As a collector of unofficial Led Zeppelin material, there are so many things I wish to have but don’t. A few rare things are simply because I haven’t been able to find them. Some more are because they’re being horded.
But there’s some material that, as far as most collectors know, simply isn’t being circulated. Indeed, for some of this stuff, whether or not recordings exist is a question hotly debated.
But my interests aren’t limited to unofficial stuff. They extend towards potential official material, as well.
I got in to collecting unofficial Led Zeppelin material on an old, sadly no longer existing forum known as Planet Zeppelin. My very first unofficial recording was known as “The Secret History of Led Zeppelin”, which was a 1-cd compilation putting together some of the material from the BBC sessions that wasn’t officially released. I can’t put in to words how I felt when I listened to it for the first time, but it certainly made me addicted, and I haven’t stopped collecting since.
I’d like to go ahead and list, with short explanations, my top 10 “holy grails” of Led Zeppelin material, both official and unofficial.
10. The Object
Released as a promotional stunt for the album “Presence”, the Object was a limited run (only 1000 released) and each one was numbered. Today, getting an authentic, original Object is extremely expensive and you can only get them through places like Ebay.
While I’d love to have my own original, authentic, numbered Object, the chances of me ever being able to afford one are slim to none. However, if Led Zeppelin were ever to recreate the Object for official sale (perhaps as a promotion of the re-release of Presence coming up within the next few years), I would buy one very quickly… even a mass-produced one, if I can’t afford a new numbered one.
09. A soundboard recording of either one of the only 2 stand-alone performances of “When the Levee Breaks” in 1975.
Now, on June 07, 1972, they performed WTLB as part of the “Whole Lotta Love” medley. However, they only performed the full song twice: on January 12 and January 20, 1975. There are audience recordings, and some of those recordings are amazing. But there is no soundboard recording, which I think is a bit of a sham.
08. Any live recording of the New Yardbirds
The earliest recording we have of Led Zeppelin is December 30, 1968. They were already Led Zeppelin, and since their first album was not quite three weeks away from being released, they were already playing a typical Led Zeppelin setlist from those early years. For me, I would give anything for recordings from earlier in 1968, when they were finishing up the Yardbirds’ touring contract and becoming Led Zeppelin. I’ve read rumors in the past that “Good Times Bad Times” and “Your Time is Gonna Come” were both played in their entirety at one or more shows from 1968, though I don’t know how true that is. But even if it’s not true, having some recordings from the beginning, as it were, would make me very happy.
07. A complete recording of January 26, 1969 at the Boston Tea Party
As far as I’m concerned, the key Zeppelin gig, the one that put everything into focus, was one that we played on our first American tour at the Boston Tea Party. We’d played our usual one hour set, using all the material for the first album and Page’s White Summer guitar piece and by the end, the audience just wouldn’t let us offstage. It was in such a state that we had to start throwing ideas around, just thinking of songs that we might all know or that some of us knew a part of and work it out from there.
So we’d go back on and play things like “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Please Please Me”, old Beatles favorites. I mean, just anything that would come into our head and the response was quite amazing. There were kids actually bashing their heads against the stage – I’ve never seen that a gig before or since, and when we finally left the stage, we’d played for four plus hours.
Peter (Grant) was absolutely ecstatic. He was crying, if you can imagine that, and hugging us all. You know with this grizzly bear hug. I suppose it was then that we realized just what Led Zeppelin was going to become. – (NME, Feb. 1973)
I should probably point out that whether or not JPJ remembers that night correctly is debated. Not everyone who likely were at the concert remembers there being a set of covers like JPJ describes. So it’s entirely possible that the existing recordings are indeed complete.
But if JPJ is right, I want to hear it… all of it.
06. Japan 1971 multitracks… or at least complete soundboards
Led Zeppelin’s 1971 Japanese tour is lauded as one of the best tours the band ever put on. All of the shows are spot-on and incredible. It was, in fact, at one of these shows, specifically September 28, that my all-time favorite song, “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”, was debuted live. It was attempted at the September 23 show (from the same tour), but was aborted after 42 seconds. As such, that show, and the tour itself, holds a very special place in my heart.
So whether it only comes from unofficial sources, or Page decides to do an official release documenting the tour, high-quality soundboard or even multitrack recordings of the shows are an absolute must for me.
