A Sudden Attack Boston (Revised Edition) (Grand Lodge GL-009/010)
Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA – January 26th, 1969
Disc (75:26): Train Kept a Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You, Killing Floor, Dazed and Confused, You Shook Me, Communication Breakdown, White Summer / Black Mountain Side, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Pat’s Delight
Disc 2 (63:00): How Many More Times. Boston Tea Party, Boston, MA – January 23rd, 1969: Train Kept a Rollin’, I Can’t Quit You, As Long As I Have You, Dazed and Confused, and You Shook Me
By the time Led Zeppelin’s first US tour was a month old, they played four shows at the Tea Party in Boston between January 23rd and January 26th. With San Francisco and Los Angeles behind them and New York next on the itinerary, they delivered some of their legendary performances. Of particular note is the January 26th show, the final night in Boston.
A ninety minute tape of most of the show has been in circulation, but this is said to be the legendary night when they went on for four hours, exhausting everything in their repertoire and giving the birth of “head banging.” The recording is good but unbalanced with the guitar dominating the mix. It is a very good document of the show albeit incomplete. There are cuts before “White Summer,” in “How Many More Times,” and the encore and as much as two more hours, are missing.
The tape made its debut on vinyl on Killing Floor (Trade Mark Of Quality TMQ 71117). Compact disc issues include Fillmore East (Mud Dogs 006/007), Killing Floor (Cobra Standard Series 018), Sudden Attack Boston (STTT 073/074), and Tight But Loose (Tarantura T2CD-2) and Whisky And Tea Party (Ocean Recording). “How Many More Times” is included in both Whole Lotta For Your Love (Pirate SCLE 003/
John Paul Jones recalled this show several years later in an interview with NME in 1973, saying: “As far as I’m concerned, the key Led Zeppelin gig – the one that put everything into focus – was one that we played on our first American tour at The Boston Tea Party. We’d played our usual one-hour set, using all the material from our first album and Page’s ‘White Summer’ guitar piece and, by the end, the audience just wouldn’t let us off the stage. It was in such a state that we had to start throwing ideas around – just thinking of songs that we all might know or some of us knew a part of, and work it from there. So we” go back on and play things like ‘I Saw her Standing There’ and ‘Please Please Me’ – old Beatles favorites. I mean, just anything that would come into our head, and the response was quite amazing. There were kids actually banging their heads against the stage – I’ve never seen that at a gig before or since, and when we finally left the stage we’d played for four and a half hours. Peter was absolutely ecstatic. He was crying and hugging us all. You know… with this huge grizzly bear hug. I suppose it was then that we realized just what Led Zeppelin was going to become.”
There are rumours of a complete tape, but it’s doubtful it exists. It’s also doubtful they played for four hours. It is common to exaggerate the length of Led Zeppelin concerts, and it’s more realistic to assume they played for another hour after “How Many More Times.”
But what is special about the show is the extreme lengths Page goes to introduce improvisation and variations into the songs. “Train Kept A Rollin'” is introduced by some funky riffs, and “Dazed And Confused” veers off into several different and unique improvisations. Sometimes it sounds as if Page is imitating Jeff Beck in attempting impromptu variations.
“You Shook Me” contains a rare organ solo in the middle, something not usual on the first tour. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” is referred to as something that I never really get off as completely as I want to.”
Plant thanks Boston for the warm reception throughout the week. “We’d like to thank all of the ladies we’ve met in the United States who’ve befriended us in this foreign land. All the ladies in the United States. We’d really like to thank them because, not only that, I’d like to thank John Law, for supplying us with English beer, and I’d also like to thank the staff of the Lennox Hotel for not letting us eat in the dining room, and most of all, we’d like to thank you for coming along tonight because Sunday night apparently it isn’t usually open, so its very good of you to have enough faith in us to come here.”
The sixteen minute long medley contains several rare and interesting references including “Duke Of Earl” and the Yardbird’s “For Your Love.”
Grand Lodge include the January 23rd tape on disc two. This is the first night at the Tea Party and first surfaced on the vinyl Boston Tea Party (A&BRD&C – BMD 001A-B). CD releases include Complete Boston Tea Party (ARMS 07/08PR) and Boston After Dark (Empress Valley EVSD-65). The Empress Valley is slightly cleaner and sharper than Grand Lodge, remaining the definitive version of the first night in Boston.
The music that is present is an outstanding 1969 Led Zeppelin performance where they seem to straddle their aesthetic between hard blues and psychedelia beginning with an aggressive version of “Train Kept A-Rollin'” in which Page busts a string. There is a lengthy delay as Plant talks to the audience saying: “let me say it’s great to be in Boston. According to Jimmy, its one of the best places he’s ever played” and promotes the just released first album. Bonham and Jones lock onto a heavy rhythm while waiting but it doesn’t, as it would in other shows, develop any further.
Twelve minute dramatic version of “As Long As I Have You” follows “I Can’t Quit You” which confirms the review’s assessment by stating, “Rhythm changes abruptly, time patterns change abruptly, volume levels change abruptly, yet melodic line and chord skeletons manage to merge kaleidoscopically as each member of the band feeds one another and in turn plays off the idea thrown out. The entire approach is very loose and very improvisational. The result is a surprising intricacy developed out of a form that is usually considered to be quite simple. Yet the basic power is never lost. In one sense, the Led Zeppelin represents the best of two worlds.” (“Jimmy Page: After the Yardbirds…Comes Led Zeppelin,” Ben Blummenberg Boston Phoenix February 5, 1969).
Plant expresses some astonishment before “Dazed And Confused” saying, “Well we’ve only been here about four weeks, but we never expected receptions like this. So it’s really a gas. What with English beer and this sort of thing.”
“Dazed And Confused” surprisingly sounds very close to the studio counterpart. The following song, and the final one on the tape “You Shook Me” is truly improvisatory in this show and would be on their initial tours. It is a shame the tape runs out at the end since with such fiery playing the finale would have been outstanding to hear. However we are fortunate to have this fragment floating around.
A Sudden Attack Boston (Revised Edition) is a good and affordable way of attaining these two tapes. While not a huge improvement over previous releases, it is still very good for such hard shows to pick up. The artwork and packaging is very clean and classy with the long NME John Paul Jones quote printed in the liner notes.