A Memory Frozen Forever (Godfather Records GR265/266)
Eissporthalle, Berlin, Germany – July 7th, 1980
Disc 1: The Train Kept A Rollin’, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Black Dog, In The Evening, The Rain Song, Hot Dog, All My Love, Trampled Underfoot, Since I’ve Been Loving You
Disc 2: White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir, Stairway To Heaven, audience anticipation, Rock And Roll, Whole Lotta Love
Led Zeppelin’s final show before Bonham’s death first surfaced on vinyl on Bonzo’s Last Ever Gig In Berlin July 1980 (Z 8077) is missing “Whole Lotta Love,” and Bonzo’s Last Ever Gig (Amazing Stork 7780 A-F) is assembled from various tape sources. Almost all of the compact disc releses utilize the soundboard recording with the first Final Touch (Condor 1998) and Last Stand (Condor 1999) in 1989. These two are don’t have the complete show and the set list is messed up. The soundboard can also be found on Complete Berlin (SIRA 111/112), Bonzo At Last (Seagull CD027/2) with three songs from Bremen, The Last (Immigrant IM-010~2) with some of the audience recording, The Final Tour European Daze 1980 (PATRIOT003-1/2), The Complete Last Concert (Baby Face BF29/30) with “Achilles Last Stand” from Rotterdam, Heineken (Tarantura LAST 1,2) and Berlin 1980 (Tarantura 1980-25, 26). The encores are on Spare Parts 1980 (POT-003), “Black Dog,” “In The Evening,” “Rain Song,” “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” and “Rock And Roll” appear on the final disc of the boxset Cabala (OSOZ 001/8), and some material are on the two box sets Through The Years (Big Music BIG 4001~4005) in 1993 and Another Trip (Big Music BIG 4023~4027) in 1994.
In 2002 Empress Valley released Eternal Magic (EVSD 127/128/129/130/131). This boxset contains both the soundboard recording (with audience fill) and the complete audience recording which is so far the only silver release of that source. It also has a small disc with radio reports from Cleveland surrounding the death of John Bonham. A Memory Frozen Forever on Godfather uses the soundboard recording with the audience source used as filler. The audience is used at the very beginning before “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” for fifteen seconds between 5:51 to 6:06 after “All My Love” of Plant saying “that was one of the more recent things” and for the audience anticipation before “Rock And Roll.”
After the opening show in Dortmund the tour peaked with the shows in Zurich and Frankfurt and hit its nadir with the two concerts in Mannheim. Munich was a solid tour and the final in Berlin draws mixed assessments from Zeppelin collectors. Some love it and others hate it, but in reality it is a solid show with some slow parts. It is the result of their on stage experimenting in preparation for their return to the U.S. in the fall. What the set list would have been isn’t known, but one imagines that the numbers from In Through The Out Doorwould have been kept, “Carouselambra” was rumored to be included, and “The Rain Song” and “White Summer” might have been dropped. “Train Kept A Rollin'” sounds very frantic in this show and there is a pause afterwards instead of a clean segue into the next song “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”
Jimmy Page says, “Good evening all. It’s nice to see you, and it’s nice to be seen I can tell you. We got a number from the annals of rock history. It’s not called ‘Black Dog Jimmy’ but called ‘Schwartz Hund.'” Again “Black Dog” is very strong with a fluid solo by Page in the song. Plant’s first words are: “As Jimmy already said, good evening. What he didn’t say was, I know how he feels because he loves this town very much. Well, we’re back. We managed to get an album together eighteen months two years ago called In Through The Out Door. This is a track from that called ‘In The Evening.'” This is one of their strongest latter day numbers. At Knebworth it was played late in the set with Page’s guitar solo and a Bonham tympani solo serving as a long introduction. But on the final tour it was moved up earlier in the set without the bombast. The song really didn’t need it since it has plenty of bite on its own.
“This is from one of the very very formative parts of it all…” Plant says before the next song. Someone shouts out “Rock And Roll!” “No, that was another formative part. This is called ‘The Rain Song.'” Plant gives a long introduction to “Hot Dog” again referencing the Showco staff, and “All My Love” is played with no introduction as it is on all the stops on the tour. On most dates Jones begins the keyboard solo too fast but in Berlin he plays it perfect. “Trampled Underfoot” is dedicated to the roadies and this twelve minute version is one of the better ones on tape. Page and Jones change tempos throughout the solo lending a heaviness the studio version only hinted at, and Page plays a dense, expressionistic solo in the middle.
“Achilles Last Stand” is dropped for the only time on this tour. Page calls it a “readjustment of the program” but no explanation was ever given. The low point of the show is the incoherent mess Page makes of “White Summer.” It isn’t all his fault since, as he explains at the beginning, his Danelectro wasn’t tuned properly and it sounds like he is fighting the guitar throughout the piece. However, he gets lost in the middle and it takes him about ten minutes to find his way out. This is one of his classic numbers and it is a shame that the final performance of the piece is so poor. The final song of the set “Stairway To Heaven” reaches fourteen minutes and is the longest ever performance of the classic. Page in particular attempts never before heard riffs and produces a solo of astounding beauty. Godfather includes a full six minute track of audience cheering afterwards before the first encore “Rock And Roll.”
The final encore of “Whole Lotta Love” is one of the most intriging tracks in the latter days of Zeppelin. This represents yet another recasting of the song and unlike the “Whole Lotta Love” / “Heartbreaker” experiment in Dortmund this one works. This eighteen minute wonder has been dubbed the “industrial” version but such an appellation is really unfair. Industrial music as an artform wasn’t invented until several years later (with the Belgian band Front 242 although many would argue it began with Kraftwerk). What distinguishes this track is that Jone Paul Jones, for the only time, plays the lead on bass guitar. With the distorted treble he sounds like John Entwistle and this recalls the way The Who would jam in concert. A Memory Frozen Forever is packaged in a tri-fold gatefold sleeve with photos from the actual gig on the artwork. The sound quality is outstanding and the editing job between sources is impeccable and this is worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)