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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Delet­ed Scene from Almost Famous: Mom, “Stair­way to Heav­en” is Based on the Lit­er­a­ture of Tolkien

‘Stair­way to Heav­en’: Watch a Mov­ing Trib­ute to Led Zep­pelin at The Kennedy Cen­ter

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

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

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