William S. Burroughs Reviews a Led Zeppelin Concert for Crawdaddy! Magazine (1975)


Crawdaddy! It was the first US magazine of rock music criticism, preceding both Rolling Stone and Creem. Paul Williams, then a student at Swarthmore College, first launched the magazine in 1966. And by the 1970s, Crawdaddy! hit its stride, publishing exclusive contributions by John Lennon, Joseph Heller, and Studs Terkel, to name a few. On one occasion, the self-described “first magazine to take rock and roll seriously” sent William S. Burroughs, the great beat writer, to a Led Zeppelin concert. He came back in June 1975 with a rather offbeat concert review. There’s a strange innocence, even naivete, to the whole piece (though we know better than to confuse Burroughs himself with innocence). We give you an excerpt right below, and the rest here.

So there we sat, I decline earplugs; I am used to loud drum and horn music from Morocco, and it always has, if skillfully performed, an exhilarating and energizing effect on me. As the performance got underway I experienced this musical exhilaration, which was all the more pleasant for being easily controlled, and I knew then that nothing bad was going to happen. This was a safe and friendly area–but at the same time highly charged. There was a palpable interchange of energy between the performers and the audience which was never frantic or jagged. The special effects were handled well and not overdone.

A few special effects are much better than too many. I can see the laser beams cutting dry ice smoke, which drew an appreciative cheer from the audience. Jimmy Page’s number with the broken guitar strings came across with a real impact, as did John Bonham’s drum solo and the lyrics delivered with unfailing vitality by Robert Plant. The performers were doing their best, and it was very good. The last number, “Stairway to Heaven”, where the audience lit matches and there was a scattering of sparklers here and there, found the audience well-behaved and joyous, creating the atmosphere of a high school Christmas play. All in all a good show; neither low nor insipid. Leaving the concert hall was like getting off a jet plane.

The Burroughs piece continues here.

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