If you follow live Led Zeppelin recordings, you know that the last several years have been the Led Zeppelin Soundboard Revolution. The Japanese boot companies have gotten ahold of a hoard of 1975 tour soundboard tapes. These exist because Showco, the sound & light company that Zep used, would tape each show, for review by the soundmen, and the band.
The Japanese bootleg label Empress Valley have been releasing ’75 soundboard tapes for more than 10 years, starting with Flying Circus. I am not the biggest fan of the this tour, as it showcases a band not at their best. Robert Plant started the tour with the flu, and Jimmy Page started with a broken finger. They soldiered on and the very early dates (January) has some songs never again played, like When The Levee Breaks, and The Wanton Song. How Many More Times was revived in place of Dazed and Confused to give Jimmy’s finger a break. He played with three fingers on his left hand. Remarkable for sure, but the pain management needed did his growing use, and dependence, on opiates and alcohol no favors.
Ok. Enough with the downers. This is the tour supporting Physical Graffiti, which is their last undisputed great album. Holy shit, you get Kashmir, Trampled Underfoot, In My Time Of Dying, Ten Years Gone…. those alone are the mountaintop of greatness, plus a host of other songs which are merely awesome like, Custard Pie, Night Flight…well, you know what songs are on this album if you’re reading this post.
Anyhoo… The 1975 was a bit of a drop from the energy of the 1973 tour, which was a bit of a drop from 1972 (the last year when Plant’s voice had that killer high range) but this show could be listed as 1973, and no one would know the difference (aside from the Physical Graffiti tracks). This is a good one. Listen to the podcast, listen to the show.
Jimmy Page was a very busy boy in 1984. He was fresh off the rejuvenation (or resurrection) of the ARMS Tour (last date of that was 12/9/83), and he immediately started looking for drummers for the new band he wanted to create, with Paul Rodgers (late of Bad Company).
On 1/22/84 Jimmy was jamming with drummers in Nomis studios. Rat Scabies from the Damned, and Bill Bruford (King Crimson & Yes) was among the drummers he played with. Recordings exist. They’re muddy (cassette boombox it sounds like) but there’s some good stuff there. I think it may be Pino Palladino on bass.
Somewhere around this time Jimmy contacted Chris Slade. I do not know if he auditioned him, or just knew enough and wanted him, but Chris Slade had just (literally minutes before) taken a call from Dave Gilmour to do a tour with him. So he told Jimmy it would be three months before he could join the Firm. Jimmy agreed to wait, and it eventually became a 9 month wait.
02.?? New York (with Eric Clapton, Charlie Watts, John Entwistle and Louis Bertignac of Telephone – Glyn John’s birthday party) No recordings have circulated.
3/84 – Recording the Honeydrippers EP with Robert Plant, Jeff Beck, Nile Rodgers, and more. Produced by Ahmet Ertegun.
April/May/84 – Jimmy Page records the album Whatever Happened To Jugula, with Roy Harper, at Roy’s 24 track studio, The Boilerhouse. Also performs with Roy’s band on the following dates:
05.19 May Tree Fair, Thetford
05.20 Kenley Fayre, Norwich
05.21 St. Ives Hotel, Lytham St. Annes
5/5&6/84 Jimmy plays on three tracks of Stephen Stills’ album Right By You. It was recorded in Jimmy’s Sol studios, and released 7/30/84. If you’re in the USA these vids won’t play on my site. CLICK THE WATCH ON YOUTUBE LINKS and you’ll be fine.
6/5/84 – Alexis Korner Benefit with The Alexis Light Orchestra aka Ian Stewart’s Rocket 88. Charlie Watts, Ian Stewart, Jack Bruce, Ruby Turner, Paul Jones, John Picard, Don Weller Dick Heckstall-Smith
6/24/84 – Jimmy Page jams with Yes on the Beatles song, I’m Down. This show was in Germany, and it was professionally filmed, and released on home video. Jimmy’s encore is NOT in the release, but I bet it exists somewhere, in pro-shot goodness.
7/12/84 Pistoia Blues Festival. Another benefit show for the recently deceased Alexis Korner. This time he plays with (among others) Ginger Baker in Italy. Jimmy is in fine form. He does a super ballsy Train Kept A Rollin’ but the rest of the band obviously doesn’t know the song, because it’s a train wreck (no pun intended), but Jimmy’s playing was amazing. He was drinking vodka straight from a bottle during this gig. Rock and Roll.
