The Grateful Dead met Led Zeppelin once – in January 1969, Zeppelin were playing at the Fillmore West, and they went to Herb Greene's photo studio in San Francisco for a photo session. The Dead were visiting the studio at the same time for their own session. Pigpen had a pistol, which he started firing at the ceiling.
Tom Constanten wrote in his book, “Pigpen made Led Zeppelin awfully nervous with his six-shooter once at a photo session, drawing a bead on weather vanes and cupolas visible from Herb Greene’s San Francisco loft. Didn’t hit anything, but he looked so mean…it had to crack you up if you knew him.” Weir explained, “He was just fuckin’ around. He wasn’t trying to get on anyone’s nerves, he wasn’t trying to scare anybody.” Nonetheless, Led Zeppelin fled the studio - as Weir said, they left so fast, “we didn't even see them leave. 'Hey, what happened to those guys?'” [McNally 285]
Herb Greene has written about the incident:
“The session was rolling along when I got a phone call. It was Rock Scully, telling me, "we got a new band member [Tom Constanten], so we need a picture right now – we're downstairs!"... I told him that I was kinda in the middle of something, but they came up anyway... Pigpen was wearing a little .22 revolver, in a holster, and he pulled it out and started firing it off into the theater seats. I guess I was almost done with the session when all this happened, because it was pretty disruptive, ha ha! Actually, it freaked Zeppelin out. They exclaimed, "these westerners and their guns!" In fact, Led Zeppelin got so distracted, that they quickly left and didn't pay me…
In retrospect, when the Dead called, I maybe thought OK, this is great, hands across the seas, we'll have a party, but that didn't happen. The Dead didn't want to hang out, they were just there to get a photograph. There was no interaction at all between them, no curiosity. Garcia didn't want to talk to Page, and I don't think Led Zeppelin even knew whom the Grateful Dead were.”
The Dead didn’t know who Zeppelin were, either. Jimmy Page was known from the Yardbirds, but the rest were unknowns in America. Zeppelin had only been together a few months, and this was their first American tour, so the Fillmore audiences didn’t know what to expect apart from more Yardbirds-type music. Zeppelin’s approach at that point was not so different from other noisy blues-rock bands like, say, Ten Years After or the Jeff Beck Group, very similar predecessors. (Vanilla Fudge, a popular loud band at the time, were also an important influence on Zeppelin’s sound.)
But Led Zeppelin had an immediate seismic impact on audiences, who went wild over them. Somewhat amazingly for a new unknown band whose first album was only released that week, most of their run at the Fillmore West was actually taped! So we have most of their sets from the January 9-12 run. (In contrast, not a single known audience member bothered taping the Dead at the Fillmore West in early '69.)
Much like what had happened with Cream, these first San Francisco shows would be an important point in the band’s history. The shows were the longest Zeppelin had played, as the audiences encouraged them to stretch out. Plant in particular was digging California, and told the audience on the 11th, “We’ve decided that we’re gonna come and live here, cause you’re so nice!”
Jimmy Page remembered, “We got to San Francisco and…we really started to play from that point on. We were playing all right before, but from that point it was really gelling more. The rest of the boys had gotten more accustomed to the American audiences… They felt they could relax more on stage. Right there is when it started happening. From then on we could see that there was some sort of reaction to us, but still, nobody ever expected it to get into a really big thing… We got standing ovations for each set for the four nights at the Fillmore West. It was really unbelievable.”
John Paul Jones called the Fillmore shows “the first milestone. I remember when we started the show there were just a lot of people standing there thinking, ‘Who the hell are you?’ We turned a very indifferent crowd into a lot of warm and receptive people.”
Page later said, “It was in San Francisco when we knew we’d really broken through… After the San Francisco gig it was just – bang!” He compared Zeppelin to the other San Francisco bands: “We were aware of dynamics at a time when everyone was into that drawn-out West Coast style of playing… The concept of psychedelic music was about roaming and roving, but never actually coming together. That’s why Zeppelin succeeded. There was a real urgency about how we played. Everyone would be getting laid-back, and we’d come on and hit ‘em like an express train.”
Country Joe & the Fish were the ones unfortunate enough to be playing after Led Zeppelin at the Fillmore. (Taj Mahal opened the shows.) Their loose jamming was quite a contrast from Zeppelin’s intense assault. One set was released as the Live! Fillmore West 1969 CD – the liner notes describe their long jams, “joined sporadically with an actual ‘song’… Flying High is played instrumentally and then somewhere in the middle of the piece, Joe counts it in and the song ‘starts’. On other occasions a song flows into a long extended collection of songs, sometimes with lyrics and sometimes without.”
Since these sets were recorded for a possible live album, we know that a couple Dead members jammed with Country Joe on those nights. On one night, Mickey Hart joined them at the end of a set to jam on Flying High. The Jerrysite notes that “KSAN-FM in SF once broadcast the final number of either 1/9 or 1/10, an awesome Flying High with Mickey Hart and Dave Getz sitting in.” Garcia, Hart, and others came on 1/11 or 1/12, for an almost 40-minute Donovan’s Reef jam (released on the CD) to end the show.
So it’s quite possible that Garcia and Hart heard Zeppelin’s set, and also that Zeppelin (if they hung around the Fillmore) heard these long jams. No telling what Garcia thought – of course, loud blues-rock and proto-metal groups were quite common in those days, and Zeppelin might not have struck him as anything new. (After the run, on January 13 the Dead would jam with Fleetwood Mac at their rehearsal space, as Zeppelin headed to San Diego.)
At least one member of Zeppelin seems to have paid some attention to Country Joe’s sets. John Paul Jones was asked about these shows in a recent interview –
Q: In 1969, [my father] went to the Fillmore West in San Francisco to see his favorite band, Country Joe and the Fish. [Jones starts laughing. Led Zeppelin was the opening act.] He went to see a calm concert. Led Zeppelin started burning guitars and breaking things.
Jones: No, we didn't do that! We were musically just bloody noisy, and musically we were fairly abrasive.
Q: Not at all like Country Joe and the Fish.
Jones: Although, I think we shared similar attitudes. So if you went for a quiet evening of a silent protest and some country music, we wouldn't have sounded very good. Country Joe and the Fish liked us.
Q: You got along with those guys?
Jones: Yep. We got along with them fine… To be honest, most of what Country Joe was doing was just a band of friends going on stage. They would play, start a song and drift into another song, which sounded really great. And we would just go on and go "bang, bang, bang" with three driven songs with solos, and people must have thought, "What did we just see?" And there was nobody else doing that at that time. I'm sure it had a lot to do with the success. We got four numbers in by the time most bands had tuned up.
We can compare Zeppelin’s bootlegged sets with the Country Joe release (the Zeppelin shows are up on youtube, although the sound quality is really poor). Zeppelin play the material from their first album: they aren’t quite as hard-hitting as they’d later be, and the songs are shorter than they’d become, with the improv kept reined-in. They sound crude and raw, and there’s a dark, tumultuous feeling to their blues sets, Plant wailing and blowing harmonica over Page’s intense solos. Aggressive, dramatic stuff – they had a talent for pulling in the audience’s attention with their threatening sound.
Coming after that, despite some fiery guitar playing and thunderous Jack Casady bass, Country Joe sounds pretty loose and unfocused. It’s very representative of a San Francisco night – “a band of friends going on stage,” as Jones observed, jamming and drifting through songs in a succession of long-winded solos; what Page called “that drawn-out West Coast style of playing.” Much of it’s still hard-rocking – even Zeppelin-like at times! – but it’s a set like this that Page heard as “roaming and roving, but never coming together.” It’s a different perspective – for all the musicians involved, the Donovan’s Reef jam flows quite well and even gets downright hypnotic.
There are claims that Led Zeppelin had opened when Country Joe toured Scandinavia in November ’68, but this is not so – Zeppelin were playing in England at the time. However, Country Joe did play again with Led Zeppelin at a couple Scandinavian shows in March 1969. This time, Country Joe opened! A Swedish newspaper reviewer was not too impressed: “Led Zeppelin Better Than Tired Country Joe: Even though Country Joe & The Fish was the big name at Friday night’s concert in Stockholm, Led Zeppelin did a much more interesting performance. If one was disappointed at Country Joe & The Fish, one was happier to hear Led Zeppelin.”
The Dead and Zeppelin did not cross paths again. Zeppelin played the Atlanta Pop Festival two days before the Dead in July 1969. (Zeppelin were also invited to play at Woodstock, but their manager declined.) And on 9/19/70 while the Dead were playing the Fillmore East in NYC, Zeppelin were playing one of their best shows of the year over at Madison Square Garden. Both bands also toured through the South in May 1977, but managed to avoid playing the same cities. (Although dedicated fans in Alabama could’ve seen the Dead in Tuscaloosa on the 17th and Zeppelin in Birmingham on the 18th, just an hour’s drive apart…)
Also, in 1973, Led Zeppelin played Kezar Stadium on June 2, one week after the Dead had played there. It was a noisy occasion that pretty much ended music concerts at Kezar Stadium! But one of the bands that opened for Led Zeppelin that day was the Tubes, with Vince Welnick…
One unfortunate band did get to play after both Zeppelin and the Dead, in the same week. Poor Iron Butterfly never knew what hit them – not only did they have to follow Led Zeppelin at the Fillmore East at the end of January ‘69, then they had to follow the Dead at a couple midwest shows in early February! Iron Butterfly couldn’t quite compete with their underground openers – a couple attendees of the Dead shows on the Archive have mentioned, “Iron Butterfly was put to shame that night,” and “the contrast between the two bands was something to behold.”
Bear said of the 2/5 Kansas City show, “We had to help the Butterfly’s marginally competent roadies with setting up their gear. The IB fans who filled the hall were in such a state of shock after the opening set by GD that it was nearly halfway through their beloved Butterfly’s set before they came round and starting jumping.”
The situation in St Louis on 2/6 was even worse – one Archive witness writes that the Dead’s set “was supposed to end with Lovelight. But…after listening to the Dead burn the house down, Iron Butterfly didn't want to come out. So, the Dead came back on to play a "few more minutes" and proceeded to add insult to IB's injury with the Cryptical sandwich & Feedback…” [On the tape you can hear the Dead decide to keep going after Lovelight when Iron Butterfly doesn’t come on.]
This followed the even more humiliating evening at the Fillmore East on 1/31 – you can hear on the audience tape, midway through the set when Plant says the band has to “cram as much as we can into the next twenty minutes,” someone in the audience shouts, “To hell with the Butterfly!” After Zeppelin’s set (Mick Wall writes) “the crowd began stamping their feet and chanting, ‘Zeppelin! Zeppelin! Zeppelin!’” According to the LZ Concert File, “Iron Butterfly waited a full 45 minutes before taking the stage… ‘When they finally appeared it was anticlimactic to say the least.’” Iron Butterfly had actually asked that Zeppelin be dropped from the bill, fearing this would happen; and when they finally dragged themselves on, Peter Grant recalled, “The audience was still going ‘Zeppelin! Zeppelin!’ when Iron Butterfly started their set… [They] were very despondent about following us on stage.” Supposedly, Iron Butterfly refused to play the following day.
(To add to the band’s troubles, Iron Butterfly was invited to play Woodstock that year, but got stuck at an NYC airport, and nobody at the festival bothered to pick them up! Iron Butterfly had the last laugh, though. Their In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album sold more than probably most of the Dead’s albums put together, and they are still playing it live to this day.)
It’s interesting to wonder how the Dead would have responded if they’d been on the same bill with Led Zeppelin. In early ’69 the Dead were still in noisy-rock mode much of the time, playing fast & furious sets ending with bouts of feedback.
The Dead had certainly played next to British hard-rock groups before. They’d gone through something of a trial by fire following the Who at Monterey in ‘67. As the Who set off smoke bombs and smashed up their equipment, Lesh had said, “We have to follow this?” But the Dead acquitted themselves well, playing a distorted, hard-driving set.
The Dead also had to open for the Jeff Beck Group at the Fillmore East in June 1968. Far from being humbled, they played the intense, fiery set of 6/14/68, doing their best to match Beck’s guitar pyrotechnics.
Zeppelin, in turn, never mentioned the Dead, if they ever even noticed them. The one most likely to be in sympathy with the Dead was Robert Plant, who’d always yearned for the SF scene. Before joining Zeppelin, “I really just wanted to get to San Francisco and join up… I just wanted to be with Jack Casady and with Janis Joplin. There was some kind of fable being created there, and a social change that was taking place, and the music was a catalyst in all of that.” His band before Zeppelin specialized in covering California bands – Love, Buffalo Springfield, Moby Grape, etc. Page commented, “It was stuff that I didn’t personally like very much. He was a Moby Grape fanatic, and the group was doing all of these semiobscure West Coast songs.” Even Zeppelin would often cover For What It’s Worth or Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco in the middle of live versions of Dazed & Confused. (When Zeppelin did get to California, paradoxically they found Los Angeles much more to their taste, and made it their ‘second home’ in America.)
I doubt the Dead paid much attention to Zeppelin’s type of music (at least they never said so). Garcia was an open-minded fellow, though – the New Yorker article in ’93 mentioned him listening to “anything from Haydn string quartets to the Butthole Surfers,” and in ’78 he admitted to really liking Cheap Trick and the Ramones.
On the other hand, Garcia sometimes spoke out against fast, flashy guitar players. For instance, he did not like John McLaughlin’s playing; and in the ’85 Obrecht interview he was asked if he ever listened to Eddie Van Halen: “Not seriously, no. Because I can hear what’s happening in there. There isn’t much there that interests me. It isn’t played with enough deliberateness, and it lacks a certain kind of rhythmic elegance that I like music to have, that I like notes to have. There’s a lot of notes and stuff, but the notes aren’t saying much – they’re like little clusters. It’s a certain kind of music which I understand on one level, but it isn’t attractive to me.”
He could have said the same about Page’s playing, as it points out one difference between their styles – while Garcia played fluid, elegant long lines, Page played fast little clusters. Plant’s playing and stage presence was a lot flashier than Garcia’s, but he’s often accused of having more flash than substance.
Among hard-rock bands, Garcia especially admired the Who. He even went so far as to say, “The Who are one of the few truly important architects of rock ‘n’ roll. Townshend may be one of rock’s rare authentic geniuses.” To some extent, Zeppelin were patterned after the Who – from the lineup & aggressive style to the long show-closing medley, it's but a short step from Live at Leeds to a Zeppelin show from the same period. The musical similarities are so great, perhaps Zeppelin wouldn’t have been entirely alien to Garcia’s taste. On the other hand, as a Who fan he might’ve seen Zeppelin as being more derivative in their style and second-hand influences, copycats compared to the older, more pop-oriented Who.
