key performances that we felt were particularly relevant – such as Jimmy Page’s appearance on the Julie Felix show in 1970. The focus of the book is firmly on Led Zeppelin concerts only.
We have also included details of a handful of unconfirmed shows, notably the infamous January 20, 1969 Wheaton Youth Center debated appearance – plus known details of the 85 or so cancelled gigs.
GF: Where does the title originate from?
DL: We had been looking for a title for a while – I remembered something Peter Grant had said to me when I interviewed him in 1993. He explained to me how he had come up with the tag line ‘Evenings With Led Zeppelin’ – it was a throwback to how they billed the old music hall acts he remembered form seeing in his youth. When we saw how many of the gig adverts and flyers carried that name it seemed a really obvious title for the book – these are the ‘Evenings With Led Zeppelin’ over 500 of them – oh and a few afternoons too…
GF: The cover has a striking photo of Led Zeppelin in their early days – how did the cover concept evolve?
DL: We went through various proto cover designs. What we really wanted was a photo of all four on stage that projected their connection with an audience – an audience evidently enjoying this particular evening with Led Zeppelin at the Boston Tea Party in May 1969.
GF: Looking at some of Dave’s recent TBL website blogs , it looks as though you were under some pressure coping with it all. Has it been something of a trail to get to the finish line?
DL: Yes there’s no doubt about that. I can say categorically that this has been the hardest challenge of my long Led Zeppelin chronicling career.
To bring this all to fruition has been a truly monumental task shared by Mike Tremaglio and Mick Lowe. For me personally, it’s been a very difficult process – as in between all this, I’ve been constantly spinning many other plates – namely the Five Glorious Nights – Led Zeppelin at Earls Court 1975 book, the production and distribution of a number of TBL magazines, the weekly collation of the TBL website updates and the Iconic Images Led Zeppelin Live 1975 – 1977 – not to mention organising the ‘Ahmet We Did it’ fan gathering in London last December.
So, all of the above has come together as I kept a close eye on the ongoing development of the Evenings With Led Zeppelin book.
This book did bring with it a number of challenges that have caused frustration, worry and stress – there were times when I felt we were never going to get through it all. In fact, I could write a book about the making of this book as there have been many twists and turns along the way. At times I’m sure our single mindedness to achieve all this has driven our nearest and dearest to despair.
The last three months in particular, have been a real slog as we sought to perfect everything with various proofreads and corrections to make this book as good as it possibly can be.
As mentioned, right up to signing it all off, we were still discovering new facts and new photos. There were some very difficult situations to deal in getting to the finishing line some of them very challenging. It was therefore all a big relief when we eventually called it a wrap in mid-June.
GF: There are a number of Zep books out there – how does this book differ and what does this book tell us that other Zep books don’t.
DL: I think the depth of information gathered offers a real perspective on what Led Zeppelin was really all about – which was playing live for as many people as possible. As I’ve said before, I’d like to think it reads as more than a mere list of dates. Within the format we adopted it does clearly illustrate all the peaks and troughs of their career: the great nights, the not so great nights, all the craziness of their travels across America and beyond.
This is no mere train spotters guide. I view the book as a result of a thirst for knowledge that paints as complete a picture as possible on the subject.
GF: Being a major reference work, is this book just for the Zep die-hards or has it got a broader appeal?
DL: While the main appeal is obviously Led Zeppelin fans, I’d say it definitely has a broader appeal. For anyone interested in the heritage of rock music and its development during the 1960s and 1970s, this book reveals much about how the touring scene evolved. As Richard Cole, Zep’s tour manager notes in the Foreword, single-act stadium concerts were a rarity back then – until Led Zeppelin made the bold move into performing to masses of fans – and with no support act.
This intensive documenting of their live appearances also reveals much about the evolution of the entertainment touring industry in the late 1960s and 1970s. It reveals that Led Zeppelin shared billing with a diverse list of acts such as The Who, Alice Cooper, Isaac Hayes, Jethro Tull, Jose Feliciano, Taj Mahal, Three Dog Night, Santana, Joe Cocker, Dr. John, Sun Ra, Grand Funk Railroad, and Johnny Winter. On festival bills they appeared alongside a virtual who’s who of historical musical artists: Janis Joplin, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry, Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Ten Years After, Chicago, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Jefferson Airplane, Jeff Beck, Blind Faith, The Guess Who, The Byrds, The Doors, Moody Blues, Bo Diddley, Steppenwolf, Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, Mothers of Invention, Sly & the Family Stone, John Mayall, Sam & Dave, Ike and Tina Turner Revue, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and many, many others.
