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Led Zeppelin's First Gig - Surrrey 1968

On October 25, 1968, "The New Yardbirds" made their debut under the new name "Led Zeppelin".


(Photo: Jimmy Page on Twitter)


The performance was held at the "University of Surrey" in England.


On what led to the choice of the name "Led Zeppelin" and the timing, read here:


So our story begins on March 25, 1965, the day Eric Clapton decides to leave The Yardbirds. The departure is attributed to the band's breakthrough hit "For Your Love" and the fact that Clapton, a bluesiest at heart and soul, disliked the commercial line he claimed "The Yardbirds" had adopted. Clapton joined "John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers", not long before recommending a talented young studio player named Jimmy Page as his replacement. The young Page who feared being in the middle of intrigue and politics that cause Clapton's departure, recommended Jeff Beck as a replacement and indeed Beck made his live debut with "The Yardbirds" just two days after Eric Clapton's departure. Although page politely declined to join the band, he maintained contact with Beck and the other members of the "Yardbirds".


In May 1966 Jeff Beck entered the studio and recorded the instrumental piece "Beck's Bolero", which would 10 months later become Beck's first "hit" as part of his solo career. Jimmy Page, Keith Moon, and John Paul Jones were present in the studio during the recordings. This recording introduces Page to the idea of ​​forming a supergroup that will include himself, Jeff Beck, Keith Moon, John Entwistle and Steve Winwood. When John Entwistle heard the idea he immediately said that this "supergroup" would fall just like a lead balloon and Keith Moon sharpened the sentence noting that they will fall like "Lead Zeppelin". Although all the musicians continued with their original bands, Keith Moon's words were burned in Jimmy Page's memory and they would pop up at the right time and in the right place, two years later.


About a month after the recording of "Beck's Bolero", "The Yardbirds' bassist Paul Samwell-Smith abandons the show, during a performance at "Queen's College" in Oxford, while intoxicated. Jimmy Page who happens to be in the audience stepped up to the stage and replaces him playing bass guitar. After the show everyone agrees that Page will continue to play bass for the band, until guitarist Chris Dreja learns the bass roles and moves on to playing the instrument. Jimmy Page later became the band's second guitarist alongside Jeff Beck, who officially left the band in November 1966, to continue his solo career.


The band continued as a quartet with Jimmy Page as the sole guitarist until July 1968, when the band made its final appearance. Drummer Jim McCarty and vocalist Keith Relf left the band due to musical disagreements, not before granting the band's name and all rights to Page and bassist Chris Dreja. The two saw this as an opportunity to form a new and fresh lineup and they began looking for new band members. Jimmy Page first approached Terry Reid to fill the role of lead singer, but due to a recording contract, he could not accept the role, but recommended a young and unknown singer at the time, named Robert Plant. Plant accepted the role and recommended his childhood friend drummer John Bonham. After Dreja left the band for a career in photography, Jimmy Page complied with John Paul Jones' request to accept him as the band's bass player. As you may recall, John Paul Jones has played with Jimmy Page in the past, including the same famous recording session "Beck's Bolero". Thus the new lineup was completed.


On September 7, 1968, the band made their debut in Denmark under the name "The New Yardbirds" and continued their tour in Scandinavia and later in England. At the same time, the band entered the studio to record their first album, which will later be called "Led Zeppelin".


During the tour, the band was notified of the legal breakup of "The Yardbirds". The announcement included a ban on using the band name. This happened around the time of the performance at Surrey University, with which we began this review. Having no choice, the band members had to think of an alternative name for the band. Page recalled the sarcastic remark of Keith Moon and John Entwistle and suggested the name "Lead Zeppelin." At the suggestion of the band's director Peter Grant, the word "Lead" was replaced with "Led", thus finally determining the band's name.


However, the name change was made at the last minute and after the posters of the show at Surrey University had already been printed, so these still included the caption "New Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page". At the same time, the band had time to replace the banner outside the "great hall" in Surrey, so it read: "Tonight! The Ex-Yardbirds" with "Led Zeppelin" written underneath in smaller font.


In 2003 a poster of this historic show was sold for a fantastic sum of 2,400 Pounds.

As mentioned, the poster reads the band's name as "New Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page" and it carries the location of the show: "Surrey University" and the date: Friday 25 OCT.


The setlist of this historic show included six songs: "Communication Breakdown", "I Can't Quit You Baby", "You Shook Me", "Dazed & Confused", "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" and "How Many More Times".


About three months after the show on January 12, 1969, "Led Zeppelin" will release their first album and changed the rock world forever.


It is interesting to note, that in 2008 Jimmy Page received an honorary doctorate from the same "Surrey" University for his contribution to the music industry.


What's more interesting is Reg Jones' version of what happened that night. Jones was the lead singer of the band "The Way Of Life" in which John Bonham was also a member. He was the one who drove Bonham and Robert Plant to the show and this is what he said:


"I drove John and Robert to their first engagement as Led Zeppelin in my Jaguar. It was at Surrey University in Guilford. There was a huge banner outside that read: 'Tonight! The Ex-Yardbirds'. Underneath in smaller lettering, it said 'Led Zeppelin'. After the gig, I couldn't start the Jaguar and we all came home on the train."


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