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Fact #177053


Short story:

Producer Glyn Johns plays the as yet unreleased Led Zeppelin debut LP to Peter Frampton in Paris, France, Europe. The music will powerfully influence Frampton who, in the coming days, will form his new band Humble Pie, with former Small Faces leader Steve Marriott.

Full article:



Across the Western Hemisphere, 1968 cooked up a primordial and eclectic hard-rockin' soup, but it was simmering rather than burning. The ground-breaking strides taken by Cream, Jimi Hendrix and The Who in 1967 had won them huge audiences but their creative juices were increasingly sapped by the demands of endless touring, particularly in America. In effect, the engines that were powering rock in the UK had been removed. And, of course, rock abhors a vacuum.

Seizing an opportunity from the disintegration of his old band, The Yardbirds, revered rock guitarist Jimmy Page first grabbed the reins of their replacement, The New Yardbirds, then transformed that makeshift assemblage into the significantly more weighty Led Zeppelin.

Page's old oppo in The Yardbirds, Jeff Beck, should have been perfectly placed to fill the heavy guitar gap. He had forged The Jeff Beck Group, an all-star aggregation including himself, Rod Stewart, former Shadows' bassist Jet Harris and Rolling Stone-in-waiting Ron Wood. They should have been world-beaters, but despite releasing an acclaimed and influential 1968 debut album, Truth, personality conflicts soon grounded the project.

Another early contender, Deep Purple, was equally quick off the mark. They'd had a taste of American chart success with the power-pop hit single Hush racking up a No4 position on Billboard, but sensed that the future belonged to heavier music, and set their minds on how to achieve that aim.

Free, all still in their teens, took another approach, stripping rock back to a funky r'n'b skeleton that rejected the excesses of the year just gone, but they needed time to evolve.

A little further out of the public eye, dramatic upheavals were underway which would ring out the old and cataclysmically ring in the new. Bands from the bottom of the rockpile - little-known rock soldiers like Earth from Birmingham, and Episode Six and Spice from London, were taking the vital steps necessary to transform heavy rock into heavy metal. The clanging of metal bells was already in the air and, in the 300 days between the release of Led Zeppelin's first two albums, heavy metal would emerge fully formed, like a voracious alien parasite bursting forth from the chest of a dying android.


Jack Bruce : That long US tour, February to June 1968, led to the demise of the band, simply because you can’t lock up three guys in a car for that long, and because we never had time to write.

Eric Clapton : Rolling Stone ran an interview with us in which we were really praising ourselves, and it was followed by a review that said how boring and repetitious our performance had been. And it was true! The ring of truth had just knocked me backward; I was in a restaurant, and I fainted. And after I woke up, I immediately decided that that was the end of the band.

Jimi Hendrix (radio interview) : I can’t play guitar any more the way I want to. I get very frustrated on stage when we play… Every time we come into town, everybody always looks towards us for some kind of answer, for what’s happening to them and … which is a good feeling … but it’s very hard.

Noel Redding (bassist, Jimi Hendrix Experience) : We got through the last tour by constantly telling ourselves, ‘This is our last American tour. We can do it. We’ll survive, we’ll survive, we’ll survive,’ when we felt like death warmed up.

Jimmy Page (guitarist, Led Zeppelin) : I wanted the group to be a marriage of blues, hard rock and acoustic music with heavy choruses - a combination that hadn’t been explored before - lots of light and shade.

I'd originally thought of getting Terry Reid in as lead singer and second guitarist, but he had just signed with Mickie Most as a solo artist in a quirk of fate. He suggested I get in touch with Robert Plant, who was then in a band called Hobbstweedle.

I immediately thought there must be something wrong with him personality-wise or that he had to be impossible to work with, because I just could not understand why, singing for a few years already, he hadn't become a big name yet.

John Paul Jones (bassist, Led Zeppelin) : As soon as I heard John Bonham play, I knew this was going to be great ... We locked together as a team immediately.

Paul Kossoff (guitarist, Free) : Free came together just after Andy (bassist Andy Fraser) left John Mayall. Simon and I had also just left a group - Black Cat Bones, and we two, together with Paul, who was previously with Wilde Flowers, decided to do something ourselves. We were looking for a bass player and Andy was looking for a group and so he joined us. We started out as a blues band, but it moved on from there. We weren't interested in staying on that plane.

Simon Kirke (drums, Free) : Alexis Korner had had a band called Free at Last. When he saw us at the Nag’s Head in Battersea after our first rehearsal he suggested that, but we kind of whittled it down to Free.

Ozzy Osbourne (singer, Earth) : I went to the same school as the guitarist, Tony  Iommi. He was in a band called Mythology with  Bill Ward, the drummer. I was in a group called  the Rare Breed with Geezer Butler. I didn't like  the band. The fucking guitar player was a bully;  Geezer agreed and we decided to leave. I put an  ad in a music shop in Birmingham and Tony and Bill tumed up. We called ourselves Earth.

Bill Ward (drummer, Black Sabbath): We thought we were a hard rock band ... it came out of blues and jazz, and we just started to write.

