Administrators sam_webmaster Posted June 24, 2015 Administrators Share Posted June 24, 2015 Camille Davis Russo (daughter of composer William Russo) kindly sent her story with Led Zeppelin in Chicago 1973 to share with fans. This was to be published in Rolling Stone in early 1974 but there was a rift between Led Zep and the magazine at the time and the band asked that she publish it elsewhere. Camille held on to it for 40 years.... -- Ten Years After: The Rule of Britannia On July 4th, 1976, America will celebrate the 200th anniversary of her independence from Great Britain. Yet the bonds are unbroken, and she's never been free of a deep love for her English forefathers. 1974 has marked a decade of British dominance that is unprecedented in history. American music, fashion and culture have followed the pace set by England's stars for over ten years now. It makes me wonder if there's not some grander scheme, a love of many lifetimes that's gone on for centuries. Perhaps America misses her English rulers, having no royalty of her own. What explains this lasting adoration? My own is quite easy to see I went to England as a child, and returned as a young lady. My father took me to London the day before my twelfth birthday in 1963. He was there to start an orchestra, and I was to go to school for a year. I played with the children of other musicians, and soon made several friends One boy, whose father wrote for Melody Maker, educated me on the subject of British Rock 'n' Roll, beginning with the Beatles. I was charmed at once by their English ways. I did not let on that I was, though, due to my still strong American patriotism. My resistance did not last for long, and soon I was watching Thank Your Lucky Stars with my schoolmates. However, my father wanted me to listen only to Classical music. After much discussion, he compromised his decision somewhat and drew up a white and black list of Rock 'n' Roll. Stevie Wonder and the Beatles were on the white list, and the Rolling Stones were on the black list. As I was only a young girl at the time, it is easy to see why Englishmen made such a deep impression on my mind. I fell in love with London and never wanted to leave. By the time I returned home, I was completely won over by the English, and to my neverending astonishment, so was America! Nothing had prepared me for the Anglomania I would find in the United States. I had read about it in Melody Maker, but England was almost unheard of before I went there. Now it was all the rage! America was like a different country. Our president had been assassinated, and we'd been taken over by the English. It was incredible! The transformation was complete, from the Beach Boys to the Beatles in only one year. Capitol Records had both groups, and my step-father worked for them in Chicago. As the British Invasion swept the country, my house filled up with stacks of Beatles records. He would bring home armfuls of them, along with Beatles posters, Beatles t-shirts and even Beatle Band-aids. It was almost unbelievable. For the last ten years, I have literally been unable to escape the English. They followed me home, and have stayed here ever since. In a way, it was a blessing. I was never allowed to meet the Englishmen as they toured America, yet, I knew I would when I grew up. I had forgotten England, after half a decade. My favorites then were American stars that have now all faded. Just then, Led Zeppelin launched their first album, awakening my love once again. They were the only group I ever wanted to met. As if my magic, my wish came true. In the summer of 1973, I finally came of age. Led Zeppelin had started their record-smashing tour across America and by the time they reached Chicago, it was Independence Day. Both performances had been sold out in advance. I could have gone anyway, but I had premonitions of the violence Chicago is known for. The Fourth of July was still in the air, and I was afraid of firecrackers. As it turned out later, my premonition was correct. The day of the concert almost passed me by, and would have, if it had not been for the hand of fate. I had forgotten about it, since I wasn't going and was having coffee alone in the afternoon. I noticed the waiter whistling Living, Loving Maid as he passed me, and thought how very strange it was. As I left the restaurant, I ran into a friend who invited me to a party that night in honor of Led Zeppelin. That was even stranger. It was being held at the Court of the Golden Hand. I ran over to a girlfriend's house. She had more knowledge of these matters. Her name is Emily, and she is a professional backstage girl. She, of course, knew all about the party and was already getting ready for the show. The Court of the Golden Hand is a beautiful mansion on Astor Street. It was always my favorite fairytale house when I was a little girl. My grandmother lives right across the street, and I used to stare at it from her window, wondering what was inside. Now I would find out. All my dreams were coming true as the hour approached midnight. The servant took our names at the door, and check them to his guest list. As I entered and climbed the red-carpeted stairway, I did not expect to know anyone there. To my surprise, I seemed to know everyone. I was told that Led Zeppelin did not want to make an appearance. For this reason, I was unaware as the members