“Music of Thunder”

led-zep-ticket
CHAPTER FIFTY-ONE

MUSIC OF THUNDER

It was the best concert I have ever been privileged to witness.

It is surely a matter of personal, subjective taste. Then too, they were really “on” that night and played for an uninterrupted three hours and forty-five minutes with precision and perfection.

I had been curious as to how closely they could duplicate their heavily produced studio sound. It was surpassed in every instance. I was concerned they might be a little “fatigued” from their long road tour and/or excessive consumption of various substances rumored to offer relaxing measures of succor and solace during their travels. I had worried for naught. I was anxious about seating arrangements. Atlantic Records had come through when it counted. Eileen and I were sitting in the center of the front-row.

It was at exactly 8 p.m. on Friday, January 31st of 1975, that the lights at Olympic Stadium in Detroit dimmed and four tall figures strolled confidently onto the stage.

Launched with a thunderous explosion of sound, the mighty Zeppelin took flight.

Led Zeppelin had been formed nearly seven years earlier in July of 1968 by guitarist Jimmy Page, who had just left The Yardbirds. Page added singer Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham from the little known British group “Band of Joy” and completed his assembly with a leading British session musician named John Paul Jones as bassist and keyboard player. Led Zeppelin had quickly stormed into the forefront of “Heavy Rock” with the release of their first album.

The band’s name had been suggested by Flint car-sinking expert Keith Moon of the WHO. As was true of WHO, Led Zeppelin had always been essentially a musical trio with Robert Plant limited primarily to vocal contribution. That the sound had always been as “big” as it was with only three basic players had been an awesome realization.

I had always believed there were a number of consciousness levels accessible through and evident within Led Zeppelin music. Zeppelin’s primary definition and function as a “Rock ‘n Roll Band” was beyond dispute. They offered an enormously evident primal beat which powerfully throbbed throughout their more high volume efforts with unfailing presence and distinction. They were incredibly tight as a unit and could sweep through dimensions of intensity with singular thrust and total command. Their highly accomplished use of acoustical instrumentation offered yet greater focus, depth and unique musical originality. Even on the surface, it was obvious how the group generated mass audience appeal.

Deeper yet, I found them supremely spiritual. WHAT? Yes, SPIRITUAL!

Through Led Zeppelin, I sensed a timeless magic finding expression and release.

In the ancient blood of some flow the genes and genius of masters, teachers, physicians and priests from a time when Druids walked the land and even long before. Celtic mysticism enveloped the night. With both conscious and subconscious awareness, masterful words unveiled an absolute reality, both universal and beyond. Lyrical poetry and sweeping imagery spoke of many parallel worlds, all joined. With soaring sexuality, flesh and spirit became as one in an exuberant celebration of timeless existence and spaceless exaltation. In Led Zeppelin, rock music offered eloquent articulation of the unknown as unrecalled, expressing passionate human desire in both physical and metaphysical terms.

I remain amazed that this singularly unique transcendence has never been fully appreciated nor extensively explored.

Even before the Celts had come the Tuatha De Denann. People of the Goddess. Children of the Light. To Olympia came Led Zeppelin. Ceol Toirni. Music of Thunder.

From “Rock ‘n Roll” (been a long time since I did “The Stroll”) through a final encore with “How Many More Times?”, Zeppelin never stopped. As a psychogenic aside, I watched the entire performance completely straight. We had charged down to Detroit from Flint with little time to spare. My stash had been inadvertently left behind in the rush. It was just as well. I would have mind-melded into the amp circuits.

In addition to all of their most familiar material, the group introduced large segments of a soon-to-be-released double-album. It was thus I first heard much of “Physical Graffiti” with virginal ears.

That night in Detroit I was ruined for life. The measure of excellence established on stage by Led Zeppelin was so far superior to anything I had ever heard before, it automatically became a new standard with which all to come would be subjectively compared. As of 2009, “The Song Remains The Same.”

In March of ’75, I visited Delta College again with “Styx”. “Lady” had established them as a rising national act. We filled six thousand seats.

On Easter Sunday, we presented a rare Sherwood Forest concert with Bob Seger. Bob’s new “Live Silver Bullet” album, recorded at Cobo Hall in Detroit, was about to be released and would finally break him all the way nationally, putting him up there with Alice. Although most of the material represented old Michigan hits, it was all brand new to the rest of the world. After more than ten years of public performance, he was about to become an overnight success. It was Bob’s last appearance at Sherwood and one of mine as well.

The following Wednesday night, a Lansing promoter and I ran “Wedsel’s Edsels”, one of the first “‘Fifties” bands to catch on in Michigan, at the National Guard Armory in Owosso as an “Easter Vacation Special”. A freak Spring Storm dumped twenty-one inches of snow on the ground in four hours. We called-off the concert at 10:30 and headed back toward Flint, only twenty miles to the east. I barely arrived in time for my morning show on WTAC.

WTAC’s Flint ratings remained stable, although WHNN-FM in Bay City was now tearing up the Tri-Cities with their own FM Rock format and impacting heavily on our listenership to the north. Shit. Goddamn Armstrong.

In September, I brought Bob Seger to Delta College. He drew an excellent , “sold-out” eight thousand in attendance. It would be our last time working together. He was heading for the stratosphere and would shortly be commanding one hundred thousand dollar nightly guarantees. No one had ever deserved it more.

Ann Arbor booking agent Ray Schleide had invited me down for a concert at Michigan University’s Hill Auditorium and I took him up on his offer. A new artist had just been released on the Columbia label and word was out that something special was happening. I agreed, after seeing Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street Band.

On the first of October, new owners bought WWCK-FM from Johnny Nogaj, along with WCZN-AM. They were from the Toledo area and owned WIOT-FM, which had started making major waves in that market. They intended to take Flint by storm.

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