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Led Zeppelin – Listen To This, Eddie (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-621A/B/C)

Listen To This, Eddie (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-621A/B/C)

The Forum, Inglewood, CA, USA – June 21, 1977

Disc 1 (71:11) Introduction, The Song Remains The Same, The Rover – Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, Over The Hills And Far Away, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter

Disc 2 (56:53) MC, Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Black Country Woman, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, White Summer, Black Mountain Side, Kashmir

Disc 3 (74:57) MC, Out On The Tiles – Moby Dick, Heartbreaker, Guitar Solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll

Mike Millard’s recording of Led Zeppelin’s first concert at The Forum in Inglewood (L.A.), California on the 1977 American tour is one of his most famous and well known recordings, and for good reason. First off Millard’s recording is excellent as far as audience recordings go, it is rich and detailed with a perfect balance of instruments and was recorded very close to the stage, in my words, a perfect recording. Secondly, the band turn in one of the absolutely best performances of the year, all four musicians hit the note for pretty much the entire performance. This is something that we all know, any fan of Led Zeppelin who collects bootlegs or just the recordings knows this is a top 5 bootleg, so much Jimmy Page used a snippet of The Song Remains The Same from this recording for a menu segment on the 2003 official DVD set. Like my other reviews of Millard recordings, let’s start with the info from the original torrent featuring the DAT transfer of Mike’s master tape done by his friend Jim R and released to the masses last September 2020:

Fate, ladies and gentleman.

So here it is, Mike’s best known recording, transferred by Rob S from the original master cassettes to DAT in the early 2000s. This show has been bootlegged dozens of times and there are many remasters in the world, notably the work of our ally Winston Remasters. The underlying transfers used for the best circulating copies most likely come from two primary sources: first generation cassettes (including JEMS’ Dolby-decode transfer of unmarked tapes made by Millard himself) and a first-gen copy Millard made from his master tapes to VHS HiFi, which at the time was an inexpensive, high-resolution alternative to digital formats like DAT. The VHS HiFi first gen was then converted to DAT and spawned a lot of the versions before the JEMS “Dolby On” series appeared.

This release has a verified lineage of master cassettes to DAT and we believe it represents the highest quality transfer of Mike’s master recording available. We are presenting the recording in two versions: one a flat transfer, the second lightly mastered by JEMS to move the sound image a little closer and lift Jimmy and Robert up slightly in the mix. Our Mastered Edition also uses the second recording of the show by GaryB (which JEMS released a few years ago) to patch the missing piece of Ten Years Gone when Mike flipped his tape. The choice is yours. The show itself was the opener of the band’s six-night stand at the Fabulous Forum, what most fans consider to be the high-water mark on the 1977 tour. Mike recorded four of the six shows, and if you’re wondering why he didn’t do the other two, money and ticket availability were practical considerations for Millard at the time. As Jim explains in his notes, the scalping around these shows reached unprecedented levels and Millard’s salary as a furniture truck driver (he wouldn’t become an AV clerk a the college until late 1979) meant he couldn’t afford the seats he wanted for every show.

The Forum stand was originally scheduled for five shows in March (opening night was meant to be March 9) and went on sale January 31. Robert Plant’s tonsillitis forced rescheduling, the announcement for which included the addition of a sixth and final show on June 27. Any Led Zeppelin collector would do themselves a favor by obtaining a copy of Dave Lewis and Mike Tremaglio’s authoritative book Evenings With Led Zeppelin: The Complete Concert Chronicle. It is an encyclopedia of Zeppelin’s touring history, packed with details, reviews, contemporary newspaper clippings, photos, ticket stubs, known recordings and so much more. If JEMS had a book club, this would be one of our first selections. The tome includes a fantastic section on the ’77 Forum run, calling the concerts “among the most highly acclaimed performances of Led Zeppelin’s career. Thankfully, taper Mike Millard captured four of the Forum shows in exceptional quality audience recordings on his Nakamichi cassette deck. Bootleggers got ahold of Millard’s opening night tape and pressed it on one of the most popular Zeppelin bootlegs ever- Listen To This Eddie.”

