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Fifty years ago, entering into 1969

posted Jan 14, 2019, 8:24 PM by Steve Sauer   [ updated Jan 14, 2019, 8:27 PM ]

It’s a great time to be a Led Zeppelin fan! Fifty years ago, throughout this very week, American rock music fans were getting their hands on a piece of vinyl called “Led Zeppelin” for the very first time. The band had been on tour in the US since Christmas — oh, and one night in Canada…

They were in San Francisco three days at the Fillmore West, then moved on to Iowa at a time when Jimmy Page reported back to the UK that all anybody can talk about is, “How soon can we get a hold of the album?” Local radio stations were turning people onto Led Zeppelin, if they’d been able to get advance copies of the album. Now, it was being released to the public, thanks to Atlantic Records.

This is what “Carol Miller’s Get the Led Out” has been discussing in its calendar podcast, featuring my contributions. This can be streamed or downloaded exclusively using the iHeartRadio app. This also airs as a daily feature on select classic rock stations in the US. In the matter of the next few months, we’ll be chronicling the period 50 years ago during which Led Zeppelin continued to tour the US on the strength of their first album, all while preparing their follow-up. Back home in England, Led Zeppelin withheld release of their debut album in the UK until after a series of recordings and broadcasts for the BBC.

Over the final three months of 2018, I published a dozen special editions of my own online newsletter, “On This Day In Led Zeppelin History,” honoring the 50th anniversaries of several key events of the year that both Cream and the Yardbirds disbanded and Led Zeppelin was formed, 1968. These are as follows, interspersed with episodes of “Carol Miller’s Get the Led Out” calendar podcast.

Too Good

On this day in 1968, Led Zeppelin’s debut album recording sessions continued with the band laying down as many as eight different songs on one particular day. Six of these turned up on the album, one went unreleased for longer than 46 years, and one title remains a mystery to fans. | READ MORE | Published Oct. 3, 2018

Back At Last from the U.S.A.!!

On this day in 1968, the newly assembled four-piece band still being called "The Yardbirds" played their first British show. Since it was billed as "The Yardbirds," the people taking out an ad to publicize the band bragged that they were "Back At Last from the U.S.A.!!" Fact check: In the spring, Page had returned from America for the last time with his former Yardbirds bandmates of Keith Relf, Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty, who had since all been replaced by Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and John Bonham, although their band name had failed to change. | READ MORE | Published Oct. 4, 2018

Hats Off to Bert Berns

On this day in 1968, another recording session took place for the so-called Yardbirds at Olympic Sound Studios. Although the process of recording Led Zeppelin’s debut album was ongoing, this day’s recording included several takes of a song that wouldn’t be released for another 25 years. It was recorded under the title “A Tribute to Bert Berns,” referencing a producer who had died of a heart attack 10 months earlier, at age 38. | READ MORE | Published Oct. 10, 2018

Naming the beast

On this day in 1968, the Melody Maker ran a report on Jimmy Page’s new band. The name “Led Zeppelin” wasn’t mentioned. That’s because Page didn’t quite know what to call his band, either. | READ MORE | Published Oct. 12, 2018

Everything but the kitchen sink

On this day in 1968, the last known recording session for Led Zeppelin’s debut album took place at Olympic Sound Studios in London. It didn’t take much time for this album to be put together: only 36 hours or fewer in the studio, on several days since Sept. 25. “They were very hard-working,” says recording engineer Glyn Johns, who’d been used to working on studio sessions for The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. | READ MORE | Published Oct. 15, 2018

Beginnings of the Thunder Quartet

On this day in 1968, the band now officially changing its name to Led Zeppelin made its London debut. The first of two “Yardbirds finale shows” was taking place in what Jimmy Page considered to be “the main blues club in town, the Marquee.” Six years earlier, when he was 18 and living at his parents’ home in Epsom, London was a train ride away, and the Marquee club was where he could show up for jam sessions on blues nights. Each Thursday at the Marquee, he’d emulate those six-string-wielding sidemen he was hearing on blues records by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, imported from the United States. | READ MORE | Published Oct. 18, 2018

