05/31/73 – The Forum, L.A., CA – Steve Kurasch
Spring, 1973. I was completing my sophomore year at U.C.L.A. majoring in Mathematics/Computer Science. Being 6’8″ tall, I also played basketball.
Outside of school, I worked for a computer company, and I was playing trumpet professionally with the L.A. Pops Symphony Orchestra (now defunct) which I joined shortly after my 15th birthday; the youngest member ever.
On the music scene, Houses of the Holy had just been released, and I was anxiously awaiting tour information. Led Zeppelin did not need to take out ads to promote ticket sales, and the internet and instant access to information was not available in 1973, so I relied heavily on the telephone. At least once a week, I would call the L.A. Forum and ask when Led Zeppelin tickets go on sale. Everytime, I would receive the same response: “We don’t have Led Zeppelin scheduled to perform.”
It had been nearly two years since I last saw Led Zeppelin (August 21, 1971 – 5th row). Sure, I had seen many other groups including Hendrix, Cream, The Who and The Doors, but somehow, that concert left some powerful images which continually ate at my soul; Plant’s voice so strong that I thought he was going to give himself a hernia. Jimmy’s playing was outstanding; quick, clean and emotionally draining. Bonzo attacked the drums like a riot police officer during an anti-war demonstration. And the subtlety but amazing playing of John Paul Jones holding the rhythm together. I had seen many great individual performances, but I had never seen a group play that well together live.
Finally, on Monday, April 23, 1973, I called the Forum and received the unexpected news. Led Zeppelin is scheduled to perform two shows. May 30th and May 31st. Tickets go on sale Monday, April 30th.
My plan of action was to go down to the L.A. Forum on Friday night after class and sleep over until Monday morning. This should get me decent seats.
During that week, I found out that I had to work early Saturday morning. Therefore, I asked my brother, Chris, if he could hold my place in line until I return in the afternoon. Luckily, he agreed.
Also, my music theory class gave us a final project: write a string quartet. Yikes!
Friday came, and I arrived at the Forum approximately 10:00 PM with sleeping bag, Math books and music paper. There were already several people in line. I asked if anybody was keeping a list, and they told me to find Chris (yes, another Chris).
Eventually, someone pointed me to Chris. He was sitting inside his car with another person. I knocked on the window, he rolled it down and said, “Yeah?” As the smoke billowed out of his car, I told him that I wanted to get on the list. Obviously perturbed, he answered, “Let’s do it in the morning.” Wanting to make sure that nobody else would get put on the list in front of me, I insisted. So Chris put me on the list as #23. I would later find out that Chris would be pissed off at me, because as he was putting my name on the list, he spilled his hash on the floorboards of the car. Oops…..
I now had my place in line, so I went back and started to meet people. The first person I met was Danny. He was #6 in line, and he arrived early that morning. I found out that he was a big basketball fan, and so we talked quite a bit about basketball. I can’t remember if he lived in Cerritos or went to Cerritos College (or both). Suddenly, Over The Hills And Far Away began to play from someone’s tape player. He said, “Nobody thought this would be a great song when they played it last year.”
I asked Danny who was first in line. He pointed to Gene who had arrived on Tuesday. That means, he will spend a total of six nights in line. I thought, “Wow. If I came on Monday when I called, I could have been first in line.”….. But school…..
Chris, the list holder, was #2 in line. He arrived on Wednesday.
No studying tonight. I was enjoying the music and conversation. Unfortunately, I had to get some sleep because I had to work early.
I awoke suddenly on Saturday morning. It was so quiet. I looked at my watch, and it was almost 8:00. About a minute later, my brother, Chris, and his two closest friends, Mike and Ann, arrived to hold my place in line. I thanked him, and I left for the morning.
After work, I stopped by my parents to pick up food for the weekend, and then drove down to the Forum.
When I arrived at the Forum, there were a LOT of people hovering around the ticket windows, and I noticed several people walking away with tickets! Naturally, I was paranoid that tickets went on sale early. I found my brother who informed me that Lakers basketball playoff tickets were now available. Also, after I left in the morning, my brother decided to stay in line for the weekend. He had found Chris #2, who placed him #24 in line; one place after me.
Mike and Ann decided they had enough and went home.
Not much later, Chris #2 yells “ROLL CALL!”
He starts at the beginning of the list and continues to the bottom. There are now over 100 names! When finished, he tells everyone to check in with him if you decide to get food. Otherwise, your name will be removed from the list at future roll calls.
My brother and I talked awhile, talked with others, and had a good time.
Damn! I’m supposed to write a string quartet, and I haven’t started. I thought being around a bunch of Led Zeppelin fans would be motivating. I guess I’ll start tomorrow morning…..
Another roll call was given in the evening, and there were now over 300 names!
Music and partying continued into the wee hours.