of the group drifted one by one into the billiards room. I was watching some American friends play a game, and did not notice. It was only when I saw Robert Plant that it dawned on me that I was surrounded by Led Zeppelin. When he appeared at the door, his very presence commanded everyone's attention. He walked up to a man dressed in white satin, who I now realized was Jimmy Page. The Led Zeppelin insignia was embroidered on his lapel. Together, they were reading the latest reviews of their first Chicago performance. Somehow, they looked nothing like the pictures I had seen of them before. Robert Plant and John Paul Jones struck up a game with two of the Americans. The songs of the band War drifted in from the other room, and someone brought me a drink. As I watched them play, I felt there was some very powerful force present, causing this to unfold, and so perfectly. The sequence was amazing. I sat back, transfixed by it all. After the winning point was scored, Robert Plant walked across the room and addressed me, asking if he could steal a cigarette. I answered him, and watched him walk away. Just then, something very miraculous happened. A friend of my step-father's named Danny Markus appeared. He was from Atlantic Records and said he was working for Led Zeppelin while they were in Chicago. Danny asked me if I'd met the group, and I asked him to introduce me to Robert Plant. Before I knew it, I was standing in front of him. He was seated in a deep velvet chair, and rose as I extended my hand. He invited me to the Ambassador Hotel the next evening at seven, setting the date for what would then be the seventh hour, on the seventh day, of the seventh month. The next day, I took a cab to the hotel. It was still quite sunny at that time. As I pulled up, the doorman escorted me inside. I felt as though I had assistance from undreamed of sources. I walked through the revolving glass doors, into the lift and up to the ninth floor, where Led Zeppelin and their entourage were in residence. I was ushered in by this huge man wearing a top hat. He was the owner of the House of Louis, a famous Chicago men's store. He asked me to wait in an adjoining parlor between the two rooms of Robert Plant and John Bonham. It was quite an expensive setting with bouquets of fresh flowers and early American antiques. Beautifully dressed strangers walked in and out, as I watched in wonder. Robert Plant was in his room talking to his managers as he finished dressing. His golden hair fell in waves to his shoulders, which were thrown back, his head held high. The silk shirt he wore was open and tied at the waist. He walked with the grace and manners of a prince with his ministers. The room where I was waiting soon filled with musicians. A lot of energy was building up, as everyone got ready for the show, which was only thrity minutes away. American Soul music drifted in from the next room. A beautiful English girl was making last minute adjustments to the outfits worn on stage by Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant walked out smiling, and asked if I'd like to come along to the concert. I thanked him and said yes. He soon gave the sign, and we left. Everyone fell into easy lines behind him, as we walked down the mirrored hallways and into the elevator. Scenes of Bath were painted inside, where English royalty went to play, and Robert began reciting English history as we descended. When the doors opened on the main floor, a gathering of glamorous looking fans pressed forward to meet their idols. As the expressions of adoration registered on their faces and their eyes lit up, the reality of it began to hit me. Previously, the experience was similar to meeting famous musicians I had met through my parents, but this was the point of departure from anything I had ever seen before in my life. Quietly parked black limousines waited outside. It was still daylight. Robert Plant took the first car, asking the English girl to look after me. Her name was Aria. A blond American girl came along, named Gabriella. We rode in the third car with Danny, whose presence was protective in a fatherly way that lent me some security in this awe-inspiring event. Something held up the first car, and we waited. The two girls stretched out their pretty legs in luxury, showing off silver shoes and silken stockings. Time seemed to stand still as I looked out the tinted glass at the Ambassador. A Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes waved slowly in the summer breeze, side by side. It could have been London, as I thought to myself. I could hardly comprehend this moment, and yet I knew the full impact of England was still to come. Last minute orders were given, the drivers got in and started the engines. In perfect succession, the cars took off, quietly passing the rows of mansions on Astor Street. We began to accelerate, and to my astonishment, a Chicago police car was leading the procession through red lights and traffic. We were being given an official escort usually reserved for high-ranking politicians, complete with a siren, flashing white and blue lights! What a spectacle it must have been! As the last rays of the sun set, a fast pace started that did not stop until Led Zeppelin stepped on stage. From that time on, I was in a state of shock. The cars began racing down the expressway, still in single file, headed