LZ-’75: The Lost Chronicles of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American Tour – by Stephen Davis

Gotham

Gotham

The thing that made Larry “Ratso” Sloman’s 1978 memoir On The Road With Bob Dylan an instant classic was that it was a not-quite-an-insider’s view of Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder tour. Rather than an all-access, red-carpet-rolled-out stroll into Dylan’s inner sanctum, On The Road allowed us to share Sloman’s thrill of occasional victories and the agonies of his more-often defeats as he tagged along with the historic revue. The moments when he got to hang with the Bobster were all the more precious for being stolen moments, rather than choreographed. And Ratso’s near-cartoon-character personality endeared him to (nearly) all.

Stephen Davis’ LZ-’75: The Lost Chronicles of Led Zeppelin’s 1975 American Tour is that same kind of tale. Sure, the young Davis was invited by Zep’s Swan Song label to join the band on the road for a portion of their swing through the States, but he was still held at arm’s length from getting too close to the band. His attempts to bumble his way into some face-to-face time provide an air of intrigue as the tour rolls across the U.S. The concerts played by Led Zeppelin from January through March of that year are well documented, but LZ-’75 will still have you rooting for the band to pull out of their ill-health-riddled slump and for Davis to get his story.

Forget about the well-worn tales of excess and decadence from long ago; LZ-’75 reads like a disheveled pulp thriller (with occasional bits of hobbits, dope, and a suspected-but-not-verified ominous cameo by Squeaky Fromme thrown in). You find yourself rooting for Robert Plant’s voice to return full-glory. Who will reign supreme: drummer John “Bonzo” Bonham’s alcohol-tortured digestive system or his rumpled white jumpsuit? Will John Paul Jones’ ventures into the lounge lizard world on the keys alienate him completely from the rest of the band? Find out how William Burroughs holds the key to a potential one-on-one with Jimmy Page. And how a thermos of chai led to a summit among author Davis, Plant, and photographer Peter Simon one morning. And who was the mysterious prairie princess, anyway?

Rather than an “I was there and you weren’t” account of hanging out with ’70s rock gods, LZ-’75 manages to make all concerned seem rather mortal in their own way. The impetus for Davis to write the book after all these years was the recent discovery of a box of long-lost treasures from the tour. Call it a time capsule if you will; a happy accident seems more apropos.

This review originally appeared on Glide on 12/3/10

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