Tight But Loose editor Dave Lewis on the latest issue of his magazine and 40 years of covering Led Zeppelin

(Tight But Loose)

The 44th issue of Tight But Loose magazine, the fan magazine edited by Dave Lewis, was published last week.

As always, Lewis’ magazine tracks recent events in the world of Led Zeppelin, including interviews and news as well as updates on memorabilia sales and the latest bootleg news. You can purchase the latest issue here.

LedZepNews spoke to Lewis about the new magazine, as well as his 40-year milestone of writing about Led Zeppelin.

You can read our full interview below:

LedZepNews: What’s striking about the new issue is the sheer amount of content in the magazine. There are plenty of interviews, on the spot reports on events etc. How do you go about covering it all in one place? 

Dave Lewis: As the magazine schedule is fairly flexible I was able to add the various on the spot reports as they occurred. Any issue of the TBL mag is a reflection of the past few month’s activity and in the case of issue 44, I was able to cover many of the events as they have unfolded during the 50th anniversary year.

This included the Festival Of Sound “Evenings With Led Zeppelin” book launch, the “It’s Been A Long Time” TBL 50th Anniversary gathering at The Atlas pub, attending the launch of the John Bonham Memorial in Redditch – the wonderful John Bonham Celebration Day in the same area plus The CAT Club Led Zeppelin IV event in Ponntefract  and  Robert Plant at the O2 BluesFest.

This issue does have something of a TBL on the road feel as I reported back from many of those occasions. It’s an issue that provides the opportunity to reprise the events of this past year and in doing so shines a light on the TBL community that has been honed over these past 40 years. Many readers have shared in those events – and those that were not able to do so can now catch up on it all in the magazine.

The TBL magazine is also a reflection of my own enthusiasm for the music –one I am always very keen to share. So as ever , this issue also encourages you to go back to the music: be it the remarkable Led Zeppelin debut album (see page 8) “Led Zeppelin IV” (see page 8), The “How the West Was Won” and “The Song Remains The Same” reissues (see page 5), the 1972 touring period (see pages 22 -23), a new version of the famous June 21, 1977 show (see pages 24-25) the Led Zeppelin studio outtakes bootleg catalogue and Robert Plant’s recent solo work (see page 6).

(Tight But Loose)

There are also interviews with Mark Blake and myself and Mike Tremaglio that take the readers closer to the making of the Peter Grant “Bring It On Home” and “Evenings With Led Zeppelin” books.

I never have a problem with filling the magazine with content. I have a backlog of features to use. What the mag is able to do is keep abreast of the current news but most significantly, present the heritage of Led Zeppelin through the unique content mentioned above. All this contributes to making the magazine a captivating read that will enhance the appreciation of the music for every reader.

I am particularly pleased with the coverage of the launch of the John Bonham memorial in Redditch for which Deborah Bonham gave me the only interview about how the statue came to be built. I also spoke to the man who created it, Mark Richards. Deb’s husband and guitarist Pete Bullick recently posted a very nice comment on his Facebook page which said “On our return home we find the latest issue of Tight But Loose magazine on our doorstep featuring John’s memorial on the front cover and a beautiful emotional account of the statue unveiling in Redditch’’. Those words mean a lot to me.

Overall, this is another TBL outpouring that chronicles the world of Led Zeppelin with over 35,000 words of content. As I always say, websites are for browsing – the TBL magazine is for reading time and time again. 

LedZepNews: TBL has moved to a one-issue purchase system rather than a subscription for several magazines at once. I understand that’s because you’re busy with lots of projects at the moment, could you tell us more about them? 

DL: That decision was initially led by the mammoth undertaking of the “Evenings With Led Zeppelin” book. This is the chronicle of every Led Zeppelin gig that I co-authored with Mike Tremaglio and was published last September. This has taken up an enormous amount of time during the past five years. I had to build other projects, such as the production of the TBL magazine, around it.

Being something of a one-man operation, there is always a number of plates being spun at any one time. Whilst I would love the magazine to be more regular, realistically within the other projects I undertake I can only get to producing around one magazine per year. It therefore seemed easier all round to work on a one-issue subscription – that way nobody is left waiting around for product they have paid for.

