Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA – March 11th & 12th, 1975
By the time Led Zeppelin hit California on their tenth tour of the US, they had also hit the pinnacle of their success as a viable rock band in the seventies. Their last masterwork Physical Graffiti hit the shelves two weeks before and by the middle of March became the fastest selling album in their history and entered number one on the charts. A residual effect was that their older albums also entered the charts. The two Long Beach shows were the second and third in southern California (following the March 10th show in San Diego) and the band loosen up considerably compared to earlier shows on the tour. Being both well advertised and (generally) well received, these two have been in almost constant circulation since the seventies seeing many different releases and have achieved status with Led Zeppelin collectors.
Bootleg License on Tarantura is the latest release of these tapes and in general is a nice improvement over older issues. The March 11th tape is excellent all by itself but Tarantura present a very natural and appealing version of the tape. March 12th is a two source mix and while the main tape is a rough listen, Tarantura’s work with it makes it a significant upgrade over older titles utilizing this source and actually makes the tape enjoyable. The two concerts are packaged in a thick tri-fold cardboard sleeves for each of the shows which fit in a thick glossy cardboard box with a magnet on the site to hold the upper flap down. It is a gorgeous production in limited quantities. The first edition has already sold out with a second edition on its way which also will most likely sell out.
Acme Quaalude (Tarantura TCD-77-1, 2, 3)
Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA – March 11th, 1975
Disc 1 (55:57): Introduction, 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 (52:56): No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick
Disc 3 (55:57): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, medley, Black Dog
The March 11th show comes from a Mike Millard tape. Many claim this is the first show he recorded on the Nakamichi stereo recorder with AKG Acoustics microphones for these shows. The jump in sound quality between this (and the Pink Floyd show the following month) compared to his tapes of the Yes Topographic shows the previous year is dramatic. The clarity and balance are remarkable for what is arguably the best sounding tape from the entire tour. An early vinyl release for this tape can be found on How Many More Times (Moby’s Dick LZ 31175 A-F D 21-26) with most of the recording but runs too fast. On compact disc it can be found on Long Beach Arena (Bad Girl CDJ1) on two discs and missing “Dazed And Confused,” released in 1991 from Italy. 462 Ocean Boulevard (American Concert Series ACS 037) and its clone California Sunset (American Concert Series PSCD 037) are two other early titles.
The tape was also used on Long Beach 1975 Parts 1&2&3 (Flying Disc Music CD 6 827-829), California 1975 (Post Script PSCD 2201), Pussy & Cock (Tarantura T3CD-6) (running too fast), Long Beach Arena Complete (Confusion Records Confuse 001) (speed corrected), Zeppelin L (Akashic AKA-7) in really nice packaging and California Graffiti (Masterport-233). California Sunshine (Badgeholder BH008-01-02-03) and In The Shadow Of Midnight (Empress Valley Supreme Disc) are the two latest releases of the show and both utilize the second, inferior sounding tape to fill in some of the cuts. Tarantura follow the same path to produce as complete a show as possible. The edits are very smoothly handled.
A review of this show written by Robert Hilburn in the Los Angeles Times really slammed the performance when he writes: “Besides setting box office records on this tour, the English group also may be setting some type of record for the most cliches in a single concert: a manlight show, steam from dry ice covering the stage (three different times), the band’s name spelled out in lights, a laser beam (something an opening act at the Troubadour did last year), an explosion at the rear of the stage and, of course, the obligatory 20-minute drum solo….But Zeppelin’s material is so lacking in both commentary and emotional challenge that the music ends up as an empty exercise in sound. While there are some soft moments (indeed the gentle ‘Stairway To Heaven’ has become the band’s anthem), the thrust of the evening is on heavy, pulsating assaults. The lyrics are often woeful, the themes unaffecting.” (“Led Zeppelin, Cliches And All” March 13th, 1975).
Normally when Zeppelin were loose they produced legendary performances. This show has it’s highlights but is plagued by equipment problems and issues with the PA which seem to distract them onstage. The first hint of problems occurs in the second song where the transition, normally several crashing chords on guitar, is rendered very weak and ineffective. “We must apologize for the slight delay but we couldn’t get into the building. We hadn’t got any tickets. It’s a fact” Plant brags before and excellent version of “Over The Hills And Far Away.”
