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SteveAJones

NEWSFLASHBACK: The Observer May 18, 1975

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The Observer

May 18, 1975

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

By Tony Palmer

STATISTICS are always misleading. With Led Zeppelin, statistics are

irrelevant - except that they are truly astonishing. Last night they

gave the first of five concerts at London's Earls Court, total seats

around 85,000. The 51,000 seats for the first three concerts

originally planned sold out within two hours of going on sale. The

34,000 seats for the extra two concerts sold out over a weekend. No

pop group in history, no entertainer, no film star, no opera singer has

ever attracted such an audience. Tickets are now changing hands at 100

pounds each. In America, the four musicians have just completed a 26-

city tour, total number of seats in excess of 700,000. All were sold

within a day of going on offer. Most groups are content to fill

Madison Square Garden in New York (capacity 20,000) for a night, maybe

two. Zeppelin's American promoters reckon they could fill it for a

month.

Even more bewildering is the group's record sales. In six years, six

LP's. No-one knows exactly how many have been sold - one reasonable

estimate is 14 million. The latest double-album called "Physical

Graffiti", entered all the American charts at number three, the highest

recorded entry for any album. Its advance sales of $15 million was

without precedent. One New York shop reported selling upwards of 300

copies per hour. Zeppelin's records outsell those of the Rolling

Stones three to one; even the Beatles experienced nothing like this.

Yet this is a group that, for the first three and a half years of its

existence, doggedly refused to issue press handouts, released no group

photos (they didn't have any), employed no PR department of any kind,

cut no singles - the surest way to commercial success, never appeared

on television except in a pilot show made six years ago and then

abandoned, appeared live on radio just once and that a long time ago,

and remains to all but the cognoscenti unknown and unrecognised. That

they are English; that they are the biggest commercial success story in

rock of all time; that they are musicians of phenomenal capabilities -

not for them the one hour performance preceded by novelty acts, but

three and a half hours of intensive and exhausting music making; that

they release albums often without even printing their name on the cover

(it is just decipherable on the latest sleeve); that they a soft-

spoken, articulate, intelligent, and withdrawn, is unknown. I rate

them the best rock 'n' roll band of the 1970's, the most accomplished

since the Beatles. Compared with them, The Osmonds and all their

proclaimed teeny boppism are rubbish, a mere flicker on the smiling

face of popular music. Says Robert Plant, Zeppelin's singer: "If only

Kidderminster could see me now!"

The ride from New York to Washington is my idea of luxury travel. We

leave the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue, around five. It's freezing but

the convoy of black limousines makes the journey easy. As always when

they travel, Zeppelin have a flashing police escort. Swiftly then to

Newark Airport, chatting with the group's improbable manager, 39-year

old Peter Grant. Throughout six years and innumerable concerts, Grant

missed only five, all when he was seriously ill. In the business he is

reckoned fearsome.

Certainly, he has revolutionised - almost singlehanded - rock 'n' roll

management during the last six years. Before his time, groups would

perform for either a straight fee or an advance against about 50-

percent of the gate. Frequently, this resulted in groups returning

from the States after months of coast to coast touring literally

penniless - The Who were a prime example. Grant stopped all that. He

informed everyone that Zeppelin would only play for 90-percent of the

gate, gross. Everyone told him he was crazy. But he got it, and it's

now the standard deal for all major artists. Grant smiles, with

obvious satisfaction.

We arrive at Newark. It is raining. Zeppelin's plane looks sleek and

menacing in the gathering dark. It's an enormous Boeing 720, dark blue

and speckled with white stars, larger than the President's Air Force

One, the name Led Zeppelin gleaming along the fuselage, The

Starship. "It makes Hefner's Bunny plane look like a dinky toy," says

Grant, beaming with delight because his wife (who teaches ballet at her

own school in Sussex) has just telephoned to say that her pupils have

come first, third and fourth in some national dancing championship. "I

love my job," he says as he rolls up the gangplank, "but it's not my

idea of glamour." He wears eight chunky turquoise rings, all Navajo

antiques. "A bit garish, isn't it?" he says in broad cockney drawl,

flapping his hand around the planes interior.

