Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin Live At Festival Hall 1972 (Osaka, October 1972)

festival_hall_fFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Festival Hall, Osaka, Japan – October 4, 1972

Disc 1 (51:37): Rock And Roll, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song

Disc 2 (71:24): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker, Immigrant Song

Led Zeppelin’s third show in Japan in 1972, and their first at the Festival Hall in Osaka, is one of the most laid back and mellow shows from their early years. Unlike their visit to Osaka the previous year, the audience are very quiet and respectful and Plant in particular sounds lethargic. Live At Festival Hall 1972 was released in 2003 on the Power Archives label, a one off that produced only three discs before disappearing.

They primarily use the longer second tape source and use the first source for the beginning of “The Song Remains The Same” and “Immigrant Song.” This is a different tactic than the other two source mixes Connexion (Amsterdam AMS 9612-2-1/2), Rock Explosion 72 (Tarantura TCD-15, 16 SET), and Dancing Page (Tarantura TCD-15) who use the first source primarily and the second to fill in the cuts. The second tape is very sharp and clear mono but also flat and lacking in dynamics while the first tape is in more lively stereo. Both are really good and it’s a matter of one’s preference.

“Rock And Roll” starts off the set and “Black Dog,” which alternated with “Over The Hills And Far Away” is played second. “Misty Mountain Hop” is introduced as “about the problems that come across just a simple walk in the park on a Saturday afternoon.” Page plays a different solo than usual with interesting results.

Such is the low-key nature of this gig that Plant enjoys a spot of tea before “Dancing Days”. “The Song Remains The Same” was referred to as either “The Overture” or “Zep” in other concerts on this tour, but has no name in this since the band just start in. Page hits a couple of bum notes but it is an effective performance.

In “The Rain Song” John Paul Jones’ mellotron is very loud and almost drowns out the other instruments at the beginning. At least it is in tune so it only offers an interesting perspective on the piece instead of being hard to listen to. “John Paul Jones on mysterious mellotron” is all Plant can say afterwards.

“Dazed And Confused” reaches twenty five minutes. Page, Jones and Bonham play a very depressing melody before the violin bow episode and Bonham leads them into “The Crunge” during the long improvisation. “Stairway To Heaven” is referred to as “a song about the passage through life, adding to Bonham’s back passage, and things like that. It shant be long.”

During the theremin solo in “Whole Lotta Love” Jones and Bonham hit on a monstrous, spooky rhythm under Page before they hit the ”Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” riff. After “Boogie Chillun’” they play the Elvis classic “Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do.” This is from his 1957 film Loving You, not the song from Bye Bye Birdie of the same name. This is only the second of two recorded references to this song (the first from the first LA show in 1971).

Page plays a slutty sounding slide on guitar trying to keep up with Plant in “You Shook Me.” The first encore is “Heartbreaker” which includes Bach’s Bouree and Simon And Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” during the solo. The second encore is Led Zeppelin’s biggest hit in Japan, a searing version of “Immigrant Song” which wakes up the audience and creates the same hysteria they saw in 1971. Power Archives released this tape with little remastering so it has a very warm and natural sound to it.

They utilize graphics from the 1972 Japan tour book on the cover on the inside with a photo from one of the Tokyo shows on the back with a set list printed. It is packaged in a double slimline jewel case too. For Zeppelin collectors this is a nice release which offers a different angle to this well known show in contrast to the more popular first tape.

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May 10, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Live At Festival 1972 | , | Leave a comment

Nick Drake The Biography by Patrick Humphries (1998)

untitledFrom amazon.com

I was very disappointed in this book – and while some of that disappointment is with the style of writing Mr. Humphries employs here, there’s more to it than that.