Jeff Beck : They (metal bands) just took what I did in the Jeff Beck Group and magnified it to gigantic proportions. The drum sound that we had originally was real. They weren’t tricks. There weren’t any Pro Tools or plug-ins or any of that sort of technical stuff. It was still on tape, but the actual building blocks of metal are definitely there. The attack on the chords and the heavy riffs and all that, that was there.

In the opening months of 1969, Humble Pie and Blind Faith were formed, Led Zeppelin and Free released their debut albums, and a little-known Birmingham blues band headed south to make their first attack on the Big Smoke.

Peter Frampton (singer/guitarist, Humble Pie) : At the end of 68, I was in Paris, working on a Johnny Hallyday album with The Small Faces. They went back to do a New Year's Eve date at Alexandra Palace, and I stayed on in Paris with our producer, Glyn Johns.

Late on New Year's Eve, Glyn says, "Let me play you this album. We just recorded and mixed it in ten days.'

So I asked who it was and he said, "Well, it's this new band, Led Zeppelin."

I had no idea who that was until he told me it was Jimmy Page's new band. Jimmy's name made me want to hear it, and Glyn puts on side one and my jaw went on the floor. I just loved Jimmy's playing and the singing but the thing that really floored me was John Bonham's incredible bass drum sound and feel.

Peter Frampton : Then Steve Marriott actually rang me in between side one and side two of the Zeppelin album. He had walked off stage at Ally Pally, and he says, "I've had it. I'm finished with this band."

Jerry Shirley (drums, Humble Pie) : Meanwhile, I'd been playing a New Year's gig with my then-band, Little Women, and got back to my parents' house sometime after midnight. The phone rang and it's Steve, asking if he can join the band that Peter and I were forming.

Peter and I both tried to talk Steve out of it until we were sure he had absolutely made his mind up to quit The Small Faces.

Peter Frampton : Basically, Steve had wanted me to join The Small Faces and the others weren't having it. So he told them, "If you won't let Pete join, I'm gonna join Pete's band."

Jerry Shirley : A couple of days later, we had our first rehearsal in my parents' living room in Nazeing on the edge of North London, and it sounded fantastic. We knew we were onto something really good. We rehearsed the song We Can Talk About It Now and we had it done and dusted in ten or fifteen minutes.

We never saw ourselves as a heavy metal band. We were a really powerful hard-rockin' blues band.

We were trying to be Dylan's backing group, The Band, but Mk II. You might think of them as very countrified, but there's one track on their first album called Chest Fever, which is pretty heavy stuff, not metal, but heavyweight.

I remember hearing it for the first time, when Townshend brought the album over from America, to let Steve listen, as an indication of how the future would be. And he had underlined Chest Fever to make sure we'd listen to it.

We didn't realise that Clapton, with Blind Faith, was also setting off to pursue the same direction, inspired by The Band.

Freddy Bannister (concert promoter) : Basically the scene had changed at the end of the 60s from pop groups to more progressive bands. In early January 1969 I put on a show at Bath Pavilion with Jethro Tull, Aynsley Dunbar’s Retaliation, Love Sculpture, Jeff Beck, Moby Grape, Amen Corner and John Lee Hooker. That gives you some idea of what was going on.

Edgar Broughton (guitarist, Edgar Broughton Band) : Musically it was all quite amorphous. It wasn’t like prog was coming up over there and metal was over here. It was more like this big musical stew and you’d just stick in a spoon and have a taste. I don’t think any of us really knew what we were doing. There was just this sense that if you had an idea and reckoned you could see it through then just do it. That’s why it was so exciting.

Also, amplifiers and speakers were getting bigger and more powerful. Suddenly you had that big bass speaker flapping away. I remember hearing that for the first time. It was almost physical, it made your shirt flap. People were starting to make that heavier sound, because they could.

Peter Frampton : We had all started off with little Vox amps and ended up with 200 watts of Marshall. It just got louder. And the louder we got, the more brazen it got.

Neil Warnock (booking agent) : I controlled the talent bookings into a lot of the Central London colleges, and I was seeing the progression of, for example, The Yardbirds becoming Led Zeppelin, and we had to bill them as 'Led Zeppelin - formerly The Yardbirds.' They didn't want that, but I had to give it some recognition factor for the kids to help sell tickets.

Still in week one of January, a rising Birmingham band, Earth, was heading South, to a gig at London's Marquee Club, supporting jazz-rockers Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum. The Marquee, which had recently given a residency to a London band called Spice, (later to become Uriah Heep) would be a proving ground for many of heavy rock's emergent young bucks.

Jim Simpson (manager, Earth) : I had started a blues night, Henry's Blues House, in Birmingham in September 1968, which Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne joined as members. They came along most weeks and we chatted about their band, which was called Earth, and I ended up managing them. They were a blues band, but they were looking for a new direction and, even then, Ozzy was absolutely mesmerising on stage.

