Monday, July 30, 2007

Led Zeppelin at their Finest


"By request, here is Zep's 2nd-to-last US show ever. This show is more famous for what happened backstage than onstage. By this tour, Page & Bonham, along with manager Peter Grant, road manager Richard Cole, security coordinator John Bindon and most of the crew, were regularly using heroin. Excesses by the band and their crew were taken to extremes on the 77 tour, in particular the violence. Supposedly some fans (including attempted bootleggers!) got the crap beaten out of them for various reasons; Cole later bragged about Bindon and he sneaking under the stage and using a hammer to smash the kneecaps of fans, supposedly for getting too close to the band. By 77, it was not all fun and games and happy times, my fellow Zep fans; Peter Grant and his crew were a band of brutal thugs, usually stoned out of their minds.

Like most concerts in Oakland since the mid-60's, Bill Graham was putting on this show. He had his layer of security people working the venue on this Saturday, July 23.

From Rolling Stone magazine, September 8, 1977:
...Graham, however, did give his version of what happened, based partly on what his employees told him:

"There were really two incidents, both of which happened after the Saturday concert was over. The first involved Peter Grant and a security man for him, John Bindon. As they left the stage, Jim Downey [a member of Graham's stage crew] said to Grant who looked very tired, something like, 'Do you need any help?' From what I can tell, there was offense taken to that statement. The stage crew man was struck by Bindon and his head was bashed against the concrete.

"The second incident involved a stage security man named Jim Matzorkis. Matzorkis was taking a wooden plaque with Led Zeppelin's name on it off their dressing-room door to put away for the next show. A young boy asked him for the sign, and Jim said, 'No, we need it for the next day.' Turned out the young boy was Peter Grant's son."

According to Matzorkis' report to the Oakland police, he was putting the sign in a storage trailer when he was approached by Grant, Bonham, Bindon and Zep tour manager Richard Cole. "You don't talk to a kid like that," Grant reportedly told Matzorkis. "Apologize or I'll have your job." Matzorkis said that Bonham also told him to apologize and then kicked him in the groin. Matzorkis fled and hid in a trailer.

According to Graham, Grant's employees then began to look for Matzorkis. During the search, Cole allegedly hit Bob Barsotti, Graham's production manager, on the back with a four-inch lead pipe. Graham said he went to speak to Grant in his trailer to try to clear up what was turning into a dangerous situation. "I went in and said, 'I don't know what went on, but if there are any apologies due, I extend them on behalf of my company.' And Peter said, 'I want to speak to this man.' I said, 'Peter, you're a very big person' -- he weighs about 300 pounds -- 'give me your word, nothing physical.' He said, 'Bill, I give you my word.'

"I went over to the trailer where Jim was hiding. I said, 'Jim, it's okay, it's me.' Then I stepped in. I said, 'Jim, this is Mr. Peter Grant, the boy's father.' Before I could finish the sentence, Peter blasted Jim in the face. I tried to stand between them, but Grant forced me to the door of the trailer, this other man came in and then Grant forced me out and locked the door. I tried to open the door, but their people came over and guarded the door. Matzorkis worked his way to the door while they were hitting him, and he was able to get out. His face was a bloody mess."

Matzorkis was taken to an East Bay hospital. According to a court file, he had cuts and bruises on his face and lips and a broken tooth.

Graham said a Zeppelin representative told him the band would not take the stage Sunday until he signed an agreement indemnifying the group against damages resulting from the Matzorkis incident. He said he signed the paper only after his lawyer assured him that under the circumstances it was not binding. Graham said he also asked his production people to cool it for the day. The Sunday concert was notably low-key; guitarist Jimmy Page, who is known for roaming around the stage, sat through much of the show.

"I could never in good conscience book them again," Graham said. "For these people to assume that might makes right takes me back to Germany -- and I've blocked out pretty much of my childhood [some members of Graham's family died in concentration camps] -- but that's where they come from. I cannot help but wonder how much of this did, in fact, go on in the past with these people."

Swan Song would only say that the case is a personal legal matter: "Robert's child died; this is bulls--- in comparison." (RS 247-MERRILL SHINDLER)

So Bonham, as I've read he had done other times before, was a bully when he had others around who would protect him. After Grant gave his word that he wouldn't, he and Bindon assaulted Matzorkis while Cole guarded the door with a lead pipe. They threatened to not play their 2nd contracted show on Sunday, July 24, unless Graham agreed not to charge or sue them. Graham agreed in order to avoid starting a riot by the fans already gathered for the show. Graham also said afterwards that he hoped Zep never played in the US again. After leaving Oakland, Zep flew to New Orleans, where Plant learned his son had died. The remainder of the tour was cancelled and Zep never played another show in the US.

To me, there's no way to dress this up: Zep and their crew were cowards and bullies, brutally assaulting anyone who pissed them off, and later using the death of Plant's son to avoid being forthright about their actions. Here is the concert from that date.

The sound quality varies, but overall rates a Good-, the instruments clear enough, Plant buried in the mix (which is fine with me, post-71 Zep), some crowd noise but not too intrusive, a bit of tape hiss. The performance itself is OK for 77, but I can't listen to it without thinking of the ugliness that happened afterwards." ~ Big Bad Bill

heres some video from the show talked about above