Classic Rock Review

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Led Zeppelin How Many Years Gone With The Wind (Atlanta, April 1977)


The Omni, Atlanta, GA – April 23rd, 1977

Disc 1: The Song Remains The Same, The Rover Intro/Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter 

Disc 2: Ten Years Gone, Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Out On The Tiles Intro/Moby Dick

Disc 3: Guitar Solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Rock And Roll, Trampled Underfoot

Many Led Zeppelin labels from Japan made a name for themselves in the 1990′s. The most prolific label was The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin who, when they began producing titles in 1996, set themselves the goal of releasing every tape in circulation in attractive silver editions. For many and various reasons, after producing several limited edition box sets in the autumn of 1999, they stopped production roughly halfway through their project. Some of their releases were of sterling sound quality, but others were a rough listen and of dubious aesthetic merit. However they took seriously Robert Walker’s statement in Hotwacks, ”When we start putting the sound quality of recordings ahead of historic importance we are buying bootlegs for the wrong reasons.”

In the intervening decade since TDOLZ stopped production there has been a need for a normally priced Led Zeppelin dedicated label producing silver editions using low generation tapes free from excessive remastering and editing. It is the goal of the new The Chronicles Of Led Zeppelin project to pick up where TDOLZ left off, and their first release is of the April 23rd, 1977 Atlanta show. It surfaced about ten years ago and was released on several commercial CDR titles, but now finally makes its silver pressed debut. Distant and distorted, overall this is a rough listen. There are fleeting moments when the sound clears up a bit, but it remains fair at best and poor at worst. But for Led Zeppelin collectors it is at least listenable once the ears adjust. There are cuts in ”In My Time Of Dying” omitting the final minute, at 20:35 in “No Quarter,” after “Going To California,” “Kashmir,” “Achilles Last Stand” and at 6:57 in “Moby Dick.”

Atlanta occurs in the final week of the first leg of the US tour and is a hot performance in line with Louisville, Cleveland, and Pontiac. Each song is attacked with tight intensity with none of the sloppiness that can often characterize a Led Zeppelin concert. Because of the cancellation of the scheduled August 31st, 1975 show at Fulton Country Stadium, this is their first appearance in Atlanta since the opening show of the 1973 tour and the audience are loud as the band hit the stage with “The Song Remains The Same.” Plant greets the audience after ”Sick Again” saying, ”Atlanta, good evening. Very nice to be here. Sorry for the delay….We’re gonna do not too much talking but plenty of playing.”

“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” begins a sequence of three great blues based epics and the second, “In My Time Of Dying,” is particularly dramatic in this recording. “No Quarter,” despite the cut, is still twenty-five minutes in length and features Page’s expressionistic, abstract solo in the middle. Plant gives a long explanation about the acoustic set, saying, “Now in about 1970 or 1971 we used to come here regularly and used to do an acoustic set. So we thought we’d do some acoustic. And this brings John Bonham to the front of the stage, a sight you rarely see. John Henry Bonham. This is a song I guess, about the fact that we live in a land that is pretty steeped in history. This is a song about what might have happened seven hundred years ago this evening on the Welsh borders.”

Since Led Zeppelin’s only other appearance in this city before the ninth tour was in the summer of 1969, this is their first glimpse of a Zeppelin acoustic set live. Plant changes the words a bit in “Going To California” singing, ”I’m going to Atlanta with an aching / in my heart.” “White Summer” sounds massive in this recording leading up to one of the more intense versions of “Kashmir.” So much so that Plant continues singing it after the song is over, saying, “Good evening! Let me take you there. I think things are beginning to hot up now!” He continues with the introduction of the drum solo by saying, “At this point in the show we bring to your attention the focal point of one of the greatest drummers that England’s ever had and ever will have. The finest man who ever sat on a drum stool, my good brother, John Bonham ‘Over The Top’!!”

It is hard to say how much of the drum solo is missing from the tape since it clocks in at about fifteen minutes. One of the taper’s friends complains about this and the taper tries to get him to watch telling him, ”you’re gonna regret this for the rest of your life. You better watch this….Look at him, it’s even better.” Jimmy Page follows with his guitar solo which includes snatches of “Dixie” and “The Star Spangled Banner” before seguing into ”Achilles Last Stand.” Afterward Plant makes some cryptic remarks by saying, “well it seems to have stopped raining here on stage….We’ve had a nice time here tonight. The other place was a bit big, wasn’t it?” “Stairway To Heaven” is excellent and Plant begins the encores by saying, ”we do the Quaalude stagger. We’d like to thank you for being so nice warm. In two years of absence of concerts you begin to forget what it’s all about. I think we remember now.”

How Many Years Gone With The Wind is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with very simple, brown paper bag artwork reminiscent of In Through The Outdoor. The title is a combination of “How Many More Times” and the book Gone With The Wind which is strange since they don’t play that song in this show. This title was given to this tape on one of the old cdr releases many years ago and is a bit clunky. The manufacturers limit production of this title to only one hundred unnumbered copies which is unfortunate because the intent was to make these tapes commonly available to all collectors. Hopefully in the future they will press more copies since it seems to be selling out rather quickly. In any event, for the hardcore Led Zeppelin collector it is good to see a new show surface on silver instead of the procession of re-releases that have been coming out of late. This isn’t a title that one will play many times, but it is now available to provide a glimpse into this part of the tour.

