Good Old Led Zeppelin (Tarantura TCD-89~92)
The “New Dreamland Auditorium” in San Francisco opened in 1928 as an ice skating rink which could be converted into a five thousand capacity theater for opera and other entertainment acts. Sometime in the 30’s the name was changed to the Winterland Ballroom and existed under that name for the next forty years. Bill Graham began to rent the venue in 1966 to acommodate audiences larger than could fit in the nearby Fillmore West. The first rock concert was a double bill of the Jefferson Airplane and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Weekly concerts were booked for the next twelve years. The final show was on New Years Eve 1978 with an eight hour show with the Blues Brothers, Riders Of The Purple Sage and an six hours of the Grateful Dead. Winterland was demolished in 1985 to make room for apartment buildings.
Led Zeppelin played five shows in the Winterland Ballroom in 1969. Such was the quickness of their popularity that, after playing in the Fillmore West on their first tour in January, two of their four San Francisco concrete on their second tour that spring were booked at Winterland. Good sounding tapes exist for four of the shows, the only one missing is the last show of the autumn tour on November 8th. All have been released before but this is the first collection with this venue as a common theme.
Each disc is contained in a single pocket cardboard sleeve. Each of the four shows is stored in a fold out box which is in turn stored in a deluxe box along with a T-shirt of the front cover and is limited to 120 numbered copies. The front is a duplication of one of Tarantura’s more famous releases, Led Set issued many years ago with the April 26th and April 27th Fillmore West shows. All of the audience tapes used are as good as they can possibly sound.
Train Kept A Rollin’ (Tarantura TCD-89)
Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA – April 25th, 1969
Disc 1 (24:29): Introduction, Train Kept A-Rollin’, You Shook Me, Communication Breakdown, As Long As I Have You
Led Zeppelin played four nights in San Francisco on their second tour. The first and fourth nights (April 24th and 27th) were at Fillmore West, but the middle two were in Winterland. The April 25th fragment is the least known and most obscure of the four. This twenty-five minute tape first appeared on the vinyl release Caution Explosive (WRMB 329) and on three prior silver releases: California ‘69 (Lemon Song LS-7206, LS-7207), Grande Ball on Missing Link (ML-010) (attributed to Chicago May 16th, 1969) and several years ago on How Many More Years: The Legendary Fillmore Series-West Vol. 5 (Empress Valley EVSD-430).
It is a very good bordering on excellent sounding and powerful audience recording capturing the dynamics of the performance. It’s a shame it has only selections because this performance is absolutely ferocious. If the whole show were to surface this would be the “legendary” show that is essential to own.
“I Can’t Quit You”, “Dazed & Confused,” “How Many More Times” and half of “As Long As I Have You” are omitted, probably intentionally by the taper. What is left is simply great to hear. Bill Graham welcomes the band back from England before “Train Kept A Rollin” explodes from the stage. “You Shook Me” is a ten minute long intense extravaganza and is perhaps the best version ever performed by the band.
Before the final song Robert Plant says: “Last time, when we came here was the first, was the second gig that we ever did in America, and we must have been together about three months, and we were really pleased with the way we went down. If we hadn’t of done well here, I think we would have shipped ourselves around home, and you’ve done the same for us this time as you did last time. We’d like to say thank you very much, and Good Night.” Six minutes of “As Long As I Have You” are on the tape before it cuts out in the middle of the improvisation.
You Shook Me (Tarantura TCD-90-1, 2)
Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA – April 26th, 1969
Disc 1 (58:00): opening, Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You, Dazed and Confused, You Shook Me, How Many More Times
Disc 2 (62:41): tuning, White Summer suite, Killing Floor, Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Pat’s Delight, As Long As I Have You, Whole Lotta Love
The famous April 26th show has a long history on unofficial releases, first surfacing on vinyl on titles such as Unburied Dead Zeppo’s Grave (TM 1698) 1st Concert as the New Yardbirds and New Yardbirds At The Marquee which attributes this to Zeppelin’s Marquee show in London in 1968. Winterland 69 (Rock Solid Records RSR 247) was released in the 80’s with the correct date but cutting of the end of “Dazed And Confused” and omitting “Whole Lotta Love.” These releases were also suffered from speed problems.
Six tracks appear on the early CD release Young Hurricane, labeled Marquee 1968. Smokestack Lightning (Black Swan BS-1-1~2) was the first attempt to present the complete show on CD in a definitive version but is quite unbalanced and difficult to listen to. Lead Set: Psychedelic Ballroom(Tarantura SF26-4-69-1, 2) is a four disc box set with the April 27th show and sounds much better than Black Swan. Psychedelic Explosion (TDOLZ 0006/7) was issued in 1996, one of the first Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin releases but had many problems with the transfer. It is missing the introduction, the tune up before “White Summer,” runs too slow and has too much background noise.