Garcia once spoke about his introduction to the Who at Monterey:
“We were scheduled to go on after the Who. They had been out at our motel all the previous night trying to get Pigpen to come out. 'Cause they’d heard about Pigpen and they wanted to party with the Pig. He wasn’t having any, he wasn’t opening the door for no English guys. Anyway, we’d heard a little about the Who by reputation but we had no idea what their act was like. So we’re standing there watchin’ and their music is good, they’re playing solid and Daltrey’s singing good. Then they do ‘My Generation’ and do their destructo routine. We didn’t realize they’d made an art of blowing shit up. It wasn’t just something they did, they were good at it. So we’re standing there amidst the debris and smoke and it’s time for us to go on. I don’t think anybody even saw us, they were still recovering from the Who. So we went on and played our set and then Jimi came on and just annihilated the place and then he destroyed all his shit, too. We might as well not have been there.”
But strange as it seemed, disparate as their styles were, the Who & the Dead respected each other and played together again in October 1976. Kreutzmann writes, “After the Dead’s set the second day Pete came up to Jerry and told him that he was amazed that after watching two different shows the Dead had not repeated one song. The Who had been doing the same show for the last year and a half, Townshend told him.” (Zeppelin could have said the same thing.) Funnily enough, Townshend seems not to have been too familiar with the Dead’s music – he invited them to play with the Who on 3/28/81, but when he guested in the Dead’s show, he had some difficulty with the songs. “He was surprised at having trouble keeping up at some points because he thought the Dead never rehearsed.”
Garcia spoke about the same conversation with Townshend in a ’78 interview, when asked about the Who: “They’re great; I have a lot of respect for them and I admire what they do. However, I spoke to Pete Townshend before their set, and he was telling me that they’ve been playing the same show for four years. I mean, the same show… He was depressed about it – to have to do exactly the same numbers in exactly the same order for four years in a row, it’s not exactly a sign of progress. The guys are capable of more than that, they’re capable of better things.”
While it’s hard to imagine a “Day on the Green” between Zeppelin and the Dead (I shudder to think how the rowdy Zep fans would have treated the deadhead crowd), there are a few interesting parallels between the two bands, despite their lack of musical or personal connections.
Some young newcomers to the Dead in the '70s thought that, with a name like "the Grateful Dead" and all the skull imagery, they must be some Zep-type metal band!
(You have to admit, the What A Long Strange Trip cover with its blood-red Gothic letters over the black background does look pretty satanic…)
In 1970, Zeppelin started billing their shows as “An Evening With Led Zeppelin.” On some tapes of Led Zeppelin's March/April 1970 shows, the announcer starts the show by saying, "We present an evening with Led Zeppelin." And by Aug/Sep 1970, they were using "An Evening With Led Zeppelin" on their posters. The idea was that a Zeppelin performance would be not just a show, but an Event: there would be no opening act, and Zeppelin would play for as long as they wanted (often 2-3 hours). As Richard Cole wrote, “The band felt liberated… As the sole act on the bill, they would have full control of the entire show. And the idea excited them. Some nights, they felt like playing til morning.”
The Dead were thinking along the same lines, and they very quickly adopted the term as well for “An Evening With the Grateful Dead,” starting in May 1970. They may have heard of Zeppelin’s usage, or it may have been a common show-business term that they thought of independently. At any rate, their shows were even longer than Zeppelin’s (though including generous intermissions) – they really did play til morning several times in 1970, while I’m not sure Zeppelin ever did. (I think the longest known Zeppelin show was said to be four and a half hours.)
http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2009/12/garcias-unidentified-guests.html (see comments)
Zeppelin and the Dead were both famed for playing long shows, but Zeppelin seems to have felt more trapped by this than the Dead did. John Paul Jones said, “Things got extended a lot… Every tour we tried to cut it down, especially in the later years. We’d say we’re only going to play an hour and a half. After a week, it would creep back up to two hours. By the end of the tour, it’s three hours!” Some tours did follow this pattern, as the marathon shows became ever longer til they approached four-hour lengths – versions of No Quarter or Dazed & Confused could be over 40 minutes long as the band wandered in endless solos. By their last 1980 tour though, Zeppelin were keeping things more concise and managed to keep their shows to about two hours long.
Both bands also did acoustic sets in their electric shows. The Dead started doing acoustic sets in December 1969; Zeppelin didn't start doing the 2-or-3-song acoustic interlude in their shows until about August 1970. The Dead’s acoustic sets were very rare (mostly confined to 1970 and a brief period in 1980) – Zeppelin’s acoustic segments, while shorter and usually limited to the same four songs, were more frequent, though they still came and went through the years. Zeppelin always placed their acoustic songs as a little breather in the middle of the show, the way the Dead did for a couple months in early ’70. “It was nice to have a rest, and it worked well for the dynamics,” said John Paul Jones. And while the Dead had to bring on David Nelson or David Grisman to add mandolin to their acoustic sets, Zeppelin already had a mandolin-player in Jones!
I should mention that acoustic sets were not entirely unique in 1970. One of the biggest groups of the day, Crosby Stills & Nash, split their shows between acoustic/electric portions, as did Neil Young; and probably other bands I’m forgetting. (Dylan had perhaps been the first to do this, starting back in late 1965.) So it was kind of a trend of the times. Zeppelin were the surprise in this bunch, being the last band fans in 1970 would expect to yank out acoustic guitars onstage – it was a sign they would be more diverse than people had first thought. Plant reported at the time, “We’ve got a few [new] things, and it’s all acoustic, folks! You can just see it, can’t you: ‘Led Zeppelin go soft on their fans,’ or some crap like that… It shows we can change. It means there are endless possibilities and directions for us to go in.”
Zeppelin took fans aback when they included so many acoustic songs on their third album, though they’d had some acoustic pieces from the beginning. Plant said, “The idea of using acoustic guitars and developing much more of a textural thing came about…[since] Whole Lotta Love had been such a statement, it was definitely time to veer over to the left and see how far we could take it in another direction.”
The Dead had also done an abrupt change of direction with Workingman’s Dead, when they left the jinglebell-rainbow world of psychedelia and embraced Americana. But in the case of the Dead, it helped make them more successful and increased their fanbase – at last, they’d gone mainstream and could be played on normal radio stations! With Zeppelin, though, their third album was one of their least successful, as listeners had been hoping for more hard-rock anthems and were confused by all the new folky stuff.
Page said in 1970, “We’ve started doing the acoustic things onstage and it’s been going off well…some places, though, it’s been a bit of a shock… The audience is hearing them fresh [since the album hasn’t come out yet] and there have been mixed reactions. They’ve always gone down OK, but you get the feeling that people prefer to hear the heavier stuff; which is a bit of a mistake because there’s a lot you can give, and the best thing is to show them what you can do altogether.”
Page griped to Cameron Crowe in ‘75, “The key to Zeppelin’s longevity has been change. We put out…a third LP totally different from [the first two], and on it went… A lot of reviewers couldn’t understand why we put out an LP like Zeppelin II, then followed it up with III with That’s the Way and acoustic numbers like that on it… Album-wise, it usually takes a year for people to catch up with what we’re doing… When the third LP came out…Crosby Stills & Nash had just formed…and because acoustic guitar had come to the forefront, all of a sudden [reviewers said]: Led Zeppelin go acoustic!”
Plant also admitted, “Led Zeppelin III was not one of the best sellers because the audience turned round and said, ‘What are we supposed to do with this? Where is our Whole Lotta Love Part 2?’ They wanted something like Paranoid by Black Sabbath! But we wanted to go acoustic, and a piece like Gallows Pole still had all the power of Whole Lotta Love, because it allowed us to be dynamic.”
There were countless acoustic segments in which Plant had to plead with the audience to calm down & be quiet. Zeppelin crowds tended to be considerably noisier and more rambunctious than the Dead had to face. Early acoustic songs were often interrupted by audiences whistling and shouting; Plant sighed in one show, “We’ve had a lot of abuse in the midwest, every time you sit on a chair and pick up a mandolin.” In another show he complained, “There’s such a thing as listening to what’s going on!… There’s a lot of people who are making a racket so nobody hears what’s going on… If the guy next to you is trying to listen, you’ve got to respect that and be quiet!” And in another show, he reminded everyone, “The essence of these numbers we wanna do now is silence. Remember that! The crying of voices doesn’t really take us back to the Welsh mountains. Now cool it!” The Dead, of course, also had some trouble with rowdy audiences who wouldn’t cool down during the acoustic sets; but generally their audiences were more patient, knowing a long night was ahead.
Both bands also had important hiatuses in their tours. The Dead burned out on touring in late ’74, and took a break for nearly two years while Garcia tirelessly edited the film of their “farewell” shows. Zeppelin had done the same thing a year earlier, filming their last Madison Square Garden shows in 1973 for a movie & album, then taking a break for a year and a half, tinkering with solo sideprojects and coming back in early 1975. (Zeppelin also started their own record label in an effort at artistic independence, which turned out to be more successful than the Dead’s attempt!) “We’ve been coming to different conclusions and decisions, and we’ve got mixed up in a rather gargantuan film,” Plant said; “nothing’s preconceived right now. We’ll work a bit and then we’ll take a break.”
After the ’75 tour, Zeppelin were forced into yet another hiatus when Plant was injured in a car crash, leaving them off the road until 1977. And after ’77, Zeppelin’s career was more like a permanent hiatus interrupted by a couple short tours, as deaths, drugs and disasters finished them off. (The Dead, in contrast, were determined to stay on the road year after year no matter what happened, and never again stopped touring for more than a few months.)
The film of the ’73 shows, The Song Remains The Same, also offers a parallel to the Grateful Dead Movie. Both films took three years to finish and release (Zeppelin’s film coming out in ’76, and the Dead’s in ’77). Despite the obvious differences, both were meant to be more than mere concert films, but more complete portraits of the bands. The Dead turned the focus toward their deadhead audience, while Zeppelin went for strange fantasy scenes instead… The Dead’s film holds up better in artistry today, though it’s still a slog for non-Dead fans.
Zeppelin’s soundtrack album, by the way, doesn’t represent the band at their best any more than Steal Your Face did for the Dead (though it does represent an average show, while Steal Your Face was a haphazard selection). The band was not thrilled with its release; but with the long break from touring and the film coming out, there had to be a soundtrack. “It wasn’t necessarily the best live material we had, but it was the live material that went with the footage, so it had to be used,” Page said. “So it wasn’t like a magic night. But it wasn’t a poor night. It was an honest sort of mediocre night.”
Despite this, it would take Page many, many more years before he could bring himself to release any more live Zeppelin – in sharp contrast to the Dead. (Though one advantage the Dead had over Zeppelin was a much larger catalog & longer lifespan, so their live releases could be much more varied.) Page often talked about releasing a chronological live album covering Zeppelin through the years, but put it off for decades. The Dead were similarly reluctant to release ‘vintage’ shows until the ‘90s.
The ground shifted under both bands with the arrival of punk & new-wave music – suddenly, older bands from the ‘60s were regarded as out-of-date dinosaurs. And bands that played bloated, indulgent half-hour songs were the dullest of the lot! Zeppelin still had their legions of fans, but were sneered at by the punks; the Dead were less in the public eye, but were generally considered so uncool they were off the map.
The Dead’s albums did not help. While Page was a good producer who did excellent work creating Zeppelin’s studio soundscapes, Garcia & co. were rarely able to pull off a decent studio album, always sounding flat and lifeless. And they took a nosedive in the late ‘70s, each album worse than the last, as the Dead vainly pursued the latest trends and tried to sound slick and up-to-date.
Page made an amusing comment on Zeppelin’s lame last album in ’79: “It’s not like we’ve felt we had to change the music to relate to any of the developments that have been going on. There’s no tracks with disco beats or anything.” A rather disingenuous statement, considering how much of that album is smooth synth-pop very much of the time, even verging on disco in one song. (The Dead, meanwhile, were eagerly embracing synths and disco!)
Occasionally Zeppelin could stray into Dead-like territory, as in this Mountains of the Moon-type song:
In the other direction, the Dead’s early, fiery-crunch renditions of the Other One wouldn’t have been out of place in a Zeppelin show – it was their most metallic composition. The Dead also shared with Zeppelin a prog-rock tendency at times, as with the Weather Report Suite or Blues for Allah.
But the Dead’s closest approach to the Zeppelin style may have been the song Terrapin Station. In live versions it’s actually pretty similar to the later Zeppelin songwriting approach, a long quasi-narrative ballad that starts quietly and swells through different sections, ending with a bombastic riff repeated numerous times. (The longer album version even has an orchestra to make it more Zeppelin-like…)
Both bands had diverse influences, and they even shared a few, leading to some curious intersections. As guitarists, Page and Garcia naturally had a few of the same idols – Page had kind words for Clarence White (calling him “absolutely brilliant”). And, like Garcia, he worshipped Django Reinhardt: “Just fantastic. He must have been playing all the time to be that good – it’s horrifyingly good.” And both of them took the rock basics from Chuck Berry, and closely studied the black electric blues guitarists of the ‘50s.
Otherwise they had different inspirations – Page revered early rock guitarists like Scotty Moore, James Burton & Cliff Gallup (“the early rockabilly guitarists…were just as important to me as the blues guitarists”). Garcia, meanwhile, was more into bluegrass and country pickers. Garcia immersed himself in the American folk tradition, mainly as a source of songs; but Page focused on English folk guitarists and their technique. “People would tell me about Sandy Bull and I would say, I don’t know about Sandy Bull, you want to start listening to some of these people over here: Bert Jansch, Davy Graham…” (Actually, Page should’ve known about Sandy Bull, as they were doing some similar things!)
Though Zeppelin followed the Yardbirds, Cream and other British bands in rocking up American blues, American folk didn't have much influence on them - with a few exceptions, like taking Babe I'm Gonna Leave You from Joan Baez. (Garcia was soaked in American folk and old-time music, and he probably wouldn’t have been caught dead using Joan Baez as a song source!) American country left a few vague traces here & there in their music, but Page was more of a rockabilly person, and bluegrass didn’t really enter his scope.
