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Jorgen Angel

Rare photographs of Led Zeppelin’s first-ever gig

On September 7th, 1968, one of the most legendary bands in the history of music were set to take to the stage for the very first time. In the audience that night was a 17-year-old kid clutching his mother’s camera. He had attended the Gladsaxe Teen Club in Copenhagen that evening expecting to see the Yardbirds jam but instead was greeted with a sign heralding ‘The New Yardbirds’, and disappointment quickly set in. Who were these knock-off wannabes, and how did the Gladsaxe have such a cheek to pull a stunt like this?

When The New Yardbirds emerged, he only recognised Jimmy Page. The legendary John Paul Jones, John Bonham and Robert Plant were unknown entities as far as the young Dane was concerned. 53 years on, that four-piece is considered to be one of the greatest of all time by millions of adoring fans, and the 50,000 photos that Angel went on to snap in his gilded rock photography career is testimony to the fact that he did a great job with his humble flash and holiday camera set-up prised from the possession of his parents. 

As Angel recalled when he spoke to RAVE Magazine regarding the first time the maelstrom of Led Zep was ever whipped up for an audience: “First of all, I was pretty disappointed because The Yardbirds were supposed to play that night. It was sometime in the evening that I heard a band called The New Yardbirds would perform. I thought maybe that has nothing to do with The Yardbirds. Maybe there’s just one person left from The Yardbirds, which turned out to be right. It was only Jimmy Page from The Yardbirds who played that night. And the others I had never seen or heard of.”

However, it didn’t take long for that disappointment to dissipate and awe to transpire in its place, as he adds: “But when they went on stage it was something very special and different and spectacular. They were full of energy and they were different. I had no idea they were going to be big.”

As it happens, the small Danish Teen Club would host a plethora of similar events over the years, rendering it one of the most fatefully blessed venues of the era. As Angel recalled: “Actually, this little club, The Gladsaxe Teen Club, where they played had a lot of big acts jamming there. Deep Purple played there before Gillan and Glover joined the band and Nice played there. So did Ten Years After. A lot of bands that were known or soon to be known played there. I mean, Ten Years After didn’t get world-famous till Woodstock. We were used to seeing fairly well-known bands there. That’s why The Yardbirds were supposed to be there that night, but it turned out to be someone else.”

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about his fairy tale story is the insight it gives us into the music industry during that period. “In the early days,” Angel tells Proximity Magazine, “I could just walk into the dressing room of The Cream – Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton – and say ‘Hi, can I take a photo?’ and they would say, ‘sure,’ and I took a photo or two or three [negatives since lost, sadly] with no problems.”

However, the almost prelapsarian innocence of the period was soon lost, and with it, Angel’s verve for rock photography. “I started at a time when you could meet the bands and have a drink at the bar or maybe get a meal or something,” he told RAVE. “People back then – musicians, people at record companies, photographers – did things for the love of music. The music scene was more of a community service. For many, it wasn’t even a business.”

The notion of Jimmy Page’s new band casually debuting at a Teen Club and not cashing in on some huge fanfare promoting a Yardbirds spin-off certainly seems to support Angel’s view that there was an essence of community central to the zeitgeist of the times. And his continued relationship with Led Zeppelin is also indicative of the explosion of great music. “The funny thing is when they came back,” he continues, “They changed their name to Led Zeppelin, Zep was not that well known yet, so what the club did to get people to come to the concert was put up a sign saying, ‘Led Zeppelin and in brackets ‘formerly The Yardbirds,’ so people would come and watch this unknown band called Led Zeppelin.”

While it is remarkable to think that a band like Led Zeppelin struggled to make their mark in the early days, the passion writ large on the faces of the bandmember’s faces in Angel’s photos is indicative of the zeal that would rocket them to their seventies zenith in the forthcoming period. Whether it’s the sweat-drenched images of John Bonham delivering his thunderous attack on an innocent drum kit or the sight of Robert Plant almost bursting blood vessels to send a note soaring to such an extent that Sputnik was in danger of being taken out of orbit, Angel’s pictures offer a unique insight into a band making a debut with unflinching intent that no doubt very few manage to muster. 

However, for those wondering, while Angel may well revere that fateful debut performance and the many times he was whipped up by their energy thereafter, they weren’t the best live act he saw in his career. “I think the best live act ever was the J Geils Band,” he proclaims, “But nobody is interested in them anymore. But they had such incredible energy on stage, not only because the singer Peter Wolf is spectacular, but the other members of the band are great as well.”

Finally, he tells Jaideep V.G.: “Uriah Heep in the early 70s were an excellent live band, I would also mention Queen. There was a band called Geordie, the singer was Brian Johnson who is now with AC/DC, they toured a lot in Denmark, and I spent a lot of time with them and took photos. They were really good on stage.”

You can see more of Jorgen Angel’s photography and view the books and photos he has to offer from Jimi Hendrix to Queen, via his website by clicking here.

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. (Credit: Jorgen Angel)
John Bonham and Jimmy Page. (Credit: Jorgen Angel)
Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. (Credit: Jorgen Angel)
Robert Plant. (Credit: Jorgen Angel)
Jimmy Page. (Credit: Jorgen Angel)
John Paul Jones, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham. (Credit: Jorgen Angel)

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