'I told Pagey one or two people would be here, but he said he doubted that very much' Robert Plant, Knebworth August 4th 1979 ...

Thursday, 28 July 2016


"From her eyes a different smile, like that of one who knows"

The ultimate bump n grind, Led Zeppelin go groinal. The perfect example of on the road writing and recording. As they started to conquer the US with their 3rd tour, the pressure was on from Atlantic to come up with a second elpee. Although eventually to be months later, Jimmy began foraging for studio time to lay down the tracks they were writing and arranging from town to town.

On May 20th & 21st they went into A & R, New York and recorded Heartbreaker. The near forensic separate multi track takes featured on Studio Magik show a variety of guitar solo and vocal takes over the rock steady rhythm section. For the time it's a revolutionary arrangement of a mutated blues sludge. 

In fact it highlights the fact the solo section was recorded - confirmed by Jimmy in interview - in a different studio across New York (possibly Atlantic) and then pieced together. The different guitar tones and lower tuning confirm this...

 As Charles Shaar Murray once put it, Jimmy produced a 'sixty ton rabbit' from out of his magic hat and Led Zeppelin jumped on it. Treating the bass through a tremolo effect adds a deep, dark undercurrent to the already just over the edge distorted grind, and over the top Robert weaves his tale of groupie woe.

As a starting point, a bass line, Jimmy's solo is short and centred around sexual thrusts of supercharged blues figures, set up for onstage expansion, wow and flash. Live he would tease Feelin' Groovy, Bouree plus jazz and classical exercises and string out the one handed solo sketch before the sludge riff and Bonzo brought the hammer down and 20,000 kids would shake and boogie.

As the opener to side two of Led Zeppelin II it fits perfectly, getting back to business after the lighter end to the first side with Thank You. And after the abrupt end we get the genius no pause for breath launch into the Yardbirds' pop of Livin' Lovin' Maid, a sign of Jimmy's clarity of thought with track listing and running order. I mean, how else could or would you sort the tracks on Led Zeppelin II ?

Live, it first appeared during the October 1969 European shows and ran as an early part of the set until the summer of 1970, when from Iceland until How The West Was Won it linked as opener with Robert's tale of gore, Immigrant Song. It was always a great live track, and there are many top versions. My personal favourite from way back is still the Berkeley 14-9-71 'Going to California' bootleg which has Jimmy showing all of his tricks and teases. 

For the next few months it was an encore, throughout Japan and Europe, before becoming the ignition point for the final blast off of Whole Lotta Love, Bonzo setting a potent beat for Led Zeppelin to grind down head for the top of the mountain. 

After that it was, sadly, returned to encore position and played sparingly. One stunning version from the 1977 US Magick Tour, the last of the 4 versions we have on tape from that year, is at the legendary Listen To This Eddie' show from the Forum on June 21st. It's final outings were as the final wrung out encore at the first Knebworth festival and three of the Over Europe 1980 shows with the final performance an outstanding one in Zurich on June 29th. 

We have some footage, plus the audio only clips of the Royal Albert Hall version on 'DVD', which also features a fabulous montage of cine and pro clips from Sydney Showgrounds on Feb 27th with the How The West Was Won soundtrack dubbed on. There are small cine clips from Tokyo 23-9-71 and Berdu 22-6-72 and of course the film clips. Of the latter clips the clearest from '75 is the LA Forum cine film from March 24th and of course the pro shot last encore from the final Earls' Court show. 

1977 saw a few live versions, and there is footage from the final New York show on June 14th. After that we have the Knebworth final encore, where there are two filmed versions, including an distant edit that was shown on the screens at Madison Square Garden during the Atlantic 40th anniversary show on May 14th 1988 where it was later performed live. 

Post Zeppelin it appeared on both the Page & Plant tours, more often during the Walking Into Clarkesdale tour, and Jimmy also played it with the Black Crowes. But, for me, the 71-72 live Led Zeppelin versions are untouchable, a band at the top of their game strutting through one of their most potent recordings.

Once again, it was never a single but was released in Italy and on a Mexican EP and Polish flexi postcard. 

1 comment:

  1. My very first exposure to this group 1978ish. Heartbreaker picked me up slammed me against the wall and left me begging for more.... Been a die hard Led Zeppelin a disciple ever since. None better!!