Thursday, January 31, 2008

Speculation about Led Zeppelin tour like a pregnancy; birth this September?

There's a great line in an article in this morning's Washington Post, which I'll repeat here. Staff writer Kevin Merida discusses the repercussions of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards dropping out of the race; will Edwards endorse either of the leading Democratic contenders? The author closes by saying:
That truth is known. It just hasn't been revealed.
The same could be said, perhaps accurately, about the primary issue dominating the conversations of Led Zeppelin fans these days.

Will Led Zeppelin play another concert?

We could be asking the question for another eight months or more, so it's like a pregnancy.

If Jimmy Page knows the truth, he didn't reveal it on Monday, when he spoke publicly for the first time since Led Zeppelin's Dec. 10 concert in London.

The occasion on Monday in Tokyo was a press conference to support the release of Led Zeppelin's latest best-of compilation, Mothership.

Many media outlets were emboldened enough by the words spoken to state that Page had indeed "confirmed" a tour will take place. Really, all Page told reporters on that subject was that nothing will happen, probably including conversations about the future, until this September.

By then, Page said, Robert Plant would have probably completed touring with bluegrass star Alison Krauss.

The two singers released an album together in October, one month after Led Zeppelin confirmed it would play one concert in 2007 to pay tribute to Ahmet Erteg√ľn. Plant and Krauss have announced tours that will take them from North America to the United Kingdom and mainland Europe and back, all between April and perhaps as late as July or August.

That means any offers on the table would not be considered until Plant could fully participate in the decision. (Not that the others would dare commit without him!)

Plant has said he has been in a completely different mindset over the length of his post-Led Zeppelin career. His latest project sees him and Krauss covering tunes by Gene Clark and the Everly Brothers while also performing some tunes from each singer's back catalog.



He says Krauss offers a mean fiddle on their interpretation of one of Led Zeppelin's songs. Even though Zep tunes are not off limits when performing with Krauss, fronting the world's heaviest rock band is a very different task for Plant. It's something he had not seriously committed himself to doing since John Bonham was drumming in 1980.

Ritchie Yorke, a longtime journalist and the author of Led Zeppelin's "Definitive Biography," offers some historical insight as quoted in a news article published in Brisbane, Australia's Courier-Mail today.

"They see themselves as a band that brought a lot of change to rock 'n' roll and took it to another level after the Beatles," said Yorke, as quoted in the article. "They didn't want to mess with that, so that’s what held them back from doing this before. ... There's always been big money for them to get back together but they’ve felt it was just too special a thing to be tossed out again just for money."

Yorke continued by listing some of the unconfirmed rumors of deals on the table. He went into such specifics as naming Michael Cohl as a promoter who has offered Led Zeppelin $200 million for a North American tour. Yorke also speculated that his current home country of Australia would be lucky enough to host Led Zeppelin for as many as five concerts.

"They'll do Australia because they're quite fond of Australia but it may not be till later," Yorke said. "Every country in the world wants dates and they'll only do so many, but I reckon they'll do four or five in Australia and Brisbane will get one."

Is there a September birth being prepped in the Led Zeppelin world? I guess we'll have a lot of time to place our bets before all will be revealed.

By then, Edwards should have endorsed a candidate in the U.S. presidential race.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Plant, Krauss to play U.S. dates

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss have just announced the dates of their earliest-scheduled concerts to take place this spring.

As of now, four shows in the Southern United States this April will open a brief bout of touring in support of their October 2007 release, Raising Sand.

The first date is April 20, with a performance scheduled at the Palace Theatre in Louisville, Ky. Two shows in Tennessee are to follow: April 22 at the Knoxville Civic Center at April 23 at the Memorial Auditorium in Chattanooga. The final U.S. date announced is April 26 at the BJCC Arena in Birmingham, Ala.

Tickets to three of the above shows will be available through Ticketmaster; the exception is the Chattanooga show, for which tickets are available online through http://www.etix.com/.

A previously announced month-long tour of the United Kingdom and mainland Europe is to follow in May.

In a Jan. 18 news release, Rounder Records said other North American concert dates to take place in June and July have yet to be confirmed.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rare, early Led Zeppelin concert ad moot on band

Frank Reddon, in his latest posting at Enzepplopedia.com, discusses the precedent a newspaper ad for an early Led Zeppelin show sets for promoting the group.

The band's fourth concert after setting foot in North America for the first time took place Dec. 29, 1968, at the Portland Civic Auditorium in Oregon. It is the fourth of five West Coast dates for which the unknown Led Zeppelin opened for the more popular Vanilla Fudge.

Reddon points out that the two groups had just become labelmates, although Led Zeppelin's signing was to the Atlantic Records label itself, rather than the Atco subsidiary like the Vanilla Fudge. The other difference is that Led Zeppelin didn't have an album out yet.

