Led Zeppelin Ascension In The Wane (Oxford, Liverpool, Stoke, Southampton, Bradford & Dundee, January 1973)
Led Zeppelin’s ascension to super stardom was so fast that, even early in their career, they were challenged by the British press to match their current champions. The most well known was in 1977 and 1978 when they were pitted against the punk movement in the UK. Believe it or not, there was a time when progressive bands like Yes were the new guard, and the press wondered if Zeppelin could match them in creativity and popularity.
This was the atmosphere in which Zeppelin planned their largest UK tour to date. Ascension In The Wane is a box set containing soundboard recordings from the second half of their UK tour. The first half, during December 1972, ended with two shows in London. In January 1973 they continued with shows in northern England and Scotland.
Many Zeppelin fans and collectors believe early 1973 (especially the European dates in March) are among the band’s greatest all-time performances. All of the tapes have been released before. Most surfaced in the early nineties and they all sound as good as the best versions in current circulation. This is a good way for those who do not own any of these shows to obtain them.
Oxford Blues (G.R. BOX 13A/B)
New Theatre, Oxford, England – January 7th, 1973
Disc 1 (50:42): Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 2 (42:56): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love
After Zeppelin’s brief break for the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, their first show in the new year was on January 2nd in Sheffield. Robert Plant caught the flu hitchhiking in the cold winter after his jeep broke down. His voice affected that performance (which exists in a poor audience tape) and caused the rescheduling of shows in Bradford and Preston.
The next show was on Sunday, January 7th at the 1,800 capacity New Theatre in Oxford. Zeppelin’s only show in Oxford, it is captured in a nearly complete soundboard recording. It cuts in right at the beginning of “Rock And Roll,” has a big cut in “The Rain Song,” and cuts out during the theremin solo in “Whole Lotta Love.”
The soundboard first surfaced in 1991 on Oxford Blues (Flying Disc Music CD 6-800). Tarantura included “The Song Remains The Same,” ” The Rain Song,” “Dazed And Confused” and part of “Whole Lotta Love” on the compilation Nasty Music (Tarantura T3CD-011-1-2-3).
“Dancing Days” and “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” appear on Best Of Tour 1973 (Forever Standard Series FS 99-008) and the best version came out after that on Oxford 1973 (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ Vol. 75). The latest release is on the poorly edited and ghastly sounding British Story (Wendy WECD-82/83) where it is paired with the Dundee soundboard and the Southampton rehearsal as a bonus.
Godfather use what sounds like the Diagrams version of the tape. It’s very clear and enjoyable, one of the best to surface from this part of the tour. The guitar is unfortunately mixed down, but the rhythm section is very powerful. There is a small cut 3:13 in “The Rain Song” and the tape cuts out during the theremin solo in “Whole Lotta Love.”
It starts right at the drum fanfare of “Rock And Roll” and it’s obvious from the first song that Plant is going to struggle this evening. He compensates by trading the high notes for low and low growls for high shrikes. It’s somewhat effective and very creepy at certain points.
After the new song “Over The Hills And Far Away” Plant apologizes for the delay. He jokes “since we’ve joined the common market this area’s gone down the nick” (Britain joined the European Market on January 1st, 1973, a full week before this gig). “Somebody threw an iron bar onto the electric railway line, and the trains have stopped. Alright, this is one for the guy who did that” before starting “Black Dog.”
At the end of the song someone makes a strange comment to Plant, prompting him to reply “well, I used to be Jethro Tull” and dedicates “Misty Mountain Hop” to “everybody who ever got waylaid when they were going somewhere.”
Early in the set is the short, one song acoustic set “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp.” Plant expands on the song’s meaning, saying it’s “really about a dog who refuses to be bathed, washed, brushed, and spends a lot of his time doing nothing…sounds reasonable!…You can be of assisstance with the mitts, you know” urging the audience to clap along.
Plant’s mellow vocals put a damper on “The Rain Song.” He moans instead of shouts over Bonham’s thunderous drums in the song’s latter half. They are also subdued for “Dazed & Confused.” He minimizes the vocal gymnastics with Page’s guitar. Instead, Page is quite creative inventing riffs and melodies. The most memorable is a haunting melody played in the violin bow segment.
“Whole Lotta Love” is “for any of our road manager who didn’t get arrested in Sheffield. This is a number that really is a little bit hedonist on a Sunday night. It’s a number that, in America, creates much frenzy. In fact, it’s got us a lot of good things. Gentlemen?”
It’s a shame it cuts out without the medley. Page again is very aggressive in his guitar playing and the theremin solo and it would have been interesting to hear how he handles the heavy blues without Plant’s vocals as a foil. But this is a great sounding document of an interesting show.
