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British Lions


"Farewell to LA", Led Zeppelin, June 27th 1977

Led Zeppelin founded their success on their precise understanding of the present, their remarkable ability to channel the zeitgeist. They surfed the tide of rock from 1968 to 1975 with such facility it seemed no new wave would ever swamp them. Then, in a Circus magazine interview dated October 1976, Jimmy Page is quoted as saying, "I'm out of touch with what's going on today, really, but I'm pretty optimistic about the future. What seems like a stagnant period may actually be a prelude to a renaissance. … I feel that young musicians will emerge again, but through a level of really good writing, of depth and intellect, like the classical. […] It will be back to composition." (ZZ)
Here's a partial list of 1977 albums now considered essential: The Ramones, Rocket to Russia; The Jam, In the City; Iggy Pop, Lust for Life; The Clash, The Clash; The Damned, Damned; Wire's Pink Flag; the Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols; Television, Marquee Moon; Motörhead, Motörhead; Talking Heads, Talking Heads: 77; Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Blank Generation. Had the gift of contemporaneity deserted Page? What was happening in the world from late 1976 to the end of 1977? Had he missed it, or misunderstood it?

Led Zeppelin, backstage, 1977

There were lions in Britain in those years. Robert Plant had spoken to Circus in May 1976, about his travels to North Africa after the Earls Court shows; the article was titled A Lion Among Zebras. (ALAZ). In the 1976 Circus interview Jimmy spoke about his work with Indian musicians in Bombay in March 1972. In August 1976, an African Indian woman called Jayaben Desai walked out on strike, saying to her employer, "What you are running here is not a factory; it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips, others are lions who can bite your head off. We are the lions, Mr. Manager." Thus began the infamous two year Grunwick dispute of Willesden, North London. Desai called the strike in protest of grossly unfair labor conditions. Rates of pay at Grunwick, a film processing plant, were the lowest in the industry at 28 pounds for a 40-hour week compared to a national average of 72 pounds. Many of the employees were Indians who had lived in (or been born in) Tanzania or Uganda. The Ugandan Asians, as they were generally known, were ethnically cleansed from Africa in the early 1970s. With their property confiscated and their citizenships rescinded, the Ugandan Asians fled to Britain and Canada to start new lives. Penniless and often poor speakers of English, these women were in no position to fight the plant's owners. Desai was encouraged by the trades council to press for unionization; the bosses said no. Allowing the women to unionize would not be in their best interests. But the women, too, proved to be lions amongst zebras.
Something must have tipped Page off that the world was deviating from his October predictions. I know he was in London in November; I saw him at the premiere for The Song Remains the Same  (my review here) waving vaguely at fans and fellow superstars alike – then scarpering rapidly, with Plant, Jones and Bonham in tow. Perhaps he met a punk outside who took him for a chat or something; there were plenty around in Soho at the time. Six weeks before, the 100 Club  had put on a culture-changing series of gigs that began in September with a festival that included the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. There Sid Vicious famously beat up Nick Kent, an old skool NME scribe and Led Zeppelin interviewer, who had been sitting in with the Sex Pistols on drums at rehearsals.
The Sex Pistols themselves had formed an eon ago, in 1975, but did not sign a record deal until October 1976, with EMI. By 1st December, their filth-and-the-fury appearance on the Bill Grundy show got them banned from most venues and kicked off EMI.  In March 1977 they signed to A&M. This relationship fared even worse; it lasted six days.  Johnny Rotten [Lydon] purported to be flummoxed by the fuss that perpetually followed him. "I don't understand it," he said in 1977. "All we're trying to do is destroy everything." (RS)
The (London) Roxy club opened on January 1st, 1977, with a historic gig by The Clash. It was a dedicated punk venue, the successor to the 100 Club. It wasn't the only thing to go with a bang in the West End that month; The IRA  planted three bombs there. (There was, apparently, a bomb factory in Liverpool, raided in February.) Taking his life into his hands - those punks could be mean - Page went with Plant to the Roxy in January 1977 to see The Damned.
