No rock group protected its rights more fiercely than Led Zeppelin. Manager Peter Grant famously declared war against anything and anyone that might seek to deprive them of income, make money off their backs or hamper their progress in any way, and if this meant something might get broken or someone get hurt then so be it. You made an enemy of the mighty Zep at your peril, at least until Grant retired from the front line. One old writer friend of mine suffers the occasional nightmare even now that involves a phone call guaranteed to sends shivers down his spine. “Hello, Peter Grant here,” he hears in that calmly intimidating voice Peter had perfected. “Me and the boys didn’t much like what you wrote in that magazine of yours. Don’t do it again.” The dial tone follows and he wakes up in a cold sweat.
So it must have taken a bit of nerve on the part of Dave Lewis to launch his Led Zep fanzine Tight But Loose in 1978. Perhaps he wasn’t aware of the mighty Gee’s reputation, or perhaps he thought that Grant wouldn’t concern himself with a well-intentioned, supportive fanzine unlikely to sell more than a few hundred copies. Either way, he did send copies to Swan Song’s offices and, by issue four, word reached him that they liked it. That must have been a relief. By 1980 Dave had endeared himself to the group to the extent that he was made welcome at a few gigs on their final ‘Over Europe’ tour.
All of this seems pertinent to the July issue, number 45, of TBL which comes complete with a replica of issue number three which was published in October 1979 and was largely devoted to in-depth coverage of the two shows that Led Zep performed in the open air at Knebworth on August 4 & 11 that year. So what we have is a 40-page facsimile within a 24-page ’zine, 64 pages in all, the biggest TBL ever produced.
There were no home computers in 1978 and it shows. Issue three was banged out on a typewriter or written in longhand and though the Knebworth pictures, some of them in colour, are all reproduced clearly, there is a touch of the enthusiastic amateurishness that characterised the punk fanzines of the era, mostly notably Mark Perry’s Sniffin’ Glue which, in the light of the punks’ attitude towards the likes of Led Zep, seems deeply ironic 40 years down the line. Alongside the blow-by-blow account of the Knebworth shows, that issue also contains a four-page review of In Through The Out Door, a quiz, the results of a poll amongst fans and, at the back, some of the ‘fan community’ small ads that echo down the years to the present day. It cost 65p in those days, about 20 times cheaper than the current cover price of £12.99.
Three early TBL magazines. Issue three, included within issue 45, is on the right.
Nowadays TBL is recognised by Messrs Page, Plant and Jones as a sort of semi-official source of Led Zep information and an agency by which they can communicate with fans. To this end Dave Lewis has snagged an ‘exclusive’ interview with Jones about his current activities, which include an opera, and his thoughts on Knebworth 40 years later. “We were running through the soundcheck and I could see Bonzo out front and I thought, ‘Wait a minute, who’s playing drums?’” he recalls. “Then I turned around and it was [12-year-old] Jason – he had taken over the drum kit!”
Elsewhere in the July issue are reports of Plant gigs, an interview with music writer David Hepworth and some retrospective thoughts on Knebworth. There’s also the usual consumers’ guides to ‘unofficial’ releases, extended in this issue to include tapes and CD bootlegs from Knebworth, of which there are many to choose from. Not quite sure what Mr Grant would have thought of that. “Hello Dave, Peter Grant here. About these bootleg records…”