Led Zeppelin Welcome Back: How The West Was Won Tapes Revisited (San Bernardino, LA Forum & Long Beach, June 1972)
Led Zeppelin built their reputation on long and furious live performances. Based upon their interpretation of white man’s dirty blues, they were able to melt various styles of music. By 1972, their improvisational style achieved an unsurpassed level of fluidity and genius rarely seen in rock performance before (or since). Their US tour was one of their pinnacles.
In subsequent years their live aesthetic would shift more towards polished performance from improvisational artistry.
Towards the end of their month long tour, the band played four shows in California. The first on June 22nd in San Bernardino, followed by San Diego on June 23rd, Los Angeles on June 25th and finally Long Beach on June 27th (some itineraries listed a June 24th show in Berkeley, but there is no evidence this show ever occurred). Except for San Diego (unfortunately), all the shows were taped in very good sound quality.
Godfather collect together the California shows on Welcome Back in near definitive sound quality. As the artwork and title suggest, these are the audience tapes of two of the shows used for How The West Was Won, released on Atlantic Records in 2003. This represents the first time these shows have been anthologized since Tarantura issued Route 66 almost twenty years ago. Godfather utilize the best sounding sources to present perhaps the definitive versions of these shows.
1st Night: Berdu (GR BOX A/B)
Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CA – June 22nd, 1972
Disc 1 (61:08): Tape drone, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California, That’s The Way, Tangerine, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp
Disc 2 (77:54): Dazed And Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, applause, Rock And Roll, after the show
Godfather use the same tape for San Bernardino that has been used for every other release. It first surfaced on the vinyl Berdu (Screaming Oiseau MX 7500) and for subsequent CD releases like Route 66 (Tarantura T4CD-3) and its European clone Born To Be Wild (Whole Lotta Live WLL018/019), Berdu (Cobra Standard Series 010), Born To Be Wild (Magnificent Disc MD-7201 A/B), Latter Day Saint (Tarantura TCD-62-1, 2) and Swinging In San Bernardino (Empress Valley EVSD 303/304).
The tape is a clear and verified 1st gen with wide spectrum. They state: “The transfer I use seems to be more wider and has less hiss. The cut in ‘Stairway To Heaven’ is filled with 2nd gen fragment and the quality is almost the same. The cut in ‘Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp’ is still present but has smoother edit.”
About the performance, the commonly held opinion is that although the set list isn’t as adventurous as the Seattle and Los Angeles concerts that came before and after (there are no songs from Houses Of The Holy, for example), the joy is in Jimmy Page’s improvisations throughout the entire set.
Plant introduces “Black Dog” as a song “about an old dog who like to boogie a lot.” Page flirts which some chromatic scales in the solo and also plays Bouree and “Feeling Groovy.” “Since I’ve Been Loving You” contains phenomenal soloing by Page before the newer track “Stairway To Heaven.”
The recording is good at picking up the vibrations on the other neck during the solo. The acoustic set was four songs long on this tour and was the longest they played at this point in their career. “Tangerine” was introduced to the set list in Japan the previous September and is really out of place.
The studio version is partly acoustic but needs the electric slide guitar for its effectiveness and this pure acoustic version played on stage is never really convincing. The arrangement used at Earl’s Court three years later is much better and it makes me wonder why they didn’t include “Friends” by this time. John Bonham does his best Johnny Cash imitation during “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” and is a fun song.
The audience are audibly impatient with the acoustic material however. “Dazed And Confused” is the first long epic of the evening. At twenty-seven minutes, this version is a masterpiece. But everything gets blown out by the fantastic “Dazed & Confused” which is probably the best from this tour and one for the ages. He includes many riffs including “Walter’s Walk”, “The Crunge” and the “Hot On For Nowhere” riff also heard on the December ’72 Manchester tape (Rovers Return).
Right before the violin bow interlude, between 5:30 and 6:00, Page plays a interesting slow and majestic piece. The improvisation includes both “The Crunge” and “Walter’s Walk” as Page goes riff crazy.
