Led Zeppelin – Locarno 1971
They came together during 1968 and the band consisted of guitarist Jimmy Page singer Robert Plant, bassist and keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. They had been born out of another British blues band, The Yardbirds, where Jimmy Page had been lead guitarist for a short while.
|Yardbirds with Jimmy Page|
Led Zeppelin were essentially a blues band who, with their distinctive guitar driven sound, took that particular genre to a whole new level. Their totally unique style was also able to incorporate other influences such as folk music.
And, as a band, they were just pure class in all departments. Not one of the band members was picked out solely as being the person most ‘out there’. This was not a band with a front man and bit players behind him. As musicians they were an incredibly tight unit and each band member playing a vital part.
With the demise of The Yardbirds during 1968 Jimmy Page and bass player, Chris Dreja, took it as an opportunity to create a whole new band. After much auditioning the band eventually settled on the classic line up described above after Dreja stepped aside when he decided he would rather move into photography.
Fast forward a few year and Led Zeppelins fourth album was being released on November 8th 1971. This particular record was actually untitled but quickly became known as Led Zeppelin IV amongst other pseudonyms it adopted. The album contained some of the bands most recognisable songs such as ‘Black Dog’, ‘Rock and Roll’ and arguably the bands most iconic song ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
A winter tour had already been publicised during early November 1971 aimed at promoting the new album. Initially eight dates were announced which included a couple of extravaganzas at the Empire Pool Wembley. Then seemingly out of the blue a few extra dates were added to the tour and one had been organised for 9 December at the Locarno Coventry.
Tickets went on sale from outlets such as Jill Hanson record shop and each were priced a one pound. A bit steep seeing how the ticket prices for the earlier announced dates had been set at 75p. Maybe this is why tickets were still on sale on the day of the gig.
The bands fourth album had barely been in the shops a month when the Coventry took place and, as such, a lot of the tunes were getting early outings in the U.K. although they had been road tested on the U.S. tour that the band completed the previous August and an earlier spring U.K. tour.
Nick Buxton a student at the time, then living in Chester Street, remembers the gig well. ‘Stairway to Heaven, for example, barely got a ripple of applause as the audience were unfamiliar with this then’. And given the passage of time, understandably, a lot of the fine detail is hazy with Nick.
The set list for the gig, however, almost certainly went close to this: Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Black Dog, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California, That’s the Way, Tangerine, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, Dazed and Confused, What Is and What Should Never Be, Rock and Roll, Whole Lotta Love and Communication Breakdown.
The four symbols that each of the band members had chosen for the Led Zeppelin IV album sleeve were placed on each of their onstage equipment set ups. John Bonham’s three circles, for example, were placed on his bass drum.
The gig was also notable for being disrupted by an IRA bomb scare. After the third song, resident DJ Pete Waterman, leapt to the stage and advised everyone to clear the building.
Fairport Convention bass player, Dave Pegg, had been in attendance and recalled the gig in a 2001 interview: "Went to see Zeppelin at the Locarno Coventry when there was a bomb scare, everyone left the building except Robert who was saying 'what's the matter with you all?' Although, it appears now though, that not everyone evacuated.
After some time the gig restarted and the evening’s interruptions were still not over. During Dazed and Confused it seems that Jimmy Page lost grip of his violin bow and it launched itself into the crowd.
Although individuals from the band have appeared in Coventry before and since, Led Zeppelin's visit to the Locarno during 1971, was the one and only time that they played together as a band in the city. However, exactly five years later, a Led Zeppelin film that documented concerts at Madison Square Gardens and titled ‘The Song Remains the Same’ was shown for a week at the ABC cinema in Hertford Street.
Led Zeppelin IV went on to become one of the most iconic albums of all time in particular in the U.S. where it was at one time the third best ever selling album ever.