Civic Arena, Long Beach, CA – March 11th, 1975
Disc 1 (55:53): 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 (52:12): No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick
Disc 3 (54:43): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog
Long Beach Californication is the Eelgrass production of the recently surfaced Led Zeppelin soundboard from the March 11th, 1975 Long Beach show. The introduction is taken from the excellent audience recording, but the soundboard starts right before “Rock And Roll.” The recording is extremely clear and powerful and one of the best sounding of the 75 soundboards. It is certainly more enjoyable than the Nassau tape that surfaced last year. The tape does run 2% too fast, just enough to be nightclub and raised the question why Empress Valley didn’t correct it. Nevertheless Eelgrass is a great production and is much more affordable than the expensive editions.
Regarding the actual concert, 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 followed by “The Crunge.” 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. Eelgrass utilize a standard jewel case with thick glossy inserts.
Civic Arena, Long Beach, CA
Disc 1(53:53): 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
Disc2 (52:12): No Quarter/Trampled Underfoot/Moby Dick
Disc 3 (54:43): Dazed And Confused/Stairway To Heaven/Whole Lotta Love/Black Dog
After having released a number of mediocre titles which were in substance mere reissues of past titles, they finally did it again! EV has returned to continue its “Soundboard Revolutions” by releasing this title which has unearthed a soundboard recording of the Long Beach show on 11 March 1975. As well-known, the show was captured by the legendary Mike Millard and there have been numerous past titles which were produced with his excellent audience recording of the show. However, this release from EV is still very welcome and worthy of our collection, because, while an excellent audience recording may better capture how the band overall was actually heard in the venue, a soundboard recording better captures how the band members did perform (and enjoy or struggle) on stage. The rule also applies to this release.
For instance, it more clearly and vividly captures how Bonzo played his drum kits and yelled on stage. The newly surfaced ‘75 soundboard is very well balanced and, in its quality, is close to the soundboard featured in EV’s past title “Snow Jobs,” with a bit less emphasis on bass this time. It does not sound as harsh in its higher ends as the soundboard featured in EV’s another past title “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” and is cleaner than that. In fact, although the tape is slightly distorted at the beginning, there is no noticeable hiss noise in the new soundboard, except that there is a very noticeable digital error at the end of “Moby Dick.” Accordingly, it could overall be deemed as one of the best and most well-balanced soundboard recordings from the band’s ’75 shows. (Incidentally, in this title, EV elected to use the Millard tape at the beginning of CD1 in order especially to include the famous exciting opening announcement of “The American Return of Led Zeppelin!”.)
In terms of the band’s performance, it is widely thought that this show is not as good as the one on the immediately following day. It may be true. (Now that the soundboard from the 11 March show has surfaced, I truly hope that the one from the 12 March show will also surface in the not too distant future.) The band’s performances actually suffer from several technical or equipment problems especially in the former half of the show. However, in the latter half of the show, the band in fact played very well, even better than on 12 March in some places. For instance, “Dazed And Confused” is spectacular from ’75 standard and “Stairway To Heaven” is flawless and gutsy. Jimmy also played better in the funcky section in “Whole Lotta Love” than on the following day.
Accordingly, I think that we should sit back, relax and enjoy the new release rather than first complaining about the fact that the excellent Millard tape of the same show was widely available before. EV released this title in 3 different types: “Type A” limited to 100 copies coming with a T-shirt, “Type B” limited to 200 copies and regular “Type C”. The artwork for Type A is nicer than the artwork for “Type B.” The photo used on the front cover of the outer box for Type A is the one showing Jimmy in the storm trooper costume with a groupie leaning upon his bare chest in the Starship. As I saw a mini replica of the T-shirt, the same photo would be printed on the white T-shirt with some English liner notes about the concert, which looked very nice. In addition, the photo used for the back cover of the outer box is the one showing the band members sitting at a table surrounded by a number of groupies at Rainbow in LA. On the other hand, the photos used for the outer cover of Type B are rather common and looked very alike the ones used for EV’s “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” showing Jimmy in action on stage.
The photos used for the outer cover of “Type C” showing Robert on stage are even more common (as used for some past Earls Court titles) and less attractive. One problem with Type A is that since EV has not completed its production of the T-shirts, they will be delivered later and I have not yet seen the T-shirt in its final form as of the present time. In addition, T-shirts are available only in “L”-size. I am now anxiously waiting for the attractive T-shirt to arrive, while enjoying the excellent soundboard.