And as we know by the many advert images we found that are reproduced – an eclectic line up of fellow artists were always swinging by in the same time frame – names such as Dusty Springfield, Liberace, Tom Jones, Glen Campbell, Richie Havens, Burt Bacharach, The Temptations, The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, etc.
As the band moved from gig to gig, there’s a vivid sense of progression and momentum. Their performances carried energy, speed and vitality, leaving stunned audiences in their wake. Following the story gig to gig, that energy and speed is more than evident as they elevate from performing to a few thousand people at the Fillmore East in New York to selling out the 20,000-capacity Madison Square Garden in the space of a mere nineteen months.
Led Zeppelin worked incredibly hard to achieve their success – particularly in their first year together. During 1969 alone, they played 150 or so concerts – roughly the same number of shows they performed in the subsequent 33 months combined.
Amongst all the detail, the sense of drama and creativity that surrounded Led Zeppelin shines through. Even the most casual fan will have come into contact with their unofficial catalogue on some level and cross referencing the music to the text will certainly add to the enjoyment of the book. There are of course many bootlegs out there to draw from if you want to hear how this all sounded.
It is worth mentioning that this is not a critique of Led Zeppelin’s performances. That format has already been very successfully employed by Luis Rey in his Tape Documentary book.
Whilst we do offer an overview and perspective of each touring period, the story really unfolds via the historical reviews of the time.
This is an extensive volume and also acts as a major reference work on the live history of one of the most important bands of all time.
GF: What have been your primary sources in researching the book?
DL: Everything and anything.
In approaching the task of logging every known Led Zeppelin concert appearance, we’ve wiped the slate clean and started afresh. Deploying hours of impeccable research spread over many years, we’ve sought to bring clarity, objectivity, authority and insight to this unique story. We’ve also strived to offer a perspective on it all.
To achieve those objectives – as mentioned, we document the setlists, provide context with insightful performance background information, and include press reaction from the times to capture the true essence and heritage of Led Zeppelin in concert.
It is worth mentioning that we also took inspiration from previous scholarly Zep chronicling by the likes of Howard Mylett, Luis Rey, Robert Godwin, Hugh Jones, Andy Adams, and Eddie Edwards.
Along the way, in collating the book we would like to acknowledge the tremendous support we received from Scott Baker, Cliff Hilliard, Sam Rapallo, and Chris Selby. Their generosity in sharing both their expertise and memorabilia cannot be overstated. Chris Charlesworth has also played a key part in editing all the text.
As for sources, we mined a whole host of vintage music papers, magazines and provincial newspapers.
MT: Countless sources were scoured for years to compile as much information about Led Zeppelin’s concerts as possible. Besides digging deep into music magazines and newspaper archives, particularly enlightening were the many rare underground newspapers that reviewed their concerts in the late 1960s and into the 1970s (the United Press Syndicate Underground Newspaper Collection comprised of almost 500 microfilm reels were extensively researched). Dozens of college and university newspapers also provided a wealth of information about the band’s gigs.
GF: What was the most difficult period of their live history to gain accurate information from?
DL: Given how many gigs they performed during their first 18 months together, that late 1968 period through to 1969 is always a challenge. Again, I have to tip my hat to Mike for his incredible research during this period. One of the key challenges with the book was to ascertain what shows they didn’t play – particularly where previous information might have indicated that they did.
If there was a doubt, Mike did his best to verify the information.
MT: The most challenging time to gather concert information on the band was the early UK dates (fall of 1968 and winter/spring 1969) since there wasn’t a lot of documentation on some of the more obscure dates.
GF: What criteria were used for being absolutely sure of your information concerning uncertain dates?
MT: Any uncertain dates were thoroughly researched to determine if the gig was actually played. If hard evidence was found (newspaper ads, articles, etc.), along with supporting anecdotal fan accounts, it allowed us to nail down certain dates.
GF: In researching the Zep tour itinerary what were some of the most significant previously undocumented gigs that came to light?
DL: Again, some of the 1969 shows that were verified.