Graham’s Superb Vol. 1 (Image Quality IQ-059/060) was released about the same time and is much better sounding and more complete than TDOLZ and for many years served as the definitive version because of its availability and price. In 2004 Empress Valley released Avocado Club (EVSD- 270-275), a six disc set with this and two versions of the April 27th show. You Shook Me, part of the new Tarantura set, has very good sound quality and is an improvement over the Image Quality and Empress Valley.
This show is known for the live debut of “Whole Lotta Love” as the encore for the second set, played six months before its release on Led Zeppelin II. But it’s interesting as much as that as for it being Zeppelin’s attempts to present a San Francisco psychedelic performance. The tape begins with a short tune up, Page doodling with Bach’s Bouree and Bonham banging the drums before Bill Graham once again introduces the band. “Communication Breakdown” is played as opener instead of “Train Kept A Rollin'” and segues into “I Can’t Quit You.”
Plant nervously greets the audience before “Dazed And Confused” saying, “Thank you very much indeed. Good evening from Led Zeppelin. I think last night we said good evening and we said it was nice to be back. Well it seems to be a lot more people here, so it’s very nice to be back when there’s a lot more people. So, I hope the message is carried on.” Although no version of this song is really “standard” at this point tonight it is truly a unique, one-of-a-kind rendition of the classic. This is the only time Page uses the theremin in this song, utilizing it in the spaced out coda section bringing one of the heaviest versions to a close. “You Shook Me” follows and as good as it is doesn’t measure up the previous night. But the applause is loud and Plant responds, saying: “We enjoyed that as well, did you know that.”
The first set closes with eighteen minutes of “How Many More Times.” In future tours they would play long medley in this number, but on the second tour it was still expanded with many solos. It also has a long violin bow episode as it has on the first album. But it isn’t played as part of the song as much as it is detached from the main melody, slowing down the progress of the song with eerie fills instead of contributing to the rest of the band. In “The Hunter” Plant sings about Rosie who “came from the north country with hair so long” before firing his gun.
The second set begins with “White Summer” as is the custom on the second tour. It is a ten minute long virtuoso piece which includes “Black Mountain Side.” It is followed by “Killing Floor.” This cover was added to the set as another vehicle for improvisation and is played with variations each night. The opening riff (which is not on “The Lemon Song” when it is finally recorded for Led Zeppelin II) which is suggestive of the Muddy Waters “Electric Mud” riff that would inspire John Paul Jones for “Black Dog.” Page emphasizes the wah-wah echo slide playing and they get into “That’s All Right.”
The set closes with a long “As Long As I Have You” reaching almost eighteen minutes long. In addition to the “Shake” and “Fresh Garbage” references, Plant songs a bit of the hush lullaby. Page, after “Shake” takes a cue from Hendrix by playing with the feedback. The audience demands an encore and Led Zeppelin reward them with the brand new song “Whole Lotta Love.” Plant introduces it by saying, “We’d like to do one more featuring the newly acquired tambourine, so if I lose the beat…” No title is mentioned on the tape, but the same riff is present. Plant sings the “You Need Love” lyrics but not, interestingly enough, “want a a whole lotta love” refrain. Bonham plays the same cymbal beat as on the studio recording in the middle but instead of a theremin workout Page plays more spacy wah-way riffs before they crash back into the main riff at the end. April 26th is truly one of their all time greatest gigs.
Something Else (Tarantura TCD-91-1, 2)
Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA – November 6th, 1969
Disc 1 (53:11): Introduction, Good Times Bad Times, Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You, Heartbreaker, Dazed and Confused, tuning, White Summer suite, What Is And What Should Never Be
Disc 2 (42:16): Moby Dick, How Many More Times, C’Mon Everybody, Something Else
Led Zeppelin toured the US in the summer of 1969 but didn’t play in San Francisco. The closest they came was a show in Berkeley on August 7th. Right when Led Zeppelin II was released they toured the US and ended with three nights at Winterland with support from Roland Kirk and Isaac Hayes. The first two nights were taped but nothing has ever surfaced for the November 8th show.
There are two tapes for November 6th. The first tape is distant and poor sounding and was used for prior silver pressings Blow Up (Immigrant IM-029~30), Punk (Tarantura T2CD-8) and its European clone End of ’69 (Whole Lotta Live WLL007/8), and Room 2/3 (Image Quality IQ-019/20/21) where it is paired with the second night. About ten years ago a much better sounding but incomplete audience tape surfaced and was released on the CDR title C’Mon Everybody (House Of Elrond). Winterland Party (Wendy Records WECD-23/24) is the only silver pressed title which uses both tapes.
Something Else is another two source mix. The better sounding of the two tapes is used as a base and the first tape source is used for most noticeably “What Is And What Should Never Be” (a track which seems to have been deliberately withheld by the hoarder) and for Plant’s stage banter before “Heartbreaker,” “Dazed And Confused” and for audience noise before the encore. The edits between the sources are extremely smooth and professionally handled and Tarantura have produced an excellent sounding silver edition of this tape.
