29.10.22

JERRY LEE LEWIS - A Close Encounter


Of all those rocknroll icons from the 1950s, Elvis kept himself to himself, Buddy and Eddie died, Richard (Little and Cliff), Bo and Gene eluded me and, apart from a very brief encounter at his LA girlfriend’s house, so did Chuck. But I snagged Jerry Lee one night in London, hanging around in the studio with him for a couple of hours while he recorded an album called London Sessions, and as a tribute to The Killer here’s my report from Melody Maker dated January 20, 1973, slightly edited from the original published version. 

YOU LAUGHING AT ME, BOY?

Gosfield Street, London W1: Advision Studios is where Yes create their music and put it on record.

        Last week the action at Advision was a million miles aware from Close To The Edge. Jerry Lee Lewis had taken over the studios for a whole week to cut tracks for a double album that will be issued about a month after the final note is played. That’s five weeks after the first note was played, which means there’s more than just a musical difference between Jerry Lee and Yes.

        Jerry Lee arrived at Heathrow last weekend and was pictured for the Sunday papers with his Southern Belle girlfriend. “I’m here to cut some rock and roll songs, some old, some new, that mah fans want me to do,” he told smiling reporters at Heathrow. In case there was any doubt, he also informed them he was the King of Rock and Roll.

        A host of British names have been recruited for these sessions in much the same way as BB King and Howlin’ Wolf collected British names to add a touch of glamour to their respective London Sessions albums. During the week no lesser personnel than Alvin Lee, Klaus Voorman, Rory Gallagher, Kenney Jones, Delaney Bramlett, Peter Frampton, Rik Grech, Tony Ashton and most of Head, Hands And Feet showed up at various times to accompany Jerry Lee. Of Yes there was no sign.

        Two uniformed security guards stand impassively by the doorway to the studio and every visitor is checked from a list of names at the reception before they can pass into Jerry Lee’s presence, and even then admittance isn’t guaranteed. It rather depends on whether or not Jerry Lee likes the look of your face.

        The band is playing ‘Proud Mary’ with Jerry’s son, Jerry Lee Lewis Junior, taking the vocals. Junior is 18 years old, and portly in the manner that many young men from the Southern states of America tend to be. Too many hamburgers and fries, ah guess. 

        Jerry is on piano, Albert Lee and Delaney Bramlett on guitars, Chas Hodges on bass, Kenney Jones on drums and various others making small contributions. There’s also three girl singers, all white, bawling out the lyrics. 

        “Son, take your hands out of your pockets and sing with some soul, boy,” drawls Jerry Lee in the direction of someone or other. “If you forget the words, just sing what you feel, boy.” The music commences and it goes like bomb. Lewis’ piano style is very personal: his left hand bounces up and down on the keys like an automatic lever, and his right flashes across them like lightning.

        Two rehearsals and two takes and that’s it. About 24 numbers have been recorded in this fashion all week. Vocals, guitars, piano, drums are all recorded simultaneously. Recording one instrument at a time just isn’t Jerry Lee. It might as well be a live album.

        The control room is more than crowded. Apart from the musicians there’s Jerry Lee’s ‘men’. He calls them gophers because they go for things for him, mostly sandwiches and beers. There’s also his manager Judd Phillips, brother of the legendary Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records, who discovered Elvis. Also, Jerry’s Southern Belle is constantly at his side – it’s unwise to stare at her for too long – along with a few other ladies, two photographers, an engineer and a tape-op guy. 

When the playback stops there’s a stony silence. The respect that Jerry Lee commands is not just musical. He can cut you up with words too, so no one dares disagree with him. “Ah, ah like it,” he drawls. Everyone smiles. 

Discussion follows concerning the next song. ‘Satisfaction’ is mooted. “Ah’d like to do a song of Mick’s,” Jerry Lee tells everyone. “But Mick did that one so good it’d be like sticking a greasy noodle up some critter’s ass.” This is a cue to laugh. Often Jerry Lee’s comments, though difficult to catch through the Southern drawl, are incredibly funny. Then again, they might not be. 

