This book is peoples memories of seeing Zeppelin live, and yes sure, as time has passed the memory can get a little fuzzy, but that's what makes these books interesting. Its peoples memories from that moment in time. Most are not Zeppelin fanatics and might have a few facts incorrect regarding set lists but these are that persons memories of that time. Not all the accounts are just about the gigs, but what they were doing in their life at that time.
2 SEPTEMBER 1970, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA
I WAS THERE: THERESA PARSON
It was one of those nice summer nights that the San Francisco Bay Area is blessed with every year. Myself and my hippie tribe - Joey, Dave, Robin, Bill and Stephanie - were doing what we did every Friday night, sitting in Tom Lutz’s blacklight, lit with back to back neon posters, swilling cheap warm Olympia beer and passing around a joint. The room was so thick with cigarette smoke that my eyes were watering. We inherited this room every week when Tom’s mom would go spend the weekend with her boyfriend.
After playing Led Zeppelin’s self-titled first album through two times, we turned the radio to KSAN, the FM alternative station. This station was like the Holy Grail to its listeners. It played the latest rock albums from both the US and the UK from beginning to end. Every band that came through San Francisco stopped at KSAN for an in depth, call-in interview. The lights on the switchboard lit up like Christmas lights and it was nearly impossible to get on. But if you did, you could find yourself chatting with the likes of Mick Jagger, Jerry Garcia or Bonnie Bramlett.
KSAN was always the first to hear about any new concerts that were coming to town. So imagine our stoned and slightly excitement when the deejay announced that Led Zeppelin were coming to the Oakland Coliseum. We whooped and hollered, played the album again and made plans to buy our tickets the next day. When 9am rolled around, we pulled up to Al’s Records and joined the line waiting for the store to open. Our town was so condensed everyone knew everyone in that line!
The wait seemed eternal, but finally September 2nd arrived. Us girls spent the day pin curling our long hair and then sat under our mothers’ hair dryers to achieve that curly singlet look. We worked diligently to put together our lace and velvet vintage style dresses, exchanging accessories until we were satisfied with our look. The guys picked us up at 5.30pm. We stopped at Jack in the Box for dinner and lurked outside the liquor store till we found someone willing to buy us beer and cigarettes. Lutz had already secured the weed so we were ready to rock!
When we got to the Coliseum, the parking lot looked like a huge tailgate party, so we got out our provisions, cranked up the radio, which was playing nearly non-stop Zeppelin, climbed into the car and joined the fun. We knew we’d never get the beer into the venue so we made sure we drank every drop before we went to line up. The roving drug dealers worked the line, and soon there were joints being passed in every direction. Finally, they opened the door and everybody rushed in looking for their seats. Ours weren’t the best, but we could pretty clearly see whatever was about to go on onstage.
As for the PA, we weren’t even worried about that. The band sauntered onto the stage and the place shook with stomping and applause. We were on our feet. We weren’t going to miss a thing! There was Plant with his long wavy blond hair and jeans so tight you could see a perfect outline of his package. And then there was the beautiful Jimmy Page, decked out in a velvet coat that hung over velvet pants and a striking white shirt with an ascot at the neck and ruffled sleeves. The music started as they barrelled through ‘Dazed and Confused’, ‘Immigrant Song’, ‘What is and What Should Never Be’, ‘Good Times Bad Times’, ‘Communication Breakdown’ and ‘I’m Movin On’’ before hitting some covers like ‘Blueberry Hill’ and ‘Long Tall Sally’.
Each song was met with wild appreciation and, aside from Jimmy Page, there were hundreds of air guitarists backing him up. John Bonham was a whirling dervish. It was like his sticks were a part of his hands. Running between the bass and keyboard, and playing both flawlessly, John Paul Jones never missed a beat. And Plant. That voice, screaming and growling, then dropping down until he was hardly heard and then throwing his head back and letting go of a guttural primal scream. It was like riding a vocal rollercoaster. By this time we had managed to move a few aisles down. Our goal was to get to the floor, even though it was already blanketed in assigned seated metal chairs.
All too soon the show was over and the band filed off the stage. They had brought us to a musical peak so high we couldn’t see down, and we wanted one more ride. In unison we screamed, banged chairs in the floor, lit our lighters and refused to give up. The crowd on the floor had tossed aside the folding chairs. There wasn’t enough security to stop us, so everyone streamed down from their seats and inched closer to the stage. For their encore they did ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and that’s when holy hell broke loose. Hundreds stormed the stage, knocking each other over and crawling over each other’s backs. It could have turned into a tragedy, but fortunately it didn’t.
On the way home we put on the Led Zeppelin 8-track. The guys talked about every note, fret and whatever other technical thing that went into the show. They marvelled over the brands of the equipment that the band used. It was all Greek to me. Us girls? What did we talk about? The size of Plant’s package of course!
I saw Led Zeppelin again at the all day festival, Day On The Green, in Oakland. The place was packed and the sound excellent, but it couldn’t compare to the first show. I think concerts are like losing your virginity - the first time is always the best!