A show poster for a series of live gigs at the Whisky A Go Go featuring Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper, January 1969.
Beginning on January 2nd, 1969, Led Zeppelin played a series of live gigs with Alice Cooper at the Whisky a Go Go on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. According to Alice, both bands were still so under the radar that they took turns opening the bill by flipping a coin to see who would start the show each night. To support Alice’s point, a scan of an old print ad for the show makes a point to promote Zeppelin by noting that the band featured the talents of former Yardbirds guitarist Jimmy Page. Zeppelin’s set on January 5th, which you can listen to below, would allegedly mark the first time “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (originally writen by American songwriter Anne Bredon in the 50s and popularized by Joan Baez back in the early 60s), was captured in a live recording. Cooper was only 21, and Jimmy Page the oldest member of Led Zeppelin, was just 24.
The January 5th show was part of Zeppelin’s first tour of America and once again to illustrate the point of how unknown the band was, they had yet to release their first self-titled record, which was panned by some after it came out on January 12th. The first stop for Led Zeppelin in the U.S. would be Denver and a last-minute opening slot for a sold-out Vanilla Fudge gig (along with LA band Spirit) for which they were paid $750. Promoter Barry Fey, who almost didn’t book the band for the show, recalls how blown away he was by the band that was about to take over the world:
You didn’t have to be a genius to know that Zeppelin was going to be a smash. Oh, my God. People were going crazy!
The next day the program director for local Dever station KLZ contacted Fey telling him the station’s phone lines had been inundated by calls from people who had born witness to the first coming of Led Zeppelin, demanding that the station play their music. Fey headed over to KLZ with his copy of Zep’s eponymous (and still unreleased) album which the station would play over and over again for the entire day.
When it comes to shock-and-roll history associated with Alice Cooper’s reception by critics at the time, it’s not that much different than Zeppelin’s. Pretties for You, the 1969 debut from the group was also being beaten up by music reviewers including legendary meanie Lester Bangs who had this to say about the record in his review published by Rolling Stone on July 12, 1969:
But neither is there any hint of life, spontaneity, joy, rage, or any kind of authentic passion or conviction. As such, Alice Cooper’s music is, for this reviewer at any rate, totally dispensable.
Oof. After playing three shows, Page and other members of the group came down with the flu and so Alice Cooper would soldier on with the Buddy Miles Express filling in Zeppelin’s slot.
More after the jump…