Led Zeppelin Smash Tour

Led Zeppelin Smash Tour

September 27, 1971

Grapevine 

Canadian Edition

England’s high flying super group, Led Zeppelin, is only one of ­­a growing number of monster acts which have withdrawn from the press interview scene. Discouraged by ridiculous reviews and false quotes, Led Zeppelin had done no interviews this year prior to their arrival in Toronto, according to manager Peter Grant.

We at GRAPEVINE consider it a huge compliment that Led Zeppelin have once again chosen the Canadian rock journalist, Ritchie Yorke, to exclusively discuss their latest album and other topics. A long-time friend of the group (he was actually the first writer to predict superstar stutus for Zepp), Yorke was with them for the entire duration of this visit to Canada.

The group also asked him to introduce them to 17,000 fans assembled at Maple Leaf Gardens – marking the fourth time which Yorke has emceed a Led Zeppelin concert in Toronto. There has, we should hastily add, only been four Zepp concerts in Toronto thus far.

It could well be that honest journalism brings its just rewards. In any case, because of the length and depth of this comprehensive rap between Yorke and Jimmy Page, we have chosen to run it over two issues.

COMPLETE WORLD EXCLUSIVE

TORONTO – The small, sleek jet zooming Led Zeppelin into Toronto for a one-nighter was almost two hours late. When the jet finally touched down on Canadian soil after a 55 minute flight from New York, there was less than an hour to wiggle through Customs, climb into two chauffeured limousines and whisk through 15-miles of congested traffic before arriving at the backstage doors of the huge Maple Leaf Gardens.

The private jet waited on the tarmac in Toronto while the group swept superbly through more than two hours of concert and then rushed back to the airport to fly on to Chicago. Less than five hours on Canadian soil for a fee of more than $50,000. The latest Led Zeppelin tour — their fifth — includes only 20 gigs, but it will gross in excess of a million dollars.

It will also substantially help to sell at least 2,000,000 copies of the band’s new album, which will be released within four weeks, and is NOT called Led Zeppelin 4.

Before over 17,000 fans at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, the group performed three of the cuts from the new LP, and they were well received. But it was the familiar material — the rock classics such as You Shook Me, Communication Breakdown, Dazed and Confused and the thundering masterpiece, Whole Lotta Love — which drew the heftiest applause.

Despite the oft-heralded downfall of hard rock Led Zeppelin is living, loving proof that although James Taylor is going fine, he has quite a ways to go before reaching the superstar success level of the Zepp or their U.S. counterparts, Grand Funk Railroad. Led Zeppelin drew the reportedly largest rock crowd over 20,0000 in Vancouver’s history a week before; they sold out Madison Square Garden in New York; and they smashed box office records across the continent, proving yet again that the current scene has no act to come within a country mile of their popularity.

It’s been almost a year since the release of the last Zepp album, and the ensuing hit single, Immigrant Song. Since then, Grand Funk have meteored into the U.S. musical mainstream, and England’s Black Sabbath have likewise gained a lofty foothold in the popularity stakes almost overnight. The sudden success of these two (or more likely, the general realization of the actual depth of their success) has tended to overshadow Zepp of late.

The continued delays on the release of the fourth Led Zeppelin album have been a contributing factor, and no-one is more upset about its lateness than the members of the group. The album had originally been planned to co-incide with the current tour, but several mixups have shoved its release date into mid-October.

Earlier in the summer, there were several well- based rumors that members of Led Zeppelin were somewhat dissatisfied with their lot, and were preparing to call it a day. A subsequent meeting, however, was able to put everything back together again, and the Zepp are now more solid than ever.

“We just hadn’t had any time to sit down and get a balance on things,” Jimmy Page quietly explained as we tore down the bitumen away from the airport. “Now it’s much more together,” he continued, raising his voice over the combined backseat noise of Robert Plant, “Bonzo” Bonham and John Paul Jones who were alternately rapping and dial-twisting to find some funk on the Toronto airwaves. Eventually they located Dion doing The Wanderer, and the threesome sat back in ecstasy to dig the black from the past.

“We’d been touring so much earlier in the year,” Page resumed, “and I think everything tended to lose proportion. It was rough for a little while. But we now plan on doing a lot more things than previously.”

At the end of the current American tour, for example, the Zepp fly back to England for a brief rest (and the supervision of long- awaited studio installations in the homes of Page and Paul Jones) before commencing a series of British concerts.

We eventually arrived at the Gardens half an hour late, and Page was clearly concerned about the group’s lack of punctuality. People were pouring into the dressing room and talking louder and louder as Page tried to tune his ace to Paul Jone’s bass. The noise had reached a distinct drone when Page suddenly turned around and told everyone to please leave.

The road managers hustled around and cleared the room of all but a couple of people, which didn’t include the official photographer who had come down to snap the group receiving numerous Canadian gold disc awards. “They just try to talk over you,” said Page, with a look of well-deserved exasperation. “They’re so used to talking over the sound of the radio and TV at home, that they just don’t have any consideration. How can you tune if you can’t even hear your own guitar?”

While Page and Paul Jones completed their tuning, Bonham changed clothes and swigged from a bottle of beer. Plant downed a couple of lemon teas, and then squeezed into an embroidered vest which barely covered the upper half of his mid riff. Page put down his tuned guitar to eat a sandwich, and Plant fooled around with another guitar. Then surrounded by police and security men, they hurried out of the dressing room and climbed up on to the nine foots stage, which was presumably designed to keep the faithful at bay. The police still go along to every super-group concert anticipating a riot. Still there’s nothing like being prepared. Boy Scouts aren’t always wrong.

It was a good gig, despite such tough odds as the stage, countless ushers racing around brandishing their torches like laser guns, and 90 degree heat.

After two encores and 140 minutes of music, the group climbed off the stage, jumped into the limousine and sped back to their jet. There was no time for a change of sodden clothes, even a couple of minutes of relaxation or anything less than a breakneck rush to the airport.

There was just a couple of cokes, half a case of beer and a portable tape recorder as Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones tried to reflect on the Toronto concert and also give the group’s first press interview anywhere this year. We rapped about an extremely diverse variety of subjects – from the next Led Zeppelin album to Elton John’s stage gear; from Paul McCartney’s comments to Page about his Ram LP, to George Harrison’s surprising no show at the Zepp gig in Los Angeles; from the declining importance of the urban studio to the absurdities of the police riot in Milan recently.