Led Zeppelin Earls Court London Saturday May 24th 1975


My ticket for the concert. £2.50 seems such a bargain now.

Led Zeppelin Earls Court London Saturday May 24th 1975
Led Zeppelin were initially booked to play for three nights on May 23rd, 24th and 25th at the massive Earls Court Arena in London, which has a capacity of 17,000. The venue had been used for concerts before, notably one by David Bowie, at which the sound was reportedly atrocious. Due to what Mel Bush described as “unprecedented demand in the history of rock music” two further dates were added on May 17 and 18th. The total attendance for the five sold out shows was 85,000. Bush negotiated with British Rail to advertise the ease with which Inter City trains could bring fans in.”The Zeppelin Express Physical Rocket” was how it was dubbed, and the posters for the event featured a picture of Zeppelin riding the express. There was no support act for the shows, and Zeppelin played a long set, around three hours, each night.
This was the first chance to see Zeppelin after an almost three year gap since I last saw them at Newcastle City Hall in 1972. I went with John and a couple more mates, and we travelled to London by train, and straight back after the show on the midnight train. It was the day of the Scotland England match at Wembley and the train home was completely packed, full of very drunk (and disappointed) Scots fans (England won 5-1), travelling home after the match. We couldn’t get a seat and spent most of the night trying to sleep on the (cold metal) floor of the guards van, which was pretty uncomfortable :(!
zepealrscourtprog Tickets went on sale for personal applicants only at various points across the country. John and I queued all night at Virgin Records in Newcastle for our tickets. We arrived late, just before the pubs closed, and the queue grew massively overnight. I took my car and parked it beside the queue, hoping to catch some sleep. Some of the guys in the queue took a dislike to this idea and threatened to turn my car over, so I quickly moved it, parked it a few streets away, and rejoined the queue. When the box office opened, we were quite disappointed to find that all they had on sale were tickets with pretty poor views, up the back of the arena. This was often the case in those days, with the best seats being sold at the venue itself, in London.
When we arrived at Earls Court we found that out seats had an obstructed view. We were sitting behind a wide pillar and literally could not see anything. However, we were able to sit on the stairs between the rows of seats for the whole show, which gave us a great view. This was one of the first shows to use videotron screens at either side of the stage which was very cool for the time, and the first time we had seen colour video screens. All the other screens I had seen before that, usually at outdoor festivals, were black and white, and used a projector. Looking back, the screens were pretty low tech compared to today, but at the time they were streets ahead of anything seen before at a rock concert. The sound wasn’t great, but was ok with a massive PA system, particularly given the size of the venue.
The compere for Saturday the 24th was Nicky Horne who opened the proceedings with something like “Welcome to Earls Court. For the next three hours….your mother wouldn’t like it”. The Saturday night that we attended is often rated as the best night of the five shows, despite a couple of minor glitches such as Page’s guitar cutting out during In My Time of Dying. Kashmir was a particular highlight and Plant joked “If you go along the A449,past Droitwich, take the third turn on the right, Kashmir is just up there – its got a white fence around it”. Tangerine was dedicated to “families and friends who have been close to us through a lot. Its a song of love in its most innocent stages”. Trampled Underfoot was simply breathtaking and included Robert unaccompanied leading into Rip it up by Little Richard for a few bars.
zepearlscourtpageandplant A DVD of the show exists, which includes around 90 minutes of the show. John has a copy and watched it through to remind us of some of the details of the night, particularly Plant’s stage banter: “Page wore the Dragon Suit, Jonesy his Matador Jacket, Bonham a black T shirt with a silver sequinned front and Plant an open “short blue kimono”. After Rock and Roll/Sick Again Plant welcomes us with “Good Evening (audience response)…Good Evening (louder response). Last time I was suffering from a touch of cholera, it seems to have worn off, must be all these eastern influences. Our intention is to play between three and three and half hours, and when we say play we don’t mean groove along (sings first line of Livin Lovin Maid in a goofy voice). We intend to take you on a little journey, some of the experiences we have had which had made the music so different in (emphasis) ….six and a half years !!” More banter then “This is the the beginning of that journey” – and then they play Over the Hills and Far Away.
After Over the Hills and Far Away Robert said “Malacoom Salaam as we Welsh would have it” (presumably a joke, the words are Salaam Alaykum -Peace unto You – or just – Hello). Then its more banter and into “As we divert from one stratosphere to another.We intend to take you through some of the changes -six and a half years in three hours”. They play ThatsThe Way.
After the song he sings a couple of lines from Old Man by Neil Young. He then says “The chairs are supplied by Habitat.This is a preview for all the talking shows we’re gonna do in the Fall…when we’ve really made it.” “This is about a blue eyed friend who wags his tail and keeps his mouth shut”.Then Bron Y Aur Stomp. “We’ve seen a lot of ups and downs, and ups and downs are the ability to create rhythm, and if you liken the ups and downs of the human body to parts of a motor car sometimes you can get Trampled Underfoot.
zepearlscourtposter Dazed and Confused is dedicated to Dennis Healy (then Chancellor of the Exchequer) as he says “We gotta fly soon.Y’know how it goes with Dennis….dear Dennis. Private enterprise …no artists in the country anymore …he must be Dazed and Confused !! ” It included an excerpt from Scott McKenzie’s ‘If you’re going to San Francisco”. The intro to Stairway is “This is a song which typifies the mood of hope which in our brightest moments surrounds us.”
I’ll leave the final comment on the gig to John: “I though the entire set was great with In My Time of Dying,Trampled Underfoot, the acoustic set and Stairway being the highlights. Sick Again was a surprising choice. As you know I am not a big drum solo fan and by then I think Whole Lotta love was sounding a bit “overplayed”, but minor quibbles on a fantastic experience. I assume the posters must have been sold out by the time we got there or I would have bought one. Jimmy wore the Dragon Suit.
All I can say is this was greatest gig I have ever seen. A great venue, great kvisuals and sound, and a great time to see the greatest rock and roll band of all time. Like a a lot of things, at the time it felt a bit special, but I now realize it was a historic event it was. Sometimes the sun, moon and stars are aligned, I feel very fortunate to have been present.”
Setlist: Rock and Roll, Sick Again, Over the Hills and Far Away, In My Time of Dying, The Song Remains the Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir, No Quarter, Tangerine, Going to California, That the Way, Bron Y Aur Stomp, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick, Dazed and Confused, Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love and Black Dog.
Thank again to John for his extensive help with this post and the photos of his memorabilia.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Chris Muscatelli on January 25, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Great memoir. I was there. Spent the night in the National Bus Station surrounded by drunken but friendly Scots. On the way there from the gig me and my mates found a stash of Mayfairs and Penthouses and being the sex obsessed 15 year olds we were they made their way back to Liverpool with us. Great gig but I felt a little distance literally and metaphorically from the band. The Empire Liverpool 1973 seemed a much more intimate and swingin’ affair.


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