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Up to 100,000 songs recorded and filmed between 1966 and 1991 by Bill Graham, the American concert promoter, languished in an underground basement in San Francisco for more than 10 years after his death.

Then it was bought by Bill Sagan, a health company executive turned rock entrepreneur, who has now launched negotiations aimed at securing the stars' permission to release their music. This weekend he was flying to London for talks with lawyers representing British rockers such as Led Zeppelin and the Who.

There are unknown performances by Led Zeppelin such as a version of Howlin' Wolf's Killing Floor, which they later rewrote as The Lemon Song, and a tousle-headed Elton John singing his 1970 ballad Your Song.

When Graham died in a helicopter crash in 1991, he had packed an air-conditioned cellar with 30m artefacts. Three years ago his corporate heirs sold it for £2.9m to Sagan, a Led Zeppelin fan from Minnesota, who joked that he had only snapped it up for the garish Zeppelin tour ties. He beat Paul Allen, the Microsoft billionaire, to the deal.

Jimmy Page, of Led Zeppelin, who spent years begging for scraps from bootleggers so that he could compile a history of the band in 2003, is keen to dive into the archive.

"Bill recorded a San Francisco show that Jimmy remembers as momentous: which Zep fan would not want to hear that?" said an Atlantic Records source last week.


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