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Post #1: Led Zeppelin Tickets: Top Priority of the Winter Hello. It is 2012...which makes this year the 40th anniversary of my first Led Zeppelin concerts(1972) and the 35th anniversary of my last(1977). Only five short years. Yet at the time it seemed to encompass a lifetime. When I wrote last year about going to the 1973 shows, many asked for a similar take on the anniversaries of the 1972 and 1977 LA Forum gigs I attended. I foolishly said I would. That was so many months ago, I figured I had plenty of time to recharge my batteries. Don't know if you realize this, but I put so much into those posts, trying to personalize and contextualize them so that the reader can imagine him or herself there, that it is taxing mentally and physically. After each of those three posts I wrote last year I was wiped out, exhausted. Not that I'm complaining...nobody asked me to be so thorough, and it was fun reliving a fun part of my youth. So now 2012 is already upon me and I realize that if I am going to do the 1972 and 1977 shows justice, I better get cracking. So here we go again as we take a stroll down memory lane. I will do two separate threads...one for 1972 and one for 1977. They will encompass everything about those shows from getting the tickets to the concerts themselves and the aftermath. That is why I am starting this thread today...it will save me from having to write an unholy long post on June 21, haha. I will begin the 1972 thread at the appropriate time. I hope the mods are okay with this...if they feel this best belongs in the Live section or elsewhere, I'm fine with them moving it. At each appropriate signpost date, I will add a post. In between feel free to comment or not. All I ask is please no trolling or spamming. Any legitimate questions I will gladly answer to the best of my ability, whether asked here or via PM. As I said last year, my primary reasons for doing this, besides it allowing me to relive a fun part of my life, is to provide the younger readers here a window to the past, a small slice of what a Led Zeppelin concert was like to experience in the flesh. Everything from the anticipation to the post-show exhaustion/euphoria. Let's begin...it's Thursday, January 27, 1977. Exactly 35 years ago today. I am a freshman in High School now...and far from my relatively buccolic Southern California beach-bum life in 1973, I am now living in the comparative hick environs of Riverside. Which is even further away from the Forum of Inglewood and other choice concert venues. Which makes going to concerts a task that sometimes requires military-esque tactical planning. Another difference from 1973, other than being older and taller, is that my family situation has changed. I'm not gonna get specific...only that my new stepmom is even worse than the last one. My dad was smart in many ways; picking wives was NOT one of them. All that means is that sometimes I have to be coy and cagey when it comes to going to concerts, especially after what happened with Zeppelin's 1975 tour. Concerts during the summer or on weekends are relatively hassle-free, but if there's a show on a school night, I have to handle it with care...or outright lie. Anyway, the story of Led Zeppelin's 1977 U.S. Tour in a way begins all the way back in August 1975, with the news of that horrific crash in Greece involving Robert Plant, Maureen and their family. The Rose Bowl show was immediately postponed, and postponed again, before finally being cancelled outright. Then the months of silence and rumours about the band's future before finally in April 1976, "Presence" dropped and gave us Zepheads some relief and hope that the band would hit the stage again. Then, in May, a shock and welcome sight...at the May 23, 1976 Bad Company concert at the Forum, who should appear for the encore than Mssrs. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page themselves! On stage...in the flesh! The Forum roof nearly exploded. After that night, expectations and anticipation for a Zeppelin tour were rampant...every Sunday in the LA Times Calendar section, ticket agencies such as Good Time Tickets and Troy Tickets ran ads saying they were taking deposits for Led Zeppelin tickets. Week after week, month after month went by, with still no official word. October came and finally something happened..."The Song Remains the Same" had it's premiere at the Fox Theatre in L.A.(no, I did not go...I wasn't that connected). But I did see it shortly after upon its general release. At that time, at that age, I probably thought it was the greatest thing on earth. I must have, for I saw it 10 times by the end of 1976 alone. By then, I was starved for anything Zep...many of us Zepheads were...and we were willing to overlook the flaws of the film to cherish the bits that showed OUR BOYS on stage, or amongst their family! In fact, I think seeing TSRTS was the first time I really got an idea what Plant's, Bonzo's, and JPJ's families were really like...and the first time it registered with me that these guys had families. Jimmy, of course, remained mercurial and mysterious in the film. As I recall, as 1976 drew to a close, there were various hints and announcements on the radio and in the press that a tour was coming in early 1977, but that LA dates weren't yet specified. It seemed every report ended with the promise of "more details to come". Argh, the agony of waiting when you're 15! Finally, on January 23, 1977, there were