Friday, October 26, 2007

Led Zeppelin reunion rehearsal in June 2007 recalled initial meeting of 1968

More information is being revealed about the staged rehearsal of Led Zeppelin's surviving members four months ago in London.

John Paul Jones of the group has given his impressions of the meeting to Led Zeppelin biographer Ritchie Yorke, saying the June meeting reminded him of the first time he gathered in a room to play with the other musicians Jimmy Page had lined up for his new group in 1968.

The bassist and keyboardist is quoted in an interview published today by the Brisbane Times and found online here.

"That first rehearsal this month was just amazing," Jones told Yorke. "It took us back to that first meeting in '68. So we decided to go ahead and we will be putting in some serious rehearsal sessions right up until the show itself."

Previous one-off shows that reunited him with both Page and Robert Plant were marred by forgotten lyrics, discomfort with arrangements, extraneous musicians and inadequate preparation time.

This time, however, Jones said the band would be working the kinks out of its planned two-hour set ahead of time.

"The only trouble we had at the first rehearsal last week was remembering in some songs 'did it go this way, or was there another chorus?'" Jones said. "I don't want to be on stage at the [O2 arena] thinking like that. I want to be just so familiar with the material - so that we can give a proper performance rather than just remember how this or that song went."

The Nov. 26 reunion concert is to take place at a charity benefit honoring late Atlantic Records cofounder Ahmet Ertegün and raising money for a fund named for him, which provides scholarships to music students.

Earlier talks had taken place offering alternate venues.

"Initially I was invited to join in a memorial concert for Ahmet in New York performing with the likes of Ben E King last January," said Jones. "Then Robert [Plant] let it be known that he would rather do something for Ahmet in England. ...

"Originally we were going to play the Royal Albert Hall, along with another night with some other acts. Then the Royal Albert was deemed too small and it moved to the [O2 arena].

"At first, we would be playing 40 minutes, then it went to an hour. I was a bit reluctant along the way because I wasn't sure whether I wanted to part of getting that whole circus on the road again. But I was persuaded to try out a rehearsal to see if we really wanted to play together."

Ultimately, that rehearsal went over so well that the group agreed to play two hours' worth of material.

Page and Plant have also spoken to the media in recent days about the good vibrations they experienced in rehearsals, although Jones was the first to invoke publicly a reference to the group's initial meeting in August 1968.

Those earliest months of Led Zeppelin's existence are covered in a series of three books to be published over the next two years. These books, authored by Frank Reddon, consist of previously unpublished interviews with the primary sources present at some of the group's earliest concerts and recording dates.

Selected excerpts of these interviews are to be previewed on a new Web site being launched today,

The first interview previewed at the site is with the student promoter for Led Zeppelin's concert at Gonzaga University on Dec. 30, 1968. It contains stories previously unknown to Led Zeppelin fans about the band's arrival at this early U.S. appearance, its onstage introduction, and a near fistfight.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Plant, Krauss promote release of album on Rounder

Now that Raising Sand, the long-awaited collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, has arrived in stores and in the hands of patient fans, the singers are making the rounds in support of their 58-minute disc.

With a touring band including several of the studio musicians employed on the album, Plant and Krauss took to the stage in Tennessee on Oct. 18 for an episode of "CMT Crossroads" to air in January.

They are also slated to perform in the studio on tomorrow's "Today" show on NBC, and an appearance on "Charlie Rose" on PBS has also been mentioned.

Plant was a guest on "Charlie Rose" on May 11, 2005, supporting Mighty ReArranger. That full interview can be viewed here.

The performance segment of the Oct. 24 "Today" show appearance with Plant and Krauss can be viewed below. They performed "Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On)."
Alison Krauss and Robert Plant perform
Alison Krauss and Robert Plant perform

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fans stand another chance at Led Zeppelin tickets

Now that the fate of all those Oct. 1 ticket passcodes has been decided, the first round of the Led Zeppelin ticket lottery has ended. As a result, the second round should naturally follow any day now.

Those who are in the running for the redraw might be singing, "Luck, be a lady tonight."

What are the odds in this game?

There is no official number of how many tickets remain unpurchased. However, even though this is such a high-demand concert, the number waiting to be given away in the second round may be higher than one would initially presume.

Why would tickets still be available for the second round in the first place? I've attempted to answer this question by categorizing the various reasons why tickets have not yet been purchased.

Better yet, I've also attempted to enumerate these tickets now up for grabs, although many of these numbers come from conservative guesstimates.

There's one category, though, where I appear to have some rare insight, and it has to do with e-mail addresses that weren't working on the day winners were notified. Pay attention here.

Lists of e-mail addresses -- exactly 247 of them -- appeared for a short time on Oct. 1 on a Web page that, in my meager judgment, appeared to be legitimate. The lists contained no information other than e-mail addresses, so no names, no addresses, no phone numbers, none of that. Just straight-up e-mail addresses.

To test whether the addresses were legitimate, I sent e-mail to all 247 addresses. A few replied to confirm they had won the drawing. Nineteen, however, returned undeliverable.

One e-mail was blocked due to a spam filter, but all of the 18 others turned out to be bad e-mail addresses.

Um, who would enter the ballot hoping to go to the most highly anticipated reunion concert of all time by supplying a bad e-mail address? Apparently, that's what these Poindexters did, and there are a dozen-and-a-half of them!

If the lists were indeed authentic, then those figures are astonishing to me. If this is a representative sample of all of the ballet notifications, then it is safe to say that about 7.7 percent of the winning entrants never received their notifications.

Accepting an estimate that 9,000 people were alerted in the first round to give away potentially 1,800 tickets, that's almost 700 people right there who entered the ballot with bad e-mail addresses. This means there would be roughly 1,400 unclaimed tickets!

Still another kind of e-mail response I received was an out-of-office reply, although it indicated the recipient was gone only on Oct. 2 and would be returning Oct. 3. It is likely this particular person read the e-mail in time to use the passcode and purchase a ticket.