towards the Chicago Stadium, where twenty thousand Americans were waiting to see the Englishmen. People stopped to stare at this impressive parade of Fleetwoods as it drove off the ramp and pulled up one by one at the stage door. Almost before they reached a halt, doors flew open, and Led Zeppelin jumped out, dressed in their finery, and ran inside. In the midst of great expectancy, the four stars seemed quite calm.Inside the dressing room, a white linened table was laid with food and drink. It was then I was introduced to Jimmy Page, the founder of Led Zeppelin. He looked like one would imagine the young Mozart, with dark hair framing his pale, almost angelic face. Aria gave me a burgundy satin stage pass to wear on my dress. We walked out into the audience. The show was about to begin. There was an almost tangible electric atmosphere surrounding the massive crowd, which rose quickly to a peak as the lights slowly dimmed. Some unseen sign was given, and the stars ran one by one up the stairs and took their places. Green lights hit the stage, and Led Zeppelin shattered the silence with Rock 'n' Roll. The impact was devastating, and at the same time, I felt the awareness of something more. It was historic. I flashed on that as I looked around the huge arena of the seventies, where thousands of affluent Americans spent their dollars to see Jet Age British Rock. The richest children on earth were like an ocean of faces, turned up to their idols. I could not imagine what Robert Plant was experiencing at that moment. An almost trance-like state was achieved through the hypnotic repetition of Misty Mountain Hop. Boys were throwing firecrackers from the balcony and I eventually went backstage for that reason. More than that, I knew I must break away from the spell Led Zeppelin cast, or I'd no longer be able to carry on as before. For awhile though, I let myself fall prey to the vision of Robert Plant as he shook his blond hair and danced. I sat near the dressing room with Danny, watching the frantic comings and goings of fans trying to get in. Someone called my name. I looked over and saw poor Emily locked out, a guard at the door. I went to her, and she begged me to help her get inside, which I could not do. It broke my heart to see her there. As I walked away from her, the descending notes of Dazed and Confused began, and I felt its powerful pull, step by step until I was at their feet. I was reminded of an opera I had once seen as a child, when the gates of hell are opened. The pain captured in that descent was mirrored on the faces of the children it had swayed. The exact order escapes me now, but I know there was an extended drum solo around the mid-way mark of the concert, giving an intermission to the other members of the group, who came backstage. This left the stage dramatically bare with John Bonham alone, surrounded by all his drums. Climaxing his twenty-minute solo was the re-entry of the rest of Led Zeppelin, creating once again, the full impact of sound they are famous for. After that, they finished the second half of the the almost three hour performance including Heartbreaker, Whole Lotta Love, Stairway to Heaven and others. Communication Breakdown was their encore, after a thunderous standing ovation. A mirrored globe reflected star-like throughout the arena, casting flecks of light upon the glittered crowds. From my place in the wings, I could see many faces smiling, people dancing, and it was true that "everybody is a star." Yet, it was almost over and I could sense their sadness mix with joy as the time drew near to say goodbye. In only minutes, Led Zeppelin would disappear, racing away in their cars. The magic would be gone, leaving only memory. As the last chord was struck, the cruel house lights went up, blinding everyone as the stars escaped. Danny had warned me, but I didn't realize the importance of his words until it was almost too late. I was very nearly left behind. Led Zeppelin jumped into the waiting limousines and made their getaway. The cars sped back to the Ambassador. Society crowds were promenading in their evening dress in front of the hotel's famous Pump Room. What shocked faces they had to see the parade we made of satin, velvet and sequins. They paled in comparison to Led Zeppelin's elegance. Spirits were high, as we went upstairs to their suite. The excitement of the stage was like lightening being conducted through us all. The keys had temporarily been misplaced, and until they were found, we were all welled up in the hallway. Energy was almost flying in sparks from one person to another. Soon, the keys were found, and the party of about twelve poured into the different rooms. The music went on, drinks were made, and everyone was happy, almost elated. Plans were in the making for a trip to see Bobby "Blue" Bland. He was playing at the Burning Spear, one of Chicago's most famous Blues clubs on the southside. I told Robert that it was quite dangerous down there late at night, and he laughed. True to his sun in Leo, everything revolved around his warm August nature. Through his grace, everyone was made to feel at ease. He changed his clothes and soon gave the order to get the cars ready for the Burning Spear. I got in with him this time. As we drove off, he ranted out his window at the rich people, making up a fine speech of nonsense for them. You should