The legend surrounding the bootleg title is that it was in response to negative feedback about Page’s playing attributed to Eddie Van Halen, though the book offers a second theory that the title was aimed at Eddie Kramer, calling out his engineering and production on The Song Remains The Same soundtrack. One of Millard’s friends recently told us that he showed him the Eddie bootleg CD when it was released in 1990 and Mike blew a gasket. He was frustrated by vinyl bootlegs before, but the CD release of 6/21/77 heightened his anger about bootleggers profiting from his work.

Here’s what Jim R recalled about the momentous opening night of Led Zeppelin at the Forum 1977:

I attended the June 21, 1977 Led Zeppelin concert at The Forum, the first of six nights. I pushed Mike in the wheelchair. Getting tickets for this set of shows was an ordeal. To be one of the first in line required a marathon Box Office camp out that began eight days before tickets went on sale. In January, even LA was chilly enough to warrant down jackets at night. By the time the box office opened there were thousands in line. Several local ticket brokers had crews of kids queuing on their behalf to maximize ticket acquisition. Demand was HUGE and resulted in the first $100 scalper price for a rock concert in LA.

The box office limit was a strict six tickets. Some people were already talking in line about pocketing hundreds of dollars after selling their tickets, but Mike and I being fans were focused on the best seats for the most nights. I scored six front row center tickets. Mike scored 18 tickets by going to a box office window two extra times. We called this technique “bouncing,” as in bouncing from ticket window to ticket window. Bouncing was dangerous as getting caught resulted in security confiscating all of your tickets. Opening night we sat second row on the floor, a third of the way over from center. After getting to our seats, the wheelchair was tucked away next to the stage, ironically near Peter Grant standing on the side. Taping from the second row is perilous, being so close to security and to Peter Grant and his brutal reputation for “handling” tapers. Stage lights would spill onto our location and light us up. Not Good. But we got away with it four times without incident, though not without a lot of frayed nerves.

Two days before, we attended the San Diego show where Bonham had food poisoning. This affected his playing and likely results in one of the worst shows on the tour. But this night they more than make up for it. June 21st is considered by many to be one the best Led Zeppelin shows ever. Included are a handful of pictures I took sitting next to Mike in the 2nd row.

As noted in the torrent notes, this concert was booted on vinyl in the early 80’s by the Rock Solid label, Listen To This Eddie (Rock Solid Records RSR 202A-B) followed by several reissues Best Of Led Zeppelin Vol. 1 (Rock Solid Records RSR 202A-B), Listen To This Eddie (Box Top), and the massive Led Zeppelin Film Can and The Final Option sets. I first heard this recording on the Rock solid reissue that was done on a double LP picture disc, sadly long gone when I began dumping my vinyl during the CD age. The CD era brought many issues, so many I’d go crazy trying to list them all so this list is certainly incomplete, California Hills (Black Cat BC 32 A/B/C/D), On The Whispering Wind (TNT Studio TNT 910114/5), Listen To This Eddie Part 1-3 (Silver Rarities SIRA CD 14/15/16), Listen To This Eddie Master Edition (Silver Rarities SIRA CD 161/162/163), Listen To This Eddie (Jelly Roll JR 06/07/08), Listen To This Eddie (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ 050), and as part of the The Power and Glory (The Diagrams of Led Zeppelin TDOLZ 509701-3) box set, Listen To This Eddie (Scorpio LZ-210677), A Week For Badgeholders (Tarantura T-19) box set, and Out On The Tiles (Tarantura T-19 1-3).

Perhaps no other label has issued the tape more than Empress Valley, Listen To This Eddie (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-146/147/148), Listen To This Eddie New and Improved (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-260/261/262), Listen To This Eddie New and Improved Reissue (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD 297-298-299), and For Badge Holders Only – The Complete 1977 LA Forum Tapes Listen To This Eddie!!! (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-465/466/467), many times issuing the same discs in different packaging. Listen To This Eddie (Wendy WECD-06/07/08), Listen To This Eddie Definitive Edition (Wendy WECD-364/365/366), and finally Lighthouse versions L.A. Forum 1977 The First (No Label) and Listen To This Eddie Remaster Beauty And The Beast (No Label). All the above titles feature Mike’s recording from different generations of the tape.

