The Wanton Song
Chicago Stadium, Chicago, IL – January 20th, 1975
Disc 1 (52:19): Rock And Roll, Sick Again, Over The Hills And Far Away, When The Levee Breaks, The Song Remains The Same, The Rain Song, Kashmir, The Wanton Song
Disc 2 (63:38): No Quarter, Trampled Underfoot, Moby Dick, In My Time Of Dying, Stairway To Heaven, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog, Communication Breakdown
What was supposed to be Led Zeppelin’s biggest tour yet, and their comeback after being dormant for a year and a half, started with some sluggish performances in Chicago. The tapes for the January 20th, 1975 show at the Chicago Stadium are the earliest documents from the tour (the opening night in Minneapolis wasn’t taped), and has been a popular show for Zeppelin collectors.
Releases going back to the old vinyl have been very confusing about the proper sequence and exactly which songs were performed that night. Many of the older titles had “In My Time Of Dying” earlier in the show than it really was played and edited in “How Many More Times” from the January 21st show.
Because of the edits, it was difficult to determine the actual set list until a second tape source finally surfaced. A clear and unedited recording, just a notch below the first tape, confirmed that “In My Time Of Dying” was played at the very end of the show and the band didn’t play “How Many More Times.”
Of the last couple of pressings, Sweet Home Chicago (Wendy wecd-38/39/40) and Cryin’ Won’t Help You (Empress Valley EVSD-501/502) followed the old vinyls and mixed in “How Many More Times” from the following night and moved “In My Time Of Dying Around.”
Only Finger Flu: 1975 Chicago Tapes Vol. 2 (TCOLZ 027/028), which utilized the second tape source only, provided the true sequence of the show on silver disc. The Wanton Song on Scorpio is the latest, and perhaps definitive, silver edtion of the show. Scorpio uses the older and better sounding tape as a base and uses the second tape source to fill in the gaps such as the first two minutes of “Rock And Roll,” a bit of dialog after “The Rain Song,” before “No Quarter,” and other places. It preserves the true running order of the show and does not use “How Many More Times” from the following night.
A review in the Chicago Tribune states: “Lead singer Robert Plant, for instance, is just as susceptible as the rest of us to such mundane things as flu, which is what he repeatedly complained of last night. ‘Keep your fingers crossed,’ he asked the audience before starting out on Stairway to Heaven, a Led Zep staple and one of their most impressive numbers.
“Despite the difficulties and Plant’s obvious dissatisfaction with his voice, the show could be termed a success – a blend of Led Zep’s strong, pounding sound, with drummer John Bonham knocking out the rhythm, interspersed with slightly softer, sweeter guitar work by Page and John Paul Jones on mellotron….All in all, it was a good enough evening for music, if not for Plant’s health. If he can get rid of the flu for succeeding shows, none of the apologies he kept making will be necessary. Even with Plant not up to par, Led Zeppelin still manages to make most of their competitors look sick.”
The beginning of the show is painful to hear since Plant can’t hit the high notes in “Rock And Roll.” After the new song “Sick Again” he gives a long apology for his health, saying, “I got to tell ya, it’s more than a pleasure to be back. I’ve got a touch of the flu. What have you done to the weather here? It’s cold, yeah?” It makes one wonder what kind of weather he was expecting in Chicago in the middle of January. They play ”Over The Hills And Far Away” but Page really struggles with the solo.
“When The Levee Breaks” is introduced as “another old one.” It was played at the two European gigs and, one assumes, in Minneapolis. This would turn out to be the final live performance before it would be dropped. It would never be attempted live again which is a good idea. It’s an impressive track because of the recording techniques involved, not for any compelling melody or interesting musical ideas. In the live setting it meanders on and sounds like a sloppy piece of molten sludge. It is nice to have a good recording of their attempt, however.
“Well not only do we put up with the predicaments, my inability to cope with the environment, but Jimmy has managed to break one of his fingers. Can you believe that? The first time we tour America for eighteen months, and he’s made a good job of his finger. Anyway, we soldier on. It must be for our sins. This is a track called ‘The Song Remains the Same.’”
Both “The Song Remain The Same” and and “The Rain Song” work much better, sounding much more rehearsed and confident.
“Kashmir,” even though it is new, also sounds tight and their enthusiasm is apparent. “The Wanton Song” is another new track from a long awaited album” and would last longer in the set than “When The Levee Breaks,” but would disappear by next week never to surface again. It is a good live number although it would be hard to tell where they could have expanded it in future performance. The Chicago audience are extremely quiet and Plant asks sarcastically, “is there anybody there?”
“No Quarter,” like the other Houses Of The Holy tracks, also works well in this show with Jones carrying the solo. “Trampled Underfoot” is “a song for a guy who works in a gas station.” With Jones again taking the lead the song sounds strong in comparison to others in the show and the audience wake up with a loud cheer by the end.
With no epic yet in the set (“How Many More Times” would be introduced the following night) “In My Time Of Dying” serves as the lead up to the finale “Stairway To Heaven.” Before playing the last song Plant asks the audience to “keep the fingers crossed” and repeats it in the opening instrumental.
Before playing the encores Plant calls the gig a “good warm up” and says, “I’m gonna need a little bit of help from you if I’m gonna get rid of the flu for tomorrow.” A short “Whole Lotta Love” intro is played before “Black Dog” and a fast, two and a half minute version of “Communication Breakdown” closes the show.
This is a show that every Zeppelin collector has to have for the historic interest and rarities. Past versions (except for TCOLZ) have presented an inaccurate portrayal of the events of the night. The Wanton Song, by utilizing the best sounding sources, offers the definitive version of the show. It’s packaged in a double slimline jewel case and uses impressive and dramatic photographs from the actual gig.