Monday, December 10, 2007

Planted on a stool

On this day in 1975, Led Zeppelin performed a one-off comeback concert just to see what it felt like.

Hey, wait a minute, that's also what they're doing today in 2007, isn't it?

Well, the circumstances in 1975 were completely different. Robert Plant had been told in August that he might never walk again, after he and his family had been in a life-threatening auto accident. But by this point, he was moving with the aid of crutches.

The recuperating singer sat on a stool for a 45-minute set during which he belted out some Elvis Presley covers like "Jailhouse Rock" and "Blue Suede Shoes." Norman Hale, who had played piano for the Tornados in 1961 and 1962, sat in with Led Zeppelin. A friend of the band, he had been rehearsing with the rhythm section since the beginning of December.

A last-minute announcement that Led Zeppelin would appear at Behan's West Park night club brought 350 fans there. This unique experience in Led Zeppelin's history was the group's first concert in half a year.

Jimmy Page showed off a brand new guitar for the first time at this gig. He sported a Lake Placid blue model Fender '60s Stratocaster.

Because Plant is a natural dancer and showman, he said the toughest thing for him onstage was confining himself to the stool so he wouldn't put pressure on his healing ankle. "Every time I went to hit a high note," he explained, "I stood up, not putting any weight on my foot, but just sort of standing."

The previous month, in a Munich recording studio, Plant fell over in a wheelchair trying to dance while singing a song with the group.

Plant said he was impressed with the atmosphere at Behan's pub. "It was like a dance hall that was like some place 10 years gone by, in the best old English tradition," he said. "Guys with dickey bows and evening jackets ready to bang your head against a wall if you stepped out of line, and chairs and tables lined up in escalation. Chicks wearing suspenders and stockings -- and a lot of rock and roll."

Other December 10 events in Led Zeppelin history

December 10 is special to me personally as six years ago today, I exchanged questions and answers with John Paul Jones over four hours during an in-depth, one-on-one interview at a hotel in Philadelphia where he was staying on tour. Aside from the stories he told and the insight he provided, he also played some music for me, including "In My Time of Dying," which appears to be among the songs Led Zeppelin will be playing today at their first reunion concert of the 21st century.

Whatever happens today will add another layer of history to the ongoing Led Zeppelin saga. Good luck to the band on its performance today at the O2 arena in London. Led Zeppelin: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and now Jason Bonham. We are proud to be your fans. Congratulations and best wishes to those who are attending the event. You are encouraged to keep your eyes on over the next few days for updates from fans lucky enough to be there.

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