Early Sunday morning, roll call was unexpectedly given. 90% of the people were present. Of the remaining 10%, most had checked in, while five to ten people were yanked.
Outside the ticket office, a few people started to line up. Carole King tickets were to go on sale at 10:00 AM. Knowing my sister was a big fan, I called her and asked if she wanted any tickets. She replied, “Get two!”
The ticket office opened, and I was able to get two seats; third row, center section. My sister would later thank me.
Across the street from the Forum is a cemetery. A friend of mine who drowned at age 17 is buried there. I wanted to see his grave, so around Noon, I checked in with Chris #2, and I went across the street. I found his grave, and I talked to him for a few minutes, knowing he probably couldn’t hear me. I let him know that I was going to see Led Zeppelin and I would try to visit him again (which I did while waiting in line for tickets to The Who).
When I returned to the Forum, I noticed Jerry West (Los Angeles Lakers player at that time, and general manager in 1997) getting out of his car and walking into the player’s entrance.
Chris #2 gave another roll call, and there were a lot of names. After our names were read off, my brother decided to go home, take a shower, a quick nap, and then return. After my brother left, it was another half hour before Chris #2 finished reading the list.
Well, I had no motivation to write music, so I studied Math for the next few hours.
My brother returned around dinner time (with food) and told me how much larger the crowd had grown. Since I had been studying most of the time, I wasn’t aware of the crowd size. We found Chris #2 who stopped the list at 1000 names an hour ago. Another person decided to take over a second list, which began with 1001.
About 9:00 PM, there were a LOT of people jammed around the ticket windows. Before total chaos occurred, Chris #2 decided that we needed to 1) remove people from the ticket windows, and 2) keep everyone off the ramps that lead up to the ticket windows. Unfortunately, some of the people waiting at the windows did not want to leave. Fortunately, my height can be intimidating, so when I asked, they moved without any hesitation. By 10:00 PM, the ticket window area was clear, and the ramps were empty. However, people kept sneaking back up, and I was able to direct them away.
Now, I was up on the ramp looking over the crowd. The parking lot was full and music was blasting from cars. There were people partying everywhere. The odor of marijuana had permeated the entire city. The setting reminded me of a war zone. Very surreal.
I continued to keep people away all night. I remember Suffragate City by David Bowie playing loudly and everyone singing, “Wham! Bam! Thank You, Ma’am.” I wanted to sleep, but I also knew that I was one of the few that could keep order.
Damn! I was hoping to get some studying done, and I got maybe three hours over three days. Here, I was pulling an all-nighter, and it wasn’t for a test; it was for Led Zeppelin tickets.
About 8:00 AM, Chris #2 started to line everyone up. There were six windows, so he made six lines. Somehow, I was the fourth person in the sixth column. That would make me #24; not #23. Hey! Probably a friend of Chris #2 was inserted somewhere. At the head of my line was Danny. My brother was put in the first column, fifth position.
My brother and I broke ranks for a moment, discussed our strategy to try and get seats in the first ten rows of Section B (center section), and if none were available, try to get the first seven rows of sections A or C, preferably low number seats for Section A (1-6) or high number seats for Section C (5-10). If those were unavailable, then get loge seats, just up from the stage.
About 9:45, someone from the Forum allowed the first ten in each line to move up to the ticket windows. The box office opened a little early, and Danny got his two front row tickets for both nights, and loges for the other nights. The second person asked for seats in Section B, but they were back 12 rows. Ouch! He got loge seats. The person in front of me just asked for loge tickets.
Now it was my turn. I asked what was available in either section A or section C. For the 30th, Section C, Row 5, seats 7 upward. “I’ll take them!” For the 31st, Section C, Row 5, Seats 5 upward. Having realized there are only 10 seats across Section C, I asked what were the seat numbers for the 30th. The ticket clerk said, seats 7, 8, 9, 10, …Oh, wait. Section B Row 1 seats 1 and 2. YES! I lucked out! Front Row Center!
The guy behind me groans…..
First night, front row center. Second night, fifth row on aisle across from the center section.
I waited for my brother, and he came down with loge seats. We sold all the loge seats to people in line for $15 each (original cost was $7.25). Bottom line: We are going to see Led Zeppelin for free!
After my brother and I said our goodbyes and parted, I rushed home with the intention of getting to my music theory class as soon as possible. I took a quick shower and decided to sit down and relax a few minutes. I woke up at 6:00 PM.
A couple of weeks later, I realized I was not doing well in any of my classes, and instead of flunking out, I told my Mother that I would have to withdraw. Suprisingly, she agreed. My application for withdrawal was accepted, and I could freely think about not studying. (Over that summer, I took 5 courses at Santa Monica Community College, West Los Angeles Community College and UCLA to make up the lost units).