Tony Iommi (guitarist, Black Sabbath) : It was very difficult doing what we did, because it was all soul clubs and blues clubs. We started playing blues, but the first time we threw in a couple of our own songs, Black Sabbath and Wicked World, people came up and said, ‘We really loved those two songs.’ We were well pleased.
K.K. Downing (original guitarist, Judas Priest) : I'm very fortunate to have been born at the right time to witness and play a part in the evolution of music.
We were the kids of blue collar workers. We didn't have cars or money so we just walked around from pub to club and on the corner of every street there was a venue with bands playing.
Keith Law (Birmingham band Velvet Fogg) : Lots of musos would meet after gigs, at such places as The Cedar, Rum Runner, Opposite Lock, Rebecca’s and after at Alex’s Pie Stand, there was a great camaraderie.
1969, Jan 12 : Led Zeppelin release their debut album, Led Zeppelin 1

Jimmy Page : The first album came together really quick. It was cut very shortly after the band was formed. For material, we obviously went right down to our blues roots. I still had plenty of Yardbirds riffs left over.
John Paul Jones (bassist, Led Zeppelin) : We never listened to the same music. I’ve always maintained that Zeppelin was the space between us. Bonzo was into soul music and Motown. I was into jazz and classical. Jimmy was into rockabilly, blues and folk and Robert was into blues and Elvis. Nobody on the outside of the band could believe this - but we considered it valuable.
Keith Richard (guitarist, Rolling Stones) : I played their album quite a few times when I first got it, but then the guy's voice started to get on my nerves. . I don't know why. Maybe he's a little too acrobatic. But Jimmy Page is a great guitar player.

Edgar Broughton : I remember the unique-ness of the music and having to accept that I’d never heard anything like that before. It was the incredible guitar playing and the violence of the drums that did it for me. And they’d managed to capture this huge heavy rock sound in the studio which was quite a rare thing in those days.

Andy Fraser (bassist, Free) : We’d listen to Zeppelin, who were somewhat like us, coming from the blues into rock but with lots of other influences. We’d go, 'Yeah, really, really good musicians', but some of their songs weren’t as good as their musicianship. Robert Plant would be screaming away and we’d be like, 'couldn’t he think of some lyrics?'

Andy Parker (drums, UFO) : I was a huge fan of The Who, Cream and Hendrix, but Zeppelin’s first album made me go, ‘Jesus!’. All of a sudden the music took on this new heaviness.

Roger Glover (bass, Episode Six) : I think we'd had thirteen or fourteen singles out, none of which made it.

I had visions of my doing a one man-one guitar thing. Then I heard Led Zeppelin I and that changed all my ideas musically. I suddenly realised that I wanted to be in a heavy band.

Alongside London and Birmingham, things were on the move further North.

Ken McKenzie (owner, Multichord Studios, Sunderland) : Things changed in Sunderland in 1969, thanks mainly to (promoter) Geoff Docherty who brought amazing bands to the area. Because of his contacts in London, he could get bands like Pink Floyd and Deep Purple.

Geoff Docherty (promoter) : I had a six-week gap between gigs by Family and Pink Floyd. I booked Free to do January 13 1969 for £35. Nobody had heard of them so there wasn't many people there.

That first time, the people that did come thought it was free to get in! I thought it was a stupid name. ... but the band were young and energetic and fitted together very well. I had faith in them.

Simon Kirke (drummer, Free) : Free and the North East had a wonderful relationship. Our music was stripped down passionate blues that appealed to the very down-home people of the North East.

Geoff Docherty : Whenever I had Free on, the gigs were jam packed, everyone went wild, girls would invade the stage. Girls would faint and I'd lift them up and carry them backstage. I had my suspicions they were doing it on purpose so they could get to meet the group! It was bedlam!

Dave Black (guitarist, Newcastle band Kestrel) : North East soul bands changed into rock bands in 1969. They still had their brass sections but started rocking it up and doing songs like Sunshine Of Your Love. 1969 was the first time bands started writing songs based on riffs.

The Mayfair was one of the biggest gigs in Newcastle. It was huge! Big dance floor, lots of different bars and a revolving stage. With a very diverse bunch of bands playing there from rock bands to pop groups. (e.g. Deep Purple, Feb 22; Spooky Tooth, Mar 13; The Move, Nov 20.)

There were, however, still pockets of the nation where the wind of change was not penetrating.

Deke Leonard (guitarist, Welsh acid-rockers Man) : As far as bands like Deep Purple, Free, Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Led Zeppelin and that sort of thing went, we ignored it all, didn’t like them.

We considered ourselves part of the alternative culture. All our influences were American rock groups, so we listened to their records all day and then made our music in the evening. We listened to Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Steve Miller, Quicksilver, It's A Beautiful Day.

In the final week of the month, Cream released their farewell album, Goodbye, which would peak at No1 in the UK and No2 in the USA.