The beginning of the tape has Robert Plant (not Bill Graham) nervously addressing the audience before the show starts. “Good Evening. It’s very nice to return again to San Fransisco. We’d like to try and… rather than say that, and give you a load of bullshit. We’d rather like to try and show you through what we’re gonna do now. So let’s go…” The “Good Times / Bad Times” riff is one of the heaviest openings Zeppelin used, but it is destined to be only a interim between “Train Kept A Rolling” and “We’re Gonna Groove.” The audience are much more quiet in these shows compared to the first two tours.
Afterwards Plant says, “Thank you very much. Everybody feel alright? Tonight we intend if possible to do some things off the new Led Zeppelin II album. This is the first one. It’s called Heartbreaker.” The song’s sledgehammer riff sounds great leading off side two of the LP, but even at this early stage Page softens it with a lead in note to build some momentum. The middle solo already has changed from the recorded version, but they keep the song to just about five minutes. “What Is And What Should Never Be” and “Moby Dick” are the only other songs from the new album played and not, curiously enough, “Whole Lotta Love” which received most airplay at the time.
The show concludes with an epic twenty minute version of “How Many More Times.” There are hints of The Yardbirds “Over Under Sideways Down” and a short medley of “Boogie Chillun’,” “Bottle Up And Go” and “Hideaway.” The encores are the double shot of Eddie Cochran tunes “C’Mon Everybody” and “Something Else.” John Paul Jones said in an interview once this was common in those days, although only a handful of recordings managed to capture this.
Heartbreaker (Tarantura TCD-92-1, 2)
Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA – November 7th, 1969
Disc 1 (50:51): Good Times Bad Times, Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You, Heartbreaker, Dazed and Confused, White Summer suite
Disc 2 (41:28): Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, How Many More Times
The second night in Winterland, and the final taped show, exists on a very good audience recording of most of the show. The taper attended the previous evening’s show, naming the songs before they are played and making sure he has enough tape to capture the long songs. He was very close to the stage and picks up much detail but hits the pause button several times during “Dazed And Confused” and “How Many More Times” and at other points scattered throughout the show to check his tape. He also misjudged how much he would need since it runs out twelve minutes into “How Many More Times” during “The Hunter” eliminating the rest of that song and the encores.
There is also some tape deterioration during “White Summer.” November 7th is also the rarest of the four Winterland shows, previously available on only two titles, Winter Of Our Content (Missing Link ML-008/9) and Room 2/3 (Image Quality IQ-019/20/21), both released in the mid-nineties. Tarantura has much less hiss and is more clear and enjoyable.
The introduction is cut out and the tape starts at the “Good Times Bad Times” introduction leading into a heavy “Communication Breakdown.” Before the new song “Heartbreaker” there is some disturbance in the crowd. Plant says: “this is the second night out of three that … hang on a minute … yeah this is the second night out of three nights that we are spending in this place. That’s something like what over here you might call a head. This is the English equivalent. I just picked it up on stage with a question mark by it. So let’s try a couple things shall we? If we can get the people in the front to sit down a bit so the people behind can sit down. If everybody paid the same bread to get in then everybody’s entitled to see exactly what they want to see. So this brings us to ah, hang on, we don’t want an out and out riot. This is really uncalled for. Come on. Anyway, this is a thing off the new album.”
It’s performed as it was the previous night with a one-note introduction and a completely improvised guitar solo in the middle. “Dazed And Confused” is “something from a long time ago, perhaps nine months ago.” Seventeen minutes the epic lasts and sounds slightly slower and deliberate in this show. Plant gets a bit mixed up at one of the breaks but avoids catastrophe.
After a long “White Summer” they play “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” for the final (recorded) time. It is assumed to be played the following night and then dropped forever, only to be resurrected almost thirty years later in the Page & Plant era. It being dropped is strange since it is still a compelling live piece and even seems to have evolved since the spring. Plant even throws in a verse of Neil Young’s “Down By The River” in the middle. “Thank you. Good Evening. This is a thing that sort of carries on a little bit, and this is on the second album. This is a thing called ‘But What is and What Should Never Be'” is Plant’s puzzling introduction.
Jimmy Page plays with an infectious lyricism not present in many versions of this song. The set ends with and intense “How Many More Times.” It is a shame the tape cuts out since, judging by the length of the first night, almost half of the song is missing. The first half’s guitar solo is again very melodic as it builds into “The Hunter.” The cut eliminates the rest of the song and the encores, which were probably “C’Mon Everybody” and “Something Else.” Overall though this is another strong late 1969 show that has been unfairly neglected.
Overall this is a well thought out, remastered and packaged boxset. There is ample use of the old time advertisement drawings along with photographs from the era and shows decorating the box. The illustrations on the particular show also are in keeping with the overall theme. For what is included in the entire package it was reasonably priced but it sold out on pre-orders alone and is now extremely hard to find. Hopefully Tarantura will come out with a second edition for those who were not able to obtain the first.