thebuzzr Independent Music Coverage
coming up in music Dec 26 - January 2023
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December 26, 1968
Led Zeppelin first US tour begins in Denver. They’re the opening act for Vanilla Fudge.
The British Invasion bands (The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones…) followed the same plan: become popular in their home country, wait for word to spread to America, go there and conquer it. Led Zeppelin is the first to take a different approach, setting their sights on the US from the get-go, long before anyone there has heard of them. Guitarist Jimmy Page leads the band, known for his work in The Yardbirds and as a top session musician. On bass is John Paul Jones, also established as a session player and great with arrangements. Frontman Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham are relative newcomers bursting with talent. They toured Scandinavia in September as “The New Yardbirds,” working up material along the way. October, they recorded their self-titled debut album, funded by Page and manager Peter Grant, using about 30 hours of studio time at Olympic Studios in London – a remarkable feat of efficiency. Atlantic Records signs them in November, who touts them as “the hot, new English group” in a little-seen press release.
After playing 16 small shows in the UK, Led Zeppelin headed to America over Christmas to kick off their first US tour, starting out as an opening act for Vanilla Fudge, known for their heavy cover of “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” On the first show, in Denver, they are third on the bill, behind a mercurial California band called Spirit, whose song “Taurus” sounds very similar to the intro of “Stairway To Heaven,” which Led Zeppelin releases in 1971. This is the point in the story where you might expect to hear about how “Led Zeppelin blew away Vanilla Fudge.” Not so. They sold the show out before Zep was added, and the crowd was there to see the headliner. “When they went on, the audience was yelling, ‘Bring on The Fudge,’” drummer Carmine Appice says. “It was hilarious.” “They were skilled musicians with a very confident delivery,” Robert Plant adds. “They encouraged us to open it up.” Vanilla Fudge holds their own, but Zeppelin makes an impression, especially when Jimmy Page plays his guitar with a violin bow during “Dazed And Confused.” They build their legend as the tour moves forward, winning over the audience at every stop (at Spokane, Washington, five shows in, it listed them as “Len Zefflin” in adverts).
Their debut album isn’t released until January 12, and there are no advance singles. They also buck convention by restricting interviews to local and music-oriented outlets, and rarely performing on TV, where the sound quality is never up to snuff. By the end of the tour in February 1969, word has spread about this hard rock powerhouse. When Led Zeppelin return to the US in the summer, they play some shows as co-headliners with Vanilla Fudge. John Bonham’s drums are much bigger this time around, thanks to Carmine Appice, who turned him on to oversize Ludwigs.
December 27, 1927
Show Boat opens at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Broadway, changing the paradigm for modern musicals.
Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys dies after diving into freezing water from a boat slip in Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles.
Merle Haggard appears first on the country chart with “Sing A Sad Song,” which peaks at #19.
December 29, 1973
Jim Croce‘ “Time In A Bottle“ hits #1 in the US three months after the singer was killed in a plane crash.
December 30, 1942
Frank Sinatra performs as a solo act for the first time, playing to a crowd of screaming teenage girls at the Paramount Theater in New York City.
December 31, 1994
Rod Stewart plays a free concert on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, drawing a crowd estimated at 3.5 million (the fireworks help goose that number). Guinness declares it the largest free rock concert ever.
Johnny Cash plays one of his first jailhouse shows when he performs at San Quentin prison in San Rafael, California. Among those in the captive audience is Merle Haggard, who is serving time for burglary.
For the first time in 41 years, the New Year rings in without Dick Clark, who passed away in 2012. Clark, host of American Bandstand amongst many years of entertainment in TV and radio, hosted Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve from 1972 until 2012, even making video phone-ins from his hospital bed while recovering from a stroke in his later years. The show continues with many memorial tributes to Clark, as his protégé, Ryan Seacrest, takes over as the new host.
January 2, 1971
George Harrison‘ All Things Must Pass, his first album released after the breakup of The Beatles, begins a seven-week run at the top of the US albums chart.