Writing a biography is a tricky proposition at best. In the case of an artist like Nick Drake – reclusive and withdrawn, with only one interview given during his brief lifetime – it’s a task even more daunting than one would usually expect. Humphries has written bios of other musicians – Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Richard Thompson, Tom Waits, &c – and has evidently built a career and reputation in this area. I’m sure that he felt drawn to the music of Nick Drake in some ways, rather than simply choosing an artist about whom to write in the hope of selling tons of books – there are innumerable choices that would have garnered him greater sales – but without the cooperation of two critical people in Nick’s life (his sister Gabrielle and his manager/producer Joe Boyd), given the nature of his subject, the project was more or less doomed from the start.

Humphries mentions in his forward that Joe and Gabrielle `had decided not to cooperate’ – and since Joe’s Warlock Music is the publisher of all of Nick’s songs, this also meant that Humphries would be unable to quote from Nick’s lyrics. He was thus reduced to quoting Gabrielle and Joe from previously available sources. Molly and Rodney Drake, Nick’s parents, were deceased, so no direct conversations between them and the author were possible either.

The only other sources left for him upon which to draw were the remembrances of various friends of Nick and written articles about the man and his music. What emerges from all of this is inevitably a choppy picture of the man – not unsympathetic, but jarring and incomplete. Many parts of the book are simply strings of quotes strung together – and too many of the gaps have been filled in by well-meaning but ultimately tedious anecdotes about the music scene of the 60s and 70s in general.

Referring to the musicians and bands emerging from the public school scene in the UK of the time, Humphries mentions Genesis coming out of Charterhouse to begin their `windy, wuthering road’ to success – a reference to their `Wind and wuthering’ album of the late 70s. He’s trying a little too hard here for my tastes, I’m afraid.

Another irritating practice of Humphries is that he contradicts himself in too many places to mention. He can’t seem to settle on his own opinion. On p. 93, he says `Five Leaves Left is an astonishingly assured and mature debut’ – on p. 94, he says `Lyrically the songs on Five Leaves Left are largely unremarkable’. Huh? On p. 89, he speaks warmly of how well Robert Kirby (Nick’s school chum and string arranger on his first two albums) worked with Nick’s songs: `…his arrangements remain an integral part of the distinctive sound of Nick’s debut album’ – then, again from p. 94: `…perhaps the arrangements are a tad lush’. This sort of `playing both sides’ persists throughout the book. These are not instances of Humphries quoting the opinions of others (at least they are not presented in that way) – these are his own words.

The publisher, Bloomsbury, must also be taken to task, for their (lack of) editing – there are several errors in the book that have nothing to do with writing style, but everything (apparently) to do with allowing one’s computer spell-check program to act as an editor. This point may seem to be a bit picky, but in context of my other problems with the book, it merely added to my inability to appreciate it.

There’s another review below that wisely suggests that those interested in Nick allow his music to speak for him – and this is of course the closest we can come to him, for his music came from his heart and soul. Over the years since his death, it has become much more widely appreciated than it was in his lifetime – sadly this is the case in too many who die before their time. There is beauty in that music. Humphries speaks in several places of the darkness of Nick’s lyrics (but, being unable to quote from them, gives no examples), that his depression was a result of an adolescent never coming into maturity, unable to cope with the world – and many of the songs were dark, without a doubt.

There were, however, many moments of light and beauty. One only has to listen to the first track on his debut album (`Time has told me’ from Five Leaves Left) – to me, the song is one that speaks of hope and patience, of learning and recognizing the important things that are worth waiting for. That sounds like maturity and good judgment to me. Nick may well have been a troubled soul – but he was not without happiness, and he obviously understood and appreciated things that a person stuck in adolescence would not.

Near the end of the book, when Humphries is writing of the release of Nick’s final four songs, and some additional material – early home recordings and alternate takes – he quotes both Nick’s parents and Joe Boyd as saying that they were trying to make sure that anything they released reflected only well on Nick, that they were concerned with how he was represented, that he deserved that consideration. I think that he deserves better than this bio – that might seem harsh, but there’s simply too much contradiction and padding here. Rather than a 270+page book, this could have been edited down to a decent magazine article. There are a lot of facts here, but very little understanding. If you have the opportunity to view it, check out the fine documentary A Skin Too Few – it’s a much more satisfying portrait of this gentle man.

