This is my sixth article with this band, but they were really big in the seventies so I guess there will be even more. What more is there to say? Enjoy!
A skirmish not for squeamish on Starship One…
In which the in-flight entertainment stars Led Zeppelin versus the man from the press
By Lisa Robinson
The limousines are lined up for action outside the Plaza Hotel. So, too, are the girls, notebooks and felt-tips clutched in teenage hands, breaking out into a crescendo of squeals and giggles as Mssrs Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones attempt their getaway.
Zepmania at the Plaza! I love it.
And, of course, there`s the odd policeman or construction worker who slips a grubby little piece of paper through the half -opened limo window…
“For my daughter…she`d kill me if I didn`t get this.” Can you believe that they still use that line?
We`re driving out to Newark where the Starship is parked. John Paul Jones is attempting to reassure me about my flying fears. Jones, by the way, no longer seems so introverted and “reticent”; in addition to beating anyone he can get to play backgammon and/or chess with him on the plane, he`s been mumbling with anticipation about an excursion down to Christopher Street to an establishment called “The Pleasure Chest” which is, for those of you not familiar with New York City landmarks, a lovely little store with a good supply of leather and bondage items. Hmmmm.
He`s promised that we can take photos of said excursion as well. (Come to think of it, one of those little girls outside of the Plaza had a “David Bowie” patch embroidered onto the back of her jeans. I mentioned this; Jones replied; “She`d better not turn around, or she`ll get kicked.” What is this?)
We chat a bit about rock`n`roll touring. “It seems as though the whole business is getting older,” he observes. “It used to be that everyone was sort of around 20…now everyone seems to be veering around 30. Wonder what the energy level will be like in 20 years from now…It`s amazing really, because when I think about it, I`m doing exactly what my father used to do.
“He was a musician, played in a lot of big bands, travelled on the road…strange hotel rooms all the time.”
Bonzo is freezing in the back of the limo. “And I`m wearing a coat made for the Antartic,” he mutters. “Turn up the heat,” Plant complies, and the car quickly becomes a sauna.
Bonzo is still freezing, Robert falls asleep, wakes up and tries to sneak the heat off. “Turn the heat on,” shouts Bonzo, “turn the radio on!” James & Bobby Purify`s “I Wanna Testify” blasts forth. “What`s this?” asks Plant.
We`re stuck in traffic in the Lincoln (or is it the Holland) Tunnel (on the way to Detroit) and no one is smiling.
The starship is the same as last tour; big, maroon/gold mirrors, fur covered bedspreads, TV and videotape machines. It makes the flying easier, but it still gets boring. Jimmy Page and Peter Grant sit in the small sitting room for much of the flight. Jonesy has not been playing the piano bar, he`s been busy with games, and Bonzo usually sits in the front, trying to rest.
The trip to Detroit was particular interesting because on board was a writer from a British national daily. He`s trying to interview Jimmy on the plane and all of a sudden I hear what sounds like dissent.
The conversation goes something like this. Page: “You don`t want to know about my music, or my concerts. You`ll go back and write about how much money we gross and the interior of the plane and that`s it….”
“You`re not supposed to make intelligent remarks,” says the Man From The Press.
“You know,” says Jimmy, patiently, “I don`t just jump up and down onstage…I worked in studio sessions for years…I compose music…”
It`s no use. The antagonism has been established, and will be continued.
As the cars pull into the Detroit Olympia Stadium, thousands of kids are lined up by the stage door.
In the dressing room Jimmy is still fuming: “Can you imagine, that man referred to my guitar playing as a trade?” he asks incredulously. “I didn`t go to vocational school.”
The worst is yet to come.
During Bonzo`s drum solo, when the band retire for a moment`s rest into the dressing room, the Man From The Press attempts to follow.
Richard Cole refuses him entry. “Who are you?”, demands The Man From The Press. “I`m the tour manager,” Cole answers, with the kind of expression his face that If You Knew Richard Like I Know Richard you would know to get going, fast.
“Hotel manager?” Uh-oh.
“No, I`m the bloody tour manager, and the band is having a meeting…I`m sorry, you cannot go inside.”
“I write for ten million people and I won`t have you belittle me in front of a member of my staff….” and so on and so forth.
At this point, I`m not sure who said “you`ll never walk again”, but Cole was decidedly not amused.
Back on the plane, people are mumbling and discussing the situation in small groups of twos and threes. The arrogance of this Pressman is astounding, his femme companion looks nervous, his photographer looks downright terrified.
All of a sudden Jimmy, who`s been resting under a red blanket, comes to life and tries to have a discussion with the reporter. And it becomes apparent that they are discussing…oh no…politics.
“He`s a communist,” Jimmy turns and says with confusion. What?