But how possible is it that other winning entrants were not checking e-mail for a few days and became aware of their good luck only after the window of opportunity had closed? Pulling a number out of the air, let's say there are about three dozen in that camp. That's another 72 tickets, so our running total is up to 1,472 available.

Another factor of how many seats remain unclaimed is how many of the winning entrants in the first ballot purchased only one ticket rather than the maximum two.

It's just silly not to buy two instead of just one. There's no shortage of people who want to go. Just find one. That second ticket is not attached to any particular ID. Have faith that someone will reimburse you for it.

For the greedy among us, that second ticket could mean big bucks to someone who's going to the show unaccompanied. Of course, the resale of ticket is prohibited, but there are loopholes around that, like what this person in the United States is doing on eBay. Not that I am either advocating or defending such behavior, but this concertgoer is doing something clever that may end up covering his or her roundtrip airfare.

For another number out of the air, let's say there are 28 people going solo without a second ticket to spare and therefore 28 more unclaimed seats. That gives us the tidy number of 1,500 available tickets.

Also increasing the chances are those who received the notification but, for other reasons, did not purchase any tickets at all.

Maybe some have the legitimate excuse that they live outside the United Kingdom and don't possess the paperwork required for international travel. Maybe affording the trip simply wasn't feasible to some.

There could be any number of other reasons why people let the tickets slip through their hands. Of course, these people would have to be lunatics, but who am I to judge?

A hundred with legitimate excuses or are complete lunatics, we'll say, and I think that number is pretty conservative.

That means altogether, 1,600 tickets are available. Eight hundred people could be contacted in the second round.

And how many people entered the ballot with hopes of being among the chosen few? Oh yeah, that's right. A zillion.

Taking all of this into consideration, the odds aren't great, but they're better than could be expected.

I just hope the drawing's second round clarifies without a doubt under what conditions, if any, the passcodes are transferrable.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Transfer of Led Zeppelin reunion passcodes may not hinder anyone, after all

After more than two weeks of being led to believe otherwise, anyone who has purchased a ticket to Led Zeppelin's Nov. 26 reunion concert through Ticketmaster will be allowed to go.

The ticket retailer's U.K. subsidiary has today begun responding to complaints it received earlier this month in light of comments made by concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith.

After winning entrants in the lottery to obtain tickets were notified, some people began listing passcodes for sale on eBay and other online auction sites. This prompted Goldsmith to fire back in a press release on Oct. 2: "Please note that unless the ticket, the code and correct identification match, those tickets will be invalid."

He reiterated his statement several times throughout the month in various media appearances and also put it in writing again on Oct. 4, e-mailing winning entrants: "If you have sold or have given away your passcode whomever you have sold / given it to will be denied entry into the concert."

To the contrary, Ticketmaster is apparently now indicating that tickets purchased through their Web site using passcodes will indeed be honored. Led Zeppelin fans who bought passcodes in eBay auctions now report that Ticketmaster has notified them that the tickets are valid after all.

"The promoter of this event (Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund) has instructed us to inform you of the following, which only applies to tickets purchased using passcodes issued on 1st October 2007," the e-mail from Ticketmaster reads. "Bookings will be validated even if the name on the credit card details used to purchase the tickets does not match the corresponding passcode issued to the ballot winner."

Ticketmaster has apparently determined that the transfer of those passcodes was not against its policies. However, the company distinguishes between the sale of passcodes to obtain tickets and the tickets themselves.

The retailer's e-mail to the eBay passcode purchaser reads, "Ticketmaster would like to remind you that, under our standard terms and conditions, tickets purchased from us for this event are for personal use only and may not be resold or offered for resale, and we reserve the right to invalidate any tickets that are or have been the subject of any resale or attempted resale."

The form letter in which entrants of the ballot were notified on Oct. 1 that they had won states: "The original conditions of sale will be enforced. These tickets are non-transferable and any resale will void the transaction without refund."

As recently as Oct. 16, Goldsmith defended his position in a news segment broadcast by the BBC that the passcodes were not transferable.

"It says the tickets aren't transferable when you get your passcode," he said in the televised interview (see above). "Presumably, to anyone with a brain, that means the passcode's not transferable."

Goldsmith stipulated on Oct. 2 that names and addresses of ticket purchasers must match up with those of the ballot winners. This statement was first made one day after passcodes had been issued to winning entrants in the lottery. By that time, a number of people had bought passcodes offered on eBay and used those passcodes to purchase tickets from Ticketmaster.

A second round of the ticket ballot is said to be nearing, allowing more winners to be given passcodes to purchase tickets to the Led Zeppelin reunion at the Ertegün tribute concert. It is currently unclear whether or not passcodes issued in the second round will be transferable.

Goldsmith has said he intended for these rules to shut out scalpers from profiting from the concert. "We're not interested in that bunch of gangs of people who are doing this professionally, who are trying to profiteer out of the business," Goldsmith told the BBC.

The concert benefits the Ahmet Ertegün Education Foundation, a U.K. charity set up to "provide students with annual scholarships to universities in the UK, USA and Turkey," according to an official press release. "In addition, a music scholarship open to all will beestablished at Ravensbourne College in the UK."

Goldsmith serves on the board of the charity, along with Mica Ertegün, Ahmet's surviving wife; Bill Curbishley, who manages Robert Plant and Jimmy Page; Phil Carson, who was chief of Atlantic Records in the United Kingdom during the Led Zeppelin days; and film director Taylor Hackford.

Led Zeppelin rehearsing reunion concert set

You can speculate all you want about whether Led Zeppelin will play another show or possibly even a concert tour after the one-off reunion gig next month.

Why not speculate, instead, about the one thing we know is going to happen: the one-off reunion concert!

They have to play songs. What songs will they play?

In separate phone interviews with Sun Media in Canada, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page addressed this issue. Here's a portion of one write-up based on the interviews.

So what songs will Led Zeppelin play at its reunion concert next month?

The usual standards Stairway to Heaven, Kashmir and Whole Lotta Love? What about some obscure gems?

