Mystery Train (Tarantura TCD-87)
San Diego Sports Arena, San Diego, CA – June 19th, 1977
Disc 1 (66:17): Opening, The Song Remains The Same, Sick Again, Nobody’s Fault But Mine, In My Time Of Dying, Since I’ve Been Loving You, No Quarter
Disc 2 (51:26): mc, Ten Years Gone, The Battle Of Evermore, Going To California, Mystery Train, Black Country Woman, Bron-Yr-Aur Stomp, White Summer/Black Mountain Side, Kashmir
Disc 3 (43:24): guitar solo, Achilles Last Stand, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Rock And Roll
The first of nine California shows on Led Zeppelin’s eleventh and final tour of the US was in San Diego on June 19th, 1977. The site of some of the wildest shows on their previous two tours, this has been captured on an excellent sounding, three dimensional stereo audience recording which is the source of numerous silver titles. The earliest can be found on Mystery Train (Electric Junk LZ-1992-2), released in Italy in the early nineties. Subsequent releases include California Mystery Train (Blimp BL-002/3/4), Californian Mystery Train (Silver Rarities SIRA 72/73/74) (which runs slightly fast), Jimmy PY (Akashic AKA-10-1,2), and the two more recent releases Mystery Train (Badgeholders BH003-01-02-03) (which is a bit too loud) and San Diego Mystery Train(Wendy Records WECD-35/36/37) issued within a few weeks of one another in late 2004. The latest Tarantura uses the same tape source with excellent sound.
Zeppelin’s performance in San Diego ranks among the worst on this tour. Plant mentions in the show that Jones has a bad back, but Bonham apparently was suffering from food poisoning and constantly misses breaks and tempo. It is apparent right from the beginning in “The Song Remains The Same” and in the segue into “The Rover,” which is the early electrifying moment, just limps instead. Plant tries to ignore the issues in his greetings, saying, “first of all, I suppose we should try and apologize for not being here the last couple of years, but you know, you know how it went. And secondly it’s very nice to see they finally found you seats here. Isn’t it amazing when they can’t afford a few seats for people? Anyway, this is the earliest that we’ve ever got to a concert, so that means we’ll get to bed early tonight. I’m not going to do much spieling cause I heard the live album, so we’ll just play a lot of music instead.”
“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” again has it’s painful moments with Bonham losing track of the breaks. After “In My Time Of Dying,” which includes cries of “oh my Audrey,” Plant focuses his attention on Jones by saying, “now strangely enough we’ve reached a very awkward physically yet again and that is that John Paul Jones is, I don’t know if ever any of you men in the audience ever had any trouble with your backs, remember ‘Saturday night when you just got paid, full about the money you don’t try to save’ [quoting Little Richard’s ‘Rip It Up’] and you get trouble with you back. You understand? You know what I mean? It’s about time he had some sordid press cause he’s got a very bad back, and he’s only by the luck, by the grace of god, is he sitting at the keyboards today. So he’s been lying in bed all day with a hot water bottle under his back, and it’s about time that somebody noted it down in the press that John Paul Jones doesn’t just play backgammon.”
“Since I’ve Been Loving You” is a slight improvement over the first four songs, but the performance begins to really improve with “No Quarter.” With Jones and Page taking the lead, Bonham dutifully follows along and they deliver a very interesting improvisation in the middle of the piece which lasts about twenty minutes.
The acoustic set is when they noticeably loosen up a bit. It turns into one of the highlights of the show and was even singled out in the reviews in The San Diego Union the following day where Robert Laurence writes: “At its very best, the show captured what is best about rock ‘n’ roll, its power to stir the human juices and inspire feelings of joyous abandon. At other times, though, particularly during the several extended, pointless solos indulged in by Page, it dragged and sagged and its momentum came to a halt…Oddly, a high moment in the evening came during a quieter time when Plant and Page performed as a blues duo, seated side by side in the middle of the stage, Plant singing (for him) softly, Page strumming a right bluesy acoustic guitar. They opened the set with ‘Mystery Train’ as Plant pointedly imitating the classic Elvis Presley version of the song.” (“Led Zeppelin Puts Extra Roll In Its Rock”).
Before “The Battle Of Evermore” Plant is more interested in listing all of their aliments, speaking about “John Paul Jones’s back,” and saying “I hurt me foot in a soccer match yesterday,” and “Jimmy hurt his hand when a firecracker hit in New York,” and even “JJ Jackson hurt his head on the way.” “Battle” is one of the more interesting renditions on the tour with Plant hitting some of the high notes in the middle. “Going To California” sounds gorgeous and, as Laurence points out in his review, they play a bit of “Mystery Train” as a prelude to “Black Country Woman.” “White Summer” hangs together well and “Kashmir,” despite Bonham’s attempts, also comes off very well. Page and Jones truly take the lead in this song and resist the drummer’s attempt to steer the song into disaster.
“Moby Dick” is thankfully dropped and Page goes straight into his solo. He plays snippets of the Star Spangled Banner, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Dixie before the theremin and violin bow exercises. “Achilles Last Stand” is similar to “Kashmir,” that despite Bohnam’s mistakes comes off very strong and Bonham’s bashing at the end out of frustration adds a level of violence to the piece. Afterwards Plant refers to the song as “that’s a song that tells of a few months of our existence while on the run from the British government. All hail the Jolly Roger. Well San Diego, this song really doesn’t take too much explaining. I guess this is for the holy.”
“Stairway To Heaven” closes the show and the short encore of “Whole Lotta Love” and “Rock And Roll” close the event. Overall there are much better concerts from this tour to enjoy, but none more interesting than this which sees the band compensate for another with good results. Tarantura package this in a box with a small poster of the front cover with pretty looking picture discs. This works well for those who want a nice looking version of this common tape.