MT: While I was writing one of my tour retrospectives for TBL several years ago, I discovered a previously undocumented Baltimore Civic Center gig on February 16, 1969 in the Baltimore Sun newspaper archives. I was also able to finally nail down the exact date for the Las Vegas Ice Palace gig as August 7, 1969 when I found an article in the Las Vegas Sun. It had previously been erroneously assigned to August 11, 1969.
GF: How many new dates do you reckon you have discovered or wrong dates corrected?
MT: Several other dates were revised based on new information that has come to light. For example, the Supershow, March 25, 1969 was rightfully moved to March 18, 1969. The band’s official work sheet for that week included this date and was corroborated by a Melody Maker article. The Toby Jug, Tolworth date was moved from April 9, 1969 to April 16, 1969 based on the timing of a Record Mirror ad. The Hampton, Virginia show of August 17, 1970 was moved to August 10, 1970 (opening night of the tour) based on newspaper ads, articles, reviews, along with a supporting handbill and ticket stub. Another key date that was moved was the Behan’s West Park impromptu appearance in December 1975. Based on press accounts, the show was performed on December 16, 1975, not December 10, 1975.
GF: How important was it to confirm the gigs they were billed to play but for one reason or another were cancelled?
MT: Very important. Being able to compile a comprehensive list of cancelled dates allows us to present the complete story in terms of their touring years. Nailing down some of the cancelled dates also allowed us to firm up the band’s actual tour itinerary.
For example, there was a purported November 16, 1968 UMIST gig on tour itineraries going back many, many years. It always seemed doubtful to me that this gig was actually played because Jimmy Page jammed with the Jeff Beck Group at Thee Image club in Miami the night before. As it turned out, I tracked down an ad for a Chris Farlowe gig at UMIST for November 16, 1968, so it seems unlikely that the band played there on that date.
Other examples of finding tangible proof of cancelled gigs going back many years include the April 18, 1969 State University of New York Jazz Festival (scheduled for Albany, New York, not NYC); the confirmation from multiple sources that the band cancelled out on the Northern California Folk-Rock Festival on May 24, 1969; the Copenhagen October 9, 1969 Tivolis Koncertsal date switched to February 28, 1970; the band cancelling their opening night of the 1970 US summer tour at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 6, 1970; the Spoon River Rock Festival in Pennsylvania on August 30, 1970 cancellation; a proposed gig with Sly & the Family Stone slated for the University of Arizona Stadium on April 24, 1971 cancelled; and two Oslo, Norway dates (March 10, 1973 & November 11, 1975) cancelled. Also covered extensively are the cancelled shows on the 1975, 1977, and 1980 US tours, among many other cancelled dates.
GF: This might be a timely moment to ask whether you have established if they did or did not they play that much rumoured and discussed show at the Wheaton Youth Center in early 1969?
DL: I know Mike went to great lengths to get to the bottom of this mystery.
MT: Unfortunately, there still is no definitive proof confirming that this gig was actually played. Filmmaker Jeff Krulik who produced a documentary titled “Led Zeppelin Played Here” discovered a November 20, 1970 article in The Spur, the Montgomery Junior College newspaper that featured promoter Barry Richards. It mentioned that Richards had presented the concert at the Wheaton Youth Center in 1968 (sic) before “a pitiful turnout of only 200 people.” Other than some local fan accounts, that’s the only tangible “proof” that the gig was played. It’s worth noting that a concert performed at the venue four days later by The Expectations was advertised in the Washington Times, but no such ad exists for the Led Zeppelin concert.
GF: Pictorially, have you unearthed many rare photos and images?
DL: Indeed we have – and this is without doubt another of the books strengths.
Again, Mike has tapped into his intensive research archive to produce an array of original concert adverts, posters, flyers, etc., from the time and venue photos. This really brings the text alive as it demonstrates how they were promoted all throughout their career.
As for photos, Mike and I have gone to great lengths to unearth as many rare photos as possible. Examples of this include some incredible photos from Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in May 1969, Chicago’s Kinetic Playground shows in July and October 1969, Helsinki 1970, MSG, NYC 1970, Odense, Denmark 1971, Orlando 1971, Hamburg 1973, San Francisco 1973, St. Louis 1977, Landover 1977, and many, many more.
We have also been responsible for the photo research – Mike again has done an amazing job in securing some rarely seen photos and we had much support in this area from the likes of Larry Ratner, Stuart Whitehead and Dan Cuny to name but three of many.
