Friday, June 21, 2024

Led Zeppelin – Five Glorious Nights at Earls Court

                                             (Author: Dave Lewis. Released via Rufus Publications)

On May 17th to May 25th 1975, over a period of seven days, Led Zeppelin performed a series of five shows at London’s massive Earls Court Arena, a venue which held 17,000 fans. Three shows had initially been announced in March, which sold out immediately, and so two more were added the following weekend, which also sold out. In fact, such was the demand for tickets, it was said at least three more nights could have been added. As these were Zep’s first UK gigs for two years, fans travelled from all corners of the UK and beyond to attend these gigs .. including this reviewer, who caught the second show, Sunday May 18th. A run of shows like these were par for the course at venues like Maddison Square Gardens and the LA Forum, Zep’s spiritual home, but London at the time had never witnessed anything like this.

Five Glorious Nights is a reissue, as when previously published the original issue sold out very quickly, making it one of Rufus publications’ best ever sellers. The new expanded book features pictures from top rock photographers like Adrian Boot and Jill Furmanovsky, all of whom captured Led Zep in all their pomp and splendour, which in 1975 was formidable. As these five shows have gone down in rock folklore as an ‘event’ rather than just a gig, the objective with the book was not just to offer the standard run-of-the-mill pictures of Zep performing ‘live,’ rather it was to select images of the band taken from slightly more unusual angles rather than the usual full frontal images – for example, Page’s violin bow solo on Dazed and Confused is shown from a variety of different angles. With the numbers of pictures taken, these were the most photographed run of gigs Led Zep ever performed.

But Five Glorious Nights is more than just a book, however. It’s an attempt to capture and portray a moment in time, the vibe when something unique was happening, which was rock capturing the high ground with an historic run of gigs at a prestige venue, something no other band in the UK had ever done before. The context is significant because, in 1975, along with The Stones and Pink Floyd, Led Zep were one of the biggest bands in the world, if not the biggest. But, while other major bands had released singles and had hits, Zep had built their rep on a series of stunning, lengthy gigs, often running to over three hours, and a refusal to play the game. They didn’t release singles and rarely, if ever, talked to the press … for Earls Court, many music papers were not even issued with review tickets, with Melody Maker’s reviewer having to buy a ticket from a tout. This helped produce a mystique about the band which few bands were ever lucky enough to attract. Led Zep were nowhere near the mainstream, yet they attracted a fanbase few other bands could equal.

The author Dave Lewis will be familiar to Zep fans, as he’s the editor of the fan publication, Tight But Loose, and in this book, he’s offering an almost front row perspective of these shows with a dramatic array of some quite spectacular and unique images, with every conceivable angle being offered. Every night is featured separately, with comments and the full set list, and where possible, pictures taken on those nights being used.

The other significance of this book is the timing of these shows. In the mid-1970’s the feeling was growing that rock was becoming overlarge, with artists now seemingly having to be virtuoso’s to survive, and with venues getting bigger and gigs becoming more impersonal as the artists were often now some distance away. Led Zep’s Earls Courts gigs were held to be the high point of these arguments – performing in a massive arena, playing lengthy solos on keys, guitar and drums. Bonham’s drum solo during ‘Moby Dick’ could easily run to thirty minutes. They had a giant eidophor screen suspended above the stage as well as a huge lighting rig. It’s alleged these and shows at Earls Court by The Stones soon after, helped lay the foundations for punk. But, whether true or not, the images captured in this book show a band absolutely in and of their time, and the pictures from this run of gigs shows Led Zep at the absolute zenith of their powers. If anything these gigs were possibly Zep’s high water mark as, a couple of months later, Plant and his wife were seriously injured in a car crash, necessitating a lengthy lay-off, and, with rumours of heroin addiction plus black magic dabbling inside the band, nothing ever seemed to be the same for Led Zep again.

But, be warned. While the 250 mm hardback in a luxury printed slipcase is £69, the leather and metal edition (limited to only 150 copies) bound in recycled burgundy leather, will set you back £450, though it does come with a repro of the original 1975 poster for the show.

Pre-order your copy now at https://www.rufuspublications.com/rufusbooks/Led-Zeppelin

Laurence Todd
Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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