Community Theatre, Berkeley, CA, USA – 13 September 1971
Disc 1: Bill Graham Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker [inc. J. S. Bach: Bourrée from Suite in E minor for Lute, BWV 996], Since I’ve Been loving You, [Out On The Tiles Intro/] Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Celebration Day
Disc 2: That’s The Way, Going To California, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, [Instrumental Intro/] Whole Lotta Love [inc. Just A Little Bit, Boogie Chillun’, Hello Mary Lou, A Mess Of Blues, You Shook Me, Gee, Baby Ain’t I Good To You, Kind Hearted Woman Blues], Communication Breakdown [inc. Gallows Pole]
Godfather’s latest batch of CDs includes the label’s versions of both the famous show of 14 September 1971, which originally appeared on the legendary vinyl bootleg Going To California (recently reviewed) and the rather less well-known concert from the previous day, under consideration here. It has been released on its own on the 2-CD sets Back On the West Coast (Mad Dogs-031/32), Going To California II (Tarantura T2CD-17), California Stampede (Magnificent Disc MD-7102 A/B) and Berkeley First Night (no label) and in company with the show from the 14th on the 4-CD issue Going To California – 1971, Berkeley 2 Daze (Trade Mark Of Quality [an imprint of Tarantura] TMQ-0501001-1,2, 0501002-1,2).
The two Berkeley shows came near the end of the band’s seventh American tour, with only a couple of concerts in Honolulu remaining before a series of shows in Japan. Dave Lewis in Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, considers that the Berkeley performances constitute, ”another triumphant return to California.” Luis Rey, author of Led Zeppelin: An Illustrated Exploration Of Underground Tapes (Updated Edition, 1993) says of the band’s endeavours that, ”back on the west coast they achieve a high degree of intimacy in these Berkeley concerts.” Rey states that the tape contains the complete concert, but this appears not to be the case. Gsparaco, in his review of Berkeley First Night, maintains that, “unfortunately the master tape is still incomplete…the encores are missing ‘Rock And Roll.’” The reviewer from the Oakland Tribune, seemingly unaware of the song’s true title, states that, ”when called back for an encore, they went into ‘Been a Long Time,’” and the band’s official website also includes Rock And Roll on the setlist.
Gsparaco’s review states that, “all Led Zeppelin concerts from 1971 are intense, semi-violent affairs worth hearing and the first night in Berkeley is no exception,” and this contention is borne out by the set opener, a blistering rendition of Immigrant song which, the Oakland Tribune reviewer states, sees Jimmy Page “improvising to the hilt throughout the number.” The performance clearly bears out that reviewer’s contention that, the band are, “loud, boisterous and very deafening.” The intensity is maintained during the next song, Heatbreaker. “The band seems to be racing to catch up with Plant during Heartbreaker,” contends the writer on the website The Year Of Led Zeppelin, ”Page shreds through the frenzied guitar solo. The energy is definitely high tonight.” Page’s extended soloing, which includes a brief snippet of the famous Bach Bourrée, takes the song to nearly seven-and-a-half minutes.
Next comes a splendidly moody Since I’ve Been loving You, which sees Robert Plant in fine form. The Oakland Tribune describes the performance as, “moving, dramatic and gutsy.” As customary, the A Night On The Tiles intro makes for a thunderous opening to Black Dog, which The Year Of Led Zeppelin calls, “a sonic assault.”
Posting on the band’s official website, Argenteum Astrum writes that, “Dazed And Confused is of epic proportions,” and Dave Lewis, in Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, writes that “‘Dazed And Confused’ continued to expand in length and clocked in at over 22 minutes long.” Overall, it is a very enjoyable performance of what the Oakland Tribune writer calls a “mystic and haunting” song. Page’s violin bow section was clearly appreciated by the audience, with The Year Of Led Zeppelin pointing to, “many excited shouts and squeals coming from the crowd during the bow solo.”
As with the superb version from the following night’s show, the as-yet-unreleased Stairway To Heaven sounds fresh and utterly seductive. “It’s great to hear Plant hitting all the high notes,” states Brian Ingham (who criticized Plant’s vocals from the next night’s show) on the Underground Uprising website, “including Stairway to Heaven’s last section.” Disc one is then concluded by an exciting performance of Celebration Day. Making another of several references to excessive volume the Oakland Tribune reviewer calls the song, “a hard, driving number that was unbelievably loud.”
Having suffered the “deafening” volume for so long, the Oakland Tribune reporter is finally granted a respite with a “quiet and peaceful interlude where the group sat down and performed a couple of tunes including the lyrical and soothing (to the ear) ‘Going to California.’” This song is preceded by a rendition of That’s The Way which Argenteum Astrum contends is, “one of the better versions I have heard with amazing mandolin from Jones.”