I have to put on record that it has been Mike Tremaglio’s constant intensive research that has really driven this book to be what it finally has become. Without his relentless pursuits it just would not have happened. There is no way I could have undertook this task without him. This book really is a triumph for Mike in particular – his commitment, attention to detail and sheer diligence has been awe-inspiring to say the least. He also been a joy to work with. We were always singing from the same hymn sheet…
The internet is incredibly populated now with Zep photos so it can be difficult coming up with something fresh and rarely seen. We have endeavoured to illustrate the book with as many rarely seen images as we could search out.
GF: Looking over the text how would you summarise their development over the years – commencing with those early touring dates in 1968-1969?
DL: What is really apparent as you turn the pages is how quickly they elevated from the blues based post psych Yardbirds influences of their early tours. Within twelve months they had really developed their own identity. This is really personified on performances such as the Lyceum show in October 1969 and the subsequent Fall US tour.
By early 1970 with the input of new songs from Led Zeppelin II, the variety and vitality of their set was just amazing. Obviously as each album appeared their repertoire expanded.
As we all know via those many bootlegs, Led Zeppelin as a live band was an extraordinarily dynamic unit. From the very beginning, no two performances were alike. Such was the creative spark between the four outstanding musicians that the basic structures of their songs were repeatedly reworked, extended and improvised on, making their studio counterparts almost unrecognisable.
“The beauty of playing in the band,” Jimmy Page reflected in a recent interview, “was that when we went onstage we never actually knew what was going to go on within the framework of the songs. They were constantly changing. New parts would come in on the night. The spontaneity was on the level of ESP, which meant it was always exciting.”
It was this air of unpredictability within their performances which made Led Zeppelin such an engrossing live act throughout their career. Their original ten studio albums may represent one of the biggest selling and most influential back catalogues of all time – but they were only part of the story. “To me the records were just a starting point,” recalls John Paul Jones. “The most important thing was always the stage show. So many great nights. At our worst we were still better than most. At our best we could just wipe the floor with the lot of them. It was just a very good live band.”
As Peter Grant observed, Led Zeppelin stopped giving mere concerts – their appearances were events. But they were also often less than perfect musically. Working spontaneously, there was always the risk that it could all go wrong. The fact is on any given night they could be incredibly inconsistent. As Robert Plant acknowledges: “We often used to take off and get lost. We were quite ramshackle at the best of times. People who tell you we were always good or always bad are wrong. It was always on a wing and a prayer.” Walking a tight musical tightrope was all just part of the attraction.
GF: What would you single out as the key performances?
DL: From the early days I would point to their early US 1969 appearances – for example, those dates at the Fillmore West & Winterland in April were a real watershed. The BBC One Night Stand recording from June 27 is another early milestone. The Royal Albert Hall in January 1970 which was captured on film. Moving through the years, the 1970 Bath Festival was a momentous occasion for them and they really pulled that off. The Los Angeles Forum night in 1970 that became immortalised on the vinyl bootleg Live On Blueberry Hill as I mentioned.
Then the whole of the Japanese tour in 1971. There was such a spontaneity about their playing at that period. Thanks to the How The West Was Won live album we can all hear in crystal clarity how on top of their game they were in the summer of 1972. From the same era, the June 19, 1972 show in Seattle was quite something. They premiered four new songs and one of them ‘Dancing Days’ they even performed twice! In 1973 their sheer instrumental prowess is superbly captured on the tape of their March 16 Vienna show.
Moving to the latter era, as I mentioned the increased depth of their repertoire gave them the scope to really stretch out and expand. Unsurprisingly, given I was there, I’d point to Earl’s Court and in particular the final night on May 25 as the best example of that. The expansiveness of the set list was so impressive.
It’s not everybody’s opinion, but for me Zeppelin worked best on the big arena. The whole dynamic of the band was built for grandiosity. Jimmy’s vast plangent riffs, Plant’s flamboyant front man persona , JPJ’s musicianship and Bonzo’s hammerings – that all lent itself best to the bigger stage. And that is definitely best captured in 1975.
In hindsight the US tour in 1977, while a source of great fascination for the whole out of control on the road Zeppelin excess, musically was vastly erratic. The set list I think expanded to unmanageable lengths. That said, the LA Forum shows in June contained many magic moments and the June 21 Listen To This Eddie bootleg remains an outstanding remnant of that era.