Page pronounced The Damned "fantastic" –  but then, out of all the punks he could have chosen, he had spoken to Rat Scabies, one of the necessarily undercover intelligentsia of the punk movement and a fellow traveler in woo-woo circles. (Cf.  Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail.) Robert Plant, equally determined to muscle into relevancy and far more fancy with the blarney, said of punk, "Ask me if it reminds me of when we were starting out…well, it doesn't. It reminds me of when we were rehearsing this afternoon. There's that same feel for the music." (TBLFC2) (Plant went to the Roxy with Bonzo on another January night to see Eater, Generation X and The Damned – I suppose after, that we were lucky that Plant was able to take punk seriously at all. It would have put me off for life.)
The love wasn't mutual. Lydon let journalists know his feelings soon after the Sex Pistols' arrival in the US for their January 1978 tour. Interviewed in Creem, Lydon said, "Those British rockers are evil filthy parasites who have done nothing but line their pockets." Famously, Paul Simonon of The Clash is reputed to have said of Led Zeppelin, "I don't even have to hear the music. Just looking at one of their album covers makes me want to throw up." (IMTL) The B side of The Clash's 1977 single White Riot contains the line "No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones". The big bands of the early seventies – Floyd, Genesis, Zeppelin, Yes – were regarded as dinosaurs. This wasn't a clueless nihilism. The British punk bands had reasons for their animosity.
Of Led Zeppelin's many perceived sins – decadence, complacency, having cash – one issue stuck out like a sore thumb. Led Zeppelin's main men were Tax Exiles. In the late Seventies, a tax surcharge was levied on enormous salaries such as those of the songwriters of the huge rock bands. But a rock band earned only in the years that their tracks sold. Then-current financial models gave a very short peak earnings period – the life of a best selling album might be two years, three if you were Simon and Garfunkel. If your band had four best selling albums released in consecutive years, you might earn at peak rate for seven years. After that, nothing. Paying a 95% tax (after the half million or so each year which was not subject to surcharge) during these seven years would leave you with nada. A big earner could only stay a set number of days in Britain each year without paying the surcharge; if he stayed one day longer he was liable for 95% of the whole year's earnings. Rock stars fled Britain. [1] Punks, and many young Britons, had no time for a musician who preferred money over loyalty to the fans who had made him famous.
Another trigger for the punks was hippiedom. One can argue whether Led Zeppelin were ever hippies, but they certainly appealed to some hippies, and the smell of patchouli does linger. British hippies rebelled against society in one of those peculiar local minima when it was safe, or at least as safe as it has ever been, to rebel. No National Service (though as a young boy, Page at least must have wondered if he would be called up), full employment, the police force still largely in a polite community-policing daze, and a general sense of optimism and loosening of society's apron strings. Given this freedom, English hippies sang songs about gnomes In the mid-seventies, just ten years later, the punks were growing up with none of these advantages, and many looked on hippies as middle-class fools who had squandered a golden opportunity.  "Never trust a hippie," Johnny Rotten said. "I hate hippies and what they stand for," he told the Pistols at his audition in 1975. (ING) Later he clarified, "As soon as they came out of the sixties they were all running corporations, and suddenly, you know, the long-hair trip became lining their own coffers. They could be very, very greedy people, the hippies. I come from piss-poor, working-class, lowest-that-you-can-get, total no-hope, no-future –  and none of them damn hippies came round our way being generous. The council flats were not places where you would hand out flowers." (MEN)
And then there was the degeneracy. Although sex was, as usual, taking place in 1977,  it was vital in punk culture to minimize public acknowledgment. "Everybody was taking so much speed there was little sex around," said Julie Burchill. "Love comes in spurts," sang Richard Hell, bored with it. Sex is "two minutes of squelching noises," said Johnny Rotten. "My love lies limp," sang Mark Perry of Alternative TV. In a recent interview, Johnny Rotten said of the hippies, "[A]ll this “peace and love” and “free love”— that was really just to turn women into whores. “Oh, you’re not free ’cause you won’t let me shag ya." Ha ha! That’s clever, that is!" (MEN) On groupies, in the same interview, he claimed, "Oh, I would tell the dirty women of the night, "Hands off! I have morals!"... I won’t conform to what I think is a dodgy precedent in the first place. Just ’cause you’re on TV don’t mean "Bend over, missus."" (MEN) Whatever really went on in the toilets of the Roxy (Jane Suck said it involved blowjobs, but then she would say that, wouldn't she?) the heavily downplayed sexual role of women freed women to be musicians, and poets, and activists and just guys, and if that was the only lasting effect of punk, it was all worth it.