05. A video-documented tour of the places Led Zeppelin recorded… featuring Page, Plant, and Jones, and members of the Bonham family
What I really want to see is Page and Plant going back to Bron-Yr-Aur with a film crew to talk about their time at the cottage and the songs they wrote and recorded there. But I’d love to see the same concept applied to the other places they recorded at, like Headley Grange.
04. The rest of the Led Zeppelin II studio outtakes/sessions
About three tracks of the LZII sessions were leaked. The owner has refused to put out the rest because somehow the silver Labels got their hands on the four tracks and began to make a profit off those tracks. So as of now, the complete LZII sessions remain uncirculated. What we got is incredible, however, and I’d do anything (within reason) to see the rest leaked out to all the collectors.
03. More multi-track stems
Not all that long ago, the stems from the songs “Whole Lotta Love”, “Heartbreaker”, “What is and What Should Never Be”, and “Ramble On” leaked.
The leak was extremely controversial, with even collectors of silvers feeling like it was a step too far. Personally, I love having these, as I find them absolutely fascinating to listen too. While I would adore the stems for LZ’s entire catalog, I would specifically love stems for “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp”, “Stairway to Heaven”, “Good Times Bad Times”, “When the Levee Breaks”, “Kashmir”, “Achilles Last Stand”, “Nobody’s Fault but Mine”, “Immigrant Song”, “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, and “In My Time of Dying”.
02. The “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” writing and recording sessions
This is my all-time favorite song. Having the sessions for this song would be a dream come true for me. I once surmised privately that, if I ever got my hands on this, I’d stop collecting unofficial material all-together. Being selfish, that simply isn’t true. However, I’d certainly feel as if my collection was complete, and having this would fulfill one of my biggest dreams.
01. An official site offering all of the live stuff Led Zeppelin hasn’t released that’s still in the vaults
What I’m envisioning here is a members-only site offering either torrents or direct downloads of everything left in the vaults. Led Zeppelin could set this up to release the complete shows used to make the official releases such as “How the West Was Won”, the 2-disc DVD, the BBC Sessions, and “The Song Remains the Same”. It would also offer all of the other shows Led Zeppelin has but have no interest in releasing to the wider public. It could be something similar to what exists for jam bands like Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers and so on. These would be official releases in the sense that it’s Led Zeppelin releasing them, but they wouldn’t be mass-produced official releases, and as it would be a members-only site, it would pretty much only be open to hardcore fans who are already collectors.
I describe in detail the idea I’m talking about here.
I think it may be prudent to find a way to incorporate bootlegs and torrenting into a business model that can only benefit the band or artist. My idea is this: for a small monthly or slightly larger yearly fee, users would have access to a torrent site that allows them to leech and seed authorized bootlegs of a particular band or artist. A band could professionally record all of their live shows, rehearsals, and studio sessions, both audio and video, and upload these as torrents to the site in numerous different audio and video formats. Users could then leech these from the server, and then take over as seeders to share them with other fans of the band. As extra income, the band could sell cases for the music, at, say $5 per disc, with discounts for box sets of more than, say, 4 discs, or just orders of cases for 4 or more discs. The cases would include very basic artwork, including a picture, date, venue, address, time of show/rehearsal/session, and a track listing. The band could also sell live versions of their albums in stores, though that would mean playing every single song the band has ever released live at least once. The torrented files would be DRM free, since the fans are paying for them through the subscription fee, so once the torrent is downloaded, the music belongs to the leecher outright. The quality of the torrents would also have to be high, so at least semi-professional. The subscription fee should be low enough to be attractive, but high enough to cover the costs of maintaining the server, the costs of the professional recording/mixing, and to make a profit, while keeping in mind that sale of the cases and live versions of the studio albums, as well as some portion of ticket sales and merchandise, could supplement this. In order to ensure seeding, share ratios could be enforced.
Now I did say I’d only mention my top 10, and these are my top 10. But there’s one more that trumps all of them:
00. I’d like to meet, interview, and jam with Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Jason Bonham for the public to see. I could see 1.5 hours of us talking, with 30 minutes of an acoustic set. Short of that, I’d love to sit down and talk to them privately for at least a few minutes, and maybe get some guitar lessons from Jimmy Page.