I personally also love the Knebworth shows – I think they gained in stature after the footage that emerged on the 2003 official Zep DVD was so good. I think it stands up as vital nights in their history. Perhaps the last really great events. The final Over Europe trek in 1980 was a genuine attempt to scale the operation down and the enthusiasm and sense of rejuvenation is well evident on the second show in Cologne.
MT: There are so many great shows throughout their entire career, that it is a near impossible task to single out just a few. Dave has touched upon some of the key shows, and I would certainly agree with his assessment. Besides those shows, some of my favourite performances were in cities where Zeppelin consistently performed great concerts, particularly Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle, and Montreux, Switzerland.
GF: Much has been written recently about Zeppelin’s final years – how would you assess their latter era touring days?
DL: Well the spirit was willing that’s for sure, but I think the whole physical and mental state of the band took its toll. Knebworth was such an emotional comeback and it worked on many levels, but if you analyse the set list it was very much based on the 1977 performances. Performing only two tracks off a new album would be unheard of in today’s touring climate. You have to ask why they did not attempt the likes of ‘Carouselambra’, ‘I’m Gonna Crawl’ and ‘Fool In The Rain’. I’d have swapped those tracks for say ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’, ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ and ‘No Quarter’ at Knebworth.
Over Europe was a brave and intelligent move to scale it all down, though the physical state of the band was still in doubt. Basically what was really missing in those years was sheer match practice. Had they been strong enough to undertake say the touring schedule of 1971/2 well then I think those years would have produced very different and superior results.
GF: If they had kept going how do you think Led Zeppelin would have fared in the 1980s?
DL: It’s a difficult question. I think there was a lack of total commitment on Robert’s part during those final days, understandably really what with all the misfortune and tragedy. That said, had they gone to the USA and rekindled their love affair with the American audiences it may well have inspired them into a whole burst of creativity. A 1981 studio album could have been very interesting and we know Jimmy was keen to get back to the harder edge riff-based material. Something like ‘Who’s To Blame’ which Jimmy used for the Death Wish 2 soundtrack with its descending riffing would certainly have lit up a Zeppelin album had they still been functioning.
I’m also sure they would have embraced the video age, adopting their artistic leanings in that area and moving with the times. I would guess the need for solo projects would have occurred too, though not at the expense of the band itself. It was too much of a creative force to fizzle out. Despite everything, there’s enough evidence during their final 12 months that Zeppelin still had new places to take their music.
GF: As you mentioned earlier, the book includes many historical reviews. It’s fair to say they were often misinterpreted in the press – were there many bizarre reviews that you came across?
DL: The media reaction to these concerts was sometimes supportive, often negative, and on occasions downright beguiling. The fact that even the promoters of their gigs often misspelt their name – during 1969 they were erroneously billed as Len Zefflin, Led Zeptlin, Lead Zeppelin and Led Zepplin to name a few, was clear indication of the confusion and indifference they often faced in their early touring days.
They certainly didn’t get off to a good start with the press; a review of their December 28, 1968 Vancouver show in The Columbian newspaper noted that – and I quote – “The singer was a farce. His Mick Jagger singing style, tossing his head from side to side and strutting about the stage, left me quite cold. In short, Led Zeppelin went over like a lead balloon.” It did get better after that!
In reprinting original reviews from many of the national and provincial newspapers of the day, a sense of the sheer mystery and wonder that critics were faced with becomes very apparent.
GF: You have a Foreword written by Richard Cole – how important do you think his role was as their Tour Manager?
DL: Very important – in his own way Richard Cole, Peter Grant’s assistant on the road, forged a legacy of his own that didn’t fall far short of his mentor. Richard had earned his reputation by working on the road with the likes of The Who – driving Keith Moon and John Entwistle to gigs – and The New Vaudeville band, and it was while working with the latter that he came into contact with Grant. Richard also worked with The Jeff Beck Group and Terry Reid, Page’s first choice for the role of singer in the group that became Zeppelin.
Having also worked with The Yardbirds tours, he was the natural choice of tour manager when Led Zeppelin formed in late 1968, the perfect wingman for Grant. He adopted the same no-nonsense approach to getting the job done, and his skill at overseeing the set-up of each gig was a masterclass of touring logistics that set an industry benchmark.
Of course, we should also mention Peter Grant was absolutely crucial to their success. In managing the band he virtually rewrote the entire rule book of how to successfully maintain an act’s career. We duly acknowledge both their roles in a final section in the book.