May 10, 2013 Posted by | Book Nick Drake The Biography by Patrick Humphries | , | Leave a comment

Lester Bangs: Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock’N’Roll as Literature and Literature as Rock ‘N’Roll (1988)

200px-Bangs_PsychoticFrom amazon.com

Review I never actually met the guy. But I devoured every published word of his between 1974, when I first discovered his work in CREEM , to his untimely passing in New York in 1982.

He was the last of a sorely-missed breed, a writer who played the English language like a honking saxophone, launching into soaring solo avalanches of prose and jamming all over the place like John Coltrane on a good night. Through his work in Creem and later Rolling Stone and the Village Voice, he influenced and inspired me to create my words with a rock & roll attitude, with my mental amp turned all the way up to 10, operating with total disregard for the niceties of style and conformity and making a big noise on paper. Lester taught me that a guy with a typewriter can jam just as well as a guy with a guitar and a Marshall stack. I remember laughing my ass off at Lester’s legendary “feud” with Lou Reed.

I remember being slightly pissed at his negative reviews of ELP, but the sheer exuberance in his writing more than made up for it. He taught me how a tune by Miles Davis could be just as musically valid as one by the Sex Pistols. I remember snatching the latest issues of CREEM when they hit the newsstands, eagerly flipping through them for the latest anything from Lester. On two occasions they actually published my letters in the letters section, which just made my day and gave me a taste of what it was like to have one’s words in a national publication. His witty replies to reader’s letters were of Oscar Wilde quality, and he was largely responsible for the demystification of rock stars, providing my star-struck generation with our first clues that rock stars were fallible humans just like the rest of us.

Lester claimed to have invented the term “punk rock”. He certainly had his own laundry list of personal failings too, but don’t we all? He was a critic whose lifestyle was similar to his audience’s, speaking to his readers like confidantes rather than at them, often at a level of unexpected personal intimacy. He refused to be swayed by record-company hype. Reading a Bangs review was like hearing somebody discussing their favourite band in a bar. He made a point of listening to the records he reviewed on regular crappy K-mart stereo systems, the better to connect with how the regular folks heard them.

Musical genius, he realized, would shine through any playback medium. His level of integrity and honesty in his writing will not be seen again. All I have left of Lester’s work now is a stack of ancient yellowing Creem magazines and a hard-cover collection of his best work, edited by Cameron Crowe, entitled Psychotic Reactions & Carburetor Dung, which I highly recommend to anyone who realizes rock & roll can exist in a place other than an audio recording or a stage. The title is borrowed from the Count Five’s (“Psychotic Reaction”) debut album. It is a glimpse inside the soul of a man for whom rock & roll was the fuel of life.

To read it is to be transported to a higher level of understanding and enjoyment of the sounds coming out of your speakers, much the same way you feel when you’re in the presence of a band which is really cookin’ onstage. The links below are to pages containing the reviews and articles which made Lester so much more than just another hack PR scribe. He died in New York City in April of 1982 of the flu (of all things) checking out of this life at the eerily prescient age of 33, just ahead of the advent of MTV and CDs. You have to wonder about the timing, but one thing is for sure: he left us much too soon.

Review This book is the chronicle of a great writer who never wrote a great book. Instead, Lester Bangs spent his unfortunately short life writing about rock music for magazines like Rolling Stone and Creem.

He wasn’t your average record reviewer, nor even your rarer thoughtful, analytical critic. He was a genius; he invented a new style of criticism, or at least brought it to its highest, most inimitable form. Casual, even sloppy; ragged, full of weird slang and weird mood swings, some obviously drug-inspired rambling, and some of the sharpest commentary any music critic has ever written. This book collects some of his work – a very small part of it – into something that may, perhaps, give us an idea of what kind of writer Bangs was, and why he mattered so much. He was one of the first rock critics to really delve into noise-rock, the art of not playing your instrument well.