Like the rest of the group, Grant detests flying. Illegitimate, a

stage-hand at the Croydon Empire, a runner for Reuters, a bouncer at

the famous (in the late 1950's) 2 I's Club, a mini-bus driver, a film

double for Robert Morley, a trainee chef, Frank Ifield's driver, an

amateur wrestler called Marcio Alassio, tour manager for the Everly

Brothers, multi-millionaire, principal architect of Led Zeppelin's

commercial stature, he now sits Buddha-like astride his airplane

scratching a straggly, unkempt beard in torn jeans, off-the-peg jacket

with patched elbows, a 20p shirt from an Oxfam shop, old boots and a

Davey Crockett hat given to him by Plant; a concerned father who

worries excessively and endlessly about his two children.

The group straggle on board for the 45-minute journey to Washington -

Plant, six foot, grinning ear to ear, bounding along with irrepressible

enthusiasm, pumping everyone by the hand, shouting hello, looking fit

to run a mile and suntanned enough to win Mr. America. John Paul

Jones, keyboard and bass player, sliding into a leather chair, opening

the backgammon board and not saying much to anyone except "It's only

rock 'n' roll." John Bonham, percussion, roaring in (expletives

deleted), loud bulky, tough, his Midlands accent slicing through the

restrained politeness. Last, shuffling, apologetic for being late,

delicate, fragile almost, Jimmy Page, lead guitarist, founder of Led

Zeppelin, in his own world legendary, more respected than Eric Clapton,

more prolifically inventive than any rock/blues guitarist presently

working, wearing an "Elvis on Tour" badge and looking as if he has been

without sleep for several days. He has also been ill. Could be from

malnutrition, although more probably a leftover from the glandular

fever which struck him some years back.

Hostesses flit about during the flight offering caviar, smoked salmon,

and all manner of drink. Page drinks tea. So does Plant, laced with

honey and lemon. Plant, the lemon squeeze kid. Page is ruefully

examining his fingers - one of them was almost crushed in a train door

just before the tour. "I became the hottest nine-fingered guitarist in

the business," he smiles.

Arrival near Washington, and the usual police-escorted, sirens wailing,

motorcade. Plant has heard that President Ford's daughter wanted to

come but Dad wouldn't let her because the following day was school.

Hurtling down the freeway, cars fleeing left and right, swoosh into the

back door of the concert hall, metal doors clanging firmly shut behind

us to keep out the fans. Inside, backstage, an ethereal calm, only the

distant roar of the 25,000 audience. Unhurriedly, the group unpacks

and prepares. The ritual has begun. Jones lies on a bench, gazing

blankly at the roof. Page wanders around clutching a British Airways

travelling bag out of which come neatly folded, although torn, satin

trousers, a pair of shoes and one sock. "Oh dear. What a dilemma", he

says only half mockingly. Plant is still drinking tea, complaining of

the cold. "Can't we do a summer season?" he asks. Everyone ignores

him. Bonham, or Bonzo to his aficionados, speeds noisily back and

forth into the lavatory - he too has been ill, with diarrhoea, since

the tour started. Endless potions and tinctures have not cured him.

There's talk of hiring a doctor, permanently.

Zeppelin carry with them a staff of 44, including numerous and armed

security guards. The road crew, led by designer Ian Knight, has been

together four years. His resources are considerable - 150 lights,

including three krypton laser beams and a 'Led Zeppelin' neon sign,

five lighting towers which can be raised or lowered electrically; smoke

machines, thunder puffs; a total of some 310,000 watts. In addition,

there is a computerised sound system, programmed with digital delay,

which stirs up feedback, howl round, repeater patterns and synchronised

sound; a total of 70,000 watts capable of being heard over a mile away.

Their performance on stage is overwhelming - and that in a medium which

finds superlatives necessary and predictable. The tearing, shouting,

shrieking sound explodes, yet its counterpoint remains icily clear. As

Page winds himself up into one chilling display of guitar virtuosity

after another; as Plant struts and preens and peacocks the stage, wild

hair ringleted and flying, shirt flapping, breast glistening; as Jones

focuses hard on organ, piano, moog or bass guitar, the joy improvising

again and again around Page's rollicking gymnastics evident in his

face; as Bonham pounds and pounds his battery of drums and gongs,

ferociously following where the others lead, urging, cursing,

shattering any suspicion of musical complacency.

There is no theatre like it, no action painting which approaches the

constantly fluctuating patterns of light and sound which this lethal

combination of talent has managed to unleash. If the Beatles dragged

popular music from the inanities of the middle-class, middle-aged,

business-orientated pap, then Led Zeppelin have propelled rock 'n' roll

into the forefront of artistic achievement in the mid 1970's. As Page

says: "The music of the streets has been returned whence it came. Ours

is the folk music of a technological age. The sub-culture. So, as an

event, the group is only as good as its audience." And they are very,

very good. Can you think of another song, any song, for which, when

its first chord is played, an entire audience of 20,000 rise

spontaneously to their feet, not just to cheer or clap hands, but in

acknowledgement of an event that is crucial for all of them? Such is

the case as Page begins a gentle, seductive, haunting, longing, lonely

song - "There's a lady who's sure; all that glitters is gold. And she's

buying a stairway to heaven...."

