Why Jimmy Page Thinks Led Zeppelin’s ’71 Show in Berkeley ‘Wasn’t a Very Good Communion’ With Fans
If you follow Jimmy Page on social media, you know the guitar legend and Led Zeppelin mastermind favors the “On this day in [year]” style of post. Page typically uses the date to flash back to a memorable occasion with Zep or other musicians he’s played with over the years.
Page doesn’t always follow that formula. “On this day in 2020, ‘Scarlet’ by The Rolling Stones, featuring me, is released,” he wrote on Twitter in July ’20. Page wrote that about a Stones track he soloed on in 1974 that saw the light of day 46 years later.
On Sept. 13, the guitarist took followers back to a show Zeppelin played in Berkeley on that date in ’71. Page didn’t remember it as one for the ages. “The seated, uni-like audience seemed pretty non-plussed [that night],” Page wrote on Facebook.
After that, Page offered five possible reasons why “it wasn’t a very good communion” with the audience. He wrote them out in multiple-choice style, clearly having fun with his flashback.
Jimmy Page wondered if the audience bought into Rolling Stone’s negative Led Zeppelin coverage
When Led Zeppelin released its debut album, Rolling Stone’s reviewer didn’t see it as a groundbreaking event in music history. Quite the opposite, in fact: John Mendelsohn lambasted Zep’s first record. The members of the band noticed.
After the release of Led Zeppelin II, Rolling Stone didn’t assign another writer to review the album. Editors again gave the job to Mendelsohn, recently of the UCLA school paper. “Who can deny that Jimmy Page is the absolute number-one heaviest white blues guitarist between 5’4” and 5’8”?” Mendelsohn wrote in an attempt at humor.
Led Zeppelin didn’t laugh. From that point, the band treated the press like enemies. In his flashback to the ’71 Berkeley gig, Page proved he hadn’t forgotten. “Maybe that evening [audience members] were contaminated by the negative press we had continually received from the locally-based Rolling Stone,” he wrote.
But Page didn’t just pin the blame on critics. For his second theory, Page referenced “the remnants of the vibrant San Francisco music scene” of the previous years. Maybe that crowd felt bowled over by “Black Dog” and “Rock and Roll.” Or maybe they missed “Going to California.”
Page said it was possible the audience didn’t dig ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ — or was ‘heavily stoned’
On the date of that ’71 Berkeley show, the blockbuster Led Zeppelin IV was still two months from release. As Page noted in his Facebook post, the audience might not have embraced the new tracks (including “Stairway to Heaven”) right away.
Page kept fishing with his last theories. Maybe audience members were just “heavily stoned,” he cracked. Then he suggested Berkeley didn’t embrace Zep due to a combination of “all of the above.”
On LedZeppelin.com, the band posted some choice reviews of the show by area critics. They don’t disappoint in the slightest. In the San Francisco Chronicle, the writer described “Black Dog” as “an entirely disreputable mélange.”
Indeed, the Zep fought an uphill battle that night in Berkeley. They couldn’t win all their campaigns across America. Forty-nine years later, it still makes Page wonder a little bit.