In contrast, the position of women in the Zeppelin mythos, if not the traditional prone, was at least supine. Tales of depravity financed by the record buyer – me – did not float the average punk's boat. And to the genuinely Socialist punks, such as The Clash, conspicuous middle-class consumption was in itself morally degenerate. In 1977, Led Zeppelin carried a dreadful reputation which it showed no intention of rehabilitating. In a Creem interview that year, Robert Plant said, "It's just like the 1973 Led Zep tour. We've already equaled that." The article hails him as the "lead singer of rock'n'roll's biggest band, both in popularity and tales of debauchery." "Backstage broadcasts are scorching with new and improved tales of the perverse," wrote inkstained backstager Jaan Uhelzski admiringly. (CRE)
Despite their punk up-buttering ways, in 1977 Led Zeppelin were fugitives from Britain, alienated from the kids who had paid for their mudshark fishing rods and living in whipped-cream filled hotels equipped with onboard 'flesh' as Plant called women in 1976. (ALAZ) As they began their tour of Jimmy Carter's America Led Zeppelin were proudly living yesterday's moral standards today.
At least they didn't play Sun City. In 1977, South Africa was an apartheid state. Inhabitants were classified racially and educated, taxed and paid according to the color classification on their papers. All black schools were forced to teach in Afrikaans (Dutch) and English as their official languages. Blacks associated Afrikaans with the apartheid regime; even students in black "homelands" preferred to learn in English and an indigenous language. Combining this frustration with the poverty and racism of the phenomenally unfair educational system, students demonstrated in Soweto in June 1976. Between 200 and 600 died. Black leader Steve Biko, an anti-apartheid campaigner, died in police custody during a hunger strike in South Africa in September 77 –  of massive head-wounds, an unusual complication of hunger strike. Many people seemed to have died in police custody about this time. The founders of the German Red Army Faction suffered similar fates. The RAF, otherwise known as Baader-Meinhof, operated from the 1970s to 1993, their numerous exploits in fall 1977 leading to a national crisis known as the "German Autumn".  Enslin, Baader and Raspe were found dead in their cells at Mannheim in October 1977. Ulrike Meinhof had died in May 1976, in police custody.
At the same time as Baader and the others were in Mannheim jail, the remaining RAF, Palestinian sympathizers, hijacked a Lufthansa jet and flew it to Mogadishu, Somalia, where it was stormed by West German Commandos. The previous year, a similar hijacking with West German revolutionary involvement had ended in Entebbe, Uganda.
What was "West German"? Since the end of World War II, Germany had been divided into East and West Germany. Berlin, in the middle of East Germany, had its own division into East and West, kept apart by the Berlin Wall. Perhaps speaking to some psychic barrier in their own minds – or perhaps just because it was convenient for hanging out with Krautrock bands – the Berlin Wall appealed to rock musicians. The Sex Pistols' Holidays in the Sun, a confused and confusing teenage shriek of alienation, features the wall, and the people beyond. "Please don't be waiting for me," Lydon pleads. David Bowie's album "Heroes", released in late 1977, went to # 3 in the UK and stayed in the charts for 26 weeks. The Berlin vibe of the album was Krautrock–, specifically Kraftwerk–influenced –  its name was a hommage to the German band Neu's Hero  –  and it contained his own Berlin Wall song, "Heroes".  Bowie's soaring, triumphal lyric describes two lovers meeting in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, and how they will beat 'them' –  just for one day. (Zeppelin's major German sojourn was to record Presence in Munich in 1976. Perhaps the wheelchair access was better in West Germany. Robert had barely begun to walk again after his car accident the previous year.)
Germany had another major influence on rockers; in times of stress, your average Anglo musician tends to bust out a swastika armband or a nice SS hat. (It wasn't just a seventies thing. Brian Jones  did it in the sixties. The Horrors were still doing it last year.)