have seen them stare at this mad Englishman in his Cadillac. It was quite funny. I sat next to the famous Irish Rock writer BP Fallon, who is writing a book about Led Zeppelin. I gazed out the window as we drove down Lake Shore Drive. Robert was reciting English history along the way, discussing the War of the Roses. We made a turn off the expressway, and started the slow descent into the ghetto. Suddenly, all the faces were black, staring at us through the smoke-tinted glass. The deathly quiet procession glided straight into the heart of the Blues Capitol of the World. BP asked me for the call numbers of Chicago's black station, and I told him to turn to WVON, 1450 AM. The transition was complete. We were now turned on to the Soul of Chicago. As we pulled up at the Burning Spear, we were met at the door by the Blues Man himself, Purvis Spann of WVON. It was well past midnight, and even the night was still hot. Blues Man led us up the back stairway, and through a secret passageway. At the top of the steps was Bobby Bland's dressing room, with a little electric fan that did little to cool us off. Bobby Bland and his wife were there and Robert talked with them alone. I could sense the deep respect he felt for them. This was perhaps the only time on this tour that the group was exposed to Chicago's summer heat, or the people that really live here. The combination was exciting for everyone involved. Soon, we went back downstairs for Show Time. It was quite a show, too, with an M.C., dancing girls, three acts and a band. Blues Man announced the presence of Led Zeppelin to the all-black audience, and asked Robert Plant to come up and take a bow. He did so most graciously, returning the honor to Bobby Bland, whose fan, Robert explained, he was. Everyone loved him, and applauded him wildly. Drinks were ordered, and all the people at the tables around us were smiling brightly. By the time Bobby Bland came on, it was three A.M. and still an inferno. As usual, he was greeted with the fainting of feminine fans, for which he is famous. After the show, we waited almost an hour in the cars for Robert. He was upstairs holding Bobby's gun, while they counted the money. Chicago's gangster history seemed to fascinate Robert, and he once expressed an interest in seeing the Biograph Theater, where John Dillinger was killed. We met at the hotel later and had hot chocolate. I didn't get home until after daybreak. Led Zeppelin were in Chicago the rest of the week, while they toured the midwest by car and by jet in their famous Star Ship. I went back to visit them a few days later at the Ambassador. They had just gotten up around mid-day, and were having their morning tea. Robert called me in his room as he finished dressing. He told me that he had a bad sore throat, and was going off to see the doctor. He threw on one of his silk shirts, and dashed off. In the meantime, Jimmy Page walked in. He was not seen very much, retiring to his room most of the time. He spoke to a man named Caesar about the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, and how together they had their troops on tour. Aria and Gabriella were busy getting the band's outfits ready for the show that night in Detroit. They sent a girl out to buy diamond clasps. Aria asked me if I would straighten up Robert's room while he was gone. I said I'd love to. I felt it was an honor to be among his possessions. I was very timid at first, almost reverent. There were many books by his bedside, and his British passport with its coat-of-arms embossed in gold. I made his bed, and took away the tea cups, with all the lemons he had used for Vitamin C. I hung his silk shirts in the closet, and adoringly put away his shoes in pairs. Some were silver slippers with stars on the toes. His hair brush was from England, with a ruby red handle. Although I never really got to talk to Robert, this was a very subtle experience of knowing him. When Robert came back from the doctor, Danny handed him the latest reviews of their concert. Robert walked around the room reading the headlines with disdain. "Led Zeppelin: Nobility of British Kink" was one. He laughed at that. Danny said there would be another party for them that night. A fashionable clothing store had sent over an array of fancy dress and furs to please them. Robert tried on one outfit all in blue satin, with blue sun glasses to match. He asked me how he looked, then disappeared before I could answer and was back in his own clothes. No matter what he wore, he was unquestionably a star at all times. Spending the afternoon with Led Zeppelin made me lose all sense of time and space. I was surrounded by people who were all in a sort of No man's land of continuous hotels and airports. Their English accents seemed to throw me into a ten year time lapse, and I found myself wondering where I was at times. The only experience I could relate it to was when I lived in England. In one way, I knew them very well. But, these weren't my little schoolmates, these were superstars. Going home after being with them was also quite strange. It was rather like landing after a jet ride. The initial shock of leaving their air-conditioned apartments and walking out into the Chicago heat was extreme. Yet, it was also reassuring, like stepping onto firm ground after a perilous flight. They went on to the concert in Detroit that