Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#937 in the Series) is Led Zeppelin, Presence.
If you’ve been with us for a while you’ll notice some common themes that I referred to on a regular basis. One of the more popular ones is my tendency to be a big fan of a band’s album from a tour that I happened to see. I don’t know why this is true, because often those aren’t anywhere near the band’s best piece of work, but for some reason those albums consistently have always stuck with me longer.
One of my early great live rock ‘n roll experiences was seeing Led Zeppelin at the Chicago Stadium on the Presence tour. Back then I had this great connection to get tickets to the big shows. It was just some guy that worked behind the counter of an auto parts store on the east side of Chicago, but any time a big act came through, face value and a couple extra bucks would get me and my friends into any show we wanted to see. We took advantage of this many times but none of the shows would be bigger or better than seeing Led Zeppelin.
I can still remember the show as if it were today, but as great as this show was, it didn’t work out as great as it could have. Why? I can’t believe I’m saying this but we actually showed up for Led Zeppelin late. We knew there was no opening act, how the heck do you show up for Led Zeppelin late? Believe me I wasn’t driving. (He knows who he was!) Although missing the very opening did kind of suck, it did provide with a great memory that time has not diminished. As we got to the Chicago Stadium we began to cross the street while the band was already on stage. The sounds seemed to be coming directly through the walls of this old building. You could hear the loud guitar riff of Jimmy Page playing “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” The memory of that sound coming through those walls as we crossed Madison Avenue in anticipation are as clear to me to this day as anything that happened inside that building that night.
Presence is very rarely on nor near the top of many Led Zeppelin fans “best of” lists, but I always dug it. It’s only seven songs, and I always broke them down into two major pieces plus 5 great tracks. The two classic pieces start off both sides of the album. Side one of course being the classic “Achilles Last Stand,” and side two being the previously mentioned “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” These two songs stand up with the best ever from the band. You also may remember the semi-hit “Hots On For Nowhere.”
We didn’t realize at the time, but as we left the building that night we would never see Led Zeppelin again. This show was in April of ’77. They had plans to return to town in August but the final swing of the tour was canceled after the death of Robert Plant’s son. Then a few years later, John Bonham would die during rehearsals for another tour that would not happen.
So I always treasured the memories of that night when I got to see you be the greatest rock ‘n roll band for the only time.
In closing, you can’t talk about Led Zeppelin Presence without mentioning packaging and cover work designed by the great artist Hipgnosis. The package was based around a black obelisk type object simply referred to as “The Object.” It appeared in numerous photos with various people spending time and often staring at the piece. “The Object” was a reference to, as Hipgnosis once called it, Led Zeppelin’s “force and presence.” Jimmy Page explaining this in the liner notes on the Led Zeppelin box set: “There was no working title for the album. The record-jacket designer said `When I think of the group, I always think of power and force. There’s a definite presence there.’ That was it. He wanted to call it ‘Obelisk.’ To me, it was more important what was behind the obelisk. The cover is very tongue-in-cheek, to be quite honest. Sort of a joke on [the film] 2001. I think it’s quite amusing.”
- “Achilles Last Stand” (Jimmy Page, Robert Plant) 10:25
- “For Your Life” (Page, Plant) 6:24
- “Royal Orleans” (Bonham, Jones, Page, Plant) 2:58
- “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” (Page, Plant) 6:27
- “Candy Store Rock” (Page, Plant) 4:11
- “Hots On for Nowhere” (Page, Plant) 4:43
- “Tea for One”(Page, Plant) 9:27
- John Bonham – drums, percussion
- John Paul Jones – 4 and 8-string bass guitars
- Jimmy Page – electric guitars, acoustic guitar and production
- Robert Plant – lead vocals, harmonica
Listen to Presence below.
Here are “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and “Achille’s Last Stand” LIVE. They were the only two songs from Presence played in their entirety on that 1977 tour.
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