07/28/84 With Roy Harper’s band – Cambridge Folk Festival (afternoon & evening sets)
LISTEN TO THIS. IT’S AWESOME
07/29/84 Battersea Park, London – Jimmy Page with Roy Harper’s band.
08.?? Heartbreak Hotel, Ibiza (Page and Plant with Phil May and members of The Pretty Things)
9/84-11/84 Recording the Firm album, mixing and producing. Sol Studios.
11/16/84 (broadcast date)Jimmy Page & Roy Harper Langdale, Cumbria (Old Grey Whistle Test, BBC TV)
11/24/84 – Jimmy Page & Roy Harper Rock Garden, Covent Garden, London
11/29/84 The Firm debuts in Stockholm, and Jimmy Page is on another path.
12/9/84 The Firm played the Hammersmith Odeon in London, which is professionally filmed and recorded. MTV plays a 30 minute version. Maybe you remember it?
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1980 was not a great year for rock. John Bonham died in September and Led Zeppelin disbanded in December. Yes had finally sunk despite trying to plug the leaks with Trevor Horn, and Geoff Downe (from the Buggles!), after the departure of Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman. Here’s a peek at what Yes looked like in 1980.
This Is YES In 1980
The air was heavy, dependency issues were rampant, and music was changing.
Jimmy Page was emotionally devastated, at both the death of his friend and bandmate, but also at the death of his band. Led Zeppelin officially dissolved on December 4, 1980.
The sources for this info are, for the most part, people directly involved. Chris Squire has spoken of these sessions, as have Alan White, Jimmy Page, and the engineer Stuart Epps. He also engineered the posthumous Led Zeppelin album, Coda.
Here’s the thing with these sources. Some were from youtube and they’ve been taken down and are gone. Chris Squire’s is gone, as is (goddamn it I should have downloaded it when I had the chance) the Stuart Epps video. I read a lot of interviews, forum posts from knowledgable people (cough Steve A Jones… cough), and watched/listened to a lot of videos. Due diligence was performed.
The only tracks that I’ve seen around, in the trading circles, are from a cassette source. My recording lists 2nd or 3rd generation.
Track 2 is Fortune Hunter, which was used later by the Firm. This one feels a lot like a Jimmy riff to me. Alan White is more straight on rocking, and Chris Squire is just laying a groove. Nothing proggy. Jimmy uses the Roland guitar synth in the background, and the b bender is all over this. He plays some pretty tight solos, which sound a lot like solos from Coda, Walter’s Walk in particular.
Track 3 is Can You See. This is all Chris Squire. I can hear Jon Anderson singing this on 90125. If it was a little brighter, and if Chris Squire wasn’t singing this (sorry, he’s not great on this). It kind of drags tempo wise. It feels like it should be just a hair faster.
This later came out in 2001 as Can You Imagine on the album Magnification.
This is a complete song, with overdubs, solos, etc. The first two tracks were more rudimentary and jamming, than finished product.
Track 4 is Telephone Secrets. This one suffers (imo) from Squire’s vocals. I can see Jon Anderson singing this, and with a little more upbeat vibe, it being at home on 90125. It actually appears on the Deluxe Edition of Drama as Song No. 4 (satellite)
Stuart Epps was Jimmy Page’s engineer, working in Jimmy’s SOL studio (formerly Elton John’s) and he ran the board for the XYZ sessions. According to him, “It was a week of sessions. It was mad.” He was there. These guys were all focused on creating good music, and I think it shows.
THE COMPLETE TRACKS FROM THE XYZ SESSIONS
I only played excerpts from each track, during the podcast. Here, as promised, are the complete XYZ tracks. Enjoy.
WTF IS THIS?!
No sooner had I posted this episode than a listener commented about a promo XYZ pen he won back in 1981, from none other than Tight But Loose magazine. I.. had no idea things progressed to the point of pen manufacturing. I am extremely skeptical that it’s an official Swan Song/Atlantic promo. I am putting my money on it being something that Dave Lewis (the TBL guy and avatar of Zep) had made up himself. They look like the cheap promo pens that small businesses have made up, plus John Paul Jones and Robert Plant’s names are on the pen. I reached out to Mr. Lewis and will update when I get word. In any case… it’s pretty damn cool!
UPDATE: They are neither official nor do they originate from Mr. Lewis. He thinks they might have been made up by
Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker, Paul Rodgers, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Ronnie Wood, Kenney Jones… Jesus Christ, everybody
Links from the show
This is San Francisco 12/2/83. San Fran 12/2/83 is a nice set by Jimmy. He is hit or miss on this tour, often within the same set. Remember, he may not be using heroin anymore, but he was in no way sober. This is the show from which the Goodnight Irene heard in the podcast is taken. You should watch the whole thing. It’s a shit ton of talent on one stage, and no one is being a prick.