One For The M6 (G.R. BOX 13C/D)
Empire Theatre, Liverpool, England – January 14th, 1973
Disc 3 (70:32): Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed And Confused
Disc 4 (49:02): Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker, The Ocean
A week later Zeppelin return with a show in Liverpool. Since they didn’t play since Oxford, Plant’s voice is well rested and much more dynamic and powerful. A fragment of the soundboard containing the “Whole Lotta Love” medley and the encores first surfaced on the vinyl disc Trouble At The Front / Death Wish II Outtakes (TROPO 411A-D).
The first compact disc title to document Liverpool was Elvis Presley Has Just Left The Building which has the same material as the LP plus the Bradford soundboard fragment and the Southampton rehearsal. Tarantura included “The Ocean” on the compilation Nasty Music (T3CD-011-1-2-3). Tangible Vandalism, on both Goblin and Ukinel, also have this material.
Subsequently a longer soundboard tape surfaced in the early nineties. This one misses the first song “Rock And Roll,” cuts out 5:45 in “The Rain Song” and the first two verses of “Dazed And Confused” are missing. There is a cut in “Whole Lotta Love” at 11:23 during “Baby I Don’t Care.” The Fabulous Four (FF-1/2) and its speed-corrected clone Days Of Heaven (Tattytura) contain this tape with clicks after the cut in “Whole Lotta Love.” Live In Liverpool ’73 (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin Vol. 4) and One for the M6 (Crazy Dream CDZ-73001/002) edited the vinyl source to avoid the clicks, and this is the tape Godfather uses.
With “Rock And Roll” missing, the tape starts with the opening strums of “Over The Hills And Far Away.” Speculation has it that the band actually dropped “Rock And Roll” because of the perceived strain it might have on Plant’s damaged vocal chords. It would have been strange for the band to open the show with a song that hadn’t even been released yet, but one can never know.
The alternative theory would be “Rock And Roll” just not being recorded, or that the tape was damaged for one reason or another.
After a gentle version of “Over The Hills And Far Away” Plant says, “good evening. Another Sunday night. Everything stops at ten to ten. Amazing. This is about somebody who didn’t stop” before they start “Black Dog.” Plant’s voice is much stronger than in Oxford. Liverpool is a much more effective show as a result. The small audience lends much more intimacy to the performance.
“This is one that … I don’t know how it was conceived, but it’s about what you should do if you go walking through the park” he says to introduce “Misty Mountain Hop.” There is a short delay before the song starts and he jokes, “with a few bass pedal tune-ups.”
After an excellent “Dancing Days” he complains, as they set up for “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp,” that “we used to play a half hour of acoustic songs” and mentions trouble in Germany. He turns away from the mic so it’s difficult to understand exactly what he’s saying.
Before “The Song Remains The Same” Plant seems to anticipate the criticisms Houses Of The Holy will receive by saying that Led Zeppelin “were a blues group when we started. White blues” and calls the new song a real blues song because they had to travel around the world in order to conceive it.
It’s a shame “The Rain Song” cuts out because it is truly devastating. ”Dazed And Confused,” picks up right when Page is heating up, playing a blistering early solo before they cover Scott Mackenzie. The violin bow solo sounds very faint, light, airy and mysterious in this recording. During the improvisation, before the return to the third verse, Page samples some far eastern Asian sounding melodies.
Plant tells the audience that “Stairway To Heaven” came in “a moment of light a half hour after ‘Black Dog’.” The “Whole Lotta Love” medley has the same numbers as the others with a nasty blues improvisation in the middle. ”Heartbreaker” is the first encore and they end the show with “The Ocean.” It’s the only known version this month and a rare performance without the Bonham count-in.
Liverpool is a great show and is unfortunately rarely pressed onto silver disc. Except for the titles pressed in the nineties, it’s been ignored for almost fifteen years. Godfather’s version of One For The M6 is perhaps the best version available.
Groovin’ In The Garden (G.R. BOX 13E/F)
Trentham Gardens, Stoke, England – January 15th, 1973
Disc 5 (52:46): Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song
Disc 6 (59:13): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love
Following Liverpool the band travelled to Stoke-On-Trent for a show in the Trentham Garden. This soundboard recording is one of the most popular from this month with many different releases in the compact disc era. Earlier releases include Live In Stoke, England Vol. 1 (LZ-007), Live In Stoke, England Vol. 2 (LZ-008), Trentham Gardens (Music With Love MWL 009-010), Stoker (Stoke-1, 2) on Tarantura, Broken Fingers (IQ-001/2) the underrated Image Quality label’s first release, and soon after that on Dedicated To Rizzlers (Equinox EX-00-008/009) in the summer of 2001.
Stroke In Stoke was released about the same time as Equinox with the same sound quality but with the songs out of proper running sequence.
