Thursday, September 26, 2013

More stories...

......................................................................................................................and music saved my soul.

A few fans who finished reading the book have contacted me with some burning questions. If you have any questions about my life, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment on this blog. I will do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.


Question #1: "What was it like to be backstage with Led Zeppelin? 

What I remember most were the sensations. I was very pregnant at the time, only 8 weeks away from giving birth. I had found a way to wiggle through the crowd to get as close as I could to the stage. Led Zeppelin! I had to get close. I had to feel the music.

You have to remember, I loved music. Not just the to dance to.. but for the way it transcended my spirit. I loved getting lost in it.  

I had become addicted to the feeling of the music as it coursed through my body. In order for me to get that "high" I had to be close to the speakers. Very close. In fact, I am sure my hearing loss is greatly attributed to closeness on that June afternoon in Golden Gate Park. 

I could not just sit back and listen from a distance. I had to get close. I had to feel the sound. I had to experience it in person. However, the closer I got to the speakers, the more violent the kicking from within. 

It was that closeness that caused my unborn baby boy to go into a frantic turmoil which brought me to my knees in pain. The fierceness of his movements was crippling. A few onlookers realized I was in a crisis and came to my rescue. They called over to the security and stagehands. I cannot recall how I was brought back stage, but I do remember the comforting feeling of arms supporting me ~ guiding me through the crowd. I do remember gripping my swollen belly with both arms, trying to protect my child from the brutal assault of the music. It is so ironic that the very music which brought me so much peace, had the opposite effect on my unborn child. 

Backstage was even more surreal. I looked up from my seat on some stacked wooden boxes and tried to gain my bearings. I looked up and saw I was behind the stage. I was back in an area crowded with all sorts of electronic equipment as well as the usual groupies. It was all a blur and it took all my strength to focus on my baby, and to find a way to ease his pain. 

Someone handed me some pillows and motioned to me to use them as a barricade for my belly. The music filled the air, even back here behind the speakers. I am not sure if it was the pillows, or just the change in locale, but the baby settled and I was able to take in a bit more of my surroundings.  

My vision was blocked, but I could get peeks of the bodies on stage. I watched in awe, even though I could only see their backs for the most part. I also could see the turbulent sea of faces lost in the music. Behind me were a few people sitting on chairs in the blocked off area of the auditorium. 

I was more impressed with with the idea of what was happening than I was with what I was actually witnessing. I guess it was kind of a version of stage fright, but from the perspective of a fan that gets to meet their idol but finds themselves frozen in fear. 

I felt rather invisible, as if I were watching this from some other dimension or from behind a two way mirror. As I look back now, I am sure that it was because I was not a likely groupie (pregnant!) and did not flaunt myself on the musicians. I was just another part of the back stage scene and most likely easily forgotten. 

No so much for me. Back stage at a Led Zeppelin concert. Epic. By anyone's standards. 

I hope this gives you a bit more insight about that day!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Found a great site tonight that features photos from that concert I went to while I was pregnant in 1973.

When Led Zeppelin appeared at Kezar Stadium on June 2, 1973, in a concert promoted by Bill Graham, they were at the pinnacle of their fame, riding higher than ever with the release of their fifth album, Houses of the Holy. They toured America in a regal manner befitting to kings, with no expense spared and no luxury denied, grandly flying from city to city in a private jet, performing in front of worshipful audiences that usually were counted in the tens of thousands. They generally were regarded as musical gods who had graciously deigned to descend from the heights of Mount Olympus, with flocks of teenage groupies following their every step, ardently seeking to engage in carnal festivities with them.

On that sunny day in San Francisco, thirty-seven years ago, approximately 50,000 fans gathered at Kezar Stadium to see Led Zeppelin perform. The musicians, having hastily flown up to the Bay Area from Los Angeles at the last minute, arrived onstage in the late afternoon and then proceeded to play for two and a half hours, expertly delivering a high-powered set that included five songs from their new album. From the frantic beat of the drums that heralded the beginning of their first song, "Rock and Roll," to the last note of their final song, "The Ocean," they displayed the complete range of their extraordinary abilities, mightily proving themselves to be worthy of their high stature.

