Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Ten More Thoughts On Led Zeppelin

ONE

Sit down, Younger Enthusiasts, and let your Uncle TotD tell you all about the Old Days. Of atavistic and skinny-legged men, and of Cadillacs in swimming pools. Of an album a year, and all the cocaine Stevie Nicks could blow up your ass. Of airplanes with shag carpeting and shaggable stewardesses. Of pilgrimages to Graceland, and mud sharks, and some fucker named Roy Harper. Of not being able to decide between the Rolls and the Jag. Of Guitar Heroes and Drum Solos and Acoustic Mini-Sets.

Hold up your lighters, kids. Hold up your lighters if you remember laughter.

In the back of the photo, that’s a Pan Am jet. Pan Am was an airline, and you would shower and wear clean slacks to fly. In the air, you could smoke cigarettes and take the plane hostage with whatever weapon you’d smuggled aboard because airport security didn’t exist in 1970.

In the front of the photo, that’s a Led Zeppelin. They were a British band who played loudly and behaved badly. In their defense, they were showered with rewards for both their volume and their assholery, so why should they have stopped?

In their hands are the master tapes for Led Zeppelin II. You cannot imagine the pace of the music industry in 1970, Younger Enthusiast. Zepp’s first record came out in January of ’69; their fourth was released in November of ’71. This was not abnormal, especially for new bands: Cheap Trick’s first three albums came out in the span of 14 months. Hell, even the Stones came through with a record every year.

However, it wasn’t like they were lolling around the studio waiting for inspiration to strike in between releases. They were on the road constantly, and so had to write tunes in hotel rooms and demo them in local hole-in-the-wall studios. Then, the Rock Stars would fly to Los Angeles to do the mixing. That was the rule. They’d record somewhere romantic–an 18th-century French chalet or a thatched hut in Wales–and then they’d fly to Los Angeles to mix. (And stay in their favorite hotels and go to their favorite bars and fuck their favorite groupies.)

And in doing that, they needed to lug the masters around. Those boxes are not the vinyl versions of the first couple Dick’s Picks, but reels of two-inch Ampex tape. Cassette tapes were a quarter-inch across, so these suckers were eight times better. (That’s probably not correct.) And remember: those are the only copies. The past is not the present, Younger Enthusiast. First of all, it happened a long time ago. Second, there was no auto-save. Nothing automatically copied itself to the cloud. You recorded a song, wrote a novel, whatever? You only had the one copy.

So the guitars and the fanciful trousers go under the plane, but the masters get carried the whole trip.

TWO

This is Jimmy Page. He was a Guitar Hero. Sometimes he wore very cool clothes.

Other times, he did not.

Did your nan knit you your magickal jumper, Jimmy?

“I finished up your Zoso sweater, Nummy.” (Jimmy Page’s grandmother calls him “Nummy.”)

“That’s not how it’s pronounced, Gamma.” (Jimmy Page calls his grandmother “Gamma.”)

“Is it the name of your favorite football team, dear?”

“No, Gamma, it’s very spooky and mystical.”

“Oh, that’s lovely.”

THREE

Percy–they all had nicknames; the British are a people given to the nicking of names–was a puffed-up tosspot, and Jonesy was dull and passive-aggressive; neither of them meant any harm. They stood by while bystanders were being harmed, and were occasionally amused by the harming, but they weren’t assholes. Pagey was a pretentious cheapskate who liked fucking teenagers: Byronic in every way, and so dangerous to know; Pagey was an asshole. But Bonzo? That motherfucker was a monster.

Bozo was the kind of beef-brained thicky who thought Alex and his droogs from Clockwork Orange were the good guys. He dressed like that–and forced his dogsbody Mick Hinton to wear a similar costume–the entire ’73 tour. He lived up to the outfit, too: he punched women from the record company, and men in restaurants, and–since Zeppelin liked to party in drag queen bars–most likely struck at least one genderfluid person. Bozo wasn’t a Keith Moon-like scamp who played pranks that got out of hand; he was stupid and liked to hurt strangers. Y’know what he thought was a funny joke, and would do all the time? Shit in women’s purses. Lady would leave her purse sitting there and Bozo would shit in it. Ha ha ha.

He wasn’t like this at home, all his friends and enablers say in all the books. With his wife and children, he was a calm and friendly bloke, but the road weighed on him to the point where the only remedy was to shit in women’s purses and punch drag queens. Homesickness! All the books say it, and all the books think they’re defending him, but this fact only further damns the man: he wasn’t a psychopath who no control over his actions. He was able, when he chose, to restrain himself and behave like a human.

If you ain’t crazy, then you’re culpable.