night, and I rested up at home. The next day was their last in Chicago. It was the best time of all, too. There were no concerts, the day was completely free. John Paul Jones was watching the Watergate hearings, and BP was taking pictures of everyone. Plans were made to go out that night, and the Bistro was suggested. In the meantime, Robert brought out the Monopoly game, and we set it up to play. This was the most exciting to me. Money was passed out to the six of us: Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, BP, Aria, Gabriella and me. We played by English and American rules, in dollars and in pounds. I made tea for Robert with the granular Vitamin C I had brought him to help his sore throat get better. Pretty soon, everyone wanted some, too, and we pretended we were getting high from it. Whatever it was, something was getting us high, and naturally. I found out very soon that you couldn't take your eyes off the board for a moment with this lot. It was cut throat from the word go. This required my full attention. There seemed to be magic with the dice at the first throw, and the British quickly settled the New World. Gabriella and I were the only Americans playing, you see. Robert landed on North Carolina, and purchased all the green land in his next few turns. BP took Virginia, and got his first monopoly. I bought all four rail roads in quick succession, and also Board Walk. After negotiations with John Paul Jones, I bought Park Place, too. In the meantime, Robert Plant had laid hotels as traps. I fell on North Carolina and he won all my land. It was the fastest game I've ever played, and it never really ended. Robert sent for Indian food, and after dinner, it was time to go out. When the elevator opened at the ninth floor, Robert let only the men inside, and when the rest of us finally got downstairs, they were gone. A car and driver had been left for us, with directions to take us to the Bistro. By the time we arrived, all four members of Led Zeppelin and their friends were sitting at a table in the back bar, drinking champagne. It was quite mysterious. Some of my friends were there, including Emily, and everyone got to meet the group. The story had a happy ending for all. Back at the hotel that night was the grand finale. Fate had thrown us all together for almost a week and many friendships were made. Lots of Chicago fans were allowed admittance past the guarded doors, showing once again the good nature of these superstar strangers. There was dancing, drinking and music. It was the last night we'd spend together. At dawn, bouquets of flowers were thrown around the room. We never said goodbye. For me, Led Zeppelin marked the tenth year that I've loved England. I shall never forget their kindness. Someday, I shall return to England and discover the mystery of my own part in this story. However, something very strange happened not long after, reminding me of last summer, Led Zeppelin and this mystical bond between England and America. To me, it proved that this was not my thought alone, indeed, it must be in the air. Late one night, a very strange movie was shown, incredibly named The Stairway to Heaven. The title alone amazed me, but the story itself was beyond belief. It was about a Royal Air Force flyer who fell in love with an American girl just before he is shot down in battle. As he lays dying, his spirit ascends into heaven, where court is in session deciding the fate of their love and his life. John Paul Jones and other American patriots demanded his life, saying he did not love the American girl enough. Representatives of every country that had ever warred with England stood up to testify. In the end, the judge ruled all that invalid, and let the matter be decided by whether or not the American girl would give up her life for the Englishman. She gladly offered to die, thus proving their love eternal, and uniting them forever. Is this the same love that made a king give up his crown? I've often thought that the phenomenon sired by England flowered seven years ago in America, during the Summer of Love. History will show this to be eternal as well. It's been ten years since my father drew up the white and black lists, and as I look at it now, it seems quite a prophecy. The music world of the seventies does seem rather like a battleground for the forces of good and evil. Even one as I am, with only a small understanding of the theory of vibration and its effect, can easily see that 20th century America could only be conquered through music. Therefore, in a very real sense, the one who seizes the scepter of Rock 'n' Roll rules the world. Hendrix envisioned our generation declaring our own independence and starting the New Order. He even wrote the combined national anthem of England and America. As I write this a year later, on the Fourth of July, in the midst of fireworks and the red, white and blue, I think of America's sleeping beauty that only England could awake. "Rise like Lions after slumber, In unvanquishable number, Shake your chains to earth like dew Which in sleep had fallen on you- Ye are many--they; are few." -Percy Bysshe Shelley by Camille Davis Russo | Copyright 1974 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Some of Camille's pics from 1977: Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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