Live at the Olympia
by Eddie Edwards
The Garden Tapes » Les Enregistrements du Jardin
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. When Led Zeppelin performed at L'Olympia in Paris on 10th October, 1969, a French radio station recorded the concert, daring to dream that broadcasting the inspirational work of these musiciens extraordinaires to peasantry and aristocracy alike would unite the nation and signal a new era of justice and enlightenment. Alas, it was not to be. Considered by the authorities to be dangerously rebellious, the tape was issued with a lettre de cachet, tapped on the shoulder with a white baton and formally detained in the Bastille where it seemed destined to remain until its bones had crumbled to dust.
Almost four decades later, on 10th December, 2007, twenty thousand Led Zeppelin fans from all over the world headed for London to witness their heroes in action at the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert. But the millions who had tried and failed to secure tickets for that event descended instead upon the French capital and, intoxicated with liberty and enthusiasm, stormed the ancient Parisian fortress, bringing to an end the unjust incarceration of the tape and broadcasting it for the first time to a world that had mostly been unaware of its existence.
It is said that Jimmy Page was informed of these events the next morning by his close friend, Duke Rosshalfin. "Is it a revolt?" asked Page. The duke replied: "No sire, it is a Zépolution." Deeply moved by the undiminished loyalty and passion demonstrated by Led Zeppelin's fans in London and Paris on that historic night, Page immediately swore an oath not to rest until the tape was fully vindicated and its astonishing bravery rewarded. Sure enough, in June 2014, the Paris Olympia recording was given official recognition for the first time as the companion disc to the reissue of Led Zeppelin's first album. The tape had taken the final steps of its long walk to freedom but, hardly surprisingly, it had not emerged altogether unscathed from its traumatic ordeal. Here, in Les Enregistrements du Jardin, this tale of triumph and tragedy is related in full for the first time.
Edit #1 (track 1 0:00): The compère's introduction of the band has been omitted on the official release and we hear just a few seconds of audience noise before Bonzo's count-in. 13 seconds removed.
Edit #2 (track 2 6:41): Most of Robert's chat before "Heartbreaker" has been cut. 25 seconds removed.
Edit #3 (track 3 1:59): The first occurrence of a cut to the actual music. The unaccompanied guitar solo in the middle of "Heartbreaker" was 50 seconds long on the night but only the first 12 seconds of it are present on the official release. Clearly this cut was not for time reasons as the solo was unusually concise and far from being one of Pagey's more epic contributions. There's nothing much wrong with the playing either, so it must have been the sound quality that gave offence. It is a bit muddy with excessive echo effects. The problem is that the unaccompanied guitar solo is such an integral part of "Heartbreaker" that it sounds faintly ridiculous when the fast riff comes steaming in after just a few seconds of twiddling. There's also a small click noise at 1:59 just as the fast riff enters which appears to be a digital mastering fault as there's no sign of it on the unofficial recording.
Edit #4 (track 3 3:41): As is normal with live performances of "Heartbreaker", there's a pause of a second or two between the song's abrupt ending and the burst of applause from the audience. On the official release, this pause has been reduced to about half a second. The result is a smoother transition from song to applause but a loss of the natural tension and release of the moment. Those who have not spent insane amounts of time listening to Led Zeppelin concert recordings and getting things like the HEART!-pause-applause sequence ingrained into their subconscious might well be untroubled by such anomalies, but even so it's difficult to see the point of this edit. If the intention was to make the applause sound more spontaneous, the effect is quite the opposite.
Edit #5 (track 4 14:52): At the end of "Dazed and Confused", the applause has once again been tampered with. This time it's to remove a couple of guitar twangs just after the song ends.
Edit #6 (track 4 15:00): The applause is allowed to run for a few seconds until Robert thanks the audience, and then there's a cross-fade into the beginning of "White Summer". 45 seconds of chat and tuning-up, including the famous "wanking dog" reference, have been removed.
Edit #7 (track 5 1:22): "White Summer" begins with the main theme played in a rubato fashion followed by essentially the same theme but played with a steady, forceful rhythm. The song then wanders happily off into a succession of ideas before those first two sections are reprised in reverse order at the end. The part that has been removed on the official Olympia release is the rhythmic second part of the opening passage. The mirrored opening and closing sections serve as a relatively fixed frame within which the rest can ramble more freely and, with part of that first bookend missing, the piece loses some of its balance. The impact of the cut is less immediately obvious than that of the one in "Heartbreaker", but the structure of the piece is weakened by the absence of those 65 seconds. There is a slight drop in sound quality at one point as the guitar falls a little too far back in the mix behind the bass and percussion, which could explain the cut, although other similarly flawed parts of the recording have survived intact.
At 1:04 and 1:10 in "White Summer" there are two more apparent digital mastering faults, louder and more noticeable than the one in Heartbreaker. This is a raw, live recording full of static pops, microphone clunks and all sorts of similar sounds that occur at any concert at which electric instruments and amplification are employed, so it might seem odd to make special mention of these particular noises, but the reason for doing so is that there is no sign of them at all on the unofficial recording. There is a possibility that they exist on the master recording and have been removed from the bootleg that has been available to fans, but it seems unlikely that somebody would have removed these three clicks but none of the countless others throughout the course of the recording. As they also have the characteristics of digital faults rather than any kind of natural noise, it's difficult to avoid the unpalatable conclusion that these three clicks are mastering faults on the official release.
Edit #8 (track 5 9:19): 80 seconds of applause, chat and tuning-up have been removed between "White Summer" and "You Shook Me".
Edit #9 (track 6 11:43): The applause after "You Shook Me" has been doctored slightly, with a rumbling noise and a shout removed just before Robert thanks the audience.
"Moby Dick" follows next on the official release, which is an interesting turn of events as it wasn't on the unofficial version. It seems that the bootleg was made from a copy that had been prepared for broadcast and that "Moby Dick" had been edited out but, when the master tape was revisited for the making of the official release, "Moby" was looked upon more favourably! This is actually the earliest known and possibly first ever live performance of "Moby Dick" (as opposed to the earlier "Pat's Delight" drum solo number). It's pretty clear that there are cuts in Robert's introduction and in the piece itself, but without a complete unofficial version for reference these cannot be documented accurately.
Edit #10 (track 8 0:29): A section of length 2 minutes 40 seconds, which included Robert's introductions of the band members, has been removed near the beginning of "How Many More Times".
Edit #11 (track 8 6:19): A further 90 seconds falls victim to Madame La Guillotine, whose Reign of Terror is at its most devastating during this song. The lost section this time is the guitar solo played over the bolero rhythm.
Edit #12 (track 8 8:30): This was the most unkindest cut of all. Seven minutes and seven seconds of playful blues, boogie and lemon squeezing meet a gory fate.
Edit #13 (track 8 8:50): A very brief cut to remove a vocal interruption to Robert's lovin' gun. "I've loved every minute," was the mystery announcement, which we suspect may have originated from the direction of la section des percussions.
Edit #14 (track 8 8:59): The cruel blade falls for a final time, putting an end to 32 seconds of riffing and guitar ornamentations and leaving behind a somewhat tamer arrangement in which the final verse enters after just a couple of repetitions of the main riff.
The tape is now living out its days basking in the sun on the Côte d'Azur, its slumbers troubled only occasionally by vague dreams of chains and dungeons. On the former site of The Bastille stands a huge obelisk known as L'Objet de la Présence, serving as a monument to the courage and dedication of all those who have played a part in the liberation of Led Zeppelin live recordings and a reminder of the terrible retribution that eventually befalls all who conspire to deny them their freedom. Vive la Zépolution!
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