Jerry Lee sits down in chair that belongs to a technician, and the thoughtless technician asks Jerry Lee to move. “You move me, boy.” Silence. “I’ll give you five hundred to a thousand you won’t move me, boy.” You can hear a pin drop in the room. No one is sure whether Jerry Lee really is as mean as he makes out or if it’s all one big joke. Then he laughs and breaks the tension. It was a joke but one that brings home the pride Jerry Lee takes in his stubborn Southern upbringing; whiskey, cotton, short hair, the Good Book, grits and country music. I wonder how he gets along with Chuck Berry at his most badass black and Little Richard at his creamy ass camp.

Jerry Lee holds court in the control room while others rehearse a number around the piano in the studio. “They’re rehearsing a song I don’t want to play,” he drawls.

In company with everyone else I laugh and shake my head. “What you shaking your head and laughing for, boy?” To my horror, this is directed at me. “You laughing at me, boy? Don’t you believe me, boy? I’ll whip you any day, boy.” Silence. My face turns red. What I don’t know is that everyone gets this treatment and it was my turn. I remain silent. I don’t know what to say.

But it passes, and Jerry Lee smiles at me and laughs and I tell him I was laughing at the musicians in the studio who were playing a number he didn’t want to play, and he agrees it’s funny and we laugh together. It seemed we were friends. Sort of. 


 



26.10.22

THE WHO - Concert Memories From the Classic Years 1964 to 1976 by Edoardo Genzolini


Memories of The Who in their prime do not f-f-fade away. They linger in the minds of those lucky enough to have seen them during the period covered by this 304-page, large format book, now translated into English from its original Italian; yet another shining testament to the lasting impact the group had on fans and a reminder of how genuinely inspiring they were to behold.

        Edoardo Genzolini was certainly inspired, so much so that he’s spent half a lifetime conceiving his book, his inspiration seeing their performance in the Woodstock movie at the age of 13. But the effect The Who had on him was more profound than simply enjoying their landmark Woodstock set on celluloid. He connected with The Who emotionally as well as physically, and his book stands as a tribute from both the heart and the head. I think it’s his way of simply saying thank you to them, for the music, the memories and the lasting influence they’ve had on his life.  

        To this end Genzolini writes introductions to each chapter that cover what The Who did, or tried to do, or wanted to do, in the years covered by the book, expanding on how their ambition somehow went beyond simply making records and performing concerts. Each intro is followed by first person accounts of shows, some by crew members who worked at theatres where The Who performed or fans who were present, a few of whom helped in some way, or somehow got backstage or to a hotel where the band was staying, just to say hello. Most such encounters are described in fascinating, personal detail, with one-on-one conversations repeated verbatim, some profound, some trivial, some hilarious. Many accounts reflect the characters of the individual members and how open they were to chatting with fans, and the impact this openness had on them, and it is clear from them all that close encounters with Pete, Roger, John and Keith are not easily forgotten. 

        Most of these accounts are illustrated by scores of pictures, many hitherto unseen, mostly black & white but some colour, of The Who on stage or its members backstage, often accompanied by the fans themselves. The quality of the photos varies from professional standard to amateur snaps taken with cheap cameras, but to have so many, upwards of 450, I hadn’t seen before, is a genuine treat, regardless of quality. Turning the pages, I was reminded of Jeff Stein and Chris Johnson’s 1973 photo book, simply titled The Who, another labour of love I greatly admired, though Concert Memories is a far more ambitious undertaking. 

        Although this book purports cover the years 1964-1976, there is an inevitable emphasis on the middle period, the years 1968, ’69, ’70, ’71 and ’73, that many consider to be The Who’s zenith. Of the shows described, some are among the most important The Who ever played – Woodstock, the IOW and both Fillmores in 1969 (there’s a whole chapter on Bill Graham and his Fillmores East and West), Leeds and Tanglewood in 1970, the Oval in 1971 – but all are very special in their own way to those who were there. 

        In a book as large as this it’s difficult to pick highlights but I chuckled at the story told by Christine Curry from Detroit whose friend Cindy went to the hotel where The Who were staying after their show at the Grande Ballroom on March 9, 1968, and spent the night with Keith Moon. “She told me that while she was in bed with him, he talked to his wife on the phone!” reports Christine. Then again, there’s Sally Mann Romano’s account of how in 1968 she left the Whiskey in LA with John and Keith in a rented Porsche, only for Keith, who was at the wheel, to abandon it at an intersection with the engine still running, apparently because he felt they could get to his hotel quicker on foot.