Eric Clapton : We started a ball rolling which I don't like being responsible for - people say we started the heavy metal thing, which is quite an indictment. But Cream had to fizzle out … I felt then that I'd wasted three years.
Robert Plant (vocalist, led Zeppelin) : There was such a difference, even on first hearing, between us and Cream. There was an intense difference. There were other groups in the country other than us who could have filled Cream’s place more specifically.
John Bonham (drummer, Led Zeppelin) : I was influenced by Ginger Baker - rock had been going for a while but Baker was the first to come out and show that a drummer could be a forward thing in a rock band, not just stuck at the back and forgotten about.
Ginger Baker (drummer, Cream) : People say Cream gave birth to heavy metal. If that’s so, we should have had an abortion.
Jack Bruce (bassist, Cream) : I still don't take the blame for inventing heavy metal. Hang that one on Led Zeppelin.
Deke Leonard (Man) : I like Led Zeppelin. Especially when they were proto-heavy metal. We liked hard driving music, something with fire in its belly. Not wishy-washy Moody Blues crap. Jethro Tull and Deep Purple - I thought they were tripe. I liked Terry Reid. He was 24-carat fucking genuine.

Terry Reid : I made good money that year. I was never without a gig, even on what we called the bread and butter circuit. There was plenty of butter. Work was plentiful. I think the music I made then stands the test of time.

As February opened, Deep Purple began two weeks of touring in England with a show at Birmingham's Top Rank. At this point, they could earn £150 a night in the UK, but £2500 a night in the USA were they had hit singles.

Jon Lord (keyboards, Deep Purple, interview in Beat Instrumental,1969) : I suppose you could say we are playing symphonic rock. We're classed, I guess, as an underground group in the States specially, but we were a Top 40 group first, then went underground. There's a possibility that recognition is slow coming here because of that chart chart success. There is a snobbery in our underground scene, whatever people may say .... blues groups who don't like to admit that they'd like the success that comes from hit records. So they go on earning £100 a night and we're doing twenty times as much.

Early March saw Zeppelin recording a live session for BBC deejay John Peel's Top Gear show in London. Peel, the beating heart of underground music, also now got his first exposure to the band that would become Black Sabbath, in Sunderland's Bay Hotel.

Jimmy Page : As for radio, there’s only one outlet for our sort of band ... and that’s Top Gear and that’s only two hours a week.
Ozzy Osbourne : If it wasn't for John Peel, Black Sabbath would never have been played on the radio. He was a good guy.
Geoff Docherty (promoter) : I got Peel to come up. I was so excited. It was like meeting Elvis! Peel was the one who had started the musical revolution. And kept it going.

It was Peely that was the draw, not Earth or the headliners Van Der Graaf. The Bay was the in-place and everyone wanted to see Peely. John played some records for the crowd and introduced the bands.

Earth didn't really get much of a reaction. They weren't loud. The PA wasn't big enough for that!

Andy Fraser (bassist, Free) : When we went into Morgan studios to make our first album, (released March 14) we were starting from the beginning. We didn’t know what it was like to try and create that good feeling at a gig in this total silence. But we learned fast. And it was always about making albums. We didn’t even think about what might make a good single. Consequently we didn’t even release a single from that first album.


As the summer arrived, Deep Purple was re-structuring itself to adapt to the changing scene by adding vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover of North London rock stalwarts Episode Six.

Ritchie Blackmore : I could tell the fashion was going to be for screamers with depth and an overall blues feel, which is why we got Ian. He had a scream, but also had a way of singing which was very different. He's got a lot of identity there, and you always know when it's Ian singing.

Roger Glover (bassist, Episode Six) : There were terrible scenes with (Episode Six manager) Gloria Bristow and the band. Then Ian called me and suggested I help him write some songs for Purple. So I said 'Yes.' I mean, we were so broke, it was pathetic.

I went to Jon Lord's flat and we played him our songs. He didn't like them but asked if I wanted to do a session that evening. Of course, I said, 'Yes', because I knew it meant money.

I did the session (June 7, recording the single Hallelujah at De Lane Lea studios, London.) and made a few constructive suggestions. Then to my astonishment, they offered me the gig as a bass-player.

By the middle of the month, the re-constituted Purps were ensconced in West London's Hanwell Community Centre, for intensive rehearsals, where they found themselves sharing the facilities with Spice, later to become Uriah Heep.

Ritchie Blackmore : There was a chemistry and, basically, we were all very enthusiastic. Plus, the band was very musically-inclined. Roger is an excellent catalyst who is very good at putting things together; Ian was a very good showman and a good-looking guy who had an incredible voice. Jon was a very good arranger and musician in the old-school form, who could put it down on paper. I was the mad, irritable guitarist, I suppose, who certain people could relate to, and I thought I also played quite well.