Ron Asheton and the other Stooges had worn SS uniforms, and in Cleveland the Electric Eels were wearing swastikas in 1974. Vivienne Westwood's iconic London shop Sex stocked Nazi memorabilia around 1975; since Malcolm McLaren was Jewish, it's unlikely that anti-Semitism was behind the fashion. 
In October 1976 Mary Harron saw "little teenage girls" of the scene wearing swastikas. One of them, Siouxsie Sioux, for it is she, said, "It was always very much an anti-mums and anti-dads thing. We hated older people…always harping on about Hitler." "I thought Siouxsie and Sid were quite foolish," said John Lydon. "Although I know the idea behind it was to debunk all this crap from the past, wipe history clean and have a fresh approach, it doesn't really work that way."(ED p240 – 242)
It worked that way for Jimmy Page – in Chicago on April 10th, 1977, he came on stage wearing an SS officer's uniform. His poppy suit was being cleaned, he said. He fared better than the Sex Pistols themselves. In May 1977 John Blake, in the Evening News, harked back to the previous year to find evidence of Pistolian swastika wearing and claimed on that evidence that the National Front (NF) supported the Sex Pistols. (EN)
Chicago 77

Jimmy Page, Poppy Suit at the cleaners, shows off his nice boots.

The NF was a genuine concern at the time. The far right, anti-immigrant National Front was rapidly gaining ground. Working class voters, seeing their wages shrink and their jobs disappear, looked for someone to blame, and the easy targets were the West Indians (encouraged to emigrate to Britain in the early sixties to fill a labor shortage) and the Indians, Pakistanis and Ugandan Asians beginning to make an appearance on the job radar. Marches and clashes were frequent and violent. The NF marched in Lewisham in August 1977, under banners claiming that muggers were black and their victims white. Counter protesters turned up by the SWP busload. Two hundred seventy police were injured; the melee marked the first use of riot shields in Britain outside of Northern Ireland. Angus McKinnon, the rock writer, remembers a country plod he met, seconded to London for the day. "What a terrible, terrible day. I've never had a day like this in my life," the copper said. The media had a field day, repeatedly showing an iconic image of a policeman with blood running from his head. The protestors routed the fascists, but the media held up the NF as supporters of freedom of speech and the union activists as violent extremists bashing policemen with bottles.  The NF never really lost its attraction. It lost votes later simply because the Tory party adopted its rhetoric ("swamped by an alien culture") and took its voters. The more violent and much thicker British Movement was also prominent at the time.
The Anti-Nazi League, an offshoot of the Socialist Workers Part (SWP), was formed in 1977 in reaction to the NF Lewisham march.  Rock Against Racism, RAR, was set up in September 1976 in reaction to David Bowie's Hitler Salute of May 1976 (he said he was just waving) and Eric Clapton's stupid onstage remarks – "send the wogs back home" –  made in August 1976. (ED p243)
The West Indian band Culture had a major hit with When Two Sevens Clash, based on the apocalyptic prophesies of Marcus Garvey. 1977 was the year when Babylon – the West – would burn.  (ED p232) Kingston, Jamaica, shut down on 7/7/77, fearing the worst. West Indians in England were strongly influenced by Rastafarian culture and by Marcus Garvey. The race-related Notting Hill Riot at the carnival of 1976 inspired the Clash single White Riot, backed with the aforementioned 1977. Their first album was released in April 1977 and contained the song I'm so bored with the USA –  YouTube version here.
In truth, The Clash were not so much bored with the USA as much as they found it a bit of a curate's egg. In 1979, in a Creem interview, Joe Strummer mentions that his American audiences "seem to be pretty alive". What do you mean by that? asks the clueless reporter. Joe goes on to differentiate his audience from "the mass American audience that go to see all the heavy metal groups and drop Quaaludes and throw firecrackers? If that's representative of America then you know you're in the shit as well as I do." But Strummer's heroes included Bo Diddley – and the MC5.  Yippies yes, hippies no. (Vietnam protesters gained a cachet that no British hippie could claim, and "never trust a hippie" did not apply to American radicals.)
Led Zeppelin rehearsing for the 1977 tour. Jimmy's T-shirt reads "Rorer 714".
These were generic Quaaludes. Don't tell Joe Strummer!

The America (and Zeppelin) that Strummer and Simonon hated was the archetypal slacker/jock culture fêted in the movie Dazed and Confused. America had its own peaceful local minimum when being a teenager was as safe as milk. The height was 1976, between Watergate, the Bicentennial and Ronald Reagan, which is when the movie is set. It has been hailed as a dead-accurate look at the times. Heads, weed, souped-up cars, beer by the keg-party- full, and a soundtrack of Foghat, Alice Cooper, Black Oak Arkansas, ZZ Top, Ted Nugent, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Deep Purple, Kiss and Black Sabbath. As the title suggests, Zeppelin were the bees knees to this demographic. Others have said that their experience of 1976 was California dreaming, Jackson Browne, CSNY, Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles.  I can hardly see the distinction myself. "The predominant high-school experience of the day was Led Zeppelin… hard rock that had passed its original moment of inspiration but which still held claims to the community that is the central American pop experience." (ED p435) America had pulled in its horns after Vietnam, taken a day off. If the youth seemed to have little understanding of the rest of the world, it was because their elders had little interest in it. (There was some interest in outer  space, however.) Though the Apple II, Commodore Pet and TRS-80 all debuted in 1977, the internet was still literally unthinkable (pace John Brunner and Shockwave Rider). The general ease, wealth and complacency of American youth in  1976– 77 contrasted so strongly with the vibrant activism of British youth and the rotting fabric of the Queen's Orwellian Silver Jubilee Year that the US became a target of anti–hippie – in this case anti–head – contempt.