As good as the tape sounded on these releases an improved version of the tape was released on Soul Brothers (Tarantura TCD-37-1,2)simultaneously with Live At Trentham Gardens (Empress Valley EVSD-394/395) both with significant ungraded sound quality. Stoke 1973 (no label) has the same excellent and improved sound quality as the two. The sound is very clear with a touch of hiss. The vocals, drums and bass are up front with the guitars pushed somewhat back in the mix.
Godfather utilize the same tape generation as teh latter three releases in excellent sound quality. There is still the gap cutting out the latter part of “The Song Remains The Same” and the first two verses of “The Rain Song”, and one at the very end of “Stairway To Heaven” which also eliminates the very beginning of “Whole Lotta Love.” Overall Stoke is a beautifully laid back, very loose performance. Zeppelin’s shows in the UK are virtuoso yet low key performances.
The show starts off with “Rock And Roll” and the segue into “Over The Hills And Far Away.” Plant is recovering from a nasty flu that affected his voice, so he takes it easy in the opening numbers. He is sipping lemon tea while introducing ”Black Dog,” claiming it’s about ”a Labrador who used to come with us when we went shooting people. We don’t shoot animals.”
“Misty Mountain Hop” is dedicated to Rizlas (a brand of rolling paper for sale in the UK), and that number segues into “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” Page’s guitar goes out of tune during the following song “Dancing Days.” After “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” Plant reminiscences about their visit to Wales several years prior when they wrote the song. “Actually, we’re very fortunate to be playing in Aberystwyth tomorrow night, which is where all them things came from, locked far away in the National Trust of Snowdonia. What a gas place that was. Sold to a stockbroker in the end folks.”
The set ends with “Whole Lotta Love.” While it reaches seventeen minutes long, it is significantly shorter than in other shows on this tour where it reaches almost twenty-give. Plant’s vocals seem to be come weak by the end, so when they complete “Let’s Have A Party,” instead of going into the demanding “I Can’t Quit You,” he goes straight to the closing verse of “Whole Lotta Love.”
Unfortunately the tape ends right when Plant is saying good night. The encores aren’t present. Eyewitnesses to the event said they played “Four Sticks” as an encore. It is possible although unlikely since Zeppelin rarely played unrehearsed songs live. But, it would be an event if it were to surface.
The Black Hole Of Calcutta (G.R. BOX 13G/H)
The Old Refectory, Southampton University, Southampton, England – January 22nd, 1973
Disc 1 (76:31): Introduction, Rock And Roll, Over The Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Misty Mountain Hop, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Dancing Days, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Dazed And Confused
Disc 2 (73:49): Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker, Thank You, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown
In The Old Refectory is the latest incarnation of the January 22nd, 1973 Southampton University gig that surfaced on multitrack in 2007. Previous releases of this tape include The Great Lost Live Album (Nasty Music NM-1973-01/02/03), Live At Southampton University Working Tapes (EVSD-493/494), Any Port In A Storm: The Lost Soundboard Show (Godfather GR223/224) and Tarantura’s prior release of this show Swastika (Tarantura TCD67-1,2).
Southampton University 1973 (no label) was released in the spring of 2008 and had the tape speed adjusted, slowing the tape down 1.5% compared to all of the other releases making this one two minutes and ten seconds longer than the others and sounding at the correct pitch. This tape was used on In The Old Refectory (Tarantura TCD-96-1,2) and again by Godfather for this release.
A review of this concert appeared in the Wessex News afterwards in an article titled “Rock And Roll” sounds a bit sluggish, but the following song “Over The Hills And Far Away” is very good with an animated solo by Page in the middle.
Before “Black Dog” Plant says, “And it’s a good evening. I believe we came here before. I don’t know if it was as warm then. We’re going to have a good time tonight. This is about a Labrador who became rather – rather dodgy with lumbago. The only thing he could do was boogie. He was a black dog. Black Dog!” The “Misty Mountain Hop” and “Since I’ve Been Loving You” pairing follows immediately afterwards.
Before “Dancing Days” Plant explains, “This is a bastard actually. This is a track from the new album. It’s a track that was written in the height of last year’s summer on July 6th. It’s a song about school days and little boys that never grow up. It’s called ‘Dancing Days’.” This is usually a great live piece but this version sounds tired with Page playing a bland solo at the song’s conclusion.
“Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp,” which normally follows “Dancing Days,” is dropped: “we don’t know it to be honest,” Plant explains. “Besides we can’t manoeuver about.”
The band play another new song, “The Song Remains The Same” instead. The right channel of the stereo flickers at eleven seconds into the track and becomes a bit weak at twenty-two seconds, but improves soon afterwards with another flicker at 2:51 at the end of “The Rain Song” Plant says, “That was John Paul Jones, ably assisted by the Haleigh Orchestra which we managed to press into this small 3 X 26 box.”