GF: Which shows during their career stand out for you personally?
DL: Obviously the ones that I was lucky enough to be in attendance at – Empire Pool Wembley in 1971, Ally Pally ’72, Earls Court, Knebworth, five in Europe in 1980 – and the magnificent O2 reunion show which exceeded all expectations. One thing I did not see that I wish I had was a US concert – which Mike did in 1977.
MT: From a personal standpoint, the answer to this question is quite obvious to me – it’s the one and only time I was able to experience the magic first hand at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 7, 1977. The memories of this show are permanently embedded into my brain, as I was finally able to see them in the flesh. After the disappointment of missing them on the 1975 US tour, as I was unable to secure tickets, being able to acquire tickets via a New York Times ad for the 1977 gig was beyond exciting. Listening to bootlegs of the show is one thing, but being able to experience and remember that opening night at the Garden so vividly, so many years later, is another thing entirely. Just the anticipation and excitement of Zeppelin’s return to New York was something to behold. It was truly magical.
GF: In writing the book has it prompted you to reappraise certain performances and touring eras?
DL: Yes, it certainly has. For me the intensity of their early touring days has prompted a return to listening to some of the key 1969 concerts again. Any Zep fan reading the book will I’m sure want to revisit some of their bootlegs again as they wade through the book. In fact, that is another enjoyable aspect of the book –readers can dip back into it at will to reinvestigate certain touring periods.
GF: Which individual live tracks best represent Led Zeppelin’s live prowess?
DL: During their first 18 months on the road they cleverly interwove the basic recorded material from the first two albums with additional impromptu jams. Early examples of this included the long jam on Garnet Mimms’ ‘As Long As I Have You’, employed on many of their 1969 shows, the medley of numbers to be found within ‘How Many More Times’ and an improvised jam session in the middle of ‘Communication Breakdown’. Then there was ‘Dazed And Confused’, Page’s late Yardbirds remnant that by 1970 was developing into a marathon 20-minute opus with differing sections, including the violin bow episode and a call and response battle between Page and Plant.
The Whole Lotta Love medley was always an engrossing close to their set. It really could take them anywhere. Take for instance the March 20, 1975 performance in Vancouver. In the space of three minutes just before Jimmy Page’s Theremin solo, Robert Plant initially leads them through a spontaneous version of James Brown’s ‘Licking Stick’ which incorporates their own funk rhythm from the Houses Of The Holy track ‘The Crunge’. He follows that with a random war cry from the Led Zeppelin III opener ‘Immigrant Song’. And then with equal spontaneity the Jones, Bonham & Page rhythm section interlock for a riff sequence that would be recalled some three years later for the track ‘Ozone Baby’ which eventually saw the light of day on the Coda album. That onstage spontaneity is what made them such an engrossing live act.
From the same era, their marathon performances of No Quarter was just full of captivating improvisation.
GF: Let’s talk about the bootlegs. How important are the bootlegs to the Zep story?
DL: Very important indeed – in fact, essential. Bootlegs and Led Zeppelin have been synonymous for over three decades. Despite manager Peter Grant’s heavy-handedness when dealing with those he caught taping their shows, the band became the most bootlegged act of all time, outstripping even The Beatles, Dylan, Springsteen and the Stones. Their final seven shows in the UK alone (five at Earls Court and two at Knebworth) account for over 100 different releases between them. Just about every known amateur recording of the band’s live gigs has made it onto CD. Given the length of their stage shows, the CD format, with its 80-minute playing time, is tailor-made for presenting Zeppelin in concert, but even before the flood of CD titles that emerged in the early 1990s there was no shortage of vinyl Led Zeppelin bootlegs.
The Tight But Loose magazine has carried reports on Led Zeppelin bootlegs since its inception. As far back as the handwritten first edition I was enthusiastically reviewing the then recently issued vinyl bootleg Ballcrusher which documented their BBC In Concert show. Issue number two carried an extensive report on Live On Blueberry Hill which was already a legendary bootleg album.
Whatever the legal standpoints of such releases, searching out their bootleg recordings is a necessity for every serious Zep fan. Their studio albums only hinted at the creativity the group were capable of. It was on stage in live action that Led Zeppelin really excelled.
To analyse it further, their impact on the initial American tours made them a prime target for the emerging bootleg recording business. The bands’ skill at extending and improvising on their studio record repertoire elevated their live shows to something very different from playing their albums.