two items in the Los Angeles Times Sunday Calendar Pop Music section that sounded the alert that the time was near and that Led Zeppelin tickets would be going on sale soon. The first item(first photo below) was a blurb in a list of the biggest anticipated concerts written by Robert Hilburn, the head rock critic of the L.A. Times. The second was a cryptic ad(see second photo below) with a phone number. It turned out the number was to Good Time Tickets, one of many ticket brokers in LA who charged premium prices for tickets...legal scalpers basically. I had already used ticket brokers before, but only as a last resort, and even at that young age, I knew you couldn't always trust the info they gave you. But when I called the number I was told Zeppelin would be playing the Forum in March, as well as the San Diego Sports Arena, and tickets would be available in a week. Hmmmm, ok. I had my Christmas money saved, not to mention money I always saved for my concert fund in the bank; money earned from odd jobs here and there babysitting or washing cars or yardwork. At that point in time, most rock concert tickets ran from $8 to $10 depending on the popularity of the act and the venue. I had already purchased tickets in January to two upcoming concerts: Electric Light Orchestra(ELO) at the Forum January 27, and Queen/Thin Lizzy at the Forum in March. I had about $50 total on hand...which would just barely cover 5 tickets...and that's only if they weren't over $10. I set about that Sunday January 23 to trying to find any additional way to get some cash in the next few days...selling some of my records was one way, stealing some of my dad's pot to sell was another. I think it was Wednesday night, January 26, that I first heard concrete specifics about dates and time of sale for Led Zeppelin's 1977 tour stop at the LA Forum...it was at night and I had the radio on my favourite station: KMET 94.7 FM...The Mighty Met! I usually listened to it at night on my headphones when I went to bed...I would go to sleep listening to Jim Ladd, who had the 10pm-2am shift. Mary "The Burner" Turner had the slot prior to Ladd, 6pm-10pm. The Thursday morning of January 27, 1977 delivered confirmation that what I thought I heard the night before wasn't a dream. Every morning before classes started at school, I would go to the library and read the day's LA Times. So there, in that day's edition of the paper was the blurb you see in the third photo below...Led Zeppelin would be playing the Forum March 9, 12 & 13 and tickets went on sale Monday, January 31 at 10am!!! There it was, in black and white, the moment I had been waiting for since that 1975 Rose Bowl concert was cancelled...LED ZEPPELIN WAS BACK IN BUSINESS! I immediately checked the calendar and saw that while March 9 was on a school night, March 12 and 13 were on the weekend. Not that trying to go to the 9th would be impossible but I was already going to the Queen concert the week prior on a school night, and I didn't want to push my luck. First things first, though. One, I had an ELO concert to go to that night at the Forum. I was going with one of my stoner friends and his older brother. I had already set it up, thanks to the fact that my new stepmom was a racist bitch. You see, that very week of January 23-30 1977 was the premiere of the ABC miniseries adaptation of Alex Haley's "Roots". It was a landmark television event and if you were around in the 70s, you remember all the hoopla about it. Hell, I think every social studies or history class in California made it mandatory viewing, with a group discussion and report to follow. Well, after watching the first few episodes, my stepmom was sick of having to watch Roots, and wanted to watch her shows(we only had one tv at the time). So, I'm saying it's my homework...it's kind of mandatory. Then a light flashed...I still was trying to figure out how I was going to sneak off and see ELO that Thursday night and this would provide perfect cover. I suggested I could watch the rest of Roots at my friend's house and his mom could drive me home after. That seemed to placate her...as long as it didn't involve her having to drive me anywhere or pick me up, she couldn't care care less. The second thing, after the ELO show, was that we had a decision to make...should we get tickets at one of our local Ticketron locations or go to the Forum box office? It was widely thought that it was only at the Forum box office that the good floor seats were sold...usually when you bought tix through an off-site Ticketron agency you got either Loge or Colonnade seats. Since we were going to the Forum that night, we could check out the situation and see if anyone was already camping out for tickets. Man, I'll tell ya'...school seemed to DRAG ON that day. I couldn't concentrate or think about anything but getting Led Zeppelin tickets...how and how many. My friend was also going to get tix, and so was his older brother, as well as a few others I knew...which would be of some help to us. In fact, all thru the school day, all the rockers and stoners were asking each other who was going and trying to get their buddies to buy tix for them. Because the shows were in LA, a surprising number said they were going to the San Diego show instead. Lots couldn't go either because of lack of money or parental restrictions. After school, I went to my friend's house as planned, and called my parents to let them know I was there and everything was fine...we even had my friend's mom talk