I met John Paul Jones the following day back in his suite at the Plaza

Hotel. He's been playing the piano since he was six - his father, had

vamped for silent movies, had a particular talent for playing

Rachmaninov. Jones Junior prefers Debussy Preludes Book II and Ravel.

With his dad on piano and himself on bass, Jones toured the Hunt balls,

barmitzvahs, belly-dance parlours, US bases, and a residency at the

Isle of Wight yacht club. Eventually, he graduated into the London

sessions circuit, primarily as an arranger. His most notable work,

perhaps, was for The Rolling Stones album "Their Satanic Majesties

Request", although he arranged also for Lulu and Herman's Hermits. He

even thought of applying for the job as choirmaster at Westminster

Cathedral. He met Page while playing on Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man"

album and some years later read that Jimmy was forming a group. His

wife urged him to telephone, which he did. "It's a very pleasant way

of making money, all this rock 'n' roll stuff. A superstar? No, I've

no idea what that is. I'll tell you one thing, though. When we first

came together, we were each of us determined that, whatever happened

musically, we were not going to blow it because of bad management.

Success? Oh well, I suppose I view that with some curiosity. But I'd

much rather be at home with my wife and children (he has three - 8, 7

and 3). I've been married nine years; my wife is my best friend. I

get hell for going on tour. Once I had all the time in the world and

no money. Now I have the money but no time..."

Madison Square Garden, like any vast auditorium, can be dangerous and

frightening. At one concert, Grant's security men confiscated three

revolvers and 20 knives. As we arrive, late, the police escort fails

to stop a long-haired youth who smashes at the window of Page's

limousine: "Jimmy, Jimmy! Jesus Christ is here!" Grant pours out of

the Cadillac. The police, truncheons raised, advance on the kid. Page

jumps out - "Please, please don't hit him." The motorcade flows under

the familiar metal doors which slam shut behind us. When the group

assembled for their first concert, scheduled for Boxing Day 1968 in

Copenhagen, Bonham had never travelled on an airplane. He is now 30

and owns 12 dozen pedigree cows, 80 sheep and actively farms 100

acres in Worcestershire. His ambition is to win a rosette for his

bulls. His father was a carpenter. His friends call him the car

dealer - he once collected 21 cars in 12 months, including four Rolls,

three Bentleys, a Maserati, and assorted Aston Martins. Plant had told

Page about him; said he was not popular because he played too loud.

Grant had to send 40 telegrams - Bonham was not on the phone - before

the recalcitrant drummer replied. He wasn't interested, he said. He

was getting forty pounds a week, stead.

At the concert's end, the group are raced from the hall before anyone

realises they have left. Outside Madison Square, someone has tried to

steal one of the limousines; garbage cans have been set on fire to

prevent the escape. When queuing for tickets in Boston, 2,000

disappointed teenagers had smashed up the hall in frustration, causing

an estimated $75,000 worth of damage. The Boston concert was

cancelled. Tales of violence surround the pop world. Some are true,

most are exaggerated by the media for cheap thrills. Few have taken

time out to consider the utter boredom of life on the road. In their

time, Zeppelin - described frequently as barbarians - have contributed

to the collective fund of hotel wrecking stories. They utterly deny

having thrashed a naked girl with a live octopus. Actually, it was a

dead shark, Plant told me noncommittally. But what else can a group

do after a concert, with the energy level being at full charge? The

accumulated tensions of touring, plus the quiet desperation of suddenly

having nothing to do in the middle of the night erupts into senseless

hooliganism. "You can't just go to bed with a cup of hot chocolate,"

explains Bonham, pained that I should fail to comprehend. One

particularly vengeful night cost Grant $3,000. Oh, that's nothing,

said the hotel manager. Not half as much damage as was caused by a

recent Methodist Convention and they didn't pay a cent. Anyway, said

the manager, I quite understand. The rooms are very, very boring. I

often feel like tearing the place apart myself. Grant smiled, slowly,

and brought out another $1,000. Have one on me, he said. Whereupon

the manager smirked, and demolished the room. Bed linen, television

set, fixtures - all were hurled about indiscriminately. I really

enjoyed that, said the manager afterwards. Thank you.