As mentioned, despite the long shadow of Peter Grant (he also once destroyed the equipment of a noise pollution expert, thinking it was bootleg recording gear at a 1971 Zep show in Vancouver), their expanding reputation as a live act ensured a steady stream of vinyl issued during the 1970s with titles such as Mudslide, Going To California, BBC Broadcasts, Earls Court and many more on labels such as TMQ, The Swingin’ Pig, Amazing Kornyphone, and Smilin’ Ears.
After the band’s demise, a steady stream of vinyl releases appeared on labels such as Toasted/Condor and Rock Solid in a variety of coloured vinyl issues and extensive multi disc packages such as the box set Strange Tales From The Road and the rare 70 disc vinyl set The Final Option.
The real explosion, however, occurred with the advent of the CD format.
In recent years, the advent of online downloading and file sharing has curtailed the demand for physical bootleg product – though there are still plenty of packaged titles appearing out of Japan. Many are repackaged versions of earlier tapes, some with minor improvements in quality. There have been some exceptions, notably the appearance of a series of 1975 and 1977 soundboard tapes.
Of course, there is much speculation regarding what Jimmy Page may seek out from their archive for official releases to mark their 50th anniversary. Rumours of multi-track recordings from Japan 1971 are rife and the prospect of yet more live material being officially released is a mouth-watering one.
GF: What would you list as the essential Zep bootlegs?
DL: That is obviously a personal choice but there are some really essential ones:
- April 27, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, California
- August 31, 1969 Texas International Pop Festival, Lewisville, Texas
- January 9, 1970 Royal Albert Hall, London, England
- September 4, 1970 Live On Blueberry Hill, The Forum, Inglewood, California
- September 14, 1971 Going To California, Community Theatre, Berkeley, California
- September 23, 1971 Budokan, Tokyo, Japan.
- September 29, 1971 Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan.
- June 19, 1972 Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle, Washington
- March 16, 1973 Stadthalle, Vienna, Austria
- June 2, 1973 Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, California
- February 14, 1975 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, New York
- March 21, 1975 Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle, Washington
- May 24, 1975 To Be A Rock And Not To Roll, Earls Court Arena, London, England
- May 25, 1975 When We Were Kings, Earls Court Arena, London, England
- April 27 & 28, 1977 The Destroyers, Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio
- June 21, 1977 Listen To This Eddie, The Forum, Inglewood, California
- June 23, 1977 For Badgeholders Only, The Forum, Inglewood, California
- August 4 & 11, 1979 Knebworth Festival, Stevenage, England
- June 29, 1980 Tour Over Europe, Hallenstadion, Zurich, Switzerland
- July 7, 1980 Eissporthalle, Berlin, Germany (final show with John Bonham)
GF: Mike is there any you would add to that?
MT: Besides the shows that Dave has already listed above, here are some other personal favourites:
- April 24, 1969 Fillmore West, San Francisco, California
- April 26, 1969 Winterland, San Francisco, California
- March 7, 1970 Casino, Montreux, Switzerland
- September 19, 1970 Madison Square Garden, New York City (evening show)
- August 7, 1971 Casino, Montreux, Switzerland
- August 31, 1971 Orlando Sports Stadium, Orlando, Florida
- October 9, 1972 Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan
- January 22, 1973 Southampton University, Southampton, England
- March 24, 1973 Ortenauhalle, Offenburg, Germany
- May 31, 1973 Bonzo’s Birthday Party, The Forum, Inglewood, California
- July 17, 1973 Seattle Center Coliseum, Seattle, Washington
- February 12, 1975 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
- June 7, 1977 Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
- July 24, 1979 Falkoner Teatret, Copenhagen, Denmark
The above recordings exist in many different CD configurations.
GF: Has writing the book changed your perception of Led Zeppelin in any way?
DL: It has in so much that during the collating of it all – their achievements as a touring band become even more apparent. It has also brought home the sense of honesty they projected – both in their music onstage and how they conducted themselves. They were totally committed to always trying to give the best performance they could – often, as is revealed in the book, under the most trying of circumstances.
GF: Has the book turned out the way you envisaged it?
DL: Definitely – all the key objectives we set out with have been achieved. It’s been a very intensive process that has come together over many years and countless hours of work to get it right. I have been involved in writing numerous Led Zeppelin books, but I can honestly say this one has been by far the most challenging.