to her to assure her everything was cool and that I wasn't being a bother. She hated my. stepmom so loved the fact that she was part of our plot. It was arranged that she would suggest to my stepmom that I would come over Friday after school and stay the weekend to watch the rest of Roots and keep me out of my stepmother's hair. Luckily, my stepmom thought that was a great idea. So now, not only did I have cover for going out to the ELO concert, but we'd be able to wait all weekend in line at the Forum until Zeppelin tix went on sale. So 35 years ago we are at the ELO concert at the Forum in Inglewood. ELO was good(they've always been a guilty pleasure of mine...I LOVE cellos), but what I most remember about that show was seeing Steve Hillage for the first time. He wasn't even on the bill originally...it was supposed to be Firefall. Christ, what was that horrible Firefall song they always played on the radio? Shoot, I can't remember...was it "Wildfire"? Anyways, for some unexplained reason, by showtime Firefall was off the bill and instead of their bland soft-rock, we got introduced to Steve Hillage doing spacey versions of "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and "It's All Too Much". After the concert, we could see that there was already a line of people started camping out for Zeppelin tickets. We had school on Friday and so my friend's brother had no choice but to drive us back before heading back to the Forum to stake out our place in line. Friday, after school, my friend and I would gather our sleeping bags, blankets, snacks, drinks, as much cash as we could lay our hands on, Zeppelin tapes...oh, and my paperback copy of Roots to read, since I was missing the miniseries. As I lay in my bed that night after we got back from the ELO show(the last time I would sleep in my bed for a few days), my mind kept buzzing with thoughts of Led Zeppelin. I still wasn't sure how many tickets for how many shows I would be able to get...or if we had a chance to get tix close to the stage...it was all whirling in my mind. The 1977 Led Zeppelin Ticket Buying Adventure was just getting underway.
Sometime around 1991 or so, I acquired a VHS tape of the July 17, 1977 Seattle Kingdome concert. It was the fourth Led Zeppelin bootleg videotape I had in my collection...the first three being a comp of 8mm footage of 1975 Chicago and the complete 1969 Danish TV performance; the 1/9/70 Royal Albert Hall; and 8/11/79 Knebworth, purchased in that order. It was dark and murky visually, and the sound wasn't much better...very dry and brittle. It also suffered from the usual wow and flutter tracking problems many bootleg videos had. Later, at the dawn of the 2000s, I upgraded my Seattle Kingdome video when I got Cosmic Energy's "Seattle 1977" DVD. This was better visually and audio-wise, but the performance still left me cold...and it was shocking to hear how badly Plant's voice cracked. Christ, he had sounded so great at the Forum...what the hell happened? I eventually came to the conclusion that the Seattle Kingdome wasn't an essential show, and not one that I would probably watch very often, and so I gave it to a lesbian friend for her birthday...she had a mad crush on Robert Plant. Besides, in a way I still had the 1977 Seattle Kingdome show...in the form of Genuine Masters' "Watch and Listen to This, Eddie" DVD-A, which is DVD-Audio of the June 21, 1977 "Eddie" show with the video of the July 17, 1977 Seattle Kingdome playing on the DVD. The sound obviously doesn't sync up perfectly with the video, but it is one of the best sounding "Eddie" releases ever. Years have gone by now without me giving the Seattle Kingdome another thought. I have seen Godfatherecords "Conquering Kingdome" at the record shows and swaps I haunt for ages, but was never inspired to get it...until recently when Sue Dounim posted how good it sounded. So, at the beginning of this month, I decided to get "Conquering Kingdome" and give the Seattle '77 show another chance. The first thing I noticed was that the sound quality was vastly improved from what I remembered. The balance and presence of the instruments had a depth and warmth sorely lacking from my VHS and DVD versions. The biggest improvement, however, is in Robert's vocals. Yes, there are times when you can hear the strain and cracks, particularly in "Ten Years Gone". But it is fainter and not as jarring to the ear. From what info I have been able to gather, Godfatherecords use the same video soundtrack that others have been using for years; it is not a true Soundboard. Still, it's the best I've ever heard this Seattle show. The Seattle Kingdome show was the first concert of the third leg of the 1977 U.S. Tour...and four years to the day from Led Zeppelin's well-regarded Seattle concert in 1973. It was the second show of the tour to take place in one of those Enormo-domes now dotting the landscape like alien spaceships, the first being the Pontiac Silverdome concert. Like Pontiac, video screens were used to facilitate people in the nosebleed seats to actually see something other than microdots on the stage. The Superdome in New Orleans was to be the third dome venue of the tour, and had it actually transpired, most likely would have set a new attendance record. A record Led Zeppelin had just set with that April's Pontiac Silverdome show. By contrast, Seattle's Kingdome only had 65,000 or so in attendance...not that you can tell by the recording. Like most boots sourced from video or soundboards, the