Roger Glover : Ritchie had mentioned that he liked Hendrix's Fire. I stood there in the huge echoey gym and apprehensively started playing the first thing that came into my head that would convey a similar feeling. They all joined in, making it sound great, and a jam ensued which would set the course of the song (Speed King). It was exhilarating.
Someone said "Do you remember that song 'Bombay Calling' by It's A Beautiful Day?" Jon started playing it for us. We all joined in, we slowed it down, Ian started singing something over it, and it sounded like it could be interesting. (It became A Child In Time)
Ken Hensley (keyboards, Spice) : When I joined Spice they were already in the studio recording the first album and two or three songs were finished, including Come Away Melinda and Wake Up (Set Your Sights). Those songs pointed at their existing musical identity. What I brought to the band was different songs, obviously, and the Hammond which helped them to evolve.
Mick Box (guitarist, Spice) : We wrote Gypsy at Hanwell, with Deep Purple rehearsing in the next room. You can imagine the kind of racket we were making between us.
Ken Hensley : It was also at Hanwell that Gerry (Gerry Bron, owner of Bronze records) walked in and said he was going to change the name from Spice to Uriah Heep. We just said, ‘Yeah, fine, whatever you want to call it… 1-2-3’ and carried on playing because we were having way too much fun.

Following the success of their debut album, Zeppelin spent the summer consolidating their success on the second and most extensive of their three US tours of the year - a gruelling 36-date coast-to-coast Arena slog. Back in the homeland, Humble Pie and the new Deep Purple were now on the road, Earth were re-born as Black Sabbath and metal began to distinguish itself from heavy rock.

Chris Welch (Melody Maker journalist) : One New York concert drew 21,000 people, while support like The Doors and Iron Butterfly were consistently blown off stage by the rampaging Britons.
Jimmy Page : It was like a tornado, and it went rolling across the country.

Peter Frampton : Although we had heavy riffs, we also had Steve singing over the top with his very soulful, r'nb, blues voice, which wasn't at all how metal vocalists would sing.

We were playing Gretschs, then I switched over to a Gibson Les Paul, and so did Steve. The Les Paul offered a heavier sound than the semi-acoustic guitars we'd been using. If you looked at metal bands ... well Ritchie Blackmore always played a Strat, Jimmy Page played a Les Paul...

Pete Townshend (guitarist, The Who) : People used to come and see us, and in Britain it was, 'You are our favourite group with Deep Purple,' and I used to go, "Huh?' And in America it used to be, 'You are our favourite group with Ten Years After.'

And it was very hard to live with, in a way, that we were being lumped in with these very heavy metal bands.

Meanwhile in Birmingham, Earth learned that at least one other band had the same name...
Jim Simpson (manager) : We were all making suggestions for the new name, but none of them seemed right until Geezer said Black Sabbath, which he'd got from the title of an old Boris Karloff horror movie.
Ozzy Osbourne : It was just a different angle. At the time it was all bells and flowers, hippies and incense and smoking hash.

Tony Iommi : That’s when it all started to happen. The name sounded mysterious, it gave people something to think about, and it gave us a direction to follow.
Jim Simpson (manager) : They were really not particularly interested in Black Magic but there was another band around at the same time, Black Widow, who got involved with a white witch, Alex Sanders. They got loads of press and people got confused. They thought it was Black Sabbath.

Black Widow had all the profile. They just weren't any good.

The Sabs were always captivating, very in-your-face live, but the thing that really made them tight was a stint at The Star Club in Hamburg (Aug 10 - 16).

Ozzy Osbourne : We used to play really loud. As loud as we could get it, trying to drown out all the conversation in the club.

Jim Simpson : When they came back, Tony's fingers were bleeding and Ozzie couldn't speak. They'd been playing every day from eight at night til four in the morning, 45 minutes on, fifteen off.

Halfway through August, the ultimate hippy gathering of tribes, The Woodstock Festival, billed as "Three days of peace and love', began in Upstate New York.

Pete Townshend (The Who) : All these hippies wandering about, thinking the world was going to be different from that day on. As a cynical English arsehole, I wandered through it all and felt like spitting on the lot of them and shaking them, trying to make them realize that nothing had changed and nothing was going to change. Not only that, what they thought was an alternative society was basically a field full of six-foot-deep mud laced with LSD. If that was the world they wanted to live in, then fuck the lot of them.

Terry Reid : All the Vietnam stuff washed over me, but I was aware of Woodstock.

Robert Plant : I still to this day regret not playing Woodstock. Because of a fucking New York gig I missed the greatest show in history.

To the world at large, the month ended with legions of flower-painted camper vans parking in serried ranks for The Isle Of Wight Festival, but for Black Sabbath, just 160 miles north but a world away, it meant the first gig under their new name at Malvern Winter Gardens (Aug 30), Worcestershire.

Geezer Butler (bassist, Black Sabbath) : Tony tuned down to make it easier to grip the strings; he had his fingertips chopped off in an accident, and he has plastic fingertips.

Tony Iommi : A couple of years before, the factory where I worked, I did sheet metal work and the cutter came down on my fingers, took the ends of my middle and ring finger off. I was in despair until my foreman came to my house and asked me to listen to a record he’d brought me. ‘You’ve got to hear this,” he said. I said, ‘No, I’m not interested.’ He said, ‘Please, just put it on.’ I had to admit it was fantastic but it was almost like he was rubbing it in. Then he told me it was Django Rheinhardt, the fabulous jazz guitarist, who had two fingers badly damaged in a fire and played all his incredible solos using just his remaining two fingers. That’s what really inspired me to carry on and develop my own way of playing.

