Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Page: 'Nobody in the band has even discussed' reunion; suggestion is 'just disgraceful'

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

As this year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1973 tour, it is timely to point out the quote from Jimmy Page's Q magazine interview in which he dismisses the recent rumors of a Led Zeppelin reunion: "That's just disgraceful" to suggest a reunion at this time, Page begins. "I started to hear [rumors] about this tour when I was in the studio putting together the DVDs and CD box set, and I immediately thought that the most ridiculous thing we could do is to put out a live album and then tour on the strength of something we did 30 years ago. Nobody in the band has even discussed it." Interviewer Nick Kent asks whether it is too late to dream of a Led Zeppelin reunion, and Page responds, "I never discounted it, but everyone has their own agendas. Maybe, at this point in time, it's just too late."

Friday, April 25, 2003

Zepfest 2003: What was and what we're glad wasn't meant to be

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

"It's always something, isn't it?" Grant Burgess snickered on Friday, April 11, just after I arrived for the inaugural event of Zepfest 2003. Grant could easily go on for hours listing the many occurrences that have threatened the existence of his (mostly) annual get-together. "This year, it's the SARS, and I guess some people had to cancel because they were a little uneasy about coming to Toronto."

News of the Serious Acute Respiratory Syndrome and a few cases in Toronto were common knowledge to a good percentage of attendees before they flew in or drove up to Toronto for the Led Zeppelin convention. Nevertheless, those who'd been at previous years' shows commented that attendance did not seem to be down in any way. By the end of the weekend, there was most likely nobody unfamiliar with SARS, thanks to the ingenious idea of one exhibitor to hand out specially designed Zepfest 2003 surgical masks to those making a purchase. Because it seems nobody was infected with SARS that weekend, this gag gift will go down in history as a sign of what we're glad wasn't meant to be.

Speaking of gag gifts, the Zepfest 2003 mug actually says "Zepfest 2002" on it. Some attendees commented that it's rather fitting. As Led Zeppelin fans, they're well aware that even the band had a hard time getting certain things right at the printers. That's something we've seen many times over, particularly with album covers. Most recently, a mailing list at www.ledzeppelin.com sends an automatic response in which the band's name is spelled incorrectly. So, the misprinted mugs could become more of a collector's item someday.

On to the events: Zepfest kicked off with drinks at Healey's. Before the main act took center stage, fans were treated to bootleg video of Led Zeppelin's filmed Seattle 1977 performance; new bootleg releases of this video shown at Zepfest blow away versions previously seen in the black market. Spectacular versions of "Since I've Been Loving You" and "Achilles Last Stand" set the tone for the evening's main act, Canada's Led Zeppelin tribute band Zeppelinesque.

Four band members took the stage: one gorgeous female bassist, one drummer, and two guitarists! Nobody was standing in front of the center microphone, and so ensued shouts of "We need a singer!" A tall, lanky man with a straggly wig and an open shirt pushed his way through the ocean of people and took the stage to much laughter and cheers. He knocked over at least one beer on the way to the stage, for which he publicly apologized after finishing a song.

The singer had a small arsenal of Robert Plant's moves at his disposal, but the people around me agreed with my comment that his voice was less like Plant's and more like that of Geddy Lee, lead singer of Canada's own Rush. After I made the comment, it became tougher for my friends to listen to these versions of Physical Graffiti tracks when you're expecting to hear the singer bust into "Fly by Night."

The rest of the band was great: right on with arrangements of Led Zeppelin's studio catalogue. Zeppelinesque played a few songs that you'd be hard-pressed to find on a greatest hits album or in any Led Zep set list. Each rarity made the crowd go wild, but the highlight of the first set was probably a version of "Dazed and Confused" based on the six-and-a-half-minute version that graces the first side of Zep's debut album. The group's lead guitarist played a violin bow solo but chose to keep things going and not to indulge too much.

On the following day, the commercial exposition at Healey's and a post-convention reception were supported by more video screenings of our favorite band in action. Some recent footage of Robert Plant's Strange Sensation also received some play and appreciation among gawking fans.

