Two Robert Plants sit on the coffee table in our front room right now. One of them stands next to Alison Krauss on the cover of this month’s Mojo magazine, inside of which the grizzled old rock veteran and his toothsome singing partner talk about their new album, Raise The Roof, out in November, a long-awaited follow up to their 2007 Grammy-winning collaboration Rising Sand. If the lead single, ‘Can’t Let Go’, is anything to go by, it’ll be another winner. 
The other Plant features on the cover of a new edition of Evenings With Led Zeppelin: The Complete Concert Chronicle by Dave Lewis and Mike Tremaglio. You can’t see his face as it’s obscured by his long, windswept hair, a thatch so plentiful it resembles the coat of a Cocker Spaniel, but in mid-flight with Led Zeppelin in 1969 Robert Plant was a wild, windswept creature on the cusp of a long and for the most part glorious musical career. 
        It’s nowadays quite possible that out there in this 21st Century there are Plant fans who are unaware of his illustrious past. In which case I would draw their attention to this book, the definitive account of Led Zeppelin’s life as a concert attraction, opening on September 7, 1968, and closing on July 7, 1980. As if 576 pages wasn’t enough, my friends Dave and Mike have now added a further 48. It now weighs in at 2.2kg, almost 5lbs, which is about half the weight of a Gibson Les Paul, so the combined weight of both editions gives you some idea of the mass that Jimmy Page, never the most robust specimen, was carrying on his shoulders during most of the 516 shows chronicled in the book. No wonder he’s complained of back problems. 
        Dave and Mike’s book now has over 300,000 words and 3,100 images, some 55 concert entries have been expanded with additional info culled from newly-discovered bootleg recordings, press reviews and adverts, and a 10-page bootleg discography that details almost 1,900 boots from 288 concerts that were clandestinely recorded, mostly by fans, with multiple titles from many shows. This statistic clearly indicates that LZ were among the most bootlegged acts ever, perhaps even the most, and there is a degree of irony here insofar as their manager, the cunning but ruthless Peter Grant, took every step he could to prevent Led Zeppelin from being pirated. That he so manifestly failed in this endeavour is a blessing in disguise for fans as years later the many bootlegs offer a valuable historical record that Page, for one, greatly appreciates. 
        I have an interest in this book. I edited the first edition and noted on this blog some of my own contributions, culled from the pages of Melody Maker. One I didn’t mention was the weekend I spent with Led Zep in Montreux, October 28 and 29, 1972, when I stayed with them and their entourage at the Palace Hotel and saw two shows at the Montreux Pavillon. A couple of weeks later I experienced their wrath by writing something that in their opinion was mildly uncomplimentary. Here’s what it says in the book:
        In the following week’s Melody Maker (November 11, 1972), Chris Charlesworth conducted an interview with Robert Plant in a feature called “Plant Life”. 
        In the interview, Charlesworth discussed the band performing outside of England: “Countries seem to put up no barriers to Zeppelin, who can consider themselves the unheralded ambassadors of British heavy rock. Unheralded because few reports of the group’s foreign activities seem to reach home, and ambassadors because few bands will clock up as many miles in a year as Led Zeppelin. To this end, England has been ignored this year by the group and their popularity has undoubtedly waned.”
        The band took great exception to this comment and used it as a sort of rallying cry. Perhaps feeling stung by the press criticism of the past, and having their wildly successful US tours overlooked back home, they reacted with a dig in the following week’s Melody Maker (November 18, 1972). The issue contained a huge tour ad listing the scheduled 24-date UK tour with the words “SOLD OUT” prominently displayed with the comment: “and their popularity has undoubtedly waned, Chris Charlesworth, Melody Maker, Last Week.” Even Robert Plant had a go at Charlesworth when introducing ‘Stairway To Heaven’ in Glasgow on December 4, 1972: “There was a guy who ah, worked for the Melody Maker, Chris Charlesworth, and he said our popularity has obviously waned... Thank you very much. Here’s a song that we wrote in a period of ah, everybody decided we were doing nothing, ‘Stairway To Heaven’.”
        It’s ironic that just two weeks earlier, Charlesworth had penned one of the most complimentary and enthusiastic concert reviews of the band’s entire career, and yet was being called to task for his comment. Perhaps the band’s press sensitivity had conveniently allowed them to overlook another comment from Charlesworth in the first Montreux report: “Led Zeppelin are alive and well and as good as ever. And if that crown they once wore has tarnished slightly, they will soon re-gain all their glory. They are, without a shadow of a doubt, Britain's greatest heavy rock act.”
I can report that any ill-feeling was soon forgotten, and I was welcomed to subsequent shows in America where I was stationed for the next three years as MM’s US Editor. Oddly, my coverage of the start of their 1975 US tour, in Chicago on January 20-22, isn’t included, and I take issue with the book’s handling of the sequence of concerts that followed, as can be seen from my retrospective recollections of that encounter, here: http://justbackdated.blogspot.com/2014/02/led-zeppelin-1975-part-1.html. Pedantic point that it is – and Dave Lewis and I have exchanged words about this before – it seems I am the only person in the world that believes Zep, minus bedridden Robert Plant, flew from Chicago to LA where they (and I) relaxed for 48 hours while Plant recuperated, then we all flew back across the country to Greensboro for a sub-par show on January 29. Either my memory is playing tricks with me, or the records books have been changed for reasons unexplained. 
Still, this is a minor quibble. As I wrote when I first reviewed this book on my blog in 2018, Evenings With Led Zeppelin: The Complete Concert Chronicle is not only far and away the most ambitious reference book on Led Zeppelin ever published but also one of the most entertaining; now new and improved, like detergents used to be in TV adverts, and like Robert Plant when he collaborates with Alison Krauss. 

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