As ever, I do have various projects ahead – this includes the staging of another TBL fan gathering event at the Atlas pub in Fulham. Following on from the highly enjoyable “It’s been a Long time” TBL Led Zeppelin 50th anniversary event at the pub last September, Julian Walker and myself have singled out Sunday August 4 for our next gathering

This is of course a significant date as it will be the 40th anniversary of Led Zeppelin’s appearance at Knebworth. So we are keen to bring as many people as is possible to celebrate that milestone event.

I am also chipping away at producing a Best of TBL compendium publication – I have a wealth of unused material from the TBL magazine archive that I would like to present in some format at some point. I am also eying up a project that focuses on the collectable vinyl side of Led Zep and related catalogue – as is well known, I am a fervent collector of records so to do something in that area would be really interesting. I’d also like to chronicle my own music-related memoirs somewhere along the line.

LedZepNews: Alongside the magazine you also have the Tight But Loose website,which must be one of the longest running Led Zep websites now – how did that originate?

DL: Dave Linwood came to me with the initial idea to have a TBL website presence in 1995. He had been a long time TBL supporter and was very tech savvy. He did a fantastic job of establishing the site and ran it up to 2005. His vision was an absolute game changer in how the TBL message got out there.

Fundamentally, the internet has  made it so much easier to spread the word – simply by the many channels out there now to get your work seen. We now have blogs, forums, websites, Facebook groups, Twitter etc. Back in the 1970s it was just me and my pen!

We live in a social media driven-world and to an extent we are all slaves to it. The skill is making it work as a platform to create awareness of what TBL has to offer. Keeping on top of the TBL website, Facebook etc is pretty relentless but hugely important. Facebook in particular has been a major platform for me to drive the TBL message. The website also has a very loyal following. It’s one of my key objectives ahead to keep making that an interesting weekly hub for visitors to tap into – and ultimately drive sales of the TBL magazine and books and merchandising.

My Facebook page is also a crucial driver of the TBL message – I have over 4,500 friends on the page – many of them ardent Zep fans – it’s a great method of keeping them abreast with news and views. In terms of news gathering –TBL is affiliated to your Led Zeppelin news site and I’d like to state what a fantastic job you do in collating current Zep-related news.

LedZepNews: You mentioned record collecting – that is a big passion of yours, isn’t it?

DL: Very much so. Records as in LPs and singles are the music carrying format of my choice and they instantly re-connect me with the music that I grew up with – the music that continues to define who I am.

The first record I owned was the “Fireball XL5 theme” by Don Spencer on HMV (1962) – the first single I bought was “Pinball Wizard” by The Who and the first albums were the Island Records sampler “You Can All Join in” and Cream – “Fresh Cream” (1969). Incidentally, the first gig I attended was The Dave Clark 5 package show with The Hollies and The Kinks at Granada Cinema Bedford in April 1964. The second was Led Zeppelin at the Empire Pool in 1971.

I spent 35 years selling records etc in my retail job (1974 – 2009) and my interest in collecting records began in 1969 – so it’s been a longstanding affinity. On the player the sound is warm and open and pure – and as we all know, there’s no finer example of that recently than the Jimmy Page/John Davis remastered Led Zeppelin reissues.

Yes, CDs are more convenient and don’t get me wrong, they too are great to have – indeed I’ve got lots of the buggers – I really love Universal’s Deluxe Editions and Sony’s Legacy series and well-packaged bootlegs (of which I also have a fair few!) and I also own a variety of box set packages – David Bowie, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones to name but a few – recent additions to my box set collection include The Beatles “White Album” and the Mott The Hoople “Mental Train: The Island Years 1969 -1971” box set.

Part of Lewis' record collection
Part of Lewis’ record collection

As has been chronicled, in recent years my vinyl collecting has reached new highs and I am certainly not alone – Mr Jimmy Page himself explained his record collecting bug to me in the interview I conducted with him for TBL 38 in October 2014.

The dialogue went like this:

DL: I know one of your great pastimes is record shopping. What inspired you to get back to collecting LPs again?

JP: Like you!

DL: Indeed!