May 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin How Many Years Gone With The Wind | , | Leave a comment

Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Tampa Stadium, Florida 3rd June 1977

19770604NewYorkDailyNewsFrom Underground Uprising

I’ve been to over two hundred concerts since the early seventies, but nothing can compare before or since to the Led Zeppelin concert at Tampa Stadium on the night of June 3rd 1977. I’d bought my ticket in advance and arrived about 1/2 an hour before show-time. As I made my way towards the field, the sight that greeted me was astounding. At every entry portal throughout the stands, two cops dresses in full riot gear stood silent century. Clear shields, clubs, leggings, helmets… the works. I’d seen the Tampa police present in large numbers before, but never anything like this. As the entire stadium became visible, I realized as I peered across the vast expanse between me and the other side, that even the walkway rows in the stands were completely full of people! I’d been to many concerts at the Stadium, but I’d never see a crowd this size before. I couldn’t put my finger on it then, but there was a certain strange ‘electricity’ in the air. Very weird. Much like the feeling one gets when one is about to be struck by lightening. Something almost seen, but just out of the range of one’s vision. I can remember thinking at the time that it felt like something very big was about to happen. It was. And it was to be much bigger than anyone could have anticipated.

I made my way down onto the field, just to the right of center near the 20 yard line, where some friends were already waiting for me. There on stage were Bonzo’s drums and all their gear. It was a towering sight, and seethed of the power that was sure to come. I had never seen Zeppelin before, but I knew that I was in the right place.Just before dark they came on. They kicked right into it, no holds barred, and the massive crowd responded in riotous cheers. I looked back into the sea of countless faces behind me… then back again to the power and the glory that was on that stage…. Plant standing toe-to-toe with Page, and him with that big ax… And the thunder on those drums that was Bonham .. At that range, it was like being strapped to the front of a runaway freight train. Total chaos but under total control! It was easy to think that we were all in for one hell of a night. But it was simply not to be….

I can still hear them wailing out strains of ‘Nobody’s Fault But Mine’ as the first grape-sized rain drops began to fall. Just as the song neared it’s end, the rain got so bad that the band was forced to leave the stage, saying that they would be back when the shower was over. The crowd, already pumped up by this fine taste of jam, waited patiently.It rained for at least 1/2 an hour; maybe 45 minutes. And then, just as suddenly… it was over. We were all beginning to get up and shake off the rain, when a voice came over the PA system and said simply that everyone had to leave the stadium… that the show had been cancelled. They issued this command at least three times, with no other explanation. No mention of rescheduling. No mention of whether we’d be getting our money back. Nothing. My ticket stub said “rain or shine”. I suspected everyone else’s did too because it wasn’t 30 seconds before bottles began pelting that stage. I stood there in utter amazement, watching a steady stream of objects raining down on their gear. The voice came through the PA again, but this time in a harsher tone. The hail-storm of bottles got even worse. That’s when I knew for sure that there was going to be trouble.

This went on for at least three or four minutes before I noticed the long line of black helmets filing in on the other side of the crowd barricade. They weren’t fifty feet away from my vantage point, trotting single file, left to right. Then, with no further warning, over the barricade they came. An immediate stampede followed. Everyone in front of me just turned and ran as fast as they could. I soon discovered the source of their motivation….

Before I could get a grip on what I was seeing, I was stepped on, knocked to the ground and run over. By the time the crowd cleared, there they were… The meanest bunch of cops you’d ever want to see. They were two-abreast and busting the crap out of anybody that was in their way. ‘In their way’ at this point, were the dozens of other poor souls who, like me, were just trying to get to their feet. The two cops who were moving towards me chose to bash the people to my left, which gave me a chance to gather myself up. I got to my feet and surveyed the bedlam going down all around me. What especially caught my eye was the mayhem at the far end of the field…. where everyone had been flushed by the cops. Everywhere it was insanity in motion. I don’t even know how to describe it. Missiles were flying. Thousands of people were running in every direction. Screaming. Trying to get away. Angry police and confused fans could be standing right next to each other at any given time, but would not even be aware of the another’s proximity. Too much to take in. Too much all at once at any given moment to process in the short distance of that moment. A friend who was knocked down with me urged me to come with him and get the hell out of there. But me, being 19 and very pissed off at what I’d just seen, decided to head for the other end of the stadium where my brothers and sisters needed me more.

The fuzz had forced what the papers said were “between 3,000 & 5,000 rioters” into one of the four huge stadium exit portals on the field. I darted across that battle-line and into the biggest mass of pissed-off, snarling, steaming, oath-spewing, bottle-hurling rock people I’d ever seen. It took a lot of blood and quite a few busted fingers, but we somehow managed to closed the huge gates on them, so they couldn’t try to force us any further out. Every time a cop would lay his hands on those gates he’d get his hands smashed with something. Did I mention the missiles? It was unbelievable. The air was loaded with flying things throughout this whole affair. After a while we ran out of things to throw. They said later that stadium clean up found 3,000 pairs of shoes… Like I said, nothing left to throw.

The whole melee was eventually forced out of the stadium and into the west parking lot. Tampa police and the Sheriff Auxiliaries busting heads everywhere. Thousands of people running in all directions. The only way that I’ve been able to describe the deal in the parking lot is to say that it must have been a lot like Pickett’s charge at the battle of Gettysburg. At one point, I was knocked to the ground by some kind of blow to the back of my head. As my vision stabilized and I lay there looking up, I was astounded at what I saw: Nothing but flying object filling the air, in all directions. It was like looking at a pile of jackstraws, except they were moving.