British folk had a large presence in Zeppelin’s music, though – most specifically, Bert Jansch strongly influenced Jimmy Page's guitar-style, and Page took Black Mountain Side from him. He gushed about Jansch in ‘77: “He’s the one who crystallized all the acoustic playing, as far as I’m concerned. Those first few albums of his were absolutely brilliant… I really think he’s one of the best… As much as Hendrix had done on electric, I think he’s done on the acoustic. He was really way, way ahead.”
Naturally, Page is said to have been a fan of Jansch’s band Pentangle. They were not so impressed by him – Jacqui McShee talked about Black Mountain Side in a 1970 interview: “I think it’s a very rude thing to do, pinch somebody else’s thing and credit it to yourself. It annoys me. In all the English papers at home he’s always talking about Bert; says he’s influenced. I mean, why say that and then put something on an LP and [credit it to] Jimmy Page?”
Garcia was also impressed by Pentangle, when they played with the Dead in '69:
Robert Plant was especially interested in the Celtic-music style, which started slipping into Zeppelin’s work. He was also a Fairport Convention fan – Plant even invited folk-goddess Sandy Denny to sing on Battle of Evermore (“my favorite singer out of all the British girls there ever were”), kind of an early precursor to his recent work with Alison Krauss. The two bands were friendly, and Zeppelin also jammed with Fairport Convention in LA when Fairport were recording their House Full live album in 1970, the same night as Zeppelin’s famous “Blueberry Hill” show. (The Zeppelin show was their first bootleg; the jam with Fairport was taped but has never been heard since.)
Plant was also quite impressed by the Incredible String Band, and some elements of that snuck into Zeppelin's music. “This’ll probably sound strange, but ultimately, I can envisage Page and myself doing a whole Incredible String Band type of thing together, very gentle stuff,” he said in ’72. Incredibly, Plant even wanted to try ISB's "Very Cellular Song" - which includes 'I Bid You Goodnight'!
"The one thing we always wanted to do in Led Zeppelin was to finish off the show with the String Band's A Very Cellular Song - the bit that goes 'I was walking in Jerusalem just like John, goodnight, goodnight.' But Bonham said something very like Fuck Off!"
Both bands were quite interested in Indian music and used it in their own songs. The Dead were most influenced early on, adapting Indian stylings for the Viola Lee jams, or working on different time signatures for jams like the Eleven. Zeppelin also sometimes borrowed from Indian music – as early on as the Black Mountain Side instrumental, which mimicked a sitar/tabla raga. (Page had played a sitar sometimes in the ‘60s, but never used it on a Zeppelin track.) Later on they tried recording Friends and Four Sticks with Indian musicians: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a70Mzk1Kn3A
And of course there’s Kashmir, though it seems not to be specifically Indian-influenced but more vaguely ‘eastern’ in feel. (Indeed, it was inspired by a trip to Morocco, which is nowhere near Kashmir.)
William Burroughs had an interesting conversation with Jimmy Page in 1975, in which they brought up the subject. Burroughs wrote:
“The Led Zeppelin show depends heavily on volume, repetition and drums. It bears some resemblance to the trance music found in Morocco… We talked about trance music. He had heard the Brian Jones record from recordings made at Joujouka. We discussed the possibility of synthesizing rock music with some of the older forms of trance music that have been developed over centuries to produce powerful, sometimes hypnotic effects on the audience. Such a synthesis would enable the older forms to escape from the mould of folk lore and provide new techniques to rock groups.”
Page later recalled the conversation: “We had a lengthy discussion on the hypnotic power of rock and how it paralleled the music of Arabic cultures. This was an observation Burroughs had after hearing Black Mountain Side, from our first album. He then encouraged me to go to Morocco and investigate the music first hand, something Robert [Plant] and I eventually did.”
But otherwise Arabic music didn’t really show up in Zeppelin’s work, despite their interest in Morocco. (Plant was especially keen on Moroccan music due to its ancestry to early American blues, but this was a passion that wouldn’t really flower til the post-Zeppelin days, especially on “Unledded.”) The Dead, on the other hand, took the plunge in their trip to Egypt and invited Hamza el-Din to play with them several times, even joining in some performances of Ollin Arrageed, a classic case of east-west fusion.
Page and Jones were both admirers of classical music, but, the violin bow aside, it didn’t enter overtly into Zeppelin’s music very much. Frequently in live shows, though, Page would quote a little Bach snippet in the Heartbeaker solo, or Jones would play part of a Rachmaninoff piece in his No Quarter solo. Page admired Segovia, but classical guitar style wasn’t a big part of the Zeppelin repertoire; and the violin bow was used more as a sound effect than for classical allusions.
However, when doing the long bow-solos in Dazed & Confused, a couple definite classical quotes were used. Most famously, Page would play Gustav Holst’s ‘Mars, the Bringer of War.’ (This is a much-covered piece among prog & metal bands; in fact Page might have got the idea from King Crimson. I’m not sure which band did it first, but they both started playing it in ‘69.)
It also seems Page was thinking of a modern avant-garde composer – Krzysztof Penderecki’s ‘Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima.’ Page has sometimes said he was influenced by Penderecki in that piece, and mentioned of his guitar-bowing, “Sometimes it would sound like that Hiroshima piece by Penderecki, and other times it would have the depth of a cello.”
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzOb3UhPmig (this is just the kind of piece Phil Lesh would love!)
One engineer recalled that Page wanted Zeppelin’s music to keep changing and broadening into new areas of music. “He wanted to keep going, keep expanding. He would talk about rhythms, and people like Bartok, Stockhausen, or John Cage. He was totally into Indian classical music, Irish folk music, all sorts of things.”
Jones suggested that classical music influenced some of Zeppelin’s song structures, in a few of the longer tracks that grew through several movements: “Both Jimmy and I were quite aware of the way a track should unfold and the various levels that it would go through… I suppose we were both quite influenced by classical music, and there’s a lot of drama in the classical forms. It just seems natural for music to have that, as opposed to everybody starting and just banging away and finishing. That’s part of song structure.”
The Dead and Zeppelin were both big fans of the '50s Chess blues style, but covered the blues in different ways. Zeppelin were notorious plagiarists of course, who tended not to credit their song sources, but besides that, they tended to turn their blues covers into screechy frenetic hard-rock, emphasizing the sexual side of it. (This was pretty common in late-‘60s blues-rock bands.)
Pigpen, in contrast, was quite the blues traditionalist, trying to sing his covers just like the originals. The transformation of Viola Lee Blues aside, the Dead tended to cover blues songs pretty faithfully, but used a couple different approaches. With Pigpen, they would sometimes expand a song with long instrumental sections (as with Lovelight, Midnight Hour, Same Thing, Smokestack Lightning), but most other blues songs were done short & straight (the way Weir would generally do them in later years).
So the Dead hit a balance between doing blues songs authentically and doing them acid-rock style. Perhaps their most conventional cover in the usual blues-rock mode (the way Zeppelin did I Can’t Quit You Baby or Since I’ve Been Loving You) was Garcia’s cover of Death Don’t Have No Mercy, full of groaning vocals and aching guitar solos.
While Zeppelin didn’t play blues songs as traditionally as the Dead, they were coming from a different tradition themselves – a line of descent from English groups like the Yardbirds and Cream who reworked classic blues songs into modern rock interpretations. While the Dead could do that occasionally (in older acoustic tunes like New Minglewood Blues, Big Railroad Blues, or Samson & Delilah), they preferred to stick more closely to the originals.
Weir told Blair Jackson in 1992, “My favorite of all time is Robert Johnson… I’m a huge Willie Dixon fan.” The Dead covered many of Dixon’s songs (mostly via Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters), generally in authentic style – and of course, Led Zeppelin were also Willie Dixon fans, using many of his songs in new guises. But it wasn’t their purpose to be faithful to the originals. It’s hard to imagine Jimmy Page cowriting a song with Dixon, as Weir did!
Occasionally the two bands could cross paths, though – the Dead often trotted out their cover of Walkin’ Blues (orig. Son House, via Robert Johnson), and Zeppelin once did a relatively straightforward version of Johnson’s Traveling Riverside Blues. (For once, Zeppelin actually sounds somewhat closer to the original style.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgjw4hnPvIg (Son House, Walkin’ Blues)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecwW2fX1Yew (RJ, Traveling Riverside)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtEAp-Rybl0 (LZ, Traveling Riverside)
Zeppelin also differed in having one guitarist, so their blues songs tend to be dominated by the lead solos. This was standard for most blues-rock groups, who centered themselves around their lead guitar player. Page reminisced about the brief period when he and Jeff Beck both played guitar in the Yardbirds: “The Stones were the only ones who got into two guitars going at the same time, from old Muddy Waters records. But we were more into solos, rather than a rhythm thing.” Page and Beck worked on playing “a lot of harmonies” in their twin-guitar solos, though none of that was recorded. (Shades of the Allman Brothers?)
The Dead, with two guitarists, focused more on the group interaction in the original blues recordings. Weir told Blair Jackson in ‘92, “Way back early we developed a lot of our blues chops from listening to the Rolling Stones, those first couple of albums. Then, right on the heels of that, we started digging a little deeper and listening to Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, that little quartet they had, and Howlin’ Wolf, and we started to develop some of those blues chops as well… [Our playing] is almost a Dixieland style. But if you listen to a lot of those old Chicago Chess recordings, there’s a fair amount of that going on in there… When you get somebody like Muddy Waters playing secondary support lines behind another guitarist, you get those nice counter lines. That’s a major influence on our style of playing blues.”
Blues songs always remained an important part of Zeppelin’s repertoire. The case was different with the Dead – though they started out as a largely blues and r&b band, over the years their blues numbers diminished to a token few songs, almost all done by Weir. Weir complained in ‘92, “I wish Garcia would pick up a few new blues tunes. I think Garcia is kind of hesitant to sing blues tunes because he doesn’t feel qualified… It’s some peculiar neurosis he has, I think. That’s my only guess: otherwise why doesn’t he do some? I sing at least a few blues tunes; he doesn’t do any.”
Nobody’s Fault But Mine was one blues song Garcia still did very occasionally in the ‘90s (about once a year). It’s the only song that both Zeppelin and the Dead covered, but I find Zeppelin’s version quite long and unpleasant. Though the Yardbirds had done their own blues covers of songs like Smokestack Lightning or Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, Zeppelin dispensed with those, so they didn’t share any other blues covers with the Dead that I know of, save for some snippets in their long ‘50s/blues medleys.
For instance, Zeppelin played bits of Turn On Your Lovelight a couple times in the Whole Lotta Love medleys. Most surprisingly, Zeppelin also played brief snatches of Donovan’s There Is A Mountain a few times in 1969, inside other medleys:
http://www.ledzeppelin-database.com/geekbaseweb/songpage.aspx?songid=273&sort=0 (has audio sample)
You can hunt around that site for other examples – Zeppelin zipped through Johnny B Goode and King Bee just one time each (and Around & Around just once at a soundcheck); and though Page shared Garcia’s fondness for Hideaway or Feelin’ Groovy, he would only quote them briefly for a few seconds before moving on. Among the songs Garcia played, Zeppelin did That’s All Right Mama many times, and Mystery Train acoustically a couple times in ’77. (When doing oldies from the ‘50s, Zeppelin tended to prefer Elvis, while the Dead preferred Chuck Berry.)
Once Whole Lotta Love came into being, it became the standard closer at Zeppelin shows, swelling to ever-increasing lengths as the band threw everything but the kitchen sink in it. The Dead’s equivalent was Lovelight, another anthemic song adapted from the blues and adored by the fans which kept getting ever-longer (often over a half-hour), extended by Pigpen’s raps on how to get some. (Not so different in tone or spirit from Plant’s raps!) The Dead would end it in true rock & roll fashion by building up to a crashing crescendo of chords & screams & drumshots, not so different from a Zeppelin climax.
After Pigpen left, Not Fade Away or Sugar Magnolia might substitute in the same slot, but weren’t quite the same – Weir lacked Pigpen’s charisma as a frontman, and his screeches are rather painful to take. The band remembers Pigpen doing funny little dance steps onstage, but no video survives of this. At any rate, Pigpen was the closest the Dead got to having a Plant-like sex symbol singing about love & lust to lonely souls in the audience.
Both groups were legendary for their live shows. While Zeppelin had a lot more success in terms of album sales and widespread popularity, they were generally critically scorned, and it was mainly by word of mouth that their live fame grew. As John Paul Jones said, “That’s how we got our reputation. The press hated us in the early days. Our only way of promotion was to play a lot of live shows… It used to spread by word of mouth.” Audiences would be pummeled into a frenzy by three-hour shows, then tell everyone they HAD to see this band, as they went back time and again. (I haven’t heard of any Zep-heads following the band on tour, though – apparently it wasn’t quite that addictive!)
Zeppelin "peeled the paint off the walls" in different ways than the Dead - in the beginning they were all about the hard riffs & high energy & testosterone. Not very spacy, except in the depths of some 40-minute Dazed & Confused... But Jimmy Page droning on with his bow isn't much like Garcia doing his wah-wah warbles!
They did get pretty indulgent in live shows, with their lengthy instrumental sections & drum solos – which the Dead were also notorious for. Jimmy Page said, “Right from the very first live performances there were these stretched-out improvisations.” Plant concurred: “The thing about the group was the extension of the instrumental parts, and that was in full fling by the time we even made our first record.”
Though Zeppelin’s jams were very different from the Dead’s – the setlist on any given tour tended to be static, and the improvs within songs tended to be either spontaneous medleys of ‘50s covers, or playing through a set series of themes or prepared riffs within an instrumental section – nonetheless, they shared the philosophy of playing very long shows where you wouldn’t know quite what was coming next, and the next night could be played differently.
As Page observed, “Every show we did was different. You never knew when you went onstage what you might do by the end of it ... Once a song was recorded, and it went into the set, it began to mutate. The whole improvisational aspect, the riffs coming out of the ether ... it was a magical vehicle collectively soaring into the stratosphere. And as more albums came out, the set got longer and longer.”
And: “The beauty of playing in the band was that when we went onstage we never actually knew what was going to go on within the framework of the songs. They were constantly changing. New parts would come out on the night. The spontaneity was on the level of ESP, which meant it was always exciting.”
