Live At The Lyceum In London (Graf Zeppelin LZSC-1012)
Lyceum Theatre, London, UK – October 12, 1969
(59:48) Introduction, Good Times Bad Times / Communication Breakdown, I Can’t Quit You, Heartbreaker, You Shook Me, What Is And What Should Never Be, Dazed And Confused, How Many More Times
Led Zeppelin spent September 1969 putting the finishing touches on their second record and by October were making preparations for their next touring schedule. A short tour featuring three dates in Holland, one in Paris, and one at the Lyceum Ballroom in London would be a prelude to the fourth American tour and the release of Led Zeppelin II on October 22nd of 1969. It has been documented that one of Zeppelin’s performances in Holland was filmed but nothing is known to exist, thankfully both the Paris and London shows were recorded and thankfully circulate.
There is only one known recording from the Lyceum concert and it has circulated for years dating back to the vinyl era with Live At The Lyceum In London (Grant Musik LZ LLL 1-4), and London Live (Right Records 503A-D). Releases on CD have been a bit more plentiful, Ballroom Blitz (World Productions WPOCM 0989 D034-2), Papa Satan (Wild Bird WBRCD 9013), Lyceum Preview (Immigrant IM-009), UK10-12-69 (Totonka ZLLB76), Lyceum (Cobra Standard 016), Triumphant UK Return (Empress Valley EVSD-229), and Good Times Bad Times (Scorpio LZ-08015-1/2). This new title by Graf Zeppelin of the Lyceum tape is the first release of this recording in twelve years and for me, would certainly do as an upgrade where the only title I have of this concert is the Totonka release.
The recording is an audience source and easily falls into the very good category, if you have one of the older 90’s releases of this concert you are certainly wondering if I am partially deaf or something. No this new title is a massive upgrade to the Totonka and from other comments I have read online is easily as good as the Cobra version. The source of this is reportedly a DAT clone of the master, while nothing is verified it is certainly from a low generation tape and a very nice transfer job. The sound is clear and dynamic, the vocals and guitar are very clear in the mix with the bass being a bit less and at times the drums are muddied in the mix. There is distortion as expected and the volume of the band overwhelms the recorder during powerful moments. It does have a nice warm analog sound and just a bit of tape hiss, Graf’s mastering of this title is up to their typical superb standards and is a joy to listen to.
When I first received this new title I was blown away by the performance and wondered why I didn’t listen to this concert more, once I compared it to the Totonka title I knew why. A complaint of some of the older titles were various tape cuts, Graf Zeppelin features the complete introduction of the band as well as the audience member who says “Good Times, Bad Times” during the songs count in. The taper also paused between several songs, there is a small cut in You Shook Me and How Many More Times cuts about 15 minutes in.
The Lyceum performance was originally supposed to feature the entire Led Zeppelin II previewed but the band were having none of that and would play a set similar to the American summer dates plus the inclusion of two new songs from LZ II. They also added a very dynamic introduction to the opening song Communication Breakdown by added a few bars of Good Times, Bad Times making a very dynamic start to the concert. Communication Breakdown flows into a wonderful I Can’t Quit You and it’s easy to hear the confidence in the band’s playing, it is just effortless and all four are in complete sync with each other.
Plant gives an introduction to Heartbreaker, “I don’t know what to say. It was a long drive down from Birmingham. Ah, we’d like to continue with something ah, off the new, the Led Zeppelin II thing, that’s been running into a lot of difficulties just lately. Nevertheless, it should be out in a couple of, a couple um, well I don’t know what to say. This is a number from it anyway. It’s called Heartbreaker.” Like we know from the Paris recording two days prior, Heartbreaker was a monster in its earliest live versions. Jimmy’s solo is really good and just a bit tentative. The recording is clear and you can really hear the intricate playing of John Paul and how he and Bonzo were locked in together, they were really swinging.
As I listen to this extremely powerful yet relaxed version of You Shook Me, I have, over the years, developed a huge appreciation for these early blues numbers and how they took a raw and simple foundation and built a mansion on it, I use the word dynamic a lot in this review because it’s the best word to describe the music, it almost sounds like Robert and Jimmy were going to do a call and response until Page obliterates him with an incredibly fast and devastating flourish of leads, a real showstopper. “This is a thing from ah, the second album, that we fiddled about with in a bar in Vancouver. If you’ve ever been to Vancouver, it’s something like um, let’s see, ah if you ever get lucky, don’t go to Vancouver. This is a, I can’t tell you about without a tent whistle. Anyway, this is a thing that John Peel said people were having a lot of trouble getting into, and Liverpool wound up beating the wolves, and this is called, But What is and What Should Never Be” is Robert’s introduction to the first known live recording of What Is And What Should Never Be. Certainly it was played during the previous European dates but nothing has surfaced. Like Heartbreaker, the band sticks to a version similar to the album version that was just days away from release.
A typically great Dazed And Confused follows, I do find its placement curious though, when you look at setlists directly around this concert, Dazed And Confused is earlier in the set following Heartbreaker. There are cuts between all of these songs and most certainly it is out of sequence here. Dazed And Confused in late 69 is transitional, you can here the improvisations as it happens, Page trying new things, thanks to the rhythm section of Jones and Bonham, is easy to do. By the time the band break into How Many More Times the audience cannot hold back any longer and enthusiastically clap along with the band. The song features a great member introduction by Robert, On bass guitar and Hammond organ, John Paul Jones…John Paul Jones…John Paul…King John Paul Jones… Our percussionist, John Bonham… John Bonham on drums… Lead guitar, Jimmy Page, and myself Robert Plant”. The beginning of the song is a tad muffled compared to the rest and by the time Page stops to tune his guitar about two and a half minutes in, clears back up. The medley is typical for this time frame, a tip of the hat to the Yardbirds with a variation of the Over Under Sideways Down riff, The Hunter, and Boogie Chillun’ as well as several other obscure references between these main songs. Incredible how respectful the audience is, there is a part between The Hunter and Boogie Chillun’ where it’s so quiet you could literally hear a pin drop. There are a couple of tape stretches before the song cuts at the 15:10 mark.
The packaging is typical for Graf Zeppelin, they use the old Grant Musik vinyl title Live At The Lyceum In London cover art and some posed shots from the studio on the rear and interior, of course a numbered sticker and picture discs as well. For me a huge upgrade and a chance to really delve into this performance, another in the long list of incredibly Primal 1969 live Led Zeppelin concerts.