All four members of Led Zeppelin were in strong form throughout the afternoon, showing themselves to be totally in command of their music and their audience. They pulled out all the stops, clearly wanting to give the crowd their money's worth, in a sweeping display of showmanship that was overwhelming in its total effect. Jimmy Page used a bow on his guitar and also played a theremin. In the middle of "Dazed and Confused," Robert Plant paid tribute to the city, singing the famous hit from 1967, "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)." During "No Quarter," smoke rolled over the stage, and a number of doves were let loose during another song. It was a stunning performance, and a collective experience, to be remembered for a lifetime by those who attended.

50,000 fans

"No Quarter"

Close-up of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page with dove

David: Led Zeppelin playing in San Francisco was a major event in 1973. They were riding on the crest of a wave after the release of their fourth album in 1971. The release of their fifth album was long awaited and much anticipated.

Gary, Dan, and Michael were determined to be first in line and slept overnight in front of Kezar Stadium. They were in a photo that appeared in a local newspaper under the heading, "The Led Freaks." I went with other friends on the day of the show. I figured that since it was at a stadium, there would be no reason to go that early. When I arrived with my friends, they decided to sit up in the stands, away from the stage. I wasn't interested in joining them, and instead carved my own path on the ground, as close to the stage as I could get. Since I was alone, I was not sure how I was going to get home. It turned out I was only a few yards behind Gary, Dan, and Michael.

I spread out on the ground to secure as much space as I could. I thought I might even take a nap. As the fans filled in around me, the space got tighter. Three girls wandered by, looking for a spot to sit down. I heard one of them say, "Let's sit here," which they did, right on top of my legs, as if I was a log. It then became apparent that I had to make a visit to the restroom. I pulled myself out from under the girls and spread my jacket on the ground, in the hope that it would still be there when I returned. Amazingly, it was.

The ads for the concert stated, "Supporting Acts to Be Announced." That left a lot to the imagination of 50,000 stoned "Led Freaks." I heard rumors that David Bowie was going to open the show, and even that The Beatles were going to do a reunion performance.

Instead, Roy Harper was introduced. The wait already had been long and uncomfortable under the overcast San Francisco sky. I remember Roy Harper sitting on a stool with his acoustic guitar. He mumbled something about just breaking up with his ol' lady. That didn't exactly bring the fans to their feet. In fact, I recall a few catcalls.

After that, The Tubes were introduced. It may sound cool today, but at the time they were just a local club act that no one had heard of, including me. Fee Waybill stomped out in giant platform shoes, pretending to snort from a huge bag of cocaine. No one got the joke, and the catcalls turned into actual boos. Then Lee Michaels played. He did his hit, "Do You Know What I Mean."

OK, almost two o'clock. Time for Led Zeppelin. It was another hour and a half before they appeared on stage. That left a lot of time for fans to indulge in various kinds of substance abuse. I sat alone and watched drug deals going on all around me. One happy fellow kept clapping his hands and shouting, "Feel the day!" I wondered what sort of drug he was on.

Finally, Led Zeppelin walked on stage and we all stood up. That made for more room, and everyone moved forward, closer and closer to the stage. The excitement was in the air. They launched into some of their standards before introducing a few new songs. Robert Plant was very animated and obviously enjoying himself. At one point, between songs, he pulled out a newspaper and read something to Jimmy Page. It sounded like it was a negative review, which claimed that the new glitter band, Slade, was taking Led Zeppelin's place. Robert Plant laughed so hard that he actually fell down and rolled on the stage. I could tell that Led Zeppelin were at the top of the heap and knew it.

I could see people standing on the tops of buildings outside the stadium, trying to get a free show. It was loud enough for most of San Francisco to hear. During "Stairway to Heaven," when they got to the line, "There's a feeling I get when I look to the west," Robert Plant pointed at the crowd and smiled. The audience let out a cheer. Another memorable moment was at the end of "Stairway." They brought out a large box and released some white doves. The birds were not that eager to leave and some had to be coaxed out. One dove flew up, but then flew back and landed on Robert Plant's hand. Jimmy Page put his guitar down and walked over. Plant and Page stood there petting the bird, which seemed very much at home in Robert's hand.