WATCH THIS ONE. It’s not Jimmy’s best, but it’s not that bad. This show also has a killer Goodnight Irene at the end, with Jimmy, Jeff, and Eric trading solos and it’s GREAT! Watch it or the monsters will eat you. You also get incoherent Joe Cocker gibberish at the end.
This is the intro to the officially released London gig. Watch it. It shows how sweet Ronnie Lane was, and how all these huge stars really worked together to help hime. It’s nice.
The first part of the London gig. Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood. Drink coffee first.
Find the rest yourself. I’m an old man.
BONUS NOTES AND SHIT FROM THE PODCAST.
Ronnie Lane was the bass player for the Small Faces (itchycoo park) and later (when they were no longer small) The Faces. The Faces were a good time, drunken rock and roll band that had Rod Stewart as its singer, and Ronnie Wood as their guitarist, both fresh from Jeff Beck’s band. Remember when the Black Crowes first came out, with Jealous Again? They were a clone of the Faces. The Ron Wood went off to become a Rolling Stone, and Rod Stewart went off to be a disco fuckhead. Ronnie Wood ended up living in a trailer on Pete Townshend’s property, having never ‘made it big’. He recorded an album with Pete, in 1977, called Rough Mix that is absolutely wonderful. Not only is a great album, it’s a great album featuring not just Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane, but Eric Clapton, Charlie Watts, John Entwistle, Ian Stewart, and a bunch more. It’s a great album that was just never promoted by the record company. It also is one of the best sounding analog recordings I’ve ever heard. Totally listen to it. Do it.
During the recording of Rough Mix Ronnie Lane was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. His ability to play was hampered, and his already not great life got worse. He must have been a great guy, because holy shit a million huge stars came out to help him.
One Of The Best ARMS Gigs in Great Video
The early 1980’s was a dark time for the rock gods of the 70’s. Led Zeppelin had broken up, Jeff Beck was a footnote, and Eric Clapton had turned so mellow he was like the James Taylor of guitar. Everyone had peaked and was hitting 40. The first generation of rock gods were all total has beens by the time they hit 40. This generation risked obscurity as well.
In 1983 a bunch of British rock gods gathered together to perform a series of benefit concerts, in support of Ronnie Lane. Ronnie was the bass player for the Small Faces, and then the Faces. He was a beloved musician and friend (he lived rent free on Pete Townshend’s estate), who had contracted MS and needed some help.
The bands that were represented were the cream of British rock royalty. Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood (from the Faces and the Stones) showed up in New York City for some songs, too. Eric Clapton from Cream, Jeff Beck from the Yardbirds and as his own bad self (also former bandmate of Ronnie Wood), Joe Cocker and his awesome keyboard player, Chris Stainton. Holy shit a lot of people. Oh yeah, The Who! Kenny Jones from The Who (and also the Faces with Ronnies Lane and Wood). Fernando Saunders on bass (Lou Reed and Jeff Beck’s bassist)… so many goods. And Paul Rodgers from Free and Bad Company. Lots of folk who all got together to help a friend.
Jimmy Page had been out of the spotlight since the death of John Bonham, and dissolution of Led Zeppelin. He was a physical and mental wreck. Drug addiction was at an almost terminal level, and the deep depression of Bonzo’s death just made everything worse. Aside from a few minor projects, or even just jams, Page was a hermit.
The word on this is that Eric Clapton was tapped to approach Jimmy and tell him to get his shit together, heroin-wise. Clapton had just himself finished rehab, and everyone else in the band(s) pretty much had their shit together (although I think Charlie Watts got in to heroin at roughly this time), except for Jimmy. So, a pep talk, some positive reinforcement, and a trip to the states, got Jimmy off the heroin. Alas he still drank like a fish and did hella blow.
Still, credit where credit is due. The ARMS tour got Jimmy to come back as a performer again. Having worked with Paul Rodgers on the US Tour for ARMS, Jimmy formed the FIRM. The Firm sucked. Yes it did. Yes it did.
It is finished. The inaugural episode of the Heart of Markness podcast. It was fun. It was easy. It was deeply fulfilling. I definitely prefer podcasting to blogging. It’s 2017. Podcasts are where it’s at.
This being my first podcast there are some fuckups. The biggest one is forgetting to include the first song I reference, the 1978 rehearsal track “Fire”, from the Clearwell Castle session. Well, relax, friends. Here is the missing song. Rejoice.