JP: Probably when my children grew up … because what doesn’t mix is children and vinyl! All of us fathers know this. When our vinyl is in easy reach and becomes in easy reach of children. Children and vinyl don’t mix, so I kept having to shift it up a level. Then it got put away, and then there was separation, divorce or whatever. So, once I got back into my own space Dave, I thought ‘Right, I’m going to get my records out and I’m going to listen to them again’. It’s like meeting old friends again and ‘Yeah’ it’s great. I’m my own man, I can play records when I want, I can watch TV when I want. I can do what I like now, so I’m going to make sure I’m going to resuscitate my vinyl collection! There’s a lot of stuff in there. I’ve got Led Zeppelin white labels and all the stuff you would salivate over.

So I am right on Jimmy’s wavelength there. My own collection has been considerably aided in recent years by the VIP Victoria Record Fairs, Record Store Day and the likes of Reckless Records Sister Ray and Fopp in London, Empire Records in St Albans and Bedford’s own Slide Records – great record shops bucking the trend of the demise of so many long-gone destination stores.

The addition of our own local stall the excellent Vinyl Barn which operates in Bedford’s town centre on Fridays, has made for a much-welcomed weekly vinyl rendezvous. Darren Harte does a great job with that stall and my weekly pics of my Vinyl Barn acquisitions have become something of a weekly Facebook update event.

Charity shops can also come up with the goods – I found a mono copy of Bob Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” for £3 and in the local Oxfam shop a one-off 1968 single by Heavy Jelly produced by Guy Stevens (Mott producer etc) on the original Island label for £3.50. So there are bargains to be had if you spend the time to search them out.

LedZepNews: So what do you collect? 

DL: Well, unsurprisingly, anything interesting Led Zeppelin-related – the most recent items I’ve added being an Argentinian “Led Zeppelin III” pressing in a unique single sleeve and the “Two Originals Of Led Zeppelin” withdrawn German double album plus a Japanese pressing of “Coda” with the all-important obi strip. I also search out any interesting late 60s/ early 70s UK bands and artists including…

The Beatles, The Rolling Stones (the latter pair are my joint second favourite bands), The Who, Family, Yes. Cream, Groundhogs, Jethro Tull, The Faces, Mott The Hoople, ELP, Free, Elvis Presley, Bruce, Dylan etc etc. From the same era, American rock pressings ie Crosby Stills & Nash, Canned Heat, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Allman Brothers, Steppenwolf, Grand Funk, etc. Any interesting Miles Davis releases on the original Columbia label. I also love vintage vocal crooners like Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin, Rod McKuen etc. The cover art and sleeve notes on the likes of the Capitol label really capture the era – I have over 100 Frank Sinatra LP pressings.

Other delights and curios I search out: Female singers such as Lulu, Sandie Shaw, Joni Mitchell, Sandy Denny, etc. Plus soundtracks and spoken word albums. Generally by searching around, it’s relatively easy to pick up good condition albums of the above ilk for well under £10.

Part of Dave Lewis' vinyl and CD collection
Part of Dave Lewis’ vinyl and CD collection

I’ve also got right back into buying singles – again late 60s/early 70s as above – anything on original pink Island, the Immediate label, Apple and Vertigo. In that department, I recently picked up Jethro Tull’s “Living In The Past” on the original Island label and a couple of Juicy Lucy singles on Vertigo. I’ve also picked up singles recently by Ten Years After (“Love Like A Man” with one version at 45 rpm and the B side, a lengthy live version at 33 rpm), Family, Jimi Hendrix, Stone The Crows and the superb Rare Bird single “Sympathy on Charisma”. A feature I wrote on collecting rock singles can be seen in the Record Collector October 2016 issue.

Beatles cover versions is another area I delve into, particularly any latter period covers from the “White Album” or “Abbey Road”. I have a great version of Fats Domino covering “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except me and my Monkey.”

Another of my vinyl addictions is the worldwide releases on Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song Records. I collect anything on that label and have done since 1974. I have around 50 album pressings on Swan Song and over 100 singles across Led Zeppelin, Bad Co, Pretty Things, Dave Edmunds, Detective etc.

LedZepNews: How many records and CDs have you got?

DL: I have around 3,000 albums, 2,500 singles and 2,500 CDs.

I have to say the storing of all this is an increasing problem – we have a very modest size house so that can be tricky as the good lady Janet constantly reminds me. It is reaching saturation point and there may have to be something of a downsize at some point. 