John Paul Jones recalled, “You had to be on the ball in those days, especially in the improvised parts, because the stuff would change all the time. You’d have to watch each other for cues. There was a lot of eye contact…we’d watch each other’s hand movements all the time. There would often be seemingly amazing unrehearsed stops and starts. We’d all go bang – straight into it. The audience would think, ‘How did they do that?’ It was because we were paying attention.”
But there were plenty of inconsistent nights as well, where the band just couldn’t come together on some numbers. Often they took a long time to warm up; Plant’s voice could be painfully hoarse or completely shot; Page could be very sloppy & erratic; or the band could get disjointed and lose each other at times – then recover nicely later on in the show. Plant remembered, “We often used to take off and get lost. We were quite ramshackle at the best of times. People who tell you we were always good or always bad are wrong – it was always on a wing and a prayer.”
One thing Zeppelin collectors enjoy is hearing how some songs develop over time. Tunes might be played in different versions before their album release, or new sections might be added to them later on. Sometimes as the band jams on riffs during Whole Lotta Love or Dazed & Confused, you can hear future songs being previewed in embryo. As Dave Lewis writes, the long jams “became a breeding ground for new riffs and ideas to develop…which were later used in the studio.” The Dead used this technique sometimes as well; Weir claimed that he’d come up with songs in Dead jams. He told David Gans, “We’ll go back and listen to the tape, and by god, there’s the basis of another song there… About half the songs I write have their basis in some jam somewhere.”
Page was very proud of the improvisational side of the band, and spoke of it often. He told Guitar Player in ‘69: “Led Zeppelin’s music never duplicates itself. We might use the same pattern, but it’s always changing. By now a tune may be entirely different from when we first started. The only thing which will remain the same is the first couple of verses. Although we’ve got cues when we cut in, the idea is to get as much spontaneity as possible. But to get yourself out of trouble, you’ve got certain keys you can use to come in. Otherwise it can be chaotic. Usually we just start the song off and then go in different tangents, change it four or five times, and then come back to the original song.”
And in ’77: “We always start off shaky and it’s at the end [of the show] when the whole thing builds. Which we build up between ourselves…the ESP aspects of it where you start jamming and entering areas which are open to free-form… A lot of larger bands play it safe with everything just about note-for-note perfect…but they don’t let the solos go on for a long time on purpose so they can really get their teeth into improvising and showing what can really be done.”
But Zeppelin’s idea of improvisation was more limited than the Dead’s, confined either to oldies medleys, variations within a long solo, or to the band jamming on riffs. They did have the ability to turn on a dime, but you don’t really hear them spinning off in new unknown directions like the Dead did. (Sometimes jazz writers will try to claim Zeppelin for their own, but I find such efforts unconvincing.) Then again, their music and purpose was totally different from the Dead’s – a ’69-era Other One would’ve been up Zeppelin’s alley, but never a Dark Star – and it’s perhaps impressive enough that they’d extend tunes like Dazed & Confused or No Quarter to half-hour lengths, when many in the audience would have preferred them to keep things shorter.
While Zeppelin were not very psychedelic, the Dead in turn were not very good at hard rock! After their early years, they’re not the band to turn to for tight, synchronized hard-hitting riffs. Increasingly after ’71, their playing lacked much visceral punch – gentle souls at heart, they preferred shambling to stomping. It can be hilarious sometimes when you can tell they all want to play something in unison, but keep wandering in different directions and can’t stay in time… As one person wrote, “It’s like watching a beetle or a turtle try to get upright.”
As one example of the contrast, there's an amusing comment in this blog-post about the Philo Stomp:
"Phil does this bass chord riffing that is somewhere between a Stones riff and something Peter Hook would do in Joy Division. I SO WISH the band all joined on this in a totally ballsy way. But, being the Dead, Phil is surrounded by some drugged impotents that aren't up to the challenge. If this was, say, LED ZEPPELIN, this would have become one of those awesome head banging riffs they'd go into in the middle of "Dazed and Confused" or "Whole Lotta Love". But instead, Jerry noodles, Bill can't seem to find the "one" and the promise of complete rock and roll satisfaction is dashed."
The Dead got ballsier in ’77-78, perhaps due to the example of other hard-rock bands – lead solos were emphasized more, Garcia’s tone got more distorted and he’d start trilling at the drop of a hat. When you get to a show like 6/25/78, the energy pours out and Garcia rips up NFA>GDTR like there’s no tomorrow:
Occasionally they could even do a funny little Zeppelin imitation, as at the end of the famous 11/6/77 Truckin':
http://archive.org/details/gd77-11-06.sbd.nawrocki.283.sbeok.shnf (after 7min in the Truckin - the Dead challenge Zeppelin on their own turf!)
Coincidentally, Garcia and Jimmy Page both played solo guitar spots in the 1977 shows, though with an extremely different approach – while Garcia played gently wafting solos, noodling hypnotically, Page would play long bursts of rather irritating, jagged noise effects. One random example from 5/21/77:
Compare to track 22 here from 5/11/77, where Garcia goes off by himself:
Page also occasionally played other instruments more identified with Garcia. He played pedal steel on a few Zeppelin tracks – Your Time Is Gonna Come, Tangerine and That’s The Way – and even the banjo on Gallows Pole. (He’d first played pedal steel on an early version of Tangerine the Yardbirds did, which is a surprising listen. Zeppelin had also planned to resurrect Babe I’m Gonna Leave You on the ’77 tour with pedal steel – “it sounds pretty different from the original,” Page said – but they dropped it after rehearsals.) These were just dabblings, though, when he wanted to add color to a song – he definitely didn’t immerse himself in these instruments like Garcia did.
Page told Guitar Player in 1969: “We wanted to use a steel guitar in Led Zeppelin. I have used one for about a month. It’s frustrating to play it, though. You hear those country guys, and they can play it so damn well. It’s such a complicated instrument for someone who doesn’t have that sort of line to begin with, and it’s a struggle for me to play. We used it on our album a couple of times, but nothing really complicated.”
Though this is perhaps not a subject worth dwelling on (as it’s so common among rock guitarists), both Page and Garcia became serious heroin addicts in the late ‘70s. With Page it started in ’75 and continued through Zeppelin’s tenure, to the detriment of his playing, though apparently he kicked it afterwards. With Garcia it started in ’77 and continued, off and on, for the rest of his life. (This, of course, is in addition to the usual blizzard of drugs that most successful bands indulged in.) I just mention it here since in both cases, it led to the other bandmembers complaining that their lead guitarists were withdrawing from the bands and contributing less to the music.
By Zeppelin’s last album, Page seems to have been barely present: “distant, less enthusiastic, and not entirely comfortable, showing particular indifference to Plant’s mellow leanings” (as Dave Lewis writes); perpetually late for sessions, and with little to contribute. The resulting album was largely a Jones/Plant keyboard album in which Page played little part. He later dismissed it as “a little soft… I thought, ‘That’s not us’… I wouldn’t have wanted to pursue that direction in the future.” Plant also felt, “I don’t think it was really a Led Zeppelin record.”
Likewise, Garcia (after a much longer period of burnout) grew uninterested in Dead rehearsals or studio sessions. This wasn’t due to addiction so much as poor health and loss of interest. The Dead’s last studio sessions in November ’94 were dismal – McNally writes, “Garcia sat in a corner grumbling about whatever caught his attention, but never really settled down to work.” Jackson concurs: “Garcia seemed distracted and out of sorts much of the time. He arrived late for some sessions, left others shortly after arriving, and skipped a few altogether.”
When Garcia and Bonham died, the bands could no longer continue. In my view, they both had already been in steep decline, and perhaps should have called it off sooner. But the stage beckoned, the money kept rolling in, and personal habits didn’t change. And unlike the Who, once a core member died, there was no thought of replacing him and carrying on.
Many listeners outgrow Led Zeppelin after becoming Dead fans – once you’ve acclimated to Garcia, it can be hard to admire Page’s guitar prowess and all Plant’s shrieking. I think remarks that Zep are ‘one-dimensional’ are a little off-base though; though they predominantly played hard rock, from the start Zeppelin had more than one style going on, from gentle, intricate acoustic-guitar arrangements to high-speed metal riffs, and later on embracing a diverse range of textures in their music. (Granted, not as diverse as the Dead, but how many bands are?) As with the Dead, I favor early Zeppelin myself, especially the third & fourth albums – for me, the band goes downhill from there.
At any rate, I thought it would be interesting to compare two such different bands, since Zeppelin has rarely been written about from a Dead perspective before! I hope there have been a few illuminating points in this strange endeavor...
I apologize for not posting in two months. I never take these breaks willingly. Sometimes the time just isn’t available for long stretches, so my posts are more intermittent than I’d like.ReplyDelete
I will have some more ready next month, though!
One small correction: Grateful Dead did not play at Atlanta Pop I in 1969. They played at Peidmont Park in Atlanta after the festival using some borrowed gear from the ABB.Delete
True, the Dead played the free show in Piedmont Park after the first Atlanta Pop festival a couple days earlier. I think the Dead used their own gear, though, since they had not met the Allmans yet. At any rate, it's impressive that the Dead went over 700 miles out of their way just to play one free show!Delete
It was fun to do some Zeppelin research for a change rather than go through the same old Dead sources again...ReplyDelete
The Zeppelin quotes here come from a few sources:
Wikipedia's Zeppelin articles
Online interviews with various Zeps, many compiled here - http://www.led-zeppelin.org/reference/index.php?m=interviews
Mike Wall's, Keith Shadwick's, and Barney Hoskyns' books on Zeppelin, and the Zeppelin Concert File.
Zeppelin was one of the most anti-taping, anti-bootleg bands ever. Their manager would personally beat up tapers if he saw them, for instance on 6/28/70: "I caught them under the stage... I kicked the shit out of them and all the equipment... I pulled an axe off the wall and chopped it all up... I didn't get heavies to do it, I did it myself; then at least I knew it was done."
Nonetheless, they were easily one of the most-taped, most-bootlegged bands, with many of the band's SBD tapes somehow leaking out. Zeppelin tape-culture is very different from the Dead's: there were many hoarders who would only sell their tapes, and a trading scene did not really develop to the same extent; so instead Zep collectors concentrated on commercial bootlegs, usually insanely valued.
But LZ shows have been catalogued & reviewed as thoroughly as the Dead's; so there are numerous sites with reviews & ratings of Zeppelin shows.
Thanks for the post--it's thought-provoking stuff.ReplyDelete
Beyond the common interest in Eastern music, the bands also shared an interest in what might be called Eastern spirituality--though it came out in different ways, with Zeppelin (or Page, anyway) attracted more to the occult and the Dead preferring what one might call New Age philosophy. Still, there's a certain parallel between constructing an album title out of runic symbols and expressing a desire to perform at world landmarks designed to supply the band with "geomantic power." The Dead's interest in such things may have made the band look to skeptics like a bunch of space cases; on the other hand, they seem to have avoided being called Satan-worshippers, a label that's (inaccurately) stuck to Zeppelin over the years.
You also do a nice job of comparing/contrasting the styles of Garcia and Page. It's interesting that Garcia never seemed to have much interest in building songs around riffs, as Zeppelin were wont to do and even Weir did a few times (e.g. The Other One, The Music Never Stopped, Victim or the Crime). Perhaps it's another consequence of Garcia's starting out as an acoustic musician--he seems like a chord-change guy through and through. Though the contrast in styles between Bonham and Kreutzmann/Hart might be even more extreme.
Finally, this raises the question of which on-stage clothing ensemble is, in retrospect, the most ill-advised: Weir's short shorts in the '80s or Page's outfit in the Song Remains the Same?
What's the reference for Jerry liking the Ramones?ReplyDelete
I'd like to know, too... Blair Jackson notes it on p.289 of his Garcia bio. I don't know what interview Garcia said it in, but Blair is generally pretty accurate.Delete
There is this:Delete
I don't remember him mentioning Ramones specifically and I haven't had time to listen to it all again...
Actually, that's the same clip I linked to in the article (where Garcia talks about the Who) - he talks about liking Cheap Trick, but I don't think there's a Ramones reference in that one!Delete
Shit, I wish I knew more about that, those are my two favorite bands. There's some evidence that, if Jerry liked the Ramones, the feeling was mutual:Delete
Although Joey seems a little ashamed about it...but I guess there isn't enough for you to do a "Ramones" post! Maybe a punk/new wave post though? I'd be curious what you'd turn up...Greg Ginn of Black Flag was/(is?) a Deadhead; more peripherally, Elvis Costello also...that's about all I know on the subject though.
Joey does sound pretty lukewarm...Delete
"I went through a short phase where I got into two Dead albums, something I would never have revealed. I went through a period in my life where I was stuck in a place and I got turned onto Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. I really liked "Ripple" on American Beauty. The thing I liked about the Dead was they were real. They were a roots band, they had their own sound and it was honest. It's a loss. It's an end of an era, with Jerry Garcia's demise. It's the last gasp of the '60s... All those kids who wanted a taste of the '60s and followed the Grateful Dead around - this is what they thought it was all about, now they need to get into punk rock."
I thought the Ramones hated the Grateful Dead!
Allan Arkush (director of Rock 'n' Roll High School) had this to say:
"They came over to my place, and that's when John saw my record collection. He was looking through it, and saw some Grateful Dead records. I believe his response was, "What the fuck is this?! You like these guys or what?" And they all turned to me. I said, "Well, I think you guys and the Grateful Dead are similar. I think you're both auteurs." ...That satisfied Johnny. Then later, Joey admitted to me he'd actually been to a Grateful Dead concert, at Roosevelt Stadium. But he said he left after a half hour because they never played a fast song."
Here is a good article on how some indie-rock bands see the Dead:
Greg Ginn, Lee Ranaldo (of Sonic Youth), and Will Oldham are among those interviewed.
What was a real revelation for me was that Dylan Carlson (Kurt Cobain's best friend, the one who bought him the shotgun) was a Deadhead.
(Cobain was a Dead-hater and famously said, "I wouldn’t wear a tie-dyed t-shirt unless it was dyed with the urine of Phil Collins and the blood of Jerry Garcia.")
"'Unfortunately, Kurt was not one I was ever able to turn,' Dylan sighs, though he notes he was able to expose The Screaming Trees to Mountains of the Moon."
The Meat Puppets were also Grateful Dead fans who even covered Franklin's Tower, so it's ironic that Cobain hung out with Deadheads!
I don't think I can do a punk/new wave post. Hmmm....the Dead vs. the Stooges? (Both did free-jazz horn freakouts!)
