Long Beach Californication (Eelgrass 20232/33/34)
Civic Arena, Long Beach, CA – March 11th, 1975
Disc 1 (55:53): Introduction, Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, In My Time Of Dying, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir
Disc 2 (52:12): No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick
Disc 3 (54:43): Dazed And Confused, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog
Long Beach Californication is the Eelgrass production of the recently surfaced Led Zeppelin soundboard from the March 11th, 1975 Long Beach show. The introduction is taken from the excellent audience recording, but the soundboard starts right before “Rock And Roll.” The recording is extremely clear and powerful and one of the best sounding of the 75 soundboards.
It is certainly more enjoyable than the Nassau tape that surfaced last year. The tape does run 2% too fast, just enough to be noticeable and raises the question why Empress Valley didn’t correct it. Nevertheless Eelgrass is a great production and is much more affordable than the expensive editions.
Regarding the actual concert, a review of this show written by Robert Hilburn in the Los Angeles Times really slammed the performance when he writes: “Besides setting box office records on this tour, the English group also may be setting some type of record for the most cliches in a single concert: a manlight show, steam from dry ice covering the stage (three different times), the band’s name spelled out in lights, a laser beam (something an opening act at the Troubadour did last year), an explosion at the rear of the stage and, of course, the obligatory 20-minute drum solo.
“But Zeppelin’s material is so lacking in both commentary and emotional challenge that the music ends up as an empty exercise in sound. While there are some soft moments (indeed the gentle ‘Stairway To Heaven’ has become the band’s anthem), the thrust of the evening is on heavy, pulsating assaults. The lyrics are often woeful, the themes unaffecting.” (“Led Zeppelin, Cliches And All” March 13th, 1975).
Normally when Zeppelin were loose they produced legendary performances. This show has its highlights but is plagued by equipment problems and issues with the PA which seem to distract them onstage. The first hint of problems occurs in the second song where the transition, normally several crashing chords on guitar, is rendered very weak and ineffective. “We must apologize for the slight delay but we couldn’t get into the building. We hadn’t got any tickets. It’s a fact” Plant brags before and excellent version of “Over The Hills And Far Away.”
“If you intend to sit still, well forget it” Plant promises before a monstrous version of “In My Time Of Dying.” Things fall apart in the following song when Page’s twelve string goes out of tune basically ruining the song. “The Rain Song” is played on the six string neck and comes off much better, but afterwards Plant get defensive when he says, “for the benefit of anybody who was making a bootleg then, the twelve-string was out of tune on ‘Song Remains The Same.'”
After “Kashmir” Plant mentions Jones’ mellotron, calling it a “Pakistani orchestra, all in one pool player.” John Paul Jones’ showcase “No Quarter” follows. This is about two weeks into the new instrumentation, trading in the organ for the grand piano for the solo. The dark and somber intonations of the 1973 and early 1975 versions were gone as these tapes reveal Jones trying very hard to try all sort of different styles and motifs to find a new direction of the song. Some shows like the Seattle show five days later show that he was lost, but this version hold together well before Page comes in with the “No Quarter” solo.
Before “Trampled Underfoot” Plant is speaking about Robert Johnson but is interrupted by the road crew fixing the equipment. “The drumming and the hammering is by courtesy of Acme Quaalude company, Ltd. This is a guy building a chicken pen. Can you hear it?” “Moby Dick” is only twenty minutes long. Page and Bonham try to outdo one another in the opening fanfare and by the end Bonzo lets out a mighty shout.
“Dazed And Confused” clocks in at just under a half hour. Plant includes Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” before the violin bow solo and Page tries some new improvisations during the piece. After the song Plant leads the obligitory ovations for Jimmy Page. “That was a combination of key signatures that just will never occur again. Amidst the rushing and screaming of cowboys. ‘Hello cowboy in the sand’ (singing Neil Young’s song but changing cowgirl to cowboy) and now there comes again a song we really dig.”
After “Stairway To Heaven” the band play the normal encores for this tour. “Whole Lotta Love” is played for a minute before segueing into the theremin histrionics of Page followed by “The Crunge.” The song is Zeppelin’s uncomfortable take on James Brown funk, but is fun in a live context. The theremin cacophony mutates effortlessly into the riff to “Out On The Tiles” which leads into a heavy version of “Black Dog.”
Maybe it’s a problem with the PA but Jones’ bass sounds very loud throughout. “Ladies and gentlemen of Long Beach, goodnight. Sleep well. And half a Quaalude with water” are Plant’s parting words. Many collectors criticize this show and although it isn’t legendary there is a lot to enjoy on these discs. Eelgrass utilize a standard jewel case with thick glossy inserts.