Now, I had to decide who was going to go. My best friend, a basketball teammate at UCLA, Bob Withers, was also a Led Zeppelin fanatic. I had gotten him sixth row tickets for The Who back in December, 1971, and we’ve been fairly close ever since. I decided that he would sit with me in the front row. For the closing night, I would take a date.
My brother decided that he would only go to the first night along with a date, and Mike and Ann; the couple that held my place in line.
I was having trouble finding a woman who liked Led Zeppelin. In 1973, Mathematics/ Computer Science people were 99% male geeks. The remaining 1% were questionable in determining the gender. My music theory class was no help, because they had no respect for rock musicians. When asked if they wanted to see Led Zeppelin, one woman said, “I can’t stand him.”
Wednesday, May 30th – The day of the concert. Bob Withers gives me a call and said, “The concert is off. Jimmy sprained his finger.” I thought it was a sick joke, but he told me to turn on the radio. Sure enough. The concert was postponed until Sunday.
Around 8:00 PM, I went to my computer job. I was to deliver some tapes and punchcards to Control Data by the L.A. airport, a few miles from the Forum. As I’m driving down the freeway, the radio announcer said, “Led Zeppelin at 10:00 tonight.” WHAT??? I was suddenly in a panic. I wanted to call Bob, but I wasn’t near a telephone. I delivered the tapes and punchcards, ran back out to the radio, and the radio announcer said, “For all those people who had the Led Zeppelin concert postponed tonight, we’ll play some live Led Zeppelin at 10:00.” Again, the Paris Theatre radio broadcast.
Thursday, I was psyched to go. I still couldn’t find a date. I went to UCLA to take care of some school business, and I started to return home at 5:00. The guy in front of me driving a VW bug is moving very slowly. I come to an intersection where I need to make a right turn, so I move into the right curb lane along side of him. He decides to make a right turn into me. His front fender is torn off, while the big clunker station wagon I am driving has a small scratch in the front bumper. We exchanged information, and we went our our way. (Later, the guy would weasel out of fault, and the insurance company ruled it was neither person’s fault. I wanted to fight it, but the insurance company said it wasn’t worth it. One point on my record!).
After I arrived home, I ate quickly and drove down to the Forum. I arrived around 7:30 PM, and I asked, “Does anybody want to make me an offer for a fifth row ticket?” Several people approached me. One person said, “$20”, and almost everyone walked away. Another person said, “$25” and nobody else responded. So, I sold it to some guy who I will never forget. Just remember that he is sitting next to me.
I walk inside, get down to my seat and look over the stage. My eyes are drawn to the very large speakers above and to the side of the stage. Two years ago, the concert was very loud that left a high pitch squeal in my ears for three days. This was duplicated at The Who concert in December, 1971. I couldn’t remember this many speakers, so I assumed this would be the day I would become permanently deaf.
There! In the front row! I see Gene (#1) and Chris (#2) sitting front row, dead center. Danny was also in the center section but on the aisle on the far side of me.
I had many thoughts running through my head. What was the band going to play? How much of Houses Of The Holy are they going to play? Remember: the internet and instant access was unavailable in 1973. Only friends who had seen the show could give you that information, but I knew no one.
Also, what kind of damage occurred to Jimmy’s finger? Will it hamper his playing? Will he be as agressive as two years ago?
The guy next to me (who bought my extra ticket) was very excited and said, “These seats are righteous!”
Suddenly, the lights went out. No sudden fade. No announcement. Just OUT. The crowd went nuts, and they came on stage. They made sure the equipment was working. Bonzo hit his snare drum a few times, and I realized it was going to be loud. The crowd started clapping in unison hoping to get things started. And just like that, Bonzo begins Rock and Roll. When Page and Jones joined in, I was sure the volume caused some wind displacement which blew down the first few rows like dominoes. I could literally feel the bass drum pounding my chest. A very strange sensation.
Plant started singing a few bars later, but I realized his voice was not as forceful as I remembered. He seemed a little tentative. Hopefully, he was just warming up.
Meanwhile, several fans tried to rush the stage (like every concert), and Security was trying to move them. Since I’m so tall, I could see the Security person confront the front guy who had rushed the stage. I don’t know what was said, but the front guy turned around with an extremely scared look on his face and immediately started back to his seat. More scared people followed.
Here it is! The guitar solo! This would be Jimmy’s first test. A lot of people were holding their breath. No problem! The dexterity and speed were working well. The band sounded great.
As we come to the end and Bonzo starts his ending, applause starts, but wait! Right into Celebration Day. This version was moving at warp 10. After a brief pause, Bring It On Home right into Black Dog. Plant misses a few notes, and I realized his range was going to be limited. He even dropped out a line or two. I guess it was to save his voice. But so soon in the concert? More paranoia would follow me.
