We’re taking a look back at one of the greatest acts in rock history as we travel all the way back to 1968 to listen to Led Zeppelin’s first-ever recorded performance. Hilariously billed as ‘Len Zefflin’ the band comprised of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones were recorded on stage for the first time—it would be an unforgettable concert for all of those lucky enough to be in attendance.
Only the fifth stop on the band’s first US tour, the gig in question would take place in the innocuous town of Spokane, Washington with Zeppelin supporting Vanilla Fudge, or as they were billed by the promoter “The Vanilla Fudge”. The naming mistakes didn’t stop there, as one of the most iconic names in rock, was billed as “Len Zefflin”, which is pretty amusing today but must’ve been a pain in 1968.
It’s easy to forget, especially with a name as ubiquitous with the upper echelons of rock history as Led Zeppelin, that all rock Gods have to start their careers as mere mortals. This is one of the very few occasions we can bask at the beginning of one of those tales and see the first steps up Mount Olympus for the young band… even if they were billed incorrectly.
It shows how small an entity the band were in the States when they broke. While Jimmy Page had made his name in the music world with The Yardbirds a few years before and had caught some of the spotlight for his guitar work, he was still a relative unknown and his new band with Plant, Bonham, and Jones was even more of an untold entity, so the lack of concern about spelling their name correctly is maybe not so far-fetched.
The performance in Spokane would’ve almost certainly been the first time any of the audience would see Led Zeppelin and the band would not disappoint. They would completely show up the headline act, Vanilla Fudge, with their fusion of blues and the heaviest elements of rock, creating the foundations of a whole new genre with every new performance.
Thanks to a bootlegging student we can listen to the moment in musical history as Led Zeppelin takes to the stage to change the lives of all who witnessed it. John Paul Jones believes the audience was so happy to see the group because “we would just go on and go ‘bang bang bang’ with three driven songs with solos” a comparative abuse in regards to other noodling guitar acts.
They would take to the stage and scythe through the fog and deliver a powerful performance capable of cracking ribs and chipping teeth. It can all be heard in the tape below, which provides a rare and candid insight into the earliest stages of one of the biggest bands the planet has ever known.
It’s a raw two-track tape that manages to capture the pulsating energy of the evening. For die-hard fans of Zep, the bootleg will be no new news, but we hope they would agree, it’s still as impressive and imposing as the first listen.
If you are new to this audio, or indeed new to Led Zeppelin, sit back and listen to the furious drive that would propel Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones into the stratosphere of rock.
01 – Train Kept A Rollin’ [0:00]
02 – I Can’t Quit You [2:32]
03 – As Long As I Have You (incl Fresh Garbage / Shake / Hush) [9:15]
04 – Dazed And Confused [17:52]
05 – White Summer [27:43]
06 – How Many More Times (incl The Hunter) [34:31]
07 – Pat’s Delight [50:07]