However, vinyl and record collecting makes my world go around at 45 and 33 rpm…rather splendidly.

LedZepNews: I take it you also have a large Led Zeppelin memorabilia collection?

DL: Yes – unsurprisingly, I have built up quite an archive there too. I have some very rare memorabilia items such as an original Obelisk, and various items personally signed to me. One of my most prized possessions is an original proof cover for the “Physical Graffiti” album. These were handed out to Atlantic reps to sell the album to the music trade – very few exist. It has some alternate window pics and different script letters.

Dave Lewis' original proof cover of "Physical Graffiti"
Dave Lewis’ original proof cover of “Physical Graffiti”

LedZepNews: Going back to the magazine, one of my favourite features about Tight But Loose is the amazing archive you have of previous reporting on the band which you can draw on to highlight important milestones. How do you keep this archive and select what to use in new TBL issues?

DL: I have a vast physical paper Zep archive stored here collated over the past 49 years which includes countless magazine and music papers – I have well over 1,000 music papers from the 1960s/70s. I am constantly reviewing that archive for source material. There’s also a bank of info and features on the TBL website online archive. All of this is ideal to draw on to celebrate the many Zep related anniversaries and milestone moments. It serves both the TBL weekly website updates and the magazine itself. TBL has always chronicled the heritage of Led Zeppelin right from the very first issue.

LedZepNews: TBL always has great coverage of the latest underground Led Zeppelin releases and tapes. How do you approach covering that topic and relaying that news to fans? 

DL: As we all know, bootlegs have been synonymous with Led Zeppelin throughout their career and they continue to be a vital source in revisiting their history. The TBL magazine has been presenting bootleg information since day one. As an avid collector myself, I was very keen to share my thoughts on them and I can recall enthusiastically reviewing the merits of “Live On Blueberry Hill” etc.

The CD bootleg explosion in the early 90s led to creating a section in the mag I dubbed Underground Uprising. This was a platform to chronicle the countless releases that appeared around that time. Dave Linwood, creator of the TBL website, also incorporated an online review feature with the same title.

As it was very time-consuming to manage all this alongside the regular news updates, long time TBL supporter Julian Walker undertook the task in a separate website under the Underground Uprising name.

As for the TBL magazine, over the years I have been very fortunate to enlist the help of many bootleg experts over the years. The likes of key collectors such as Eddie Edwards and Phil Tattershall were early pioneers in covering the CD bootleg market. The late Gerald Sparaco maintained the magazine’s bootleg CD reviews up until his sad passing in 2012. His knowledge was second to none and he is much missed.

Currently I have input on the subject from another collector Scott Heck and at this point I have to single out Paul Sheppard’s input. Paul’s knowledge of the Led Zeppelin bootleg catalogue has greatly befitted the magazine content on this subject. Paul has consistently produced fascinating detailed features on a number of bootleg-related Led Zeppelin subjects such as the rare Japanese Tarantura label releases and the various Bombay Sessions CDs. In the new issue, Paul rounds up all the key studio outtake Led Zeppelin bootleg CD releases. His knowledge on all this is outstanding.

Whilst we are on the subject of TBL contributors, Andy Crofts’ Tape analysis features and Nick Anderson’s collectors column are further highlights of any TBL issue. I’d also like to thank Mike Tremaglio, Stephen Humphries, Larry Bergmann jr, Chris Charlesworth, Cliff Hilliard, TBL website founder Dave Linwood, Ian Dixon, Jeff Strawman, Rikky Rooksby, Graeme Hutchinson, Richard Grubb and Simon Cadmon – their knowledge and writing has lit up many an issue. While Gary Foy and Mike MacKechnie have been most supportive with the admin and backroom help.

LedZepNews: I understand it’s now 40 years since the publication of TBL issue one, a great milestone! I imagine the process of putting together the magazine now is rather different to how it was in issue one? 

DL: Yes it was 40 years ago that I was busy scribing away quite literally on what would become the first issue of the Tight But Loose magazine. 

To backtrack on how the TBL mag evolved:

I had been harbouring the idea of a Led Zeppelin-type fanzine (as home-made publications were known) for the past year – an early prototype was mocked up in December 1977. Inspired by the do it yourself tactics of the punk rock fanzines such as Sniffin’ Glue and Ripped & Torn, I set about laying out the content in a somewhat chaotic but very enthusiastic manner. I’d informed Swan Song of this plan to a most positive reaction.

