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Led Zeppelin North American Tour 1968–1969

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Advertisement in the Los Angeles Free Press for Led Zeppelin's first concerts, at Whiskey A Go Go.

The 1968–1969 tour of North America was a concert tour of the United States and Canada by the English rock band, Led Zeppelin. The tour commenced on 26 December 1968 and completed on 15 February 1969, although there exists unconfirmed reports the band appeared in additional shows during this time.

Overview

The opportunity for this tour occurred with the late cancellation of concert dates by the Jeff Beck Group, managed by Peter Grant at RAK, who wanted to return home to England for Christmas.[1] Grant had developed a previous good working relationship with Premier Talent and Concert Wests, the promoters, and convinced them to book Led Zeppelin on the reputation of Jimmy Page and his former band the Yardbirds.[2]

To assist in promoting the band in North America prior to the tour, Grant consigned advanced copies of white label excerpts of Led Zeppelin to FM radio stations in each city the band performed. Grant would often visit these stations ahead of Led Zeppelin's gig to check they were receiving airplay.[3] The album was finally released on 17 January. Page recalled the effect of this in the New Musical Express:

It's been incredible. We're all so knocked out. All the kids keep telling us they've heard the album and how quickly can they get it and all that. And we haven't even done half the tour yet![4]

Led Zeppelin opened for a number of established bands such as fellow label mates Vanilla Fudge and Iron Butterfly, often receiving more rapturous acclaim by the audience that by the time the band came to perform on 31 January 1969 at the Fillmore East in New York, Iron Butterfly's management wanted to distance themselves. As Grant recalls:

When Iron Butterfly's management found out Zeppelin were second on the bill, they wanted them off. They didn't want them near them! And they were right! Zeppelin did a fantastic set. The audience were still going 'Zeppelin, Zeppelin ... ' when Iron Butterfly had started their set![5]

By the time the tour concluded on 15 February, it was also clear to reviewers that the band had out-distanced their rivals. It was during this tour that Led Zeppelin's drummer, John Bonham, developed a close professional friendship with the drummer of Vanilla Fudge, Carmine Appice.[6]

The average fee charged by Led Zeppelin for a concert during this tour was around US$1500. It has been stated that for one show they performed for a mere US$320.[7] Figures like these would soon be dwarfed by the six figure sums routinely requested, and received, by Led Zeppelin on subsequent tours as their popularity skyrocketed. Grant recalled that 'The Yardbirds had been getting US$2500 a night but people like Bill Graham had faith in us and so did the kids who saw it.'[8]

Concert set list

Songs typically played on this tour included many blues and Yardbirds standards such as 'Train Kept A-Rollin'', 'Smokestack Lightning', 'I Can't Quit You Baby', 'You Shook Me', 'White Summer', and 'For Your Love'. The concerts included soon to be released tracks from their debut album, including 'Dazed and Confused', 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You', 'How Many More Times', and 'Communication Breakdown'. Other songs thrown in as extended medleys included Elmer Gantry's 'Flames' and Garnett Mimm's 'As Long As I Have You'.[9]

A typical set list for the tour was:

  1. 'Train Kept A-Rollin'' (Tiny Bradshaw, Howie Kay, Lois Mann)
  2. 'For Your Love' (Graham Gouldman)
  3. 'I Can't Quit You Baby' (Willie Dixon)
  4. 'As Long As I Have You' (Garnet Mimms)
  5. 'Dazed and Confused' (Jimmy Page)
  6. 'Communication Breakdown' (Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham)
  7. 'You Shook Me' (Willie Dixon, JB Lenoir)
  8. 'White Summer'/'Black Mountain Side' (Jimmy Page)
  9. 'Pat's Delight' (John Bonham)
  10. 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You' (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, Anne Bredon)
  11. 'How Many More Times' (John Bonham, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page)

Notes

  1. Carson, Annette (2001). Jeff Beck: Crazy Fingers, 1st. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 94. ISBN 0-87930-632-8. 
  2. Welch, Chris (2002). Peter Grant: The Man Who Led Zeppelin, 1st. London: Omnibus Press, 72. ISBN 0-7119-9195-2. 
  3. Shadwick, Keith (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music 1968-1980, 1st. San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 45. ISBN 0-87930-871-0. 
  4. Harris, June (25 January 1969). "America Calling: Zeppelin Are New Cream". New Musical Express 1 (1150): 14. ISSN 0028-6362. Retrieved on 5 June 2009.
  5. Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, Revised. London: Omnibus Press, 38. ISBN 1-84449-659-7. 
  6. Hulett, Ralph and Prochnicky, Jerry (2005). Whole Lotta Led: Our Flight with Led Zeppelin‎, 1st. New York: Citadel Press, 63. ISBN 0-8065-2639-4. 
  7. Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, Revised. London: Omnibus Press, 30. ISBN 1-84449-659-7. 
  8. Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, Revised. London: Omnibus Press, 30. ISBN 1-84449-659-7. 
  9. Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (2005). Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, Revised. London: Omnibus Press, 20. ISBN 1-84449-659-7.