Neither Jimmy Page nor John Paul Jones would divulge anything yesterday in interviews with Sun Media, but they did provide a few clues.

"You don't want to give it all away," Jones said. "We played kind of the normal songs at the rehearsal."

In confirming that they'd "more than likely" play an acoustic or off-the-beaten-path song or two, Page said the band already has a "blueprint" of a setlist heading into rehearsals next week.

Here are my predictions:

  • "Rock and Roll" - they have to start the show off with Jason's drum intro leading into the sudden roar of Led Zeppelin and that predictable "been a long time" sentiment
  • "Good Times Bad Times" - they'll surprise us and pull off an excellent rendition of album one, track one; the vocals on it aren't all that high
  • "Houses of the Holy" - you know this is a band favorite; it's been included on Remasters, Latter Days and now Mothership; I originally had "The Rover" in this place but switched it to "Houses"
  • "The Song Remains the Same" - again, the sentiment is in keeping with the theme of the evening; plus, it's just such a rockin' tune and Jimmy will rule
  • "The Rain Song" - it's not on Mothership, but it's natural to follow "The Song Remains the Same" with this, so they might aswell finish what they started; it's interesting to note that in 1980 they played this without having played "The Song Remains the Same"
  • "No Quarter" - Jonesy just did a bunch of orchestra-sounding stuff, so they'll let him continue to dominate with his absolute trademark keyboard song; perhaps in the lower key of C# minor like on Houses of the Holy rather than D minor as they played in concert; Jason won't sit out for very long at all; piano solo will be relatively short, like on 1973 versions and studio album; Jimmy and Jonesy may jam with Jason pretty long after keyboard solo, though
  • "What Is and What Should Never Be" - a Jimmy favorite, definitely in a lower key for Robert's sake, such as D; I was just listening to the version on Unledded a couple nights ago, and Robert was straining to hit some of those high notes

Before I continue, here's a side note on the lower keys I'm predicting for songs. Don't forget that in an article published Sept. 14, electric musical instrument manufacturer Hugh Manson tells the Exeter Express & Echo:

"Some of the songs [at the reunion concert] will be in a lower key than usual and, while you can tune a guitar to accommodate almost any note, the best way is to make an instrument to do the job - and that's what this is. In fact, all the basses used by the band in the concert will be ours."

John Paul Jones has long been a client of Hugh and his brother, Andy; Andy makes acoustic instruments, and Hugh makes electric instruments. An edition of "On This Day In Led Zeppelin History" from April 28, 2003, has more on the Manson brothers.

Ever onward! The acoustic set:

  • "Going to California" - it's been done at so many Jones and Plant concerts, but they just have to do this one together again; it gives Jason the first part of a nice two-song break
  • "That's the Way" - some of you may call me a heretic, but they should give Plant a rest on this and install Jonesy on lead vocals, which he took during his last solo tour
  • "Tangerine" - Page's song, with Jonesy playing a triple-neck guitar and offering a nice mandolin solo; in this place, I originally had "All My Love" because it's a radio staple chosen for Mothership, but it's Page's least favorite song of the Zeppelin catalog, so I think it would be nixed if suggested
  • "Nobody's Fault but Mine" part 1 - they start this one off with the Unledded rendition in the key of G and then ...

Back to electric:

  • "Nobody's Fault but Mine" part 2 - ... they drop their acoustic instruments and finish the song with the full electric onslaught
  • "When the Levee Breaks" - OK, stay with me on this; the song is played three half-steps lower so it's in D; Page switches to a custom bass so that Jonesy takes the lead on lap steel guitar; Plant pulls out his G harmonica and takes a solo before singing two different verses about three times each; where most fans would be expecting a guitar solo from Page, Jones awes everybody on lap steel
  • "Dazed and Confused" - this will be close to the length of the first-album version but also includes some portions of "Achilles Last Stand"

  • "Stairway to Heaven" - yes, they're going to play it, no question, and it'll be great; personally, I really liked the version they did with Jason at the Atlantic Records 40th Birthday in 1988 (see above), and I thought Robert sounded great on it regardless of whether he was remembering the lyrics properly; he should be well-rehearsed this time
  • "Kashmir" - a powerhouse of a song to close the regular set


  • "Black Dog"
  • "Heartbreaker"
  • "Whole Lotta Love" - Jimmy will steal the show during all three of these closing numbers

Why I don't like to play Led Zeppelin live

Led Zeppelin is my favorite band. I'm a musician. Why don't I really like to play their music live?

The answer relates to my theory about performing any cover song live. That theory stipulates that if you are going to play a song that has been done before, your performance had better really be something.

If it's a rockin' song, you had better plan on rockin' out at least as much as the original did, if not more.

If it's a subtle song, you had better plan on making a beautiful musical statement -- and keeping your audience enticed the whole way through.

Anything short of that, and there was no purpose in you attempting to do the song in the first place.

So, when it comes to playing Led Zeppelin's music, there's an awful lot to live up to. It is my favorite group, and it had four of the most amazing performers playing some of the greatest rock songs ever. How can you even touch that?

Luckily, I have been in a band for the last few years that has pulled off a rockin' version of "Kashmir." I was doubtful when the song was first suggested that we could pull it off anything like Led Zeppelin did. But it turns out that we rock it out as well as some live renditions. Good enough for me!

We've also played "Immigrant Song," but our renditions don't rock quite as hard as any by Led Zeppelin. That's one that I think ought to be dropped from the set list.

Our bass player felt the same way about the Rush song "Red Barchetta." He loves Rush, and that's one of his favorite songs of all time. But after we rehearsed it for about a year, he insisted that we were still to rough and the song needed to be dropped. Dude almost quit the band over it!

A few hours ago, I was at an open mic night in Alexandria, Va., for no other reason than to find out if this drummer who e-mailed me today is any good. The open mic night was run by a bandmate of his, this dude named Eric. I found out about the open mic night when I was researching the drummer, and I figured showing up and asking for a recommendation would just be, naturally, another part of my research on the drummer.