A power surge can be heard on the tape and there is a short delay while the roadies work on wiring onstage. Page plays a bit of the Tarantella while Plant caution “you can get a shock you know, Cerano.” Plant jokes with the audience about the show the previous evening at the Gaumont Theater before the band play a twenty-eight minute version of “Dazed And Confused.”
The recording preserves the dynamics of the piece and the song is very enjoyable in this show. Plant is out of tempo during the “San Francisco” section and Page takes his time finding his violin bow. Bonham plays the cymbals under Plant’s moans in the interim before the violin bow section begins. The sounds are soft, reminiscent of the Liverpool tape, but also very creepy.
“Whole Lotta Love” lasts for a half hour and the medley is typical for this tour with no surprises. There is a small cut on the tape at 19:47. They play the longest set of encores of the tour. “Heartbreaker” is first followed by the John Paul Jones mellotron arrangement of “Thank You,” this is an experiment he first introduced in Nagoya the previous October and played it several times since, but this is the best recording we have of this unusual piece.
At the song’s end Page plays some pretty figures on the guitar before Plant introduces the next number. “This is one of our early tunes and God knows if we can remember it.” They play an eight minute version of “How Many More Times” for the first time in two years which segues directly with the final encore of the night “Communication Breakdown.”
Odds And Ends (G.R. BOX 13G/H)
Disc 9 (51:05) St George’s Hall, Bradford, England – January 18th, 1973: Dazed And Confused, Whole Lotta Love, Immigrant Song
Disc 10 (42:33) Caird Hall, Dundee, Scotland – January 27th, 1973: Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker, Communication Breakdown. Bonus tracks, Gaumont Theatre, Southampton, January 21st, 1973 – Soundcheck: Drums & Mellotron tuning, Love Me. Frankfurt Special (AKA Station Blues). King Creole. Love Me (Reprise)
Odd And Ends contains several soundboard fragments from the latter days of the UK tour. The first disc has a fifity minute section of the January 18th show in Bradford. The sound is excellent and contains most of “Dazed And Confused,” the “Whole Lotta Love” medley and the final ever (known) performance of “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin.
The Bradford soundboard has been released many times before. ”Dazed And Confused” and “Whole Lotta Love” first surfaced on Heartattack (Toasted / Condor 1997) and April Fool’s Day (LZ05) and later on Fallin’ In Love With The Fallin’ Angel (Led Note LCD 1507) and The Great Lost Live Album (Nasty Music NM-1973-01/02/03). (The poor sounding audience source can be found on Bradford UK 1973 (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ Vol.020)).
“Dazed And Confused” contains some variations unique to the performance. Page’s lead into the “San Francisco” interlude sounds different, and he gets into a funk groove in the start of the long improvisation. The “Mars” section before the return to the final verse is also extremely intense. The soundboard is much more clear, but the echo in the audience recording lends the air of mystery lacking in the professional recording. Bradford ranks among the best performances of the epic piece of the UK winter tour.
The long ”Whole Lotta Love” medley continues the variations. While Page is spiting out his sledgehammer riffs, Plant gives a parodic nod to The Rolling Stones’ “Let It Bleed,” singing “we all need someone to cream on.” During the boogie section Page spits out some nasty, hostile sounding heavy-metal riffs, and after “(Baby You’re So Square) I Don’t Care” Plant continues the Elvis impersonation with the beginning of “Blue Suede Shoes” (“one for the money / two for the show / three to get ready / go, cat, go / stay off of my blue suede shoes”) as the rest follow along.
The Dundee fragment on disc two is even more short and more rare than Bradford. About a half hour long, it cuts in right before the theremin solo leading into the “Whole Lotta Love” medley and the two encores. It first surfaced in the early nineties on From Boleskine To The Alamo (Flying Disc Music CD 6-818), Nasty Music (Tarantura T3CD-011-1-2-3) and several years ago on A Soundboard Platter (Scorpio LZ-07005-01~04).
Plant is overtly concerned about security during the improvisations and “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” mentioning them several times. Bonham bashes the hell out of the drum kit, and the Scottish punters are so enthusiastic their cheering can be faintly heard in the recording.
At the start of “Boogie Chillun’” Plant sings how he remembers the trouble in the front of the stage when they last visited (in November 1971) and doesn’t want to see it again.
Godfather include the January 22nd Southampton rehearsal tape as a bonus. Ascension In The Wane is packaged in a deep box with individual sleeves for the five shows along with a miniature tour poster and one of their thickest booklets ever produced, over fifty pages with many photographs from the era and essays about each show. It is one of their most detailed and best sounding boxes produced.