Before the accident I could play in the normal way, using full chords and everything but, after the accident I had to think and play differently. I came up with these fatter chords that I could play with less fingers.

Jim Simpson (manager) : There was no band as heavy as the Sabs. We had a strapline on our adverts, which was 'Makes Led Zeppelin sound like a kindergarden house band.' That's the flag we sailed under.

The relationship between Sabbath's equipment and their music was much more important than it was for a ska band or a pop band. If Tony saw someone with a stack of speakers taller than his, he would spit blood.

Edgar Broughton : We had so many speakers at one time, if four or five went off we'd just shrug and carry on. We landed up with these great big 300-watt Marshall cabinets. I mean, you could almost lie on the sound.

Jim Simpson : The Sabs also used to hate all of the art school bands. It was an out and out class war against weak-kneed pop, and that included Zeppelin.

Al Atkins (first vocalist for Judas Priest) : It was such a rough and ready, industrialised area around here. When you left school you had two choices, you’d work in a factory or a foundry. In West Bromwich you don’t see people sitting around under palm trees wearing Bermuda shorts, strumming acoustic guitars. Where I come from, even the sparrows cough.

Sabbath had begun their recording career with two tracks, The Rebel and A Song For Jim, at Trident Studios in London (Aug 22) and followed through soon after with an entire album of demos at Zella Studios in Birmingham.

Jim Simpson (manager) : Once Sabbath started writing and recording it was impossible to figure out what their influences were. There was a huge chasm between what came before and them. It was not step by step, it was a leap, and it came from them.

In my time with Sabbath I had no indication whatsoever of any drugs usage, in the band. They drank beer. It's a working class thing. They worked hard and they drank hard. Drugs didn't come in with Sabbath til much later.

Ken Hensley (keyboards, Uriah Heep) : Drugs were never constructive. Maybe we’d try a little bit here and there but we knew in our hearts of hearts that we didn’t need it. It was only later that drugs became such a destructive force.

Jim Simpson : They were so well-rehearsed that the recordings in Birmingham were a cinch. It was just a case of getting the levels and pressing play.

But I took those demos to fourteen record companies and got fourteen straight noes. They could not understand what was good about it.

If they had sounded like The Grateful Dead or Simon And Garfunkel, there would have been something the A+R guys could compare it to, but they'd just never heard anything like Sabbath.


As the metal momentum gathered, Deep Purple launched a rock concerto and began recording In Rock; Black Sabbath recorded their eponymous debut, Spice became Uriah Heep, London-based hard rock band Hocus Pocus changed their name to UFO, and Zeppelin ended the year with America's last No1 album of the decade.
Tony Edwards (manager) : Jon Lord said to me that he dreamed of writing a work that could be performed by a rock group and a symphony orchestra. I said, 'How long would it take?' I came home, booked The Albert Hall (for Sep 24) and he was appalled.
Jon Lord : I'd come back from a gig at three in the morning and have to sit up the rest of the night scoring for a 100-piece orchestra. Unfortunately, it drove a wedge between me and the rest of the band ... but it did make us famous.
Ritchie Blackmore : I thought it was a total gimmick. I told Jon I'd be prepared to try it, but that I had a lot of heavy rock numbers I wanted to put on an LP, and we'd see which one took off. I didn't want to be involved with the concerto because of the novelty effect, and the press we were getting out of playing it at The Royal Albert Hall and all this business, but I said that if the next LP (In Rock) didn't take off, I was prepared to play with orchestras for the rest of my life.
Black Sabbath recorded their debut album (Oct 16) at Regent Sound Studios, London, in eight hours, at a cost of £600.

Geezer Butler : We went into the studio, set up our equipment and recorded it as a live gig. Tony did a couple of overdubs, solos and things, and that was it.

Jim Simpson : By letting them just be Sabbath, producer Roger Bain got the best out of them. All he did was record it faithfully. Roger's only real masterstroke was adding thunder and lightning to the start of the album, which gave it a great atmospheric opening.

Once again, though, when I took the finished album - which has subsequently sold millions of units - back round all those record companies again, it got rejected again.

At the last minute, I got a call from a guy, Olav Wyper, at a newly-set-up label, Vertigo. Olav had been at CBS when I took the album there, and said he'd now like to do a deal. This was only because, for Vertigo's second tranche of three releases, someone had failed to deliver masters for VO6. So they signed Black Sabbath as a makeweight, because we had finished masters which could be delivered in a hurry.

Tony Iommi : I remember we got a poxy £400 for signing, and a crap royalty rate but we really weren’t bothered about the money, because we didn’t have any money anyway.

Led Zeppelin released Led Zeppelin II (Oct 22), simultaneously in the UK and USA. It quickly hit No1 in both countries, and became America's last No1 album of the 60s. Soon after, aspiring rock musician Fred Bulsara wrote to his former flat-mate Celine, announcing that he had, "Just heard Zeppelin II LP and it's a knock-out. Saw them at The Lyceum and they were really great." Fred would find fame as Freddie Mercury of Queen.