FOUR

Zeppelin didn’t do teevee. They did a half-hour set on a Danish program in March of ’69, and that was it. No SNL and no Mike Douglas Show and no Midnight Special and certainly not Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert. You wanted to see Led Zeppelin, then you went to see Led Zeppelin. No freebies, kid. Besides, they didn’t need the publicity.

So the band, image-wise, is locked in ember in 1975, caught on 35mm film in Madison Square Garden. When you picture Led Zeppelin, you picture them from The Song Remains The Same, the concert movie released in 1976.

It is for this reason, Younger Enthusiast, that all Rock Nerds know that Robert Plant wears his root to the left.

That’s the whole film, Younger Enthusiast. It’s just 2.5 hours of Percy’s potato salad and a drum solo.

“Are we comparing bulges, darling?”

Who is that?”

Oh, hey, Freddie.

“Is that what Percy is calling a bulge? It’s all balls.”

I don’t wanna have this conversation.

“Your loss, darling.”

FIVE

This is that Denmarkish teevee show I told you about.

SIX

And this is Pagey from The Song Remains The Same.

The tough part is finding the right shoes. What goes with a crushed-velour dragon suit?

SEVEN

The Dead always flew. Some bands had a bus, but the Dead always flew. Commercial at first, and then private. But they never had their own plane.

Button your shirt, Jonesy. You’re not pulling it off. You look like a barrister on holiday in Blackpool; all you need is the knotted handkerchief atop your noggin.

Anyway, that’s the Starship. Here’s another shot:

The plane takes you to the limo which takes you to the hotel which takes you to the venue, and then reverse, and then do it again. Repeat for six weeks or so. Hit the clinic before the flight home. Rock and fucking roll, maaaaaaan.

There weren’t, like, seats or anything so pedestrian inside the Starship. There were couches and tables and thick carpeting and, of course, an organ.

That’s Jonesy playing it.

And that’s Elton John, who loved playing with organs.

There was even a fireplace, because it was the 70’s and everyone was on drugs, including people who built airplanes.

Bobby Sherman owned it. He was a Teen Idol in the 60’s, had a ton of hits and teevee appearances and movie roles, and decided to spread his wings into business in the 70’s. He bought a Boeing 720–the very first one that had come off the line in 1960–from United Airlines in 1973 and Rock Starred up the interior.

It was an immediate success. Zeppelin were the first to lease the jet, and then the rest of the Rock world followed suit: Elton and Alice Cooper and Deep Purple and even the Stones. (Mick supposedly found the plane as vulgar as Oscar Wilde’s curtains.)

The constant touring had the same effect on the Starship as it did the bands, and she was retired in 1978 to be scrapped for parts. Let’s look at John Paul Jones trying to be sexy again:

Oh, Jonesy.

EIGHT

Don’t do drugs and worship Satan, kids.

 

This was ’77. The tour went precisely as well as this photograph would suggest, and ended with the assault in San Francisco and a phone call from back home telling Robert Plant that his four-year-old son was dead. The band would take 18 months off and return to the stage at Knebworth for two gigs that drew 400,000. In Through The Out Door sold like it was supposed to, but Presence was muddled and it was an open question as to what place Led Zeppelin would have in the 80’s.

John Bonham answered the question on September 25th, 1980. There would be reunions, varying widely in success, but the mighty Zepp was no more.

NINE

This is Lori Maddox. She looks like she’s 14 because she is.

You didn’t think we were gonna skip this part, did you?

Pagey liked ’em young. Now, “liking ’em young” was pretty much industry standard for the time, but Pagey stood out. Shit, he’s still at it:

She’s 22. Pagey has a type.

Lori Maddox was one of a clique of pubescent Los Angeles teens that hung out at an all-ages glam joint called the English Disco which was run by Rodney Bingenheimer, who was a rapey elf. Rock Stars would cruise the dance floor for girls, and they’d always find one. Lori was best friends with Sable Starr. They went to middle school together during the day, and the Rainbow at night.

This is what Lori and Sable looked like when they were partying with Slade:

Pagey saw her at the Whiskey or something one night and dispatched road manager Richard Cole to snatch her up and bring her back to the Riot House. Mostly, he kept her stashed away in his suite. Perhaps this suggests that Pagey knew what he was doing was wrong?

Nope! It says that he knew what he was doing was illegal, but he didn’t think it was wrong.

Maybe because it wasn’t, not at the time. Not in that Los Angeles. None of his peers would have any problem with his actions, and Lori wanted to be there. She’s still alive. Says she doesn’t regret a thing. But she also says she’d now regard any 30-year-old (Pagey is 30 in the above picture) who came sniffing around her 14-year-old daughter (Lori is 14 in the picture) as, well, a pederast.