With no access to a type writer (not that I could type!), I decided to hand write the first edition.  Further inspiration came from the reaction to the Sounds tenth anniversary of Led Zeppelin series I worked on with Geoff Barton published in September. I was also massively thrilled and inspired by getting to speak to Robert Plant at the Goaldiggers five a side football tournament he took part in at the Empire Pool Wembley on November 5th. I was able to hear from the man himself that they were flying to Sweden the next week to record their new album.

So the time was more than right for me to get this platform of communication between fellow likeminded fans underway. The first adverts for details of this venture ran in the small ads column of Sounds and NME in late 1978 and the orders began coming in – I then ran another round of ads in early 1979.

The response was pretty instant. I suddenly had first-hand evidence that there were many similarly enthused fans who were just as keen as me on reading, listening and following this band in depth.

During the early weeks of January 1979, I worked on the refining of the text – a long rambling piece on my Earls Court experiences (surprise!) complete with Plant between-song transcribes first written in 1975, a report of the aforementioned meeting with Robert at the Goaldiggers football, a very passionate review of the then latest bootleg LP title from the TAKRL label titled “Ballcrusher” – which had good quality extracts from the April 1, 1971 BBC In Concert recording, reviews of the Robert Plant solo single “Long Time Coming” and the UK “Trampled Underfoot” promo and there was a Led Zeppelin quiz which if my memory serves me was won by Mick Humphries who has been a subscriber ever since.

News-wise, I was able to relay that Led Zeppelin had nigh-on completed recording of a new album reported to be tentatively titled “Look” and due in the spring. There was no word on any gig activity but surely that would all follow. We all know how that all panned out!

Just prior to completing issue number one and getting it printed, there was another major happening that spurred yet more revival in Led Zeppelin interest. On the evening of February 2, 1979 Tommy Vance aired two of the BBC sessions Led Zeppelin recorded in 1969 on Radio One’s Rock On show. Now I had long since had these recordings on lo- fi cassette dubs but hearing them in this quality was an absolute revelation. The reaction to that broadcast was overwhelming and it was clear, despite all the lay-offs, Led Zeppelin’s audience had remained very loyal.

The airing of those sessions provided the lead content to the second issue of the TBL magazine which appeared in May – by which time I’d enlisted a typist.

I’d also sold out of the 200 copies I had printed of issue number one published on February 10. They were printed by Jaycopy a local print shop in town – that month of January 1979 was well cold with frequent bouts of snow and I can vividly remember trudging home in the snow with the first box of the magazines weighing me down…the first and certainly not the last of many obstacles I would encounter and overcome in getting the TBL word out there.

I have huge affinity for those innocent early days – creating what might be termed now a central hub for fans to interact and feedback was hugely rewarding. It was the beginning of something that would define much of my life in the ensuing years to come

LedZepNews: So how has the production evolved over the years?

DL: After the handwritten issue number one I enlisted a typist for the next two issues. From issue 4 I went over to a properly printed A4 format. The first typeset issue was issue 6. However, I was still doing my own pasting up to design the pages right up until issue 13. Professional designer Mike Warry came on board and changed the whole look of the mag with a new logo masthead – he really moved it forward. For the past nine years I have worked with Mick Lowe at StudioMix in Bedford. Mick has been the real glue of so many TBL projects bringing his superb design skills to not only the TBL mag but my “Feather In the Wind” and Knebworth self-published books plus the “Five Glorious Nights” Earls Court photo book and of course the recent “Evenings With Led Zeppelin” book. I am also always keen to present the TBL magazine in the best print quality – to that end I have just enlisted a new printer White Hart Press based in Bedford and they have done a fantastic job.

(Tight But Loose)

LedZepNews: You had a previous career in music retail – tell me about that.

DL: I enjoyed 35 years in music retail across the WH Smith, Our Price and Virgin Megastore and Zavvi brands – co-incidentally it all came to an end exactly ten years ago this week on February 20, 2009 when the closure of Zavvi led to me being made redundant.

Working in the shops, I was able to promote many a Led Zeppelin release in-store – notably the release of the Led Zeppelin Remasters box set in 1990. My efforts in driving sales on that led to me being awarded a triple gold disc award by Warner Atlantic in the UK.