Grant has known Page since Jimmy was 15. "When I took over management

of the Yardbirds," Grant explained to me, "I was advised to get rid of

Pagey, their lead guitarist. He was a troublemaker, I was told, and I

soon found out why. The Yardbirds had recently appeared in

Antonioni's 'Blow-up', recorded its title song, then been around the

States with the Rolling Stones, done their own US tour for five weeks,

and have exactly 112 pounds each to show for it. Someone had ripped

them off mightily - I vowed it would never happen again." The

Yardbirds split up, although Page retains copyright on the name. Page

told Grant about Jones and of their session work together, suggesting

this might form the basis of a group. Later, Page and Grant were

walking along Oxford Street and met a longtime colleague who told them

strange tales of this physical explosion in Birmingham called Plant.

The two travelled north and were greeted at the door of some seedy club

by a rough, rug-headed kern whom they took to be the bouncer. But when

they saw him on stage, they both realised he was potentially the most

startling singer/performer since Elvis, more sensuous than Jagger and

with a voice of stinging range and power. "It unnerved me, just to

listen," says Page. "It still does, like a primeval wail."

Next was Bonham, and finally Jones was signed up. Then Grant did a

deal with Atlantic Records whose nerve set the pattern for all future

transactions. Atlantic had blithely announced they wanted the new band

because it included Jimmy page. "But you don't know my price," replied

Grant.

They soon found out and were persuaded to part with the largest royalty

ever negotiated for a group of musicians. No one knows exactly how

much, but it is said to be five times larger than that originally paid

to the Beatles. The album cost 1,782 pounds to produce, including the

cover. It has grossed $7 million - so far. Keith Moon suggested the

name - he thought they would go down like a lead balloon, or even a

Lead Zeppelin, which Americans would pronounce (inevitable) Leed. In

fact, in England, the group was ignored. No one would book them, except

as a supporting act. Grant was forced to open up in Scandinavia.

After the release of their album in the States, moreover, no one wanted

to book them there either, but for different reasons. No one could be

persuaded to follow them, or precede them. They joined up

eventually with a heavy rock band called Iron Butterfly and

performed at the Filmore East in New York. Iron Butterfly, scheduled

to play second, were crushed into oblivion. Zeppelin played for over

four hours, including five encores. They only stopped at all because

they had simply run out of material. The saga had begun. They have

been grossing at least $30 million per year for the last five years.

Yet Grant will keep the group off the road for as long as 18 months

until he judges the moment is exactly right for a spectacular return.

San Diego is another night of madness. Bonzo is ill again and has to

stop at several filling station lavatories en route for the airport.

The travelling doctor, hot from the Yale Medical School, produces a

medicine chest of bottles. All seem useless. Grant is wearing a

Japanese smock and Spanish matador's hat. Both would look absurd,

except on Grant. Again, the race from the airport to the Sportsdrome,

sirens blasting, car doors resolutely locked. Plant, who writes most

of the group's lyrics, gangly and awake, a lifetime Wolves supporter,

does his Derek Dougan in the passageway. For such a titanic performer

on stage, he is ludicrously polite off. He lives for the day, he told

me, "as long as it is functioning".

Interviewing him can be difficult. He insists on doing hand-stands and

generally prancing about while talking. He is apt to trot out the

cliché reply to what was most probably, a cliché question. "I want to

slap apathy in the face before it becomes too big a wart." Ah, I'm

proud of what we've done, of what we represent. We are a diversion,

which I believe to be artistically valid. So let's all go to the

revolution, but who knows the way?" Ah, indeed, Plant also lives on a

farm. like Bonham, between Worcestershire and Shropshire, a working

mountain sheep farm that he "maintains with finesse". After six years

at King Edward VI's grammar school in Stourbridge, he got two pounds a

week "making tea for a seedy old man who was supposed to be teaching me

chartered accountancy". He hated it and left. He had already played

in the backs of Stourbridge pubs while studying for O-levels, so found

little difficulty in forming various small bands such as The Crawling

King Snakes, all named after old blues tunes. But his music found

little acceptance in Birmingham where he became known as the wild man

of blues from the Black Country. He moved south to Middle Earth, the

now defunct cellar club in Convent Garden where much of what

subsequently became known as underground rock was developing. There

Plant discovered the heaving swagger of his voice, by turns mellifluous

and shrill, accusatory, pleading and sweet, a devastating instrument,

his by chance and not by suffering, arguably the first white voice that

had the measure of the blues at a time when the tradition of blues

shouting was dying.

