It’s December, 1968. You’re a teenaged kid in Spokane, Washington, keen to see Vanilla Fudge—or “The Vanilla Fudge,” as the promoter calls them—at Gonzaga University’s Kennedy Pavilion, and… what’s this? The opening act is “Len Zefflin?” Who the hell is that?
Maybe you’re hip, like Bob Gallagher, who knew Jimmy Page from the Yardbirds and looked forward to catching his new band. Maybe not. Maybe, like Kerry Whitsitt, you’re hoping “the first band wouldn’t stay on stage too long.” You know how it is… opening bands….
But then Page, Plant, Bonham, and Jones take the stage, and like Jeff “Tor” Nadeau, you look around to find the house “universally mind-blown” by “the most stunning and awesome sound ever.” And like Kerry, you don’t “want them to leave the stage—ever!”
These then-teenage fans’ reminisces of this historic show, only the fifth of Led Zeppelin’s first U.S. tour, come courtesy of the Zeppelin website's description of the mistakenly billed “Len Zefflin”’s earliest recorded concert, which you can hear in its entirety above, thanks to an enterprising young student who brought his tape recorder.
The band’s first album---Led Zeppelin---wouldn’t hit stores for another three weeks. The kids haven’t heard anything like this before: Bonham’s explosive fills, Plant’s high-pitched harmonizing to “Page’s pipe-wrench riffs.” By the time Zeppelin left the stage, Bob Gallagher and his buddies were “flabbergasted.” And “when Vanilla Fudge came on, they were so sleepy. It was like, after that, psychedelia was dead and heavy metal was born, all in a three-hour show.” Poor Vanilla Fudge.
The raw, two-track tape recording of that frigid winter show has circulated for thirty years in various bootleg forms, but it’s new to Youtube, new to me, and maybe new to you too. Listen to it and see if you can’t conjure some of those lucky audience-members’ awe in that moment of discovery, when heavy metal was born from the blues. The full tracklist of the show is below. For the full experience, see the Youtube page to read a transcription of Robert Plant's between-song stage patter.
01 - Train Kept A Rollin' [0:00]
02 - I Can't Quit You [2:32]
03 - As Long As I Have You (incl Fresh Garbage / Shake / Hush) [9:15]
04 - Dazed And Confused [17:52]
05 - White Summer [27:43]
06 - How Many More Times (incl The Hunter) [34:31]
07 - Pat's Delight [50:07]