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LED ZEPPELIN –The Montreux Concerts – intro 1970 -71 – 72

During the time of Led Zeppelin’s first Montreux appearance in 1970, the thought of future generations of fans devotedly enjoying their music over thirty years later probably seemed absurd. The fact is that in the new millenium, the group has become an enormous institution in rock, which continues to grow.

Perhaps some of those who contributed to their longevity are the "classic rock" FM radio stations that continually cycle through Zep’s catalog of material day after day, no matter what the current musical trend may be. Their music stands the test of time mainly because of their quality musicianship and chemistry together.

A JOURNEY THROUGH THE PAST TO MONTREUX

The band played the town of Montreux on three consecutive years for excellent reasons. Above all, they were treated like guests of honor by the locals.

There has always been something special about Montreux which lured the wealthy and reclusive to the city’s timeless beauty. Soothing spiritual and physical ailments was common by the mountains and lakeside air.

Montreux is a very quiet and peaceful town and perhaps one of the best kept secrets in Switzerland. Led Zeppelin had found a special hideaway in 1970 and would help spark a musical explosion there, which continues to this day.

1970-march 7 - The first album paved the way for their unparalleled success for years to come.

1971-august 7 & 8 - Led Zeppelin II insured their fans this was real..They knocked the Beatles Abbey Road off the NUMBER ONE SPOT

1972 - By the third album Led Zeppelin had reinvented folk music which would lead to their monster hit, Stairway to Heaven featured on their 4th LP, released in Nov. 1971. A sneak preview of Houses of the Holy would be featured during their 1972 Montreux performances.

Who is Gilles Chateau ?

During the whirlwind events of 1969, photographer and co-author of Led Zeppelin: The Montreux Concerts, Gilles Chateau first discovered Led Zep while living in Paris attending several shows that year. At the time, the music scene in France was in a state of turmoil with youths frequently resorting to violence and increased signs of their displeasure with officials and government.

"Things were changing in 1969 with student revolts and repression in the young people of France becoming more and more evident. It was a very leftist attitude in the youth that rock concerts were overcharging for tickets and resented paying for concerts feeling that the music belonged to the fans", said Gilles.

Gate crashers, long lines of police and security were common sights at gigs in France at the time. Having just returned from a visit to Montreux that summer, Gilles would soon be seeing Led Zeppelin again at the Paris Olympia on October 10, 1969. The Montreux seed was planted in Gilles and he could already sense the impending change there.

Led Zeppelin would be the first major band to refuse to play France until it cleaned up its act. But after the 1973 concerts, (of them six of which were cancelled), the band would not return. Montreux would be a golden opportunity to invite the French media outside of the Paris venues and pamper its elite on the Swiss Riviera. “Isn’t Montreux an amazing phenomenon? For a town with the mission to collect every dying dollar from the Victorian aging crowd, to combine it with collecting the new found wealth of the British Rockers, and the presence of many black Blues and Jazz musicians on the guest list, was quite a gamble” says P. Paringaux in 1972 for Rock ’n Folk Magazine.

And it worked.

Claude Nobs engineered the whole thing. "He turned a sleepy lakeside town from Switzerland into the European capital of black music. Not an easy task. And by the time he brought Zeppelin three consecutive times to Montreux, I had already moved to the Swiss town for good or so it seemed, temporarily. Like San Francisco in its hay day, Montreux offered a choice of lifestyles and music to suit your mood", recalls Gilles. Like the Newport Jazz Festival, Montreux became a crossroads for many artists in the seventies.

MONTREUX HISTORY GENERIC

Led Zeppelin, among others, would set the trend for the diversification of the music to be heard in Montreux.

From the stratospheric sounds of the cosmic Sun Ra Orchestra to the Latino grooves of Santana, the Swiss Riviera still bursts into flames every summer for its annual Jazz/Rock Festival where in the 1990’s you could see Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, Nils Lofgren, Dave Edmunds, Todd Rundgren, Buddy Guy, Etta James, Simply Red, David Byrne, Kronos Quartet, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, Bobby McFerrin, Steve Cropper, Gladys Knight, Ray Charles … all within a week’s time.

The tiring and hectic life on the road would be a golden opportunity to invite groups and pamper its elite on the Swiss Riviera.

The numerous unique qualities of Montreux added something special to every live performance. Recordings of the live shows offered a chance to capture some of the magic that Montreux helped to create. Contracts signed between bands and the Tourist Office included an important fact: all concerts were recorded professionally through promoter Claude Nobs’ team for future broadcast on Radio Suisse Romande, with no other commercial use intended. Top-of-the-line equipment ensured the best sound reproduction possible.

How Peter Grant agreed to these conditions, with his paranoia for bootleg recordings at a growing stage, remains a mystery. In fact, the only bootleg in circulation of Led Zeppelin in Montreux is the 1970 concert, while all others exist under lock-and-key. An excellent audience recording (considering the era) has been released on numerous bootleg albums and compact discs and a segment of a soundboard radio broadcast has also made its way among collectors.

Gilles Chateau:

"Among the many British bands to land in Montreux Zeppelin remains the one that blew us away because we came so close to ear-damage, standing by the speakers inches away when you should have stood 60 feet away. Attending Zeppelin live at stage level could be detrimental to your health but nothing felt better than a numbing of the ear drum at the Casino".

Some more Led Zeppelin

Many other artists have taken advantage of Montreux live recording services including legendary jazz and R&B artists. By 1972, thirty live albums had been recorded in Montreux.

The Rolling Stones found refuge in 1972 to rehearse their up-coming tour at the Kursaal Cinema, a local movie theatre adjacent to the Kursaal Casino in total incognito.

Also in 1972, Jethro Tull has settled in Montreux for its many advantages and notably as a tax shelter from England’s high income tax rates (which is something the members of Zeppelin were very familiar with.)

Robert Plant had been the only member of Led Zep to return to perform in Montreux. This time, a T.V. special airing the concert in the summer of 1993 captured the moment. Several Plant promo CDs also included several live cuts from the show.

A very special appearance by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page would reunite them in Montreux in July 2001, performing together as part of the Sun Records Tribute concert.

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