When they finally got back on the road the bad luck continued. Led Zeppelin’s 1977 North American tour was their eleventh and final tour on that side of the pond. Performances were scheduled to commence on 27 February in Texas but Plant contracted laryngitis and the tour was delayed for a month. It ultimately kicked off on April 1st which is not exactly a lucky date.
Because of the initial delay, all of the band’s equipment had already been shipped to America which left them unable to rehearse and they were understandably rusty. Jimmy Page hadn’t played his guitar for over a month and said he was terrified to go out onstage. As an aside; JP wore his custom-made white silk dragon suit on this tour. The famous outfit was also known as the ‘Poppy White Dragon Suit’ likely coined due to Page’s raging heroin addiction which we’ll discuss in a few moments.
However, despite the first couple of setbacks this turned out to be one of Zeppelin’s most successful tours ever as they broke both financial and attendance records on April 30th in Detroit, Michigan. I can see King Midas in the background; arms folded and shaking his head. Yes, there was plenty of gold for one of the greatest rock bands ever but there was also blood; lots of it.
Ticketless fans at a sold out Cincinnati show went crazy and started a riot which resulted in many injuries and over seventy arrests. This particular location was also the same place where eleven fans were trampled to death at a Who performance just two years later. It sounds to me like the chaos energy from the Zeppelin show lingered and was reactivated as time and vibration do not operate on the same frequency. In Tampa Florida an open-air concert had to be cut short due to a massive thunderstorm. A riot broke out at that one too resulting in fifty injuries and nineteen arrests. It was so bad that tear gas had to be used to break up the melee.
At a Chicago concert Page was so sick that he had to play one song from a chair and then the show was prematurely ended due to this illness. The official word was food poisoning. It seems that a great deal of jagged energy was swirling around the band, following them from show to show and slowly closing in.
Then one of the most infamous and savage incidents in Zeppelin’s history occurred on July 23rd in Oakland, California. The band’s manager Peter Grant, drummer John Bonham and their hired muscle, London gangster John Bindon assaulted one of the promoter’s backstage staff. It seems that Grant’s eleven year old son, Warren, attempted to remove a sign that was needed for the following night’s performance and was told no by the staff member. This allegedly got back to Grant in a slightly different manner via a trouble-stirring Bonham. Grant thought his son was treated more harshly than he actually was and went berserk.
At this point Grant was deeply into cocaine which amplified his notorious hair-trigger temper. As a result, the promoter’s employee was beaten so badly that he had to be hospitalized. The next day a SWAT team surrounded their hotel and arrested Grant, Bindon and Bonham. Also arrested was Zeppelin tour manager Richard Cole as he was standing guard during the beating.
All four narrowly escaped serious charges and jail time, ultimately receiving suspended sentences and fines. As you can see, things were getting progressively messier for the world’s greatest rock band.
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