I was working for a local record distributor in Milwaukee that year …
Barely out of high school, it was a genuine treat to have been gifted a pass to a rock music event in the summer of 1969. The outdoor venue was a stage built on a gravel and asphalt parking lot at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in West Allis. Standing in front of the stage with only a chain-link fence between me and the band was, to say the least, the perfect vantage point to see one of the most important new imports from England.
With Led Zeppelin’s first chord, the audience erupted.
Considering the fact that this was an outdoor venue without any real roof (other than the covered stage performance area) the noise was startling. Had it been a sold-out indoor stadium show, it might have actually been thunderous.
But forget the noise; once the music took over, the audience spent more time listening than screaming (in contrast to the scene at many a “British Invasion” audience just a few years earlier, where the noise was often a steady din of incoherent screaming). This audience was more interested in offering occasional outbursts than drowning out the music. At least that’s the way it sounded at the epicenter. Robert Plant often seemed to be channeling James Brown’s choreography. (I had seen Brown in concert a few years earlier, but that’s another story). The “official” published set list seems in sync with my memory: “Train Kept a Rollin’,” “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” “Dazed and Confused,” “White Summer / Black Mountainside,” “You Shook Me,” “How Many More Times” (medley including “Lemon Song”), and “Communication Breakdown.”
While recently traveling down internet rabbit holes, I came across a video of Robert Plant and Alison Kraus performing “Gone, Gone, Gone.”
The song (written and originally recorded by the Everly Brothers) was a far cry from Led Zeppelin or Alison Krauss and Union Station. And yet … perhaps not. As with many a recording artist rediscovering a pop music gem, Plant and Krauss made it their own, 50 years after the Everlys. The video is forgettable. The performance, however, is a brilliant reinvention by two seemingly disparate icons.