Bangs followed the underground (velvet) movement all through the Seventies, listening to old garage bands, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, the Ramones, free jazz, the New York Dolls, and everything else noisy and free and wonderful, while everyone else was snoozing to James Taylor and wondering when the next Beatles would come along. In 1977 the Sex Pistols tore apart the rock scene and Bangs was vindicated; but they left it in ruins and heading, inexorably, for the emptiness of New Wave and the decade-long winter of the Eighties. Lester Bangs, dead in 1982, is alive and well in this book, which opens with the title essay and his ‘Stranded’ review of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, two of the greatest pieces ever written about rock.

It goes on through such memorable landmarks as “James Taylor Marked For Death” and that infamous, endless ‘interview’ with Lou Reed – actually, a whole section on Reed, including cryptically rambling notes and the hilarious ‘The Greatest Album Ever Made’, Bangs’ review of Reed’s Metal Machine Music – a double album of feedback noise – before getting to the really unforgettable, emotional stuff: a long, brilliant piece on the Clash, “Where Were You When Elvis Died?” and “Thinking The Unthinkable About John Lennon” for the two most famous deaths in rock history; “The White Noise Supremacists”, a stunning attack on racism in rock; and finally the Unpublishable stuff: Lester has this bizarre fantasy about becoming the dead Elvis and rotting away in his Vegas hotel room, and then there’s a fine short story based on Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.”

All in all, it’s essential reading for anyone at all interested in rock as something beyond elevator music, something that reaches out and grabs you. Once it catches you, Lester Bangs knew all too well, it never lets go.

May 10, 2013 Posted by | Book Lester Bangs Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock'N'Roll as Literature and Literature as Rock 'N'Roll | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Ultraviolence (Cleveland, January 1975)

zepp ultraFrom collectorsmusicreviews.com

Richfield Coliseum, Cleveland, OH – January 24th, 1975

Disc 1 (53:34): Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir

Disc 2 (49:53): The Wanton Song, No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick

Disc 3 (45:53): How Many More Times (incl. The Hunter), Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love / Black Dog, Communication Breakdown (incl. Lemon Song)

Led Zeppelin’s first show in Cleveland in six years (since the summer of 1969) was at the cavernous Richfield Coliseum and comes during the difficult first week of the tenth US tour.

With Plant’s voice weak they deliver a show that is far from the artistic statement they were trying to present. However this concert is very passionate with abundant courage by the band and is one of the highlights from the tour. The tape is thin and distant with some distortion present in the upper frequencies. It is merely fair but for the committed collector is listenable and Ultraviolence, released in the mid-nineties, is the only silver pressed release for this concert. There are small cuts after “The Wanton Song,” at the end of “How Many More Times” and after “Black Dog” but this is the complete performance.

The tape picks up the mc announcing ”The American return of Led Zeppelin” before the opening salvo of ”Rock And Roll” and ”Sick Again.” Both are very tight and energetic and Plant greets the audience by saying, “well, it’s very nice to be back in your part of the woods again…very shortly we’ve got a double album coming out called Physical Graffiti, which is quite…it’s quite expressive towards what actually goes down on a rock and roll tour. We’re gonna do some new tracks. We’re gonna do some old tracks. Some tracks that you might never have heard before, and some of them, you have. So this is how it goes.” This is the normal opening speech by Plant with minor variations. “Over The Hills And Far Away” sounds very good in this show with the “White Summer” inspired opening melody contrasting with the bombastic, abstract solo in the middle.

“In My Time Of Dying” follows” which Plant says is “one of the new ones. Maybe we can get it to your radio station soon. Perhaps we can even get a copy ourselves.” Older songs follow and the transition between “The Song Remains The Same” and “The Rain Song” is very dramatic. Page in particular is concentrating very hard in the latter and replicates not only the rain falling but the flowers growing in its wake. It is one of their most beautiful songs and this night is one of the best versions on tape.

