Live At Whisky A Go-Go (Empress Valley EVSDVD-A 005 (EVSD-442))
Whisky A Go-Go, Los Angeles, CA – January 5th, 1969
As Long As I Have You, I Can’t Quit You, The Train Kept A Rollin’, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Dazed And Confused, Killing Floor, For Your Love
Led Zeppelin played their first concerts in Los Angeles right after New Years’ Day in 1969 with four nights at the trendy Whisky A Go-Go on Sunset Strip. They shared the bill with Alice Cooper and took turns on succeeding nights as to who would be the headliner. Unlike the San Francisco shows, Zeppelin played one long set instead of two shorter ones. Rumors have circulated for many years that these shows were taped by a member of the audience and stories circulated in 2003 around the one who taped The Yardbirds’ final run of shows at the Shrine Auditorium in March, 1968 but those stories turned out to be false. On Live At Whisky A Go-Go!!!, Empress Valley have finally found and released one of the tapes from this legendary run of shows. This tape of the final of four nights is a very good complete audience recording taped on reel-to-reel very close to the stage. The audience sounds very small (less than one hundred) and are very quiet and attentive with no obstructions what so ever. Of the 1969 audience recordings in existence this is among the better. Page’s guitar dominates in the mix with the vocals pushed back and there are trace amounts of hiss in quieter passages. Further, there is residue from an earlier recording on the tape that bleeds through in the early parts of the show.
It is imperfect but still a wonderful recording capturing Zeppelin at such an early stage. Jimmy Page mentioned that he had the flu this week and received medication from a physician so he can play and the performance is mind-boggling considering the conditions. The tape begins with some tuning and Plant’s sound check before he says “Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Can everybody hear me? This is the last night from Led Zeppelin”. The set begins with the “As Long As I Have You” medley. It was usually played in the middle of the set although it served as the opener for the May 27th Boston show (and also its final recorded appearance). This version is eleven minutes long and Plant sings Eddie Cochrane’s “Summertime Blues” over the band playing “Fresh Garbage”. After the “Hush Little Baby” section Jones tries to lead the band into Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road Jack” but the band don’t follow and end the piece as usual. “I Can’t Quit You” is played second as usual and at the song’s conclusion Plant says, “we’ll do things in a different order. We want to get people to rock and roll…This is called ‘Train'” before “Train Kept A Rollin'”. This is followed by the earliest live version of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” which Plant introduces by saying, “It is traditional. You can hear this on the fantastic album coming out on the fifteenth, Herman’s Hermits Live At The Whisky A G0-Go”.
“Dazed & Confused” is introduced as another song from the album coming out and is very close to the studio version including the crescendo at the end. Plant begins the following number by saying, “if anybody was here last night…you know how we were saying we were getting over the flu…well we’ve all got it back again. We’re pleased to be here. We’ll carry on with a thing from Muddy Waters. We got it together anyway, by Howlin’ Wolf. This is a thing called ‘Killing Floor’ and I think that just about sums it up.” This version is very short, contains Page playing some very fast scales and omits Plant’s “squeeze my lemon ’till the juice runs down my leg” part. “For Your Love” is the final song of the set and is introduced as something written by Keith Relf and was a number one hit for The Yardbirds. “Does anybody remember Keith Relf?…This is written by the bloke who wrote their numbers.” The only other recorded live version is from the Fillmore West five days after this in a fair to good recording, so it is a tremendous blessing to have a version so well recorded. It sounds very similar to the San Francisco version with psychedelic feedback and ending with a very long scream by Plant. There is a small cut around 4:17 omitting a bit of the guitar solo but is otherwise complete and ends with Plant saying good night.
The slide show on the dvd contains the same very rare pictures that are contained on the artwork from their stint at the Whisky. They are not from this show (one photo is of Page playing “White Summer”), but all very clear and capture the essence of the young legends in action. Each song is accompanied by one photo and the menu page has a photo of the reel-to-reel tape case. Live At Whisky A Go Go!!! comes packaged in the large plastic DVD-A case favored by Empress Valley. The discs fit very snug on the inside making it a challenge to remove without snapping them. Since the distribution of the DVD-A sampler in September and the inclusion of “I Can’t Quit You” this has been one of the most anticipated Led Zeppelin recordings in recent memory. With the sound quality, performance and overall rarity of this recording this is going to be one of Empress Valley’s most important releases and an instant classic. This will be essential listening to anybody who has even a passing interest in Led Zeppelin and their origins in the city for which they seemed to always play their best. Some claim that tapes exist for all four nights at this venue. Empress Valley currently has the “soundboard revolution”. Will they have the “Whisky rebellion” in the future?