At some point during the mid-1980s, either 1984 or 1985, we discovered the antique store in Clovis that sold bootleg records.
I don’t remember how or why, exactly, but it could have been an outgrowth of the thrift store shopping downtown that was done on a regular basis, especially since Clovis was way closer to CSUF. In any event, it was probably mostly the college student need to discover old things that were new to us. And so, for a while, there were regular visits to this antique store on Pollasky St, especially after we discovered a whole bunch of buttons for something called the “Superman-Tim Club.”
Sadly, the potentially copyright-infringing story of the Superman-Tim Club in both the 1980s incarnation and its post-internet rebirth as a mailing list, fantasy baseball league, blog and Facebook group isn’t really germane to today’s post.
What is germane is that this antique store also had used records. I bought the first Moby Grape album there, as well as a couple of John Coltrane albums. But the best thing I bought was a Led Zeppelin live bootleg from 1971. Of course, in the mid-1980s, buying bootlegs was still a thing that was fraught with danger, so I’m guessing that the reason I bought this one is that the packaging somewhere said “radio broadcast.”
At that time, the only live Zeppelin I’d been exposed to was, of course, the original nine-song incarnation of The Song Remains The Same, made at the exact moment when they were the biggest band in the universe. So it was utterly fascinating to hear a document of the time when they were only working up to being the biggest band in the universe. So early, in fact that songs like “Black Dog” and “Stairway to Heaven” hadn’t even been released. To the point where there was zero audience reaction when Jimmy Page started the notes to “Stairway to Heaven.”
Sure, it was only two years before, but things moved fast in early-1970s Zepworld.
In any event, this particular bootleg opened up with an absolutely blistering version of “Immigrant Song,” the viking-warrior themed track that opened Led Zeppelin III, and while Robert Plant couldn’t quite hit the siren wail notes he hits on the studio recording, it wasn’t for want of trying.
Nor did it matter, as Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones completely exceeded the energy of the studio version, evoking the band of marauders that the song celebrates, especially Jones’ roiling, swirling bassline leading up to the chorus, which sounded like the seamonsters that no doubt plagued this particular band of Vikings.
But what really hooked me about this version of “Immigrant Song” was the one thing I’d always thought the original album was missing: a long, killer guitar solo from Jimmy Page. So rather than just end the song where you would expect, Page takes flight. It was thrilling and unexpected: obviously I knew that bands — including Led Zeppelin — would rearrange their songs live: I mean, I owned several Who bootlegs.
I mean, it could have just been that, in the mid-1980s, I was jonesing for new Led Zeppelin music — which, yeah, I was without even realizing it — but it was also an indication to me that there was so much more of their live music out there than The Song Remains The Same, though it would be over a decade before we’d get any of it, on the original BBC Sessions release.
“Immigrant Song (Paris Theatre 4/1/1971)”
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