Two more new songs follow consecutively in the set and after “Kashmir” Plant speaks about Bonham having “new skins.” “The Wanton Song” is “a song really where we have to improvise a bit ’cause it’s about a topic we’re not really too familiar with…that of women. Experience is something else.” The self-depreciating humor is lost on the audience. This would be dropped after the following night’s show probably because it covers the same ground topically as “Sick Again.” Also given the strict form there is very little opportunity for the song to develop any further. Nevertheless they give a very good version in Cleveland and the audience cheer loudly for it.

“No Quarter” reaches seventeen minutes in length and features an orthodox organ solo by Jones in the middle. Afterwards Plant goes into a long explanation regarding Page’s finger, saying, “Before we go any farther, I got to tell you, in all our preparation for us to try and consolidate four people who’ve been playing music together for nearly seven years, and at what was called a rehearsal, Jimmy had the misfortune to try and catch a train, and consequently he’s broken a bone in the end of his finger. Hang on, that finger, yeah, sorry about this. No offense meant, but that’s the finger isn’t it? So we’re working on the…that’s the finger that the wedding ring goes on. Perhaps that’s just as well.” “Trampled Under Foot” is the fifth and final new song played in the set.

“How Many More Times” reaches sixteen minutes long and Plant says afterwards, “I think we should do it more often actually.” He sings a bit of “Your Time is Gonna Come” before continuing, “well, as you can see, what we’ve been trying to do the last seven years is, without making, without boring ourselves with repetitive forms of music, and keeping to cliches. We’re trying to expand our musical field as wide as we possibly can. I think when this new album comes out you’ll see that. This is one of the songs that ah, is encompassed in the spectrum of what we’ve managed to get together in seven years.” “Stairway To Heaven” closes the set.

They thank the Cleveland audience with fifteen minutes worth of encores. The second, “Communication Breakdown,” contains a reference to “The Lemon Song” during the violent funky break in the middle. Ultraviolence is packaged in a standard fatboy jewel case to accommodate the discs with artwork printed on one side. The front cover contains very common backstage photos from the era and the back has a double photo of Page on stage. The recording is good enough to gain an appreciation of how good the show is, but unless a better tape source were to surface this remains in the realm of the Zeppelin completist. It is doubtful that any remastering tricks could improve the fidelity.

May 10, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Ultraviolence | , | Leave a comment

Every Night’s A Saturday Night: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Life of Legendary Sax Man Bobby Keys by Bobby Keys (2012)

Every-Night-Saturday-Night-1From amazon.com

Review I’ve got to interview lots of artists. As of this writing, I’ve conducted close to ninety interviews. The most fun are the kinds of interviews are the ones where the person is just rattling off story after story about their life and the people they’ve associated with over their careers. What is even more enjoyable is when those conversations are relaxed and folksy – without pretense or an uppity attitude.

One such person that I’ve recently interviewed is Bobby Keys, saxophonist for the Rolling Stones. To paraphrase what I wrote in that interview (visit Boomerocity.com), he’s folksy and as country as cornbread – my kind of people! Bobby’s a great guy to chat with and one of the most fun guys I’ve had the privilege of interviewing.

You might not be able to interview Bobby Keys yourself but I can offer you the next best thing: His autobiography, Every Night’s A Saturday Night. Easy to read and very natural, you get the feel that you’re sitting in Keys’ family room, sipping on iced tea as he regales you with tales of his life as one of the go-to sax players in rock and roll. Because of who all he’s worked with, I refer to him as the Forest Gump of Rock and Roll. When you read Saturday Night, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

You’ll read about the whole, complete story about his fabled bath in a tub of Dom Perignon. You read some very interesting stories about his friendship with John Lennon and his work with George Harrison and hanging with Harry Nilsson. You’ll read about his tours with Joe Cocker as well as Delaney and Bonnie. He tells of his meetings with Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley.

