Led Zeppelin – BBC Rock Hour (Bumble Bee BB-0702011)

BBC Rock Hour (Bumble Bee BB-0702011)

BBC Playhouse Theatre, London – June 27th, 1969

Intro, Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You, Interview, Dazed And Confused, Liverpool Scene sketch, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, You Shook Me, How Many More Times

Bonus disc:  Communication Breakdown, Dazed And Confused, Going To California, Stairway To Heaven, What Is And What Should Never Be, Whole Lotta Love

Bumble Bee’s BBC Rock Hour, just like their Blue Flame, is another release of a Zeppelin tape that has been released many times before in the past.  The June 27th, 1969 In Concert appearance has had releases dating back to the Neolithic era.  On vinyl it was released well over a dozen times with the better titles being Complete BBC Performances on Toasted, Dazed And Confused on Royal Sound (RS009), Hot London (Kolne), and Four Symbols (Accord).  The version on Accord was reissued this twice.  Other vinyl titles include Flight Of The Zeppelin (Jolly Good Sound), In The Light 69-75 Zipp Zapp (LZL 4 A-D), and Idolescence (Volsung) and the poor sounding My Rider on Idi Amin. 

White Summer (TSPCD019) on The Swingin’ Pig, How Many More Times (QCP 69008) on the Korean Quality label, and Classics Off The Air Vol. 2 (NZCD 005) on Neutral Zone are among the earliest compact disc releases.  About the time Antrabata released Rock Hour, which was copied onto BBC 69 (BBC Transcription Series), the complete broadcast with interview and the Liverpool Scene sketch became the norm. 

Several months ago Empress Valley released a great version on disc two of their four disc Complete British Broadcasting Corporation Radio Sessions.  This new release on Bumble Bee is in similar excellent quality.  It isn’t as loud as the Empress Valley.  However, older releases have a fifteen second cut in “White Summer” at 2:53 into the track, but BBC Rock Hour does not have the cut making it the most complete and as close to definitive as possible.

Led Zeppelin had many appearances on the BBC during their first year of existence.  This one has always stood out from the others because it is the only one to be taped in front of a live audience.  They sound very raw and it captures the excitement of their early live show.  Up until June they were finding ways of expanding their sets to ninety minutes to two hours long, but the summer was filled with appearances at festivals beginning the following day at the Bath Festival on June 28th.  This gives a glimpse into their stripped down, hour long festival set. 

Alan Black introduces the format which gives the band an opportunity to give a true statement about their music with “complete creative freedom and a chance to communicate”.  Ironically the first song is “Communication Breakdown”, the normal encore.  This version includes Page playing a funk riff over which Plant sings “I wanna do little mama babe yeah but I don’t seem to mind / I can’t stop the feelin’, baby mama, I’m givin’ you a ride” before quoting from the Isley Brothers “It’s Your Thing”.  The song segues perfectly into  “I Can’t Quit You Babe”. 

The interview following this song is conducted by the host with Plant and Page, speaking about the popularity of underground groups like them and Jethro Tull.  At the end Black encourages the band to play one of their longer numbers.  John Paul Jones can be heard in the background replying “Oh really?” and Page, for some reason, says “Jim Morrison?” before Plant says, “when we finish that, we’ll be well out of breath”. 

What follows is an excellent eleven and a half minute version of the piece.  The late Adrian Henri, Andy Roberts and Mike Evans of the band The Liverpool Scene who released their first album Incredible New Liverpool Scene on CBS in 1967 and broke up in 1970 perform the following sketch.  They were a band that wove together music, poetry and satirical humor.  This faux commercial is done for the “next great war” in which they advertise PAD meat (Prolongs Active Death), BOMB (the international passport for smoking ruins), and FALLOUT. 

The mc introduces Jimmy Page to play “White Summer/Black Mountain Side”, one of the most perfect versions on tape.  “You Shook Me” is a rare version which has John Paul Jones playing the Hammond organ.  The opening notes are still much louder than the rest of the track, probably due to the engineer not expecting the loud volume.  The finale “How Many More Times” lasts for thirteen minutes and includes snippets of “Smokestack Lightening” before the first verse.  This recording is one of the best sounding and played of the early Led Zeppelin which accounts for all of the editions available. 

The first one hundred copies come with a bonus cdr of the hour long edit of the April 1st, 1971 BBC session sourced directly from a noisy vinyl copy.  It is a nice extra although certainly not essential.  Overall BBC Rock Hour is a solid release of a very popular tape.  The artwork is a bit thin but has rare photographs on the cover and back.  Given the complete “White Summer” contained, this is a title worth seeking out. 

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