A firecracker goes off before “What Is And What Should Never Be.” This is one of the final live performances of the Led Zeppelin II track. It would be dropped from the live repertoire after this tour, never to return. “Moby Dick” is kept short tonight, reaching just over ten minutes.
“Whole Lotta Love” includes the normal inclusions in the medley with “Boogie Chillun’,” “Let’s Have A Party,” the Ricky Nelson classic “Hello Mary Lou,” and ending with Howlin’ Wolf’s “Going Down Slow.”
The last song is a strange choice for Zeppelin to play and particularly for Plant to sing. Sung by Howlin’ Wolf, the lyrics come across with a strange mixture of anger and regret, weathered by the years of a wasted life. But with Plant’s high pitched voice, it comes across as shallow fan worship, a youngster standing in shoes ten times too big. Page’s solo rattles the rafters of the auditorium, however, and is an excellent way to end the medley.
“Rock And Roll” is the only encore played in this concert. It’s a shame they didn’t play anything from Houses Of The Holy as they had several night before in Seattle and would also play in the final shows.
2nd Night: A Night At The Heartbreak Hotel (GR BOX C/D/E)
The Forum, Los Angeles, CA – June 25th, 1972
Disc 3 (68:00): Tape drone, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Over the Hills And Far Away, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California, That’s The Way, Tangerine, Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
Disc 4 (56:59): Dazed & Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be, Dancing Days, Moby Dick
Disc 5 (62:34): Whole Lotta Love, Rock & Roll, The Ocean, Louie Louie, organ solo, Thank You, Communication Breakdown, Bring It On Home
The audience tape for Led Zeppelin’s June 25th, 1972 Los Angeles show first began life on vinyl on the simply titled LA ’72 (TT02) and received wider circulation as A Night At The Heartbreak Hotel (Artemis). Both of these titles are very good quality but incomplete.
Silver Rarities released one of the earliest compact disc versions of the complete show on Burn Like A Candle under their unique Smoking Pig label, a title which has pretty much stuck with this tape ever since.
Tarantura released the four-disc set Route 66 (T4CD-3) that contained an incomplete copy of this tape coupled with the San Bernardino show.
Missing Link tried to revive the early vinyl title with Night At The Heartbreak Hotel (ML-011/12/13) which was a copy of the Silver Rarities including the spurious encore “Weekend” and Cobra released the three disc set LA Forum (Cobra Standard Vol.024) about this time.
Equinox released the three disc set Burn That Candle (EX-00-010/011/012) which omits “Weekend” and includes the Wolfman Jack interview from the following night. In the past couple years there have been other upgraded titles such as Burn Like A Candle (Tarantura TCD-51-1~4).
Godfather use a “verified master tape sourced directly from DAT 48kHz. Some collectors say this is 1st gen but if even, the quality is really outstanding and this is the most complete and best sounding version available so far. Several cuts were given smoother edits, including one between “Dazed And Confused” and “What Is And What Should Never Be,” a cut in “Going Down Slow” (EV claims to be the only title using alternate tape source but this is not true. The manufacturer tried to apply this fragment to see if this will match with basic tape and even the beginning matches perfectly, the end differs slightly with Page’s guitar solo so it’s obvious EV used a different show), a small cut after “Rock And Roll” and after “Thank You.”
A review written by Danny Holloway, published in the New Musical Express, states that “LED ZEPPELIN APPEARED in concert at the Los Angeles Forum on Sunday night without a support act. It was definitely for the better as far as the audience was concerned, for they received nearly four hours of music from their heroes. I haven’t seen a crowd with as much energy and enthusiasm in years. From the minute the group walked out on stage the crowd went wild, throwing firecrackers and smoking mounds of dope.”
After mentioning some of the classics played in the main set, Holloway continues by pointing out “it seemed exceptionally strange to see a band like Led Zeppelin striking the three chord ingredients to ‘Louie Louie,’ ‘Hello Mary Lou,’ ‘Heartbreak Hotel,’ ‘Let’s Have Party’ and their own ‘Rock and Roll.’ All in all, there were five encores because the audience screamed and stomped like spoiled babies till they got what they wanted.
