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Led Zeppelin's Toronto Memories


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Came across this article online today about the show from 1969 in Toronto.

Led Zeppelin's Toronto memories

8859887a41a19f2cfac48d1bd41e.jpegNASH THE SLASH PHOTOS Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin on Aug. 18, 1969, the second of two sold-out dates at the Rock Pile, formerly the Masonic Temple and now home to MTV.



As the rock reunion concert of the millennium draws near – three of the four founding members of Led Zeppelin, joined in London tomorrow by Jason Bonham, son of original drummer, the late John Bonham – some Toronto fans are already contemplating the prospect of a concert in these parts in the very near future.

The rumour mill last week was indeed buzzing with reports that the so-called one-off London event will actually launch a world tour.

But other fans are recalling three Led Zeppelin shows here 38 years ago that set this town on its ear – on Feb. 2 and Aug. 18, 1969, at the 1,200-capacity Rock Pile (formerly the Masonic Temple, now MTV's headquarters) at Yonge St. and Davenport Ave., and a third at the 4,000-seat O'Keefe Centre Nov. 2.

For a few months, still feeling the effects of the Summer of Love, Toronto seemed to be in the grip of Zeppelin frenzy.

That was more luck than love, say those who were there.

"When Led Zeppelin were booked for the first gig in February, the promoters – John Brower and Rick Taylor – were canny enough to book them for a second show in August – in fact, for two shows in one night, for the same money," said Toronto musician and progressive rock auteur Nash The Slash, who hung out at the Rock Pile as part of the Catharsis Light Show crew, and had seen countless acts on the tiered venue's proscenium stage during the great musical explosion in those years.

Led Zeppelin, seen on this side of the Atlantic as little more than a flashy vehicle to showcase the talents of emerging guitar hero Jimmy Page, was just another in a long line of bands for whom the Rock Pile was a necessary Canadian stop. In February 1969, Led Zeppelin had little more going for it than a killer debut album not yet been released in North America, and a hotshot guitarist and arranger who might or might not be the next Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck or Jimi Hendrix – and every band that came through had one of each.

In fact, to add shine to their package, Brower and Taylor had added American blues guitarist Albert King to the bill, along with local rock footnotes Sherman and Peabody, the Rock Pile's house band, Mary-Lou Horner, which featured post-adolescent Toronto guitarist Ben Mink, later k.d. lang's chief musical collaborator.

"My impression of Led Zeppelin wasn't positive," continued Nash, who had been taken on as the club's official photographer. "I had just seen Jeff Beck at the Rock Pile, and by comparison Zeppelin was very sloppy."

At least one critic begged to differ.

"Of all the memorable things which happened during Toronto's s two heavy shows last night (Led Zeppelin at the Rock Pile and the Turtles and Iron Butterfly at Massey Hall), one visual image easily stood out," wrote Globe and Mail rock reviewer and expatriate Australian showbiz publicist Ritchie Yorke, who also emcee'd the show.

"It was the sight of Led Zeppelin's hero-worshipped lead guitarist, Jimmy Page – resplendent in avocado velvet suit – bent over, as if in agony, to the audience, his fingers working like a touch typist's, his foot thumping like a kangaroo's tail, the sound as clear and as piercing as a bedside phone in the stillness of 3 a.m. Considering the group was only formed a few months back, it's remarkably tight and together."

The February debut was a resounding success – with as many fans outside as were jammed inside, Nash remembers. By August, when their second date rolled around, Led Zeppelin was a bona fide international phenomenon, on its way to rock `n' roll glory.

Music journalist, publicist and concert promoter Richard Flohil was in the club's back office between the first and second shows.

The house had been turned and a second batch of 1,200 devotees, clutching their $2.50 ticket stubs, were anxious for Led Zeppelin's second show to begin when the band's manager, Peter Grant – a notoriously violent man – walked into the office and demanded more money, "or the band would not do the second show," Flohil said.