But in 1977, not all Americans were heads, and not all US punks were in living in London introducing Sid Vicious to heroin. Some were in LA, some in SF, many in New York, most in Cleveland. Clinton Heylin, in From the Velvets to the Voidoids writes, "An essential difference between British and American punk bands can be found in their respective views of rock & roll history. The British bands took a deliberately anti–intellectual stance, refuting any awareness of, or influence from, previous exponents of the form. The New York and Cleveland bands saw themselves as self–consciously drawing on and extending an existing tradition in American rock & roll." (V to V, pXIII) The bands were made up of men and women in their twenties, whereas a London punk was officially 15 – people like The Clash tended to fudge their ages and their educational credentials.  The American scene began earlier and peaked earlier; Cleveland's Pere Ubu, a founding father of the scene, was dead by June 1977. However, due to record company inertia, the two scenes appeared to flower simultaneously. "The CBGB scene went largely ignored by the American Music industry until 1976 – two years after the debuts of Television, the Ramones and Blondie. Even then only Television signed to an established label." (V to V, pXIV) The Ramones' first album was released in April, 1976. 
"In England, punk's not a passing fad," said radio consultant Lee Abrams, "but here, it doesn't look like it will happen with the same kind of impact, because the social climate is different. It's more positive here." (ED p435) Richard and Lisa Robinson, the editors of Hit Parader, were some of the very few boosters. Her June 1975 article on "The New York Bands" was considered the first major feature on the scene. (V to V p239) Its four pages covered Wayne County, Patti Smith, Television, the Heartbreakers, Blondie, the Ramones and Cherry Vanilla. But middle-America's tastes – Foghat and Frampton, Fleetwood Mac and Fever (Saturday Night) – continued to outsell punk thousands of times over. (Fleetwood Mac's Rumors, 1977, spent 31 weeks in the chart, selling 7 million copies.)

Led Zeppelin. I bet the plane doesn't say "Furthur" on its destination board.

And that was the scene when Led Zeppelin arrived for the US tour in April, 1977, running through a dozen cities in a more luxurious fashion than previously, using Caesar's Chariot, a private jet, to take them back to a homebase hotel as often as possible to minimize the alienation of long tours. Creem was very positive about things; in the July edition, Jaan Uhelzski says, "The general consensus of the members of this tour is that the usually excessive and overindulgent Mr. Page is virtually drug-free. In fact Robert was overheard to say that this is the first time in years that Jimmy has been straight, adding that this was just like the old days. "I haven't had this much fun with Jimmy in years," Plant testified. Jimmy's commentary also seemed to substantiate the testimony, when he retold the case of the missing Quaaludes, "I don't know who the doctor thinks he is, asking me if I took his drugs, especially now when this is the first time I've been healthy in years." One of Joe Strummer's favorite Americans must have liberated the doctor's 'ludes. But even Uhelzski frets about how long the fairy-dust is going to last: "You know, it's 1977and Led Zeppelin have been around for nine years now, and I can't help but wonder if part of their popularity is due to the fact that they're the last of an era." (CRE)
One wonders if Led Zeppelin took some time out between shows in Landover to see the eagerly– awaited new George (American Graffiti) Lucas movie, Star Wars. It was a struggle to get it financed as everyone knew Space Opera was dead. I wonder how all that turned out?