After What Is And What Should Never Be, with its effective alternating between contrasting quieter and louder sections, we are treated to John Bonham’s percussive tour-de-force, Moby Dick, which is undeniably terrific. I tend to regard Bonham’s extended drum solos as something more admirable than enjoyable , but I must admit that here I was spellbound by his virtuosity. The Oakland Tribune states: “John Bonham, the drummer in the group, presented one of the most phenomenal drum solos this reporter has ever witnessed. The half-hour solo had the crowd in a frenzy and they roared its approval until his conclusion.” In reality, the whole thing comes in at around twenty-two minutes rather than half-an-hour.
Gsparaco points out that “an unknown, very catchy and heavy riff sounding similar to ‘Out On The Tiles’ starts off ‘Whole Lotta Love,’” and The Year Of Led Zeppelin refers to this intro as, “a heavy jam.” Just prior to the theremin section, Plant very briefly references Just A Little Bit, the 1959 Rosco Gordon single, recorded by Roy Head (single, 1965), Them (The Angry Young Them, 1965), Etta James (Tell Mama, 1967) and Magic Sam (Black Magic, 1968). In truth he says little more than the words “I just want [or need] a little bit” a couple of times, though he clearly has the song in mind as he expands the reference somewhat the next night. The Medley section contains Boogie Chillun’, recorded in 1948 by John Lee Hooker; Hello Mary Lou, the Gene Pitney-penned Ricky Nelson hit from 1961; A Mess of Blues, written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and originally recorded by Elvis Presley in 1960; You Shook Me; Gee, Baby Ain’t I Good To You, written by Andy Razaf and Don Redman in 1929 and recorded by The King Cole Trio in 1944 and Kind Hearted Woman Blues, Robert Johnson’s debut recording from November 1936, though not released until March 1937. Argenteum Astrum considers that, “the ending medley is very gutsy and suggestive, especially from Robert.”
In the unfortunate absence of Rock And Roll, the second disc concludes with a blistering Communication Breakdown, during which Page plays some heavy guitar while Plant includes some lines from Gallows Pole.
Overall this is a spirited and most enjoyable performance. ”An excellent first night in Berkeley with the band firing on all cylinders,” concludes Argenteum Astrum on the band’s official website, “the entire concert is played brilliantly, especially the new material form the as yet unreleased fourth album.” Although not entirely convinced by Plant’s vocal performance, Luis Rey, author of Led Zeppelin: An Illustrated Exploration Of Underground Tapes, believes that, “instrumentally the group has never been better.”
The sound of this show does not match that of the concert from the 14th. Rey’s comment is, “fair recording. Distant but clear enough.” In his review of Going To California – 1971, Berkeley 2 Daze gsparaco calls it ”a very distant, thin sounding yet very listenable sounding mono audience recording.” Argenteum Astrum’s Led Zeppelin Database website describes Back On The West Coast, Going To California II, California Stampede and Going To California – 1971, Berkeley 2 Daze as being merely “good mono audience.” In his review of Berkeley First Night, gsparaco argues that the 4-CD set was previously the best sounding, stating that, ”the 2005 Tarantura effort was the best sounding version, running at the correct speed and having a crisp sound to it.” Led Zeppelin Database concurs, stating that, “this new release on Tarantura runs at the correct speed and has no issues whatsoever and is probably as good as this tape will ever sound.” However, gsparaco concludes that, “Berkeley First Night is a substantial improvement over the Tarantura. Coming from the master tape, it has much more clarity, depth, and presence than any previous version.” Again, Led Zeppelin Database would seem to agree, rating this release as a somewhat more impressive, “Good to Very good mono audience.”
The Recent Updates page of Led Zeppelin Database cited the following details for Godfather’s source for this release: “Sourced from untouched raw master…[this title]…[is] very worth [sic] of attention. Especially the first night should be on a high demand since it was said that the label used raw, clean transfer for this particular show. Previously issued by many premium Japanese labels, this version is described as free of any equalization and dehissing.” Now that the title has progressed from the Recent Updates page to the CD Bootleg Discography section, the comment, as with Berkeley First Night, is, ”Good to Very good mono audience.” To my ears, there is no significant difference in sound between Berkeley First Night and Berkeley Daze – 1st Night, with the newcomer also having a similarly improved “clarity, depth, and presence.” Those who already have the no label release may safely hang on to it. However, those who have, or intend to acquire, the excellent Berkeley Daze – 2nd Night, may well be drawn to the Godfather version in order to acquire the Berkeley shows as a matching pair.
Indeed, the cutomary tri-fold sleeve features the same William Stout front cover artwork as the complementary 2nd Night release, though this time with a pale blue rather than yellow background. Again, there are several photographs (both onstage and off) of the band, though this time the rear cover features Plant rather than Page. The use of the classic Stout artwork for the two sets has already found favour on CMR, schriste commenting after my review of 2nd Night that it is ”hard not to buy the 13th and 14th when they’re sitting next to each other in full stout imagery…I highly recommend both Berkeley shows for the artwork alone.” There are the usual not entirely original sleeve notes (gsparaco will recognize a phrase or two!) by “Paul De Luxe.” There is no booklet.
This is a very welcome issue of a terrific show and it obviously makes a most desirable companion to the simultaneously-released Berkeley Daze – 2nd Night.