“I was told that the group performed ten gigs of this caliber in 14 days. It’s easy to understand America’s love for the group and vice versa. I heard after the show that Plant’s voice was beginning to go and Jimmy Page had to stay in bed on doctor’s orders. It means a lot when you see a group as big as they are putting so much into their stage act. “
The show start off with the drone and very tight versions of “Immigrant Song” and “Heartbreaker.” Afterwards Plant tells the audience “we finally saved the airfare to get back. We’d like to try a number off the new album. We haven’t decided what we’re gonna do at the end of it yet, so you’re gonna have to bear with us. It’s called ‘Over The Hills And Far Away,’ which is always a good place to be.”
This is the second live attempt of the new piece, having debuted as an encore on June 19th in Seattle. It is a bit tentative with some hesitation at the breaks, but Plant’s high pitched voice is clear and powerful. It is one of the few times it has been performed close to the studio recording.
“Stairway To Heaven” was conceived, according to Plant, “on a very enlightened evening. I think it was an alternative to going to London’s version of the Whiskey a Go Go, or staying in and writing a song, and I just couldn’t make that club.” In the year since it’s live debut the song has already progressed into a ferocious live number.
There seems to be some commotion afterwards. While they’re getting ready for the acoustic set, he asks “the gestapo to cool it a bit. If we can … you really can’t sing songs like that when they’re carting people out with little flash cameras, can ya? Anyway, let’s not use it as an excuse to get fucking silly. Let’s just cool it all together.”
With four numbers, these are the longest acoustic sets they would play and the audience becomes a bit restless. Before “Tangerine” Plant scolds someone in the audience, saying: “why don’t you stop shouting brother? We got a long time. We got a long long time to go yet …You ain’t gonna believe this, but the best vibes on this tour so far, I mean, have been in strange places, and we’ve been known to play for twelve and a half hours, and then after that we went to the gig, and, sorry about that.” Plant offers a strange image by describing the song as about “the beauty of unspoiled country and King Arthur riding across the glen. This is where Bonham runs across the stage on a broomstick.”
After the folk-rock section of the show, they play one of the all-time best versions of “Dazed & Confused.” At close to a half hour, it is one of the longest versions of the tour. The transitions between the sections are also extremely tight, far from the disjointedness of other versions from the era. They include “Walter’s Walk” and “The Crunge” with Plant’s exhortation for the white people to dance. This version is so good that Page used it virtually complete for How The West Was Won.
After “What Is And What Should Never Be,” they play the new song “Dancing Days” for the third time live. Plant jokes with the audience, telling them their next album “is not gonna be called Led Zeppelin V. It’s got every possibility of begin called Burn That Candle,” and that the song is “about summer time and good things.”
A twenty-five minute medley in “Whole Lotta Love” closes the show. They retain the more common covers from the tour such as “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” before “Boogie Chillun’,” “Let’s Have A Party” and ending with “Going Down Slow.” They also add “Heartbreak Hotel” to the mix.
The first encore is the standard “Rock And Roll,” but the excitement and energy inspire them to play one of their longest encore sets afterwards.
A ruckus occurs in front of the stage and Plant respond by mocking the antagonist, saying: “Hey man, listen. Hey bigman, bigman, cool it will ya? Hey bigman, bigman, bigman, cool it, cool it. Let me tell you something. Before there’s any blows start….you start blowing blows and we’ll go, right? And let me tell you something else. It’s no good antagonizing them either. If everybody keeps it cool we can stay here all night.” That’s more than enough to defuse the situation.
“The Ocean” from the unreleased Houses Of The Holy is played live for the second known time followed by “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen featuring a very loud Jimmy Page on backing vocals.
John Paul Jones plays a relatively short organ solo build around the melody for “Everyday People” as a prelude to an emotional version of “Thank You.” Led Zeppelin close the long evening with a nine minute version of “Bring It On Home.” One of their better live numbers, this is the final time they played it live complete (the heavy middle riff would be used as an introduction to “Black Dog” the following US tour).