Well, turns out the drummer was there, and I didn't even know it at the time! That's what I found out when I asked the open mic night guy if he knew of any drummers who might be looking for a new band. He mentioned a friend of his, whose name matched up with that of the guy who had e-mailed me. I didn't let on that these guys were one and the same, so I could get an honest opinion about this guy. He raved about the drummer and said they had been playing together for a long time. My brain went ding-ding-ding!

I asked about the guy I had just seen leave a few minutes earlier, carrying a conga drum. Turns out that was this drummer, and I didn't get to speak with him! It's a shame, too, because I had almost chased him down outside to ask if that conga drum meant he was a drummer and happened to be looking for a band. Little did I know that this guy I almost tracked down outside was the guy I was researching all along.

So, anyway, I now have a good feeling about this guy -- and about his buddy who led the open mic night too. I had put my name in the ring to play some tunes on the 88-key Kurzweil keyboard that just happened to be three. When it was my turn to shine, I introduced my first number as one made famous by an Alexandria native; it was "Riders on the Storm" by the Doors. (A book was just published about the life and times of Jim Morrison in his D.C.-area hometown.) While I was playing this, the open mic guy started playing along on acoustic guitar. That was fun. I segued nicely from "Riders" into one I have never heard another keyboard player attempt, "Roundabout" by Yes. We played that full song together.

Next, I played an original that has a lot of weird chord changes. Although I wrote this song -- music and lyrics -- back in July 1994, I myself am not sure whether it is in the key of B or B minor! The guy on acoustic guitar followed along and played, though the song was unfamiliar to him. Kudos to him for keeping up with me!

After that, I looked at the time. I had been in a hurry to make a train into D.C. at 11:03 p.m., departing from a station that was a five-minute walk away. The time said 11:03 exactly, so since making that train was no longer a reality, I was no longer bound by the clock. Instead of leaving right there and then, I settled in for at least one more song.

To start, I played another one from my past, this one written about eight years ago by a friend of mine who was playing in a band with me in Pennsylvania. I led it straight into the closing portion of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," which I was sure the guitar player would pick up on right away -- and he did.

That's all I had planned on playing. Open mic guy kept me up there and asked if I could play "Breathe." Naturally! We played that one together. I sang both verses until the part when the album version would have transitioned into "On the Run." I was ready to start goofing around but heard the guitar player keep on going through the chord progression. So, I took a solo as we went through those chord changes a couple of times. After this, we skipped "Time" and completed it with me singing the "Breathe" reprise.

After this, the guy suggested some Steely Dan song I didn't know very well, so instead I played some bits from "Tarkus" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer. This alienated the guitarist, unfortunately, as pretentious ELP is wont to do, so he sat back as I played as much as I could of the song without making a fool of myself. Come to think of it, he started backing me during the keyboard solo in the "Stones of Years" section.

As soon as that was all over, so was open mic night, and the bar was pretty much ready to close. Before I left, the open mic night guy handed me his business card and said I should e-mail him to get the drummer's contact information (haha, little does he know I already have it!) and possibly to get together with him to jam sometime this weekend! It's cool how stuff works out.

Now, why did I pick the songs I did? Because I can play them well (and because I was confident enough in my pitiful singing that I could pull them off). Why didn't I go for anything by Led Zeppelin? Please. Do you really think a two-man bar atmosphere can do justice even to the simplest of Zeppelin songs?

Come to think of it, "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper" would have worked well. Dammit!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The film remains the same, but the sounds are vastly improved

The sound engineer behind the newest revisiting of Led Zeppelin’s film says next month’s re-release of The Song Remains the Same will look exactly the same as it did in 1976. What will be vastly different with this version is what you hear, says Kevin Shirley in an interview conducted over the weekend for Modern Guitars magazine.

As was the case with the DVD set released in 2003, the primary sonic output technology for this release is Dolby Digital 5.1 channel surround sound. What does that mean to a layperson? This is high-tech sound quality for the modern era.

“5.1 has made a huge difference in things. It’s like taking an 8-track and saying, ‘Does this work as modern DVD audio?’ It might have been state of the art back then, but it just doesn’t fly anymore,” explains Shirley in the interview conducted Saturday, Oct. 13, by Tom Watson, content director for Modern Guitars.

The film, whose theatrical debut was 31 years ago this month, captures the band at one height of its brilliant career. It concentrates mainly on a three-night tour-closing stand at New York’s Madison Square Garden in July 1973 and also embraces scenes of the band and its entourage at home, work and play.

The original project endured a change in directors a year into production. The end result is a hodgepodge of segments filmed either at those concerts or in the ensuing months. All of that footage will be included on the new release without any alteration. “It would have been a whole can of worms with directors, and legal hassles, and whatnot, if you started editing the movie,” Shirley explains.

So, the new project was essentially matching the 16-track audio recordings from each of the three Madison Square Garden concerts to fit the visuals included in the movie. “We started from scratch,” says Shirley. “Everything was reassembled from the ground up.”

Of course, this was done for the film’s original release, but some concert portions occasionally were not exactly synchronized to the audio. “If you look at the end of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ on the original movie, the visual’s from a completely different take than the audio,” Shirley notes.

Often, this was due to the original audio containing a “mistake” – assumedly things like a guitar note that is out of tune or a crack in Robert Plant’s voice. Such things would render a live recording unusable in the 1970s, but modern editing technology has made it possible for such occurrences to be manipulated and corrected. Given this technology, Shirley says, “I could fix the mistake and we could put the original audio back on there,” thus making the audio match the video.

The music that will be available on the CD soundtrack will closely match the audio presented on the DVD. Historically, the soundtrack has contained its own cuts unlike those in the movie. “What you hear on the new soundtrack CDs is what’s in the movie,” Shirley reveals. “They’re not two different things now.” One persisting difference is that the revisited soundtrack almost completely restores the original sets played in 1973 from start to finish. The movie, however, follows the running order of songs that was approved for theatrical release, and songs not included in the movie are presented separately as bonus features.