The Dead are sometimes cited as predecessors of "noise rock," particularly with their influence on Sonic Youth...
A Dead noise collage:
I would have expected that Johnny hated the Dead. Joey must be full of shit about leaving after 30 minutes...I don't know what the hell the 'auteur' comment means though!Delete
I see, he explains the 'auteur' thing. Here's something interesting:Delete
The Dead go punk!Delete
There's also this from the Arkush interview:Delete
"You know, the two musicians in my life who I've had the closest friendships with are Joey Ramone and Jerry Garcia. Spending time with them, and talking with them, and hearing the things in their musical life that bother them the most, or the perceptions they didn't like, were kind of polar opposites.
I did this movie in 1997 for Showtime, Elvis Meets Nixon. And there are these two key scenes where Elvis is in the back of a limo. And he's talking to his best friends about his life. And in the first one, he talks about "That's Alright Mama," and how that song made him a big star, and he never expected that to happen, he wanted to be a gospel singer. And suddenly his life changed, and he became this certain thing. And that is what Garcia would say about Acid Test. He said, "We were just living in the moment and trying to do this chaotic thing. It was all about freedom. But then, as we got big, as much as we'd like to be chaotic when we play, we were kind of codified by this thing we're 'supposed' to be."
Now the other limo scene was about how Elvis felt he doesn't get any respect, and that he's not remembered, and that what he did started everything else. That was kind of the flipside of it--and that was like Joey. Joey would get angry, and talk about how they'd never been invited to be on Saturday Night Live. And that really made him mad. He'd say, "We represent New York." "
I finally found the reference to Jerry liking the Ramones!Delete
It's in the 1978 New Musical Express article "The Grateful Dead's First Annual Pyramid Prank":
"Garcia expresses a liking for the Ramones and has no prejudice against American new wave, save the label...
'Sociologically punk rock is different in the States. At its biggest, the New York scene, it's produced by the cultureless middle class. Musically it's just rock & roll to me, either good or bad. Sometimes you can be all out of tune and the singer's screaming wild and it can still be good. Labels are exploitative, they don't even help the public. I object to us being labeled purely a psychedelic band.'"
Dave, if we were to list the contrasts between Zeppelin & the Dead, the list would never end!ReplyDelete
I don't think I see much interest in "Eastern spirituality," that seems over-generalizing. Page was into Aleister Crowley, the occult & "dark magic"; the rest of the band were not interested. (They were a very straightforward lot, and Plant in particular was into the whole hippy "peace & love" bit. "I've never shared those preoccupations [with Page], and I don't really know anything about it," Plant said.) But they went along with the mystique. Richard Cole said, "No one really delved into what Jimmy did... It was as much of a mystery to us as it was to everyone else."
Whereas the Dead were total New Age space cases! They, and Lesh in particular, were interested in Egyptology and 'hidden ancient knowledge'. While Page was into runes and the Tarot, the Dead were into the I Ching. Some similarities, but nothing really direct. In any case, the bands' spirituality was outside my scope, since I just wanted to focus on their music.
One connection, though, was that Page thought of Zeppelin's shows as kind of a magical act, that the band created a "fifth element... There was a definite telepathy between us, an energy we created that the audience picked up on and sent back to us. Really powerful stuff." He talks about this in the Burroughs interview, about the power of concentrated mass energy: "There is a responsibility to the audience...we don't want to release anything we can't handle." (Very similar to the Dead's concerns.)
In their feelings about their live shows, Zeppelin are as one with the Dead.
Zeppelin scoffed at the Satanist nonsense. Plant said, "We never made a pact with the devil. The only deal we ever made was with some of the girls' high schools in San Fernando Valley."
In Burroughs' interview with Page, they talk about the same "sonic death ray" device that Garcia & Lesh talk about in their April '67 radio show!
Someone more able than I could explore other avenues...for instance the "cult" that grew around both bands, and the public misperceptions of them; or musically, perhaps their use of funk music, or challenging time signatures. (For instance, Black Dog operates on a similar principle as the live Eleven jams, where the band is playing two different meters at once - in this case Bonham plays 4/4 while Page & Jones play 5/8 - as Page said, "it's got a beat that's a count of five over a count of four." Where the Dead in the Eleven, Garcia said, played "revolving patterns against each other" where one part of the band played 11 beats while the others played 33 beats. Also, something like the Seven is the same kind of tricky riff that Zeppelin loved. But that's kind of esoteric for me, and lots of bands also do that kind of stuff.)
I felt like I covered enough ground here, though!
I aded the comment on "An Evening with..." referenced above. It's interesting to see you tie together the two bands' histories. My recollection is that one of the zep books said that Plant's band was playing Dead covers in '66 or so, butit seemed to be at a time that was pretty early for their music to have spread that far.ReplyDelete
Richard Cole said in his Stairway to Heaven book that Plant's Band of Joy was playing Grateful Dead covers in '67/68.ReplyDelete
I think he's mistaken - he wasn't there, and he probably just casually misplaced the Dead for the other California bands that Plant was covering at the time.
These are some covers we know the Band of Joy did:
White Rabbit, She Has Funny Cars, Plastic Fantastic Lover (Airplane)
For What It's Worth (Buffalo Springfield)
If I Were a Carpenter, Hang On to a Dream (Tim Hardin)
Hey Grandma (Moby Grape)
At that point, there was nothing the Dead had done that was so well-known, so I'd call this a false rumor.
There is another connection between Robert Plant & the Dead, though - they were all fans of Tolkien's books. (The Tolkien references in Plant's lyrics are legion.)
The Warlocks were reading The Hobbit in '65, and according to Hank Harrison, they briefly thought of calling themselves the Hobbits. (Weir's suggestion.)
Fortunately, saner minds prevailed.
Plant was not so lucky. The band he was in when Jimmy Page went to see him was called....you can't make this up....Hobbstweedle.
Jimmy Page is said to have stated in a '70s interview that Garcia's pedal-steel playing was more interesting than his regular guitar...ReplyDelete
Can't find that exact quote, but I did find another interview where he referred to Garcia:
"The thing that was most appealing to me on country records was the pedal-steel guitar... I used to have a crack at it, but I never played it properly. I was having too much trouble getting things together on the six-string. It's hard work. The way I got into the pedal-steel guitar was listening to those things Chuck Berry did... It appears on some of his early Chess albums. When I found out that was a pedal-steel, I was really interested to see what he was doing. I went on from there into the obvious sort of country cliches, but I was never a very good pedal-steel guitar player. Jerry Garcia was playing it pretty good, for someone who made a transition and played it alongside his normal guitar."
He also talks a bit about his interest in Indian music:
"I got fascinated with the whole science of it. It eventually became too complicated because of the divisions between a semitone. They can break it down into so many, 22 or something. But the main thing that I did get from the ragas was the timings: They do things in sort of sevens and elevens. However, I can't discount the allap - I'm talking about sitar basically here. The allap is the first movement, which is the very slow, freeform sort of movement. It's quite an emotional thing and I could equate blues bending and everything to that."
(Zeppelin's interest in odd meters, though, derived not from the Indian "sevens and elevens" that the Dead adopted, but from the irregular timings of the blues.)
And a bit about the band's live work:
"The numbers used to stretch quite considerably and change form and vibrancy once we were doing them live. We weren't content just to play note-for-note copies. We kept working on them all the time... It was the band's policy to keep things as active as possible during live performances. Solos wouldn't be exact. A few of them I had to more or less follow...but where there was any chance of stretching out, then that's the way it went. And of course, to make that sort of stuff interesting, you need all this rhythmic attack going on with it, and synchronization... We used to hit rhythmic things at exactly the same time. A lot of that wasn't planned; it's just because we got to know each other so well. That's one of the better aspects of a band that's been together for quite a while. They get to know each other so well."
Zeppelin's big jam song, Dazed and Confused structurally resembles Playing in the Band with the opening song portion, then a huge chunk of jamming that returns to the song to close things out. Content wise, it reminds me of post-hiatus Other Ones, where the general features of the jam would change between tours, but mostly follow the same general path during any given tour.ReplyDelete
Also, the frontman got more annoying as time went on-compare Plant's vocal asides (especially in Stairway to Heaven) to Bob's pre-jam vocal solo on Estimated and repetitive song selection.
Buddy Miller, in Robert Plant's current touring act Band of Joy, was a fan of the Dead, and the source of some legendary East Coast dead recordings that currently circulate. Robert Plant's shows have included "..and we bid you goodnight" lately. Makes you wonder if Buddy and Robert got inspired by the Dead's legacy on this one.ReplyDelete
You may have mentioned this connection in the post above, i got through most of it. Interesting insights!
I did not know that!Delete
Here's the Buddy Miller thing I mentioned above. Reading your article, I decided to look at "bid you goodnight"'s history. Pretty much trad/gospel piece as far as I can tell, but given Miller's history w the Dead, and bandleader role in the new Band of Joy, its believable that Plant is singing this with admiration of the Dead in his heart.
I'm still surprised that our Fillmore East taper ended up working with Robert Plant - what a connection. Small world indeed!Delete
From an article:
"When Robert Plant and Buddy Miller first met and began talking — about music, of course - the topic, of all things, wasn't blues or country but late 1960s West Coast psychedelia.
"To my surprise, he jumped right into a conversation about Love and Moby Grape," Miller recalls, "a lot of the bands I grew up on. We talked for a long time. I guess he took my name away from that."
...Miller was a 16-year-old with a third-row seat when the mighty Zep first hit the Fillmore East in New York City on Jan. 31, 1969."
Perhaps it's not too much of a stretch to think that Miller might've brought up the Grateful Dead in that conversation as well...
I think Plant's main inspiration for "Bid You Goodnight" was the Incredible String Band's version (as noted above), but it's quite possible he does it as a show-closer with a nod to the Dead as well.
A few more random observations:ReplyDelete
Another thing Zeppelin had in common with the Dead was frequently problematic lead vocals. Robert Plant had a habit of catching the flu or something before tours, harming his voice considerably, so quite often at the start of a tour it's almost unbearable to hear him try to croak his way through the songs. (After '73 he can no longer hit those high notes...) This is most evident in the early winter '73 and winter '75 shows.
Dead fans will know instantly who in the Dead had the same vocal troubles!
I only mentioned it briefly in the article since it's a post-Zeppelin thing, but if you see the Page/Plant Unledded video from the '90s, there are several performances done with Moroccan musicians, collaborating even more deeply than the Dead did with Hamza el-Din.
As Jimmy Page told William Burroughs, "I'm very involved in ethnic music from all over the world," and he's boasted of the "Celtic, Indian & Arabic influences" in his guitar playing (however infrequently they appear). He once said, "I'm obsessed with folk music...the parallels between a country's street music and its so-called classical & intellectual music, the way certain scales have traveled right across the globe. All this ethnological and musical interaction fascinates me."
Plant has mentioned how Moroccan music intrigued him since he could hear the ancient roots of Mississippi blues in it - he's said, "The sound of the gimbri & drum is like that field-chant stuff from northern Mississippi that Alan Lomax recorded years ago for the Library of Congress."
I'm struck by the similarity between Plant exploring old Alan Lomax field recordings, and Garcia exploring the roots of old-time music on 78s as he got into folk music. Garcia, before the Dead, was quite scholarly in his approach to learning the history of folk songs.
Neither of them really used their knowledge much in the Dead or Zeppelin, though, as those bands were more focused on conventional rock music... Garcia was able to find a folkie-partner in David Grisman, while Plant could broaden his range in various post-Zeppelin bands.
Plant's love of Moby Grape did bear fruit on at least one Zeppelin song, though - 'Since I've Been Loving You' is based directly on Moby Grape's song 'Never' on the Grape Jam album.
Though by no means a perfect - nor at times an entirely fair - comparison, I still thought that you did (for the most part) a good job. Thanks for the read!ReplyDelete
Thx for the interesting piece. You're writing about my two fave big bands. Both had brilliant improvisational abilities.ReplyDelete
A couple of minor disagreemts:
* I do think Zep - at times - was very psychedelic, esp during Dazed and WLL.
* I used to think '73 was Zep's prime but after listening to some Jan - Mar '75 sbds, I now think it was '75.
* I don't think heroin was Page's problem after '75, I think it was alcohol. If it was just H, he prob would have been fine but music and alcohol don't work while H and can.
Playing guitar is a physical act and excessive alcohol intake - which Page was into - will affect adversely all physical acts, including guitar playing. It really shows in his '77 playing - very sloppy.
You mention Country Joe closing the Jan '69 FW Zep shows. He had also opened for the Yardbds with Page in the band when they played the Fillmore in '66.
I happen to like Zep's last album. Yeah it's more Jones than Page but I still think it's a very gd album. One thing about Page was the guy had an enormous ego so it's not surprising to see him dis an album he wasn't the main guy on.
Something that I just thought of that also deserves mention is the amazing sounds Page got out of his guitar in the late 1960's! How the hell was the guy getting all those really trippy psychedelic sounds in the 1960s??? I don't know if he had some really good equipmt ppl working for him ala Bear or what but for evidence of this, find the shows Zep did in Jan, '69 at the FW in SF or the Dazed he did at Winterland on Apr 26, 1969 (the only night they played there in that 4 night run and ever, the other nights at the FW).
One other intersection betw the two bands is Bill Graham. BG dug the Dead musically and personally while he didn't get along with Zep. Zep & BG engaged in power struggles - Zep was considered groundbrking in taking power away from promoters which BG didn't like presumably - which was why Zep rarely played in the bay area after the early days. For example, they never played in the BA on their '75 tour. And they played the Berk Comm Theatre in '71 - maybe a venue BG didn't control since it seems a weird venue for them to play in '71. And I don't think they played any big places in the BA until Kezar in '73.
One thing that always cracked me up for it showed the power of the herd and irritated me for its idiocy was the way all the critics that used to rip the movie, The Song Remains the Same, and the soundtrack.
I believe the playing on it is pretty brilliant overall because, like the Dead, Zep in '73 was a brilliant band. Was it the greatest show they ever did? Of course not but, man, there is some really brilliant stuff on there: the Stairway solo, Dazed, WLL, SRTS, No Q. And no clunkers.
It's a vid of a band at the top of their game. Yet one reads the critics and is just silly the way they treat it. Fact is no band could do that in that way with such incredible power (not talking just volume). I’m so glad they made it for I appreciate it more with time.
