Led Zeppelin

(First published in June 2011 on Mybandtshirt)

By the spring of 1979, all of my friends were hitting each other with their rhythm sticks or posing for photographs pretending to be asleep next to Debbie Harry. The Old Rock Of The Seventies had been dealt a killer double death blow by punk, and even more so, by its own excesses in both substance and music. It was stumbling around, punch-drunk, and ready to throw the towel in. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal hadn’t quite been dreamt up by Gary Bushell and the rest of the Sounds writers, either.

But then Led Zeppelin announced that they were to play in the UK – for the first time since the legendary Earls Court ’75 gigs that some of our older brothers still talked about in reverential tones. The venue for this concert was a magical sounding place called “Knebworth” that we’d never heard of. Never knowingly accused of following fashion, I was still happily listening to Rush, Queen, the new L.A. Kids – Van Halen, Sabbath, Purple – and of course, the Gods of the lot, Zeppelin. It never occurred to me that there may be some correlation between my musical tastes and my lack of girlfriend, but that’s another story.

I implored my parents. I cried. I threatened to leave home. I begged and I pleaded, but the answer, like the song, remained the same. NO. I would not be attending. So I consoled myself with this t-shirt, bought by mail-order from the classifieds in the back of the Zeppelin fan club magazine, inexplicably called Tight but Loose – but never quite forgave my parents.

But happily the Knebworth gig is now available on DVD, well worth the watch. And I finally managed to see Zeppelin at the O2, years later.

Here’s how.

In November 2007, my friend John Davis, a Mastering Engineer, landed the enviable job or remastering some Zeppelin tracks for Mothership. As a result, Jimmy Page invited him to the O2 concert in memory of Ahmet Ertegun. Having a spare ticket and despite the fact that he could easily have funded a very nice holiday by selling it on Ebay – there were reportedly 20 million online ticket requests – John kindly took me along as his plus-one. Ludicrously, we were front row centre, seated next to the guys who pilot Jimmy’s yacht up and down the Thames.

After two songs, John turned to me and said, “Now I realise what all the fuss is about”.

Led Zeppelin rolled back the years and put on a performance that will forever be burnt into the memory of all who witnessed it. Lots of bands made great records, but very few could ever play live like them. By the third song in, Black Dog, I’d even almost forgiven my parents. But not quite.

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