WHATEVER BECAME OF LEN ZEFFLIN?
Ah, the joys of being an opening act for a major rock band. Consider the following: you are four young men from England, traveling together for the first time as a new up and coming act. Since your band has been recently signed to a major record label, say, ATLANTIC RECORDS, it has been decided by shared management that you will tour with a label mate of some renown, The VANILLA FUDGE. It’s late 1968 and THE FUDGE is, well, still relying on their remake of THE SUPREMES “You Keep Me Hanging On” to put hineys in the seats. You meet up on the west coast for your scheduled romp across The States, 41 dates, with fees ranging from a low $320.00 to a high of $1500.00. At some point your band will leave THE FUDGE and finish the short tour opening for IRON BUTTERFLY of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” fame.So, who or what is this band?
Ladies and Gentlemen…LEN ZEFFLIN. (cue applause). In short order,club owners will know how to spell the name for they will make some headlines, in one year’s time they will release two noteworthy albums, and in two years time they will be the biggest concert draw in America.
For those who only know of the power and popularity of Led Zeppelin of latter days, let me take you back to a time before their 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 ,who legend states took their name from Charlie YARDBIRD Parker was somewhat known in the USA, but more popular in their homeland of Great Britain. Without giving the long history of the Yardbirds let’s just say they got a CRAWDADDY (a club) gig when the spot was vacated by THE ROLLING STONES, a band on the move. Eric Clapton was the YARDBIRDS guitarist at that time who became uncomfortable with the band veering away from it’s blues roots, heading into a pop direction. Clapton leaves and suggest Jimmy Page take his spot. Page was the “go to studio guitarist” at the time and 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 Yardbirds JIMMY PAGE steps in for a spell. When a new bassist is recruited PAGE stays on for a BECK/PAGE new dual guitar attack approach. Beck gets sick, misses a few gigs and 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 CREAM and JIMI HENDRIX, soon most of 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. 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. Pete my buddy at Dubbings Electronics attended one of those shows that weekend. He raved about this new band who blew Iron Butterfly off the stage, leaving Iron Butterfly to play just one song, their hit IN A GADDA DA VIDA, and according to Pete, Led Zeppelin came back out due to the booing of Butterfly and the calls for “more” Zeppelin. I have never been able to verify that but Pete said it,so…it must be true.
A few days later while at work Pete asked me to join him to see LED ZEPPELIN at THE SCENE a club in Manhattan. With little provocation I agreed to go to the Wednesday night show. But alas, the shows were cancelled due to John Bonham’s son falling at home in England and Bonham was needed there. So, I made due by purchasing LED ZEPPELIN and listening to the debut album, over and over again.
January 12,1969: LED ZEPPELIN is released.I almost burnt that record out. It was on heavy rotation with JETHRO TULL’s “This Was” on my turntable.Geez, it was so good in early 1969, and is still a good listen today.Nothing like it at the time. Dump the cd, get the vinyl.