Led Zeppelin – Destroyer (1977)


Led Zeppelin
April 2, 1977. Cleveland, Ohio

Yesterday (June 28) marked nineteen years since my brother was killed. I spent most of the evening listening to music to that reminds me him, which included some of the mighty Zeppelin. But I neither need to nor will make any excuses for digging the Led Zeppelin and it was not a nostalgia trip. Although certain hipsters and revisionist neo-punks still maintain they are too cool for Zeppelin, most people who actually like rock and roll will acknowledge the band’s place as one of the best in the genre. This was one of the first Zeppelin boots to come to my attention and has been issued a whole mess of times by different labels. By most reckonings the best versions are the ones released by the label Empress Valley, a version not attributed to any label in 2007, and this one released on the Eelgrass label in 2008 which is apparently just a slightly-louded version of the label-less pressing. The sound quality is pretty stunning, coming straight from the mixing console onto quality analog tape.

The 1977 tour was the first time the band had done a full tour of the US since 1973, due mostly to Robert Plant having a nasty car accident in 1975 that put him out of commission for quite a while and reportedly had him singing from a wheelchair during the recording of the “Presence” album. One of the treats of their return was the inclusion of a set of acoustic-based songs which rarely if ever made it to the stage previously. In fact I would probably rave about this boot just because it has “Ten Years Gone,” one of my absolute favorite songs by these guys. Jimmy Page’s genius in the recording studio – as well as his good taste in stealing material by both American and English folk and blues musicians – has always been one of the things that kept me coming back to this band, as was John Paul Jones modest virtuosity as a “musician’s musician” who seemed capable of playing any instrument that landed in his hands. So this necessarily-stripped-down live reading of the tune lacks some of the force of the studio track on Physical Graffiti. But, really only *some* of the force – the tune holds up live remarkably well and keeps the vibe strong. The Tolkien-riddled “Battle of Evermore” fares less successfully in no small part because the inimitable Sandy Denny isn’t there to sing harmonies.

The mighty Led Zeppelin had plenty of VIBE, and (in case you were wondering) that is why they actually belong here amongst all the other stuff on this blog. When they were having a good night on stage, it must have been a tremendous collective experience (enough to even impress William Burroughs, who attended one show and wrote about it in such terms). Since the band was famously unhappy with their only official live-performance document The Song Remains the Same (exhausted end-of-tour sloppy performance and extremely drug-addled musicians…), many folks have speculated that the band would have been better served by a release taken from a few nights of this tour, including this show. In fact the band’s reputation as a live act was really only finally set straight by the double DVD released in 2003 that testified to them being more than an over-hyped “arena rock” phenom.


My brother and I had less and less in common musically as we grew older, but we always had a bond in the Led Zeppelin. He went off and became a fan of “hair metal” — while idiosyncratically becoming the drummer for a thrash-metal band, which by definition are very much anti-hair-metal. He used to give me lots of shit, like older brothers usually do generally speaking, about my increasingly eclectic musical tastes during our adolescence. Whether it was catching me playing air-guitar to Purple Rain, or shaking his head in dismay as I zoned out in my incense-filled room blasting the 13th Floor Elevators or Moby Grape (“it smells like a Persian whorehouse in here…”), there was no doubt that we were becoming very different people. I had my vindication when I caught him playing my copy of “Sign o’ The Times” and he finally had to admit that Prince was pretty fucking cool. Like most siblings we probably couldn’t see (or, at least, I didn’t at the time) how much we were cut from the same cloth. I was probably about seven years old when he started collecting the Zeppelin albums — on vinyl through the Columbia Record Club via mail-order, baby!! So, if I felt like it, I could blame him for the years of reckless mixtures of drugs, sex, and the occult that inevitably “resulted” from my exposure to such Devil Music at an early age. But that would be silly; all that stuff was my own doing. One of my more pleasant memories, if a bit foggy, of the last year or so we had together, was the two of us (well, with his girlfriend in the passenger seat, unfortunately) driving on a road-trip to New York City in his pimped-out 1976 Trans Am. By pimped-out I mean that he had put in a decent sound system with a hefty amplifier and EQ, as well as a radar detector to elude the cops while speeding on the highways. I remember fondly the long ride up Interstate 75 blasting The Who and Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti” (one of the best all-time road-trip records.). Unfortunately I also remember with shame when he caught me buying opium from some schmuck in Greenwich Village. It turned out to be fake, bunk opium too, and so doubly not worthy of the embarrassment of getting caught. My brother worried about me a lot, and most likely saved my life in an incident where he took it upon himself to knock on some doors and put on his best metal-head menace to eke out information from my so-called hippie “friends” about where I might have disappeared to when I went missing for a few months when I was 15. I had actually told nobody but rumors travel fast in small towns, and he valiantly crossed state lines with his slightly-crazy bandmate who always carried a knife in his boot in his general preparedness for the apocalypse and had taken to calling himself Akhnaton after the Egyptian pharaoh. They tracked me down to a national forest before I was able to hitchhike across the country and meet my uncertain fate as a full-fledged drop out. I didn’t exactly pull myself together after that either. Less than a year later he was visiting me in the psych ward where I had been committed (half-voluntarily, half-coerced/forced there). He was the only visitor I had while I was there. It was less than two months after I got out of that place that he was killed in a car accident at around 3 am coming back home from a show with his metal band. I was the last person in my family to see him alive. Almost naturally, I thought it should have been me in that car, that there was some sort of mix-up. Not just guilt but also envy — the bastard got out of the game, and left me behind.

Although this show, in an incomplete version had circulated as a vinyl boot for quite some time before he died (on the famous Swingin’ Pig label), I do not know if he ever heard it or not. My guess would be he probably had not. So I like to imagine sometimes that I am playing it for him for the first time. It’s weird how when someone slips away from us, they become frozen in time – I will always think of him as 21 years old. In my dreams when he pays me a visit, that is usually his age. I’ve even had the odd science-fiction and conspiracy dreams where he returns to us, and we learn that his death was faked, a hoax. But he is still twenty-one years old, a fact that well all find rather peculiar but are afraid to comment on. Then it somehow becomes clear that this is not in fact my brother, but a clone or an android made from some recorded memory deposited in the Overmind, and that THIS is the hoax, and the dream fades, and I wake up.

So, wherever the hell you are, I’d like dedicate this post to you, with love, and hope you play it loud, commemorating Kali the Destroyer and the beauty of rock music in all its sublime hedonism, rough-hewn poetry, and eternal youth.

1. “The Song Remains The Same” (partial) – (3:40)
2. “The Rover”(Intro)/”Sick Again” – (6:44)
3. “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” – (6:29)
4. “In My Time of Dying/’You Shook Me” – (11:38)
5. “Since I’ve Been Loving You” – (8:23)
6. “No Quarter” – (19:46)
7. “Ten Years Gone” – (9:14)
8. “The Battle of Evermore” – (6:22)
9. “Going to California” – (5:48)
10. “Black Country Woman”
11. “Bron-Yr-Aur (Stomp)” – (5:11)
12. “White Summer”/”Black Mountain Side”
13. “Kashmir” – (8:32)
14. “Out on the Tiles”/”Over the Top”/”Moby Dick”
15. Guitar Solo – (9:45)
16. “Achilles Last Stand” – (9:40)
17. “Stairway to Heaven” – (10:10)
18. “Rock and Roll” – (3:26)
19. “Trampled Under Foot”

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