Personalities | Led Zeppelin | The Middle Years (1971) | Key Events


Ireland And UK Tour

For their Ireland and UK shows, Led Zeppelin played tiny venues in a ‘back to the clubs’-style tour. Venues such as London’s The Marquee and the Bath Pavilion had probably never seen such a group in its prime, but Led Zeppelin must have felt that they could use their more acoustic-based material to reconnect with an increasingly growing stadium audience. The shows weren’t without their bombast, however, and in time for their first show in Belfast on 5 March (also the first time that Led Zeppelin had played Northern Ireland), Jimmy Page had his famous Gibson EDS-1275 double-necked guitar in tow, on which he would play ‘Stairway To Heaven’ live.

Bonham Threatens To Quit

After the Belfast show the band travelled to Dublin to stay overnight. Back outside the venue, Belfast was seeing the usual street riots of its own. Bonzo, as drunk as he was on Jameson’s whiskey from the car journey, must have decided to take a little bit of it to Dublin, as he started a fight with the Intercontinental Hotel’s head chef when looking for some late-night food. Richard Cole had to restrain him and ended up punching the drummer in the face, breaking his nose. That night Bonzo threatened to quit the band (at least giving some credence to the regular rumours Melody Maker had begun to print), though the incident was forgotten by the morning.


Vigorelli Velodromo

It was an inauspicious start for the band when they arrived to play at Milan’s Vigorelli Velodromo stadium on 5 July. Armed riot police surrounded the venue and lined the inside, and the 12,000 fans had to stand through 28 other acts before Led Zeppelin were scheduled to take the stage. As Led Zeppelin’s stage time drew nearer, the stadium got increasingly jammed with people, both backstage and out in the audience. Sensing that things could only get worse, Richard Cole forced the band on early to avoid the backstage crush, only to find that a literal riot awaited them on the other side of the stage door. At first the group attributed the smoke to fires being lit by the crowd, but it quickly became apparent that the armed police were attacking the audience with tear gas. As the set went on, the police forced their way forward and the crowd had no option but to surge on to the stage. Within a matter of minutes the group had fled, barricading themselves into a safe space, while their equipment got trashed.


Canadian And US Tour

It’s estimated that, for the 20 nights that Led Zeppelin played across the United States and Canada, they would receive over a million dollars. By mid-1970 The Rolling Stones had signed to Led Zeppelin’s label, Atlantic, and Led Zeppelin found out that they were outselling their great rock rivals three-to-one in the States. As far as the American audience was concerned, Led Zeppelin was the biggest band in the world.



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