Thirty Years Gone”…Led Zeppelin Rocked the Spectrum In Philly – February 8th, 1975 If there was ever a good reason to return from “lurkdom” this is just cause.
I wanted to share some concert memories of an epic evening some 30 years ago. The concert was a sell out within a few hours of tickets being sold; somehow I’d missed a chance to buy tickets to the most anticipated concert in years.
Somehow I had to find a way…less than a week before the show I saw an ad in the newspaper advertising two tickets. I immediately called and this voice on the other end barks loudly: $100! I said excuse me? …are you calling about the Zeppelin tickets?! Yes…$100! Was his reply again, without hesitation I said OK (apparently this guy had been inundated with phone calls and was fed up of his phone ringing). We made arrangements to meet the next day. My night was restless hoping the deal would not fall through. With tickets costing $7.50 to $9.50 I realized I was paying unheard of prices for a concert in 1975. Two tickets and a live performance of Led Zeppelin?
It was time to kiss that $100 good bye. The next day we met at his place of employment, a car mechanic working at a local gas station. I forked over the money and he hands me my two tickets, one is almost completely torn in half and both are badly smudged with greasy fingerprints. I looked on in horror and disbelief; I suppose I expected them to be handed to me on a silver platter. None the less, I walked away smiling broadly…I just bought my rights to see the greatest band in the world performing live!
The next few days were filled with an eager anticipation and endless hours of playing one vinyl album after another from the five Led Zeppelin releases I owned. If my immediate neighbors didn’t have an appreciation for the music of Led Zeppelin, they certainly got to know it!
Saturday finally came around, a cold February day that seemed perfect for an evening of Rock and Roll…the perfect day of the week for a concert actually. The obligatory pre-concert party was in full swing, people tail gate partying, the sounds of music blaring from their vehicle’s 8-track tape players filled the cold winter air all around the arena parking lot. As the 8:00 hour approached we made our way inside. My worst fears of having my tickets rejected because one was already almost torn in half and you had to look through the grease stains to see “Led Zeppelin” imprinted on the ticket went unfounded. Whew! A big sigh of relief…let’s get inside and party!
After hours of indulging in beer drinking I was in serious need of finding the closest bathroom before heading off to our seats. After a long wait in a big line I finally find my moment of release. While standing at the pisser who is standing next to me but my good friend Mark! (Neither of knew the other was going) “Sorry dude, I’ll have to shake your hand another time!” I say. Mark asks: Where ya sitting? Well, I’m way up top in the nose bleeds but hey! I’m in!! Mark quips: “We had a no show and have an extra seat, come sit with us! Great seats too!” Wow! Small problem though, I’m here with my girlfriend. “Ditch her!” is his reply. I laugh uncontrollably as the urine goes everywhere but into that prized porcelain bowl hanging on the wall in front of me. Finishing business we head off to find my girlfriend and our new found seat.
Turns out the single seat is in the very last row just below the press/media boxes. Excellent seat and with nothing but a wall behind us no worries of blocking another’s view. Without hesitation I decide to take the extra seat, if my girlfriend has to sit on my lap for several hours its ok if that’s the price of admission for a great view of the show. Within minutes the lights were dimmed…an unmistakable aroma filled the arena and a hazy smoke wafted in the air. Bonham rolls out the familiar opening beat to “Rock n’ Roll” and Led Zeppelin explodes on stage! The hair on the back of my neck is standing…Damn! The boys are here! This is live!! Everyone is standing at this point; the crowd is in a total frenzy.
Growing up in a huge metro area such as Philadelphia had some real advantages. I had the good fortune of seeing all the big name concerts of the day: The Rolling Stones, The Who, Yes, Pink Floyd, etc. But no one delivered the power of a live band the way Zeppelin could. I’d never experienced such raw emotion from an audience, the sound was numbing! They literally blew you away. When Robert cried out to the crowd a second time: Good Evening!!! I thought the roof would come down. Philly was ready to Rock! The energy they opened the evening with left you awed…I knew it was going to be a special evening.I remember the impact of a phenomenal light show to compliment the sound.
Seeing Led Zeppelin live was bigger than life. While Jimmy played his slide during “In my time of Dying” there were two sets of lights on either side of the stage that would rotate in a circular fashion just bathing the band in spectacular light. Its visual impact was surreal. By now my lower extremities had gone completely numb. I had a gorgeous babe sitting on my lap and Led Zeppelin was performing live in front of me…it truly couldn’t have been any better. In retrospect it would have been nice to have had a few less beers, perhaps a few less tokes to help crystallize the memories, but alas, that was part of the evening’s protocol. The music just put you in that mood, there was no escaping it.
Other memories I hold: The huge “Led Zeppelin” in lights that prominently lit the stage for the encores…a fitting backdrop for Rock’s greatest act. That evening’s concert left me with an impact no other band ever has. I was witnessing rock and roll history at the time and I knew it. I remember having taken a small instamatic camera along and even though the end product photos were pathetic it was great to reminisce about the power of the concert. I remember walking back to our cars after the show to have another beer and talk about the performance…we were yelling at each other! My ears were buzzing, literally. Zeppelin was not only the greatest performing band in the world they were also the loudest!
There was no turning back after this show; you knew no other concert could ever match its power. The weeks that followed were restless waiting for the release of “Physical Graffiti”. Finally local radio station WMMR played its pre-release one evening. A chance to relive the concert was perfect, only this time my girlfriend was not sitting on my lap for hours…we enjoyed the sounds in a more inviting horizontal mode together…some fond memories of Led Zeppelin.
In the following days I scoured record shops looking to see if there were any such things as live recordings. I didn’t really know if bootlegs existed, much to my amazement I was directed to an area in the very back of this small basement record shop. I was dumbfounded…I’d found some live Zep recordings! My first albums being pressed vinyl releases, I still have them to this day. Having never really thought of it in these terms I guess I’ve been collecting live recordings for almost 30 years now!
Sure, there were other concerts that followed, but nothing ever lived up…the only cure was to see Led Zeppelin again. And by good fortune I did. Two years later my girlfriend and I drove up to New York City to see the closing night of the legendary six night stand at Madison Square Garden on June 14, 1977… (But that’s another story for another time). And how did I come across those tickets? You guessed it…paying way too much to someone who offered tickets through a newspaper ad. My only regret of the concert experiences is that I didn’t personally keep the ticket stubs. A year later my girlfriend and I were to part ways on not so amicable terms and in a fit of anger all the concert ticket stubs, all the memories (she hoped) would be erased with one swift drop into a garbage can. Oh Well…some memories will never be forgotten.
And lastly, the $100 I paid (a huge sacrifice for a kid at the time) for each of those concerts I attended? Did that money really have any impact on my life? None. The memories of having seen Led Zeppelin live in concert? Priceless!