        Among the pictures are two from stage at the Anaheim Convention Centre, on September 8, 1967, which the author claims to be the only known shots of John smashing a bass, while Dennis Quinn tells how Pete dropped a white Fender Stratocaster into his hands from the stage at the Fillmore East in New York on April 5, 1968. One fan reports breathlessly that Roger permitted him to try on his tasselled outfit backstage. 

        There are several reports from the May 1969 shows at New York’s Fillmore, including the one where fire broke out next door, the notorious incident that resulted in Pete spending a night in jail for bashing a plain clothes cop with his guitar. “[The following night]… the tension in the Fillmore before The Who walked out onstage was unreal,” reports Mark Saull. “The energy was like something I’ve never experienced before or since. The Who were so powerful and intense it was intimidating. I remember looking at people in the audience, standing with their fists clenched, gritting their teeth like they were on a thrill ride. [The Who] looked 10 feet tall.”

        While many of the most profound anecdotes are to be found from the 1969-70 era, one from a Quadrophenia show in 1973 stands out. Guy Perry reports that at the Cow Palace, San Francisco, on November 20, 1973 – the show where Keith collapsed and had to be replaced by Scott Halpin – Pete, determined, no doubt, to compensate for his errant drummer, executed… “thirty-plus consecutive windmills during ‘Naked Eye’, an astonishing moment.” 

        These are but a tiny fraction of the delicious memories recalled, every one of them a testament to how unforgettable The Who were in their prime. 

        The book closes with reports from the “Day On The Green” shows in Oakland on October 9, 1976, and a handful of pics from Seattle Coliseum a few days later. Finally, legendary Who disciple “Irish” Jack Lyon writes movingly about how he flew to London on hearing of Keith Moon’s death, his reaction to the news and the atmosphere in Who central during this unhappy time. At the start of the book Jack had written about The Who’s last night at the Goldhawk Social Club in Shepherds Bush in 1965*, so his closing tribute to The Who’s drummer adds a touch a symmetry to a book that Pete himself writes admiringly about on the front cover flap.

        I am happy to add my own recommendation too. Published in hardback by Schiffer Publishing, The Who: Concert Memories isn’t the cheapest Who book on the market – the RRP on the back is $59.99, and in the UK Amazon are offering it for around £40 – but it’s among the very best, lovingly compiled by a true fan for true fans, those who understood the power of The Who and their music, and what it still means to those, like me, who experienced it when this wonderful group made music and performed shows that were unrivalled in rock. 


*Jack’s piece about The Who’s last night at the Goldhawk was actually commissioned by me for use in the booklet accompanying The Who: 30 Years of Maximum R&B, the 1994 4-CD box set I co-produced. At the time Pete felt it was unsuitable because of its depiction of violence. 