“If you intend to sit still, well forget it” Plant promises before a monsterous version of “In My Time Of Dying.” Things fall apart in the following song when Page’s twelve string goes out of tune basically ruining the song. “The Rain Song” is played on the six string neck and comes off much better, but afterwards Plant get defensive when he says, “for the benefit of anybody who was making a bootleg then, the twelve-string was out of tune on ‘Song Remains The Same.’” After “Kashmir” Plant mentions Jones’ mellotron, calling it a “Pakistani orchestra, all in one pool player.” John Paul Jones’ showcase “No Quarter” follows. This is about two weeks into the new instrumentation, trading in the organ for the grand piano for the solo. The dark and somber intonations of the 1973 and early 1975 versions were gone as these tapes reveal Jones trying very hard to try all sort of different styles and motifs to find a new direction of the song. Some shows like the Seattle show five days later show that he was lost, but this version hold together well before Page come in with the “No Quarter” solo.
Before “Trampled Underfoot” Plant is speaking about Robert Johnson but is interrupted by the road crew fixing the equipment. “The drumming and the hammering is by courtesy of Acme Quaalude company, Ltd. This is a guy building a chicken pen. Can you hear it?” “Moby Dick” is only twenty minutes long. Page and Bonham try to outdo one another in the opening fanfare and by the end Bonzo lets out a mighty shout. ”Dazed And Confused” clocks in at just under a half hour. Plant includes Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” before the violin bow solo and Page tries some new improvisations during the piece. After the song Plant leads the obligitory ovations for Jimmy Page. “That was a combination of key signatures that just will never occur again. Amidst the rushing and screaming of cowboys. ‘Hello cowboy in the sand’ (singing Neil Young’s song but changing cowgirl to cowboy) and now there comes again a song we really dig.”
After “Stairway To Heaven” the band play the normal encores for this tour. “Whole Lotta Love” is played for a minute before segueing into the theremin histrionics of Page. Tarantura track this five minute piece as “medley” since it also includes an almost complete version of “The Crunge” from Houses Of The Holy. The song is Zeppelin’s uncomfortable take on James Brown funk, but is fun in a live context. The theremin cacophony mutates effortlessly into the riff to “Out On The Tiles” which leads into a heavy version of “Black Dog.” Maybe it’s a problem with the PA but Jones’ bass sounds very loud throughout. ”Ladies and gentlemen of Long Beach, goodnight. Sleep well. And half a Quaalude with water” are Plant’s parting words. Many collectors criticize this show and although it isn’t legendary there is a lot to enjoy on these discs.
Standing In The Shadow (Tarantura TCD-78-1, 2, 3)
Disc 1 (56:42): Introduction, Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, The Song Remains The Same, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir
Disc 2 (46:58): No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick
Disc 3 (70:54): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, medley, Black Dog, Heartbreaker
More praise is given to the second night in Long Beach, often called the most “visceral”performance of the entire tour. Millard, who recorded the March 11th show, was said to be in an automobile accident on his way to the venue and was able to record only the last half hour of the show. The other source is much more complete but is slightly distant with a heavy bass on the point of serious distraction. This tape was issued on vinyl on Live In Long Beach 1975 (no label) and on compact disc on Trampled Under Jimmy’s Foot (Silver Rarities SIRA 168/169/170) and Standing In The Shadows (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin). The Millard fragment was first issued on Long Beach Arena Fragment (Holy SH002) in the nineties and several years ago Badgeholders issued Taking No Prisoners Tonight (Badgeholders BH-004-1/2/3), an edit of the two.
Bootleg License follows the same path by using the inferior sounding complete source for most of the show and then editing in the excellent source three and a half minutes into “Stairway To Heaven.” The main source has several small cuts in “The Song Remains The Same,” at the beginning of “The Rain Song,” at 19:06 and 19:59 in ”No Quarter” eliminating the end, and in “Moby Dick.” The Millard source is complete with no cuts except for the crowd noise between the final song and the encores.