Something that eventually caught up to Zep was relying so much on Peter Grant. The guy was an immature bully who brought a lot of violent overtones to Zep with his behavior and the goons he hired. That violent tone erupted at the Oakland '77 show (the last time they would play in the US) when Zep's ppl almost killed the BG guy and almost ended up in prison for it, including Bonham.
It's too bad they didn't go to jail for 6 mo since it might have knocked some sense into them and motivated them to get rid of Grant and Richard Cole and get back to being a more laidbk band interested in playing music.
If you like Zep or want to hear more of them, do go on the bit torrent sites and find some of the excellent '75 soundbds. There's a good matrix of their Feb 12, 1975 MSG gig in NY where the taper is the most famous GD taper whose name escapes me (he died a few years ago).
Thanks for the comment!ReplyDelete
I admit Dazed & WLL are more psychedelic (in parts) than I let on...
My own favorite period for live Zeppelin is 1970/71. (By '75, a lot of the setlist I'm not so keen on.)
It's true that Zeppelin hardly ever played in the Bay Area after 1969, but kept returning to LA. Maybe there weren't the big stadiums or arenas in the area like LA had.
The Berkeley 9/14/71 show is one of my favorites, though.
Jeff Beck was also known for his different unusual guitar sounds. I think Page was, in many ways, a more creative player than Garcia. Garcia, for instance, never used alternate tunings that I know of; nor did he have any knack for the layered "guitar orchestras" that Page would create in the studio (which then required Page to use multiple guitars onstage). Garcia had a more straightforward approach.
I now think the Song Remains the Same soundtrack is all right, though I was not too thrilled with it when I was younger. But for me, How the West Was Won from '72 is a better live album.
One reason the SRTS album probably got panned is that many '70s rock critics couldn't stand long improvs...from any band.
Visually, I still have trouble with seeing live Zeppelin due to all the Page/Plant posturing, which strikes me as more humorous than anything. (To be fair, I don't dig watching live GD much either because they don't move at all!)
It's understandable that Page doesn't like Zep's last album much... I don't like it at all; just dreadful stuff. But I realize it's inconsistent for me to, on the one hand, praise Zeppelin for their variety, and then criticize their least Zep-like album!
I didn't realize Page was (like Bonham) deep into the bottle. That would make sense. Page always said that heroin use didn't affect his work with the band, and it's true that other rock guitarists have managed to get by with even higher levels of usage...
I think Bonham definitely should've spent time in prison, for any number of acts. But rock stars can get away with anything!
Reading Steve Parish's book, it's clear that the Dead's crew were a pretty thuggish bunch as well.
Thanks for a very thought provoking read. I will add that Robert Plant has covered Morning Dew and We Bid You Goodnight.ReplyDelete
Granted these have both started to appear in his set lists within the past decade.
Ah, Morning Dew - Plant's version is clearly based on Tim Rose's cover, the most well-known one that Jeff Beck & most other bands copied their Dew from. So Plant isn't referencing the Dead's version at all - the Dead reinterpreted Dobson's song their own way.Delete
I see Plant has also done the Youngbloods' Darkness Darkness and Moby Grape's Skip's Song recently!
Honestly, I thought Plant's version had a touch of circa '60 Cold Rain and Snow thanks to the keys and the tempo. I do often forget that there are different versions out there.Delete
Annnd....another month goes by without a post! Sigh. Better luck next month, I hope!ReplyDelete
Looking forward to it LIA. Just stumbled on your writings recently and I'm really enjoying them. So much interesting stuff your writing about. Keep it up...thanks!!!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much for this consistently excellent blog. Great fun putting some of this info into the context of the music. I recently watched the CWI dvd, and wondered if you might consider posting something Brent-related? Nothing in particular, just perhaps some insights into his tenure with the group?ReplyDelete
just a thought from an appreciative reader-
Thanks. Sorry to disappoint, but I don't plan to ever post anything on the Brent years! I have many more things just pre-'74 I'd like to write about, and not much of anything from the later years I want to write about. Other writers can appreciate that era better than I can...Delete
Hey, I understand. While i do appreciate some of the later stuff, for me the best will always be 72-74. Much harder to turn a corner after that (tho the BFA stuff smokes), and the jamming/potential to go anywhere was on a different level than before or since.ReplyDelete
On Zeppelin: i'd agree that their best years were behind them by 72 or so. That said, listening to some of the later shows in which they really get down on stuff like 'no quarter' is often time well-spent.
thanks again for all the insights
Hi, I occasionally found this thread and for people like me that put Zeppelin and Dead as No.1s' is extremely interesting.ReplyDelete
Let me add a small contribute from Italy, I'm 43 and when I started listening music the panorama was dominated by DuranDuran and hundreds of silly bands, then I was 14 and I started to listen to the radios looking for something better, I loved psychedelic, west coast, progressive, hard rock, blues, BritFolk, soul, some classic, and various mixes, but in the end, and will be definitively forever, LZ and GD are in my heart, why this? They are so different, I don't know, but:
1) My favourite song from GD is Dark Star, I have dozens and dozens of live recordings of that, the Grayfolded too, but, strange, in the end what my preferred is the studio version that can be found in the LP "Whant a long Strange Trip...", this is so hypnotic, I don't know why I like so much
2) My favourite songs from LZ are No Quarter and Tea For One, about the second I don't have any live recording (why?) but about NQ I have dozens of versions and what I like more is Knebworth '79 version (but also others from 1975 concerts)
What have those songs in common? I think both have a long psychedelic jam (don't blame me if I speak about psychedely in NQ), simply this. Any other?
Let me add one more contribution: in this Italian documentary http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXmyDv2pnCk&feature=related at 14:45 they say that Jerry Garcia suggested Jimmy Page to go to Headley Grange for LZ IV recording. Don't know if this is true or not, just reporting this from a semi-serious documentary on YouTube.
Thanks for commenting. The '80s were a pretty dreadful time for pop music!ReplyDelete
I don't think LZ ever did Tea for One live. No Quarter does have a long jam; I think Dazed & Confused with its long psychedelic jam variations is perhaps the closest LZ came to Dark Star-style.
That youtube documentary is blocked in the US; however I am certain that Jerry Garcia had nothing at all to do with Headley Grange. I doubt he ever heard of the place. But a few English bands recorded there - LZ apparently found it through Peter Grant's secretary, and went there with the Rolling Stones' mobile recording truck. Fleetwood Mac also recorded there, and it may have been Fleetwood who suggested that LZ record there, but I'm not sure about that.
this is just an awesome, awesome article. The fact that someone took the time to intelligently really breakdown these two bands is just excellent.ReplyDelete
I disagree about In Through the Out Door though. As a matter of fact I believe the 8 Zep studio albums are perfect. But to each there own...
Also, I have read articles about Jimi Hendrix not liking Zep because of the ripped off blues numbers. Could Garcia have felt the same way?
I don't recall Hendrix saying anything about Zeppelin.ReplyDelete
I did find a quote from Carmine Appice (of Vanilla Fudge), who said: "Jimi Hendrix personally told me that he didn't like Zeppelin because they were like excess baggage and that they stole from everybody."
Appice also noticed that early Zeppelin borrowed everything (including from him!), but he didn't mind.
I'm not sure about Jimi's case, though; after all what he did with blues songs like Killing Floor & Rock Me Baby wasn't too different; and he was a big fan of Cream, who also revamped blues songs similarly. Heck, so many bands back then rocked up blues songs - like Jeff Beck on Truth, etc...it was common practice.
Who knows what Garcia thought.
Thanks for the response! i have been reading much of your site.ReplyDelete
For future, I would love to read about Mickey Hart leaving and returning to the band and all circumstances regarding that. In addition I would love to find out about the bands playing and relationship with Hart at this time.
The article I read was a reprint in a guitar world magazine. Interview from '70 I think. It was quoted directly from Hendrix in the q&a session.
It was something to the effect of -What do I think of led Zeppelin.. Not much. Bonham is a great drummer but otherwise they are just ripping of blues numbers and not giving credit.
I have also heard he did try to hire Bonham as well...
I don't think I've seen that Hendrix interview; will have to seek it out. I never heard of him wanting to hire Bonham!ReplyDelete
According to one Bonham bio, though, Hendrix was impressed by Bonham's bass-drum footwork and told Robert Plant after one Zeppelin show, "That drummer of yours has a right foot like a pair of castanets."
If true, that means Hendrix at least saw a Zeppelin show. Not sure which one it could be though - according to Wall's book it was the Santa Clara Pop Festival in May '69; however, Hendrix was playing in Seattle the day of Zeppelin's show, so that can't be correct. So the whole story could be a tall tale...
Hendrix might've noticed that Zeppelin didn't give credits for their songs - though it's not like he had a pure record either. This is the guy who took Rock Me Baby, sped it up, put new words on it, and presto! - a new song, Lover Man. Even Red House was basically a straight copy of Albert King's California blues, with new lyrics.
Granted, Zeppelin usually didn't even bother changing lyrics.
I feel like the circumstances around Mickey Hart leaving are pretty well covered in Dead books already & am not sure it would make a good post (at least, not for me) - but, we'll see. I have lots of other posts to do!
By the way, I found a very brief comment by Hendrix on Led Zeppelin, from a 1970 Melody Maker interview:Delete
"I don't think much of Led Zeppelin - I mean I don't think much about them. Jimmy Page is a good guitar player."
Though I consider the Allman Brothers to be the best jam band ever, its really hard to hate the dead. Its always great to have a front man who is both the lead singer and lead guitarist (Jerry).Great post keep up the hard work. Check these out IStillGotMyGuitar.ReplyDelete
Just wanted to alert ppl to an incredible Zep show from '73 that I just listened to for the first time. But first I’ll mention the Zep and Dead connection.ReplyDelete
A few months ago, I downloaded an aud recording of Zep at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco on Sunday, June 2, 1973. The previous Sunday - May 26, 1973 - the Dead had also played Kezar.
The only other big concert there in its history was a benefit for the SF schools in March of 1975 that the Dead and others played at. So excluding that – the entire Kezar concert history is two concerts done on two consecutive Sundays by two of the biggest acts at the time.
For those that don’t know, Kezar is about a block from Haight St so in 1973 it was ground-central for all things hippie-Grateful Dead-psychadelic-drugs, etc (it was also in the first Dirty Harry movie) – a place that would seem perfect for Robert Plant in 1973 – being a hippie then himself (and a big fan of some of the bands from the area then).
Recently I downloaded another ’73 Zep show from Detroit – but only four songs were on it but it was a soundbd so I dl’d it. Then I discovered I already had dl’d the show on another bit torrent site – but my copy had Stairway and Dazed which the version I dl’d last didn’t.
So I posted a comment saying I had the Dazed and Stairway from that Detroit show. The seeder of the show replied that they were prob from the Salt Lake City show on May 26, 1973.
I happened to have that SLC show on my hd (but hadn’t heard it yet) so I tested a bit of both songs from both the Detroit and SLC shows. I only listened to the first minute or so (pre-vocals) of the Dazed but was blown away with what I was hearing. I had heard plenty of D&C’s but had never heard anything like this – Page was just ripping it up and Plant hadn’t even sung anything yet!
As it turned out, he was right – the Dazed and Stairway on my Detroit show were from the SLC show.
As I said above, I had also recently dl’d the Kezar Zep show so about four nights ago I listened to it (just the Dazed and Stairway). It was a good aud tape, prob taped by some Deadhead who knew how to tape shows because it was one of the best Zep aud tapes I’ve heard. A great example of this was Jerry Moore – who was a taper of Dead shows (he passed away a couple of years ago) who also taped Zep at MSG in NY in ’75.
So I listen to the Dazed and Stairway from Kezar. I liked it – good versions, on the level of the ones in the movie, Song Remains the Same (which were at MSG in NY in July (I think) 1973).
But after hearing that pre-vocals clip from the Dazed on May 26, 1973 – a show done the same day the Dead were at Kezar and a week before Zep would play Kezar – I decided I would listen to both the Dazed and Stairway on Sunday night.
So I did just that. WOW!!! Page was on fire from the getgo on that Dazed. (It’s also a great sbd) I’m not gonna say it’s better than any version I’ve ever heard (Feb 12 & 14, 1975 are also stellar) but it’s just so friggin great. I’ll bet that show was one of the best – if not the best – of that 1973 tour.
And the Stairway solo from it is also phenomenal – probably even topped the incredible one done in the SRTS movie. If the rest of the show is on the level of Dazed & Stairway, then it has to be considered one of the greatest Zep ever did.
Who would have thought that Zep would play the show of the tour in very conservative Salt Lake City and the mundane show at Kezar in San Francisco – the place that was ground-central for things that Zep could relate to (hippies, the birth of the West Coast pyschadelic music scene, drugs, etc) and the place the Dead had just played? On a day when the Dead did a great show at Kezar, in SLC, Zep did a show for the ages.
If you want it, go here:
If you think Zep peaked in ’71 or ’72, this one will show you’re wrong! :^)
Thanks for the Salt Lake City recommendation!Delete
You never know where the best shows might come from. The Dead also surprised people in some unlikely places...
I was led here from the page before, looking for a list of breakout songs by The Dead, and saw this Zep-Dead post. Outstanding article really !! Took me nearly an hour to read all the way to the bottom !
I agree, being born in 1970 & growing up in the early 80's, pop music sucked ! (Culture Club; Duran etc) So I instead went backwards, and enjoyed discovering LZ and all the great 60's bands I missed (Beatles, Stones, Who etc.) In 1988 seeing my first Dead show for my 18th B-day definetly changed my life. True as you wrote, younger I enjoyed the thrashing Zep, and as I got older, enjoyed the more softer, organic Dead. I will always hold an appreciation for both, and like how the two guitarists could take the same song, for example Nobody's Fault, and just change it so completely ! To me, Led Zeppelin never recorded a bad song, just my opinion. I felt they always changed and grew, progressing with each new album, never stagnating. J.P. Jones is one of the most under-rated rock musicians of all time, and a great producer and studio man. Another thing I always admired LZ for, once Bonham died, they retired the name. I do not mean to slam The Dead after Pig, but instead think more of The Who or Stones, and their endless 'Farewell tours'.
I also agree that I prefer The Dead and their laid back taping style, to LZ's smash 'em if you find them reaction. I think part of that goes back to the early days of everyone ripping off musicians, from record companies, to radio, to promoters etc. (Even The Dead I believe were ripped off by Mickey Hart's dad ? ) < correct me if I'm wrong. I think Peter Grant felt what he was doing was right, and that it was LZ 'property', but it did sure smack in the face of the hippy, free peace, west coast thing. Also, I liked the heavy light mix right from the first album. Babe, I'm Going To Leave is just one example.