Jimmy Page, 1977, his hand bandaged after a close encounter with a firecracker.
It was probably an M-80, not a cherry bomb. At least, not this sort of cherry bomb.  
(Though I'm sure their paths crossed at Rodney's.)
The tour was plagued by firecrackers. Another one of Joe Strummer's favorite people threw a firecracker at the last Madison Square Garden show, hitting Jimmy Page on the hand. He's pictured at San Diego, five days later, still wearing a bandage – a nice white satin bandage to match his nice white satin poppy suit, for Jimmy is spending most of this tour dressed in an astonishing Elvis-like costume that only someone with his build and megastardom could begin to pull off. (As foretold in the Clash B-side, Elvis Presley was not long for the world; he died on August 16th 1977. There's not many people I can say this about, but I can still remember exactly what I was doing when I heard about his death. I had just walked into the East End flat I shared, out of the worst rainstorm I can ever recall, having tried, on the way back from the bus stop, to keep the horizontal rain off me by holding a street sign, blown off its supports, in front of my face. My flatmate said, "Hey, Elvis is dead!" And I said, "Really? I am so fucking soaked it's not true." When Marc Bolan died a month later, September 16th, I cried.)
Alas, the pressures of touring and the chafing boredom of tax exile meant that Led Zeppelin missed the Queen's Silver Jubilee. The Sex Pistols didn't miss it; they charted a boat for their own Queen Elizabeth I-style river journey and played God Save the Queen very loudly as they motored past the Houses of Parliament. In May, the Sex Pistols had signed with yet another label, Virgin Records, and GSTQ was released as a single. By rights, it should have been number one in Jubilee week, but it's been said that the chart return organization, the BMRB, decided that record shops which were also labels (i.e. Virgin) could not file chart returns. The next week, after the Jubilee was over, they changed their mind again. Rod Stewart was number one during the Jubilee, but the Pistols had made their point.  They finally managed to get their album, Never Mind the Bollocks, released in October, by which time punk was all over bar the gobbing. Also in honor of her maj, Derek Jarman made a movie called Jubilee, showing the first Queen Elizabeth walking dazed around the flatlining country in 1977 with her astrologer, Dr. John Dee, watching amoral punks kill and maim in a landscape of Ballardian emptiness. If you want to know how 1977 felt, it felt a lot like this.

Zeppelin had a couple of weeks off and then took up a residency at the LA Forum in June. Their last night in LA was the 27th June, and that's the show I've chosen to review here. That same day at Grunwick, British Home Secretary Merlyn Rees was jeered by the pickets.  A mass picket had formed in June 1977, made up of students, trade unionists and SWP. The pickets tried to block the entrance of the processing plant to scab workers. On 22nd June, the miners, Britain's heaviest and most seasoned pickets, were brought in from Yorkshire, South Wales and Kent by legendary union leader Arthur Scargill. There was much blood seen flowing on the television screens of the nation, and the Labour government agreed to commission an enquiry. The employer said he would not agree to arbitration.  The strike went on. Sir Keith Joseph, a prominent Conservative politician close to Margaret Thatcher, called the Grunwick dispute "a make-or-break point for British democracy, the freedoms of ordinary men and women". Many other people thought the same, but for the opposite reasons. Keith Joseph called Labour Ministers who had gone to support the picket "'Moderates' behind whom Red Fascism spreads".  
Now, politics may not have been involved in Led Zeppelin's failure to turn up at the Grunwick picket line, of course; it is possible that Led Zeppelin could never jeer a Welshman called Merlin, purely on ideological grounds. Listening to the  show, the word that springs to my mind is professionalism. It's the sound of a great rock band at the height of its powers, but one which has dialed down the performance for its own reasons. It's almost as if someone calculated it:. "Boys, if you keep it down to 87.5% of the Power and 74.8% of the Control, the Mean Time Between Failures maxes out at 8.2 minutes. But go over 92.3% and I can't guarantee she'll stay on the rails." Everybody sticks closely to this fine plan, except for a couple of occasions when Bonzo cuts loose for no apparent reason, and the time when Pagey takes a 25 minute guitar/noise solo, fifteen minutes of which is spent on Planet Jimmy. (I always enjoy a visit to Planet Jimmy, but I can't help wondering what the audience thought at the time.) By all accounts it's not as inspired as the rest of the week's shows at the Forum - I've watched video of other June shows and they do have a bit more oomph than this one. It is a good show, though, and apparently better than anything that came later in the tour. 
I had hoped that it wouldn't have firecrackers, to appease the ghost of Joe Strummer, but it has many, including a string of them going off during the introduction to Stairway to Heaven, and I'd further hoped that there would be a stonkin' performance of C'mon Everybody, to justify Plant's statement that punk was in their blood right up to "rehearsals this afternoon" –  there isn't. (Sid Vicious' and Led Zeppelin's C'mon Everybodys are so similar the boys could be blood brothers; it would have made my day to have two contemporaneous versions.[2]) The show has its moments. There's an acoustic Dancing Days ("We haven't done this one for five years and I don't think we will again either"). There's a lovely No Quarter, which I like more every time I hear it. It's a proggy piece, but don't let that prejudice you.  It's the anti-Stairway To Heaven, something that could be described as this is a song of despair (though it sounds neither as melancholy nor as grindingly hopeless as its lyrics read) and its string-bag structure is quite the opposite of STH's formal progression. There's room for John Paul Jones to lounge out in a hotel lobby piano solo of emphatic non-distinction, a Chicago Blues influenced  bit of pub rock that gets the toes tapping, and one of those long, Zappaesque Gibson-and-wah-wah-pedal solos of astonishing progosity that I could cheerfully listen to for hours. Then there's the noise solo, which begins with a wild improvisation that veers from America (West Side Story) through the Star Spangled Banner, blowing through certain limitations that sound like bagpipes on helium, through bowed guitar, to fetch up in an equally jaw-dropping Theremin piece. [3] One song is dedicated to their Quaalude-losing tour doctor: "He keeps us on our feet."  Ten Years Gone, by contrast, sounds like a production line pile-up in a wrong note factory. Plant's having a good day; his voice has lasted all week and he gets it right here again. "We'll be back," Plant says at the end. "I think."
A few days later, almost the last incident of the Zeppelin American tour is the band's apparently overprivileged management, drummer and road crew beating one of the promoter's employees over a trifling slight. The band never had the opportunity to blot out that black stain on their reputation: The Zeppelin tour was cut short in July, on the news of the tragic death of Robert Plant's little son Karac.
There were to be no more American shows for Led Zeppelin. The industrial action at Grunwick outlasted the tour. On 7th November 1977, the Grunwick dispute blossomed into a nasty conflagration in North London – 8,000 protestors turned out. 243 pickets were injured and 113 arrested. This still did not sway management, and Jayaben Desai and two others went on hunger strike. This did not produce the desired results either, and the strike finally ended in July 1978.