Of course, there are lots and lots of stories about some band called the Rolling Stones and some guys by the names of Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Mick Jagger and their keyboardist, Chuck Leavell. No, he really doesn’t dish any dirt on the lads. As he said in my interview with him, that’s all be said and done already. To Keys, it’s all about the music and the friendships and that’s what makes Every Night’s A Saturday Night such a fun and enjoyable read.

It goes without saying that avid Stones fans will want this book. However, if you love true – and often hilarious – stories about some of the greatest names in rock music (as well as some of the songs and albums associated with them), you’re going to want this book.

Review Lots of fun – eliciting chuckles to guffaws, to outright laughter. A quick and very entertaining read written in a style that makes you feel that you’re just sitting at the bar with Bobby and he’s telling stories. A natural raconteur! I screamed through the book’s 275 odd pages in a couple of hours. Very enjoyable.

But, why four stars? First, it’s pretty clear that Bobby wasn’t keeping a diary or journal, since there are several points in the narrative where the words “I think”, “I don’t recall/remember” are used. While that’s not a real problem, it would be nice to know the accuracy of his recollections. For example, on pp. 85-86, “Opening for Blind Faith was great.. […] ..pop festivals, Atlanta I remember, and one outside of Milwaukee or Chicago”.

Let me fix that for you – it was The Midwest Rock Festival, on the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in West Allis Wisconsin (a western suburb of Milwaukee), July 26, 1969. This information, given 5 minutes with Google, is trivial to discover.

At another point in the book is pp. 230, “I forget where exactly this happened, what city we were in – maybe Detroit because I think we [The New Barbarians]were staying overnight in Milwaukee…”.

Again – “I forget”, “I think”, …etc. Again, two minutes with Google reveals that it was in Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Arena, April 29th, 1978 that a riot broke out because fans were disappointed that “Mick Jagger” didn’t appear.

I lived in Milwaukee for many years, so maybe the above nitpicking is just my own axe to grind. Maybe not.

But, ultimately, I was disappointed by not a whisper or breath or mention of Bobby Keys eponymously titled solo album from 1972. It’s not listed in the discography at the back of the book either. And a really NICE record it is too. Yes, it’s long out of print, and a collector’s item, but it’s available if you don’t mind spending some cash.

So, in summary – a little research on Bill Ditenhafer’s part (or someone’s) could’ve helped Bobby’s recollections along a bit, and the exclusion of Bobby’s solo album is quite surprising. The only thing I can assume is that Bobby disliked the record so much or thought it so insignificant that it wasn’t worth noting. Bottom line though; I enjoyed the book a lot and am spending a good, healthy chunk of time today listening to Bobby Keys play his horn.

Review This book should probably come with a warning label. Bobby Keys was a mad man extraordinaire … And one helluva sideman.

Sidemen are often the unsung heroes. They get back lit while the frontman gets the spotlight. But, where the hell would the frontman be without the sideman, eh? Hey, even Keith Richards calls himself a sideman … And we saw what happened when Mick went solo, right?

Sideman, indeed. This was a rip-roarer … Just like a Bobby Keys solo.

I read this in three settings. At just under 300 pages, it was a quick read. It was also an easy and laid back read … fun, too. It was written in Key’s voice, accent and good ol’ boy playful nature. Find him interviewed on YouTube to get the feel for his delivery; it adds to the read.

Keys has a legendary musical story: played with and spent time with everyone from Buddy Holly to John Lennon to Keef to Joe Cocker … it goes on and on. Who knew he spent that much time … and quality time with … John Lennon? The Joe Cocker stories were a gas, too. So many funny stories in this book.

He also has a legendary partyin’ past. Yeah, he went toe-to-toe with the best, including Keef. The partying ended up getting the best of Bobby. He could have done so much more on the music side of things. Such is life … as he would say. He didn’t go into details on how low he got, but he painted the picture of a very deep and narrow hole.

