Saturday, September 24, 2005

Tribute to John Bonham

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

The 30 days affectionately known among some Led Zeppelin aficionados as "Zeptember" certainly have ups and downs that are unparalleled in any other month.

Zeptember sees the beginning of a legacy of live Zeppelin shows, which we marked earlier this month with the 37th anniversary of Page-Plant-Jones-Bonham's first concert together.

Sadly, this month also sees the beginning of the end. In Led Zeppelin's history, the end is unmistakably denoted by the passing of one of its members, without whom the others just could never go on as they were.

"He was an ex-bricklayer who weighed about 250 pounds and was six-foot-three," producer Eddie Kramer said of John "Bonzo" Bonham, who died 25 years ago tomorrow.

RIP John Henry Bonham
May 31, 1948 - Sept. 25, 1980

On a much happier note, the Bonham drumming legacy still lives on today through that aforementioned son, Jason Bonham. Now 39, he's currently playing for a great lineup of the rock group Foreigner. Their current U.S. tour packed houses this summer and will continue to do so through November. Each show even pays tribute to John Bonham with the group covering a Led Zeppelin song.

A thrilling live video of Foreigner's "Juke Box Hero" from this tour is available at the group's official Web site,, in the Gallery section. They impressively ease into a portion of "Whole Lotta Love," and bald-headed Jason Bonham commands on the drums through the very end.

It will be a pleasure to see them perform live in Baltimore next weekend.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

When the Levee Breaks: Tribute to New Orleans

These comments originally appeared in an edition of the newsletter "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History."
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And the water gonna come in, have no place to stay

Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
Well all last night I sat on the levee and moan
Thinkin' 'bout my baby and my happy home

If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
If it keeps on rainin', levee's goin' to break
And all these people have no place to stay
These lyrics are as meaningful today as they were over 75 years ago when they were first recorded in 1929. The song "When the Levee Breaks" was performed on record by the husband-and-wife team of "Kansas" Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, recalling the great Mississippi River flood of 1927. The couple's dueling guitars was said to mimic the sound of the water.

When Led Zeppelin adapted the song for its fourth album, a new riff was provided by John Paul Jones on bass and the swirling slide guitar of Jimmy Page. These elements were complemented by Robert Plant's psychedelic, drowning harmonica and a mesmerizing drum beat from John Bonham that was made sonically perfect by experimenting with the positioning of microphones around his drum kit.

The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina this past week saw great devastation after a system of levees broke in New Orleans, La., flooding much of the city, forcefully evicting much of its population, and ultimately rendering much of its housing stock uninhabitable. We may have witnessed the destruction of a city long fabled for its unmistakable culture. It was a location the members of Led Zeppelin always looked forward to visiting.

Whether taking in some zydeco or jazz at a local club or some Cajun-flavored seafood at a down-home restaurant, Led Zeppelin history is rich with stories of the band indulging in all New Orleans had to offer. Members even rented out a house in the French Quarter during the 1973 tour for an extended stay there. It was at the Royal Orleans hotel where John Paul Jones hobnobbed with a local transsexual and friend of the band, a story that was famously exaggerated in the Presence track "Royal Orleans."

The local music scene especially captivated Robert Plant. At a party thrown by Atlantic Records to acknowledge Led Zeppelin's success, Plant in turn honored many of the New Orleans musicians who had been hired to perform that night, including Ernie K. Doe, Professor Longhair, Frankie Ford, The Meters, Snooks Eaglin and Allen Toussaint. Plant has often said it was a shame such artists weren't recognized on a national basis.

Now, the plight of this city has become internationally known. To find out what you can do to aid the relief effort, visit or call toll-free: 1-800-HELP-NOW.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Not just Bath's 35th anniversary; go out and see a concert!

Lemon Squeezings today celebrates the 35th anniversary of a special occasion that is more than just a concert. As documented by Dave Lewis in a soon-to-be-released updated version of his book "The Concert Files," Led Zeppelin played well over 450 shows in a 12-year span. While I wasn't even a year old at the time the band broke up, I believe it's easy to recognize some of the concerts that to this day stick out in the minds of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones, and might have stuck out in the mind of the late John Bonham.