Atlantic had already been creating a buzz with press releases about the group, relying not only on the familiar name Jimmy Page had made for himself in America as the guitarist for the Yardbirds; press releases divided their attention equally to all four members of the band.

However, as Reddon points out, a newspaper ad for the Portland concert makes absolutely no mention of a Led Zeppelin album soon to be released. "Notice ... the advertisement heavily promotes the Vanilla Fudge albums," Reddon writes. "There's not a peep about Led Zeppelin's upcoming album. Thus started Led Zeppelin's practice of letting its music do the talking, right from the beginning. Ads like these provide a wealth of information into the early touring history of Led Zeppelin, at the group's very beginnings."

The newspaper ad, which appeared in an edition of The Oregonian, is regarded as the sole evidence identifying the name of the Vanilla Fudge's opening act in Portland. The ad misspells the band's name and also identifies its familiar guitarist: "Special Guests LED ZEPPILEN (sic) Featuring Jimmy Page." On the other hand, flyers and tickets for the show named only the headlining act.

Coincidentally, Led Zeppelin's Portland show stands distinct from the four other initial North American gigs because it is the only one yet to be commented on by a visitor to Led Zeppelin's official Web site. Reddon's upcoming book, Sonic Boom: The Impact of Led Zeppelin -- Break & Enter, is set to fill the void. Released this coming September on the 40th anniversary of Led Zeppelin's first concert date, the book is to include Reddon's thorough 2000 interview of a person who attended the Portland show.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Uncle Earl tours middle America; Plant, Krauss show to air in February

The all-girl string band whose album received the production treatment from John Paul Jones is back on tour in the United States. With a live appearance tomorrow at the World Cafe Live in Philadelphia, Uncle Earl launches a brief tour of the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest in support of the album Waterloo, Tennessee.

Following a slightly more comprehensive U.S. tour that ended last October, the group crossed the Atlantic Ocean in November to play its first-ever concerts in England. The four members -- Abigail Washburn, Kristin Andreassen, KC Groves and Rayna Gellert -- also attended Led Zeppelin's Dec. 10 concert in London as guests of Jones.

Uncle Earl's tour continues this week with Tuesday night in Annapolis, Md.; in Harrisburg, Pa., on Thursday; and in Goshen, Ind., on Saturday. Next week starts off with a three-night concert stand in Green Bay, Wis., on Jan. 20-22, before Uncle Earl heads to Chicago for a Jan. 23 show; Danville, Ind., for a Jan. 24 performance; and finally Hamilton, Ohio, for the closing gig on Jan. 25.

In other Led Zeppelin-related news, last year's only live appearance by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss is now scheduled to be televised on Feb. 11. A press release issued today is the first to identify the premiere broadcast of the singing duo's concert, which took place Oct. 18 in front of a studio audience outside Nashville, Tenn.

Airing on the cable network Country Music Television, episodes of the program "CMT Crossroads" match popular country artists with performers representing another musical genre. Past episodes paired Ray Charles with Travis Tritt, John Fogerty with Keith Urban, Kid Rock with Hank Williams Jr., and Elvis Costello with Lucinda Williams.

It is expected that Plant and Krauss will soon announce the dates of a U.S. tour in support of last October's release, Raising Sand. December saw them announcing an 11-show tour of the United Kingdom and mainland Europe, scheduled to take place over the course of 15 days this May.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss share the same label, Rounder Records, as Uncle Earl.

Led Zeppelin imagery abounds in Verizon ad

A 30-second commercial for Verizon Wireless featuring the song "Kashmir" draws in a number of images identified with Led Zeppelin.

The television spot, developed by ad agency McCann Erickson, is part of the mobile service provider's campaign unveiled last October. The campaign offers, for the first time ever, digital downloads of Led Zeppelin's back catalog.

The ad depicts a twentysomething male wearing headphones who is listening to "Kashmir" as he walks through busy city streets. During his commute, he passes such images as the band's four symbols, used as tattoo art, and the Swan Song logo depicted on a poster wall. A double-neck guitar is displayed in a storefront window.

As our protagonist approaches a building resembling the one depicted on the cover of Physical Graffiti, the song is interrupted by the ring of his cellphone. In the background is a man carrying a bundle of sticks, as is shown on the cover of Led Zeppelin's untitled fourth album.

A voiceover at the end of the commercial states, "The world's greatest band is rockin' America's hottest phones with thunderous tracks, ringtones and more. Led Zeppelin comes to V Cast from Verizon Wireless."

An older post about Led Zeppelin permitting its music to be included in multimedia efforts can be found here.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Led Zeppelin members noncommittal on future collaboration

In new interviews with two members of Led Zeppelin that appeared this week, the future of the band is discussed as a possibility at a later point.

