How a whole lotta live left rock fans with ringing ears

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When Led Zeppelin announced in late 1972 they were embarking on their biggest UK tour to date it sparked a huge scramble for tickets.

All 110,000 tickets sold out within just four hours of box offices simultaneously putting £1 tickets on sale for the 25 dates.

Led Zeppelin play the Guild Hall in Preston in January 1973

Led Zeppelin play the Guild Hall in Preston in January 1973

Fans were not to know it, but the two-month tour would be the band’s last tour of the UK before they progressed to sell out stadium dates the world over.

The band was scheduled to roll into Preston to play at the Guild Hall on January 3.

But when singer Robert Plant was struck down with ‘flu, the date was postponed until January 30, making it the final date of the tour.

When the night arrived, fans were not disappointed with many of the band’s best songs played, including Whole Lotta Love , Stairway to Heaven and Dazed and Confused.

As these never-published-before photographs show, Plant oozed confidence as he swaggered across the stage clasping a bottle of champagne while guitarist Jimmy Page showed off his skills playing a multi-neck guitar and even performing with a violin bow at one point in place of the usual guitar pick.

Painting a gritty picture of the night they rocked Preston, the Lancashire Evening Post’s review captured the essence of the gig: “Before the group arrived for their concert at Preston’s Guild Hall last night – a concert postponed since January 30 when they were down with flu – their reputation preceded them. Not only were they one of the best bands in Britain, they were also one of the noisiest. One joker on the Guild Hall staff brought a wad of cotton wool – and it was put to good use.

“A dozen amplifiers with 4,500 watts power belted out their music. The Guild Hall’s own public address system is only 60 watts.

“Add to that 2,000 stamping and tapping feet and you have a noise that made the concert uncomfortable, and even painful when the music reached a certain pitch.

“Rock music has to be loud – even very loud. But there’s a limit to the noise some people can take.

“At the recent Gary Glitter concert even the group complained their music was too loud. After the David Bowie concert, some people suffered slight deafness – even up to 24 hours afterwards.

“Even with the excess power handicap, John Paul Jones (bass/organ), John Bonham (drums), Robert Plant (vocals) and Jimmy Page, delighted their fans with songs from their albums including ‘Black Dog’, ‘Misty Mountain Hop’, and ‘Stairway to Heaven’.

“Even at the end of a two-month tour which has taken them from Brighton to Edinburgh, they managed to keep up their enthusiasm to the end of the second encore.”

To those who were fortunate enough to secure a ticket for a night which has gone down in Preston’s musical folklore the band certainly left a lasting impression.

Fan Margaret Fletcher, from Preston, said: “I was working at the Guild Hall whilst at school on evenings and weekends at the time Led Zeppelin were performing and my job meant that I guided people to their seats. I already had a ticket for to see them, but one of the perks of the job was that I got to go back stage where they were getting changed. I did not speak - just looked in awe!”

Jon Finn, from Preston, said: “It was brilliant because Led Zeppelin were massive and my best man ran the Guild Hall and put all the concerts on. At that time there was some really big names, but Led Zeppelin were the loudest band they’d ever had.

“I remember being stood directly in front of one of the speakers and couldn’t hear for days after.

“I didn’t have a ticket because I was friends with the band’s drummer John Bonham and during that time I was the drummer for Joe Cocker and musicians from other bands often got together,” he added.

A comment left on fans’ website at ledzeppelin.com reminiscing about the event: “I was there! I got to meet the band after the gig as I wrote them a 30ft letter containing all the track titles off their albums! The story made the local newspaper and I have still have a copy of it.

“As the band ran off after the set I was taken through the barriers at the side of the stage and lifted onto the stage with my ear two inches from Jimmy’s amps!”