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Led Zeppelin In Chicago, 1975

Chris Charlesworth, Q, Spring 2003

NOTE: Like almost everyone else who encountered Led Zeppelin in their pomp in the ‘70s, including many in their employ, I was intimidated by them. I was also fascinated, enthralled and a bit nervous around them: to ride with Led Zeppelin was to ride on a dangerously fast rollercoaster of shifting uncertainty. One minute they were up, the next they were down. One minute they liked you and the next they didn’t, and when they decided they didn’t like you, you could be sent hurtling off the ride with extreme force, and no one within Led Zeppelin gave a damn if you hurt yourself when you fell.

Even now, 30 years later, I am still amazed that the members of Led Zeppelin and their manager Peter Grant could be so touchy about press criticism, eternally suspicious of us, forever defensive. Outwardly they appeared to be the least insecure act on the planet, but for all their extraordinary success Led Zeppelin maintained unresolved grievances that bubbled to the surface in unseemly public displays of media bashing (like carping about reviews by Charles Shaar Murray, Chris Welch and others from the stage in front of 18,000 fans, and lampooning me in a Melody Maker press ad, when all we’d done was to try and be objective). I think that somehow, deep down inside, they always felt they were owed more respect than they received. And this made them and Peter Grant very angry. Some of that anger came out in their music but some also came out in their dealings with the world at large.

This piece was published in a 2003 Q special, but it was written long before that, as part of my memoirs and adapted for Q, who edited it down a bit. This is the unedited version. I was the US editor of Melody Maker at this time, flown to Chicago to write about Led Zeppelin and interview Jimmy Page for the magazine. What follows is very different to the kind of piece I would have submitted to Melody Maker in 1975. Not only was fly-on-the-wall reportage unsuited to MM’s brand of journalism, but putting Led Zeppelin under the magnifying glass like this was inadvisable from a personal security standpoint in those days.

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Total word count of piece: 3177

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