21.10.22

DEEP PURPLE - LONDON O2, October 20, 2022


To the 02 by riverboat, courtesy of my old friends Deep Purple, though only three survive from the group I covered extensively for Melody Maker between 1970 and 1976 and whose semi-authorised* biography I wrote in 1982. At that time the group had split and had no plans to reconvene but two years later the line-up I termed DP Mark II – organist Jon Lord, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, drummer Ian Paice, singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover – reformed and hit the road again to promote a new album, Perfect Strangers. Since then the Purple franchise has been more or less permanently active and released a dozen more albums – two more than the group I used to write about – though Blackmore quit for good in 1993 and, sadly, Lord died in 2012, having retired amicably from the group a decade earlier.
Now touring for the first time since 2019, Paice, Gillan and Glover are joined on keyboards by Don Airey, whose CV reads like a roll call of heavy rock and has been on board since Lord’s retirement, and recently appointed guitarist Simon McBride has replaced Steve Morse who bowed out earlier this year for personal reasons. 
So, much has changed since I last saw Deep Purple at Radio City Music Hall in New York in January 1976, yet the distinctive character of the group remains unequivocally the same. The emphasis is still on soloing, predominantly guitar and keyboards, and songs that are stretched beyond recognition from the studio versions, be they well-seasoned nuggets from the catalogue of the group that plied their trade long ago, or newer pieces with which I am less familiar. The difference between the old and the new in a live setting is a greater emphasis on discipline, no doubt due to the length of time they’ve spent playing together or, simply, more rehearsal, and in a sharper, crunchier, more contemporary stage sound afforded no doubt by superior 21st century amplification. 
As befitting the only member of the group to have played in all of its line-ups, Ian Paice forsakes a drum podium and positions himself centre stage and more upfront, on the same level as everyone else. From the audiences sightline, Don Airey’s multi-layered keyboard set-up is to the right of him; Roger Glover, far more mobile than the stationary metronome he once was, is on the left of the stage; Simon McBride is on the right; with Ian Gillan in the centre when called upon to sing, a less arduous role in Purple than in most groups of their stature. 
As in times past, Deep Purple’s arrival on stage is heralded by a blaring classical piece full of drama, this one by Holst, until the lights flash and they launch their first London show since 2017 – ironically part of their ‘Long Goodbye’ tour – with ‘Highway Star’, segueing smoothly into ‘Pictures Of Home’ and ‘No Need To Shout’, all without a break. Not until the fourth song, ‘Nothing At All’, does Gillan address the large crowd who’ve been on their feet since he arrived on stage, ambling on last from the gap between the speaker cabinets behind Paice’s drums, which affords him a handy egress on those occasions when his services aren’t required. 
Don Airey on his extravagant variety of keyboards and synthesisers and the much younger, and slimmer, Simon McBride on guitar are given free rein in much the same way as Lord and Blackmore once were, with virtually every song in the evening’s set offering them opportunities to solo over and above the set pieces where they are left alone on stage to grandstand their ample skills. 
        In McBride’s case this came before ‘Uncommon Man’, dedicated by Gillan to Jon Lord, and began with a display of muted tone control effects that made his guitar sound like a cello before he reverted to the more nimble-fingered stuff that DP fans expect. A dab hand at those incisive power chords and manipulating FX foot pedals, there can be no doubt he’s a worthy replacement for the more experienced Morse and, indeed, could probably give their original guitarist a run for his money in the speed, string-bending and harmonic departments. With his trim haircut and tight Levis, he looks good too, a sleek and snappy player who oozes confidence in a demanding role. 
        Airey had the stage to himself in the prelude to ‘Perfect Strangers’ later in the set and showed himself to be equally well-equipped to step into the shoes of his predecessor. With hints of Phantom of The Opera-ish doom and glissandos galore, and a touch of JS Bach, or maybe Ludwig Van, he attacks the many tiers of electric keys at his disposal with the air of an assured maestro, conjuring up all manner of commotion on his synth yet not without some sly humour. At one point, to the delight of the crowd, he tinkled out ‘Maybe It’s Because I’m A Londoner’. 
        Ian Paice does not solo in the accepted sense but many of the songs include drum breaks and sharp modifications in tempo that require him to take a commanding role. He is as tireless as ever, the same bundle of energy at 74 as he was at 24, his hair now almost white, worn in a straggly ponytail. His namesake on vocals is still a handsome devil and, though he no longer screams in the manner he once did, his singing is more measured these days, with perhaps a shade less range but certainly more depth. His bluesy treatment of ‘When A Blind Man Cries’, the only song in the set where Purple took their foot off the accelerator, was a highlight for this reviewer.
        After Space Truckin’, delivered with persuasive, unflagging relish, the pre-encore closer was the inevitable ‘Smoke On The Water’, prefaced by a bit of noodling before McBride took up centre stage to play that riff, as piercing as it was precise, the signal for a thousand mobile phones to be held aloft. On the screen behind the band, on which graphics had been shown the whole time, a pack of cards was dealt amidst visions of smoke from the burning casino that floated over Lake Geneva all those years ago. On the cards we saw the faces of DP past and present, their old guitarist the jester, someone’s tongue firmly in cheek. 
        They came back to play ‘Hush’, that early US hit single never performed during the era when I first encountered them, followed by Glover’s bass solo, deftly handled alongside Paice, and, at the very end, ‘Black Night’, the 1970 UK number two hit that took them by surprise, paving the way for their elevation to rocks top table. Im happy to report theyre still supping from it after all these years. 

