Uploaded on May 24, 2010
This tour took place shortly after the release of Led Zeppelin's fifth album, Houses of the Holy, which topped the charts. Prior to its commencement, Led Zeppelin's manager Peter Grant also hired PR consultant Danny Goldberg to further promote the tour, and booked a number of large stadium venues. As a result, this tour broke box office records across America. On May 5 at Tampa Stadium, Florida, they played to 56,800 fans (breaking the record set by The Beatles at Shea Stadium in 1965), and grossed $309,000. In total, this tour grossed over $4,000,000.
On-stage, Led Zeppelin's shows were developed further from those performed on previous tours, with the introduction of dry ice, laser effects, backdrop mirrors, hanging mirror balls and Catherine wheel pyrotechnics. Their dress attire also took on a more flamboyant nature, evidenced in particular by guitarist Jimmy Page's hummingbird jacket and John Paul Jones' Spanish matador jacket. This increase in on-stage theatricality was later referred to by Page during an interview he gave to rock journalist Mick Wall:
Originally, we saw the whole essence of our live performance as something that the audience listened to very carefully, picking up on what was going on, the spontaneity and musicianship. And you cant do that if youre running around the stage all night, or at least we couldnt back then. By 1973, however, we were much more ambitious, in that respect. We really wanted to take the live performances as far as they could go.
Promotional poster of Led Zeppelin, 1973
The three sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden in New York which concluded the tour were filmed for a motion picture, but the theatrical release of this project (The Song Remains the Same) was delayed until 1976. The film documents the theft of $203,000 of the group's money from a safe deposit box at the Drake Hotel in New York, just before their final show. The theft was discovered by Led Zeppelin tour manager Richard Cole, who was immediately interrogated by police as a suspect. The sum of money was the band's takings from their three New York concerts. It was never recovered and the identity of the thief or thieves has never been discovered. The band later sued the Drake Hotel for the theft.
It was also during this tour that Led Zeppelin hired for the first time The Starship - a former United Airlines Boeing 720B passenger jet. During the early part of the tour the band had hired a small private Falcon Jet to transport its members from city to city, but these aircraft are comparatively light and susceptible to air turbulence. After performing a show at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco on June 2, Led Zeppelin encountered bad turbulence on a flight back to Los Angeles. As a result, Grant resolved to hire The Starship for the remainder of the tour, at a cost of $30,000. The exterior of the plane was re-sprayed with Led Zeppelin emblazoned down the side of the fuselage and the band's famous Swan Song Apollo logo was painted on the tail.
Flying on The Starship, Led Zeppelin were now no longer required to change hotels so often. They could base themselves in large cities and travel to and from concerts within flying distance. After each show, the band members would be transported direct by limousine from the concert venue to the airport, as depicted in the concert film, The Song Remains the Same.
In an interview he gave to William S. Burroughs in 1975, Page commented on the exhausting nature of the 1973 tour:
We were playing sets for three hours solid, and physically that was a real...I mean, when I came back from the last tour I didn't know where I was. I didn't even know where I was going. We ended up in New York and the only thing that I could relate to was the instrument onstage. I just couldn't....I was just totally and completely spaced out.
In a much more recent interview, Page recalled:
What I remember about that 1973 tour is that we arrived in America and we did 53,000 at Atlanta and then 55,000 at the following concert in Tampa, Florida — it was quite clear that if people were going to come along to see us in those kind of numbers we werent going to have problems doing concerts that would fulfil the demand. It was phenomenal though — the audience reaction was just so with us, yknow.
Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant has also expressed his own recollections of the tour:
I remember that tour rather like the lyrics to "The Battle of Evermore". A flash. Really fast. Lots of battles and conquests. And the din of the hordes. So much happened in such a short time. It was phenomenal.
The kind of speed we were moving at, the creative juices in the air, the whole thing was just and absolute mixture of adrenaline, chemical, euphoria ... and there were no brakes. We couldn't stop what was happening. We had no idea what it even was. But we just kept trying, pushing forward, every show.