There some negative moments, too. A girl in front of me, one of the girls who had sat on my legs earlier, was clearly on psychedelics. Every few minutes she would point to the sky and yell, "Look!" and then collapse into the people next to her. This happened a few times until one guy caught her and began kissing her. He removed her clothes and had sex with her right in front of me. Afterward, she wandered naked into the crowd. When the people around me left, I saw her clothes on the ground and a bottle of pills that she apparently had been taking. I always wondered what became of her.

Musically, it was a great concert. Led Zeppelin were at their best, but it was also an ordeal that I did not want to repeat. One last memory I have is of Robert Plant talking to the enthusiastic crowd of 50,000 "Led Freaks" and asking us, "Do ya feel it? Do ya feel the buzz?" We did.

Gary: First of all, I would like to acknowledge the generosity of Dan Cuny's older brother, Tim, for three things that made the Led Zeppelin concert possible for us: (1) He loaned Dan the camera with the expensive close-up lens that enabled Dan to take the great photos, (2) He vouched for us to Dan's parents (Dan later revealed that Tim had told his parents we were "good people" and that is was OK for Dan to go with us, and, amazingly, (3) He loaned us the use of his green and white VW van to get us to Kezar Stadium (I was used to driving a stick shift, and was elected by default to drive us there). Without Tim's generosity, we would have had a much worse time.

This was a big event, the biggest concert that we had ever attended. My sister, Sandra (a strong Led Zeppelin fan), also was there with us. When we got to Kezar on Friday, we set up the sleeping bags. I think the beginning of the line was vague and ill-defined. It was hard to tell who was first or where the line began. The crowd was rough. I stayed deep in my sleeping bag when we were in line. Kezar was near Haight-Ashbury and was definitely in a challenging area, with raw behavior and more drugs. I didn't feel comfortable at all there. We stayed in the van at times, to get away from it. This was the dawning of Bill Graham's "Day on the Green" concerts that were popular at the Oakland Coliseum in later years.

Once the gate was opened we ran to the stage, but it was very high, so if you got up close, you couldn't see the band. It was effective as crowd control, because you had to back away from the stage. David came on Saturday, not wanting to wait in line at Kezar overnight, but he was able to get pretty close to us on the grass. I think the best place to see Led Zeppelin might actually have been behind the band. Some of Dan's photos show relaxed people enjoying the show from the stands to the rear of the stage, as the sun was setting behind them. There were no crowds there, and the lighting was probably perfect.

Lee Michaels played before Led Zeppelin. He was the loudest act I had ever heard at Winterland, the year before. In fact, if I tilt my head just right, I can still hear "Stormy Monday" on his shrill Hammond organ, but I don't remember his performance at Kezar at all.

The Tubes were funny with twin guitarists dressed up in bumblebee or butterfly costumes (with insect wings), and Fee Waybill was a clever performer. This was during their "What Do You Want From Life?" period, when they were very sarcastic and outrageously funny. I'm not sure, but Roy Harper might have been the first act of the afternoon. I had heard that he was a good friend of Led Zeppelin ("Hats Off to Harper" on Led Zeppelin IIIwas great). I remember that his acoustic guitar and vocal mike were amplified very loudly, and he was very confrontational. At one point he argued bitterly with a heckler. His set at Kezar was impressive: enjoyable and different. His albums were mostly on import and expensive, so I didn't have any, but I'd heard some tracks on FM radio. I liked his outspokenness and his strong songs.

Led Zeppelin were late coming on, and the crowd was restless. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky, eventually setting behind the stage. Suddenly Led Zeppelin stormed on, opening with "Rock and Roll." The sound was huge and crisp. It almost felt warm. They were at the peak of their career, relaxed and confident, solid and tight, yet also taking chances. They did "Black Dog," "No Quarter" (with John Paul Jones playing moody electric piano), "Whole Lotta Love," and a very psychedelic "Dazed and Confused." Jimmy Page played his red Gibson EDS-1275 Double Neck guitar during a monumental version of "Stairway to Heaven." John Bonham's drums were powerful, and I liked the strong musicianship of John Paul Jones. Robert Plant, in an open shirt and tight jeans, was an even match for Jimmy Page in a flamboyant white suit.