I got to my feet and spied two Sheriff deputies about thirty feet away, standing there amidst the pandemonium, talking to each other just as calmly as you please. They were talking face-to-face. Looking to the ground, I saw a beer bottle lying about five feet away. I could not resist! I grabbed that sucker by the neck, and in one movement, hurled it end over end, right at those two helmet-headed cops. But my aim was too true. The bottle passed right between their faces. I mean, there couldn’t have been four inches on either side! They had helmets on, but their faces were not protected (I thank God now for the fact that I missed. It would have followed me around for the rest of my life If I would have connected. I was pretty disappointed then, though). But there was hardly time for thought. A second after I let fly, I was slammed to the ground from behind and cuffed by two county Sheriff deputies. They drug me away to a small secure room on-site and threw me in with a few others. A little while later, I even got to ride in the paddy wagon!

First, they took us to the city stockade and put us in a holding cell with about twenty other dudes. I swear to God, they couldn’t fit another person in there. Standing room only. All concert-goers. Many bleeding. Many shouting for help. All ignored by a fat cop working at his desk not ten feet away. I spent the rest of the night in county lockup, and was arraigned the next morning on a very serious charge…. “Hurling a deadly missile at a police officer in the line of duty”, I think it was (the two cops who took me down saw the whole thing). There were 150 other arrests that night, but only three felonies. Me being one.

My hotshot lawyer later got the charge reduced because I had no adult record, and the cops weren’t hurt. Not only that, but by the time any of us made it to court, the whole Led Zeppelin affair had become a bad taste in the city’s mouth and everybody just wanted to wash their hands of it. It was an experience Tampa (and the rock and roll community here) would live with for a long time. It was quite a while before they’d allow another concert there again (I think it was the Eagles in 1980).

Led-zeppelin1-1977The next day, the newspaper ran a great picture (big) on the front page showing these two riot-clad cops dragging this totally bewildered looking fan away. The disturbing thing to me was the sneer of hate on this one cops face. A very clear message, and not surprising to anyone who was there. They were ready for trouble.

We later learned that Led Zeppelin had been chauffeured away before the rain had even stopped. The Tribune ran a picture of their limo streaking away. You could see Plant through the window looking very distraught. When all the dust settled, it came out that the city had cancelled the show after the rain due to some kinda curfew at the stadium or something.

It was a real bust but at least I did get to see them, and they were really cooking! They never came back to Tampa again. The Tampa police were eventually saddled with the blame, by and large. Coming from one who actually saw it, I think I can say that they were at least 75 per cent at fault. You just don’t go and rush a pumped-up crowd of over 70,000 LZ fans and get away with it. It was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen.

Then-Zeppelin spokeswoman Janine Safer said in Rolling Stone #243, that… “The entire situation from top to bottom was handled as miserably as anything could conceivably be handled” (there’s a couple of photos in this issue, including the one of the evil hateful cop dragging the poor bewildered freak away). The papers said the next day that there were 27 car crashes around the area of the stadium that night. Fans caught up in the mass exodus who just wanted to get the hell away from a really bad experience.

Not long after this, the stampede incident at the Who show in Cincinnati happened, and the days of festival seating were almost over. Tell me.. When’s the last time you went to a concert and saw a human-pyramid or a blanket-toss on the field, or hundreds of Frisbees flying through the air all at once? Now you have little old ladies with flashlights who show you to your seat. I can see my friends over there but I can’t get to them. So much of the communal spirit has been quashed with the taming of the rock arena…. Rock will never be the same again. It was the end of an era that was old as rock itself.

May 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin Concert Memories: Tampa Stadium Florida 3rd June 1977 | , | 1 Comment

Led Zeppelin No Firecrackers (Vancouver, July 1973)


PNE Coliseum, Vancouver, BC, Canada – July 18th, 1973

Disc 1 (47:55): Rock and Roll, Celebration Day, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2 (37:12): Dazed & Confused, Stairway To Heaven, outroduction

One of the more interesting Led Zeppelin concerts on their ninth US tour is the July 18th show in Vancouver. A night after a triumphant show in Seattle, this gig was cut short because of the health of singer Robert Plant.

The show was taped by journalist Rick McGrath, who interviewed Robert Plant after their 1971 show in Vancouver. The first half the show, from “Rock And Roll” through the first eight seconds of “Dazed & Confused,” was released in the nineties on Canada Dry (Tarantura CD-001), Twopenny Upright (Antrabata ARM17-11-71/18-7-73/19-3-73) a three disc set that also includes Berlin 1973 and Ipswich 1971, and finally Cut In The Seventies on The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin (TDOLZ Vol. 85) in 1999. It was a good but hissy tape that ran a bit too slow.

About a year after Diagrams Electric Magic issued No Firecrackers featuring a more complete version of the same tape source in superior quality and running at the correct speed. As it stands, there are cuts at the end of “Celebration Day” which eliminates the ending and the first two verses of “Black Dog,” after “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and at 6:11 in “Dazed And Confused” losing “San Francisco.”

The cut after ”Since I’ve Been Loving You” is problematic because it seems to lose both “The Song Remains The Same” and “The Rain Song” since both of them normally followed in the set list. It is most likely that the band decided to drop those two from the show that night since Plant was tired. The sound quality on Electric Magic is much improved over the older silver pressed editions. The hiss is reduced to being a non-factor and we are left with an enjoyable, atmospheric recording. The only problem is that the sound tends to lean on the right channel too much. Adjusting the balance on the stereo is an option.