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* Five out of the ten ex-Purple musicians co-operated in the book (of the others, one blanked me, three were uncontactable and one had died), together with managers, producers and a few roadies. 

7.10.22

LESSONS IN ROCK by Ian McEwan

In “late June 1981” Roland Baines, the main character in Lessons, Ian McEwan’s new novel, attends a Bob Dylan concert at Earls Court in London, no doubt one of the five he played there between June 26 and July 1. I was at one of them, too, and though I can’t remember which night, I can recall the show, so McEwan has got it right. He might even have been there too, aged 33 and taking notes.  

        “Before the concert began Roland became aware of two long rows of Jesus Army people sitting in front of him,” he writes in Lessons. “He had not come to hear about Jesus and it was not looking good when Dylan opened with ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’. Do you? Do I? Roland kept wondering. The Jesus heads were nodding in time. It got worse with the next number, ‘I Believe In You’. Then abruptly it was better. Dylan called up old songs, joyous, bitter, some with a nasal tone of wounded sarcasm. ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, ‘Maggie’s Farm’. Where the old melody lines were once beautiful, he snatched at them, he tossed them away until only the harmonic progressions remained.”

        If he had got there on time Roland would also have watched the pink-robed gospel group that preceded Dylan and remained on stage offering choral support throughout his set, but McEwan fails to mention this. Nevertheless, this is further, maybe even conclusive, evidence to support my theory that this most illustrious of our contemporary novelists is really a frustrated rock writer. 

        Anyone familiar with McEwan’s novels will know that those set in the late 20th century and beyond contain copious references to music, mostly rock. Various characters in the books I have read are fans of a particular act or play an instrument, attend concerts, collect records or run shops that sell vinyl. In most cases the allusions to music are simply an adjunct to the main story, just added colour, but in Lessons, which I finished this week, music of various genres plays a central role in the story.

        Roland Baines is a pianist, a child prodigy assumed by his first teacher to be on the road to a brilliant career on the classical stage. Along the way he is side-tracked by sex and jazz, and winds up playing tasteful standards, show tunes and light classical pieces Liberace-style on a grand piano in a swanky hotel while its well-heeled customers wine and dine. When an old friend, a Velvets fan he hasn’t seen in years, shows up he sneaks in a few bars of ‘Pale Blue Eyes’, and when he needs a pseudonym he opts for Theo Monk. 

        All of this reminds me that in the spring of 2010 I joined a queue of McEwan fans in Hatchards bookshop on Piccadilly, my mission to obtain a personally signed copy of the author’s latest novel Solar. Bearing in mind my theory as outlined above, then in its primal stages, when it came to my turn to get a book signed I decided to offer the great man my business card and tell him that if ever he needed any help with his research into an aspect of rock music I’d be happy to oblige. 

        In truth I felt some of McEwan’s references to rock in his books were a bit stilted but I thought it best not to mention this. Indeed, fans wanting books signed by famous authors at events like this are generally sycophantic in the extreme and, after a selfie, hustled along quickly as there are many more behind them in the queue, and McEwan would clearly have been unprepared for an impudent upstart suggesting ways in which his work might be improved. Still, he took my card, on the back of which I’d written the name and URL of this blog. It seemed to me that he understood what I was saying but the conversation was very brief. 

        I am still waiting to hear from him but it gives me pleasure to report that Ian McEwan has certainly upped his rock game in Lessons which, by the way, I thoroughly enjoyed, not least because Roland shares many of my political views. Also, to a certain extent the novel is based on episodes in his McEwans own life, so maybe he was at that Dylan concert alongside me. 


4.10.22

UNSEEN 1961 BEATLES PICTURES AT CAVERN


Alert Beatles fans will have noticed that during the past 24 hours two hitherto unseen photographs of the group playing at Liverpool’s Cavern Club in 1961 have come to light. Black and white copies have appeared on the internet and one featured in this morning’s Guardian but Just Backdated has acquired colourised versions from Paul Wane whose Chorley-based R&R memorabilia company has licensed the photographs from the copyright holder.