"When (promoter) Taylor produced the signed contract, Grant grabbed it and tore it up. He said the band wasn't going on unless his demands were met, and that the promoters would have to deal with the mess that would surely follow."

The Rock Pile stage crew tried to impound Led Zeppelin's gear. Nash, standing at the dressing room door with Plant, witnessed the ensuing scuffle between the band's roadies and the stage hands.

"At one point the back door swung open and one of the Rock Pile guys came in holding up the distributor cap from Led Zeppelin's equipment truck," he said. "He yelled out, `Hey Rick, these guys aren't going anywhere!'"

Nevertheless, Flohil added, extra money did change hands, and Led Zeppelin went back on stage.

Less than three months later, with Led Zeppelin II hot off the presses and scoring rave reviews, the band was back in Toronto – technically as part of its fourth North American tour, though in reality they hadn't been off the road since mid-1968 – for a big-ticket show, $5, at O'Keefe Centre (now the Sony Centre).

Toronto band Edward Bear was hired to open.

"I was walking around backstage in the afternoon with our roadie," said guitarist Danny Marks, a founding member of the blues-rock band that became famous for ballads "You, Me and Mexico," "The Last Song" and "Close Your Eyes."

"The place was empty. We noticed something sticking out from behind a curtain and took a look ... it was a guitar case, and inside was Jimmy Page's sunburst Les Paul, just left there unguarded. We took a long look at it and put it back."

Later, at the sound check, Plant had plugged the same guitar – a Page signature instrument before he took on the Fender Stratocaster – into Marks' Fender amplifier, and was giving it a thrashing.

"He hadn't even asked ... he just took over my amp," Marks said. "That was pretty rude, so I walked over and turned it off. Plant yelled, `Hey, that's not your guitar!' And I yelled back, `And that's not your amp!' I could have used to moment to forge a friendship, but I couldn't believe the nerve of that guy."

Veteran Toronto guitarist Bernie LaBarge, who was in the audience and was then just 17, recalls that Marks outplayed Page in every way.

"Danny killed me ... I was a huge fan," said LaBarge, who was disappointed that Led Zeppelin didn't even attempt to duplicate their recorded work.

"They jammed on everything. Page just made a lot of noise.

"The place was packed, and the crowd loved it. But what sticks in my mind is how well Edward Bear performed that day. This little blues band from Toronto made me proud."

Or check out the link to the article HERE

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I posted this story in another thread; it happened two weeks before Toronto, around the time of the Sharon Tate murder(s) and Brian Jones' recent death.

The first time I saw Peter Grant I didn't know who he was. The date was August 4, 1969 and the band was playing in an arena used for rodeos; the marquee outside read: The Lead Zeppelins. Before Dazed and Confused began I noticed Plant talking with a huge fat man on the side of the stage. Plant approached the microphone and informed the audience that although the band was advertised on the bill for the Lewisville Pop Festival (Aug 31) they had, in fact, "not even been asked to play." The crowd booed loudly and then the band played Dazed and Confused. Before the next song and after another consultation with the big guy Plant announced, "We're happy to say we've just been asked to play the Festival." Crowd goes wild, blah blah. I always wondered what kind of powerplay was going on on the sidelines. Maybe Grant was showing what a drawing card his act was to Angus Wynne III of Wynne Entertainment, promoter for the Texas International Pop Festival. Or maybe Grant was driving the band's price up to $13,000.

Or maybe Percy just said it for crowd reaction. :o

Grand Funk Railroad opened for LZ in 1969, but only once. They received an enormous crowd reaction and Grant ordered the power cut after their first few songs. The promoter refused.

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When JPJ was a guest on the 'Open Mike With Mike Bullard' television program (3/30/00) to promote Zooma the host brought to his attention the studio was in the same building as that concert in '69 and then proceeded to show him some photos from

the gig. JPJ was bemused and struck a bass-playing pose similar to one in the photos,

much to the delight of the audience.

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