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LED ZEPPELIN at FILLMORE EAST: MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND MAY 30,1969

For those who only know of the power and popularity of Led Zeppelin of it’s latter days, let me take you back to before the very first album hit the stands.

Jimmy Page was one of the “three”, the triumvirate of rock guitarist gods who moseyed through a British band of some renown named THE YARDBIRDS. This band, legend states took their name from Charlie YARDBIRD Parker, was somewhat known in the USA, but much more popular in their homeland of Great Britain. Without giving the long history of the Yardbirds let say they got residency at CRAWDADDY when the spot was vacated by THE ROLLING STONES, a band on the move. Eric Clapton was the YARDBIRDS guitarist who as time moved on, after hit followed by another hit, became uncomfortable with the band veering far away from it’s blues roots by heading into a pop direction. Clapton leaves and suggest Jimmy Page take his spot. Page, who was the “go to studio guitarist” at the time, didn’t want to vacate that profitable role, so PAGE suggested JEFF BECK who took the gig.

With BECK’s influence the YARDBIRDS moved toward a psychedelic route with fuzz tones, feedback, and overall guitar virtuosity. By 1966 JEFF BECK was voted Melody Maker’s GUITARIST OF THE YEAR.When the bass player drops out of the band  JIMMY PAGE steps in that role for a spell. When a new bassist is recruited PAGE stays on playing guitar which offers a BECK/PAGE dual guitar attack approach. Beck gets sick, misses a few gigs, ultimately leaves the band to Page.With the lead singer Keith Relf’s alcoholism and the band not having any more hits, as well as with the rise of bands like CREAM and JIMI HENDRIX, soon the Yardbirds disappeared, leaving Jimmy Page with the name. To fulfill  some contractual commitments ,with a new manager PETER GRANT on board, the band hits the road as THE NEW YARDBIRDS.

Page had recruited TERRY REID as vocalist but he, with a new MICKIE MOST contract, could not leave. Reid suggested a friend, ROBERT PLANT who brought along his drummer friend JOHN BONHAM . Page called his studio buddy JOHN PAUL JONES for bass and keyboards and after a short tour of Scandinavia, the NEW YARDBIRDS hit the studio to record what would become LED ZEPPELIN’s debut.

The album is released January 12,1969 and some of the tunes hit the New York FM airwaves after the band’s now legendary performance as the opening act for IRON BUTTERFLY at FILLMORE EAST January 31 and February 1, 1969, this being Led Zeppelin’s first US tour.Legend has it, but I have not verified it, that after LED ZEPPELIN played their set the boys in Butterfly decided to just do one song, their hit IN A GADDA DA VIDA, an FM staple  at the time. The crowd cheered for more Led Zep so the British foursome hit the stage again to close out the night.

That leads me to May 30, 1969. A Friday holiday weekend night with me at FILLMORE EAST with a five dollar ticket awaiting to see LED ZEPPELIN in their first FILLMORE EAST headlining show. The underbill was WOODY HERMAN and His THUNDERING HERD, and DELANEY BONNIE AND FRIENDS. Too cool. The Friday early show which according to some who attended the other three shows, the set list I saw was a shortened one but impressive nonetheless.

From the opening howl of I CAN’T QUIT YOU, through the violin bow smacking strings on DAZED AND CONFUSED, acoustic WHITE SUMMER/BLACK MOUNTAIN SIDE, followed by BABE,I’M GONNA LEAVE YOU, YOU SHOOK ME, and the closer HOW MANY MORE TIMES, Led Zeppelin owned this audience. The encore was short, yet loud, COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN. The performance bar was now set for this 17 year old youngster on his musical journey.

NEXT TIME: THE WHO/CHUCK BERRY/ALBERT KING

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