Friday, September 4, 2009

Live on Blueberry Hill

On this day in 1970, Led Zeppelin played a concert at the L.A. Forum that has become the stuff of legend, mostly because of several audience tapes of the show that first surfaced on vinyl within a few years.

The record set of this concert was called Live on Blueberry Hill, named after the rare encore Led Zeppelin played that night, "Blueberry Hill," popularized by Fats Domino in 1956.

The recording also includes a rare live performance of "Out on the Tiles," also played during the encore.

Live on Blueberry Hill was sold in some record stores in the United States and England, and so people assumed it was a legitimate release. It was actually released by a bootleg label called Blimp.

Robert Godwin, a published author on subjects including Led Zeppelin bootlegs, says the Blueberry Hill release was an important milestone for the myth of Led Zeppelin. Asked in 2009 to list his favorite bootlegs, Godwin said:

"I have a special passion for Blueberry Hill because it was one of the first bootlegs I ever bought. It wasn't the first, but it was certainly -- when I heard it, it was the first opportunity that I'd had to hear them playing other people's songs.

"There was this cool aura to having a bootleg album, especially if it had stuff on it that was not on any of their studio albums -- and especially when it was so hard to get tickets to see them! So I believe that
Blueberry Hill actually helped them, despite what was being said at the time."

After Led Zeppelin's show at the Forum, Led Zeppelin moved on to the Troubadour club in Los Angeles, where the British folk band Fairport Convention was appearing that night in front of a couple hundred, to record a live album.

During Fairport's second set, members of Led Zeppelin sat in to jam on the song "Hey Joe," plus "Morning Dew" by Tim Rose, and some Elvis Presley tunes including "That's Alright Mama" and "Mystery Train."

The bands shared each other's instruments. Fairport guitarist Richard Thompson borrowed Jimmy Page's Les Paul, and John Bonham pounded away at the drum kit that belonged to Dave Mattacks.

When Bonham first sat down at the kit and stepped on the bass pedal, Mattacks watched in horror as his bass drum flew forward a half a foot. By the end of the night, after Bonham had worn out his welcome, the drum heads needed a good changing and the toms needed a good tuning.

Some say the jam session went on as long as three hours, and afterward Janis Joplin met up with Bonham at the after-hours bar Barney's Beanery to square off against him in a drinking contest.

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