During the same week that included the 64th birthday of guitarist Jimmy Page, two of his bandmates from Led Zeppelin were quoted in the media on the possibility of extending their onstage relationship beyond last month's one-off concert at London's O2 arena.

"The excitement was there on stage, as it was in the old days," an upbeat John Paul Jones told David Fricke in an interview published in the current issue of Rolling Stone.

When asked about the likelihood of more activity, Jones said it had not yet been discussed. "There is a band meeting in January," the bass and keyboard player said, promising the band members would "start talking to each other soon."

Meanwhile, in an appearance on BBC Television's "This Morning," Robert Plant agreed that while he enjoyed the concert, he explained any future with Led Zeppelin would have to take at least a temporary back seat.

"I don't think I could think about that now," he said. "I've got an American girl with a big violin bow, pokin' across the Atlantic, saying, 'Come on, tell 'em! Tell 'em, Robert!'"

Plant was referring to his current singing partner, bluegrass singer and fiddle player Alison Krauss. He appeared on "This Morning" to promote their album together, Raising Sand, released in October.

The singers and their touring band, including producer T. Bone Burnett on guitar, are scheduled to tour the United Kingdom and Europe this May. They are also expected to announce touring dates in the United States over the summer.

Jones, who celebrated his 62nd birthday on Jan. 3, will also have his own diversion in the world of bluegrass early this year. He is set to produce an album for former Nickel Creek singer Sara Watkins next month. The two toured the United States together over the summer of 2004 as members of a project called Mutual Admiration Society.

For the Rolling Stone interview, Jones reflected on his thoughts before and after the concert that reunited him for the first full-length concert with Page and Plant since the band broke up in 1980.

"I tried to keep the enormity of it all as far away as possible, until the last minute," said Jones. "I sat around playing banjo all day. It calms me down. For every show we've ever done, there is always hype, expectancy. For us, it was just 'Let's get on and do it.' Obviously, it was quite a reception when we did get out there."

Jones was very complimentary in his comments toward the other musicians sharing the stage with him. He said Page "certainly hasn't lost anything" and has "matured but lost none of the excitement along the way."

As for drummer Jason Bonham, who took the place of his late father John, "A lot of the fills were not what his dad did at all. He's as fearless as his dad, that's for sure [laughs]. But he did an amazing job, when you consider that he had to answer to every drummer in the world after that show. With that sort of pressure, to bring all that off was astonishing.

"'Kashmir' was absolutely wonderful, the way he led in and out of the choruses and bridges," Jones said of Bonham.

Plant defined the conditions under which reviving Led Zeppelin would work for him. "It's got to be electrifying," he said. "It's got to be everything that it was in the beginning but at a different stage in one's life."

Drawing in the name of the Rolling Stones, Plant said an endless project lacking authenticity would bore him. "You can't go round and round and round and round, somewhere behind the Stones," Plant said, forming a stop sign with his hand while his face indicated his displeasure at the mere thought. "You just can't do it like that. That's so cheesy. It's a mark of very old men who are really bored to just do it for that reason."

For Plant, making further music with Led Zeppelin may depend on circumstances beyond human control. "To make it right again takes magic," he said.

If the comments by Jones are any indication, the band has been able to recapture some sense of the spirit that existed during its 12-year run with John Bonham on drums.

One week before the reunion concert on Dec. 10, Jones said the band rehearsed its full set. "It was a smaller room, and you could hear everything, which is the only thing I regret about those stadiums — you don't hear all of the subtleties. The groove is much tighter in the small room," he said.

"I can only wish we could play 2,000-seaters forever, because that's where it sounds great."

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Crawling out of the woodwork

Randy Marlin has a one-of-a-kind set of Led Zeppelin collectibles. They fit on a shelf and stand less than a foot tall. And they look really, really cool.

They’re wooden figurines of Led Zeppelin’s stage setup. The artist behind them, Robert Karr, made new pieces throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s and added them to Marlin’s collection.

“Today I’m known mainly for my World War I aircraft paintings,” said Karr, who lives in Westminster, Calif., where he exhibits and sells mostly aviation artwork.

But lately, he’s inadvertently started to carve out a name for himself in the world of music fandom based on some work he completed decades ago.

It all began in 1973, when Karr placed a small classified ad in Rolling Stone magazine. “I think the ad said something like, ‘I carve rock people. Send 10 cents for more information to’ [an address],” Karr recalled. “That was it.”

The first person to respond to the ad was Randy Marlin, who was only 15 at the time.

“A guy who advertised that he carved rock musicians? Well hey,” Marlin said, “I thought that was pretty cool.

“Seeing as how I was a big-time Led Zep fanatic, I wrote him and asked if he would carve me a Jimmy Page figure,” said Marlin.

By that point, Karr had seen Led Zeppelin in concert once. “I first saw them in May ’69 at the Rose Palace in Pasadena, third on the bill under Elvin Bishop and Julie Driscoll...they played two sets that night,” he said.

