In January 2018, it was announced that Led Zeppelin’s posthumous live release ‘How The West Was Won’ was to be given a reissue to coincide with the band’s 50th anniversary. Recorded at two US shows in 1972 and then spliced together to give the feeling of experiencing a complete show, it has rarely been cited as a fan favourite. Nevertheless, that’s not stopped it being re-issued on CD and also given a blu-ray and (prohibitively expensive) vinyl release for the first time.
Jimmy Page has hinted that this is just the first of various releases scheduled to mark the Zep half-century, but so far other than suggesting there are “surprises” a very cryptic mention of something we “haven’t heard” he has been reluctant to share any real details. At Real Gone, we’re still wondering whether that’s a genuine “haven’t heard” or merely an official release for something that’s been doing the rounds unofficially for a good while. We’ve seen in the not too recent past that what he considers “amazing” and what fans consider such are two wildly differing concepts: he hinted that the bonus material on the deluxe ‘Zep IV’ reissue would be amazing, but it amounted to a handful of uninteresting demos, the like you’d only play once (…and, interestingly, after that release, the quote about it being “amazing” material completely disappeared from the ‘net, as if it were all just imagined).
We’re also assuming that these upcoming releases refers to the issuing of rare live material and it’s not all merely hype for a reissue of the US lilac vinyl of ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ or an expensive box containing all six variants of the sleeve for ‘In Through The Out Door’. With Page at the helm, though, it’s difficult to gauge how far the generosity will stretch, but if the previous Zep reissues are anything to go by, you can probably expect your wallet to be stretched further…
So, let’s assume that the anniversary will be marked by one or two live releases at the very least. What could that mean for the fans? Here’s our speculative run down of a few possibilities.
This was supposedly in the running for release when the tapes for ‘How The West Was Won’ were rediscovered. The US shows won out and this much more intimate gig recorded at Southampton University went back on the shelf. Sourced from a pristine soundboard, this is one of the best unreleased Zep shows in circulation, if not the best. Aside from a small wobble of sound levels during the opening number and the band occasionally sounding a little wobbly, the intimate setting makes it essential listening. It’s when revisiting classics from the first four albums the band sound at their best, but it’s great to hear couple of choice cuts from the yet to be released ‘Houses of the Holy’ (or Led Zep 5, as one review suggests the upcoming album will be called), even if the kinks haven’t been entirely ironed out.
Possibility of audio release: Very High
EARLS COURT 1975
We’ve already seen highlights of Zep’s now legendary five night run from Earls Court Arena on the Led Zeppelin double DVD anthology, but much to fans’ frustration, no full show has appeared either on DVD/blu ray or CD. With the shows running between three and a half and four hours apiece, to only have highlights released officially is a disappointment. Since Jimmy has given us bits and pieces, there’s more chance of seeing a full Earls Court set than most other shows, but we should probably expect such a release to be audio only and then be compiled from the best performances available as opposed to a whole gig as it was originally performed.
Possibility of standalone audio release: High
Possibility of standalone visual release: Low
Possibility of box set containing audio and visual elements but priced at over £100: Moderate
As with the Earls Court shows, Zeppelin’s two Knebworth shows were represented in part on the Zeppelin anthology DVD, but despite being circulated among fans and easily viewable on the internet, a full Knebworth show has yet to surface. While perhaps a little less in demand than the fabled Earls Court shows, Zeppelin at Knebworth deserves a fuller release for two reasons: it’s interesting to hear how the band had changed since Earls Court – both musically and visually, the new decade is very much a spit away and also, as Zep’s final UK appearances, they have a huge historical importance.
Possibility of audio release: High
Possibility of visual release: High
When the BBC showed this in early 1990, it was very exciting. For a lot of fans, the Madison Square Gardens performances from ‘The Song Remains The Same’ were the only available record of Zeppelin on film, so the opportunity to see a much leaner, bluesier band was very much a novelty. Filmed for Danish TV and unseen for approximately two decades, although short, it remains one of the most essential Zeppelin artefacts. The whole film was included on the anthology DVD, but a standalone audio release has never been issued. The fiftieth anniversary seems like the ideal time for such a release.
Possibility of audio release: Moderate
Possibility of audio release coupled with DVD/SD-blu-ray reissue: Moderate
Zep’s appearance at the Bath Festival in 1970 is one that’s been much mythologised/hyped by fans. The band were in great shape at this point, having retired to the country to write new material and the third album release was very much anticipated at this point. The set from Bath includes an early outing for the classic ‘That’s The Way’ and one of the most ferocious renditions of ‘Immigrant Song’ ever. This show was heavily bootlegged and audience tapes range from the unlistenable to muddy but okay for the time. It’s believed an excellent quality soundboard recording exists, but never reached the hands of the fans. If that came out, it would be amazing. It’s also rumoured that part of the show was filmed but the tapes were unusable…
Possibility of audio release: Slim
The US tour for the ‘Presence’ album visited over thirty cities. Various shows were captured on audience recordings. The band weren’t in the best shape by the time of this tour, but the Zeppelin juggernaut would not be stopped. Upon reaching Seattle, the show ran to three and a half hours and was professionally filmed. Despite this, nothing appeared on the anthology DVD. It mightn’t be Zep’s best show, but would be good – as well as important – to have a document of an extensive US tour that isn’t in official circulation. This performance features an interesting cross-section of material, including the then new ‘Achilles Last Stand’, Page’s showpiece ‘White Summer/Black Mountain Side’ and a sprawling thirty minute rendition of ‘No Quarter’.
Possibility of audio release: Slim
Possibility of visual release: None