It is an interesting show because it was stopped early because someone slipped Plant some LSD before the show. He referred to the incident on their next visit to Vancouver in 1975 when he joked “there’s a man climbing up the mic stand…no that was last time” and “it was a peculiar show actually…if I ever find that guy…terrible bad news…something strange happened…I found the light show to be amazing and I wondered what the name of the group was.” In Seattle 1977 he mentions this show again when he says, “Vancouver – it’s not a nice place to get spiked, but it’s a nice place to play.” He is lacking in energy and focus and even interrupts his introduction to “Over The Hills And Far Away” to say “oh dear, I’m tired.”

The rest of the band seem to compensate by delivering a show that grow more improvisational as it goes on. The title comes from Plant’s plea before “Misty Mountain Hop,” saying, “We shall play our balls off if you promise no firecrackers, right? You can have our balls. We don’t want your firecrackers.” “No Quarter” in particular includes a unique and dynamic organ melody during the solo as Jones duets with Page. And in the latter moments in “Dazed And Confused,” before the return to the third verse, Page tries a new improvisation which doesn’t really work but is interesting to hear.

After “Stairway To Heaven” there is a short pause before the mc comes out to say: “Ladies and gentlemen, Led Zeppelin has left the building. Please stop for just a moment. They’re trying to get Robert Plant to a hospital. Please very orderly try to cool it with the traffic while we try to get the limos through the traffic. We have to get Robert Plant to the hospital in the next few minutes. They said to thank you, you’ve been an unbelievable audience. We apologize. Thank you Vancouver.” There are cries of “bullshit” from people close to the taper. No Firecrackers is packaged in a cardboard gatefold sleeve in a slip case with the concert description from The Concert File printed on the interior. It is a good release, but could be improved upon by centering the music.

May 11, 2013 Posted by | Led Zeppelin No Firecrackers | , | Leave a comment

And on Piano …Nicky Hopkins: The Extraordinary Life of Rock’s Greatest Session Man by Julian Dawson (2011)


Trade size edition. Introduction by Klaus Voormann, 6 page Introduction, 338 pages of text including-25 page Discography, 3 pages listing bands and live appearances, film and video appearances, plus an Index. There’s also many b&w photographs throughout the book beginning with Hopkins’ early life and the bands he played with. Sprinkled throughout are album covers of various pertinent sessions Hopkins played on, or his solo work.

“Nicky could play anything. He was a genius.” Bill Wyman.
“Nicky was a genius, but a lot of the time genius isn’t noticed until many years later.” Joe Cocker.
“I wish he were here right now-it would be so great if he could just walk right out on the stage and sit down at the piano.” Steve Miller.
“He was just a brilliant, brilliant musician!” Chuck Leavell.

Session man Nicky Hopkins is, hopefully, known to just about anyone who has listened to The Who, Jeff Beck Group, Joe Cocker, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, Steve Miller Band, The Strawbs, John Lennon, The Beatles, Lowell George, Jefferson Airplane, Harry Nilsson, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Creation, P.P. Arnold, Billy Nicholls, The Move, The Iveys/Badfinger, Giles, Giles and Fripp, The Easybeats, Dusty Springfield, Family, Jackie Lomax, Donovan, Rod Stewart, George Harrison, Jerry Garcia, Tomorrow, and many, many more. His unique abilities, both as a piano (and sometimes organ/harpsichord) player and an arranger, made him the “go to” guy for many bands of the era. No matter if it was a simple piano piece to flesh out a song, or to arrange a piece of music, Hopkins was the man for the job. Similar to many good guitarists, Hopkins had a recognizable sound whenever he sat behind the piano. His unmistakable sound graced many fine albums and individual songs.

The author interviewed many people, including-P.P. Arnold, Long John Baldry, Ritchie Blackmore, Pete Brown, Vashti Bunyan, Joe Cocker, Dave Cousins, Spencer Davis, Gary Duncan, Al Kooper, Albert Lee, Nils Lofgren, Michael McDonald, Ian McLagan, Steve Miller, Andrew Loog Oldham, Graham Parker, Richard Perry, Prairie Prince, Keith Richards, Tom Rush, Brinsley Schwarz, Paul Samwell-Smith, Leigh Stephens, Rod Stewart, Shel Talmy, Mick Taylor, Richard Thompson, Joe Walsh, Bill Wyman, among many others-both well and relatively well known people in the music business. The various interviews were of varying length, but together they paint an in-depth portrait of both Hopkins and his music.

Hopkins ability to constantly come up with just the right sound kept him busy throughout the late 60’s/early 70’s. There was talk from both The Who and The Rolling Stones about joining their respective bands-something he regretted later in life not doing. A busy session man, Hopkins was rarely paid commensurate with his abilities. He quit The Jeff Beck Group to play on a Stones record. He never kept track of his sessions, and never asked for a percentage instead of straight payment-huge mistakes. This was the era when session players were simply anonymous musicians, treated and payed with little regard for their talents. In the beginning Hopkins never really thought about, or knew, what top flight session musicians in the U.S. were payed for their contributions.

This book, written by Julian Dawson, a friend later in life in Nashville, tells Hopkins story from his early days in England in the 1950’s, his discovery of r’n’r music, playing in bands like Screaming Lord Sutch, and Cyril Davies. But even during these early years of life, Hopkins suffered a debilitating intestinal problem (which would eventually contribute to his death), that left him in hospital, and off the scene, for extended periods of time. If you’ve ever seen a photograph of Hopkins you know what I’m talking about. While this book concentrates on Hopkins’ life, it’s also about the beginnings of r’n’r in England, and his subsequent playing with a number of the best bands on the S.F. scene, during the musical explosion of the late 60’s. Hopkins’ story is tied to the first stirrings of rock, blues, and r&b, that was played by a loose gathering of like-minded people. As Hopkins’ story unfolds, so does the story of this (then) new music, which was beginning to spread throughout England. In that respect this book is a window into this exciting era when groups were forming everywhere to play this new music. Likewise, Hopkins’ life in the burgeoning Bay Area music scene is recounted in some detail, with a good look into his playing with Quicksilver Messenger Service especially interesting.