        According to Paul, a specialist in Beatles artefacts, the pictures were taken by a teenage fan who wishes to remain nameless. “Unlike most fans he had a camera,” Paul tells me, noting that in 1961 Cavern goers were unlikely to own one. “He prefers to keep his identity secret but he knew The Beatles back in those days and even used to drive them to gigs in the suburbs of Liverpool. It’s amazing that it’s taken so long for them to be discovered.”


        Paul adds that a contact sheet in the possession of the fan/driver shows another, already circulated, shot of The Beatles at the Casbah Club and two pictures of Brian Epstein’s NEMS record store in Whitechapel where The Beatles would hang around listening to records, usually American R&B songs that they might cover. 

        The two pictures show John, Paul, George and Pete Best on stage wearing black leather trousers and white tops, which is unusual, though it does appear to be an attempt at a uniform mode of dress. Best at the back can’t really be seen, but the three front men who, along with Best, had recently returned from a three-month stint at the Top Ten Club in Hamburg, all give the impression that slap-up meals were hard to come by in Germany.

        Mark Lewisohn, the worlds foremost Beatles archivist, confirms this. “Just back from Hamburg, slogging 500 stage hours in 90 days, they are whippet-thin undernourished lads of 20 (John), 19 (Paul and Pete) and 18 (George),” says Mark. ”So slender has this marathon made them, it’s as if their heads and bodies are strangers. It’s a look emphasised by their unusual clothes – leather trousers and cotton tops. No other photos show them dressed this way.”

        Paul, who looks especially scrawny, is playing the first of his Hofner violin basses and John plays his Rickenbacker 325, both instruments bought in Hamburg on this last trip. On the left George can be seen with his Czechoslovakian-made Futurama III guitar, roughly modelled on the far superior Fender Stratocaster. In a matter of weeks, he will set it aside for a Gretsch Duo Jet. Either George or Paul play through the Gibson GA-40 amp, seen behind them, and John is using a 15-watt Fender Deluxe Tweed amp. They’ve yet to acquire, or probably couldn’t afford, the black and gold Vox AC30 amps that audiences would become familiar with in two years’ time.

        It was during this stint in Hamburg that The Beatles backed singer Tony Sheridan on five songs recorded with producer Bert Kaempfert for Polydor Records, as well as two songs without Sheridan, ‘Ain’t She Sweet’ with John on lead vocals, and ‘Cry For A Shadow’, a Shadows-like instrumental credited to Lennon-Harrison. 



        The pictures were taken three months before John and Paul visited Paris to meet up with their Hamburg friend J├╝rgen Vollmer who persuaded them to abandon their quiffs and comb their hair forward, styling it into what became known as the ‘Beatle haircut’. They are certainly the last known pictures of them prior to this defining change in image. A few days after their return from Paris a curious Brian Epstein walked into the Cavern to catch a lunchtime show. “He offered to become their manager and set them on course to change our world,” adds Mark.

There are still a few tickets left for Mark Lewisohn’s latest talk on The Beatles, Beatles/Evolver: 62 at the Bloomsbury Theatre, 15 Gordon Street, London WC1, on October 7 at 7.30pm and October 8 at 2.30pm and 7.30 pm. Tickets can be obtained from www.ucl.u/culture/bloomsbury-theatre-studio or https://www.mcintyre-ents.com/


1.10.22

LED ZEPPELIN FILM FROM BATH 1970

In terms of Holy Grail importance it ranks below footage from their first Scandinavian tour in 1968 or that final show in Berlin 12 years later, but film of Led Zeppelin’s renowned performance at the Bath Festival on the evening of Sunday, June 28, 1970, synced with sound for the first time, was briefly available last week for all to see on YouTube.  

        Not even walking Led Zeppelin encyclopaedia Dave Lewis can explain why it appeared on Thursday night of last week, only to be taken down 24 hours later. “Fans were awestruck across the globe,” says Dave, never one to play down a story about the group that has defined his life since he first heard them in 1969. “To see vivid moving colour images of this legendary Zep appearance was truly astonishing.”