As Shirley is aware, the revisited soundtrack will surely be analyzed once it is released worldwide. For one example, “The Garden Tapes” is a site run by Eddie Edwards, an enthusiastic fan who has scrutinized every detail of the audio on every Led Zeppelin live release. (Edwards wrote me in September, saying, “Yes, I think I will be quite busy in a couple of months' time.”)

Shirley says he isn’t interested in that level of painstaking examination. To show this, he gave this sole interview to Modern Guitars magazine before heading off to Peru for a charity bicycle event. He’ll be biking for 11 days, and he doesn’t seem interested in any others at this time. Shirley says of the new releases:
"I hope people dig it, I really do. I'm not going to do a lot of interviews about it because these Internet days are very tough with some people analyzing things to death and obsessing over minute detail. It's really just for people to go and enjoy. The detailed analysis isn't really welcome - who cares if somebody says, 'You needed more cymbal in "Black Dog," or something like that. Enjoy the experience. Don't over analyze it. It's the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band playing a very good set of shows."
Music journalist Lisa Robinson, writing for Vanity Fair, has the following to say about Led Zeppelin’s new releases: “A great band is a great band. Frankly, it doesn't matter how many times these guys re-release this stuff; it always sounds better, still sounds modern, and still combines hard rock with blues, acoustic songs, and Eastern influences.”

Apparently, even Robert Plant had his doubts about the merits of the project going into it.
"What was very cool was Robert [Plant] would come to the studio and he's not a big fan of the original movie, I'd say he was probably a catalyst to the thing being re-done, and when he first came by he said, 'Oh my God, I don't want to hear this,' and he sat down and listened to it with his hands over his eyes. Then, he starts nodding his head and rocking with it and turns around with a big grin on his face and goes, 'It rocks, doesn't it?' Then he looks at the video and goes, 'We weren't half bad, were we.' It was great to experience that chrysalis, to see the butterfly coming out."
Plant ended up telling Cameron Crowe, who quotes him in the liner notes, that the project's end result captures "the warmth and the feel of the room and it sounded good." The room to which he is referring is Madison Square Garden. Watson asked Shirley where the audio point of view is for somebody watching the DVD in 5.1 Surround Sound. Shirley laughed as he answered, "You're sitting three rows back, in the center, just behind the gorgeous girl with blonde hair." Asked what the rear speakers will produce in the proper surround sound environment, Shirley answered:
"There are all sorts of things coming from the rear speakers. Audience, delays, and there are some elements coming back from the rears like in 'Dazed and Confused' - the violin bow thing goes all over the place when Jimmy's climbing up the mountain - some of the drum solos, and in the fantasy sequences the audio travels between the front and the back. So, you're sitting in the middle of this very interesting experience."
And it’s not just during the concert portions either. He continues:
"There are also the sound effects. There's the subway train that comes in the middle of the movie right before 'No Quarter' - the train comes from right behind you and through the middle of your head, which is pretty cool, actually. It's a surround experience, no doubt. It's not a concert with just some subtle rears."
The concerts depict Led Zeppelin at its best.
"They are explosive, they really are explosive. They're just so much on the edge the whole time, everyone's on the edge - Robert's performing, John Paul Jones is such a solid foundation, and Bonzo, John Bonham, what can you say? He's the rock. …

"Actually, there are a couple of things on the DVD menu, like where I've taken 30-second samples and they'll cycle around, and you could make a song just from those samples of them jamming. There's Soundgarden in there, and countless others. What makes Zeppelin so unique is that it wasn't just about one thing taken further, it was about so many things done in so many different ways."

Pre-orders accepted for remastered Roy Harper album with Jimmy Page solo

Pre-orders are now being accepted online for a newly remastered CD version of Roy Harper's 1971 album, which features Jimmy Page on one track.

This month marks the second time the album Stormcock will have been available on CD – it was first available in 1994 on Harper's label, Science Friction – although this new reissue improves on the old one sonically.

"Certain lines and certain words will not chop your ears off at high volume any more," says a quote attributed to Harper himself, displayed at a fan discussion site named after the album. "Bottom end is taken care of properly."

Recorded in 1970, the album's four tracks include the 12-minute opus "The Same Old Rock." It is the cut that includes Page's guitar solo. The album, originally issued on the Harvest label in 1971, credited the solo to the pseudonym S. Flavius Mercurius.

Preorders for the remastered disc and expanded 20-page booklet of expanded liner notes and photographs are now being accepted online at the Roy Harper Shop. Unexpected delays prevented the artist's official store from offering the album on the previously announced date of Oct. 15.

Harper has long been a friend of Led Zeppelin's members, becoming one of only two actual people named in a Led Zeppelin song title. Led Zeppelin III, released in 1970, closes with a blues medley titled "Hats Off to (Roy) Harper." (The other actual person named in a Led Zeppelin song title is Ian "Stu" Stewart, who contributed piano to Zep's "Boogie with Stu.")

Page also played on Harper's 1973 disc Lifemask, and Harper's 1975 album HQ includes John Paul Jones on bass. Harper and Page released an album together in 1985 called Whatever Happened to Jugula? Science Friction reissues of these albums are all available at the Roy Harper Shop.

As reported earlier on, the new Stormcock disc is also said to contain at least one hidden surprise fans might appreciate. "There are one or two secrets," Harper said of the reissue. "You may eventually spot them. It won't matter much to the general public that much, but it sure does matter to me."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Led Zeppelin going digital next month

Led Zeppelin is further being presented to the masses next month.

Already announced were the band's first reunion concert since the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in 1995 as well as the releases of a two-disc anthology and expanded live reissues.

Now a date has been set for the band's debut in the world of online digital media.

The band's songs, published by Warner/Chappell Music, are going online for sale on digital media sites on Nov. 13. The date coincides with the U.S. release of Mothership, a heavily promoted career-spanning CD set.

Another component of the group's entrance into the world of digital media is the availability of authorized cellphone ringtones using full Led Zeppelin songs.