Hopkins was in the front ranks of British session players of the day, which included John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Clem Cattini, etc., and he was a favorite of producers like Glyn Johns and Andrew Loog Oldham, among others. But a move to the U.S. would change his life (ultimately) for the worse. Settling in the Bay Area of S.F., he played with a number of bands in the area. He also met a woman, Lynda Van Orden (Steve Miller-“the girlfriend from Hell”) who, in a nutshell, turned Hopkins’ life into a nightmare. The book details Hopkins slide into alcoholism (he previously wasn’t a drinker), and drug use-using a number of illicit substances. As a result his life would never be the same. And touring with The Stones in 1972, on their infamous trek across America, did nothing to help matters. After that tour Hopkins was literally a hollow shell of a man-unfit both mentally and physically.

The book relates in Van Orden’s hold over Hopkins, and as a result Hopkins made a number of bad career decisions-not keeping an eye on his finances (which Van Orden spent), a disastrous solo career (even with many well known musicians on his recordings), Van Orden’s infidelities, and Hopkins’ increasing alcoholism. He also let Van Orden run his business affairs and her name appeared as a co-writer of some of his songs. To make matters even worse, Van Orden would attempt to sing-which was a disaster. Combining his personal and physical problems-Hopkins’ apparent inability to take charge of his career, join a band for the duration, front his own bands, and effectively play his own music, Hopkins’ life as a “name” musician was doomed. Van Orden was a strong personality where Hopkins’ was weak, which he apparently didn’t seem to mind, during their marriage-the music was all that really mattered to Hopkins. This is the period when the once top flight session player had to be strapped to his piano bench in order to play on sessions.

But the book ends on a relatively high note. Hopkins found Scientology, and credits that with his recovery from drug addiction. Hopkins also married again, this time to someone who helped him though his troubles. But at this late date, his career as a session player for major artists was over – he became the band leader for Art Garfunkel. During this period he also wrote film scores for foreign films. But what Hopkins really wanted was to form a band with Joe Walsh and singer Frankie Miller. But Walsh upped and joined The Eagles, so it came to nothing.

It seemed that Hopkins could never catch a break-which he deserved. In later years he regretted working for cash instead of a percentage, something which would have given him a relatively steady income for life. But without a composer’s credit, he lost all of it. His illness kept him from playing sessions and continued to hamper his life. And of course the decisions not to join major bands when asked was a disastrous one. Combine all that with his various personal problems and you have a portrait of someone who was unlucky in every sense of the word.

Hopkins rubbed shoulders with some of the best musicians of the much vaunted 60’s. He also knew the harrowing lows of addiction, and physical maladies. But at least near the end of his life, having moved to Nashville, sober, and happily married, Hopkins lived out the rest of his days, dying in 1994. Hopkins career began as a footnote on the back of many fine albums of the era, he found relative fame, and then his life fell apart. Hopefully this book will keep him from, once again, becoming nothing more than a footnote in discographies to both current and future generations of music listeners. He stands alongside session players like Hal Blaine, Leland Sklar, and other studio musicians, in both L.A. and N.Y., and with Charlie McCoy and a select few in Nashville, who played on countless songs by both unknown and popular artists of the era. His playing style, his sensitiveness with a song, his very sound, was a major contribution to r’n’r. He deserves to be remembered.

May 11, 2013 Posted by | Book And on Piano ...Nicky Hopkins: The Extraordinary Life of Rock's Greatest Session Man by Julian Dawson | , | Leave a comment

Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored by Richard Cole (1992)


Review If you are endeavouring to start reading any books on Led Zeppelin, Richard Cole’s Stairway to Heaven is the place to start.

Keep in mind that Coles claim to fame is that “he was there.’ Furthermore, Stephen Davis of the Hammer of the Gods fame was the first author to release an unauthorized biography. There was a plethora of Led Zeppelin books written from 1985 until the present. Many these books are now out of date and out of print. The 2 books that have stood the test of time are Hammer Of The Gods and Stairway To Heaven. Hammer Of The Gods has been superseded by When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin by Mick Wall. Jimmy Page is no longer on speaking terms with Mick Wall, so therefore it is another must read.

Most Amazon reviews are simply a personal attack on Cole (not completely undeserving) with the benefit of hindsight. Keep an open mind because, like him or hate him, most books to this day still quote him as a primary source so he will never be obsolete. The band members do not like the book and John Paul Jones (Jonesy) has legitimate reason s for disliking Stairway to Heaven and claims that Richard Cole:

1. Deliberately lied to the band as was the primary source for both Stairway to Heaven and Stephen Davis book Hammer of the Gods
2. Gets the stories muddled up and conveniently names Bonham as instigator and culprit, knowing full well that Bonzo can’t defend himself
3. Treats John Bottom (Bonzo) like an imbecile… Bonzo appeared to be Bi-Polar problem that was not officially diagnosed, yet casts him as buffoon, rapist and a violent thug and in fact blames just about every negative event as quote “this happened ….. and Bonzo made it worse.”

Richard Cole does not deserve your pity or empathy. He is a recovering alcoholic and surprisingly has an excellent memory when it suits the author, but, grows hazy when discussing for example, the incident at Oakland.