Although Jayaben the Lion's strike did not bring about unionization it has been hailed as a landmark piece of industrial action. It is credited with raising the profile of women workers and Asian workers. It raised British race consciousness immeasurably. It put industrial action back into the forefront of British life. (This new solidarity was soon to be tested against the Thatcher era.)

On 31st December 1977, after posting a million dollar bond, the Sex Pistols finally got their US visas. And going into 1978, America's biggest act was the Bee Gees.

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Lyle Hopwood 2008

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England's Dreaming, Jon Savage, St Martin's Press 1992 (ED)
1977 in Music, Wikipedia's 1977 in music 
From the Velvets to the Voidoids – a pre-punk history of a post-punk world, Clinton Heylin, Penguin 1993 (V to V)
Infrequently Murmured Trivia List, online, retrieved April 08,  2008 (IMTL)
Circus magazine, Zeus of Zeppelin, Jimmy Page interview, October 12th, 1976 (ZZ)
Rolling Stone, review of Anarchy in the UK (RS)
The Tight But Loose Files, Celebration II, Dave Lewis Omnibus Press 2003 (TBLFC2)
Circus magazine, A Lion Among Zebras, May 1976 (ALAZ)
Creem, One More for the Road, Led Zeppelin interview, Jaan Uhelzski, July 1977 (CRE)
Evening News, Rock's Swastika Revolution, John Blake, May 1977 (EN)
Men's Style Interview with Johnny Rotten, online  (MEN)
Jonh Ingham's Back Pages, The Sex Pistols first interview, 1976, online (ING)

[1] This early financial model later collapsed. All big sellers in the seventies made out like bandits during several waves of CD reissues and again during ringtone and MP3 reissues and are now as rich as Croesus.
[2] The second part of the Led Zeppelin video is Something Else. Sid Vicious covered that one as well. But Robert Plant's friendly, sex-positive rendition is nothing at all like the Sex Pistols', where Sid sneers at his mostly naked body in a mirror and puts his hand down his jockstrap. It's a perfect illustration of punk's hatred of love songs as discussed above. If you want to see it, it's here.
[2] Appreciating the guitar/electronics solo requires a visual aid. I swear there hasn't been anything as spectacular since the last Papal Investiture. There isn't any film that I know of from June 27th, so here is the solo from the Seattle show a month later. The performance is relatively uninspired compared with the June show, but at least you can see what it looked like.  Doesn't it look great?