In closing, I just want to add that both bands are incredible, and full of talent. They really have two different approaches, where The Dead want to rock you out of your seat and see you dancing, while Zep would be happy if you dropped a few ludes and took a trip on their cosmic blues trip from your seat. I can not pick a favorite of these two, but can only say that both make up my first and second favorites, in no particular order.
Mickey Hart's dad did rip off the Dead, stealing a large sum from them in '69-70 before they caught on. Ron Rakow also stole a heap from them in '76, though he did it openly and said they'd ripped him off first.Delete
I don't think I mentioned the different management approaches between Zep & the Dead - little comparison there! Peter Grant was Zep's man & top thug from beginning to end, devoting himself to getting them as much money as possible (through fair means or foul) - show promoters must have dreaded meeting him! Whereas the Dead had a whole string of managers & financial people over the years - mostly chaotic incompetents in the '60s, but more money-minded people in the '70s, ensuring the Dead didn't have to play so many shows. So the Dead had a long & tangled management history, partially resulting in their being broke or in debt for many years; whereas Zeppelin quickly found financial success, partly due to Grant's tactics.
By the way, the Dead's crew also had kind of a "smash 'em if you find 'em" attitude towards tapers in the early '70s - you can hear road-manager Sam Cutler himself telling the tapers to stop & give him their tapes on a couple recordings (5/16/70 and 12/2/73), and the roadies frequently confiscated tapes & equipment. Only in '76 did the Dead ease up on tapers, because by then there were just too many to handle.
Hey there! Thanks for linking to both my blog (the Philostomp quote) and my YouTube page (the Garcia on Punk mini movie).ReplyDelete
I've totally neglected my blogging the last several months, as suddenly free time became a rare thing. Also, after organizing a huge Garcia's 70th bday show at the Iron Horse in Northampton, MA (where I live), I kinda reached a peak and really decreased my Dead listening--needs to happen every now and again, to get a grip on what music can ALSO be...And, as soon as I flushed the Dead out of my system, I went on a songwriting tear. Weird how that happens.
Anyway, a couple observations:
1) listen to the electric mandolin on "Going to California" on How the West Was Won--sounds like Garcia's guitar playing; and reminds you how, in his playing, Jerry often brought his folk and bluegrass vocabulary into rock conversations (musically speaking).
2) I've toyed with doing a blog post called One Week at Kezar, comparing the Dead and Zeppelin shows there in '73, as demonstrating the fundamental differences between the two
3) Another thing to demonstrate the aesthetic differences: consider the songs "Let it Grow" and "The Song Remains the Same". Both from 1973. Both have very hippie dippy lyrics, various movements and long guitar passages.
Imagine if the Dead waited until 1977-78 to record Let It Grow, when they REALLY rocked it out.
I think a band could easily play Let It Grow in the style of Zep.
Imagine instead of Bob&Donna's earnest "I am I am!", it was Plant shrieking it, and then doing his "push push!" thing.
Ok, perhaps I should write that blog...
Nice work once again!
Some people do get Dead burnout every now & then...Delete
1) One thing about the mandolin, it doesn't really sustain, so you have to play lots of notes or choppy chords. Like the banjo, that way.
2) One Week At Kezar - you should do it!
3) Zeppelin could sometimes be even more soft & dippy than the Dead. Looks Like Rain versus The Rain Song....yikes! I shudder even to think of that...
Currently listening to the "No Quarter" from the famous 1977-06-21 show from the LA Forum (the bootleg is known as "Listen to this, Eddie"). 31 minutes.ReplyDelete
1) Zeppelin would pretty much always "rock out with their cock out", whereas it just wasn't the Dead's style to do so-there was just too many people onstage for that. Too many moods, personalities, aesthetics etc.
a few examples are the fall of 1972, the Dead seemed to be in a very rocking place. Also, spring of 1969 (the Ark shows esp) are unabashedly rocking. No one's holding back.
2) hearing this version of "No Quarter" also demonstrates Zep doing something the Dead liked to do in their extended jams: hide the "one". But again, with only 3 playing, it was easier to manage. So often, when the Dead hid the "one" (I'm talking about where the "one" is if you were to be counting 1-2-3-4 along to the music), they'd come out of it in a totally different place. I.E they lost the "one". Zep seldom does. Jazz pros never do either, and they're playing much faster, more complex stuff.
3) Weir talks about new songs coming out of jams. In this version of "No Quarter", you hear the roots of "Fool in the Rain", from two years later.
4) unrelated: ever notice toward the end of the jam in the famous Cornell 5-8-77 "Morning Dew", Garcia starts playing in a rhythmic pattern similar to the "Song Remains" rhythmic pattern? Just for a few bars. It's when it really takes off about a minute before the final "I guess it doesn't maa-taaah...anywayyy"
The Dead did rock out more in the early days, of course, '67-68...all that youthful energy & the joy of being loud! The early Other Ones could easily be head-banging numbers with a bit more distortion. By the early '70s they still rocked sometimes in the shows, but perhaps in a more genial way (and usually in Weir's tunes or covers) - after '72 they sound much more watered-down to me. In general the energy seemed to leak out of them over the decade, with some exceptions like in '78. If you see any video clips of Jerry up to about '70 or so, he even moves differently - you know, like a rock guitarist, not a contemplative buddha.Delete
I wonder if losing the "one" happened more often when Mickey & Bill were both playing, or if Bill could also be the culprit when he was by himself. Of course, lots of those early-'70s jams are about abandoning any steady rhythm anyway.
I wish Weir had named a few examples of songs coming out of jams. I can see that in the early days, where they turn little riffs like the Main Ten or Slipknot into the basis of bigger pieces, but after the early '70s I'm not sure there are any examples.
The one connection you may have missed, and maybe the one most important to me was that most "classic rock" stations had both a "Zep Set" and a "Dead Hour". Pre-internet explosion of shows, this was how many of us "Got the Led out" or heard a set of live Dead.ReplyDelete
The new Zep book "Get The Led Out" has a note on the US tour starting in March 1970:ReplyDelete
"Each Zeppelin show would be close to two hours long. Led Zeppelin was setting a new precedent. The standard had been to have multiple acts; the presence of the opening act reduced the length of the headlining act's performance... [John Bonham said in an interview,] 'Say we had a couple of supporting acts. The kids don't really want to see them. They want to see us. Other groups that have backup acts are just backing it so they don't have to play so long. Most don't have to do two hours like we do... If the kids pay $4 for a ticket, it is better to give them value than have them see two acts they never heard of before us and see us for 45 minutes." (p.37)
This was quite different reasoning than the Dead's!
There was also a marketing strategy behind it. Dave Lewis (Zeppelin historian) points out in the book that 'An Evening with Led Zeppelin' was "a slogan that [Peter Grant] wanted to present the band in... This thing where there wouldn't be a support act, it was all the one act, that was unheard of at the time. There was always a bill of 2 or 3 acts... It became a word-of-mouth thing that you had to see Led Zeppelin... Every time they went back to America there was bigger demand... [Grant] said to me once, 'Led Zeppelin don't play concerts, Led Zeppelin plays events.'" (p.140)
Jimmy Page had another explanation for the band's lengthening shows in '77: "Actually how we got into these long sets was ...[not] knowing what to drop when you've got new material... And we were doing acoustic sets as well... It didn't even feel like three hours anyway, when we got into these three-hour sets... Sometimes we'd do 3-3/4 [hours] purely because we'd stretch the numbers... That's something that people got to know us for... They'd know that if they came along to see us, they'd never see the show exactly the same way because there were numbers that had areas for improvisation, and obviously, the improvisation would change every night... That's what kept us on our toes." (p.203)
Page also remembered the band's first San Francisco shows:
"We went to the Fillmore West. And there was Taj Mahal opening. We were on second. And top of the bill was Country Joe... We all know about San Francisco and the vibe that went on in San Francisco, and it's always given me the image of sort of a big family setup - all the bands jamming with each other and playing in the park, and it was...a really good vibe. But by the time that we arrived on the scene, it was getting a bit jaded. People were getting just a bit fed up with it all; they were waiting for something new... Well, we went on after Taj Mahal and the place just exploded - it was incredible! And poor old Country Joe didn't know what had hit him. I remember the last night of three nights, he just had anybody and everybody coming up and jamming with him, from out of the audience."
Page was not impressed with SF music: "I was never really too knocked out with any of that San Francisco rock. I liked Steve Miller. And another band that I really liked and really impressed me, for the variety of their music and technical capabilities, that I thought was from San Francisco but in fact they were from LA, was Kaleidoscope. They were just stunning to watch because they just pulled so much out of the bag, and you never knew what was coming next; that was fantastic... Spirit was another band I liked, I thought they were very good." (p.203)
Robert Plant was much more into California bands, in his pre-Zep Band of Joy days: "There wasn't a great deal of West Coast music in England. I had a great love for Moby Grape and Buffalo Springfield, Arthur Lee [of Love], and people like that. There wasn't a platform to play all that music because England was on the tail end of a Herman's Hermits-type thing...watered-down Beach Boys-type renditions..." (p.209)
Plant was a bit upset that Zeppelin became so associated with heavy metal: "Unfortunately, it would seem that the acoustic material almost was overwhelmed by the more aggressive, more electric stuff... We'd done the third album. We'd made a purposeful attempt to move away, to try very hard to show people that we had more than one string to our bow. So we went up to the Welsh mountains and started writing, and we came out with the third album, which was prominently acoustic on one side." (p.211)
There is kind of a parallel here with the Dead's move to more acoustic, country-based material in '69, surprising audiences who associated them only with psychedelia. As Garcia said, "We never really gave it up...we still play that way, we still stretch out... We've never accepted any limitations. We don't think of ourselves as a rock & roll band, an experimental band, this band or that band. If anything, we think of ourselves as musicians, who have lots of possibilities; and Workingman's Dead is one of the possibilities."
Hey, I just found your amazing site, and I love these articles, all of 'em! I am loving these Dead/other band articles!ReplyDelete
So I have a request! Dead and Zappa/Mothers of Invention!! I wish Frank didn't have such a snarky attitude, I'd have LOVED to have heard Jerry and Frank jam together.
Who knows? Maybe they DID. You will tell us!!!
Thanks; I like these kinds of articles too.Delete
I don't think I'll be doing Dead & Zappa, though; not being into Zappa, there's not much I can say.
But check out the comments in this post (ironically, a post on Buck Owens), which cover the few times they were co-billed -
There are also a couple paragraphs on him in my January 2013 post on early Dead medleys - also see this discussion:
Great post! I have been fruitlessly searching for years trying to find an intelligent Zeppelin/Dead analysis and I finally found one. It's impressive that a writer like you--coming from a Dead perspective--has such a keen level of appreciation and understanding of Led Zeppelin. As a Zep/Page fan, I wish more Zeppelin writers had a similar level of respect and appreciation for the Dead.ReplyDelete
I agree with a lot of your assessments. For example, that Zeppelin was clearly in a state of decline in 77-80 and perhaps should have considered breaking up sooner. Very few people in the Led Zep community seem to share this view. It's also interesting that Hendrix respected Page and Bonham but resented Zeppelin stealing songs. I know that Page respected Hendrix as a great guitarist and artistic visionary. Both guitarists were uniquely capable of taking audiences on a thrilling and mesmorizing cosmic blues voyage. It would be interesting to see a Dead/Hendrix article.
Somebody above commented that they thought alcohol was responsible for Page's decline in the late 70's. I couldn't disagree more. I think Page's decline was brought about by drugs and women. He was clearly using heroin (speedballs, apparently)on the 77 tour, and Page was constantly trying to juggle a multiple number of girlfriends simultaneously. All of these women were beautiful, and some were quite volatile and temperamental. If he had been more of a "player" type, he probably could have handled this OK, but he wasn't. Page was, at heart, a deeply sensitive and romantic person. I believe that his romantic problems eventually wore him down and depressed him. This in turn may have contributed to his drug use.
I have also wondered why more rock fans didn't travel around with bands between concerts in the way that Deadheads were so famous for doing. Wouldn't one imagine that thousands of Zeppelin/Stones fans would have been traveling around on tour with those bands during the 70's? That apparently didn't happen. I think that Zeppelin was a cult, albeit one with a massive following. The Dead were obviously a cult too, but with a smaller, more cohesive and more dedicated following. Dead fans more closely identified with the band/music, had a stronger sense of community, and saw it as a lifestyle thing. Whereas most Zeppelin fans saw it as a strictly musical thing. I also suspect that the average Dead fan may have arisen from a more econimically priviledged background then the average Zeppelin fan, and therefore had the means to travel. However, I do know that during Zeppelin's 73 tour a group of rich Texas kids hired a private plane to follow the band around on tour.
In the past 5-10 years, I have noticed a lot of disrespect being traded back and forth between Dead fans and Zeppelin fans. It seems like both bands fanbases have bought into and developed a lot of negative stereotypes about each other. Hopefully, articles like this will play a role in helping to establish some common ground.
Thanks for the comment. There is a Dead/Hendrix article:Delete
The traveling fanbase does seem to have been unique to the Dead, though it was still growing in the '70s. (Not sure how big in actual numbers it was, though the 'tourheads' get the most attention.) You're probably right that a lot of Dead fans had more freedom (either economic or because they were social "dropouts") to follow the Dead around - most kids going to a Zep show might not have had the means to travel round the country. And I'd imagine the "party scene" at a '70s Dead show was far different & more communal (and welcoming) than at a Stones or Zep show - you're right that many of the Dead's fans saw the band as part of a lifestyle rather than just music.
Plus the Dead had more of a (deserved) reputation for being different from night to night - a Stones show would be identical; Zeppelin would have the same setlist (though different improvs); but with the Dead you didn't know what you were going to get, and the next night could be quite different. So word got around that you had to see multiple shows to get the one that was "magic."