For me, the best part of the convention was meeting people and being able to discuss how checking out our heroes' favorite music has affected us. There were people, like me, who rediscovered the music of groups like Love and Moby Grape just because Robert Plant has dropped their names in many interviews between the 1960s and today. It's rare that in my personal life I can find fellow fans to sit down with and discuss a rare B-side or particular live version. That's why these get-togethers are so special.

Even more of a trip was meeting people who didn't recognize the name Steve "The Lemon" when I introduced myself and couldn't say they recalled ever reading "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History." But when they found out about the four-hour interview I conducted with John Paul Jones a few years back, they enthusiastically listened to me recanting the words he told me and the impressions he gave me. One tidbit about the 1995 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame reunion I haven't seen repeated elsewhere is mentioned on page 129 of Q magazine's special issue devoted to Led Zeppelin.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Yardbirds hatch new album; Jeff Beck returns for guest spot on 'Birdland' CD

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Released today in the United Kingdom and Tuesday in the United States is Birdland, the first studio album by the Yardbirds since 1967's Little Games, when Jimmy Page was the lead guitarist of the group. Two of his former bandmates, founding members Chris Dreja (guitar) and Jim McCarty (drums), remain in the lineup today. Joining them are lead guitarist Gypie Mayo, singer/bassist John Idan, and Alan Glen on harmonica. The group's modern-day live act depends on new versions of the songs made famous by the Yardbirds 1963-1968. For this reason, it's no surprise that remakes of songs including "For Your Love," "Train Kept A Rollin'," "Shapes of Things" and "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago" grace more than half the album.

Some of the real treasures, however, are heard in seven of the 15 songs on Birdland. These are the moments that prove the Yardbirds is still relevant today, some 40 years since the group's beginnings in London. The new material bears more than a few allusions to the old days. Ex-Yardbird Jeff Beck sits in on one track. Some of the new songs feel like they are sculpted as re-workings of classic tracks. No less than three of them feature the Gregorian chant-style singing that was the trademark of such Yardbirds songs as "Still I'm Sad" and "Heart Full of Soul." The album's brilliant closing track, "An Original Man," is dedicated to Keith Relf, the group's original singer who died in 1976.

If there is anything wrong with the CD, it would be that the revolving door of guest musicians impedes the album's continuity. The guitar work of Gypie Mayo, a name recognizable to fans of Dr. Feelgood, holds up to the expectations being a guitarist for the Yardbirds obviously brings with it. He shines especially on the CD's first original, "Crying Out for Love," with a guitar solo that could be revered and dissected by the guitar students of tomorrow as if it were "Comfortably Numb." But he isn't given the chance to shine when guest guitarists step in. Still, names like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Slash, Brian May, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and Steve Lukather are nothing to sneeze at, and so any distractions they cause can easily be forgiven.

You can catch the Yardbirds on tour. Some dates in Europe and the United Kingdom will be followed in June with a tour of North America. Dates that have been announced can be seen at the group's new official Web site, theyardbirds.com.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Sources hail their advance glimpses of Led Zeppelin DVD

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

Led Zeppelin's upcoming 2-DVD set is receiving plenty of attention. I'd like to call your attention in particular to this April 14 article at RollingStone.com with interview quotes from all three surviving members of Led Zeppelin.

In the meantime, I'd like to thank readers for sharing information about their previews of the DVD! Descriptions and summaries have come in from two sources: Dave Lewis, author of the long-running fanzine Tight But Loose, and Gary Moore, host of "Whole Lotta Led" weekdays at 4 p.m. on Los Angeles' 95.5 KLOS.

From Dave Lewis:
My new issue of the Tight But Loose magazine is out now (issue 16). If you read Steve's excellent daily updates, then I'm sure you'll find much to enjoy in the new TBL. It's another mini book packed with features rare visuals, etc. Cost is £8 U.K. sterling. Visit www.tblweb.com for full subscription and ordering details.

About the forthcoming DVD: Forty days to go! Having been lucky enough to have seen a preview, let me tell you it exceeds all expectations. The integrity and sheer detail that Jimmy Page and director Dick Carruthers have brought to the project is just stunning.