Robert Plant : It was crazy really. We were writing the numbers in hotel rooms and then we'd do a rhythm track in London, add the vocal in New York, overdub the harmonica in Vancouver and then come back to finish mixing at New York.

Jimmy Page : That album captured the energy of being on the road - that’s what I like about it. That record and the period around it seems like a tidal wave now.

John Mendelsohn (reviewer, Rolling Stone) : Until you've listened to the album eight hundred times, as I have, it seems as if it's just one especially heavy song extended over the space of two whole sides.
Slash (guitarist) : Jeff Beck, Blow by Blow is a big one for me; Hendrix Axis: Bold as Love, Disraeli Gears from Cream - I know these are all ancient records, but they're just what I was sort of weaned on - Led Zeppelin II and Aerosmith Rocks.
Steve Vai (guitarist) : When I finally heard Led Zeppelin II, I said, ‘OK, this is it. I have to play the guitar.
Robert Plant : That was the album that was going to dictate whether or not we had the staying power and the capacity to stimulate. It was still blues-based but it was a much more carnal approach to the music and quite flamboyant.
Come November, when The Rolling Stones embarked on their first American tour for three years, they found that audiences suddenly had different expectations.
Charlie Watts (drummer, Rolling Stones) : I call that tour the Led Zeppelin tour, because it was the first time we had to go on and play for an hour-and-a-half. I blame it on Jimmy Page. Led Zeppelin had come to the States, and they would do a twenty-minute drum solo and endless guitar solos.

The original line-up of Judas Priest, significantly different than the quintet that would become successful, played their first-ever gig (Nov 25), at The George Hotel in Walsall, Staffordshire, UK.

Al Atkins (Judas Priest) : Our bass player, Bruno Stapenhill, came up with the name from the Bob Dylan song The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest. We were a great little four-piece - me, Bruno, Ernie [Chataway, guitar] and John [Partridge, drums].

Black Sabbath was the style that we wanted to go in, writing bigger and bigger riffs.

From 1969 into 1970 were did lots of touring. Compared to the Priest of today it was all very low key. When John was unable to make it on a tour of Scotland I sang and played drums. That was a struggle but we were determined not to cancel the gigs.

Neil Warnock (booking agent) : As 1969 went on, the heavier bands started to take off in The Marquee in Soho, The Greyhound in Croydon, The Wake Arms in Epping ... we all know that this kind of music is all about the blue collar working man having a beer and a bit of sound. That's where it found its audience.

By the end of the year, if one of those emerging heavy bands came out of a gig with £100 they'd think that was a result. But it was those bands, Sabbath, Deep Purple and their like, that provided my core income in the next decade.

Tony Iommi : We arrived at the height of the Vietnam War and on the other side of the hippie era, so there was a mood of doom and aggression.
Ian Paice (drummer, Deep Purple) : It was a breakaway from what was acceptable and normal, that’s for sure, but within a year it had become the norm. Every kid looked like that and listened to the same form of music. It’s amazing how quickly fashion can take hold of public taste to be adapted by a whole generation.
Ken Hensley (keyboards, Uriah Heep) : It felt like we were part of something that was very exciting. A real energy was building, not just amongst the bands - and we spent time with Purple, Sabbath and the rest on tour; we also did many shows with Led Zeppelin - but with the kids as well. It was that post-Vietnam time when everyone was looking for something new and different. It all combined to make the thing like an unstoppable train.


Blind Faith had delivered a No1 album and respectable tour receipts, but the group would soon disintegrate. Humble Pie had scored a Top 5 UK hit with Natural Born Bugie but subsequent releases lacked their early fire and with Frampton quitting in 1971, their impetus was lost.

Of all the highly-touted new heavy supergroups, only Led Zeppelin delivered the goods, ending 1969 as not just the biggest thing in rock, but the biggest new artist of any genre in the USA.

After the disappointing sales of their superb 1969 debut album, Tons Of Sobs, Free's hard slog round clubland was rewarded in May 1970 with the UK No2 hit All Right Now, which also broke them big in America and achieved No1 status in over 20 territories world wide.

Deep Purple came through as the new decade opened with the toweringly majestic In Rock peaking at No4 in the UK, and the genre-defining single, Black Night, stopping only at No2.

Uriah Heep must have been dismayed with the poor performance of their 1970 debut album, ...Very 'Eavy ... Very 'Umble, which made no impact on the charts, and drew scathing reviews, the harshest coming from Melissa Mills of Rolling Stone, who vowed, "If this group makes it I'll have to commit suicide." Their climb to success was long and slow and it was only years later that the album found acclaim as an early heavy metal classic.

The first incarnation of Judas Priest floundered in 1970, but soldiered on until, after a complete change of line-up, they broke big at the start of the 80s with the album British Steel.

Undeniably, though, it was Black Sabbath whose oft-rejected eponymous debut can now be acknowledged as the album that kick-started heavy metal as we know it today, not to mention introducing ideas that would speed the evolution of doom metal and goth.