One of Lewis' displays at Our Price for Led Zeppelin
One of Lewis’ displays at Our Price for Led Zeppelin

It was ten years ago, on Friday February 20, 2009 the doors on the Zavvi/Virgin Megastore in Milton Keynes were closed for the last time – the chain was in administration and we were all made redundant.

It brought to a close my 35 year career in music retail. I did try and reinvent myself very briefly at Borders but I knew the game was up for me – I lasted two weeks. At 52 years old, it was time to say goodbye to working in retail and take on a brave new world…

Having written the TBL magazine and various Led Zeppelin books for some years, I subsequently turned my attention to doing that full time as a career and a living and went self employed as a freelance journalist, Led Zeppelin author and publisher. Back then in 2009, it felt like a brave and somewhat scary move but luckily, I managed to carve out a new career and I have been working on all that non stop since.

Ten years…it still feels like only yesterday that a sizeable reason for my being was centered around 9 Midsummer Place Milton Keynes, and before that the Harpur Centre in Bedford. Great days indeed, particularly the last few years when I worked with an amazing bunch of inspirational people. I still miss the fun and camaraderie that I shared with working with so many great people – right back to when I started at WH Smith in 1974 through Sound FX, Our Price, V. Shop, Sanity and finally Virgin/Zavvi. It was never just a job – it was a way of sharing a great passion.

Like I said back then I was faced with a major challenge – could I make a living out of something that had been a side line? It was into the unknown really but a step I feel I had to take. Luckily I had vast resources to tap into to produce a catalogue of work. It was, and continues to be a major challenge to self publish both the TBL magazine and books. I tested the self publishing book market with the first edition of the “Then As It Was Led Zeppelin At Knebworth” book in 2009.

I really began to get my head around it all in 2010 – I began working with designer Mick Lowe who runs a design and graphics studio in Bedford. He has been central to establishing the TBL publishing brand – as mentioned I work closely with him on all TBL projects and he is absolutely superb to work with.

Being self- employed has thrown up many challenges. I work from home a lot of the time which can be quite isolating. It requires major discipline and organisational and planning skills. In terms of other freelance work –I have nurtured this along the way – it’s been good to come out of the Led Zeppelin comfort zone and write about other artists. I’ve done pieces on Nick Drake, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart & The Faces, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young and others for Record Collector, Classic Rock and Mojo etc.

Over the past decade, alongside producing the TBL magazine, I’ve been involved in the publication of a number of books and have contributed various features to Record Collector, Classic Rock etc. With the recent publication of the mighty “Evenings With Led Zeppelin” book I co-authored with Mike Tremaglio and a new TBL magazine just out, I am as busy as ever. I work very hard to make it all work but consider myself very lucky to be doing something I have such passion for – as I did working in the shops.

Operationally, it does remain a virtual one man show – I update the TBL website on a weekly basis, I write and edit copy, I assist the design, I do the marketing, I log all the orders that come in and process them. I am also distribution manager in packing every book and magazine and taking them to the post office on my trusty bicycle! I count them all in and count them all out…

LedZepNews: Years ago, when I first became interested in Led Zeppelin, I sought out all of your books, which include some great volumes that republish early TBL content. Are there any plans to republish more of the early magazines? 

DL: There is a plan to do that and I hope to have some firm news of how that will evolve in the coming months. I know that original copies of the early TBL mags command up to a hundred pounds apiece on eBay. It would be great to have the first six or so reissued in their complete original form. It’s something I am working towards. 

Some early issues of Tight But Loose magazine
Some early issues of Tight But Loose magazine

LedZepNews: How have you sustained continual interest in the magazine over so many years?

DL: Firstly, it of course helps that Led Zeppelin have such achieved lasting durability and popularity. Along with a handful of other acts The Beatles, Stones – they set the benchmark and their influence over generations of music fans is long lasting. Their catalogue sounds as fresh today as is did when it was originally recorded. Musically they are a massive influence on budding rock musicians throughout the globe.

The sheer breadth of styles they covered – from blues to rock to folk, jazz – taking in Indian influences and more – that, coupled with a unique chemistry between the four players and musicianship of the highest calibre. There’s also a fifth element as Jimmy would put it. They have this mystique – a certain aura that no other band has. It’s hard to explain ….but I am sure many reading this know what I mean.

