Hear Led Zeppelin’s First Recorded Concert Ever (1968)

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]

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Led Zep­pelin Plays One of Its Ear­li­est Con­certs (Dan­ish TV, 1969)

Whole Lot­ta Led Zep­pelin: Live at the Roy­al Albert Hall and The Song Remains the Same–the Full Shows

Decon­struct­ing Led Zeppelin’s Clas­sic Song ‘Ram­ble On’ Track by Track: Gui­tars, Bass, Drums & Vocals

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness.

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Comments (11)
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  • Carlo says:

    This is the GREATEST band of ALL time!!!!! I was 15 when this event took place…

  • Teleny says:

    A lucky find indeed! I blenched at the sound quality…then kept it on while I ‘did some stuff’. By the third track, I was hooked and hun­gry for more. Such sen­su­al music! Such a con­flu­ence of influ­ences! Wow!

    And I used to think that Robert Plan­t’s voice was annoy­ing…

  • Jim says:

    My DAD was 18 when this took place and I think LZ is the GREATEST band of ALL time.

    To quote Kloster­man:

    “But Zep­pelin is far and away the most pop­u­lar rock band of all time, and they’re pop­u­lar in a way the Bea­t­les and Stones can­not pos­si­bly com­pete with; this is because every straight man born after the year 1958 has at least one tran­si­to­ry peri­od in his life when he believes Led Zep­pelin is the only good band that ever exist­ed. And there is no oth­er rock group that gen­er­ates that expe­ri­ence.”

  • mg says:

    I am enjoy­ing the tepid/­mind-blown applause almost as much as I am enjoy­ing LZ’s performance…We are lis­ten­ing to the birth of a musi­cal genre all its own…astonishing stuff

  • william says:

    The qual­i­ty is pret­ty great for a fan made reel to reel record­ing done over 40 years ago. It is unfor­tu­nate that there are no cir­cu­lat­ing record­ings of Led Zep­pelin’s first tour in Europe while they were billed as the New Yard­birds ear­li­er in 1968 but those record­ings may still come to light one day. Remem­ber John Lennon’s Quar­ry­men record­ing from the 1957 con­cert where he met Paul McCart­ney, sur­faced some years back and is now owned by Cap­i­tal Records. Same for a Doors con­cert record­ing from Feb­ru­ary 1966 which is still wait­ing to be released. All that said, Led Zep­pelin sounds has always been a great inter­pre­ta­tion of Black Amer­i­can ver­nac­u­lar; the Blues, Zyde­co and Jazz. When Amer­i­can teenagers were obliv­i­ous to Black music in the 1950s and ear­ly 1960s most British teens were informed and armed with work­ing class blues.

  • Brad says:

    This is far from Led Zep­pelin’s first show. It is how­ev­er, at least at this point, the ear­li­est show avail­able in record­ed for­mat. Their first show was in Copen­hagen Den­mark on 9/7/1968.

  • Stitched says:

    OMG. Some­one clean up this audio. It’s all over the place. Blown out vs. crys­tal clear (with the vol­ume turned low).

  • Vinnie Scuzzarella says:

    I saw them Oct 1969 Boston Garden.I was 17, and to this day, after lost count of how many con­certs, that show left an indeli­ble impres­sion of sheer ecsta­sy, raw rock­ing bluesy chills, nev­er for­get it.

  • terri says:

    this is freakin awe­some! great to hear it!! i real­ize the sound qual­i­ty sux but that is all we had back in the day. and it real­ly does­nt both­er me :) <3

  • Ronald l basinger says:

    Thank you for shar­ing this , I was born in 64 and I first heard a lep­plin album when I was 12, the neigh­bors lent me 3 albums at the time with my first lil record play­er I had some 45,s and my broth­er gave me my first album( help) of the 3 my neigh­bors lent me was zeps first album, once I played it , I fell in love with it , I talked my neigh­bors into let­ting me keep the zep album , I wore it out I played the Bea­t­les no more , been a zep fan ever since,

  • bz84 says:

    About 6 months after this show LZ was get­ting ready to release their 2nd record — they played the Mer­ri­weath­er Post Pavil­ion — (about mid-way between Bal­ti­more & Wash D.C.) — they were still open­ing for more estab­lished bands — (but not for much longer) — and on that warm, late May evening — they opened up for The Who (for the first & only time) — who were pro­mot­ing their new record “Tom­my” — LZ went over so well the crowd prac­ti­cal­ly would not let them leave the stage — and Pete Town­shend was report­ed­ly not very hap­py about it ..

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