The Stones are in a lot of the book. He really did make a difference with their sound early on. They also tolerated his madman ways for a while … until, that is. I didn’t realize how he actually got on Mick’s (and the rest of the Stones … to a lesser degree, Keef) bad side. It wasn’t the bathtub Dom Perignon story, either. How he got back with them in ’89 and beyond is a good yarn, too.

If you are in to the sax, sidemen, the Stones, classic Rock and Roll flame up/flame out stories … and of course, Bobby Keys, read this.

May 10, 2013 Posted by | Book Every Night's A Saturday Night: The Rock 'n' Roll Life of Legendary Sax Man Bobby Keys by Bobby Keys | , | Leave a comment

LZ-’75: The Lost Chronicles of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American Tour by Stephen Davis (2010)

LZ-75From amazon.com

Review 215 pages of text (including a Prologue) and photographs, many unpublished until now. The author, Stephen Davis, has written a number of books on both rock ‘n’ roll and musicians. This is probably closer to a 3 1/2 star review, depending on what you know about the band during this period, and whether the price/worth of the book is agreeable to you.

This is a book that comes from several diaries Davis had misplaced for many years. They come from a period when Led Zeppelin was the biggest band in the world-slaying any other band around. The period is question is the 1975 North American, tour when Zeppelin was king.

As a stand alone book it’s fairly good, but for those who want to know something in depth about the group and/or it’s music you’re probably better off looking elsewhere. This book is aimed primarily for people who already know about the band, rather than people who know of the band. If you’ve read Davis’ “Hammer of the Gods”, or “When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin”” by Mick Wall, for instance, “LZ-’75” is a good addition, an addendum, to what’s found in those books.

Davis had a ringside seat on this tour, with access to the band, both on and off stage. Included are “lost” interviews with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and Davis’ chronicle of the band’s performances on tour. There’s also an inside look at the band lifestyle off stage which was a direct result of the hysteria surrounding the band during this time. From his vantage point, Davis was privy to the many ups and downs the band as a whole, and individually, encountered, during this massive tour. Loneliness, illness, drugs and all the rest are laid out for the reader. Davis was even granted a seat on the band’s tour jet, the Starship, which gave him even more insight into the workings of the band and it’s management. In part, Davis weaves his personal feelings about the tour as well as the tour itself, into one story. The many photographs, including several dozen unseen until now, both help portray and give the band a better identity throughout the book. Using Davis’ narrative style of writing, his story moves along at a fairly good pace.

This is a good, penetrating look into a period of time when Led Zeppelin was considered the greatest rock band in history While that’s certainly debatable, there’s no denying that in 1975 the band was at the top-both performance-wise and in popularity. Everything they had done before then was a build-up to this earth-shaking tour. And Davis has written a concise look into the band, and the era-an era that both needed and wanted a band like Led Zeppelin. Whether you think the band’s early work was best, or their later music had something special, this is a good slice of a certain time period when all the wildness, the excitement, and the strange came together. For that reason this is an interesting book about a band that, at least at that time, seemingly had no boundaries.

Review Arguably, one of the most influential bands in rock and roll history, no group seemed to mesmerize fans in the manner Led Zeppelin did. There is an undefined mystery/aura associated with Zeppelin that generates interest in the band, beyond its music. While Stephen Davis’ “Hammer of the Gods” was a much anticipated and appreciated look into the band, its tale of debauchery only added to Zeppelin’s mysterious lore. With LZ-75, Davis returns to give us a closer look at the band during its 1975 American Tour. Based notes and memorabilia that were “lost” for almost 35 years, Davis serves-up a close look at the band that somewhat diminishes the mysterious sheen that has cloaked the band throughout its history.