Thanks for the Dead/Hendrix link and for the excellent insights. I totally forgot to consider the huge importance of the varied setlists and the more welcoming atmosphere at Dead shows. I also forgot to consider the issue of ticket availability. I don't know how often or quickly Dead shows would typically sell out, but I know that Zep/Stones shows would often sell out within an hour or two. So, most fans travelling between those bands concerts would presumably had to have been constantly buying scalped tickets. Thanks again.ReplyDelete
Very intellectual article. I do believe that there is more of a musical side of led zeppelin that could have been further elaborated on. The dead had mind blowing improvisation but led zeppelin had studio and song writing genius that goes beyond they're "metal" reputation. The rain song, ten years gone, and thank you are just as musically beautiful and interesting and definitely as dimensional as the fantastic dead catalog.ReplyDelete
Here is a cool link to Herb Greene's limited edition portfolio of prints from that fateful day: www.ledzeppelinportflio.comReplyDelete
The "Mountains on the Moon"-like Zeppelin track has been taken off youtube. What was it?ReplyDelete
Going to California.Delete
Completely off-base. Going To California and most of Zep's other 1970-71 acoustic material was directly influenced by Joni, Fairport and CSNY.Delete
It's not that Zeppelin was influenced by the Dead (they weren't), just that these two songs are both acoustic droney folk-type songs with similar arrangements (harpsichord in one, mandolin in the other). Coincidental resemblance. Zeppelin's folk influences were primarily English, while the Dead were rooted almost entirely in American folk (aside from a couple old ballads, Peggy-O & Jack-a-Roe); but with these two songs in particular, the styles got flipped, Zeppelin went California-folk while the Dead went medieval-English.Delete
Robert Plant mentioned the Dead recently as having the type of audience he wants:ReplyDelete
"There were Deadheads, and it was a good place to be," he says. The Grateful Dead "didn't compromise. They weren't technicolor rock gods. They had such a huge following because they were coming from a place that, even though it was from an altered state, it was definitely real. …That is what I want."
It's funny that Plant would mention the Dead. Perhaps he's been influenced by his Band of Joy partner Buddy Miller, a country musician & Dead fan from way back (who made the stealth SBD recordings of the April '71 Fillmore East run).
Miller mentioned in a 2012 interview, "I was way into the Grateful Dead, too, who actually turned a lot of people onto country music through the back door. And I would go see them play at the Fillmore; then we’d go to a bluegrass festival in Culpeper..."
And from a 2001 Pure Music interview with Buddy Miller:
"BM: I was way into that San Francisco scene... Jorma, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver.
Q: Oh, you're a Garcia guy.
BM: Oh yeah. And I think the Dead brought a lot of kids to country music through the back door.
Q: Sure, they were doing Merle Haggard and Buck Owens songs.
BM: An old friend of mine, Steve Gonnier, was a soundman at the Fillmore. He used to let me make soundboard tapes of certain shows.
Q: Buddy Miller a deadhead, who woulda thunk it.
BM: I thought the Dead were great. Even if you didn't like the sound of their vocals, once you got past that, musically they were really doing something. And Moby Grape too, I liked them.
Q: Moby Grape! Who was that amazing guitar player...
BM: Jerry Miller. They had three great guitar players and Skip Spence."
When Miller first met Robert Plant, "To my surprise, he jumped right into a conversation about Love and Moby Grape, a lot of the bands I grew up on. We talked for a long time. I guess he took my name away from that." Plant later picked Miller to be his guitar player.
It appears Ken Babbs was also at the (brief) meeting of the Dead & Led Zeppelin. He wrote on his site this week:ReplyDelete
"In 1969 I was working as the warehouseman at the Grateful Dead studio called Alembic in Marin County.... One day I went with the band to San Fran for a photo shoot up in the loft, a wide open room, on the top floor of an old run down building.
There was nobody else in there just some old furniture and a roundtable and we had to kill time....
Another band came into the loft. They were dressed in crazy colored clothes and went over to the other end of the loft where nobody could bug them and Bob Weir said what's their name and Phil Lesh said Led Zeppelin and Bill Kreutzman said what’s that mean and Jerry Garcia said you know it went over like a lead balloon except this time it was a zeppelin.
Pigpen pulled out his 22 pistol and shot away at an old chair until Jerry Garcia said oh no oh no oh no don't do that and everyone settled down and waited for the photographer."
Apparently the printers of Zap Comix were also hiding from the cops in the loft, and were alarmed by the gunshots! (Zap was the target of a police crackdown on underground comics, and bookstores & newsdealers in SF were busted in '69 for selling Zap.)
Garcia must have been familiar with Zap Comix, not least because poster artists Rick Griffin & Victor Moscoso were among the Zap cartoonists. But that's another topic....
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
Perhaps this was mentioned before, but here's a Dead/Jimmy Page connection: In at least one interview, Bob Weir says that the inspiration for the rhythm of "The Other One" came from a Yardbirds song that he'd heard on the radio. Given that The Other One was debuted in late 1967, the Yardbirds' one album with Jimmy Page, Little Games, would have just come out. The title track (and lead track on the LP) indeed has the rhythm (3 against 4 shuffle, which would become an early metal favorite. Hard not to want to headbang to that rhythm). Here's "Little Games": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k6E7gRbIzkReplyDelete
And I have no proof of the following theory, but I recently revisited some 70's KISS (my first favorite group, when I was seven) and noted the similarities of their song "100,000 Years" (1973) to "The Other One". Heavy, rumbling bass intro, and the way the drums play the rhythm (and go into a drum solo) could be seen as possibly influenced by the Skull and Roses version of The Other One. Although Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons have said that they wanted KISS to be a reaction to bands like the Grateful Dead, Ace Frehley mentions seeing the Dead in Central Park (pre KISS) and even having a short chat with Jerry, whom he admired. And in Paul Stanley's recent memoir, he talks about going to the Fillmore to see tons of shows as a teenage hippie, though he preferred the theatrical UK bands to the stand-still-and-play west coast bands. Here's the KISS tune--give it a couple minutes and I think you'll be able to hear some Other One similarities.
PS--I forgot that I had commented on this three years ago and had totally forgotten about my One Week at Kezar essay idea. I was laid off at the time and had so much time to write. Now I'm back working and have an 8 month old baby. Time is tight....
Oh, the KISS song...https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGiruo6K238Delete
Yes, 'Little Games' inspired 'The Other One!' (In much the same way that 'Caution' came from 'Mystic Eyes.') I forgot all about that.ReplyDelete
A clear resemblance - and possibly Weir did more than hear it on the radio. In an interview with Jas Obrecht, Weir said of the Yardbirds, "They were one of the bands that Bill Graham brought over that we went down and caught and were profoundly influenced by."
The Yardbirds played the Fillmore a few times - usually while the Dead were playing somewhere else, but the Yardbirds had a run at the Fillmore on July 25-27, 1967, in which they played material from the just-released Little Games album. ('The Other One' debuted three months later.)
A live version of 'Glimpses' from those shows:
And I admit, that Kiss song does have some of that Other One swing....
It would be interesting if someone did a Grateful Dead database site similar to www.led-zeppelin-database.com, with a song analysis like there.ReplyDelete
I think you mean www.ledzeppelin-database.com ?Delete
Zeppelin has a far larger fanbase than the Dead, equally fanatical about show collecting, so it's natural that they're better-served by show reference sites. I've wished for years that the Dead had a setlist site as detailed as that one, but for now deadlists.com comes closest. Hopefully in the future a Dead site will catch up.
Well, I tried to start from somewhere and started making a new fan site. At the beginning, it may look silly and cheap, but I invite everyone to participate and make it better together. http://gdbase.at.uaReplyDelete
Although I haven't digested every word in this post, the points that seem to be missing are the fact that everything Zep did revolved around Bonham, who was arguably the most musical drummer of that era. True, Bill and Mickey were (are) a dynamic rhythmic team, but the entire Zep sound hinged on Bonzo's unmatched virtuosity, which redefined rock drumming, for better or worse depending on who you ask. The other fact is that Page's element was more in the studio than on stage, and his production skills likewise created a new template that is still being used today. Whatever your opinion is of how they sourced--and most often didn't source--their material, the fact is that Zep was infinitely more focused than the Dead in terms of the chemistry generated among the band members. The reality is that the Dead were always unpredictable, while Zeppelin was four musicians giving it all they had at all times. I love the Dead (most of the time), but there's really no comparison.ReplyDelete
Well I had initially started writing to inquire about that broken youtube link to Going to California but I just saw it when I doubled back through the comments. Somehow I missed it. Though I seem to recall it now from when I first read this years ago and the link was active. I also have a weird feeling that I've already written of the following before, but in case I didn't...ReplyDelete
I also forgot about the Screaming Trees reference. I'm a huge fan of Trees singer Mark Lanegan (primarily his 1990-2004 era material). He's an acquired taste. At heart his music captures the essence of the blues, though he rarely did songs you would readily identify as blues songs. With one glaring exception:he did a cover of Death Don't Have No Mercy on an album. Lanegan has given a fair amount of interviews about his approach to music in general and things regarding influences, but he's rarely spoken of why he chose the various covers he's recorded (he's done a couple all-cover albums, too). I wonder if he discovered Death Don't through Dylan? Though Lanegan's arrangement is more of an uptempo shuffle.
Lanegan is also a big Leadbelly fan, it was he who turned Kurt Cobain onto "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" (also a tune that showed up once with the Dead as "In the Pines"), the definitive closing number of the Nirvana Unplugged performance. Lanegan, Cobain, and Krist Novaselic made an attempt at doing a sort of Blues spinoff band, but the idea was quickly dropped. Though Lanegan included the tracks they completed, including "In the Pines," on his first solo album while still in Screaming Trees.
It is said among Nirvana enthusiasts and scholars that Kurt, like fellow reluctant leader (and heroin enthusiast) Garcia, hated the attention he had gotten as a front man and tired of being the face of a musical movement and scene and wanted to quit Nirvana and focus on other projects, namely reuniting with Lanegan and combining blues, grunge, punk, and new wave elements. As a fan of all those genres and the musicians involved, I can only sigh thinking of what might have been...
Anyway, I also love In Through the Out Door. I would say it and LZ III are the two albums I listen to the most. But I also get why people hate that album. Perhaps a viewing of Randy Jackson's solo 12 string performance of Carouselambra may turn one around?
I'd forgotten that the comment thread here is twice as long as the original post!Delete
Lanegan & Cobain briefly formed a Leadbelly cover band in 1989, but only recorded a few songs, including:
I'm not sure why Cobain was so taken by Leadbelly (he didn't show any other interest in old blues artists). In interviews he said he was turned on to Leadbelly by reading William Burroughs, one of Cobain's idols:
"[Burroughs] taught me a lot of things through his books and interviews that I’m really grateful for. I remember him saying in an interview, “These new rock’n’roll kids should just throw away their guitars and listen to something with real soul, like Leadbelly.” I’d never heard about Leadbelly before so I bought a couple of records, and now he turns out to be my absolute favorite of all time in music. I absolutely love it more than any rock’n’roll I ever heard."
While the Dead had a direct connection to the Beat culture through Neal Cassady (and indirectly Jack Kerouac), Cobain's only link with the Beats was to Burroughs, whom he worshipped (and not just as one junkie to another). It's funny that he was introduced to an old blues musician "with real soul" that way! But he also recorded a piece with Burroughs, "The Priest They Called Him":
Aside from being more abrasive, this is in the same genre of Beat spoken-word collaborative performances that occasionally appeared in Dead shows - for instance with Neal Cassady 7/23/67, Ken Kesey 10/31/91, or Ken Nordine 3/11/93. (As a Kurt "noise space" with recitation you could even compare it to Phil's 'Raven' or 'Earthquake' spaces in 1982.)
And lest you think any comparison between Kurt & the Dead too outlandish to contemplate, one of Phil's bands recently combined Lithium and Friend of the Devil:
A late thanks for this very insightful and balanced essay, and for the discussion proceeding from it. One little side note regarding the essay: Pete Townshend's claim (latter repeated by Garcia) that by 1976 the Who had played "the same show for 4 years" is a typical Pete exaggeration. Yes, they did play the same show throughout most of 1975 and all of 1976. But this set was clearly different from the ones played in 1973 and 1974 (more Quadrophenia material in those years). It is true though that, although played brilliantly and with tremendous energy, the 1975–76 set was rather stale and focussed too much on the old hits and Tommy. Virtually no Quadrophenia material left in the set (Drowned was played a couple of times), and even from the Who's Next period they only kept repeating the same three hits by that ploint, although there was some much else to choose from.ReplyDelete
Pete was never one to throw much variety into the Who's setlists; even at the time I think he preferred sticking with the old favorites. But as a result, a Who show was a carefully crafted thing. It's interesting to ponder what a Who tour would have been like had they done different songs every night....ReplyDelete
Zeppelin of course also stuck with a mostly static setlist through a tour, with the variations coming within the longer jams.
i like the piece. the point about pentangle playing w/ the dead i never knew, thanks for that! i do think influenced the acoustic sets and as much as i love the Dead, and i love Zep too- did the dead ever play sex machine?ReplyDelete
Fun fact...both bands were very near each other on 2 consecutive nights in 1969 in San Francisco. On Nov 7 & 8 the Grateful Dead played shows at the Fillmore Auditorium while Led Zeppelin was playing a few blocks away at Winterland. Bill Graham promoted Led Zeppelin for those shows while another promoter had assumed control of the Fillmore at that time so he wasn't involved with the Dead on those nights.ReplyDelete
Interesting, I had a phase of collecting Zeppelin shows but I never quite listened to and studied them quite as methodically as the Dead's early recordings so I never picked up on that. I wonder if that affected the Dead's attendance? Did people compromise? 10 years later people would have traveled cross country to see the Dead one night and Zeppelin the next, but neither were really huge yet and good concerts like that were happening weekly in those days (when were the Stones shows again?). I'm not familiar with those Zeppelin shows specifically but I like to think I'd have caught Zeppelin on the 7th and the Dead on the 8th. No freaking way would I miss 11/8/69. But I'd have probably done the opposite for some reason or another and likely kicked myself decades later when 11/8 became available.Delete
I wonder if in '69 these two bands would already have had noticeably different audiences, or if there was even much overlap. As the hometown band you'd think the Dead would have the advantage, but Led Zeppelin were already much more successful - Led Zeppelin II was racking up a lot more sales than Aoxomoxoa! As a result, Zeppelin were headlining Winterland again, while the Dead were at the smaller Fillmore. (In fact, the Dead at the time did not play Winterland unless they were paired with a more successful band like Jefferson Airplane.)Delete
There are several audience tapes of Zeppelin's Winterland shows on Nov 6-7, 1969 available on youtube. (Try finding multiple audience tapers at any 1969 Dead show!)