Sunday, 31 March 2013

Led Zeppelin at Southampton University 1973

A recording which is personal favourite and of special interest to me as I lived in the area for many years and even saw quite a few bands at this location in the latter half of the 70s.

One of the few existing 1970s soundboards of Led Zeppelin playing to a small (less than a thousand) "9/10ths male" student crowd (tickets cost £1). The atmosphere is rather informal and the performance does verge on the sloppy at times, especially when compared to the super tight mega performances they were about to give on the European tour a couple of months later, however this does have a certain charm of its own. Rather like the Rolling Stones at Leeds University (see my post here), it's interesting to hear a band that was now used to playing much larger sized venues returning to a smaller setting and engaging more informally with the audience. In fact it would  be the last time Led Zeppelin would tour to audiences of this size in the UK.

The sound quality is excellent. The band were recording shows at this time for a possible live album and some 30 years later this performance was actually mixed down for potential release however they (understandably) went with 2003's more grander sounding and, to be honest, better performed How The West Was Won. Although according to wikipedia the mellotron track from "Stairway to Heaven"  included on How The West Was Won was actually from this show.

A local historical note - Before Whole Lotta Love Plant informs the crowd that he had been to the toilet downstairs and asks  "Who's that geezer whose name is on the bog wall?" There are cheers and someone shouts out "Alan Whitehead" and Plant then dedicates the song to him.

Alan Whitehead was the President of Southampton University Students' Union at the time. He later became an MP for Southampton...

Old Refectory Southampton University 22nd January 1973
  1.  Rock And Roll
  2.  Over The Hills And Far Away
  3.  Black Dog
  4.  Misty Mountain Hop
  5.  Since I've Been Loving You
  6.  Dancing Days
  7.  The Song Remains The Same
  8.  The Rain Song
  9.  Dazed & Confused
  10.  Stairway To Heaven
  11.  Whole Lotta Love
  12.  Heartbreaker
  13.  Organ Solo
  14.  Thank You
  15.  How Many More Times
  16.  Communication Breakdown
A contemporary review of this show appeared in the local Wessex News. See below.


Review in Wessex News by John Clark. 

“For two days, Southampton was blessed with the presence of the world’s top rock band.  On the first, it was the turn of the town, with Led Zeppelin blowing the minds of 2500 fans at the Gaumont. But the next day, our heroes came to the Union, and played to us in the Black Hole of Calcutta, or Old Ref. as it is sometimes known.  The Gaumont concert had been pretty tight, but not as good as I would have expected from a band that had been on the road for the past two months. But all my doubts were dispelled the next day.  I don’t know if it was the atmosphere, or just being right at the front of the audience, but the Old Ref. concert was just fantastic. There’s no other word for it.  They enjoyed it, and we enjoyed it, and that’s what matters.

“As usual, they were a bit slow to warm up – in fact ‘Rock n Roll’, their opening number, was very rough, and the next, ‘The Lady’, a track from LZ 5, wasn’t much better either.  ‘Black Dog’ followed, and the audience joined in instantly on the ah-ah-aaah chorus, whereas it took the Gaumont audience a couple of goes to get it right.  LZ were beginning to cook. ‘Misty Mountain Hop’ and ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ came next, giving John Paul Jones a chance to show us his dexterity on the keyboards. Until ‘Loving You’, Jimmy Page had been churning out the riffs to make his numbers boogie, but on this one he gave us his first solo, very fast one second, and slow the next, getting everything out of each note.

“Just to watch him moving his fingers up and down the fretboard made me very envious – he must have some natural gift. ‘Dancing Days’ and ‘The Song Remains The Same’, the two new numbers were the next, the first, a straight rocker very much in the LZ style, and the second, a longish complex number starting and finishing with some low tempo-melodic guitar playing, and connected with a heavy rocking bit and a superb organ solo from John Paul Jones.  The next number Robert Plant dedicated to the manager of the Gaumont – ‘Dazed and Confused’. This, a track from their first album, was used as a showpiece for Page’s long guitar solo. For part of this he used a big bow, and the highlight was when he hit the strings and got the note to echo back to him. When he’d been playing for about 10 minutes, the rest of the band joined in and stretched the number out to about 25 minutes.

“Next was a beam of clear, white light, as Plant called it, ‘Stairway To Heaven’. Plant’s vocals, which had been a bit hidden by page’s guitar before, came through beautifully, the song gradually rising to the peak of that superb rocking ending. That got everybody on their feet, and shouting for every LZ number under the sun. But Plant asked everybody to shut up for a moment, while he told them about his visit to the toilet.  On the bog wall, he saw this name – Alan Whitehead – and this next number was dedicated to him. It was ‘Whole Lotta Love’. The band went into a number of old rock and roll tunes, then ‘I Can’t Quit You Babe’, and back to ‘Whole Lotta Love’ for a tremendous climax to the show. A few minutes clapping, and they were back to give us ‘Heartbreaker’, and then ‘Thank You’, featuring John Paul Jones with a long organ intro., and back for a third time.

“Plant said how much they’d enjoyed the gig, and then they proceeded to play ‘How Many More Times’, the first time they’d done it for two and a half years. But youd’ never have known it, it was so tight.  Straight into ‘Communications Breakdown’, and then it was all over. See you again, they said, and a very nackered goodnight.  This was the only gig they recorded on the whole tour – because they reckon the acoustics of the old Ref are good – and after the show Jimmy Page said there would probably be a live album later this year. Let’s hope so – it’d be a great souvenir of a great show.”


  1. hahahahaahaha I laughted a lot with the part of Alan Whitehead, I think it's time to do the homework ;)

    1. I was there...Alan Whitehead was the President of the Students' Union at the time and warmly regarded :(
      Those were the days of the Socialist Worker and student revolution - Whitehead went on to be a local councillor;