crowd sounds distant and nonexistent for most of the show. The setlist is the standard setlist of the second-half of the '77 tour: OTHAFA taking the place of IMTOD as the fourth song of the set. No "Trampled Under Foot" or "Heartbreaker" to extend the momentum of "Kashmir" or break up the self-indulgence of the drum and guitar solos. But, if the band isn't firing on the high it was during the LA Forum run, it isn't the disaster the old videotape sometimes made it seem. The opening stretch from "The Song Remains the Same" thru "Since I've Been Loving You" ranges from average to above average...it's actually more enjoyable than many other '77 shows. Only Plant's occasional vocal weakness mars it...the band is actually playing heavy and energetically behind Plant, particularly Bonham. Even Jimmy getting lost during OTHAFA's solo isn't THAT bad; it's still a listenable performance...which is more than can be said for the IMTOD of May 26, 77. The highlight of many '77 shows was the stretch from "No Quarter" to "Kashmir". It is here where the Seattle Kingdome show hits a groove; the band is relaxed and plays marvelously. Unlike some of the antic NQs of L.A., the Seattle Kingdome NQ is more in keeping with the mood of the song, and Jimmy gets in some nice phrasing in the solo, while Jones and Bonzo keep it jazzy. I think it is one of the better NQs of the tour. Having seen the video, I can even picture John Paul Jones encouraging the audience to applaud during his piano solo. "Ten Years Gone" is another flawless performance musically...especially Jimmy's guitar solo; he nails it! Yes, Robert's voice isn't as strong as in L.A., but the combination of the band's great performance and Godfatherecords improvement of the tape makes Robert's vocal mishaps barely noticeable. From TYG to "Kashmir", all of disc 2 is a treat to listen to...even the mishap with Jimmy's guitar during "Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp", where the boys have to vamp while Jimmy waits for Raymond to give him a new acoustic guitar. Here is where you visualize Jimmy shaking his fist at poor Raymond from Scotland who tends to tune Jimmy's guitar in Scottish. Meanwhile, Jones and Bonzo are improvising while Plant scats a bit and sings some song vaguely reminiscent of "When the Saints Go Marching In". Jimmy finally gets his guitar and they finish "Stomp" up nicely. Plant then jokes about being able to play the hotel bar afterwards. Actually, despite Plant's subpar voice, he seems to be in good spirits and has some nice Plantations during the show. Even the de riguer fireworks don't darken his mood noticeably and he reprimands the offenders gently. The entire acoustic set is a good one, and the acoustic guitars and mandolins come in clear on Godfatherecords release. Jones' vocals on BOE aren't even that off-putting. Even "White Summer-Black Mountain Side" is impressive as Jimmy keeps the length managable. This leads to a very good "Kashmir". If only they could have kept the energy going with another song like "Trampled" or something. But no...it's on to disc 3 and it is here where the show reverts to an average '77 performance. Unlike the short(15 minutes +/-) and energetic drum solos Bonham did in L.A., in Seattle, Bonzo unfortunately reverted to the boring Landover-type marathons of 25 minutes or more. I guess for historical purposes it is important to note that this would be the last "Moby Dick" Bonham would perform in concert. So there is that to think about while you're listening....and while it is long, it is not as slow and boring as the Landover, Maryland ones. Jimmy's guitar solo follows and it is actually one of the better ones. Like WS-BMS, he keeps it shorter than usual...partly because he has trouble with the effects at one point. "Achilles Last Stand" and "Stairway to Heaven" conclude the main set in serviceable fashion...not bad, but not great, especially compared to the run of amazing "ALS" and "Stairway"s in L.A. Just merely okay. The encore is the usual "WLL/Rock and Roll" combo...actually "Rock and Roll" is quite good for '77. I just wish that the band could have recognized the special uniqueness of the Dome shows and added a second encore of "Trampled" or "Communication Breakdown" or something. Three and a half hours from the start of "The Song Remains the Same", the Seattle Kingdome show ends. So where to rank the 7/17/77 Seattle Kingdome among the other 1977 shows? Obviously I rank the LA Forum shows up at the top. A couple of the New York shows and Pontiac and Birmingham, AL are in the upper echelon, too. The Godfatherecords "Conquering Kingdome" has amazing sound quality, the best I've ever heard the Seattle Kingdome show sound, which may play a part in how I judge the performance quality. For comparisons sake, I listened to a couple '77 Soundboards that are popular: the 4/27/77 Cleveland "Maximum Destroyer" from EVSD; and 5/28/77 Landover "Powhatan Confederacy" from EVSD. Sound quality-wise, Seattle tops the other two. As for performance, Seattle is on par with, and at times surpasses the Cleveland and Landover ones. So while 1977 Seattle can't be ranked up with Los Angeles, it is not as bad as I had consigned it in my memory. It is a slightly above-average 1977 show, with some moments of brilliance...somewhere between the Houston and Cleveland shows and definitely better than the 5/26 and 5/28 Landover dates. Rating Godfatherecords "Conquering Kingdome": Performance - 3.75 out of 5/ Sound quality - 4 out of 5.