The Crazy Story Behind Led Zeppelin’s First Live Recording in 1968

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Just like any influential band, there was a time when they were just beginning and it was unclear if their music would become timeless or fall back into obscurity. In 1968, the band Led Zeppelin was in their early years. 55 years ago today (December 30), the British rockers were preparing for only their fifth performance at a college gymnasium in Washington. They were so unknown back then that the newspaper ad promoting the show spelled their name wrong!

The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Washington ran an ad for a concert at Gonzaga University featuring “The Vanilla Fudge, with Len Zefflin.” Someone who attended the show created a bootleg recording that would become famous as the first-ever live Led Zeppelin performance on tape, now known as Gonzaga ’68.

English rock group Led Zeppelin posed circa 1969. L-R: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones (behind), John Bonham (front) - posed, group shot

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Decades later, some people who were lucky enough to be at the show admitted they were blown away by the performance from a relatively unknown band. A man named Bob Gallagher, who worked at a record store at the time recalled, “Bonham came out and started drumming on ‘Train Kept a-Rollin’ and everybody went, ‘Holy crap.’”

It is hard to imagine such classics were so new and unheard of at the time. Halfway through the set, frontman Robert Plant can be heard saying, “This is off an album that comes out in about three weeks time on the Atlantic label. It’s called Led Zeppelin. This is a tune called ‘Dazed and Confused.’”

English rock band Led Zeppelin at Heathrow Airport in London, UK, 11th June 1973. From left to right, they are singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, drummer John Bonham (1948 - 1980) and bassist/keyboard player John Paul Jones

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That album, which also featured songs such as “Good Times Bad Times” and “You Shook Me” went on to sell millions of copies and led to seven more studio albums. If you’re interested, check out the live Gonzaga ’68 album below and tell us your thoughts on the iconic band! What is your favorite Led Zeppelin song?

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May 2019

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