The second year in a row that the group appeared at the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music occurred on this day in 1970 and is covered at great length in this edition. This festival-headlining appearance goes down in Led Zeppelin history as a momentous early event in the group's career. My interview with John Paul Jones in 2001 revealed his previously untold side of a story in which he was directly involved: being accompanied by a motorcycle gang to arrive for the group's strategically timed set with seconds to spare.

Stories from the road make up a good part of what Led Zeppelin History is all about. And it's continuing. Two live concerts I attended last week were accompanied by great music and an outpouring of emotion among fans and the well-received artist, who was in this case none other than Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation. The group played two sold-out shows at the Tower Theater in the Philadelphia suburb of Upper Darby, Pa., last Tuesday and Wednesday. Responding to live renditions of "When the Levee Breaks," "That's the Way" and new track "The Enchanter," the unbridled Philly-area audience cheered and applauded feverishly, prompting Plant to comment on the second night that from his 36 years of playing gigs, he could tell there was something special happening.

Currently touring the United States in support of its album Mighty ReArranger and radio staple "Shine It All Around," the band plays a sold-out show tomorrow, June 29, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Then, they head off to play Chastain Park in Atlanta on June 30, followed by a July 4 holiday gig in Portsmouth, Va. The Strange Sensation's first Canadian date since its initial outing in 2001 will take place this July 5 at the Molson Amphitheatre. They will reach 10 more U.S. cities between July 7 and July 24. Dates in Europe will start July 29 at the WOMAD Festival in Reading, England, and continue into August. A full-fledged eight-city tour of Canada will keep the band busy in the middle of September, before they return to the United States for six West Coast shows and six more in Texas, Mississippi and Florida.

Writing today about my firsthand live concert experiences June 21-22 also gives me the opportunity to mention a Led Zeppelin tribute band I saw perform earlier this month. The four-member, all-female group Lez Zeppelin, which was featured in the pages of this month's Spin magazine, hammered out a two-and-a-half-hour homage June 16 in Falls Church, Va. They display a swagger undeniably akin to their rock-god counterparts while delivering faithful renditions of crunchy numbers from Led Zeppelin's first five albums. Seated atop stools for an acoustic set, three members of the band sang harmonies that accentuated the serene sounds of their mandolin and acoustic guitar. This sizzling quartet of Brooke Gengras (lead vocals), Steph Payne (guitars and theremin), Lisa Brigantino (bass, keyboards and mandolin) and Wendy Kidd (drums) will be set to repeat the performance with a show tomorrow, June 29, at the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan. They will also help to celebrate Plant's 57th birthday with a big bash to be held Aug. 20 at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, also in New York.

A classic-rock cover band I joined in April 2004 is scheduled to headline a five-band bill at a venue called the Grog and Tankard in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, July 9. I will be playing keyboards for the group, which is called World Peace Party. Among many other collective favorites, we have been working up a pleasing version of "Kashmir." If you happen to be in the area that night, come by and see our two-hour set. We'll go on at about 11:30 p.m.

Overall, what I'm trying to say is that live concerts are often filled with magic. Obviously, if you signed up to be on this mailing list, you must have some affinity for Led Zeppelin's music as I do. For my money, there is no better way to celebrate this with other fans than going to see a relevant concert to flirt with fame and to hear these songs performed to your liking. As I mentioned, Robert Plant is touring the United States now. To find Plant's concert dates, as well as reviews and photos of shows from his current tour, try his official Web site or the Tour Watch page at Tight But Loose. Led Zeppelin tribute bands pop up all the time. Here in the northern hemisphere, the summer concert season is already in full swing.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Upcoming Robert Plant tour to support album release

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

Upcoming U.S. concert appearances by Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation are currently being confirmed. Plant will tour beginning around March in support of a new album, said to bear a title of either Another Tribe or Mighty ReArranger.

Further information on the tour and album will appear in this newsletter as it becomes available. Surely beating me to the punch in reporting it, however, will be Dave Linwood and Dave Lewis, who still cover the Page-Plant-Jones beat full-time at TBL/Web.