The second half of the Led Zeppelin set at Kezar was performed as the sun set directly behind the stage, so we had to look straight into the sun to see the band. We were fried! Michael and I were very light-skinned, and we both burned red. David did much better with his olive complexion. By the end we were zombies. We had gone through the trials of misbehaving crowds, seeing more drug activity and human foibles in one place than probably we have seen in our lifetimes. We were absolutely burned out, figuratively and literally.

I like led Zeppelin more in retrospect. Led Zeppelin II is a true classic. I'm not sure how they got those sounds. The reverse echo effects that Jimmy Page came up with are unlike anything before or since. The band had a great variety of musical styles. An acoustic and soft side tempered the throttle-open hard rock, which was grounded in blues guitar. They truly loved blues musicians like Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Bukka White. Led Zeppelin was Jimmy Page's vision of creating the greatest of all rock bands, and he largely succeeded in making it a reality.

Dan: Wow!!! What memories I have of the Led Zeppelin show. I had wanted to see what in my mind were the "gods of rock" for quite some time. It was announced that Led Zeppelin would be playing at Kezar Stadium, in an outdoor setting. This was what would later become known as a "Day on the Green." We wanted to see Led Zeppelin so much that I remember we arrived at the ticket outlet extremely early in the morning, or possibly even the night before, to make sure that we were first in line to get tickets. We did get the tickets, which was a huge relief.

We planned on going to Kezar Stadium on the day before the show, so that we could assure ourselves of being right up against the stage (where we usually were when we went to Winterland) and seeing Led Zeppelin in our customary way. I had asked my older brother, Tim, if we could borrow his '64 VW bus, so we could rest and sleep in it, since we were going so far ahead of the show. I'm sure he did it reluctantly, but like the great brother that he is, he did let us borrow it. I remember that the show was on a Saturday, and I believe it started in the late morning. We arrived at Kezar Stadium early on Friday morning, and we were among the first to get there. There was even a newspaper photo (which I still have) of us in our sleeping bags being first in line.

When the gates were finally opened, the gate we were at wasn't the first gate to open, but nonetheless we were among the first few hundred people to be let in. As we ran into the stadium, we looked at the stage (which at most shows was about five and a half feet tall) and saw that it was very tall. Maybe about fifteen feet tall. We knew that we couldn't be right against the stage, or we wouldn't be able to see the band. We put our blankets down about thirty feet from the stage, right in the center... perfect.

As the day rolled on and more people arrived, it made a show at Winterland look like peanuts. There were thousands and thousands of people at this concert. The opening act was Roy Harper, and then The Tubes, who I thought were pretty funny, especially when Fee Waybill came out in his platform shoes. Lee Michaels also played a short set.

Now it was time for Led Zeppelin. I had my camera primed with film, and I was ready to shoot their performance. They finally walked onto the stage, and the crowd went crazy. Then, it was a sound issue or something else, but the band suddenly walked off. I was wondering what in the heck was going on, but they soon came back out and played an amazing set.

One of the most odd memories I have of their performance is that, about a third of the way into it, I started to feel sick. It must have been the sun, the lack of food, and being among so many people, but I can remember going down on one knee to rest. Then I heard Jimmy Page start to bow his guitar, and instantly felt better. Throughout their set, I was mesmerized by the showmanship of the band. It was truly one of the best performances I have ever seen, and I'm glad I have the photos to prove it.

Michael: Seeing Led Zeppelin at Kezar Stadium was one of the major highlights of my youth. I was only nineteen years old when they came to San Francisco in 1973. I was a devout fan of their music, having followed them from the release of their first album in 1969, but had I never seen them perform, so I was intensely excited by the prospect of their appearance in the Bay Area. 

We began our adventure weeks before the concert, by waiting all night on a sidewalk, so that we could be among the first to buy tickets. Although the concert was on a Saturday, we joined hundreds of other fans in arriving at Kezar Stadium on Friday, in order to be first through the gates and close to the stage. (David wisely declined to wait overnight at the stadium, but the next day he ended up being near us in the crowd.) I must admit that, from the perspective of middle age, we probably put ourselves through more trouble than was necessary, but the show was general admission and we were determined not to let anything keep us from our goal. It helped that we were young and eager. 