As Black Dog ended, the guy sitting next to me yelled, “Righteous!”
Plant announces that Bonzo is 21 years old today. I thought, “He’s only 21?” Boy, was I gullible.
Next, as Jimmy started Over The Hills And Far Away, the crowd erupted. This song had been receiving extensive air play on the FM stations, and it was obviously a crowd favorite. Other than the crowd approval, I don’t remember anything particular interesting about this tune. However, after it finished, the guy next to me yelled, “Righteous!”
Jones takes off his bass and moves over to the electric piano. Plant introduces the next song about “walking through the park,” and I knew it was Misty Mountain Hop! Jones starts in, and I was wondering how are the bass lines going to be played? I watched Jones through most of this, but I do remember a few good drum fills and the use of the echoplex when Plant sings, “You really should know.”
The tune ends, Jimmy jumps into a guitar solo, and Since I’ve Been Loving You begins.
The guy next to me yells, “Righteous!”
I always liked this piece and I remember that Plant didn’t have the range he had from two years ago. It seemed more controlled. I don’t remember Jimmy’s solo.
I won’t tell you what the guy next to me said….
Plant introduces No Quarter, and once Jones started, fog flows onto the stage. The mood is set, and the audience is loving it. I remember a lot of echo in the voice and I remember Jimmy soloing.
Next up, The Song Remains The Same. This was one of my favorite songs off Houses of The Holy, and I was eager to hear them play it live. However, I didn’t expect to hear it at warp 10. The band was pumped, and I could notice the better power and range in Plant’s voice. This may have been the best song so far as they moved into The Rain Song; just like the album.
The guy next to me….. never mind.
The Rain Song was done beautifully. However, I remember cringing when the mellotron came in. The mellotron is a difficult instrument to keep in tune, and unfortunately, it was slightly under the guitar tuning. I kept wanting to stand on my tiptoes to help bring up the tuning to the guitar. Still, a beautiful song.
The intro to Dazed and Confused began, the audience definitely approved of the selection, and the guy next to me yelled his favorite word. I remember hearing Bonzo smashing the gong at the beginning. Plant’s voice was strong, and the range started to increase. I remember the bow section being a little long, some great bass lines, and a fantastic guitar solo. Plant’s voice had definitely warmed u
The guy next to me…
Now, Plant announces that Bonzo is 25 today. I was thinking, “I thought you said 21.” I finally realized that he was joking the first time.
The opening line to Stairway starts, and it is defintely a crowd favorite. Another “Righteous!” is yelled. I remembered that I heard this tune before it was released. I never knew it would make such an impact on me; even today. Interestingly, the mellotron sounded more in tune. The guitar solo had a few problems, but still a great version. The crowd starts to applause before Plant finishes singing.
Moby Dick starts. And goes, and goes, and goes. Somewhere in the middle, I look over at the guy sitting next to me, and he is asleep! I couldn’t believe it! Yes, the drum solo was long and possibly boring, but how could anyone sleep through this volume?
Anyway, at the end, he was awake, and he joined in singing Happy Birthday to Bonzo.
The drums started again. The tune was unrecognizable until Jimmy joined in with the opening notes to Heartbreaker. The crowd roared again.
During the guitar solo, the sprained finger reared its ugly head. Page was sloppy, missing notes, but persevering like nothing was wrong. After the band helped him out and expecting Plant to come back in with the chorus, the drums started again and Whole Lotta Love started. After the first section, the band breaks into a funky groove and Plant says, “Anybody seen the Bridge?” I’m thinking, yeah, the Crunge! But although the Crunge isn’t played, a great funky groove is maintained. Page stops playing and starts on the theramin. But Bonzo and Jones maintain that incredible groove. I remember watching Bonzo and Jones more than the theramin. After that, Boogie Mama and back into Whole Lotta Love. After “You Neeeeed It”, Plant tries to go upwards with his “Loooove” yell, but he cracks a couple of times. Almost painful. The band finishes and Plant says, “Good Night.”
A few minutes go by and they come out. Bonzo starts “We’ve Done Four Already but now we’re steady and then they went one…two…three…four..” and into The Ocean. This was disastrous. It was sloppy, Page missed a lot of runs, and Plant’s voice was cracking. I was disappointed.
After a couple of minutes, they returned for the final encore; Communication Breakdown. This was the first song I ever heard by Led Zeppelin back in February, 1969. Although I don’t remember much about this encore, it was a much better ending to the show.
Overall summary: I remember feeling a little disappointed. However, I did like the song selections. Bonzo and Jones played very well, and if Jimmy’s finger heals and Plant gets back some of his voice, it should make an interesting Sunday night.
Fortunately, I’ll never see the guy who sat next to me again. Unfortunately, any time I hear the word “righteous”, even to this day, I think of him.