Ahead lay multi-platinum sales, America's adoption of HM, a whole NWOBHM, head-banging, Monsters Of Rock, air guitar contests, the horns and more. Thanks to those 300 days in 1969, the future was, and still is, metal.


When counterculture guru Williams S. Burroughs adapted the centuries-old chemical term 'heavy metal' and applied it to a character nicknamed The Heavy Metal Kid in his 1961 novel The Soft Machine, he didn't have a clue what he was about to unleash.
Six years on, Burroughs' evocative phrase appeared on the cover of the obscure 1967 hippy album, Hapshash And The Coloured Coat Featuring The Human Host And The Heavy Metal Kids but, meanwhile, 60s music had been evolving fast.
"In the early 60s, American rock n'roll, through skiffle, had morphed into the British beat movement," remembers John Steel, drummer of massively successful blues-rock band The Animals. "And that morphed into Cream, who were a blues band, but a big loud one. As were Led Zeppelin. Then, the blues and rock n'roll backbeat with a guitar became a massive wall of sound."

In 1968, music critic Sandy Pearlman borrowed heavy metal as a descriptor for the sounds on The Byrds' album The Notorious Byrd Brothers and, in that same year, Canadian hard rockers Steppenwolf picked up on it, incorporating the couplet "I like smoke and lightning, Heavy metal thunder" in their hit single, Born To Be Wild.
The term rapidly gained currency but, when applied to music, it was usually reduced to just one word - heavy.

"It really started in the mid-1960s with Cream, Hendrix and The Who," reckons Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice. "Those three switched all of us on. When The Who started making their presence felt, rock ‘n’ roll went to a different level. The volume leapt up incredibly. Cream took the musicality of the thing and made that a speciality. And then Hendrix opened up a whole range of new possibilities. Those three were the real catalysts."

Heavy music, by 1968, was infiltrating rock's entire spectrum, and Free's bassist Andy Fraser, remembers a camaraderie that existed, citing how, "When Robert Plant came to see us play in Birmingham, he came back to the hotel afterwards for a jam, which people did a lot in those days, and told us he’d just been offered a gig with the New Yardbirds, on a good wage."

Another candidate for Plant's gig had been Terry Reid, widely considered 1968's rock singer most likely to succeed. He reckons, "This is when hard rock is moving towards heavy metal. Everyone knew everybody. I became part of the pool. I was asked to join what became Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page also asked Steve Marriott and Stevie Winwood cos he wanted a singer and guitarist."

As 1968 ended, the rise and rise of heavy rock was playing havoc with the precious little stability the music business considered normal. "When ‘68 drifts away every band was breaking up or forming, or breaking up and re-forming," says Reid. "It was like Scrabble, everything flying in all directions. Music was changing. Not the industry but the groups, and the singles market had become the albums market."

Everything was about to change.

In its short lifespan, it was, reckoned John Peel, "the best club in Britain".

Operated by manager John 'Spud' Taylor and promoter Phil Myatt, Mothers Club, was located in the former Carlton Ballroom, above a High Street furniture store in the Birmingham suburb of Erdington.

Traffic made their debut at Mothers, The Who performed Tommy there and Pink Floyd recorded parts of their album Ummagumma on its hallowed stage, but despite its many cherished memories, Mothers survived for just the four years from 1968 to 1971.

In the course of 1969 alone, Taylor and Myatt's' eclectic booking policy meant that devotees enjoyed performances by Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Yes, Terry Reid, Pink Floyd, Spooky Tooth, Pentangle, Free, Ten Years After, Fleetwood Mac, The Deviants and The Edgar Broughton Band.

One cynic characterised the clientele as "cider drinking, sixth form vegetarians in duffle coats", but Led Zep's Jimmy Page was rather more enamoured of them. "Most places, they just go to have a dance or to have a drink, not to listen," he reckoned. "They don’t care who’s on. There are a few exceptions like The Marquee, Middle Earth and Birmingham Mothers’.

Andy Goff, a regular attendee, has recalled how, "After you had queued for ages you entered a dark place, passing first through the bar area and then into the Big Room which, by today's gig standards, was tiny. A few tables and chairs at the front and sides and then a theoretical dance floor in the middle - but who was dancing? We were there for the music."

The venue's slogan, 'The Home Of Good Sounds' became a virtual guarantee that the artists who played at Mothers would not be drawn from the ranks of pop or MOR favourites of the day.

"I can remember Deep Purple coming back from America and me booking them into Mothers," says agent Neil Warnock, "knowing it was a landmark date for them because they were considered to be a pop band. They'd had a big pop single in America which had flopped in England, so they meant very little here. People thought even the name was a bit naff. But when they played at Mothers, everybody went, 'Fuck me, this is great.'"

At the end of 1970, Taylor and Myatt were unable to arrange a further leasing arrangement with the landlords and, as a consequence, Mothers closed on January 3, 1971. The venue has been mourned by locals ever since, but its importance to Birmingham's music culture was finally recognized in mid-2013 when an English Heritage Blue Plaque was unveiled on its former site.

Source : This feature by Johnny Black was first published in Classic Rock Magazine.