"We are pleased that the complete Led Zeppelin catalogue will now be available digitally," Jimmy Page said in a statement. "The addition of the digital option will better enable fans to obtain our music in whichever manner that they prefer."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

How much did Led Zeppelin sell out?

An interesting mathematical equation appears in today's Washington Post. The mathematical equation is about the extent to which an artist is a sellout for allowing a song to be used in commercial advertising for a product (and be compensated for doing so).

The article uses Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" on Cadillac commercials as one of several examples. And it turns out that, once the equation is applied, Led Zeppelin's sellout isn't the world's biggest! Good to know.

The author's blog is here.

I'm down at the National Folk Festival in Richmond, Va., today. Mike Seeger (see previous post on his involvement on Raising Sand) is down here, and I'm hoping to say hello in person.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Promo photos taken of reunited Led Zeppelin

Thirty-eight rolls of film were shot of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones in a two-and-a-half-hour photo session on Oct. 6, according to a blog displaying the photo shown at right.

The blog posting, available here, explains that the photo session took place immediately following another photo session by Starbird.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Early Zep stint in Detroit ranks among top all-time shows

Journalist Jaan Uhelszki has written about Led Zeppelin on several occasions, but her latest mention of the group calls an early show in Detroit one of the 50 best gigs ever. The group's three-day stint in January 1969 at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit was attended by Uhelszki, as she recounts in the October 2007 issue of Uncut magazine.

Led Zeppelin's first album had just been released only days earlier when they spent the weekend in Motor City. They were only a few weeks into their first tour of North America. A print ad appearing a week earlier in the Fifth Estate misspelled the band's name as "Led Zeptelin." That's just how unknown the young group was at the time.

Pam Brent was at the third show reporting for Creem magazine. Despite using the word "capable" to describe the talents of both Robert Plant and John Bonham, she admitted in the article that appeared on March 29 that the band didn't leave a huge impression on her personally.

The opposite was true for future Creem reporter Uhelszki, then a 15-year-old working at the concert venue. She explains in Uncut that her job afforded her opportunities to stand onstage during performances, and that was the case for the Led Zeppelin weekend as the band made an instant impression on her with a show she recalls as containing only nine songs.

"Making sure I didn't ruin my brocade satin trousers, I managed to squeeze in behind Jimmy Page's Marshall stacks, moving centimetre by centimetre until I was almost on the same latitude as John Bonham's drum kit," Uhelszki writes. "So moved and transfixed by 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You,' and 'How Many More Times,' I found myself leaning on Jimmy's amps in order to take it all in.

"All four wore impossibly tight jeans and leather jackets, looking very little like the foppish dandies they later became," Uhelszki continues. "Page smoked a cigarette, the ash dangerously dangling only inches from his black leather jacket -- while we waited for Bonham to tighten some doo dad on his rather modest kit."

Led Zeppelin returned to the Grande Ballroom for a fourth show on May 16. "After that they sold out auditoriums," writes Uhelszki. She spoke to Page and Plant during the 1977 tour and reported on ticket sales of 700,000 in four cities, in a piece that first appeared in New Musical Express on June 11 and was reprinted in Creem the following month.

The October 2007 Uncut magazine is sold with a CD that includes the version of "Win My Train Fare Home" Plant recorded with Justin Adams in Timbuktu, Mali, at the Festival in the Desert in January 2002. The CD, titled Global-A-Go-Go! Celebrating 20 Years of World Music, also includes a cut by Tinariwen, a group from Mali that Plant in recent years has cited as one of his favorite acts. He has performed with and alongside Tinariwen, both at a tribute concert for the late Ali Farka Touré and at the 2003 Festival in the Desert (DVD, CD).

Uncut's "Best Gigs" feature lists Tinariwen's performance at the premiere Festival in the Desert two years earlier as No. 11 (Led Zeppelin in Detroit makes No. 46, topping shows by only the Arcade Fire, Nirvana, Guns N' Roses and Oasis). Nigel Williamson recalls the performance as "the most remarkable, unforgettable night I have ever experienced." Tinariwen just beats out an early U.K. show by The Who.

Jeff Buckley, another of Plant's favorite performers, also makes the cut, at No. 21, with a solo show on March 18, 1994, that started in the basement of one London bar and continuted at another venue down the street. "Bunjie's was too hardcore to bother with mics, and the somersaulting range of Buckley's voice was more apparent than ever," writes John Mulvey. "He played for an hour or so, and wanted to play longer, but the venue was closing."

Everyone there followed Buckley to the 12-Bar, where the singer-guitarist sat unaccompanied on a "miniscule stage" and "tried to play every songs he'd ever heard: The Smiths; Led Zeppelin ...," Mulvey writes. In fact, Buckley had covered the Page-Plant-Jones composition "Night Flight" from Zep's Physical Graffiti during a performance the previous summer in a New York cafe; a recording of that is now available on the Legacy Edition of Live at Sin-é released 2003.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Raising expectations: A rundown of the coming album by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

This piece originally appears in Issue 19 of the magazine Tight But Loose, published in January 2008. It is reproduced here with the permission of TBL publisher Dave Lewis. For TBL subscription information, visit

In yet another turn of direction, Robert Plant's collaboration with Alison Krauss has exceeded all expectations and garnered some of the best reviews of his career.

Raising Sand, a collection of obscure covers mostly in the folk tradition, pairs Robert Plant with one of the finest female voices of the bluegrass world. For people who have been following the twists and turns of Plant's long and varied career, it's really no immense surprise that his collaboration with Alison Krauss has taken place. Frankly, it's more of a surprise that this sequence of events didn't play out sooner.

Plant gave us a hint of his appreciation for Krauss in an interview for Classic Rock magazine published in January 2004. When speaking about his wide-ranging musical interests, he pondered, "You know, are people just stuck in particular channels; can somebody who likes Jane's Addiction really get into Alison Krauss? I don’t know. But as far as I can see, music is music." Toward the end of 2004, the next drop of a hint was presented when Plant and Krauss teamed up to harmonize on some songs at a tribute concert in Cleveland honoring Leadbelly.