Times change, and so do people.

TEN

Someone must remember laughter. Are you telling me that not one person has any memory whatsoever of laughter? Nobody? I don’t believe that. Go ask again.

15 Comments

  1. JES

    True story: my mother has a half sister (my half aunt?) who is about my age. We are from rural South Carolina, which explains stuff like that. When my mom, dad, sister and I left Dixie in the mid ’70s and moved to Long Island, the half aunt came with us to escape the family goopy and distempers and juju and crazy down there (again, rural South Carolina).

    If it is not inappropriate for me to say this, my half aunt was insanely attractive by any objective mid ’70s standpoint, and before coming with us to New York, she had already established herself as a groupie of note for bands coming through Savannah, Charleston, Jacksonville etc.

    Needless to say, easy access to New York once she moved north with us expanded the portfolio of groups for whom she groupied immensely . . . and so for about two years, our avocado wall phone with the knotted cord on the kitchen wall (only phone in the house) would ring and as the only teenage boy in the house I would race to answer it, either because a girl might be calling, or because school might be calling, and in either of those cases, I did NOT want the parents taking the call.

    Alas, more often than any of us would probably like to admit, the caller was a rock star or a rock star’s representative or a member of the SNL cast, and I would shout for the half aunt who would stretch the knotted phone cord down the basement stairs, closing the door behind her, to make various plans and assignations. Cars would then inevitably arrive at our house at odd hours and she would be gone for a day or three.

    So, in re Zep: While the presumption is that Grant always did the procuring and dispatching of the underage girls, I can tell you first hand that sometimes Pagey made his own calls, because I have spoken to him on the phone more than once, and then summoned my half aunt on his behalf.

    The past was terrible, yes, it truly was.

    The end.

    • Tor Haxson

      Riots..
      The concerts tended to be riots more than other acts.

    • CherryGarcia

      The past wasn’t terrible; people are and have always been terrible. Add a band that’s entirely about the spectacle like Led Zepplin in there too, don’t be surprised with what you get.

  2. RI Tom

    is that Salman Rushdie sidled up at the Jones piano bar?

  3. Luther Von Baconson

    a smorgasbord of Zoplin
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWzwucQqWqs

  4. cube

    About 2 or 3 years ago, I made it quite clear to my family that I wanted a dragon suit for Father’s Day. Still waiting.

  5. Corry342

    McNally reports (in Long Strange Trip) that the Dead and Zeppelin met only once. In January 1969, Led Zeppelin was opening for Country Joe and The Fish at Fillmore West. Herb Greene was taking promo photos of Zep at his studio, and the Dead needed photos, too, so Zep ok’d the Dead turning up.

    Pigpen was bored, and since he’d brought his .22 pistol, he fired some shots into the ceiling. Zep was not pleased and left immediately. Rock history was irrevocably changed.

    • Corry342

      I should add that the lack of rapprochement between Led and Dead had immediate consequences. That very weekend, Country Joe and The Fish was finishing off their old lineup, so on Sunday, January 12 they invited all their friends, including Jerry Garcia, to jam out the set. Led Zeppelin was the opening act–remember that this was before the first album was released, but it was being played on FM radio–and going down the storm.

      http://hooterollin.blogspot.com/2016/01/fillmore-west-january-12-1969-country.html

      Had Page and Garcia hit it off at the photographer’s, who can say? But thanks to Pigpen and a .22, that didn’t happen. Looking back on it, I can’t help but wonder if there was a Time Sheath involved.

  6. Dead_drift

    All four sporting left root. Is that a coincidence?

  7. Murray

    Best thing about Plant’s nickname? “Percy” is a slang term for penis in Old Blighty. You would not give someone that particular diminutive in the Land of the Angles without being very mindful of the full connotation of the name. Hell, in ’71 there was a movie about a guy who had to have his schvantz amputated titled Percy (soundtrack by The Kinks). Once again we realize Led Zeppelin (and JK Rowling) lack subtlety.

    • JES

      The film “Percy” was based on the same named novel by Raymond Hitchcock, father of Robyn.

      This concludes today’s useless trivia moment.

  8. mikemj

    https://youtu.be/w9ereYP4RF8

  9. Chris Towery

    Just met you at the High Dive in Gainesville, FL. I was the writer guy in the Rosebud T-shirt. Anyhow, thanks for the heads up about your blogs!

    FYI: You had me at “Elton John loved playing with organs.”

    Yep, he was the fucking organ master! Good stuff, man…

    • Thoughts On The Dead

      I was not at the High Dive in Gainesville. Did someone tell you that he was me?

  10. Kristen

    I love your Zepp posts! Keep them coming!

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