Halfway through the book, I was ready to pan Davis’ work as it appeared Stephen Davis had a grudge against the band. The Godfathers of the heavier version of rock and roll seemed to be finally exposed as … well … mere humans. As a lifelong fan of the band, I was not sure if I was ready to have its image decimated by a series of somewhat embarrassing tales that amounted to nothing less than “too much information”. However, as I pressed on, I began to appreciate Davis’ recollection of the band as an exclusive insider’s-view of Led Zeppelin in an era where rock stars enjoyed their decadent lifestyle in relative secrecy.

“LZ-75” starts with Davis discovering an old box full of memorabilia collected from an assignment covering Led Zeppelin during its 1975 American tour. From this point he takes us to the beginning of his adventure trying to secure such an assignment (made difficult by the negative press the band couldn’t escape from most traditional music sources like “Rolling Stone” magazine). His early reporting of the band’s performance, let alone its members, is less than flattering. Rather than Rock Gods staging yet another blitzkrieg across the United States, we see a group of spoiled prima donnas as unhealthy, homesick, and belligerent drunks with a penchant for drugs and groupies. The performances at the start of the tour are characterized as tepid, not torrid, as one concert in Texas included Robert Plant pleading with an unimpressed audience for some sign of appreciation. Unlike previous tours that followed the release of a new album, this tour featured the band trying to introduce music from an album (“Physical Graffiti”) whose release was delayed. The lackluster fan enthusiasm for the new music (including iconic gems like “Kashmir” and “Trampled Underfoot”) in addition to Robert Plant’s lingering influenza and Jimmy Page’s injured hand seemed to cast a funk on the band and its burgeoning tour. The rhythm section of the band (John Paul Jones and John Bonham) weren’t devoid of problems either as one became the subject of constant ridicule on stage (Jones) and the other (Bonham) turned into his violent, alcohol-fueled alter-ego, “the Beast”. While Davis’ main goal was to land a rare interview with the reclusive Page, it began to appear that the futility in getting that interview started to sour Davis’ opinion of Led Zeppelin altogether. After all, how many fans really need to know about Bonham’s need to wear diapers on stage due to alcohol-induced incontinence or the repeated need to compare Jones’ hair to that of Liberace and his keyboard playing as “cheesy lounge music”?

It is once the tour heads to Los Angeles that Davis’ reporting of events become more interesting and the band begins to enjoy itself and perform as expected. For it is the city of Los Angeles, with its abundance of drugs and loyal groupies, that traditionally served as Led Zeppelin’s life support during American tours. The mood is more relaxed, the album is finally released, the band is happier and the audience begins to appreciate the performances. It is at this point where the reader is given a much appreciated fly-on-the-wall perspective of the band’s stay at the Continental Hotel (the “Riot House”) and on board the legendary “Starship” (the band’s plane). We are exposed to the various people and activities that comprise the burden of that 1975 tour: the hand-assembled, 500 light bulb “Led Zeppelin” sign present at each show, the thuggish antics of band manager Peter Grant and tour manager Richard Cole to the workaholic Danny Goldberg. One interesting moment includes the possibility of Davis witnessing Manson follower Squeaky Fromme’s attempt to contact Jimmy Page about a pending omen. Davis finally eases up on Jones’ by acknowledging the importance and need of his bass-playing skills and thankfully, the almost daily account of Bonham’s diarrhoea, comes to an end. With the tour drawing to a close there is a melancholy sense that the author realizes the band’s best days may be a thing of the past.

“LZ-75” is actually pretty good reporting, in my opinion. Throughout the book, Davis displays an honest view of what he sees (good and bad) and overall, he comes across as objective. The book is probably best served to Led Zeppelin fans. Although some fans may believe Davis aims to tarnish the band’s image, many fans may appreciate a peek behind the mysterious veil that has surrounded the band for so long, exposing its members as mere mortals after all.

May 10, 2013 Posted by | Book LZ-'75 The Lost Chronicles Of Led Zeppelins 1975 American Tour By Stephen Davis | , , | Leave a comment