From this meeting came the inspiration for further cooperation between the two singers. Recorded in 2006, Raising Sand demonstrates just how fruitful their partnership is: On several tracks, the singers' voices meld as if they were glued together. This makes it all the more appropriate the fact that one of the songs fades out with Plant and Krauss combining to echo a refrain of "Come on and stick with me, baby/ Come on and stick with me, baby." Truly, their voices have found a way to do just that, to Plant's apparent delight.

"I'd always liked harmony singing," he said in a promotional video for Rounder Records, "but I'd never been a part of anything in any band that ever went anywhere near harmony work, you know? You may put a third on as a part of the chorus or something back in the day, but not much." The album opens with two songs sung entirely in harmony, minus a few ad libs here and there.

As far as cover tunes go, this album resembles Plant's 2002 Dreamland album in that the songs chosen may not be instantly recognizable to any one listener. The one person who best knew all the songs in this case is the person who picked them out, T Bone Burnett. The product of a Texas upbringing, the Grammy Award-winning producer decided upon a fair amount of material dating back to the 1960s alongside some more recent picks.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Led Zeppelin promoter: Reunion tickets not transferable

In the most plain language available yet, promoter Harvey Goldsmith has just made it clear that anyone who paid for a passcode to the Led Zeppelin reunion concert is out of luck.

An e-mail delivered today to the winners of the first-round ballot process included Goldsmith's bold declaration, "If you have sold or have given away your passcode whomever you have sold / given it to will be denied entry into the concert."

This notification is the first to clarify that ticket orders placed with names that do not match those selected in the pre-registration process will be canceled, making more spaces in the upcoming second round of the ballot drawing.

Some people within the Led Zeppelin fan community have argued that the language used in the original ticket notification three days ago permitted resale of the passcodes. Any such ambiguity is cleared in Goldsmith's stronger pronouncement.

"Unless the original winning registration name and passcode match the ticket booking, the booking will be cancelled and you will be notified," Goldsmith's e-mail reads, in part. "All cancelled bookings will go back into the ballot for reselection."

Shortly following the Oct. 1 notification to ballot winners, more than 100 sellers on eBay claimed to offer passcodes to log in for Led Zeppelin reunion concert ticket purchases. In nearly all cases, the auctions demanded pricetags that exceeded the price of tickets themselves.

Goldsmith first responded to such resale of passcodes in a press release on Oct. 2, stating the following:
"Unfortunately a small number of unscrupulous people have decided to take advantage of the fact that they had been awarded the opportunity to purchase tickets. It is even more unfortunate that eBay and a number of ticket scalping sites have chosen to take advantage of this situation. Please note that unless the ticket, the code and correct identification match, those tickets will be invalid. Anyone who chooses to purchase tickets in this way will lose their money!"
Scott Colothan of Internet site Gigwise yesterday posted an article that summed up the opinions of some fans who thought Goldsmith was, in essence, ripping off fans. From that article:

One wrote: “Why are they making this so hard for everyone? True fans will fork out thousands and travel all over the world for these guys but they are being shafted by this fat git!!”
Another disgruntled fan added: “Unfortunately this policy will hurt the fans who bought the codes not the seller who has already been paid.”

Know what? Cry me a river. Who's forking out the thousands? Who paid the seller? And you're blaming Harvey for shafting you?

We've known all along:
  1. It's a charity fundraiser. You should feel ashamed either raking in or shelling out large chunks of money that won't benefit the charity.
  2. A no-resale policy was announced the very first day.
  3. Anyone using the pre-registration site agreed to abide by its terms and conditions.


  1. Anyone selling an authentic, unique code knowing violated not only the terms and conditions but also the specific rules of the confirmation e-mail.
  2. Anyone buying a passcode, or a ticket, sold in this manner was knowingly violating the no-resale policy.
  3. Anyone buying a passcode, or a ticket, sold in this manner was knowingly making a scalper richer when the intention was to prevent that from happening all along -- partly because, what? Say it with me: It's a charity fundraiser.

Bottom line:

  1. If you really want to keep the scalpers from profiting, the last thing you should do is give them money.
  2. On top of that, if you thought you would be somehow rewarded for helping a scalper make money, you were grossly mistaken.

White, clean and neat: Jimmy Page's head of hair

Look at the calendar; this is October 2007. Jimmy Page is three months shy of 64. The guitarist is getting up there in age, and it's showing a little. Check out the latest images of him in this newly created photograph collection from Ross Halfin.

Jimmy Page's hair is gray.

Or is it white?

There are some new lines on his face.
He looks at his guitar as if it were a foreign object. Is this a sign of memory loss?

No, thank goodness he remembers how to play.

And how to rock.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Led Zeppelin scalpers are only defrauding buyers

A search on eBay using the terms Led Zeppelin and O2 would at first appear to nullify the efforts by Harvey Goldsmith to prevent "touts," or scalpers, from profiting from the resale of tickets to the biggest reunion concert of the century.

Ultimately, anybody using eBay to get themselves tickets to the Ahmet Ertegün tribute at the O2 arena on Nov. 26 will find out just who is being defrauded: the buyers. And who they have made rich, at least for the time being: the profiteering scalpers.

These scalpers have seemingly found a loophole through which they can make money regardless. It is one that appears not to be a violation of eBay's policy against the unauthorized sale of event tickets. It's not the tickets they're selling; it's simply a passcode that allows access to purchase on Ticketmaster's U.K. site up to two tickets to the event.

Think about the possibilities: If you have a legitimate passcode, you can go to eBay and sell and resell it, infinitely, as long as people keep buying the same passcode. Will it work for everybody? No, it will not work only for the first person to use the passcode; subsequent attempts to reuse the passcode will result in failure.