Name Dropper
Cole is an unashamed name dropper.
For example, Cole alleges that he assists Robert Downey jnr to stay clean on, and, apparently lived with Downey whist he filmed certain movies. Cole goes on to say that he also helped Ozzy Osbourne stay clean. I have never heard Ozzy or Sharon Osbourne thank Richard Cole publically or privately.

1977 and The Oakland Incident
I have always been interested in Zeppelin’s 1977 tour. What really happened? Cole but infers a bad vibe and spiralling drug use but glosses over most of the tour. The incident at the Oakland Coliseum is the darkest in the bands history. Cole in Stairway obviously admits he was there, but, blames the incident on Peter Grant and Bonzo. The ’77 Oakland incident is discussed in far greater detail both in Mick Wall’s When Giants Walked the Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin and Keith Shadwick’s efforts in Led Zeppelin 1968-1980.

Shadwick cites references from Stairway to Heaven but it is obvious that he detests Richard Cole. Shadwick’s description of Oakland incident is extremely detailed and has Cole as the instigator. In fact Shadwick, as does Mick Wall and Bill Graham in their books, highlight the fact that Cole was instigated the majority of violent incidents that marked that horrific 1977 tour. I won’t ruin the shocking surprise, but Wall describes a shocking incident concerning the famous seventies drummer Aynsley Dunbar of ELO fame, that will you feeling with nothing but disgust for Richard Cole.

When asked about the book, Robert Plant claims that he has only read the post 1980 chapters, as he was interested to see what Richard Cole did after Zeppelin separated. These in fact are the best chapters in the book and you may begin to feel some empathy towards Richard Cole. However I urge you to read would be Mick Wall’s When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography of Led Zeppelin. When Giants Walked The Earth is Hammer Of The Gods with additional detail. If you are into extreme detail, then Keith Shadwick’s effort in Led Zeppelin: 1968-1980 is a must. You can then compare all three and make up your own mind concerning Richard Cole.

Review There is little reason for this book to exist except for Richard Cole to make money. Sure he was Led Zeppelin’s trusty road manager for many years, but this is little justification for him to spend the next several decades rehashing the band’s sordid past for his own gain. He did this previously by being the key contributor to Stephen Davis’ inferior Zep biography “Hammer Of The Gods.” Cole should be grateful to Zep for employing him for so many years, and should value their friendship enough to let the past stay in the past.

The surviving members of the band are now mature older men, and while they surely have fond memories of their glory days, they probably know it’s time to lead respectable middle-aged lives. Why can’t Cole do the same? The guy is pushing sixty. Should he still be going on and on about his wild days with his crazy pals three decades ago?

Yes, Zep was the wildest party band ever. Yes they consumed gigantic amounts of illicit substances. Yes they trashed hotel rooms. Yes they degraded women. Yawn. This is all common knowledge. The amount of time Zep was on tour was probably less than 25% of their overall working time as a band. The time they spent writing and recording their incredible music was much greater, and that’s what matters now. Their music is timeless and is their true legacy, while their touring exploits are vaguely funny stories at best. Granted, Cole shows some empathy in his treatment of John Bonham’s exploits, gaining some insight into the inner weaknesses that drove the drummer to an early grave. On the other hand, his treatment of John Paul Jones is sheer vindictiveness, trying to cut Jones’ image as the level headed member of the band down to size. Cole’s coverage of Page and Plant is merely elaboration on what is already known, purely for profit.

Do not buy this book. If you do, you’re encouraging Cole to make more money by living in the distant past, using his fortunate connection with famous people for his own gain. In this book Cole has embarrassed himself by stabbing his old friends in the back for some easy money. He has embarrassed the reader by assuming that this sordid material is useful or funny to the faithful Zep fan. Worst of all, he has embarrassed Led Zeppelin. Fortunately, the music will remain long after this useless book is forgotten.

Review If you enjoy the detaildness of Led Zeppelin’s adventures, that’s one thing. But if you can’t put down sleazy writing for the life of you, this book is for you. Richard Cole did a good job of describing the band’s escapades, but it wasn’t really anything new to anyone who knows anything about Led Zeppelin. It was a typical description of a rock and roll band. But it highlights Robert as a pompous wild child, Pagey as a mysterious, stubborn, yet charming man, John Paul as composed and unwilling and Bonzo as a destructive maniac. It is what one would typically expect of each member, and I expected more.

I was happy to learn of the things I didn’t know about the band members. I don’t really give a hoot about Richard Cole. I was entertained during a part in the book when they were at a big star’s birthday party, and Bonzo got into a brawl someone and they fell into the pool. Soon enough everyone was pushing everybody in the pool. I laughed out loud as it explained that Jimmy Page could not swim and with a drink in his hand wearing a $300 or $400 suit, he stepped into the pool himself.

At times I waited for the book to be over, and there were snippets of time when I actually became intrigued. I find it disappointing that such glorious musicians could be so unharmonious at times and that they could even be scum bags. But they are Led Zeppelin and you don’t want to believe it. All in all, is was good, just because it was truly shocking to find out the truth about Karac’s death and Robert’s take on it along with some other well-known events. My biggest complaint is that John Paul is left out too much and I would say that a mere 3 or 4 pages can take up what was written about him.

May 11, 2013 Posted by | Book Stairway To Heaven Led Zeppelin Uncensored By Richard Cole | , , | Leave a comment

Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon – and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller (2008)


Review Everything in Girls Like Us will be amazingly familiar to those of us born in the bay boom, and yet Sheila Weller, a talented if erratic prose stylist, brings us to emotional places that will be new to all but those most intimate with the trio of songwriters whose lives, she declares, form a “journey of a generation.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I’m not a woman, and Weller’s argument is that King, Simon, and Mitchell pushes back the barriers for women specifically, “one song at a time.”

