Led Zeppelin North American Tour 1968–1969
|North America 1968/1969|
Poster for Led Zeppelin's concerts at the Fillmore West , used to help promote its 1968/1969 tour of North America
|Concert tour by Led Zeppelin|
|Associated album||Led Zeppelin|
|Start date||26 December 1968|
|End date||15 February 1969|
|Led Zeppelin concert chronology|
The genesis of this tour was the cancellation of a concert tour by the Jeff Beck Group, which happened to be managed out of the same office occupied by Led Zeppelin's manager Peter Grant. Grant contacted the promoters and convinced them to take on Led Zeppelin instead.
To help publicise the band in America before the tour, Grant sent white label advance copies of the band's debut album to key FM radio stations. The album itself was issued on 17 January, mid-way though the tour. According to tour manager Richard Cole, the tour was underwritten by Grant, guitarist Jimmy Page, and bass player John Paul Jones, while singer Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham were paid a salary.
For this stint of concerts, Led Zeppelin initially played as the support act for bands such as Vanilla Fudge and Iron Butterfly (both of which were also contracted to Atlantic Records) and Country Joe & the Fish. However, as the tour progressed, it became apparent that Led Zeppelin was easily outshining the headline acts. As guitarist Jimmy Page explained:
[B]y the time we reached San Francisco, the other groups on the bill just weren't turning up. Country Joe & the Fish backed out of playing with us on the West Coast and Iron Butterfly didn't turn up on the East.
In interviews, bass player John Paul Jones has expressed similar recollections:
To be honest, most of what Country Joe [and the Fish] was doing was just a band of friends going on stage. They would play, start a song and drift into another song, which sounded really great. And we would just go on and go "bang, bang, bang" with three driven songs with solos, and people must have thought, "What did we just see?" And there was nobody else doing that at that time. I'm sure it had a lot to do with the success. We got four numbers in by the time most bands had tuned up ... We were very tight and close as well. It was always kind of "us against the world" back then.
In one famous concert, Led Zeppelin's final of four nights performed at the Boston Tea Party, the band played for more than four hours with only one album worth of material. As Jones explained:
We played four nights at The Tea Party, and by then we had an hour and a half's music to play; we played four and a half hours on the last night - we played the act twice, and then did everybody else's act with Who, Rolling Stones and Beatles numbers. Peter hugged us at the end of the gig, picked all four of us up at once. We knew we were actually going to make it.
It was during this tour that Led Zeppelin's drummer, John Bonham, developed a close friendship with the drummer of Vanilla Fudge, Carmine Appice.  The average fee charged by Led Zeppelin for a concert during this tour was around $1,500. It has been stated that for one show they performed for a mere $320. Figures like these would soon be dwarfed by the six figure sums routinely demanded, and received, by Led Zeppelin on subsequent tours as their popularity skyrocketed. Peter Grant recalled that "The Yardbirds had been getting $2,500 a night but people like Bill Graham had faith in us and so did the kids who saw it." Grant, who was unable to attend the tour with the group, also stated:
I couldn't go with them, but it was a fantastic 12 date tour, and they said "Great, if that's what we've gotta do, we'll go and do it" ... Three of the group had never been to America before and didn't know what to expect. They did a week with the Vanilla Fudge. My instructions were for them to go over there and blast them out. Make each performance something everybody remembered. They really did that.
Tour set list
The fairly typical set list for the tour was:
- "Train Kept A-Rollin' " (Bradshaw, Kay, Mann)
- "I Can't Quit You Baby" (Dixon)
- "As Long As I Have You" (Mimms)
- "Dazed and Confused" (Page)
- "Communication Breakdown" (Bonham, John Paul Jones, Page)
- "You Shook Me" (Dixon, Lenoir)
- "White Summer"/"Black Mountain Side" (Page)
- "Pat's Delight" (Bonham)
- "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" (Bredon, Page, Plant)
- "How Many More Times" (Bonham, Jones, Page)
- "Killing Floor" (Burnett)
- "For Your Love" (Gouldman)
There were some set list substitutions, variations, and order switches during the tour.
- Liner notes by Cameron Crowe for The Complete Studio Recordings
- A to Zeppelin: The Story of Led Zeppelin, Passport Video, 2004.
- Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (1997) Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-5307-4, p. 15.
- "Their Time is Gonna Come", Classic Rock Magazine: Classic Rock Presents Led Zeppelin, 2008, p. 17.
- Nick Kent, "Bring It On Home", Q Magazine, Special Led Zeppelin edition, 2003
- Dominick A. Miserandino, Led Zeppelin - John Paul Jones, TheCelebrityCafe.com.
- Mat Snow, “Apocalypse Then”, Q magazine, December 1990, pp. 77, 79.
- Chris Welch (1994) Led Zeppelin, London: Orion Books. ISBN 1-85797-930-3, p. 34.
- Comprehensive archive of known concert appearances by Led Zeppelin (official website)
- Led Zeppelin concert setlists
- Lewis, Dave and Pallett, Simon (1997) Led Zeppelin: The Concert File, London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-5307-4.