"It's not a voice you can practise with," he told me. "I need the

charge of the other three, the mass of an audience to speak to."

Once he was a Mod and went to Margate beaches to fight the Rockers.

Then he was a Rocker, and then a beatnik. As such, he read Sartre,

Camus and Kafka. Then he became a rock superstar of a steel

constitution and "curved smile". Like other rock superstars, he wastes

thousands on silly cars. Yet his command of an audience is uncanny, I

have seen him rouse a docile mob of 20,000 to a thundering quivering

mass. "We're laying it on the line," he says, "and the audience knows

it. We are trying to communicate a fulfilled ideal. Doesn't anyone

remember laughter?" Ah.

It's six in the evening. Los Angeles, California. There will be no

concert tonight - the last was two days ago. Page has eyed me

suspiciously since I arrived, sometimes politely, sometimes so

preoccupied that I need not have existed. Fellow musicians rate him

one of the finest guitarists. His technique may lack the effortless

charm of Clapton; may lack the brutal wizardry of one of his heroes,

the late Jimi Hendrix. His songs may not equal the agonised self-pity

of Dylan, his compositions the formal brilliance of Benjamin Britten.

But his grasp, both of the limitations and possibilities of his music,

is formidable. When he was first voted Number One guitarist by various

rock magazines, he was genuinely surprised. "I'm not much of a

guitarist, am I?" he asked me once.

Having persuaded Page's armed guard (seated constantly outside his

room) that I was genuine, he allowed me to knock at the door. After a

long pause, a voice said quietly: "Who is it?" I told him and he let

me in. Gone was the flashing majesty of his appearance on stage, fast

as a cat. Instead, a thin, almost inaudible, ghost of a man, like a

choirboy, dog tired but smiling. He had been awake non-stop since the

last concert - 48 hours ago. "I thought something was coming through,"

he said, waving his hands towards his guitar sunk into a chair. "But,

well, I suppose there have been too many interruptions." He wanders

about his darkened room, disconsolate, exhausted, alone. "I've

compared notes with other writers and artists," he says

defensively, "to see what time of day is most productive. Writers seem

to thrive on schedules. Poets, or composers like me, just go at it.

I've lost all concept of time long ago ..... I hate my music being

described as rock 'n' roll. Pop as a name is also ridiculous. They're

both a long way from the truth. What we play is street music, folk

music, and that's why we refuse to get involved with the media. If

what we are saying has any truth, then people in the street will know."

He didn't start playing until he was 15 - he is only 31 now. An only

child, the son of a personnel manager, he grew up in Felton next to

London's Heathrow airport. He remembers distinctly the event that

changed his life. He heard Chuck Berry singing 'No money down' and

knew (correctly) that in its own primitive and naive manner it touched

a profound social nerve. No money down, live now and pay later, the

whole gaudy never-had-it-so-good I'm alright Jack trashy post-war

materialism was caught in that one song. He played anywhere and

everywhere, and by the time he was 20 had become the youngest - and

also the best - session guitarist in London. He worked with P.J.

Proby, The Who, and The Stones; he played at the Marquee and on Eel Pie

Island. He did a stint of one night gigs around the country until he

collapsed with fatigue. He cut a solo single called 'She just

satisfies' on which he sang and played. It was rubbish. So was his

work as a session player. At the end he had no idea what he was doing

or why. Eventually, he joined The Yardbirds as a replacement bass

player and the rest we know.

Well, not quite. He'd like to fill his house with pre-Raphaelite

paintings buy says he can't afford to, pays 98 percent tax on song

writing royalties and, although he keeps meeting people in the States

who can't afford to come back to England, hopes to stick it out

here "until a compromise comes along".

He is the only Zeppelin not married - "I once told a friend; I'm just

looking for an angel with a broken wing - one who couldn't fly away."

Death threats are frequent. He worries about the whole pace of being

on the road, of constantly having to live up to his image, whatever

that is. When he returns home, he can't eat or sleep or in any way

relax for days, often weeks.

