The Song Remained The Same – My 1st Concert with Led Zeppelin

by Lee Gonnella on September 13, 2012


Remember those guys? I’m sure you’ve heard,  the 2007 Led Zeppelin one-off reunion at Q2 stadium is being released soon  (Nov 19 on film/DVD). It’s called Celebration Day. There’s even a special screening on October 17th, and tickets can be pre-purchased.  Jason Bonham fills in for his dad on drums,  and Page & Plant were gracious enough to let John Paul Jones in on the fun.  The 2007 show had 20 million ticket requests for 22,000 seats,  obviously proving Led Zeppelin can still fill an arena.   Judging from the fragments in this trailer, they can still rock and roll a bit too.   Something tells me this won’t be quite as indulgent as their first movie, “The Song Remains The Same“.  You may remember a disturbing image from that film, the outline of Robert Plants’ package (or something) stuffed into some extremely tight jeans.   Thankfully,  the only thing he’s scaring us with now  is his jowls. ..



All this Led Zep press got me to thinking about a special night,  a long time ago,  when Led Zeppelin sold out hockey arenas in less time that it will take to watch their new film…..

Your first concert. You remember it well…….nobody ever forgets that first one. After that it’s a blur, most people aren’t sure what their second show even was, but that inaugural “rock-show” is almost always influential. Ever heard of the guy who only went to one concert, didn’t like live music and never saw another? No, you didn’t. Cause it never happened.

My first concert also almost never happened, my father was strongly opposed, to say the very least.  Add to that I’d skipped school to get the tickets, and I was in double trouble. My mom had  gone to rock n’ roll revues as a teenager in Boston, and seen acts like Fats Domino and Chubby Checker.  Through my great surprise even now,  she intervened, and somehow talked my dad into letting me attend the concert that I’d already purchased tickets to.


















Led Zeppelin! At the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland, on May 25th 1977, the first of a four-night run in DC and the first night of the second leg of the North American tour.  The first 3 shows had sold out so fast they added a 4th night that sold out too.  The anticipation of these shows was crazy……and the crowd in the arena was like nothing I’d ever seen before and maybe since. To put it bluntly, people were getting fucked up.  Not that people don’t imbibe at concerts then and now, but this wasn’t like that…. the place was packed, and they were getting wasted like the end of the world would be later that night.  I remember two guys walking around the floor of the arena carrying a large handmade banner, most likely one of their parents bedroom sheets, with the words “PARTY DOWN” painted on it. They were getting huge applause for this.

I saw shit that night that I still think about occasionally.  Things I think about way more than the actual concert.  There was a lot of people falling down, a lot of people puking…. some people puking and then falling down…..and some people like my friend’s brother, who fell down and then started puking.  I remember this one guy who stood up and danced outrageously for almost an entire song, he must have had a lot of people watching,  and then of course he fell down and puked all over the place.  I actually knew a guy back then who stopped going to concerts at the Cap Centre because he kept getting puked on!  By the end of the night, I’m guessing about two-thirds of the beer and booze consumed  there was now lying on the floor in a slightly more solid form.

Anyways,  by far the grossest part of the night was the bathroom scene of the particular men’s room I waited a half-hour to get into before the show.  I’m not sure what the stalls were being used for, the doors were closed but there were loads of legs and feet in each one.  Besides the lines for urinals, guys were cued up and pissing in all the sinks.  In the middle of all this, near the sinks, was a 40 gallon trash can, full to the brim and overflowing with you know what.  Oddly, the one part of the building I didn’t see puking was that disgusting bathroom. Sometimes even now, 35 years later, I’ll be waiting in line somewhere to take a leak, and out of nowhere that 40 gallon piss-barrel will flash into my consciousness.  Some things can’t be un-seen, as they say.

Not that Pagey and the boys didn’t rock,  they did.  It was actually pretty great, in sort of an excessive rock star kind of way.  An at least twenty-minute “Moby Dick”  that ended with Bonham beating on his humongous gong, an equally long “No Quarter” with a John Paul Jones mellotron solo , Jimmy Page using a bow on his guitar surrounded by a cool laser light show, and Plant doing a lot of prancing in tight jeans with his shirt wide open.   They even unplugged for an acoustic set where JPJ played a triple necked mandolin.  The show opened with “The Song Remains The Same”, which is also the title of the live album and film they were touring behind.  It’s also very fitting, as it turns out the set list that night was the same all 4 nights in DC, as well as every other night of the entire tour, with the exception of some encore variations.  I didn’t know at the time, but Zep was LOUD, and I mean SCREAMING ALL FUCKING CAPS LOUD… an era where earplugs were unheard of (pun intended).  The kind of loud where the person next to you screams at the top of their lungs into your ear and you still have no idea.  Through all that though, the brightest memory of that night was just seeing Jimmy Page work.  He wore one of his trademark embroidered suits,  and strutted and stomped all over the stage, sneering like the guitar god he was, as well as the leader of the band.   In a band full of great musicians, he stood out above them all.

Here’s some video from 5 nights later in the same building, shot by some fans from upstate New York…

That’s my first concert (Thanks, Mom) …..what was yours?

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