Richard Cole in his foreword in the “Evenings With Led Zeppelin” book made a very good observation when he said ‘’They still loom ever large in fact even now they seem bigger than anyone else’’ – and he is right they still cast a giant shadow of the contemporary music scene.

Their influence is vast – their music is lasting and they are forever in the present tense. Given that legacy, the Tight But Loose magazine has been well placed to constantly enhance like-minded readers’ enthusiasm for the band over many years. I would like to think my own unquenchable enthusiasm for their music has transcended to like minded fans across the globe over many years.

It may not be the most prolific of publications but the TBL magazine has become a trusted source of accurate information, news, views and features. I always strive to make the content unique and interesting also as I have often noted, websites are for browsing – the TBL magazine is for reading time and time again…

LedZepNews: You also have a digital version of some issues available

DL: Yes via Magster –the online digital news stand. It’s an additional channel and offers online presence for the magazine – something I needed to do. The digital version has appealed to some readers – I do find some subscribers buy both the physical and digital version. In terms of accessibility, it’s a viable option. However, the physical magazine remains at the heart of the TBL brand – this is where a bulk of the sales still occur. There are certainly no plans to phase out the paper version.

It’s a fact that the demographic of the mag is rather old school and my readership has been raised on physical products such as vinyl records and tangible magazines. Attracting younger readers to the magazine is difficult – the plain fact remains that there is a lot of Led Zeppelin information out there – and they are reluctant to pay for it –that applies to music also.

LedZepNews: Obviously with TBL at 40, we’ve also got Led Zeppelin at 50 at the moment too. There’s certainly a lot happening with the band in terms of releases, which has generated a lot of debate online! What are your thoughts on the band’s 50th anniversary releases? 

DL: To put it in to context, the reissues for “How The West Was Won” and “The Soundtrack From The Song Remains The Same” were really part of the ongoing reissue series. I know these releases came in for a lot of criticism but I stand by them – particularly the “How The West Was Won” release. As I explain in my review in the TBL 44 mag, this tremendous 1972 live album got somewhat lost when it was issued at the same time as the five hour DVD set in May 2003. Now as a standalone album set, it rightly stands up as superb official remnant form a very productive period .

The Record Store Day “Rock And Roll” single was also most welcome. The official Led Zeppelin By Led Zeppelin book did what is set out to do which was for them to tell their story through the archive photos. It was a disappointment for many fans that Jimmy did not get around to releasing any previously unavailable material which we all crave – however the 50th anniversary celebrations will go on and I think we will see something very substantial from the archives at some point.

The endorsement of merchandise such as the Vans footwear link up has also come in for some criticism  – again, older fans will not relate to that but it will appeal to a younger audience which hopefully will lead them onto the music. The recent launch of the official Playlist Programme is a welcomed piece of interactive fun but like I said, what we all want is something previously unreleased and I am sure it will come.  

LedZepNews: You must be very pleased with the reaction to the “Evenings With Led Zeppelin” book you co-authored with Mike Tremaglio.

DL: Mike and I are very pleased indeed. We have had a unanimous thumbs up reaction and so many positive reviews. It took a number of years to come together 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 576 pages, it really does feel incredibly fulfilling to have completed such a project. As I 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. It’s also worth stating that in approaching this task, we were inspired by the past Zep chronicling of Howard Mylett, Luis Rey, Rob Godwin and Andy Adams.

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. 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 realise that the book is exactly what we had intended in the first place – and that’s very rewarding.

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.

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 CDs – this book has been an outlet for me to express my gratitude in print to the Led Zeppelin live legacy.

To anyone interested in rock history – this is one band’s development chronicled as never before.

We were able to re-iterate emphatically that it was onstage where Led Zeppelin functioned best, and “Evenings With Led Zeppelin” demonstrates that at the turn of every page.

LedZepNews: How many times did you see Led Zeppelin in concert yourself?

