Led Zeppelin – It’s Been A Long Time -MSG 1971- (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-014A/B/C/D)

It’s Been A Long Time
-MSG 1971-
(Graf Zeppelin LZSC-014A/B/C/D)

 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – September 3rd, 1971

Disc 1 (78:17):  Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Celebration Day, That’s The Way, Going To California

Disc 2 (77:17):  MC, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, organ solo, Thank You, Rock And Roll

Disc 3 (78:14):  Introduction, Immigrant Song, Heartbreaker, Since I’ve Been Loving You, Black Dog, Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Celebration Day, That’s The Way, Going To California

Disc 4 (77:16):  MC, What Is And What Should Never Be, Moby Dick, Whole Lotta Love, Communication Breakdown, organ solo, Thank You, Rock And Roll

Close to a year after their Madison Square Garden debut, Led Zeppelin returned for the big New York show on September 3rd on their seventh North American tour.  With a sell out in three hours, playing to a packed Garden insured a legendary performance and in addition to performance, this show is legendary in other ways as well.  Two tape sources exist for this concert. 

The first is the so-called “noisy Artie” tapes, named after the loquacious taper who recorded many of Zeppelin’s shows in New York between 1971 and 1975 and is the source of the three silver pressed editions.  Despite the constant talking and comments made by the taper and his friends, this is clear and enjoyable recording which captures the insanity in the venue that night.  Previous releases of the tape include Hard Company, Mad Screaming Gallery (Lemon Song LS-7203/4/5), and How’ve Ya Been?:  Riot At The Garden 1971 (The Diagrams Of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ 0020/21/28).

The second tape source runs from the beginning and cuts out eight minutes into during “Moby Dick.”  Graf Zeppelin present a four disc set utlizing both tapes for the show.  The first two discs utilize the Artie stereo recording and use the mono tape to fill in the gaps.  The edits include twenty-three seconds at the beginning of “Heartbreaker,” from 2:37 to 3:29 in “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” from 13:42 to 14:01 in “Dazed And Confused,” the first fifty-six seconds of “That’s The Way,” and the very end of “Going To California” through the first twelve seconds in “What Is And What Should Never Be.” 

The second edit uses the newer mono tape source as its base and uses the stereo to patch the gaps.  The first fifteen seconds on disc three is the stereo source before switching to the mono in the middle of the band’s introduction.  The stereo tape is also used for a bit of cheering after “Black Dog” and from 18:54 to 19:54 in “Dazed And Confused,” and is used for the final four tracks on disc two.

The announcer begins the show by stating that Led Zeppelin won the Melody Maker poll in England for most popular group as the band comes on stage and before they even play a note Plant greets the audience with “how’ve ya been?” several times. 

The torrent of notes of “The Immigrant Song” drives the sellout audience nuts and before “Since I’ve Been Loving You” Plant has to do some crowd control, saying, “Listen, the one thing we don’t want tonight is a lot of rapping when we’re trying to play. So if everybody, if you respect the people behind you then we’re gonna stop a lot of shouting. So try to move into the aisles, and sit down a bit, otherwise it’s gonna be us that are going to suffer.”  The first new song of the evening is “Black Dog,” which the taper has trouble hearing the song title and needs help from his girlfriend.  

“Dazed And Confused” is one from a long time ago and features the Bouree in the violin bow episode.  Jimmy Page invents several  unique riffs during the song’s twenty-two minute duration.  The paradigm for all versions on this tour is from the BBC recording the previous spring, where the arrangement still has a solid foot in psychedelia (an aesthetic which would be dropped by the time they tour Japan). 

Plant expresses surprise at the audience afterwards, saying “we didn’t even imagine it was gonna be like this.”  He tells the audience to be quiet for “Stairway To Heaven,” saying “if you’re gonna talk, whisper.”  Unlike the Los Angeles performances, Plant doesn’t make any mistakes in the words and the song comes off without a hitch.  The audience (near the recorder at least) don’t seem to pay too much attention to the song until it speeds up with Bonzo’s entrance.

“Celebration Day” is a “tribute…to New York” and makes its New York debut. The acoustic set is only two songs long. “Last time we were here, when we sat down, we didn’t have much success doing what we were doing cause there was so much noise” Plant remembers, referring to the 1970 shows were there was much talking. Things haven’t changed much since. In “That’s The Way” Plant sings “and yesterday I saw you walking by the Hudson” to add some New York flavor.

“Whole Lotta Love” is tremendously exciting. During ”Boogie Chillun’” Page and Bonham spontaneously break out into CCR’s “Suzie Q.”  An example of Led Zeppelin humor which leads into improvisation segueing to ”My Baby Left,” one of Page’s first sessions back in the early sixties and “Mess O’ Blues,” one of the constants in the medley in 1971.  The medley ends with a Garden shattering, seven and a half minute version of “You Shook Me.”

When the come out for the encores Plant scolds the crowd, “Just one thing wrong. That person who did that. There’s been no police trouble. There’s been nothing at all, and everybody was grooving, right? One thing. We’re gonna do some more, so put the lights off. We’ll dedicate it to that guy who threw that thing.”  “Communication Breakdown” contains a Jones bass solo with Plant shouting “Mr Bass Man!” 

After they come back for the second, Page plays the opening riff to “Train Kept A Rollin’” as Plant again tells the audience to be quiet.  But when Jones begins the organ solo people begin to climb onto the stage.  Eyewitness say the band stood on the monitors to be seen by the audience.  People by the taper keep shouting “get off the stage!!” 

By the time “Thank You” starts so many had climbed onto the stage that it cracks.  The noise is very loud.  “YOU’VE GOTTA MOVE BACK!!!  MOVE BACK OR WE CAN’T GO ON” Plant shouts when the band stop playing. 

Order is restored after a short delay and the band pick up again where they left off in the song.  Before the final encore Plant exasperatedly says, “I can’t hear. I gotta tell you, I can’t hear a thing I’m saying cause all the equipment’s falling off. This is a track off the fourth album. It’s called ‘It’s Been a Long Time.’” 

Graf Zeppelin is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with a blurb about the show from The Concert File printed on the back and photos from the Montreux and Honolulu 1971 shows printed on the artwork.  I would still love to see photos from the actual New York 1971 gig used for a release someday.  (I’m not sure if many are in circulation, although about thirteen years ago someone posted contact prints selling the negatives of a bunch of photos from this show – it’s interesting because Jimmy Page wore a train engineer’s hat during most of the performance).  

The Artie source sounds much fuller and heavier on this than on TDOLZ.  The mono source is actually very enjoyable if for no other reason one can enjoy the music without the constant shouts of “THE BEST.”  

Soon after release a competing version was released from Europe called Madison Square Garden 1971 Collectors Edition (Records NL-011-014).  Much like Graf Zeppelin it is a four disc two source mix, but instead of duplicating the stereo tape on the latter half of disc four they insert the Toronto soundboard from the following night.  Neverland is priced less, and utilizes the same picture of Jimmy Page on the front as Graf Zeppelin uses on the inside.  It’s a viable alternative to what is one of the unique Zeppelin performances on tape.  

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