For me, personally, this has been a long wait. I was lucky enough to see firsthand the extent of the Zep visual archive as far back as 1981 when I was invited to view the Earls Court, Seattle and Knebworth video masters at the London Swan Song office.

Now, finally, we are all going to see and hear in absolute full splendour the sheer magic of Led Zeppelin live. Excited? We certainly should be! And the waiting is nearly over...

Dave Lewis
April 16, 2003
From Gary Moore:
I got a sampler in over the weekend featuring three cuts on the upcoming DVD. They are as follows:

1.) What is and What Should Never Be / Royal Albert Hall, January 1970 (even though it says 1969, it's the '70 show). A very nice, tight performance of this song with everyone in great form. You notice two things right off. First, it's still a darkly shot show, but there's some welcome lightening of the show. Second, the sound quality is fantastic, especially in Dolby Digital 5.1 channel surround sound. In fact, the sound quality on all the tracks is stellar -- absolutely tremendous.

2.) In My Time of Dying / Earl's Court, May 1975. If the rest of the show is this good, toss out all of your eighth-generation bootlegs because they'll pale in comparison. No contest. This may be the best overall live performance I've seen or heard of the song. There are some slight filtering special effects on a few moments, but overall it's a mesmerizing performance. You see the band's confidence like never before with this upgrading: Jimmy in complete musical domination, Robert selling the message with unbridled fury, John Paul and Bonzo's thrifty, seamless rhythm. Such a high point in their career!

3.) Rock and Roll / Knebworth, August 1979. Beaten down the press, the punkish times and their own personal trials, this is a revitalizing concert showing that they still had it, they never lost it, and they were so set for the 1980s and beyond. Again, terrific sound and video transfer onto DVD.

If the Zeppelin DVD won't persuade Ledheads to get 5.1 sound for their living rooms (and prices are way down now), then it's hopeless. Because this WILL be the next best thing to seeing Led Zeppelin in concert, I guaran-damn-tee you. In fact, for those of us who did see them live, it's almost better because of the proximity and crystal-clear sound.

In short, what I've seen is a joy to watch -- but bittersweet at the same time. You give thanks for what they gave us but feel sadness over how much farther they might've taken us.

Gary Moore
April 14, 2003
Well, what more is there to say than -- Led Zeppelin rocks!

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

New early Zep photos discovered

This news originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

The photographer who snapped pictures at Led Zeppelin's first concert recently announced the discovery of some frames from an early Zep show previously unavailable as prints. A total of 37 shots are now available of the Zep concert from March 15, 1969, taken by Gladsaxe Teen Club house photographer Jorgen Angel. To order any of his prints, visit his Web site at http://www.angel.dk/

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

It was an April Fool's morning when he told us they would go ...

The following is adapted from an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."

One year ago today, when all some fans needed was the slightest glimmer of hope that Led Zeppelin was on the path toward reuniting, a Los Angeles DJ made a brief announcement similar to this:
"Well, folks, it's finally happened. Led Zeppelin is finally giving the fans what they really want: The band is getting back together. That's right, folks, you heard it here first: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones have stated in a press conference that they're officially reuniting for a summer tour of the United States this year. As for who will be playing drums, the band has agreed to allow a fan in each city who bid the highest on eBay to be that evening's drummer."
The announcement by Gary Moore of 95.5 KLOS was a flash in the pan: It lasted less than a minute and was immediately followed by the words, "Check the calendar: April Fools!" There was no truth to anything he'd said. It was just a joke designed to take place on the first day of April, which in some countries is traditionally a day full of practical jokes.

But the reaction by some fans indicated that they didn't get the joke. Moore told Lemon Squeezings a few days later:
"Clearly, as evidenced by the half-dozen calls and emails I received, people either tuned out after I said the word 'reuniting' or just didn't get it. But the phones didn't light up per se. The whole bit lasted maybe 40 seconds and, again, I thought I'd defused it by saying, 'April Fools!'"
And how did I hear about this L.A. DJ's announcement all the way on the other side of the country? From people wanting to ask Steve "The Lemon" Sauer whether it was true, of course. If you wrote me this time last year to ask whether what you heard was true, then your secret's safe with me. Got that, Sasha? Got that, Temax? ;-)