The Triumphant Return Of Led Zeppelin
After the tragic death of Robert Plant’s son in July 1977, the band were on an indefinite hiatus. Robert wasn’t really itching to go back on the road, and the band itself was mired in deep addiction, both among the musicians, and the management. In short, Robert Plant wasn’t feeling incredibly pulled to go back.
However his buddy John Bonham talked him into going to a rehearsal, just to kick the tires and see if there was any magic left. There was. The band recorded In Through The Out Door, and then played a couple of warmup gigs in Denmark, in preparation for the huge Knebworth festival gigs they had planned for August 1979.
The Copenhagen shows were first live appearances by Led Zeppelin for, exactly, two years. They were fucking brilliant, with the band on fire, and Jimmy seemingly off the junk, and playing like it was 1973. Truly amazing gigs with truly amazing quality live recordings made (not official recordings, but amateur)
Listen to the podcast to hear about it, and to hear two amazing tracks from their July 24, 1979 concert at the Falconer Theater, in Copenhagen. Dig it.
My god, this is good. I don’t even like Transformer that much, but it’s undeniably foundational… and it’s great. It’s just not my favorite Lou. GET OFF MY ASS. This is my site. I can like what I want. Remember when I posted that Velvet Underground documentary? You don’t own me. Where’s my whistle?
Ok. Here’s the deal. Transformer is a hugely influential album because (mainly):
It’s the first (real) Lou Reed solo album
David Bowie (a huge Velvets fan) produced it
Mick Ronson (bowie’s guitarist) did the arranging (and there’s some pure beauty)
Herbie Flowers has that awesome overdubbed Standup/Electric bass line for Walk On The Wild Side
The whole album is gender fluid, queer as fuck, and very very very ahead of it’s time, topic-wise
It is the Shadow Lord of the glam movement. T-Rex and Ziggy Stardust would be more saccharine without Transformer to counterbalance.
The story of how I found a streaming copy of this episode of Classic Albums is wild and the stuff of legend. I had eaten a legal edible cannabis candy (50mg THC) and I was extremely high. Almost too high. Pulling myself together enough to do anything was akin to hugging smoke. However, I had a flash of epiphany and searched on Bing, because if you search for videos on google, you get almost exclusively YouTube results. Is it because Google owns YouTube? I would say so. There was no full version of this episode of Classic Albums on YouTube. A lesser man would have given up, but I went to Bing instead.
Bing provided about a half dozen full versions, on various sites of dubious legality (lots of Russian). Who cares? I found one on a Russian tube site, and watched it. It was a low resolution copy (like watching YouTube on 240) but totally adequate. Luckily I know a little Russian, thanks to Cold War paranoia and high school Russian classes. Using my knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet I was able to find not only a high resolution version, but a longer version! There’s like an additional half hour of interviews and performances here. Holy Shit.
Anyway. Watch this. It’s absolutely riveting. My favorite part is when Lou is listening to the multitrack of Perfect Day, and he isolates only the strings. It’s perfectly sublime and beautiful, easily as lovely as the strings on Eleanor Rigby (if not as complex), and Lou’s face changes and he freezes. You can tell that he hasn’t heard that in a long time, and he’s moved by the beauty. He then praises Mick Ronson’s arrangement, and it’s touching, and real.
It’s totally worth the hour and half to watch. Or even listen to at work. You can even buy it on DVD like a grown up. You are absolutely free.
Derek And The Dominos are an anomaly in the career of Eric Clapton. Everyone knows about Layla, and the story behind it (kinda), but few know the album itself. It’s fucking great. You must listen to it fully.
After the breakup of Cream, and then the formation and immediate dissolution of Blind Faith, Eric Clapton was tired of being Eric Clapton. He was not tired of being addicted to heroin yet, though. He was still all thumbs up on that.
Eric Clapton was only 25 in 1970, yet he had already been famous for 7 years. He was the guitarist of the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream for fuck’s sake. Cream. For that alone he would be in the hall of fame, and that was just one charm on the bracelet. And then Blind Faith which also was huge. Holy Shit. It’s a lot. Eric was a little freaked out being God. He toured with his Blind Faith opening act, Delaney and Bonnie, where he was fairly anonymous. It’s also where he met up with the fellows who would become the Dominos to his Derek.
