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Led Zeppelin: The Early Days

In 2003, Classic Rock related the story of how Led Zeppelin came together from the death knell of The Yardbirds

As the rain lashed down on a typically depressing summer night in Luton an era sputtered anticlimactically to its inevitable conclusion. It was July 7, 1968 and the local College of Technology was playing host to the death-rattling demise of a band once revered as the very pinnacle of Transatlantic Britpop cool, but who were now stumbling half-heartedly to the close of their shared career in relatively reduced circumstances.

As lead vocalist Keith Relf mumbled through the motions of yet another anonymous performance (habitually shaking his blond Brian Jones bangs and studiously applying his larynx to the wailing of the occasional two-year old crowd-pleasing hit), The Yardbirds’ newest recruit and sole heir apparent to their original spirit of brave experimentation, injected a moment of rare, spine-tingling dynamism into the largely lacklustre performance.

Midway through a new song entitled Dazed And Confused, rookie guitarist Jimmy Page produced a violin bow that he proceeded to viciously employ on the strings of his over-cranked Fender Telecaster. It was a gob-smacking gimmick, shamelessly misappropriated from Eddie Phillips of The Creation, but – plagiarism aside – it represented a tantalising glimpse into rock’s future. For with this single flamboyant gesture Page was sweeping aside the studious purism of mid-60s blues austerity and flinging open the door to the grandiose gestures and limitless possibilities of titanic 1970s mega-rock.

In short, Jimmy Page was in the process of creating a monster; a monster that was to become known the world over as Led Zeppelin.

In their heyday, The Yardbirds had been one of the most sought after and innovative bands to have emerged from the UK’s all-pervasive, early 60s R&B boom. The band’s ascendance to the embryonic rock scene’s front rank meanwhile, was nothing short of meteoric. In 1963 they inherited a plum residency at legendary blues impresario Giorgio Gomelsky’s unfeasibly hip Crawdaddy Club from the departing-for-greatness Rolling Stones. Shortly afterwards The Yardbirds' original lead guitarist, a man named Andrew 'Top' Topham, was replaced by a nimble-fingered 18-year-old fretboard prodigy by the name of Eric ‘Slowhand’ Clapton.

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