Despite the delay of their fourth album due to mixing problems and disagreements with Atlantic records about the cover artwork, Led Zeppelin were anxious to bring their newly penned songs to the United States. Their seventh tour, and their first of Japan the following month, shows a band burning bright in performance and improvisation that is unlike anything else in the history of rock.
Some of their greatest concerts are found in this period, none of which has been acknowledged by the band with an official release. Thankfully there are many unofficial documents in circulation to be listened to and enjoyed. Led Zeppelin played twenty-two shows in just under a month. (Some sources list twenty-four concerts, but dates in Seattle and Oklahoma City are disputed).
The opening show was on August 19th in Vancouver which wasn’t taped but is known because of the incident where the road crew, thinking the show was being bootlegged, destroyed the equipment of a government worker measuring the decibel level in the arena. The second two shows, and the first two to be recorded, were in Los Angeles on August 21st and August 22nd.
Walk Don’t Run is the latest boxset by Tarantura which contains these two shows. The label first issued a boxset under the same title in the mid-nineties, also called Walk Don’t Run, but this offers a much needed overhaul. Each show is housed in a cardboard gatefold sleeve with black and white Zeppelin photo motifs used. These two fit into a clam-shell cardboard box.
It is limited to two hundred numbered copies and is thought to be sold out again with the expectation there will be a second edition. These aren’t the best sounding tapes, but they do sound as good as possible in this boxset.
Stairway To L.A. (Tarantura TCD-81-1, 2)
The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – August 21st, 1971
Disc 1 (71:13): Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Celebration Day
Disc 2 (73:00): That’s The Way, Going To California, What Is And What Should Never Be, Whole Lotta Love, Weekend, Rock And Roll, Communication Breakdown, Thank You
The first Los Angeles show has appeared on DX I ~ X (Mad Dogs) a ten disc box set that also includes the September 3rd, 1970 San Diego, February 28th, 1975 Baton Rouge and June 7th, 1977 New York shows, Walk Don’t Run (Tarantura T4CD-1) and its clone 7th American Tour (Whole Lotta Live WLL022/23), Wild Weekend (TDOLZ Vol. 38) finally Firecrackers Explosion (Empress Valley EVSD 305/306).
The new Tarantura is similar to the Empress Valley release by utilizing the common source with the second used for “Celebration Day.” The taper was a considerable distance from the stage but the tape is good and listenable and this new edition sounds very warm and full.
“Moby Dick” is missing but it is not clear if it is cut from the tape or if it was dropped from the set. Between “What Is And What Should Never Be” and “Whole Lotta Love” there is not an obvious cut but there is what sounds like what could be a very clever edit.
The tape picks up with JJ Jackson’s introduction of the group before they hit the stage and play their most effective opening, the double shot of “Immigrant Song” and “Heartbreaker.”
“It’s been about a year I think since the last time. Maybe a bit more” Plant says before they slow the pace down a bit with “Since I’ve Been Loving You.” Their new album was still unreleased but they played several of the new songs beginning with “Black Dog.” The lyrics were more loose in these early versions and in this show Plant throws in “See my baby walking down the street / ain’t nobody around except the chief of police” among other lines that are not found in the studio version.
“Now listen, if you’re gonna make a noise, don’t make a racket cause it puts the road managers off. Here’s one from about, I don’t know, thirty-six months ago.” “Dazed And Confused” was already considered an “oldie,” having been played at almost every gig since they started.
This track normally stretched to twenty minutes on this tour with many elaborations in the long improvisation. But the most noted piece in this show is the Los Angeles debut of “Stairway To Heaven.” Page has stated in interviews in the past forty years claiming he knew it would be a hit because of the reception it received this night. Despite Plant messing up some of the lyrics, the audience is quiet and attentive and give a loud standing ovation when the song is over.
As “Whole Lotta Love” begins there are several loud bangs from the audience. Reaching almost a half hour, it contains one of the best medleys of the tour. During “Boogie Chillun’” Plant sings about the “Holiday Inn manager talking…” before they get into a cover of Hank Snow’s 1950 hit “I’m Moving On.”