The show itself get off to an incendiary start with “Rock And Roll” segueing into a heavy “Sick Again.” Plant greets the audience in Arabic saying “Malacum salaam. Sorry about the delay but the treacherous conditions on the roads. There’s snowstorms back in Hollywood.” He follows with the usual spiel about the setlist being a cross section of six and a half years before an existential version of “Over The Hills And Far Away” followed by “In My Time Of Dying.” Plant speaks about Bob Dylan a bit afterwards when he says, ”That was an old work song actually. A long time before Mr. Zimmerman listened to it down in the village back in the 1960s.”
“The Song Remains The Same,” a source for troubles in the previous evening suffers a complete breakdown about a minute in when Page’s guitar disappears from the mix. “Just a minute, just a minute. Thank you very much. That’s it. See you again Long Beach! Goodnight! They didn’t tell you it was like this in Valhalla. It happened for the first time in six and a half years. Does anyone remember laughter?…We never seem to be able to get things together in Los Angeles on a very firm basis, but like I was saying the song remains nevertheless continuously the same.” The song picks up again and there are still problems with the guitar and Plant misses a cue, but it is still an improvement compared to the previous evening.
“No Quarter” begins with an unique, hazing sounding organ figure before leading into the familiar melody. Jones’ grand piano improvisations are more cohesive, boarding on jazz in parts before Page comes in and plays one of the most intense solos of the tour. Plant acknowledges the intensity afterwards, saying, “Well that was thoroughly enjoyable. Better than a good chick…almost.” The new song “Trampled Under Foot” is introduced as “Trampled Under Jimmy’s Foot” and is a fun track.
“Dazed And Confused” is about a half hour long. “Woodstock” is again included and the section with the violin bow causes considerable excitement as does the fiery solo in the middle. Afterwards Plant sings a bit of The Rolling Stones’ “Have You Seen Your Mother” and praises the “vibes” saying they are “a bit better than last night, too many reds. By the time we get to the Forum we should be sky high!”
The Millard fragment cuts in during “Stairway To Heaven” and makes the listener really with the entire show were captured in that wonderful sound quality. Plant dedicates the encores to Steven Weiss, Led Zeppelin’s lawyer in New York. The “medley” includes “The Crunge,” “Cold Sweat,” “Licking Stick” and a glimpse of the future “Darlene” at its most intense moments before the transition into “Black Dog.” “Heartbreaker” is the second encore, something they did on special nights and during the long solo the get into “I’m A Man.” The inclusion of a blues classic cover was tested on several nights on the tour including also St. Louis when they get into Jimmy Reed’s “Shame Shame Shame” or in New York when they play a bit of “That’s Alright.”
One final point to discuss regarding Bootleg License concerns a paragraph sent out by the Hidden Grok website just before this title’s release. It states: “Tarantura to Release New Box Set of Long Beach 75 Customers Alert: Tarantura is about to release a huge box set of the Long Beach concert without giving any information as to the content and source of the shows. Please note that there is a new Long Beach tape soon to surface of far superior quality to what is out there now. So be careful that you don’t spend a fortune on a re-hash of material just before the new source comes out so they can sell it to you again. PS – The real Tarantura label (not the one hijacked by you know who in Japan) would never even consider doing this marketing scam.”
There are many inconsistencies in this blurb. It mentions “a new Long Beach tape soon to surface of far superior quality to what is out there now.” Since there are two Long Beach shows the Hidden Grok claim is very vague. Which show is it referring too? Furthermore, saying that it is ”soon to surface” means it is not out yet and nobody has it. Since not a month goes by without a rumor concerning a “new Led Zeppelin tape about to surface” all such speculation should be taken with a fair amount of scepticism. Bootleg License has been in production for a while now and the suggestion that it was hastily constructed to rip people off, which is the impression one gets when reading this, is absurd. And finally nobody seems to know who the “you know who” is referred to in the final sentence. The motivation behind this warning is unclear and the lapses in logic are all too apparent and can be ignored. The bottom line is that Bootleg License is a solid release in great packaging worth having.