This was January of ’69, the same month that Led Zeppelin I came out, and it was the group’s first visit to San Francisco. It was Percy and Bonzo’s first time in America. The lads were playing Fillmore West on the 9th through the 12th and one of those afternoons they made their way to Herb Greene’s warehouse/studio and posed for some glamour shots that Rolling Stone could run. Robert Plant attempted to smolder, but was stymied by his curls. John Bonham mostly just stood there and looked like a secondary character from Get Carter.
And, of course, there is always a Dead connection.
All of the major acts that came to San Francisco bounced off the Dead in one way or another: they opened for Miles, bailed on their own show to see Cream, got stoned and jammed with Fleetwood Mac, snubbed Hendrix (Garcia, supposedly), and lent the Stones equipment on several occasions (one of them Altamont). The Dead did not interact musically with Led Zeppelin, and we have no record of any band members attending the Zeppelin performance. They did not party together. No mud sharks were harmed in the making of this Rock and Roll anecdote.
No, the Dead and Zeppelin came into contact at this very photo shoot, possibly right after this picture was taken. Herb Greene was double-booked that day, you see. First the Hammer of the Gods, and then the Eyes of the World. Led Zeppelin, being new to the Rock Star game but picking it up with great speed, showed up late and so Herb was still with them when the Dead ambled in to sit for the session that would produce some of their most iconic photos.
Like this one:
See how they’re all bundled up? January in San Francisco. Same day and location as the Zeppelin pictures.
Anyway, the Dead is waiting for Herbie (everyone called him Herbie) to finish up with these damnable foreigners coming over here and stealing all our women, and they got to entertaining themselves. Joints were smoked and the mood became grabasstic and loose; a dice game may or may not have broken out; Mickey stole TC’s cane and starting whacking people in the hamstrings. This was all accompanied by ample conversating–the Dead always was a chatty bunch–and Pig finds himself yakking about this or perhaps that, and then finds his points being discounted by his partner in discourse. Probably Bobby. He’s hardheaded. So, to add emphasis to his opinions, the ol’ Pig pulls out the little .22 he carries and fires a few rounds into the concrete floor. The band was, at worst, mildly startled; Pig did that shit a lot.
The other band, however, lost their British shit. In 1969, the only person in England legally allowed to carry a gun was the Queen. That was what her purse was for. The cops didn’t have guns, and the criminals didn’t have guns, and even the gun shops didn’t have guns. You could have hunting rifles, but they had to be a thousand years old and named Throckwacket or something. The UK had such tight gun control laws that KISS were not allowed to perform their hit song Love Gun until 1987, and by then no one cared.
Poor Percy. He’s only 19 years old in the picture, and it’s his first time in America and HOLY SHIT THEY’RE SHOOTING. Bonham is only a little older, and it’s also his first time in the country, but fuck him.
Led Zeppelin fled the session, and the two bands never met.
If you’re thinking about doing Thoughts on the Led Zeppelin, I’ll set the house on fire.
Get the matches.