The show was opened by Roy Harper, a British singer and songwriter who was a friend of Led Zeppelin. He came out on his own, sitting on a chair with his guitar, gamely singing his songs to a crowd that mostly had no interest in him. (Which was a great shame, because he was an excellent musician.) Roy Harper was followed by The Tubes, a local band who were becoming known for their humorous song, "White Punks on Dope." Their singer, Fee Waybill, wore outlandish clothes and was extremely funny. After The Tubes came Lee Michaels, but for some reason I have no particular memory of his set.

While Roy Harper, The Tubes, and Lee Michaels were performing, most members of the audience were occupied with their own activities, which centered mainly on getting themselves drunk and stoned. My friends and I abstained, choosing to remain completely sober. Once the alcohol and drugs had taken hold, the general situation began to get a bit depraved, with many people around us acting in an objectionable manner. I had not witnessed so much excessive behavior since December, 1969, when I attended the infamous performance given by The Rolling Stones at the Altamont Speedway. (My account of that concert can be found here.)

When Led Zeppelin finally appeared, there was a feeling of excitement throughout the stadium, but the band had a problem with their sound as soon as they started to play, forcing them to stop before they had finished their first song. After an awkward delay, they started again, quickly kicking into high gear with "Rock and Roll," played loud and fast. Robert Plant, standing at the front of the stage, looked as he always did in those days, with abundant hair and tight jeans, while Jimmy Page was sharply attired in a white suit and two-tone shoes. John Paul Jones and John Bonham were less showy in their look and demeanor, but they both made essential contributions to the music. It was an absolute thrill to see all four of them on stage.

For several hours, as Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham charged through one famous song after another, I was utterly enthralled by the electric majesty of Led Zeppelin. When I got home that evening, I wearily fell into my bed and slept heavily until the next afternoon. It had been an overwhelming day, long and hot and uncomfortable, but also a day that I would never forget.

After the concert

More about Led Zeppelin at Kezar Stadium here

More about Led Zeppelin at David's Rock Scrapbook

Tight But Loose, an excellent magazine dedicated to Led Zeppelin here  

A review of a performance by Robert Plant in Portland, Oregon, in 2011 here 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Saving Jayne excerpt: Work in Progress

The beautiful young Baroness Mary Vetsera committed suicide in 1889, according to one version of history. She was banished to spend infinity in purgatory until she could redeem her soul by saving another. In purgatory she was stripped of her body and her name. She lost her form and became spirit. She was told her only chance of redemption was to become a guardian and save a another soul from purgatory. She accepted the challenge and was assigned a mission to follow a woman who was taking the same path towards self-destruction. 

Mary was thrown into the life of a young aspiring actress, Carol Landis. It was hoped that she would be able to bound with the tortured soul who had so much in common with the Baroness. But Mary had no idea how to help the distraught woman. She watched helplessly as Carole fell further and further into a pit of despair. 

Mary failed miserably on her first assignment, and the woman, Carole shared the fate of the Baroness by taking her own life at the age of 29. Mary has been given one more chance. This time she was to save a newborn baby Jayne whose life was destined to be filled with trauma. Can she do it? Will Jayne be saved? Will Mary be saved?

Mary awoke from the darkness. She was floating in nothingness. Again. No light. No dark. Just nothing. She knew it had been a while that she was stuck there. In purgatory. Her mission failed. She tried to save them. Really. It seems like a dream now, when she thinks back on her other life. Life as the Baroness. Wrongfully accused of suicide, but still roaming the earth until she finds a way to save another from her fate. How was she to know that living a life of sin, following her carnal lust, would lead to her early demise? 

She was only 18 when she died. It was at the hands of her jealous lover, and not her own, that she left this earth. How was she to know that living the life of a seductress would sentence her in the afterlife? She must now find a way to save another, before her soul can move on. In her life, she was known as Mary to her friends, but to the public she was Baroness Marie Alexexandrine von Vetsera. She lived a lonely life, as only a mistress knows. 

She was destined to follow the life of other lost souls, her mission to save them from a path of self-destruction or harm by others. 

She really tried with Carole Landis, but no matter how hard she tried, she was not able to save her. It was so sad when she saw her efforts fail and her “ward’s” life slip slowly away. 

Again. Failure. The thing she had in common with these women were that they all chose paths that brought their lives to an early end with suicide. 

In between the missions, Mary was forced to exist in her own state of stasis.. not existing anywhere in consciousness, almost as if she was just placed on ice.

~ to be continued~