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Remembering Led Zeppelin's Legendary 1975 Earls Court Live Shows

Robert Plant & Jimmy Page performing at Madison Square Garden in New York City in June 1977. Photographer © Bob Gruen

As live experiences go, Led Zeppelin are renowned for putting on a rock and roll performance for the ages. And no more so were they on the top of their live game then at their legendary five night residency which took place at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in May 1975.

At the time the band were undoubtedly the biggest band on the planet. In 1973 on a US tour they beat attendance records set by the Beatles a decade previously. And a more recent 1975 tour of the US, which took place two months before the Earls Court dates, became one of the most profitable tours ever. 1975 also saw Led Zeppelin release their sixth studio album Physical Graffiti which debuted at No.1 in the UK (and US) charts. It also saw all six of their earlier albums re-enter the Top 200 UK charts.

Jimmy Page in action at a concert in Copenhagen in February 1970. Photographer © Jorgen Angel

So, yeah, they were riding high at this point in their career, so how can you top that? Well you play a sellout set of dates that go on to be remembered as the best live shows you ever did.

Initially the band were only going to play the 23 to 25 May, but two further dates had to be added, 17 and 18 May, due to popular demand. In fact Mel Bush who was the promoter behind the Earls Court gigs said that they added these dates because there was a “demand unprecedented in the history of rock music.”  

The band shipped over their 40-ton stage that had toured the US earlier in the year for the shows, along with putting up a huge projection screen so people could watch the performance. Something that’s pretty standard these days but back then it was one of the first times it had been done. It also had a cutting edge sound equipment by Showco.

Jimmy Page rocking on at the legendary Earls Court Arena gigs in London, May 1975. Photographer © Jill Furmanovsky

Each night the band were introduced by DJs, including Bob Harris, Johnnie Walker, Kid Jensen, Nicky Horne, and Alan Freeman. The performances themselves saw Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham all on fine form.

Bonham’s nightly performance of “Moby Dick” went on for as long as 30 minutes sometimes. In his memoir 31 Songs writer Nick Hornby recalls being at one of the Earls Court shows. And during one of these epic Bonham solos he dashed off to a local pub, had a pint, came back and Bonham was still going.

Other songs on the set list included opener "Rock and Roll", “The Song Remains the Same", "Tangerine", "Dazed and Confused", "Stairway to Heaven", "Whole Lotta Love", "Black Dog” and more.

A posing Robert Plant captured during the second night of Led Zeppelin's classic five night stint at the Earls Court Arena in 1975. Photographer © Mick Gold

Robert Plant and Jimmy Page on stage at Earls Court in May 1975. Photographer © Mick Gold

And the last gig, on 25 May, is considered to be the best of the bunch. While each night was around three hours, this swansong show went on for nearly four. “I thought they were the best shows that we ever put on in England.” Bonham has said about them.

While music journalist Chris Welch wrote about the shows. “The band played with tremendous fire, possessed by an almost demonic power, amidst clouds of smoke pierced by green laser beams. Jimmy Page flailed his violin bow against the guitar strings, producing eerie, echoing gothic howls. At the time, I wrote in a review that ‘Robert Plant maintains an essentially human, chatty approach to audiences, almost like a guide taking us through the story of the band, a jester at the wheel of some fearsome juggernaut, offering sly asides and poetic ruminations between moments of terrible power.’ The band enjoyed the Physical Graffiti material far more than the old war horses, and the best moments from the previous albums came in the shape of ballads and acoustic songs.”

Jill Furmanovsky recalls about the 1975 Earls Court gigs where this photo is from, "In his velvet embroidered suits, striking guitar poses, Jimmy Page and the equally dynamic Robert Plant were a photographers dream." Photographer © Jill Furmanovsky

It was four years until the band played a live show again in the UK, which was at Knebworth in August 1979. For the many people who weren’t there, fans finally got to experience a little bit of what it was like when the Earls Court shows were eventually released—although not in their entirety—on DVD in 2003.

Led Zeppelin, backstage with manager Peter Grant at Knebworth House, Hertfordshire, England, in August 1979. Photographer © Jill Furmanovsky

Rockarchive is delighted to be able to offer all these images, along with many other photos of Led Zeppelin, as limited edition photographic prints which you can buy here.

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