The cryptic one remains Carole King, whom Weller just can’t illuminate in any meaningful way. Her life was amazing–up to a point, then it stopped being of any interest at all, which is a shame. We hear again and again how she wrote all those Brill Building masterpieces before she was 21, and broke down under the strain of a troubled marriage to a high-stakes husband and lyricist, Gerry Goffin, coming out the other end with an LP. Tapestry, that everyone loved. Then what happened? Bad men galore, attracted to her wealth. She once estimated that every time she divorced a man, it cost her a million dollars. Weller gives us all the facts ad nauseam but we always wonder, why did King do this to herself?

Carly Simon, on the other hand, who cooperated with Weller extensively or so it seems, comes off as nearly normal. Of the upper, upper middle class, Simon was to the manor born and the icy, plangent chords of her first song, “That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be,” gave notice that the old New Yorker fiction writers of the 40s and 50s hadn’t died, they had just rolled over and told Carly Simon the news. Though obviously spoiled and cosseted by her own wealth, Simon doesn’t seem spoiled; her reactions throughout, even meeting and marrying the drug-zombie James Taylor, are always understandable and sympathetic.

Joni Mitchell isn’t sympathetic per se, but she has the integrated personality of the genius totally in love with herself and obsessed with her own reflection, so she’s great in a special way. Weller pokes amused fun at Mitchell’s vanity and enormous self-esteem, but we get the picture that, in her opinion at any rate, Mitchell actually is pretty f–ing amazing. Does our society have it in for women who want to be artists? Mitchell’s encounter with the aged, reclusive Georgia O’Keeffe seems like a emblem of a certain baton-passing, as is Carly Simon’s relationship with former First Lady Jackie Kennedy. Weller is OK about male-female relationships, but in this book at any rate she’s more interested in the ways women deal with each other.

It’s nearly a biography of five people, not just three, as there is so much about James Taylor you will never need to read another word about him if you have this book on your shelf; and for some reason there’s tons of material about Judy Collins. I wonder if Weller proposed a book with King, Mitchell, Simon, and Collins, and some editorial board nixed the addition of Collins–but there was so much good material about Collins, Weller kept it in anyhow. She is the Vanity Fair writer supreme, whose motto is that no sentence is complete without some action and punch, and the best way to get that is to string along many words with hyphens to invent new forms of adjectival excitement. You won’t be able to read for more than a few minutes without being hit on the head by Weller’s mad stylings–here’s a typical hyphen filled sentence about the Eagles: “Their at-home-in-Death-Valley image and bleating-lost-boy-in-expensive-boots sound had become era-definingly successful.” (Ten hyphens in a mere 20 words! Sheila Weller is era-definingly successful at inventing a new form of writing–like the classic circus act when a small VW would pull up to center ring and then clown after clown would prance out. Then more clowns–then still more. She’s pretty amazing and Girls Like Us is a book that, for all its flaws, convinces us roundly in its larger arguments and dazzles with its wide-ranging portraits of artistic life in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Review ” Girls Like Us” seems to be striking a chord with those who lived through the turbulent, yet enlightening, times of the late 60s/early 70s. The stories of these three women seem ripe for regaling the generation who laughed, cried, and, most importantly, identified with the art produced by the subjects Shelia Weller explores. In my case, some of it happens to intrigue a Gen Xer who grew up listening to these women through my own discovery….. no college dorm room sing-alongs brought me to the alter of Joni Mitchell ( my favorite of the three), nor the undeniable talent of Carole King and Carly Simon. I sought them on my own, as an individual, not part of a movement.

Having said this, the status of being removed from the zeitgeist of the Boomers gives me an advantage and, perhaps, a disadvantage. I feel I can look at these artists with a more objective view than those who moved through life with them. On the flip, there is a definite disconnect between my understanding of the times, as I was not there, and the visceral knowledge brought to the book by the target audience.

Weller does a fantastic job of providing a historical backdrop for each story she tells. Motives, blow by blow accounts, tidbits that have escaped the pop culture pantheon, even though two out of three of these women ( Mitchell and Simon) have been turned inside out by the media, one of them courting it ( Simon) while the other one has avoided it at all costs ( Mitchell). New details are revealed, especially with the story of Carole King, a figure who has always generously shared her talent, yet remained detached from the media machine that is usually necessary for promoting one’s work. Weller obviously did her homework, uncovering elements of the stories we have not yet heard, although there is a fair amount of rehashing tales long ago plumbed by different outlets.

The real question, though , is not whether Weller did a good job in compiling a historical, documentary style book explaining these three women, their art and their personas. The answer to this question is, for the most part, yes. However, the bigger question is when will the public ever be able to separate their interest in the art from a fascination with the artist, seemingly needing to know the intimate details of their lives? It is interesting, I admit, to know who inspired what songs, what circumstances sparked the creation of a certain piece. Still, two of the three women explored here ( Mitchell and King) may take issue with some of the information that is now available for public consumption. I fear we cease to respect our artists when we have such voracious appetites for knowing every aspect of their personal lives. I am guilty of partaking, it’s just a thought for us to consider as we devour the joys and tragedies of the talents we claim to honour.