There only six recorded instances of Led Zeppelin playing this song. For ninety seconds they play a song that sounds like their arrangement of Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” but with completely improvised lyrics. It sounds like Plant is saying “I can’t stand the size of your ego…”
“Mess O’ Blues” leads into Elvis’ “Got A Lot O’ Livin’ To Do” from The King’s second movie Loving You. (This film is also the source for “Let’s Have A Party,” a song Zeppelin would cover heavily the following two years).
Instead of getting into “You Shook Me” to end the medley with a long and heavy blues, they extend “Honey Bee” before returning to the final verse and end the song. They reward the audience with four encores beginning with Eddie Cochrane’s “Weekend.”
“Rock And Roll” is the final new song played, “Communication Breakdown” and finally “Thank You” close out another amazingly energetic and fun performance in Los Angeles.
Walk, Don’t Run (Tarantura TCD-82-1, 2)
The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – August 22nd, 1971
Disc 1 (74:54): Introduction, Walk Don’t Run, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Celebration Day, That’s The Way, What Is And What Should Never Be
Disc 2 (69:08): Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, Thank You
The second night exists on only one tape which is slightly more clear than the first night. There is a minor amount of hiss present, but nothing too distracting in a tape that emphasizes the vocals and drums over the guitar. Previous silver editions include Walk Don’t Run (Mud Dogs -022/023), Walk Don’t Run (Tarantura T4CD-1) and its copy Definitive Kingdom (Whole Lotta Live WLL020/21), Firecrackers Explosion II (Empress Valley EVSD360/361) and on Freak Out (TDOLZ Vol. 39).
There are cuts after “Dazed And Confused,” “Stairway To Heaven,” “Celebration Day,” “Moby Dick” and “Whole Lotta Love.” “Going To California” doesn’t appear on the tape but there is no cut after “That’s The Way.” Either it was lost in the cut after “Celebration Day” or it was dropped from the setlist altogether. The latter is more likely since the existing tapes from this tour reveal there was no swapping of the two acoustic numbers in the set.
Like the tape for the first show, this one begins with JJ Jackson’s introduction of the group. To celebrate Los Angeles they start the show with The Ventures’ 1960 surf hit “Walk, Don’t Run.” This is the only time they ever played this live and gives the name to every release of this show. The whole point of surf music is to recall the fun of partying at the beach, and Zeppelin covering this tune establishes the fun atmosphere of this show before getting down to business with “Immigrant Song” and “Heartbreaker.”
Afterwards there is a short delay because of the organ, Pages plays a bit of “Boogie Chillun’” as Plant explains “John Paul Jones’ badge is inside the organ.” They proceed with a dramatic version of “Since I’ve Been Loving You.”
During the twenty-minute “Dazed And Confused” Page experiements with new variations of common melodies in the improvisation section, stretching them out to see how they work. The coda after the final verse has a section which is very mellow and delicate.
Plant tries to quiet the audience before “Stairway To Heaven,” saying “Good evening. It’s very difficult to try and see who’s out there really because these spotlights aren’t helping very much. If it was a little less intense, it’d be a lot nicer. We’ve got a new album coming out in about three weeks time, after a lot of messing around, and this is one of the tracks from it. It starts off rather quietly, so we’d like it quiet. Shhhhh.”
He again flubs a line, this time in the second verse where he sings “in a tree by the brook” too early mumbles a new second verse. The guitar solo sounds very intense but is unfortunately buried deep in the mix.
Before “That’s The Way” Plant explains, “now this is the first, or rather, this is the only number we really attempted to harmonize on. And tonight my voice is really fucked, so I don’t believe we think we’re gonna do too much harmonizing. Anyway, we’re gonna try, so why not?” The previous evening’s excesses took their toll on his voice obviously.
The “Whole Lotta Love” medley pushes a half hour long and includes two mysterious covers after “Boogie Chillun’.” Some call them “Think I’m Crazy” and “Take It Easy,” by the lyrics are quite inaudible and it’s hard to understand what exactly they’re playing.
Plant leads them into “My Baby Left Me” and “Mess O’Blues” before capping off the improvisation with a five minute long, heavy version of “You Shook Me.” The first encore is an eight minute long version of “Communication Breakdown” and like many others includes a long bass solo in the middle. But as Jones jams Page plays a pretty little country melody. The final encore on the tape is “Thank You” with a long organ solo. Whether or not they played “Rock And Roll” too isn’t known.