Mike’s master was torrented with two versions, a flat master and a remastered version, this new Graf Zeppelin title uses the flat transfer. As one would expect the arrival of Mike’s master tape has spawned more releases, Listen To This Eddie Mike Millard Master Tapes (Empress Valley Supreme Disc EVSD-3276-1393-1398), Listen To This Eddie Mike Millard Master Tapes New Edition (No Label), and Graf Zeppelin have all thrown their hat into the ring. With all the previous releases and new releases to choose from, the best place to start to decipher what version fits your wants and budget, refer to the excellent Bootledz site, the best source to help with your decision. Wanting just a basic version without all the BS, I went with the Graf Zeppelin, I have the first version as it should be noted they have released and second volume, Listen To This Eddie-New Mastering (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-621NEWA/B/C), this review is strictly for the first edition.

My previous go to edition for the Eddie show has been Listen To This Eddie Master Series (Silver Rarities SIRA CD 161/162/163) and I do also have L.A. Forum 1977 The First (No Label) in my collection as well. First off the Silver Rarities still sounds incredible, strong and very powerful. This is a title before the second source surfaced used to fill the gap in Ten Years Gone. When I compare this new Graf Zeppelin to the Silver Rarities I find the differences in sound to be very minimal, this new transfer is just a tiny bit clearer and has a more open and airy feel to it. I was not shocked by this as many others have commented that the differences are slight and certainly not the huge upgrade one would assume. It is also a testament to the quality of the gear and tapes Millard used. The No Label L.A. Forum 1977 The First also sounds excellent, this title has been amplified just a bit more than the SIRA and Graf and has a bit crisper sound to it most notable in the upper frequencies. The No Label title has been filled with the mysterious second source where the Graf Zeppelin fills in the few scattered cuts with the very good third source often referred to as Listen To This Erik. The only thing that annoyed me about this version, and it comes from listening to it via wav files in a USB in my car, is the overlapping of the recording from the end of a disc to the next, case in point after No Quarter there is about 2 minutes of tape that is repeated at the beginning of the next disc, this is also there after Kashmir then into the third disc. There is plenty of room to cut and fade after the song and beginning the next disc with the chatting, this is done by quite a few labels.

I do feel that this new Graf is superior to these two titles, it is a more complete version since the cuts have been filled with the better third source. The patches are seamless and smooth and Graf’s mastering is always excellent, honor the source material without ruining it with needless mastering. This is what will bring me to continue to pull out this version of this concert, the excellent sound and completeness of the concert using the better alternate source. If you have not guessed, I do not have a shelf full of Eddie titles and don’t want fifty versions of the same old, I want a great sounding copy and this is what I have with the Graf Zeppelin version.

There is nothing that needs to be said that has not been said many times before, this is an excellent performance, Bonzo is out of the world for the whole concert, Jimmy is also in great shape turning in one of the most spirited performances of the tour to date. The six night run at the Forum are all excellent concerts and should be required listening, Millard’s recordings of four of the six are preferred. Robert is very charming and his Plantation’s are heartfelt and endearing, the band had a lot of friends at these shows and like the 1975 California shows, the band are happy to be back in Southern California. It would be easy to say this is The Best version of No Quarter, for 1977 it is up there but that just leads to a focus on the one song, the whole performance should be the focus. Even White Summer / Black Mountain Side is great, Kashmir is screw up free, the acoustic section is intimate, the opening portion is dynamic and well played, even Bonzo’s drum solo is entertaining. The only thing that is a bit tedious is Jimmy’s electronic guitar solo, love the Bow portion but the beginning portion seems like you had to be there. Some guy calls out for Heartbreraker, and the band turn in a fat muscular version of it, Robert’s comment after Rock And Roll sums it up, “It’s like a good woman”.

Graf Zeppelin’s packaging is great and pays homage to the “Eddie” history. The front cover is taken from the original Rock Solid Records vinyl cover, the interior tray in the front features Jim R’s ticket stub and a couple of his pictures as well as a concert poster. The rear tray features the original Silver Rarities three individual covers and there is an insert of the front of the 1977 tour program. The CDs have the same picture on them and there is the numbered sticker as well.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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One comment

  1. Great read! Nice work once again, relayer67.

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