Smoldering, ready to explode onstage

On this day in 1968, the band one day away from becoming Led Zeppelin played the last of two “Yardbirds finale shows,” this time at Liverpool University’s Mountford Hall. Glen Colson was a roadie for the band around this time and particularly remembers this gig. He was brought on by Kenny Pickett, who himself was now roadying after having been lead singer for the band The Creation. “I did about six or seven gigs with them,” says Colson... | READ MORE | Published Oct. 19, 2018

Tonight! The Ex-Yardbirds

On this day in 1968, the first gig booked with the new band name Led Zeppelin took place at the University of Surrey. One of John Bonham’s former bandmates — Reg Jones, ex-singer and guitarist for A Way of Life — remembered this gig in a passage of “Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band” by Barney Hoskyns. He said, “I drove John and Robert to their first engagement as Led Zeppelin in my Jaguar. It was at Surrey University. There was a huge banner hanging outside that read — in big letters — ‘Tonight! The Ex-Yardbirds.’ Underneath, in small lettering, it said, ‘Led Zeppelin.’ After the gig, I couldn’t start the Jaguar and we all came home on the train.” | READ MORE | Published Oct. 25, 2018

Now hear this

On this day in 1968, a memo was composed for the attention of Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, indicating Jimmy Page would be in New York on Nov. 11 for the signing of Led Zeppelin’s recording contract with Atlantic Records. Executives at the New York meeting would be treated to a private listening session of Led Zeppelin’s already-completed debut album, according to this early document signed on the band’s behalf by attorney Steve Weiss. | READ MORE | Published Oct. 30, 2018

The benefit of good timing

On this day in 1968, Cream completed their farewell tour in the US, and meanwhile, Led Zeppelin were exactly one week away from a signing ceremony with Atlantic Records that couldn’t have been timed better. Cream were breaking up due to incendiary tensions within the combative power trio. Their disbanding was not only a hit to the US concert scene but also to the revenue stream of Atlantic’s subsidiary, Atco. Cream’s US tour was a farewell tour, and their followup album was going to bear the title “Goodbye.” | READ MORE | Published Nov. 4, 2018

They got it

On this day in 1968, Led Zeppelin secured a record deal in New York with Atlantic Records. At the label’s Broadway office, representatives of the British band convened with label bosses for the signing of the deal. A calendar entry on Led Zeppelin’s official website states: “In November 1968, Jimmy Page travels to New York with Peter Grant, armed with master tapes of the group's first album. [Atlantic’s] Ahmet Ertegun [and] Jerry Wexler, [and Zeppelin] attorney Steve Weiss meet with Page and Grant at Atlantic’s office (1841 Broadway, NY - November 11th, 1968). Jeff Beck is also in attendance, who was on his North American tour. They then travel to Miami for a short trip, including a fishing expedition. A reported $200,000 advance is soon announced - a monumental sum at the time.” | READ MORE | Published Nov. 11, 2018

Those Were the Days

On this day in 1968, Cream’s final farewell show in London helped to paved the way for Led Zeppelin. Cream’s back-to-back nights at the Royal Albert Hall marked not just the end of Cream but also the end of an era, one on which Led Zeppelin would be all too eager to capitalize. | READ MORE | Published Nov. 26, 2018

Gonzaga '68

On this day in 1968, a new era of Led Zeppelin’s touring days is ushered in as they play their fifth show opening in the Pacific Northwest for the Vanilla Fudge. An individual within Gonzaga University’s John F. Kennedy Pavilion manages to run a tape recorder for almost an hour, capturing Led Zeppelin’s final set of 1968. In all, about 300 live dates of Led Zeppelin’s over the next 12 years would be recorded, of which this show in Spokane, Washington, appears to be the first. | READ MORE | Published Dec. 30, 2018

In 2019, I’ll be using my own newsletter less as I contribute more to “Carol Miller’s Get the Led Out,” including on the show's Facebook pageand in the previously mentioned podcast, available exclusively via iHeartRadio. This is a topic I've long enjoyed writing about, simply because the music has remained my favorite.