DL: I was very lucky to see the band as many times as I did – I had a total of 15 evenings with Led Zeppelin. A total of 15 … so many memories stand out from being a mere 15-year-old schoolboy when I first saw them at the Empire Pool Wembley in 1971 (nothing was the same in our house after that!) at the Ally Pally in 1972, the five nights at Earls Court when they really were at the height of the powers through to the emotional comeback at Knebworth. Perhaps most memorable of all were the five shows I saw on what would be their final tour in Europe in the summer of 1980. I was lucky enough to view those shows from the side of the stage – an incredible experience. Oh and the night of nights at the O2 reunion in 2007 when they proved they were, are and always will be the best…

LedZepNews: Any final thoughts?

DL: I have to say I am particularly proud to be presenting a 44th issue of the TBL magazine some 40 years on from that primitive debut issue which I created to form a platform of communication between Led Zeppelin fans across the globe – and as I finally unleash a 44th issue, that remit remains.

I am a great advocator of physical product and the TBL magazine creates that buzz of something tangible arriving on your door mat – and something to be read and read and stored as an important part of the Zep written archive.

As I mentioned, the whole way information is accessed has changed massively in recent years.. When I began the magazine, the only way to find out about the group was in the weekly music magazines NME, Melody Maker, Disc, Record Mirror, Sounds etc. It was one of the key reasons I created the magazine – to present regular information to fans throughout the world. The internet of course changed all that – there are now hundreds of websites and fan forums about the group. Luckily the demographic I appeal to are fans who still love a tangible product – the core subscription base has remained steady and given the mass accessibility of the internet and social media – very loyal.

Looking back over 40 years there have been many milestones along the way: The feature I did for Sounds to celebrate ten years of Led Zeppelin back in September in 1978 –that was my first written work of Led Zeppelin in print, “The Final Acclaim” book in 1993, the “A Celebration” and “Concert File” books (the latter co authored with Simon Pallett), being involved in researching Robert Plant’s “Nine Lives” box set in 2006, interviewing Peter Grant, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page, overseeing the “Five Glorious Nights Led Zeppelin at Earls Court” photo book, liaising with Jimmy Page in compiling the new liner notes for the official “Complete BBC Sessions” set. That was of course a huge accolade –and producing the previously mentioned “Evenings With Led Zeppelin” book.

I still have a massive passion for it all – just recently I was lucky enough to catch Robert Plant’s Saving Grace side project supporting Fairport Convention in St. Albans. His vocal performance was awe-inspiring to say the least. This was the 123rd occasion I’ve seen Robert perform live over the past 38 years. It was another life-affirming night and an emphatic reminder of why I do all this.  

In short, chronicling the world of Led Zeppelin is in my DNA and it continues to be an absolute privilege to do so…

Whether it be online or though social media and the TBL website, via the TBL magazine, future book projects etc I will continue to endeavour to ensure TBL has a platform and voice that enhances the enjoyment of this very special band of musicians…

The latest platform is the new issue of the magazine. It’s the latest opportunity for readers to feast their eyes (with possible reading glasses in tow!) for what is another intensive TBL outpouring – as ever designed and created to take you closer to the music.

Given the amount of text to wade through, I am well pleased that unlike that first issue of 40 years ago, I did not have to handwrite it all…

You can buy the latest issue of Tight But Loose magazine here.

Follow Led Zeppelin News on Twitter and Facebook to stay up to date on news as it happens. You can also sign up to our email for a digest of the latest news sent to your inbox. LedZepNews uses paid Amazon referral links to earn commissions to cover its costs.

4 Comments on "Tight But Loose editor Dave Lewis on the latest issue of his magazine and 40 years of covering Led Zeppelin"

  1. Roberta grantham | 31st March 2019 at 12:32 am | Reply

    Was an amazing talent that reached out to many . His creative inspiration of music , writing , and design . His continued new work that he developed his own style . There is no one like him . He will be in the hearts of many . ????????????❤️?

  2. Roberta grantham | 31st March 2019 at 12:34 am | Reply

    He is amazing . Thanks for letting us expression our personal feelings

  3. Excellent read LZ / David. My father has just passed on to me a copy of your First Edition of TBL Book, and some TBL fanzines. The book is signed by your good self, David Lewis – circa 1975? If not before this date. We lived in Bedford, Mareth Rd, just around the corner from you. That was a long long time ago 🙂 and I am delighted to see you still doing well and enjoying your life’s dream.

  4. Want to buy latest t b l by mail

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.