But Karr identifies himself as a casual Led Zeppelin fan, compared with his younger sister -- “an absolute fanatic!”

After Karr made the first Led Zeppelin figurine for Marlin, the teen became a repeat customer whenever his budget would allow.

Marlin takes the story: “Over the next 7-8 years, he carved/constructed this Led Zeppelin stage setup as you see. Everything is handmade using lightweight balsa wood, nylon, fabric, plastic and other assorted doodads. ... The entire stage is about five feet long.”

Asked about the precision in his work, Karr replied: “I gathered all the research and reference I could, from the various rock magazines; instrument/equipment manufacturer catalogs; going to music stores and measuring the various instruments and equipment. All this stuff was really model building, everything measured and scaled. In this case, it was 1/8th actual size: 1 1/2”= 1’. In this scale, a six-foot-tall man would be nine inches tall. The Zeppelin figures are a little shorter because I don’t think they were quite that size in real life!”

Wait a minute -- those green things sitting in various places all over the stage setup...

“Yes, those are miniature Heineken beer bottles,” said Marlin.

It was in June 1977 that Karr attended his second Led Zeppelin concert, at the L.A. Forum.

“I also saw Page with the [1983] Ronnie Lane benefit show with Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton,” he said.

In addition to the acoustic Led Zeppelin setup shown here, a separate electric stage setup of the band -- also made by Karr in the 1970s and 1980s -- is in Marlin’s possession.

Karr was also making miniature rock statues for other customers. In 1974, Karr made a model of Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for the Doors, as featured on Manzarek’s Web site. Karr’s own site now includes his story of producing a Cheap Trick stage setup commissioned by the band’s Rick Nielsen.

Marlin recalls that in his correspondence throughout the 1970s, Karr kept him up to date on other rock figurines he was building. “Back when he was doing this for me, he told me he became friends with someone in the Fleetwood Mac office and ended up doing an entire Fleetwood Mac stage setup for each member of the band,” said Marlin. “Pretty amazing talent.”

The artist corroborated this story. “What kept me busy for years was Fleetwood Mac,” he said. During the Rumours era, “I did five complete sets for them -- one for each member of the band, plus a bunch of other figures of people associated with them -- road manager, head office girl, etc.”

Karr has since made his living with other forms of art. “My days of building rock ’n’ roll models sputtered out in the early ’80s,” he said. “The last couple of years have brought all sorts of these olds works of mine back to haunt me.”

It’s only in “the last couple of years,” he said, that reminders have sent his classic rock statuettes crawling out of the woodwork, so to speak. First, “Manzarek’s people asked for the story of that figure,” he said. “Then I heard one of my old buddies from the Mac office died, which caused me to start wondering about some of my old work. Then somebody told me that a few of the Fleetwood Mac figures turned up on eBay. Then just recently I heard from Randy Marlin. … Must be something in the air!”

Every now and then, the two worlds collide. Karr said the image of a zeppelin airship, a recognizable symbol for German warfare, is featured on the cover of the latest book he was commissioned to paint.

He also offered some little-known trivia about the artwork inside Led Zeppelin’s second album. “The centerspread of LedZep II,” he wrote, “is based on a photo of Jadgstaffel 11, one of the most successful German fighter squadrons of 1917-18.”

As for Karr’s most ardent customer in the Led Zeppelin world, Marlin isn’t giving up his habit of collecting figurines of his favorite band. “I just recently got in touch with Robert Karr to see if he would do some more work for me,” he explained. “I want to get a new Jimmy Page figure of him playing the Les Paul Sunburst with his violin bow. That would be cool!”

While Karr didn’t indicate whether or not he is willing to accept new customers in this line of work, he did reflect a little about the price of the figurines he crafted so long ago. In the 1970s, he charged upwards of $15 per performer. Drummers cost extra.

He recalls a separate “price list for amps, keyboards and other weirdness. I can’t remember their prices! Today it would be much more!”

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Experience the Led Zeppelin concert online here

Thanks to everybody who has submitted photos and stories from the Led Zeppelin concert experience in London, everybody else was able to live vicariously and feel like we were along for the ride.

Until there is an official DVD to document the concert of Dec. 10, 2007, we have other ways to memorialize Led Zeppelin's live debut of the 21st century. For instance, the playlist below brings together as much of the concert is available on Youtube at just one click.



Clips that appeared on Youtube were taken down shortly after the concert, but that was apparently done against the band's wishes, and the clips have been restored. Click here to find out why, or else don't worry about it; just enjoy the sights and sounds above while we all wait in hope for an official DVD.

Finally, if you have any other thoughts about the show, please submit your comments to this blog. Alternately, you can continue to send your photos and stories to me at ledzeppelinhistory-owner@yahoogroups.com.