In Melody Maker dated November 11, 1972, I suggested that Led Zeppelin's popularity was on the wane because they hadn't played in the UK for what seemed like ages, and this has haunted me for over 40 years now. I was wrong, of course, as the demand for tickets for the forthcoming UK December tour proved, but the point I was trying to make was that Zep hadn’t played in the UK for a year and, in those days, a year was a long time between home gigs for a British band. Nowadays several years can go by between tours by premier league acts and no one bats an eyelid but back then it was considered unwise to ignore your home fans for so long, and I genuinely thought they had fewer UK fans in November 1972 than they did a year previously. The quote appeared in an interview I did with Robert during the previous weekend when they played two warm-up shows at the Montreux Casino before the upcoming UK tour and elsewhere in my story I was fulsome in my praise for the mighty Zep but in their haste to condemn me this was somehow overlooked, which I thought was a bit unfair.
The subsequent ad in MM drawing attention to my faux-pas was typical of Led Zeppelin, and reflected their rather touchy attitude towards press criticism. This stemmed originally from the negative reviews of their first two albums in Rolling Stone magazine in the US, with the result that the relationship between Zep and RS was pretty hostile for a number of years, at least until 1975 when Cameron Crowe, then the magazine’s youngest writer, befriended the band and wrote positively about them. Amazingly, it wasn’t until then – six years into their spectacular career – that RS featured them on their cover, an accolade already bestowed on scores of lesser acts.
In the UK the press had always been supportive, especially Melody Maker whose features editor Chris Welch was among the earliest writers to sing their praises. Nevertheless an element of suspicion seemed to cloud their dealings with us and as a consequence their relationship with the music press was never as comfortable as, say, The Who whose media-friendliness was one of their many virtues. Outwardly Led Zeppelin appeared to be the least insecure act on the planet, but for all their extraordinary success they maintained unresolved grievances that occasionally bubbled to the surface in unseemly public displays of media bashing that I for one thought was both unnecessarily petty and, indeed, beneath them. I think that somehow, deep down inside, they and their manager Peter Grant always felt they were owed more respect than they received, but a dignified silence would surely have been more in keeping with their stature.
They can’t have been that upset with me over the ‘waning’ business because I saw them twice again on the UK tour in December, at the Manchester Hardrock and at Alexandra Palace in London, and they made me welcome backstage. I recall being a bit critical of the Ally Pally show because the sound in that rather cavernous enclosure was pretty awful – but that obviously wasn’t Zep’s fault – and I also recall that midway through the Manchester gig I went to use the dressing room loo and caught newly appointed Zep publicist BP Fallon in flagrante delicto with not one but two young ladies. However, since Just Backdated is a new kid on the block I will say no more.