Around this time (1970) George Harrison (bosom chum of Clapton) had just left the Beatles and was recording All Things Must Pass, his bestest solo album. It also featured all the other Beatles, just not all together (now), along with a bunch of fucks who would end up being the Dominos. Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock, Dave Mason (kinda), and Jim Gordon. American fellows and exceptional musicians. They had swing, they had that southern Lynyrd Skynyrd shimmy. Seriously, listen to the music on Layla. It is pure Southern swamp. Hell, it could be Muscle Shoals.
Take a look at the above performance on the Johnny Cash Show. They’re tight. They sound great, and it has a country groove to it. Derek & The Dominos kicked ass.
So, where were we? Ah yes, Eric Clapton took George Harrison’s band as his own. That’s not all he took. Wink.
The Longing Of Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton had fallen in love with his best friend’s wife. Pattie Boyd Harrison has had more famous songs written about her than anyone else I can think of. Here’s some off the top of my head:
For You Blue
Bell Bottom Blues
There’s an article about 10 songs about her on Mental Floss, but the ones above are the biggies.
Eric Clapton’s Layla era songs are full of longing, regret, defiance, and conflict. The boy is hurting, but he’s in love. Look at the video below and see that even decades later, there’s still emotion he can tap into. Also, look at what a good singer he became.
Ok. This post has taken forever, over days, so I’m just going to birth this half formed, rather than let it languish in eternal almost done.
Ren & Stimpy were the progenitors of the absurdist animation of Adult Swim, which led to Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Harvey Birdman, The Brak Show… all those first gen Adult Swim master. Ren & Stimpy made it happen, and it was shown on Nickelodeon. Holy Shit.
If you’re a Gen Xer like me, or anyone else on earth, you know of Ren & Stimpy. They’re not forgotten. They just lasted a good season or so, because of the mercurial (difficult) nature of creator John K. Who cares? This is about happy happy joy joy and dark humor.
This is my hands down favorite episode ever of Ren & Stimpy. There is what is, quite possibly the greatest McGuffin of all time. The History Eraser Button. This episode is so funny, that back in the early 90’s, when we were all young, my buddy Eric called me long distance, from Florida, and played this entire episode to me, over the phone. I died. It was so funny. So watch it and share a flicker of happy happy joy joy. Or don’t.
Those of you who are carryovers from Youdopia (my last blog. It was awesome. I miss it. I should have never let it go) may be wondering about the lack of content here. It’s a fair question. The truth is that Heart of Markness has not fulfilled me in the way Youdopia did.
I just don’t feel the magic as much anymore. Most of the stuff I feel inspired to post has already been written about on Youdopia, and even though that site is gone, it still feels cheesy to reboot.
SO… I have decided to start a podcast; not to replace Heart of Darkness, but supplement it. Things about which I want to discuss in depth lend themselves to audio more than 1000’s of words on a blog.
I have the equipment on order and it should be here at the end of the week. I already have my first topic ready. It’s going to be about the aborted XYZ project of Jimmy Page, Chris Squire, and Alan White, back in 1981.
I’ll explore the backstory of how it came about. I’ll go into the 4 songs that have made it into the bootleg world, and how those 4 songs have appeared on Yes, and Firm, albums.
And I’ll go into why it never happened. La la la. It’s good stuff, if you’re a Zeppelin fan, a Yes fan, a Firm fan (are there any?), or just a hominid.
So keep your eye out for my first podcast. I’m aiming for something that’s information rich, like Dan Carlin or Sam Harris do, but also fairly conversational and free form, like Bill Burr’s podcast. As the first one it will suck, but we all start somewhere. 🙂
I thought I have had Taj Mahal on the blog before, even performing this song. I was wrong. It must have been my old blog. It’s ok. It’s so goddamn good you won’t mind if I post two different versions. If you do mind I’m sure you’ll get over it. If you can’t get over we will be enemies. I saw John Wick. I’m ready.
The song in question is Leaving Trunk. Jerry Douglas of Union Station (and husband of Alison Krauss, who made that album with Robert Plant that sold a trillion copies) joins the Tedeschi Trucks Band backstage, for a run-through of Leaving Trunk, before the show.
It’s tight. It’s intimate. It’s awesome. It’s a roomfull of incredible musicians playing the music they love.
The video below is from 5 years earlier (2009) and it’s Taj Mahal joining the Allman Brothers Band with both Derek Truck, and Warren Haynes. It’s fucking insane. Warren’s solo is so incredible that you are almost blown away, only to be annihilated by Derek Truck’s incredible slide solo. Jesus. It’s perfect. Watch both of these, and listen. It’s worth it. Do it in two sessions if you need to. There is beauty in the world. Here is some.