The June 25th Los Angeles show is one of the best Led Zeppelin shows which only began to receive its due praise about twenty years ago when Burn Like A Candle was issued on CD.
3rd Night: Wild Beach Party (GR BOX F/G/H)
Long Beach Arena, Long Beach, CA – June 27th, 1972
Disc 6 (71:28): Before The Show, Tape Drone, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Over The Hills And Far Away, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California, That’s The Way, Tangerine, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp
Disc 7 (57:12): Dazed And Confused, What Is And What Should Never Be, Dancing Days, Moby Dick
Disc 8 (62:25): Whole Lotta Love, applause, Rock And Roll, After The Show. Bonus tracks: What Is And What Should Never Be, Dancing Days, Moby Dick (soundboard)
The final night in California was the June 27th show in Long Beach. Unlike the San Bernardino and Los Angeles shows, it hasn’t received much attention due to the lack of good recordings. It wasn’t until the three song soundboard fragment surfaced in the early nineties for there to be some documentation.
The most complete version was Wild Beach Party (Led Note LCD 1501), released in the autumn of 1999. In the past decade other audience recordings have surfaced. Godfather edit four audience tapes to produce the entire concert. The edits between the sources are seamless and, the sound quality is generally very enjoyable. As a bonus the label includes the three songs from the soundboard tape.
Not wired as the Los Angeles show, this is still one of the best from the era and contributed heavily to How The West Was Won such as “Immigrant Song,” “Heartbreaker,” some of “Over The Hills And Far Away,” all of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “Stairway To Heaven” among others. The complete analysis can be found on The Garden Tapes.
A poor to fair audience tape is used for the drone and the first forty-five seconds of “Immigrant Song,” but then the best sounding tape come in for the rest of the song and for “Heartbreaker.”
The band return to the standard setlist with “Black Dog” following. Afterwards, Plant introduces the new song “Over The Hills And Far Away,” as “this is something I think we did once before, and that was the night before last [forgetting the Seattle performance on the nineteenth]. We played at the Forum, and that was too much. That was really great. This is a thing called Over the Hills and Far Away, which is a good place to be sometimes.”
He has a curious fight with someone throwing firecrackers. One explodes and he scolds him: “I’ll tell you what, we really must cut that out. I don’t want to hear no more firecrackers cause that’s not really no good. I mean, the Fourth of July’s soon, but it’s not now. It just breaks the continuity.”
After yet another explosion, he says: “Look at that. That’s really clever. I mean really really clever, and the guy who did that really feels good, right? That’s really clever.” He then dedicates “Over the Hills and Far Away” for “the freak.” Among the early versions, this is the shortest and sloppiest. Page is obviously still learning the breaks.
Very strong performances of “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “Stairway” follow. It’s obvious why they were used for the official release.
The acoustic section is low key compared to the previous night. Plant refers to Muhammad Ali before “Going To California” and introduces “That’s The Way” as one where “all the parents can join in the chorus.” There seems to be some kind of commotion during the latter which prompts Plant to change the lyrics in the final verse, singing: “I don’t know what to say about it / With some people throwing flares in the night / But now’s the time to look and look again at what you see / Babe, would they say that that’s all right?”
After “Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp” they follow with another great “Dazed And Confused.” It’s a bit more rough than the LA recording (Page, for example, stumbles into the violin bow episode). It contains the same “Walters Walk” and “The Crunge” passages. Plant jokingly renames “The Crunge” as “The Mud Shark,” referring to the Frank Zappa song about their own exploits in 1969.
Both “What Is And What Should Never Be” and “Dancing Days” were utilized on How The West Was Won (with minor edits). The show ends with the long “Whole Lotta Love” medley with a rare performance of “Blueberry Hill.”
The evening ends with “Rock And Roll,” the only encore, from a poor audience recording.
Welcome Back: How The West Was Won Tapes Revisited is packaged in a deluxe box which houses three sleeves for each of the three concerts. The label also includes a booklet with liner notes (mostly lifted from The Concert File) and a small pin. Their first Zeppelin box set successfully captures one of the band’s most important and best eras.