Robert`s mumbling: “Ten million people read the paper…I don`t think he`s such a bad bloke….Me mum and dad read that paper…it`s a good paper, really….”
Richard Cole is still fuming. Bonzo is shouting, “Will you all shut up, I want some rest!” The remainder of this episode is confusing. A drink is spilled, Robert is trying to be charming, and Jimmy is discussing the way he voted in the last election.
Robert sez to me: “Why don`t you just say `Jimmy Page wrestled with a cub (make sure you say cub) reporter on the subject of British imperialism in India in the 19th Century?”
This went on all the way back to the hotel in the limo, until Jimmy and The Man From The Press eventually shook hands and said no hard feelings.
Anyway, it made for an interesting plane ride.
In between such minor skirmishes (for this one, although it could have become hairy, never really materialized into fisticuffs), time was spent watching videotapes of “Flash Gordon” and “Don`t Knock The Rock”.
In Detroit Plant is really strutting and camping it up onstage. “He`s going to be ready for Las Vegas soon,” comments Peter Grant. “I keep telling him, `Percy, I`ve got Las Vegas lined up for you!`”
An amazing girl with rather large breasts is in the front row; wearing a sequinned one-shoulder top. She keeps shaking her tits at Jimmy…he starts shaking his back at her. A crazed boy is shaking a pint of gin at the stage; the security guards watch closely. Jimmy takes huge slugs out of a Jack Daniels bottle, thus endearing himself to writer Lester Bangs forever.
New York, Madison Square Garden, Maybe it`s `cos it`s my town, but it always seems somehow that this is really the Big One.
The security at the Garden is amazing, and the stage is set up very tight. No room for any hangers on. Robert is looking for the honey for his tea in the dressing room. He`s still having a hard time of it from his cough. Jimmy and I talk about “Lucifer Rising” – the Kenneth Anger film he`s scored. He`s got a print of it in his room and has been blasting it at unbelievable volume.
“I`m sure I`m going to get tossed out of the hotel,” he smiled. It`s a hypnotic, slightly ominous little bit of cinema. I loved it, and Page seems pleased with the way it`s turned out as well.
We hear that the Atlantic Records execs are in the audience; they`re hosting a party later in the Garden`s Penn Plaza Club. People Magazine had that day come out with an article that claimed Led Zeppelin were “bigger than the Beatles”. (I was told that week that John Lennon had heard “Stairway To Heaven” and loved it. “He`s only just heard it?” was Plant`s typical comment.)
“Dazed And Confused” was added to the show for the first time on the tour. Obviously Jimmy`s finger was up to it, after paining him severely on earlier gigs. The lighting during the guitar, violin bow solo was spectacular; all smokey greens and purples, surrounding Page in a very demonic triangle. The green lasers worked well…beaming way out over the heads of the audience.
“This was the best show so far,” says Robert in the dressing room.
And, of course, no Zeppelin show would be complete without the old Cole speedy getaway bit in the limos. Richard`s got them all lined up by the backstage ramp, ready to race out after the second encore (“Communication Breakdown”) back to the hotel for a bit of the old “tarting up” before the party.
Keith Moon`s in Jimmy`s suite, splendid in a striped vested suit, tie and hat.
At the Penn Plaza Club, Andy Warhol sits in a corner with his entourage. Steve Paul is at a round table with his entourage, and we hear that Diane Keaton and William Burroughs had been there earlier.
Jimmy Page was quickly joined by an enthusiastic Amanda Lear (“I`m in love,” she trilled to me the very next day).
After the Montreal gig, Zeppelin were due to have attended a party back in New York for the Jackson Five; but we returned too late…way past the J-5`s bedtime.
It wasn`t past David Bowie`s bedtime though, for he sat with Ava Cherry in Robert Plant`s hotel suite listening to an Alphonse Mouzon elpee. David looked thinner than ever but ravissant (actually, he looks like Lillian Gish) in a green fur midi coat, orange hair, translucent skin, and a felt hat, and he chatted a bit with John Paul Jones, who laughed and said he`s known him forever.
Peter Grant said there were more people in Zep`s entourage than the business J. Tull was doing in L.A. (this, in response to challenges by the Tull people as to their boys doing more business).
As I left, I asked Bonzo if he did anything special with his drums during his solo; putting them through a phaser or such…”It`s all magic,” he replied, “don`t you see me playing with little black wands?”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Paul Kossoff (Free), Pete Kleinow, Caravan, Montrose, Peter Hammill, Blue Öyster Cult, Alice Cooper, Lenny Bruce, Eric Clapton, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, Millie Jackson, Richard Digance, Bev Bevan (ELO), Gene Vincent, Charley Pride.
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