Headley Grange, Hampshire, England – January, 1971
Disc 1 (71:25): Stairway To Heaven, acoustic guitar/organ instrumental, acoustic guitar instrumental, acoustic guitar instrumental 2, Black Dog, No Quarter, Stairway To Heaven take 2, instrumental, Stairway To Heaven take 3, Stairway To Heaven take 4, The Battle Of Evermore (acoustic intro), The Battle Of Evermore (alternate lyric), The Battle Of Evermore (echoed harmonies & choruses), The Battle Of Evermore (full mix), The Battle Of Evermore (final mix 1), The Battle Of Evermore (final mix 2)
Disc 2 (46:55): rehearsals for Friends, Four Sticks, Friends (with vocals), Friends (with vocals), Four Sticks (2 takes)
Sessions on The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin is an interesting release with some old material and other outtakes making their debut. The music dates from the time when Zeppelin were writing and recording their fourth LP in early 1971 and from the unreleased Bombay, India rehearsals in March 1972. Because most of these come from professional sources, the sound quality is very good. Some of the amateur recorded rehearsals are also very good quality.
The earliest titles with this material were on vinyl including Rehearsals January 1971 (Rock Live 2-A-B) and Inedits (LZ1-2). On compact disc these sessions have appeared on many titles such as All That Glitters Is Gold (Celebration CSM-001A/B), Another IV Symbols (Tarantura TCD-4), Hairway To Steven (Invasion Unlimited IU9645-1), Led Zeppelin IV Outtakes (Tarantura), Stairway Sessions (Silver Rarities SIRA 71), Studio Haze Vol 1 (Laughing Skull), Ultra Rare Tracks Vol. 1 (Missing Link ML-001), Stairway To Heaven Sessions 1970-1971 (Live Storm LSCD 52631 and also on Zoso’s Company ZOSO-9301/2), and on the sixth disc of the Antrabata set. The latest release is on disc four of Studio Sessions Ultimate (Scorpio LZ-07001~12).
The first disc opens with a first take of “Stairway To Heaven” and is followed by three instrumental tapes which feature Page on guitar and Jones on electric piano.
“Stairway To Heaven” is a three and a half instrumental run-through of the opening theme played at normal speed, faster, and then returning to normal. The following jam features Jones playing a happy theme on the keyboard and Page accompanying him with a bouncy, catchy melody. The recording is clear enough to be from Island studio, but it could also date from Headley Grange.
What are clearly from the house are the “Black Dog” rehearsals. It sounds as if it was recorded on a two-track, sounding heavy with the echo. ”Black Dog” at this stage has yet to be fully worked out and Plant is improvising lyrics on the spot (something he would continue to do on stage for many years, come to think of it). It gives a fantastic aural snapshot of the band creating a classic track in the studio.
By the third take, the band are clearly having difficulty mastering the difficult riff until Jones shouts out instructions and leads the band on the bass guitar. Page, followed by Bonham hit into a groove with Bonham shouting, “YES!” The final take is a very confident delivery.
“No Quarter” also dates from Headley Grange and is the earliest reference to the Houses Of The Holy song, three years before its official release. Even in this primitive state the basic melody and structure of the song is present although it is a bit too up-tempo. Plant scats vocals and Page plays a solo before the tape runs out.
The final two “Stairway To Heaven” tracks are joined by Plant adding vocals to the rehearsals and Jones adding recorders at the beginning, bring the song closer to the final, recognizable version.
An important story in Zeppelin mythology is about the spontaneous nature of the lyrics to the classic song with Plant claiming the words just came to him. There is some truth to this claim since, besides some minor variations and differences in the melody; it is very close to what appears on the fourth album. The song in this take approaches the traditional ending but returns to the opening theme. The final take of “Stairway To Heaven” comes from a different tape than the previous ones and sounds brighter and clearer. Bonham joins the band to lay down a drum track and the song sounds even closer to the final version.
There are smaller variations in the lyrics (“when she gets there she knows/ if the stores are all closed / she can call in and see…”) but still mostly correct. The song builds into a crescendo and Page switches his guitar and rips out a solo with ideas that will find their way into the live performances of the piece for the next decade. The song still doesn’t have the closing verse (“there was a lady we all know / who shines bright light…”) but has the soft ending and the track closes with amazement with Bonham saying “bloody ‘ell!” They spoke to the press about developing an epic to replace “Dazed And Confused” and they know they wrote an excellent song.
The focus of this release, and what makes it still relevant even after the Scorpio box set, are the “Battle Of Evermore” outtakes that are not found elsewhere. The first “Battle” track is a forty-second fragment of the introduction.
The second “The Battle Of Evermore” contains the final instrumental track and has Plant singing lyrics, with some variations from the final version, without Sandy Denny’s contribution. This is available on Scorpio and other sets in similar sound quality. It is interesting to hear Plant working out the song as he goes along. Him singing the tune by himself sounds one-sided and bare and one can understand why they chose to invite Sandy Denny to sing on the track.
Lyrically, this take goes (and the final version are in parenthesis):
The Queen of Light took her bow and then she turned to go
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom to wait the night alone
(The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom and walked the night alone)
The Dark Lord rides in force tonight, and time will tell us all
Side by side we wait the might, of the darkest of them all
Oh well, the time is coming and would it be so much to say
The people will now let go
(I hear the horses thunder down in the valley below
I’m waiting for the angels of Avalon, waiting for the eastern glow)
The apples of the valley hold the seeds of happiness
The ground is rich from tender care, which they do not forget
The apples turn to brown and black, the tyrant’s face is red
The sky is filled with good and bad, the mortals never fail
Oh well, the night is long, the beads of time pass slow
Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow
The drums will shake the walls of stone, the Ringwraiths ride in black
(The drums will shake the castle wall, the Ringwraiths ride in black)
The pain of war can not exceed the woe of aftermath
No comfort in the fires at night that lights the face so cold
The runes of old have reappeared to swing the tide of war
(The magic runes are writ in gold to bring the balance back, bring it back)
And the song ends with Plant saying, “that’s it!”
The other takes are all of the final version with Denny’s contribution. The first has the vocals buried deep in the music, and the other two contain variations on the echo.
The second disc focuses upon material from 1972 and contains the complete Bombay sessions from March, following their tour of Australia. This tape is one of the most often released and popular outtake.
Page and Plant recruited famous Indian musician Vijay Ragav Rao to assemble an ad hoc orchestra comprised of both western and Indian instruments. What can be clearly heard are both Jimmy Page and Robert Plant speaking to Rao, and Rao translating their instructions to the musicians. The orchestra tries their best but the different takes reveal missed cues and misunderstandings. This is the first time they tried to interpret their musical ideas to anyone other than members of the band and they have difficulty in explaining what they want.
Rehearsals exist only for “Friends”, as well as a very good final take with vocals. For “Four Sticks”, the other eastern inspired tune they practice, only more polished takes without vocals exist. The sound quality is the same as on other releases. Sessions is packaged with the two discs in a single pocket cardboard sleeve with the liner notes glued on in emulation of the old bootleg LPs from the seventies and eighties. It’s a nice touch by a label that really produced many quality release when they were in production. And this is one of their titles that is still a must have.