And what of that music? Stylistically, it is a tour de force,

borrowing from Bo Diddley, The Stones, , Cream, Burt Bacharach and Kool

and the Gang; a fusion of jazz, rock, blues and flamenco. It is

persuasive and snarling, whether acoustic or electric. It is

deceptively facile, yet almost never overblown. It relies heavily on

the blues for its emotional strength, yet has expanded the electric

vocabulary of that ill-used idiom while remaining firmly locked within

it. A song like 'Stairway to Heaven' is characteristic. It begins

quietly with acoustic guitar playing an aching melody. The singer

stutters out the most simple of themes. Gradually, but inevitably, the

sound develops over 10 minutes into a massive climax, the bass and

drums providing an elemental roar from which the guitar (now electric)

and singer tear a raging, hurting melody.

Not all Zeppelin's songs are based on this pattern, but a sufficient

number to recognise this as the groups signature. Again, it is the

multiplicity of cross references which makes the music arresting;

almost as if the band were summing up rock 'n' roll today and yet

refashioning many of its conflicting elements into a new sound which

has the possibility, thereby, of extended development. One hears

snatches of Beatles chord progression, the miasmic, tortured blues

lines of Leadbelly, the rhythmic brutality of Pete Townshend. Yet the

whole is different from the parts. It is the hardest sound you are

likely to find on disc, never distorted but always relentless. What is

more, it is beautifully fashioned.

And so, one turns back to Page, the group's composer and producer. Of

all those working in the pop milieu today, he is the master craftsman.

With groups like Cream, pop (or rock or whatever cliché you choose)

discovered that it was possessed of considerable instrumental

capabilities. The questioned remained what to do with those

capabilities. Page recognised that the answer was pure and simple -

craftsmanship. There is no difference essentially, between a Led

Zeppelin song 'In my time of dying', with its moaning guitar, extended

and improvised vocal line, all lasting for over 12 minutes, and an

early Chuck Berry or Presley number such as 'Baby let's play house'.

Except for one thing. The Led Zeppelin song is better constructed,

better played and better recorded.

Page also understood the importance of ensemble playing. That may

sound a little obvious, but for years the self-indulgent egocentricity

of pop stars prevented them from hearing one another - group after

group split up "because they could no longer get it together". Often,

they simply hadn't tried or listened. page, in choosing Jones, Bonham,

and Plant, was lucky enough to discover three musicians of comparable

self-awareness. There are bands whose sound is less crude, more

tasteful. There is no band, however, whose constant ability to produce

harmonies and counterpoint on which to hang their improvisations is so

sophisticated. It makes them impossible to copy, as many have

discovered. Page told me of one occasion some years back when, as the

group entered , the entire audience of some 25,000 lit matches or

candles or lighters and stood in silent recognition of a sound, an

achievement, that spoke eloquently for them and their longings and

their agonies. The sight of those flickering beacons, says Page,

stopped him dead in his tracks. It was, he recalls, a moment of true

magic.

I think we talked for around three to four hours, his hands fluttering

bird-like in darkness. Time, he told me, ceased when they performed on

stage. They had tried frequently to cut down their performance to

around two hours or so, but it always crept back to well over three.

As he drew me further and further into his world, time slipped away

with equal grace. I often think of him now, perched high up in his

Hollywood hotel, curtains shut, film projector standing idle, records

stacked untidily on the floor, guitar in his hands, waiting - as he

says - for something to come through. Occasionally the silence is

interrupted by the need to move on to the next city for the next

concert. Food is brought in; the armed guard ever watchful; the

telephone more or less permanently off the hook; the television blank.

That he is worth a fortune is also clearly meaningless to him, except

in so far as it pays for his privacy. He has the isolation and

knowledge of a monk. By remaining calm at the centre of a

disintegrating culture, he is providing an example for its future

development. If we need heroes, then rather Jimmy Page than political

buffoons or licensed jesters or sporting apes; rather the shy, nervous,

steely youth whose songs are inspiring a generation.

The audience is letting off firecrackers as the group huddles at the

side of a specially built 60 ft wide platform. Page is shaking like a

leaf, literally. The astrodome near Washington is long enough to take

two jumbo jets end to end with a couple more either side. The racket

is unbelievable.

"This is ridiculous," says Bonham, visibly sweating.

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: LED ZEPPELIN".

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Says Robert Plant, Zeppelin's singer: "If only

Kidderminster could see me now!"

Hi Mum!
Like the rest of the group, Grant detests flying. Illegitimate, a

stage-hand at the Croydon Empire, a runner for Reuters, a bouncer at

the famous (in the late 1950's) 2 I's Club, a mini-bus driver, a film

double for Robert Morley, a trainee chef, Frank Ifield's driver, an

amateur wrestler called Marcio Alassio, tour manager for the Everly

Brothers

I think I remember this part. B)

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