        Dave let me know about this discovery late on Thursday night, drawing my attention to it with a link to the video that revealed John Paul Jones to be wearing white trousers with zoo animals printed on them. I didn’t notice this from the press pit where that day I observed Led Zep in action for the first time ever, headlining the first big rock festival I covered for Melody Maker

        The clip, which lasted about 10 minutes, featured snippets of ‘Immigrant Song’, ‘Dazed And Confused’, ‘Bring It On Home’ and ‘Thank You’, which had evidently been synchronised, probably by a fan, with a bootleg tape. To state that the group was on fire is no exaggeration, for this was the first huge gig they’d played in the UK and all four doubtless knew how crucial it was to make as good an impression at home as they had been doing in America over the past 18 months. 

        I remember it well, and have written about their set elsewhere on Just Backdated. Led Zeppelin simply exploded on that stage, blowing away all the other acts, and not just because they seemed one hell of a lot louder than everyone else. Hyper confident, they announced their arrival by playing ‘Immigrant Song’ – which I inadvertently called ‘Immigration Song’ in my review – which was yet to be released, its staccato riff reverberating over a crowd believed to be in the region of 150,000. Two and half hours later, pumped up to the eyeballs, they left the stage after a slew of encores that included seat-of-the-pants improvisations of many of their favourite rock’n’roll songs from the fifties.

        John Bonham, slimmer and probably fitter than he was in later years, is inexhaustible. Robert Plant dances around as if he’s barefoot on a hotplate, and even Jones, steady as ever on his Jazz Bass, moves about much more than he would later. Dressed in his yokel outfit, Jimmy Page is the least visible, somehow avoiding the cameras as he switches from hard chord grunge to delicate passages on his Les Paul guitar. 

        On a separate clip there are scenes of the group wandering around amidst the cars and caravans in the backstage area. Page is seen with girlfriend Charlotte Martin, and John Paul Jones escorts his friend Julie Felix. Donovan, LZ manager Peter Grant, tour manager Richard Cole and soundman Clive Coulson are also briefly seen. On that Sunday afternoon 52 years ago backstage at Bath was unquestionably the coolest place on earth, and I was there too, albeit not, alas, caught on camera. 

        The stage footage is over with pretty quick, and when I tried to access it again the following day was greeted with the message, “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Kinolibrary”, which the internet tells me is an ‘independent agency representing remarkable and rare archive footage from around the world’.

        “This YouTube footage has been made available by the Kinolibrary film archive company,” says Dave Lewis. “By presenting silent footage they will have avoided any copyright issues with the music of Led Zeppelin which is owned by Warners. The synced footage matched to the clip independently might have a problem with this.”

        Dave confirms that the film was made by the late Peter Whitehead – famous for his films of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd and the January 9, 1970, Led Zeppelin concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Dave was present in May 2017 at a screening of the Albert Hall footage and observed bits of Led Zep memorabilia on display. Part of that was a vintage film label marked Led Zeppelin at Bath,” he recalls. “I was aware that Peter Whitehead had shot film of the band at the Bath Festival in 1970 and here was tangible evidence.”

Dave Lewis sent me this pic from Bath 
in which a cameraman can clearly be seen behind Robert Plant

        Present at this event was Steve Chibnall, Professor of British Cinema and Director of Cinema and Television History Research Centre at Leicester University, who revealed he had viewed the 20 to 30-minute silent colour footage. He hoped one day it could be restored and see the light of day. He told Dave: “The problem, according to Peter Whitehead, was he was stuck in traffic and had trouble getting to Bath so he arrived late. He was supposed to film the band arriving by helicopter and he missed that.

        “And then when Led Zeppelin played, they played in the dark and there was insufficient stage lighting for his cameras. He reckoned that the footage, the live footage, was not usable … [but]… it can be restored now. 

        “It looks beautiful to me and I think it was recorded. The band probably have a recording of it. Peter was supposed to do interviews with the band members as well, but I don’t think that ever happened. But certainly, there is 20 or 30 minutes of footage from Bath.”

        Although the synced footage has been withdrawn, three silent colour clips of Zep at Bath in 1970, shot in 16mm, and two backstage/audience clips, can be readily viewed now via the Kinolibary YouTube channel. “Watch them and be amazed,” adds Dave. 

(The picture at the top of this post is the cover of a bootleg CD 
of Led Zeps Bath set I found on the internet.)