Looking over the near 600 pages, it really is does feel incredibly fulfilling to have completed such a project. As is said before, this is a triumph for Mike in particular. It’s his single minded mission to attain such an accurate portrayal of this story that has constantly inspired me.
In terms of what has been achieved between us – this really is one of the best Led Zeppelin book project I’ve been involved in.
MT: The most gratifying part of writing “Evenings With Led Zeppelin” is that we were able to accomplish exactly what we intended to do when we started together on this very long journey. I believe our single-minded vision and the commitment we made to producing this book comes across on every single page.
GF: What do you think readers of the book will draw from it?
DL: Certainly the sense of rapid movement and growth of the band from their earliest days through to their elevation as the world’s greatest live rock attraction. It’s a steep curve that just gets more fascinating as it goes on – and all illustrated with rare images and photos that bring the story alive.
MT: I think readers will have a more complete perspective of the various stages of the band’s in concert career. Between concert reviews from the time and all the images associated with each gig, they’ll be able to better understand each concert as a musical event in itself.
GF: Final thoughts…
DL: When we undertook this challenge, none of us could have envisaged the amount of hours it would need to complete. It seemed to take on a life of its own as it evolved into a much larger work than we initially planned in size, page count and content.
We are all immensely proud of Evenings With Led Zeppelin, especially since we have tackled such a difficult project and managed to pull it all off. Reviewing the final proofs made us realize that the book is exactly what we had intended in the first place – and that’s very rewarding.
Of course, this will not be the only book on the market place come the autumn – a fair few are planned not least the official Led Zeppelin By Led Zeppelin book. There is no intention here to rival that publication – indeed the official book will be a must read and we are all going to revel in that one.
We certainly view it as an important historical document – a very substantial volume at that. One that seeks to set the record straight on the story of their live in concert history – and in doing so enlightens and entertains every person that reads it.
There is a huge sense of fulfilment at what we have achieved.
For me personally, this book feels like the culmination of many years dedication and passion to the cause. It feels like a book I really needed to be involved in and produce – because fundamentally it reminds me of the reason I believe in it all still – my memories of the 15 occasions I have been lucky enough to see Led Zeppelin live on stage – coupled with so many vivid listening experiences via the many bootleg albums, cassettes and CD’s – this book has been an outlet for me to express my gratitude in print to the Led Zeppelin live legacy.
It all adds up to being the onstage heritage of Led Zeppelin as never before chronicled in one volume. We think it makes for some fascinating reading –and we believe this book to be the most accurate log of Led Zeppelin live appearances ever assembled in one volume, and of course we hope all readers of the book will agree.
Ultimately, we have attempted to present a book that will appeal on many levels.
To the many fans who’d witnessed Led Zeppelin back in their touring heyday there’s the opportunity to relive it again. To the countless fans who never had the opportunity to see the band in person, we offer a front row seat to experience each concert performance via period reviews, concert memorabilia and photos.
To anyone interested in rock history – this is one band’s development chronicled as never before.
Initial reaction to the book has been fantastic. Andy Adams, a hugely influential and respected commentator on all things Led Zep, had many positive comments in his highly complementary review on his Celebration Days Facebook group/To be A Rock blog :
“First impressions are simply this – stunning. Weighing in at a hefty 576 pages, it really is special. From the incisive foreword by Zeppelin tour manager Richard Cole, it immediately becomes compelling.”
“The detail and the passion is what sets this book apart.”
“The text is not dry and unerring. Dave and Mike have made it interesting, alive and beguiling. Unlike so many reference books that leave me cold and read like a phone book, this is bright and sparkles.”
“This book is an utter triumph, a vast pool of knowledge and amongst the finest publications on ANY band, let alone those myriad of tomes about Led Zeppelin. Very few books are completely essential. This is…”
We had a couple of highly successful launches for the book – on September 28 at the Festival of Sound Hi Fi event in Hammersmith London and two days later at the TBL Led Zeppelin 50th Anniversary fan gathering event at The Atlas pub in Fulham.
We were able to reiterate emphatically that it was onstage where Led Zeppelin functioned best, and Evenings With Led Zeppelin demonstrates that at the turn of every page.
Like I said, we think we have created something very special with this book – a book that will appeal to anyone interested in the concert history of the greatest live attraction of their times – as Richard Cole astutely acknowledges in his Foreword “They were the last of the giants and they still loom ever large – in fact, even now they seem bigger than anyone else.’’