Fillmore East, New York, NY – January 31st, February 1st, & May 30th, 1969
Disc 1, January 31st, 1969, early show (46:23): Introduction, The Train Kept A-Rollin’, I Can’ Quit You, Dazed And Confused, Pat’s Delight, How Many More Times, You Shook Me
Disc 2, February 1st, 1969, early show (44:38): White Summer/Black Mountain Side, The Train Kept A-Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You, Pat’s Delight, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown
Disc 3, May 30th, 1969, early show (60:07): The Train Kept A-Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed And Confused, You Shook Me, White Summer/ Black Mountain Side, How Many More Times, Communication Breakdown
Drive Me Insane collects together the three earliest tapes of Led Zeppelin playing in New York. The first two discs, taken from the end of their first tour, are of better sound quality and more interest than the third, but this offers a fascinating glimpse into the beginning of their legendary stage show. Two weeks after the release of their first LP Led Zeppelin, they make their New York debut with two shows each on January 31st and February 1st in support of Porter’s Popular Preachers and Iron Butterfly, but tapes from the early shows only exist. This appearance is legendary for Zeppelin eclipsing the headliners so much so that the Butterfly refused to play the second night. (Their popularity in the wake of “In A Gadda Da Vidda” was on the wane anyway with multiple line up changes and styles in music).
The January 31st tape is very clear and close to the stage with slight distortion in the louder passages. One of the earliest releases can be found on The Grande Ball (Missing Link ML-010), which is mislabeled as a Detroit show and is missing “Pat’s Delight” and “Communication Breakdown.” The full show can be found on East/West (Digger Productions), Psychedelic Raw Blues (Immigrant IM-017~18) and on New York In The Wind (Empress Valley EVSD 312/313). Scorpio is sourced from an alternate master tape and is an improvement over the Empress Valley with more clarity and definition. The distortion also is not loud enough to cause distraction either.
The set is a compact, intense forty-five minutes. There is a minute of tune ups and an eerie silence before the first number. It is difficult to interpret the audience’s silence. It could be either disinterest or anticipation, but the opening notes of “Train Kept A Rollin’” explode on the stage. Polite applause greet them as they make the transition to “I Can’t Quit You.” ”Thank you very much indeed” Plant says afterwards, eerily echoing Chris Relf’s greeting in The Yardbirds Anderson Theater show the previous year. “We’re gonna carry on with a thing off the new Led Zeppelin album, if you permit. This is called ‘Dazed and Confused.’”
They play a version very close to the studio version including the final cadence that was essentially dropped soon after. The drum solo “Pat’s Delight” is about eight minutes long. The audience becomes much more animated during the final song, a ten minute version of “How Many More Times.” Plant introduces the band as was the custom, saying, ”On bass and Hammond organ, when it’s available, John Paul Jones, John Paul Jones. On drums, John Bonham, John Bonham. Lead guitar, Jimmy Page, and myself Robert Plant.” He changes the lyrics in the second verse to “How many more years / are you gonna wreck my life? / I gotta get you together baby / ’cause I want you to be my wife” while Page plays the “Smokestack Lightening” riff. “You Shook Me” makes a rare appearance as the closing number.
The following night’s tape is more dull and distorted but still listenable. It has been issued only twice before, on Legendary Fillmore Tapes Vol.1 (Savege Beast Music SB-949629) and New York In The Wind(Empress Valley). Scorpio sounds the same as the Empress Valley and runs at the correct speed. The audience are much more lively this time as Plant begins the show making an embarrassing confession. “Thank you very much. Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re sorry about the delay, but um, because we’re all a bit stupid, we forgot the bass players guitar, would you believe that? Well there you go. We forgot the bass player’s guitar, so we’re going to open up without the bass player, and we’re gonna feature Jimmy Page and a thing that ah, yeah Jimmy Page. This is a thing that was very popular when he was with the Yardbirds, and it’s also one we feature now with Led Zeppelin. It’s called ‘White Summer,’ Jimmy Page.”
A nine minute version of the Jimmy Page virtuoso piece is followed by the opening duo of “Train Kept A Rollin’” and “I Can’t Quit You Babe.” And as they try to “cram as much as we can into about another twenty minutes or so,” they move into Bonham’s solo “Pat’s Delight” as someone by the tape recorder says, “to hell with the Butterfly.” Perhaps to compensate for the lack of more ensemble playing, they play a fifteen minute long version of “How Many More Times” with Page’s ”Smokestack Lightening” references and studio versions violin bow on strings. Before the final song “Communication Breakdown” plant complains about splitting his trousers. Page’s guitar goes out of tune in the middle of the piece and it is cut short.
In May Led Zeppelin came back to New York and played four shows over two nights in support of Woody Herman And His Orchestra and Delaney & Bonnie, but only the early show from the first night exists. This comes after a very busy month where they were not only touring America for the second time and playing longer sets, but were also beginning the recording of their second album. The first song written ”Whole Lotta Love” would be premiered on this tour, and played five days before this show, but not in New York.
The tape for the early show on May 30th really redeems Drive Me Insane from being a reheated rehash into something more interesting. Although the sound quality for this tape is the worst of the three, this is the first silver release in more than fifteen years. The first silver release is Legendary Fillmore Tapes Volume 2 (Savage Beast SB-959630) where the tape runs too fast. The second title is the no label Early Days, Latter Days which runs closer to the correct speed. On Scorpio the tape is still a difficult listen since it is distant and distorted, but it is good to have for the hardcore collector for the historic significance. It was the following day when the band supposedly attacked Life reporter Ellen Sander which resulted in bad press, and these shows which Variety referred to when they wrote that Zeppelin’s “obsession with power, volume and melodramatic theatrics leaves little room for subtly…the combo have forsaken the musical sense for the sheer power that entices their predominantly juvenile audience. “
The set list is common for the tour but this show is about twenty minutes longer than the shows from the first tour. They still begin with “Train Kept A Rollin’” and “I Can’t Quit You” which drives the audience hysterical. “Thank you very much. Good Evening. It’s very nice to be back at the Filmore East. Since we’re only able to do short sets, we’d like to get on with it. Not much talking this time. This is a thing from the first album. Thank you very much. I take it you’ve heard it? This is called ‘Dazed And Confused.’” Twelve minutes long with a great improvisation, and something strange happens when Plant is moaning along with Page during the violin bow episode. It isn’t clear why, but the audience erupt in laughter.
“You Shook Me” is the heaviest number of the night and is stretched to almost eleven minutes, sounding like a pile driver on the stage. Afterwards Plant says, “Thank you very much. I must admit, you’re very kind at this early hour of the night. Thank you. We’d like to feature, for a solo thing, Jimmy Page. This is a song with a variation on two themes. One theme recorded some time ago, and the more recent one which you’ll probably hear as we go along. This is a thing called ‘White Summer.’”
The set closes with a version of “How Many More Times” that reaches almost twenty minutes. It includes the violin bow solo as the studio version and a primitive version of “Boogie Chillun’.” The rest of the song features a long solo before Plant gets into “The Hunter” and the finale. It’s pure melodrama at its best. The encore is “Communication Breakdown” which runs at the correct speed. Drive Me Insane is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with nice picture discs and various Angel photos which come from the same time as the show.
This can be considered to be the definitive release of these concerts until both better tape sources surface for these, and tapes for the missing shows, finally surface (which probably won’t happen, but you never know).