Won't the people who paid all that money to obtain your passcode feel cheated? Yes, they will, but smart sellers will have included in the terms of the sale an adequate disclaimer such as "Tickets are NOT included in this auction." The seller in one particular auction was particularly clear on this point, emphasizing:

You are bidding on a PASSWORD to see Led Zeppelin (Ahmet Ertegun Tribute) in London at the O2 Arena on November 26. Password is valid for purchase of 2 tickets.


Not that I'm advising anybody to defraud the public. Just the opposite, in fact!

These sellers may be exploiting a loophole in eBay's system. However, does that mean the process is still permissible? Whether this practice is illegal under any territory's laws remains to be seen, but it does seem an awful lot like fraud. Even if illegal, whether it would be prosecuted by any government is a whole separate matter. Investigations would have to transpire quickly in order to find out who is selling the passcodes; these auctions are around for only 24 hours, and the clock is ticking. Some even use the "Buy It Now" feature, allowing the sale to take place immediately, ending the auction. Besides, the 72-hour window under which this first round of tickets must be purchased is also closing.

All legal arguments aside, will the resale of these passcodes result in actual tickets being given to people who purchased them but who did not receive a passcode e-mailed to them by the promoters as part of the pre-registration process? No.

This is an important point that the buyers in such auctions are missing. Let me be clear: You and your guest will not be given tickets you have already purchased when you arrive at the concert venue in London if the name of the purchaser does not match the name of the recipient for that passcode.

The author of this blog has posted today a claim that this is what Harvey Goldsmith's office says it is going to do. Now that same claim is being reported in the press: See New Musical Express.

Those who purchase passcodes are allowing people to profit from illegitimate and unauthorized sales. These purchasers will also end up only hurting themselves by wasting money buying passcodes that will yield them only a mistaken claim to tickets they will never end up possessing. Those who sell, or claim to sell, passcodes associated with the Led Zeppelin reunion concert are anathema.

I can only hope that, from here on out, the words in the e-mail notifications --

The original conditions of sale will be enforced. These tickets are non-transferable and any resale will void the transaction without refund. ...

We are doing our best to keep the tickets for this event out of the hands of secondary ticket sellers and in the hands of the fans so please help us by adhering to the above.

-- are taken more seriously.

Monday, October 1, 2007

What a real concert notification looks like

By now, everybody who was lucky enough to be offered two Led Zeppelin reunion concert tickets in the first round has been notified via e-mail. Here's what an authentic e-mail will look like.

Somebody's e-mail notification has been forwarded to me (alas, I did not receive one). Since it is an HTML e-mail will graphics, etc., it starts with a line that says if it isn't showing up properly to click this link to bring it up in the Web browser. So, click that link to see it with the HTML, or just view below for the text; I have redacted some portions in an attempt to prevent fraudulent activity.

Congratulations we are very pleased to be able to offer you tickets for the Ahmet Tribute concert at the O2 Arena in London on the 26th November 2007. Please read the below information carefully before you proceed to booking, by continuing to the booking page you are agreeing to all the below.

  1. You have 72 hours to book and pay for your tickets.
  2. Your individual passcode can only be used once and will be invalid after the deadline as mentioned above has passed.
  3. NO tickets will be mailed out. All concert goers must pick up their tickets and non-transferable wristbands in advance of the show at the O2 Arena between 10am and 6pm on Sunday 25th November and between 10am and 6pm on Monday 26th November. To avoid long queues on the day of the show you are strongly urged to pick up your tickets and wristbands on Sunday 25th November or arrive as early as possible on Monday 26th November, please be aware that ticket collection will be busy at peak times and you should anticipate having to wait to be served.
  4. To collect the tickets each original purchaser and the person accompanying them to the show must be present in order to pick up the tickets and wristbands. NO exceptions
  5. Each original purchaser must provide the actual credit card used for the purchase along with valid state-issued PHOTO ID in order to receive the tickets and non-transferable wristbands. All wristbands will be fitted immediately.
  6. There will be no exceptions to the above, no name changes or letters of authorisation will be accepted under any circumstances.
  7. On the night of the show EVERYONE will be required to present BOTH the WRISTBAND and TICKET for entrance to the show. Wristbands must NOT be removed or tampered with prior to entering the show or your access will be refused. Original ticketholders must bring photo ID to the show as they may be required to present it upon entry to the venue.
  8. The original conditions of sale will be enforced. These tickets are non-transferable and any resale will void the transaction without refund.
  9. If you book the tickets and are unable to attend we will refund the face value of the tickets (£125 per ticket) if you contact us before the 20th October 2007. No refunds will be accepted after this date.
  10. Customers with disabilities should forward this email and contact phone number to to book accessible seating (subject to availability).

We are doing our best to keep the tickets for this event out of the hands of secondary ticket sellers and in the hands of the fans so please help us by adhering to the above.

Your Passcode is [redacted]

To purchase tickets please go to the below link and follow the instructions to enter your passcode. [redacted, but the link is to a page on]

Thank you for supporting the Ahmet Ertegun Education Fund we look forward to seeing you there! For more information and FAQ please go to

New month: Still awaiting ticket notification

Now that it is Oct. 1, it is odd that I know of nobody who has been notified that they may purchase tickets to the Led Zeppelin reunion concert. Originally, the plan was for lucky selected pre-registrants to have been notified by today, but that deadline was reported to have shifted along with the pre-registration deadline due to difficulties experienced in accessing the overloaded Web site. Has anyone been notified?

UPDATE: Thanks to the anonymous tipster who pointed out that the official Web site has been updated today to say the following:

1st October 2007
The registration has now closed. Successful applicants will receive
notification emails in the next 24 hours. For further information please see

The updated FAQs say:

If I am successful, how will I be contacted?
The ballot has now been drawn and the successful applicants will receive an email in the next 24 hours. This email will contain all the information you need to purchase your tickets.
What happens to any remaining unsold tickets?
Once the successful applicants have completed their purchases any remaining tickets will be offered in a second round of random selection of remaining applicants from the original registration.

When will the second round of tickets be offered?
Please keep checking this website for updates. ...

As such, any updates to that Web site will be carried here.