May 11, 2013 Posted by | Book Girls Like Us Carole King Joni Mitchell Carly Simon - and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller | , , , | Leave a comment

Oasis (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (1995)


Review When Oasis released their album “Definitely Maybe” in 1994, no one thought that one year later, they would become the most significant and important British band since the Beatles. 1995 was a whirlwind year for Oasis, and their release of the album “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory” was the focal point. This is more than an album – it’s part of 90’s popular culture. A true classic that spoke to a whole generation of fat and lazy middle-aged men. The album sold by the truck load – in the UK, it is the second biggest selling record of all time, with only the Beatles’ “Sgt. Peppers” standing in its way. The songs on this album are classics – iconic songs that will stand the test of time.

The album starts with the infectious “Hello.” Crunching guitar solos and brilliant vocals make this an excellent opener – it’s short, but sweet. The song starts with the tune of “Wonderwall,” but quickly changes to this all-out rock anthem. “Roll With It” was a big hit for the boys in August 1995, when the song peaked at No.2 in the UK. It has a brilliant melody, and the strained vocals from Liam Gallagher enhance the song’s quality. Up next we have two undeniable classics. Firstly, “Wonderwall” has to be one of the greatest songs ever written. Amazingly, the song didn’t make No.1, but charted at No.2 in the UK. This was the anthem that millions sung in 1995, and was played on the radio literally millions of times. “Don’t Look Back In Anger” is even more of an iconic classic. It gave the boys their second UK No.1 hit in the UK in March 1996, and pushed sales of this album even further beyond what seemed possible. The wonderful similarity of John Lennon’s “Imagine” at the beginning is genius. Everything about the song is perfect – vocals, lyrics, guitar, piano, drums. It’s the works.

“Hey Now!” is one of my favourites on the album. A lot of people dislike this song for reasons I really cannot see, because everything about it is perfect. The guitars and the drums are amazing, and the vocal arrangement is particularly interesting. A short interlude follows, before we move on to the amazing “Some Might Say.” This wonderful classic gave Oasis their first UK No.1 hit single in May 1995. Once again, wonderful guitar melodies are blended with wonderful vocals. The lyrics are well written, but in a way that encompasses all those who listen to it. “Cast No Shadow” is the album’s true chill out track. The boys release wonderful harmonies and beautiful melodies that relax the listener. A true masterpiece, said to be influenced by the Verve’s Richard Ashcroft.

“She’s Electric” is one of Oasis’ few humorous songs. The lyrics are wonderful, and very ironic of life amongst a jilted generation of slobs. It’s the song you heard on the radio all the time as a teenager, and knew all the lyrics off by heart. “Morning Glory,” the album’s title track, is a song that will stay in your head for years to come – possibly all your life. More wonderful guitar solos, and marvellous lyrics make for another album highlight. A song that reveals a dirty side to the band. Another short instrumental interlude follows, which is followed by the epic finale “Champagne Supernova.” This is one of the most beautiful and memorable songs that Oasis ever had the opportunity to churn out. Wonderful lyrics, excellent vocals and excellent melodies are all encased in seven and a half minutes of pure Britpop class.

This is not only an essential album for anyone interested in Oasis, but an essential album for those who witnessed the 1990’s – and the impact that this band had on the music scene. I was just eight years old at the time this CD was released, but I still remember all the songs that played endlessly on the radio for years. I hated them as a band but there’s no denying that these songs are amazing. Liam’s attitude is a bit vulgar and over-the-top, but that’s all part of their image. A handful of critics once said that Oasis were more important than the Beatles – I have to disagree, but they’re pretty damn close!

Review It’s quite obvious that over the last 8 years Oasis have produced some of the best music in recent memory and have established themselves as heroes of modern day rock n roll and have reached the height of success that such artists as The Rolling Stones, The Police, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, and The Beatles have been graced with. Morning Glory remains to be the one album that defined the true essence of oasis, thanks to the songs’ author and composer Noel Gallagher who stands today on the shoulder of giants. over the 8 years that have passed, however, their 1995 mega epic Morning Glory is still their best outing.

The entire album is outrageous and it still sounds pure when I put it in my disc player and play it from start to finish. beginning with “Hello” and ending with a Champagne Supernova in the sky, one goes through 1000 different emotions in the duration of less than an hour. You jump and cheer and roll with “Roll With It”, you get butterflies in your stomach with “Wonderwall”, you remember your past and dare to look back in anger with “Don’t Look Back In Anger”, you feel a sudden rush, a pump of warm blood running through your veins with every tone of Liam’s voice singing “Hey Now”, you dread on the bad pop music you’ve been hearing for ages and hope the song never ends when you hear “Some Might Say”, you sigh, sob or cry when you face the sun and “Cast No Shadow”, you get all electric and shine and sing along happily to “She’s Electric”, you then get another sudden rush like a shot of adrenaline that was just pumped into your veins and you walk to the sound of the favourite tune called “Morning Glory”, and finally you get back to your senses and mellow out to a conclusion that seems at that moment long awaited, and it seems that it’s coming to you faster than a cannonball but slowly walking down the hall of your mind with a “Champagne Supernova” in the sky. What art! What beauty! Genuine. Magnificent, spectacular, moving, slick, cool. You play it again and again and again and you never say stop!

This is the best album of the nineties. Oasis are to be recognized forever as kings of cool Britannica, the honourable embassadors of the 90’s generation rock n roll.

Whether the critics decide to keep on pounding them artistically or give ’em a break, Morning Glory will come out and shout out straight in their faces the words “today is the day that all the world will see”. The world will still see and hope that today will last forever.

May 11, 2013 Posted by | Oasis (What's The Story) Morning Glory? | | Leave a comment